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= HW2 = TOVJ: Book III The Expeditionary - Chap35 Part 4

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    = HW2 = TOVJ: Book III The Expeditionary - Chap35 Part 4

    Welcome and thanks for clicking on this thread! : )


    This is the third installment of the Homeworld fanfiction "Tales of the Vjel-Amaj" and follows the ventures of an enigmatic cruiser, the Vjel-Amaj, and its crew of the independent Kiith Amaj. Ever since this Amaji cruiser had suddenly found itself in a vicious conflict between their new ally, the Tau Corsari Fealty, and the Corsari's arch nemesis, the fanatical Nebuli Somtaaw, the Amaji cruiser is now stranded with several other vessels in deep space.
    As this flotilla emerged from an uncontrollable hyperjump, the flotilla now finds in uncharted space, still far away from the trusted armada and their homeworlds. As time slowly paces by, the individuals discover that they must unify their efforts to not only ensure their survival but also to develop methods and new tactics to combat the deadliest and hideous of foes. Yet, the few leaders are left in a world full of concerns and an unknown future…



    Author's notes:
    Unlike the second installment, the continuation will not contain current character biographies other than the descriptions of certain notorious characters, short recaps and reports of the past conflict as the story progresses. It should not be difficult for new readers to pick up on any of the installments as they are usually very descriptive at the beginning (most of the time).

    If possible, I will be attempting to progress on both Part III and IV as Part III is more of a filler plotline to cover the plothole that was previously intended for Part IV's introduction. In other words, the plot of Part IV was previously intended to be a jump to the future. The clicky links feature themes from youtube that are intended to give an audible feel of the situation; mostly game music from Homeworld series, other games and space opera anime - but also links from Homeworld Encyclopedia.
    ~note to self: more spacing!

    As usual, my life and this fic is all work in progress.
    As Commander Adama once said, "Enjoy… or I'll squash your nuts :mrgreen:...!"

    *****

    - Chapter 31 - The Fourth Day -

    ### Homeworld Cataclysm Soundtrack 50 - ###

    The galactic scenery reveals a myriad of mysteries that enthrall the eye. Dense formations of gas, dust and matter quietly glow in unbelievable spectrums of light. Blankets of red are weaved upon the beds of deep blue and purple. Despite the sheer endlessness of light years, the eye easily spots the forms of majestic pillars within a range of gaseous mountains. Even at such unimaginable distance, one can sense the barely sensible movement of stellar winds sweeping through these ranges.

    Judging this observation, one would ponder over the violence of these winds… Tight clusters of velvet, green pure white stars embellish the pinnacles with utter beauty - Yet, one will also notice colors that cannot be explained; colors that one does not know by name, barely hinting what miracles and mysteries lies beyond. But as the eye wanders through the bewildering sight, it will soon fall upon a giant black scar that reveals a massive deep chasm… A sheer endless void…


    Blinks… Flashes… Persisting glows… All of various colors and sequences…


    The groups of signal lights continued their periodic sequences as they all maintained a silent drift. Irregular shapes and profiles slowly cross the eye. Despite the silence of space, one can easily imagine their persisting rumbles and periodic hums of power flowing through the veins of each metallic bodies… Following their quiet journey, one will soon notice that all are approaching the massive graveyard made of twisted metal, deformed bulkheads and the torn colossal monstrosity that was once part of a greater vessel.

    The approach remains a cautious as all know that the galaxy still remains a dangerous place…

    *

    The voice of a young woman speaks…


    S-Situation report of O-Operative-- of Ensign Kelsea Amaj, junior - possibly now senior - helmswoman of the Vjel-Amaj


    I don't know what to say or where to start. The acting Commander ordered others of the supervisory staff as well as I to conduct this specific task -- and to be honest, I am not sure how to do this or where to start. So many things have occurred over the course of three -- In fact, I think it is the fourth day ever since the Vjel-Amaj dispatched from Amaji Prime. Only four days, and yet it feels like an eternity. I miss the emerald planet… We're so far away from home.

    Kelsea pauses. She sighs and there is the short sound of rustling hair.

    Hmm… I'm not entirely sure just how far we are away from our homeworld. We were last somewhere throughout the Inner Core Regions, where the Nebuli Somtaaw had ambushed the Tau Corsari Fleet. W-We should still be within that region, I suppose, but there are some doubts about that. The ambush and all the terrors that had happened throughout the course of the last day, or two, all took place within the star system 'Efruvaheen' - Or Perdita in the Manaan tongue.


    Perdita is an un-colonized system of the Kiith Manaan Enclave, which is also only three light years away from Hiigara. A… A very dreadful and sad fate for a star system… Ever since a rogue planet had collided with one of the system's celestial bodies, the orbital harmonies had been destroyed. The entire star system had fallen into a world of chaos. The white star is consuming the planets, and there are hundreds of shattered moons and planets throughout the star's realm. In fact, our emergence point was right at the deep orbit to a hot jovian -- A massive gas giant that was actually the planet closest to the star. Even though we were in its shadow, we could sense how the star's fury of light was slowly penetrating its body…


    I was surprised we actually managed to emerge from hyperspace so close to a star and a gas giant… Maybe the shadow region was distorted enough for us to slip into a hole in the gravity well -- but, anyways, I'm not an astronomer or any sort of quantum physicist… The star system was practically filled with endless reams of asteroids… much to the convenience for mad miners and such to hunt for those… masses of fortunes out there… Probably the reason why the Corsari Fealty armada and their renowned pirate flagship, the Bryggen'Turasr, we collaborated with chose this region as a stealthy emergence point fairly adjacent to Hiigara.


    Regarding the location of Perdita, we would be at least some nine days away from Amaji Prime just by conventional hyperdrives. I'm sure the Vjel-Amaj could do it in even less time… However, we could not just… leave… Wh-While I am sure that our new Commander regrets the dread of many false decisions, he simply could not leave those behind who needed our help. After all, the Deep Space Industrial Mining Carrier, Darugis, was still under custody of the Corsari Leader and had been dispatched to extract exotic materials at far and remote location.

    However, that was when the Nebuli Somtaaw ambushed the armada, and we found ourselves between the lines. Our main objective was to guide the Darugis and the heavily damaged flotilla back to the main lines of the armada. That was a dangerous flight all right… I can't believe we're still alive.
    That… Fenna woman… *sigh* Well, she was the helmswoman who actually did most of the flying while I did my best to support her wild and fretful maneuvering measures. She pretty much flew by fear and heart rather than listening to our Commander.

    But let me talk about our situation… We are no longer in a battle zone and are currently in an unknown region, I suppse… but that is one of many problems our flotilla has now discovered.
    Astrogation… Practically every mean of navigation has brought us to a puzzling mystery considering our location in space. Quan Amaj, who is the current Chief Astronomer, had spent almost two days trying to solve this mystery with a team of astrogators who are part of our current flotilla.

    Poor Quan… His sister is MIA due to the events of the last days. She is MIA just like several others from our crews. I'm certain he feels guilty for the disappearance of his sister, stressing him even more to distinguish our position, but he simply cannot confirm it. Our sophisticated systems simply cannot recognize the various star clusters, not even a single one other than low probability chances.


    Not only this… the Kadeshi girl and entity, Aira somehow… Well, I have to explain who - or what she is but… frankly… I don't really know myself. I really have no clue. She's always been a mystery to each and every one of us. Not even our former Commander, Hailynn Delixa, knew what this girl truly was. To be honest, it is rumored that not even the Bentusi who transferred her to us truly know what she is. Well, the Bentusi did tag her with the title entity; referring to the similar traits of the AI units that complement every navigational and international operations of their vessels.

    Aira… I don't know what to say other than the fact that she is just big of a mystery just like the entire galaxy and the Vjel-Amaj she is part of. You - Well - Whoever may listen to this report someday - You need to understand that she is able to do this, uh… I'm not -- You know… She can link her mind into the ship's consciousness… but it is so much more than that. She can hear everything, sensing everything like air and wind blowing on her skin. Aira is able to detect things just by her senses - worlds better than any sophisticated system.

    Well -- or should I say was… Aira had recently revealed that she can no longer connect herself to the Vjel-Amaj. She said she could not feel or hear anything anymore. I have not seen her yet, but when she spoke at the Common Grounds meeting, she sounded disorientated… confused… lost.
    It was as if she were lost in a labyrinth - and had become blind. She is not really blind, but this is the first time I've heard her so… confused. I am probably talking like she's some sort of robot. But I assure you, she isn't a robot.

    Nobody really knows. She's… She's a… living being, but -- I mean, I've seen her breathe - She even shows fear, emotions - much like any other person… and she speaks with an accent I never heard of - yet, it is clear that she is of Kadeshi descent… But despite all, Aira simply does not know who or what she is. All she has is the urge to see her Kadeshi homeworld again, although she knows she never will. From what I know, we are over 30,000 light years away from it…
    But it is also Hailynn who she misses as well. I'm sure the rest of the crew is missing her as well. At least Aira is in good health. Before we lost track of Hailynn and the others, she could not stress how imperative it was to save and protect Aira.

    I'm probably talking too much about her. Nevertheless, we are puzzled regarding the problem of our location. Hmm, I should explain who we are. Well, there is the Vjel-Amaj of course. Ever since Commander Delixa has left our ship due to her deeds, she had transferred her entire command to Lieutenant Commander Orelis Nabaal, who is now the Commander-in-Chief. Although he is considered a true commander, he prefers to be referred to as a Lieutenant Commander in an acting position -- yet, everybody knows that he has inherit the supreme command of our ship.


    That leads us to Sub-Lieutenant Nolan Drayson, who is now Orelis' executive officer and thus second-in-command of the Vjel-Amaj cruiser. Drayson is a young Amaji who recently graduated staff had joined the crew four days ago. He's a good guy, too -- They were transferred here to learn from our experiences as the Vjel-Amaj had made its way to Hiigara to participate at the Kharakian Anniversary event. But things went seriously wrong. I think I can safely say that none of us or them were expecting such madness to happen.


    Hailynn had even shot the Delixa'Sa, who was both her father and supreme leader of her very own kiith and also used Aira to steal a mothership class vessel… the renowned Pride-of-Kharak, the mothership that had brought our ancestors to the Homeworld, Hiigara.


    I'm losing track… Drayson and his new staff proved themselves despite being more than lost. The academies trained them well but nothing could prepare them for the madness we went through. He is a good man, a very loyal young officer, who understands everything about leadership. Better than I, for sure.

    About me? Hmm, well, I am actually a Communication Operative, 1st Grade - Supervisory Operative who is actually in charge of internal and external communications. Ever since Commander Orelis noticed my interest with the Helm, he promoted me to Ensign and I… I took the job. I could… I should have refused it, but I simply couldn't. I felt that he really needed my help.

    One needs to understand that the Vjel-Amaj is not a simple vessel - needless to say how sophisticated the controls are. And Fenna -- ugh… Let's not talk about her. Let's just say she was the last of true pilots of the Vjel-Amaj -- and now I'm pretty much stuck with controlling the Vjel-Amaj. Well, I can't perform anything special but Orelis is counting on me now more than ever.

    There are so many means and things to control the Vjel-Amaj -- I'm amazed that Hailynn actually was able to master most of these, even though she had said that she only understood some rough 2% of it all… Yet, it was all enough to keep us and the vessel alive in various occasions. I have served under Hailynn Delixa and Captain Soban's command for three months plus the last three days before her disappearance…

    Both the former Captain and Delixa were war veterans who had served onboard a Hiigaran frigate -- and Hailynn was the helmswoman. I'm still amazed of her skills -- as many of us are. Hailynn 's not an expert of other traits, if we exclude her marine history, but I can say that she was an striking formidable Commander and helmswoman -- and we all miss her… I doubt I will ever reach her skill level. Strangly… I must say that Fenna had shortly revealed similar moments of evasive actions that I only recognized to be similar to those of Hailynn


    *Ah* Nevermind. I am probably talking too much nonsense already… But about madness… I'm not sure where to start there, too. Hailynn has pledged her allegiance to the Tau Corsari Fealty while also ensuring blood truce to the Kiith Amaj. However, it was that same day when the hidden Corsari fleet was suddenly ambushed by the so-called Nebuli Somtaaw…


    The Nebuli Somtaaw…
    Yes… The name will sound familiar to those who will hear that name, it is not simply a Somtaaw enclave either… They are a mystery to us and yet we fear them even more. As what we had learned since the last two days… We learned that the Nebuli Somtaaw is led by an old and historical mothership called Kuun-Lan -- THE KUUN-LAN


    It is a ship that played a superior role in destroying the bio-mechanical Beast infestation that was threatening Hiigara and other nations… If not, perhaps even the entire galaxy. Not only this, the Kuun-Lan was apparently responsible for finding the cure to the plague that could have brought Hiigara, and us, to extinction. The Kuun-Lan and its fleet of Beast Killers had disappeared and they were never seen again… Well, until a century passed by.


    There is a long and blood history between the Nebuli Somtaaw and our new Corsari friends. But it is frightening one, and the Nebuli Somtaaw are unreasonable. It is no secret now that the Nebuli Somtaaw are hideous and deadly fanatics, second to none of what we all once thought of the Vaygr crusades...

    They… They did not even respond to the Godship Sajuuk! In fact, their firepower practically equals the Sajuuk and the forces that the Hiigaran Empire had dispatched! We lost contact to all allies other than this flotilla we are part of… That was due to a desperate emergency hyperjump that Aira had performed. But that was when our crews fell unconscious due to the intense hyperspace stress.


    We only know that the Kuun-Lan, the Nebuli Somtaaw mothership and flagship, is apparently still led by the same people of the Beast wars… but… this is where things become weird. W-Well, we know that the Corsari Leader Kroll had lengthen his life with means of longevity and it is a rare secret that is little known only to those with power… but even so… The Nebuli Somtaaw leaders are still Hiigaran. Apparently, the Kuun-Lan is led by a man known as Cortaur, uh… a Grand Admiral -- that is the first time I ever heard or actually saw such a man of such ultimate naval ranking on a war field. B-But that's not all.


    While we know none of these Somtaaw in person, the Corsari also confronted Admiral Cortaur Somtaaw's actual Right Hand… A Somtaaw woman by name of… Of… Eh, I think I forgot -- Endora - or was that Endar? Enzuria? No… En-- Ensera… Yeah, Ensera! Ensera Djawws Somtaaw -- Whatever, she was the Vice-Admiral… And apparently, she was actually the one who was the actual supreme fleet commander. The Corsari armada managed to stand their grounds despite the bloody battle.

    From what we discovered, this Ensera-or-whateverhernameis-Somtaaw woman appears to be even more… more… fanatical than any other being we… or I… had ever encountered. Not even the Vaygr… Not even the Vaygr -- I cannot even say that the Vaygr were ever that ruthless. L-Let me be honest though: Other than the Vaygr Ray of our crew <and who just eloped with Fenna actually> -- I never met a Vaygr. But I know this… The Vaygr had believed in their Lord's will, Makaan's will and myriads of nation had fallen into his charismatic charms of life and will. I don't know what it was, but this man and his thousands of massive crusades had swept across the eastern galaxy to the very inner core systems and Hiigara.

    The Vaygr were fanatical, but never on the means of spilling blood. In fact… they were a lot more careful with killing than one would imagine -- d-don't get me wrong, I don't sympathize with the Vaygr ways and the Vaygr were still deadly to their enemies, especially the Hiigaran Empire were formerly part of as Amaji


    But heed my word: From what I know of today… The Vaygr are nothing compared to the Nebuli Somtaaw… The Nebuli Somtaaw are fanatics… terrorists… monsters… Many have said this. Some of us have encountered them face-to-face. The Corsari Fealty, and even the Leader Kroll, show that they fear the Nebuli Somtaaw -- well, fear is the wrong word, but there is no doubt how much they are concerned of Nebuli Somtaaw's emergence.
    They were thought to be trapped in the galactic core forever… At least that was said and it had been a century -- and the Bryggen'Turasr and the fraction known as its surviving nation never left any traces as they fled… but they were ultimately found…


    There were collaborators -- and one apparently even closest to the Corsari Leader himself! There was a lot of chaos onboard the Bryggen'Turasr at that time. Nebuli Somtaaw forces had intruded the very core of the Bryggen'Turasr bridge nexus region and used a wide variety of means to obscure the sights. I'm not sure about the details but we will get a report on it sometime soon enough.
    When we received word that the Kroll was literally backstabbed and nearly died, all allegations fell upon his right hand, Lead Coordinator Storviik Vex -- but the actual true saboteur and traitor was one of Kroll's bodyguards.


    A frightening truth surfaced that this traitor was not only a Nebuli Somtaaw, and even Enserah--Ensora?--Whatever, the traitor was the daughter of Ensera Somtaaw -- but also was surgically altered to the very cell. There were several of such traitors -- I dare say sleepers. Somehow, they managed to leave traces that took the Kuun-Lan at least a century to ultimately find the Bryggen'Turasr again. Whatever, there is now doubt that Ensora is the most fanatical of all Nebuli Somtaaw. No doubts -- She is a sadist like none before… and she is after every single Corsari…


    We know now that the Corsari Nation, while of course defending themselves and left a bloody path well enough during their journey to their promise lands somewhere within the Galactic Core -- Wherever that should -- It is clear that the Corsari are not ruthless aggressors. The fealty of course had become a serious pirate organization and is using everything from drug trafficking to breeder abductions and many other things -- but nothing can be compared to the Nebuli Somtaaw.


    None of us know much yet, but we have our verdict: The Nebuli Somtaaw are sadistic fanatics - out on some sort of crusade to kill all of the Corsari… but there is so much more to it… They are not just killing. They have been doing something else, even during the confrontation of the last two days… I have a bad feeling about this…

    And the most troublesome part is that we do not know the truth or even why she and the Nebuli Somtaaw had been such ruthless and hideous monsters. They have slaughtered what was once known as the Corsari Nation that resided within the Galactic Core… And we simply have yet to learn what could be behind it. Kroll had given us authentic data, but we are only at the beginning and our scientists will require more than months to decipher all that data we captured. There is of course the elder servitor of Kroll, Harek, who is willing to share his wisdom and experiences as he was part of the survivors who saved Kroll before death a century ago. Nevertheless, I'm very worried…


    Flotilla scientists have hinted that the first truths we are about to uncover are to be frightening…



    A-Anyhow… And now? We are here in dead space, surrounded by a colorful galaxy with no clue where we are. The Vjel-Amaj and other vessels are re-categorizing the current constellations by independent designations and Quan and the navigators are insisting to perform a short-jump to see how the stars will move relatively to our new emergence point. This should allow us to… uh… He said it was something like finding our North Pole.


    I-I really don't know what he meant… I'm just a communication operative…


    Well…
    As of now, after all the talks in the first Common Ground meeting, Orelis has decided to end our military stance and initiate the doctrines regarding survival in deep space. So, we are more or less back to our role as a deep space science vessel, rather than a command ship - at least for now. Resources are to be rationalized for now. And… Ugh…


    You know, there was a great idea of the SAT team insisting to use cultivated worms -- Bentusi tapeworms… to be ingested by the crew. This worm thing would live in our body and actually feed us from the inside. I tell you… It was not easy to swallow the capsule after hearing the story about it. And there are many in the crew who have not performed this. I have to say that this thing grew fast. I can feel how it is moving around… Dr. Ebria Amaj, who was the first to try this out on herself, said that she got used to it very quickly. Said something that it was like being pregnant or something -- Great analogy, sistah… as Colonel Manaan would say…



    *Sigh* Nevertheless, it seems to be working. I haven't ate much so far. Feels like I lost appetite. But back to our flotilla.
    The Vjel-Amaj is currently part of a flotilla with vessels and crafts from different factions. There is of course the Vjel-Amaj and two escort frigates of our lance, the Sejun-No and the Sebun-No. Both have proven the self invaluable. Frigate Captain DaCowl of the Sejun-No is a very formidable captain… but Captain Tegron on the other hand… *Sigh* That woman… She's a pain. She can command the Sebun-No very well, but she is one of the very annoying type of people.

    I have no clue why she joined the Kiith Amaji Navy in the first place.
    Pff, you know -- and I could care less if you share my words -- but Fenna is just as freaking annoying as Captain Amalia Tegron. Good gracious, that woman had been screaming in my ears and was a damn annoyance with her constant nagging about leaving the warzone to save her hide… In fact, I'd not be surprised if Amalia Tegron were to be Fenna Mae's mother!

    Kelsea paused once more to catch her slightly aggravated tone of voice. She breathed carefully several times until she finally calmed down.

    S-Sorry… I think we all took some serious damage from what had happened ever since the last two days. After all, I cannot hide the fact that I was scared just like everybody else. Even with Fenna and Tegron's screaming, I was somewhere close to that as well, and certainly the rest of the crew. We were in the middle of a warzone - With fanatics trying to vaporize the pirate armada we had formed an allegiance and blood true with… I'm sure that everybody was frightened of the Nebuli Somtaaw, and I can tell you that I was stressed to the maximum…
    A-At least we survived, but many of us are worried of how things are going on.


    The uncontrollable wavefront Aira had opened as a reaction to her fear of us all dying had carried not only us but also the entire armada, asteroids, even the Sajuuk, the Hiigaran expeditionary fleet and even the Nebuli Somtaaw vessels along with the Kuun-Lan. The Vjel-Amaj and the flotilla was ripped away when a damn Nebuli Somtaaw carrier tried to tear us out of the gigantic wavefront; causing us to be separated into an independent wavefront.

    The Nebuli Carrier was then completely surged and … and then we were slowly being consumed by hyperspace. I thought we would be surged as well, but the entire flotilla fell unconscious to the sheer stress of our hyperspace flight. Later on, we performed a forced emergence. I suppose that the majority of that wavefront and the Nebuli carrier is still flying on into the deeps of nowhere-lands… And well, our forced emergence did tear a considerable chunk off that carrier.

    R-Regarding our Vjel-Amaj crew, some word is spreading that our crew is slightly edgy about the situation. I'm not sure though. I've been stuck at the bridge for quite a long time. It was that moment again, those type of days where I simply would stay up over many shifts despite the others in need for sleep and food. I don't know why I can stay up so long. It is weird and the doctors of Amaji Prime never really figured why. Whatever… I suppose it is just gossip regarding the crew's status. We're just probably all stressed from the events of terror.


    Let me talk about our flotilla, shall I? Well…
    There is also the Deep Space Industrial Carrier Darugis, led by liberated Gaalsi-Siidim people and a small group of Somtaaw Hiigarans who decided to perform mutiny to overthrow those that were slaving the Gaalsiidim.
    Then we have the old Corsari destroyer Hjorndal, which decide to support us in our deeds after we used our corvette drones to support their navigational means.
    The Hjorndal is a very old ship - I dare say, an obsolete one, but ever since the Nebuli Somtaaw performed their assault, the ship had proven itself. She heavily damaged, as well as the Regausa-Maru destroyer of the Somtaaw Viir-Bror enclave.

    Unfortunately for the Viir-Bror people, Kroll had executed and abused many of the Somtaaw crew. The Regausa-Maru was stripped of its many components and it also took quite a beating from the initial raid upon it.
    There we have two notorious corvettes; one is a smaller one of the Turanic Marauder faction. Fortunately for us, these Marauders are not hostile or maniacal as they are usually portrayed, but some of the myths are true. While they are not truly cannibals, they do require loads of calcium -- which they commonly absorb from bone and biological materials of any kind. It is quite scary to hear about this but they assured us that they mean no harm.


    They have also asked us to help them by giving them the corpses. They said they could absorb the calcium without destroying the bodies - Whatever that means… But they are okay, if you ask me. Drayson, heh -- He's actually tagging along with this female Marauder. According to the gossip, it seems weird for him to be walking around with this tall woman that is trying to make a hit on him. Drayson is seeing things too diplomatically I guess. Some joked that she wanted to eat him… *chuckles*

    But seriously, there is another surprise. It looks like that Dr. Pethera Sjet, or should I say, the Sren'Sjet, also appeared with her renowned mining corvette, the Hive. It was a surprise to all of us, but it was also typical. Orelis was furious, too. It looks like Pethera was up to her old game again of secrets. Her cult had even kidnapped Velle and Aira - especially to siphon whatever knowledge they could get from the poor girl. Pethera said that Aira's mind was like a database of the galaxy… I didn't quite get it, but it was already enough for Orelis to go mad.


    Speaking of mad…
    The person I spoke of before… Our former helmswoman Fenna Mae Amaj - Yes, the sister of the missing Deena Mae Amaj - took Ray and decided to leave the Vjel-Amaj. In fact, the whole Kiith Amaj… and enter asylum onboard the Darugis. She's always been a fretful brat and a real pain in the ass. I've lost count of how many times she insulted me, Orelis and just about everybody else but the Vaygr Ray, who is apparently her husband too. Looks like she married him onboard Taara's Star - Just like the Gaalsi, Vayn Baxtor, and Kaydaana Manaan! But I will get to them in a moment.


    Fenna was a low grade support operative who happened to have knowledge of piloting large vessels. While she was nowhere close to what Hailynn was capable of, Fenna was Orelis only true candidate for piloting the ship efficiently enough in battle. I'm just a secondary pilot… and now Fenna is gone… and I'm the only pilot left for him. Y-You have no idea how many trillions of buttons, switches, panels and controls are on that secondary helm alone… And now I am the senior helmswoman… I-I don’t like this…

    About Velle Xoti Amaj, she was actually Hailynn's Adjutant. Hailynn was indoctrinated to the kiithidial voice of Krin'sa of the Kiith Amaj, by the way. Nevertheless, ever since Hailynn's disappearance, Orelis figured much later that he's not actually the superior commander but Velle, due to her being an adjutant. Velle is still confused just like many others throughout the crew but it is true.

    Orelis is only a military officer of the military authority. Anybody with a kiithidial voice surpasses his command level - when speaking of regulations and the way of the kiith. Although Pethera possess a voice, she is a Sjeti and Orelis himself would never-ever take another order from her again. Pethera is a manipulative woman, and even if Orelis despises her, she still is pulling strings on everybody, somehow. I don't like her either - but nothing can surpass the utter hatred Orelis has against her.


    And not only this, Orelis sees Fenna's leave as a betrayal… not the type of betrayal one would need in a time where everybody is needed and whose expertise is imperative for the survival of all. But Fenna is no longer part of us or the Amaji kiith.
    However, Orelis became even more furious when his close friend and kiith advocate, Naleigha Bajula Amaj, stood before him and held him away from acting against Fenna's decision. Naleigha is a Nabaali and is very close childhood friend to Orelis, yet it looks like he sees her act even more as betrayal because she stopped him from engaging Fenna and Ray. Unfortunately… One must know that the Nabaali people are very loyal to any code they believe in. Naleigha believes in the code of Law and Order, and thus being a lawyer, Fenna and Ray are leaving by legit means.


    Ray had sworn himself long before to serve Hailynn Delixa as his lord of command. A Lord of Command is a serious matter to a vaygr warrior like himself. That is his way and we had learned to respect it, but ever since Hailynn's absence and certain unforeseeable missing content in the contracts, Fenna and Ray deemed themselves free of anything that voided their service. After all, Fenna was not truly an operative anymore. She was free of that a long time ago. Orelis lost his head and went beyond furious ever since. I had not even slept much - probably not at all.


    Oh dear… but there were even more surprises.
    Looks like Kaydaana is pregnant. Velle had congratulated both Vayn and Kaydaana to this blessing. It is much of a surprise to the entire Vjel-Amaj crew because it is known that Kaydaana is a Grade: Z female… Meaning that her breeding grade of the past reveals that she is incurably infertile… and there was absolutely no cure from that. Specifically, it is said that she does not have the full means to give birth or even the necessary means for kushan re-productivity.


    I still haven't gotten used to all of this… There is always a surprise that keeps twisting logics and reality. And we must simply face the fact that it is true. Kaydaana is pregnant, and I can say or feel nothing more than happiness for her. She deserves this happiness - and I envy her of it. I wish I had a man to --
    *Long pause* As of now…


    The Vjel-Amaj and the flotilla, Arbeta Hitol, is en route to a ripped wreckage that was torn off a Nebuli Carrier. We do not know what happened to the Nebuli Carrier as it was with us during the time we were stuck within an uncontrollable quantum wavefront. There is a large husk several hundreds of kilometers away. It had been surged,too… The people in it are long dead… There is no doubts - no surprises, about that. However, regarding the flotilla's need for survival, the Common Ground has decided that we shall salvage what we can before leaving.


    Also, we need to discuss various topics regarding the flotilla itself. Some of our ground units had encountered the Nebuli Somtaaw by marine combat and it was frightening. The Common Ground decided to adjourn the meeting to let the military leaderships collect information on the new menaces. Before the adjourning, Pethera had stressed that the Nebuli Somtaaw held many frightening secrets -- and the corpses she had extracted where full of it. She stressed that if we want to become successful against the Nebuli Somtaaw that we would have to start understanding their terrifying ways…


    I don't know… I don't like the sounds of it…


    The Nebuli Somtaaw remains a mystery to us all… And they are truly fanatics…
    Nevertheless, we are to conduct several operations at the same time. We are to explore the massive torn chuck of the Nebuli Somtaaw carrier with the rest of the flotilla. It will take a while until we reach it as the wreckage had drifted further beyond over the last hours while we had conducted docking procedures to the Darugis - and of course, the Common Grounds meeting. SAT team will dispatch EVA -- Well, astronauts and they will be supported by the Hive and as well as the Rock-Roach, the corvette of the Turanic Marauders. While we approach the wreckage, Orelis and others will gather information from the marines who encountered the Nebuli Somtaaw combat units.

    Orelis is currently onboard the Darugis at its respective bridge command. I'm sure he's having a talk with the Captain Vladim Gridori Somtaaw, the honorable Somtaaw man who played a vital role in liberating the Gaalsiidim from their first oppressors - although it is clear that he had to perform mutiny, which is a serious felony in the military world...



    *****


    = Darugis Industrial Carrier - Bridge =



    The air was slightly thick and humid. Random voices spoke in the background. He did not listen to the conversations. Aside to the short talks between the bridge operators and the few officers, there were occasional sounds of scratches and digitalized voices sounding from the nearby speakers. Two operators walked passed him, saluting him as they passed by. He returned the gesture but his mind was elsewhere. The man looked down upon the object in his hand…


    He was not sure about what was upon this flash drive. The device was about the size of his palm; a special key that could fit to any universal interface slot. However, it was a special one that required not only a specific software but also a hardware unit that was available onboard the Vjel-Amaj. However, he had not viewed its content yet although he stood before the specific console the last day. He did not know why he had not listened or viewed it. He was exhausted, and he still was despite the very few hours of snoozing he had taken on the seat just besides him. He could not explain his hesitation and the dreaded hours of staring on this little thing.



    Was this Hailynn's legacy?


    Maybe --

    *[i]clack clack*
    <C-CRAP!>, he silently said to himself, when the object slipped off his hand to the floor.

    He felt cold sweat running down his spine as he hoped it he did not break it. However, he was somewhere certain it was sturdy. Deciding to do the best conclusion yet, he stuck into his wrinkled uniform. When he noticed the smell of thick sweat coming from the fabrics of his uniform, he figured that he was far too long in this dress uniform. He had not changed his dress uniform for almost three days straight. Now he was looking forward for a decent sleep just after a nice time in his quarter's personal gel bath tank… but there was no time for that as he raised his view upon the main screen further ahead.

    The Nabaali officer was of average height. He had straight, short and dark blond hair that was probably once combed to the back, but due to the given stress and straight days of duty, his hair was rather messy at best. He also noticed his chin had grown a small field of a three-day beard. The Nabaali had a fair complexion despite the commonness of darker skin tones in the Nabaali bloodlines.

    As usual, he rubbed his sore eyes to spare his eyes a few seconds of what was a sorry excuse for a microsleep. After waking up, he examined his wear.
    His dress uniform was wrinkled. Wearing the common traits for a nabaali officer, his uniform possessed the recognizable primary black schemes as well as grey strips upon the shoulder regions. Holding the proud rank and insignias of a Kiith Nabaal-Amaj Lieutenant Commander as well as other decorations upon his thin deep red sash, the man also possessed an epaulette and a single golden braided cord well known as the nabaali aiguillette.


    The aiguillette hung down against his waist and it was only now that he had noticed it. He was surprised he had not noticed this earlier. It must have been like this ever since the Nebuli Somtaaw had conducted their surprise attack with the siege bolt. It was more than dishonorable to both uniform and command to have this cord hanging like this. Without hesitation, the man lifted the end of the braided cord and connected it back to the button of his uniform jacket.



    "Commander Nabaal, sir?", a man said from his.
    "Yes?", he responded with a slightly hoarse voice.



    Orelis noticed the man who happened to be a Somtaaw, ranked Midshipman; if he recognized the insignia correctly. While Orelis did not know the precise Somtaaw name of this young man's rank, he could still rely on the basic recognizable forms of the insignia that gave him the general ranking term.



    "Sir. Captain Somtaaw wishes to speak with you. It is regarding the findings about the pods that were attached to the hulls of our ships and the next step of this salvage operation the flotilla is insisting to undertake."
    "Ah, yes… Understood. I shall speak with him right now."



    "Very well. I will guide you to him."
    "Excuse me, midshipman. May I ask a question?"



    The Nabaali walked slowly to the side of the young Somtaaw as they began a slow pace up a ramp to the upper bridge section.


    "But of course, sir. Go ahead."
    "Before I say this, allow me to say that I wish to excuse myself beforehand, but…", Orelis felt how uncomfortable his dress uniform had become as the undergarments merely stuck to his body's sweat, "Why is it so humid here? I'm sweating like a Hraalian pig -- the animal, of course."

    "No, that is all right, sir. A very long story, to be honest. To keep it short, the engineers we have never really managed to fix the environmental controls. Their primary focus was to maintain life-support systems over re-adjusting environmental controls as the latter is lesser of a priority. Although they know the ship, a few malfunctions must have snuck onboard after all.

    Aside to that, the mainframes and other systems emit a notable heat signature. Heat is bad for electronic grids but our systems are able to handle it and we have people who can patch the faulty circuit boards. Nevertheless, the Darugis is more or less an old carrier and has been in service for a few years too many. She had neither seen a maintenance bay nor really took a thorough checkup ever since. She's keeping together though. And she brought us so far…"


    "Heh… We all have our trust to our ships. I understand. I can handle the heat. After all, it's not like Nabaal Prime wasn't this hot and humid in its rainy seasons."
    "I see."



    As Orelis slowly walked upwards upon the ramp, he discovered several holes upon the mainframe wall to his left, "B-Bullet holes?"
    "Yes, sir. As you know, we liberated this ship - which pretty much equaled mutiny… Not all were part of our intention for kushanity."



    "Your acts honor me… but I hope these shots were only warning shots, midshipman…"
    "Unfortunately… There were casualties… misunderstandings -- a lot of serious matters just went out of hand and there were people who did not survive that day. The carrier ended up in a series of hostage situations and persuasions… Some were reasonable and decided to switch sides -- Others were too loyal by the blood. We decided to keep to our intentions and agenda. Ultimately, while we were actually outgunned, our opposing crewmen decided to stand-down as they simply could not see any further bloodshed of their own blood. We were terrified of what he had done as well.

    Many of them also understood that holding the Gaalsiidim people to traditional servitude means was simply a farce - especially with the Vaygr hordes approaching Hiigara. We were oppressing those who were actually willing to help us - and who are people just like you and me. Having them like slaves would not make us better than any other Vaygr. Nevertheless, the opposing crew decided to surrender but they said they would not go against their Kiith.

    After all, we were about to be at war, and it was actually their decision to beacon other vessels in the region for extraction. We made sure they would survive without any troubles. We do not know how they are now, but… I'm glad it was over. The time after that wasn't easy though. We had to avoid Hiigaran fleets and deep space sensory… not to mention trade routes and other vessels that could expose us to them. We suffered famine and much more…"


    "The Hiigaran-Vaygr war was hell and frell to all of us, but I know what you mean with famine… My homeworld suffered this as well due to conflicts."
    "Agreed…"

    The two men continued until they reached the short stairs that lead to the upper primary bridge section.

    *
    Last edited by Sparki; Yesterday at 8:51 PM.
    BF Bad Company 2 - Name: Groovechamp

    Homeworld Fanfiction in progress:
    Tales of the Vjel-Amaj - feat. a unique Kiith
    Book I; Book II; Book III
    Discussion Thread/ Forum Blog

    ?(?`???)? HW:Cataclysm 2 rage signature! ?(?`???)?

  2. #2
    YES! Been checking the forum every day. Oh the joy when I saw this. Good job Sparki!
    "You're worse than the Beast! At least the Beast doesn't pretend to be righteous!"

  3. #3
    Member Prawn663's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Not in Hell anymore
    You Monster!! i haven't even finished part 2, and here's a new part ( it took me more than two weeks to get this far in Part2, nearly at the end now)

    well Anyway nice to have a third installment Good going to you Sparki ( realy enjoying the Tales of the Vjel Amaj )

    i certainly like your ideas for the Nebuli Somtaaw i also like the story behind the Corsari ( your creating a lot of possibilities for offshoot fictions)

    Greetz

  4. #4
    Part 3! Nice! I've gotta catch up sometime. And uh... when did Adama say that? xD I must have missed it because that's hilarious.

  5. #5
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Whoa, too much praise
    Thanks guys, means much to me.


    Part 3! Nice! I've gotta catch up sometime. And uh... when did Adama say that? xD I must have missed it because that's hilarious.
    @Doberman
    It was actually not in the series itself but when Olmos was presented on a vid at a Convention:
    Blooper Reel
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg6NbJdquwY

    ;D it's funny - and notice his smile before he is cut off.


    Oh and thanks for putty TOVJ on the recommended read m8. I will do the same back for Exiles Return. But I will not do it because I'm paying back the favor but because your fic does give a very clear sight on HW1 in two sentences rather than I who would ramble for twelve days just about Kharak's history and Kiith stuff. (I always get carried away when it comes to Kiithid histories ).

    Really, ER should be newbies first to read to get a rough info on HW's canon.



    You Monster!! i haven't even finished part 2, and here's a new part ( it took me more than two weeks to get this far in Part2, nearly at the end now)

    well Anyway nice to have a third installment Good going to you Sparki ( realy enjoying the Tales of the Vjel Amaj )

    i certainly like your ideas for the Nebuli Somtaaw i also like the story behind the Corsari ( your creating a lot of possibilities for offshoot fictions)

    Greetz
    @ Prawn

    HW:C Bentusi: Weeeee.... are.... not.... Monsteeeers! ;DDD

    Take your time m8.
    Part II got a lot more clunky n chunky then I actually anticipated and it is quite a frell of chunk to digest. I should have cut down on all the fluff and murderface details on background etc, but it just wouldnt feel the same. And a revision is really required hehe.


    Nevertheless, thanks for sticking to the fic despite its monstrous size n length guys . I will do my best to keep the flow going.

    I will try to stick to 7k'ish words format so it is consistent. Can't promise if I can keep it that way hehe.



    Unfortunately for the prologue, it will still contain a bit more of the same characters and their interactions before the actual first chapter and the continuation of the plot. So it will involve more monologs and speeches but I want to put some background details in before continuing.

    I will write more specific non-spoilers in the discussion thread !

  6. #6
    Wall-o-Textian
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    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    === Part 2 of x ===


    The last steps to the upper bridge segment was not an easy one for the Nabaali. The air was outright thicker than below, practically burning his lungs with each breath. He could feel the mainframes radiating like suns upon his skin. There was a short moment where his mind brought him back to the time where he was upon Nabaal Prime; but soon, the brief reminiscence of the distant homeworld would be blown away by a notable press of cooler air. He looked towards the ceiling, spotting the gratings of faulty environment controllers that had just ended their cycles. The units were indeed in dire shape; not even worth mentioning how obsolete they were. The man felt the urge to give his armpits a satisfying scratch but he insisted to ignore doing such as several eyes had fell upon his arrival.



    The surfaces were rusty, easily noticeable by their rough red and silver surfaces. Time and acidic residues had eaten most of the surfaces. Although the Nabaali officer was not an engineer, he also knew that such loud units were simply too old as these were designed to collect great portions of air, convert the CO2 concentrations to breathable oxygen with their purifying units and inject it into the area again. But in the end, anybody would be thankful with what they had as these weary units were the only things providing their lives.


    The midshipman made a swift salute at Orelis and moved away from him. The Nabaali thanked him and observed his surroundings. As of now, he was now able to gain an impression of the bridge's realm. Notable for Somtaaw design, the bridge comprised of two distinct areas. The lower segment had secondary interface pools that appeared to deal with the industrial means of the carrier. The upper bridge section was obviously the primary command center of the vessel.


    Somtaaw Bridge




    *


    Orelis spotted the Somtaaw captain maintaining his silent gaze ahead at the distant main screen. His bulky seat was slightly displaced from the center of platform. Insisting to stop wasting time with observations, he finally approached him.


    "Good day, Commander Nabaal", the sitting officer mentioned as he maintained his view straight ahead.
    "Honored Greetings, Captain Gridori Somtaaw", Orelis replied and tried to hide the discomfort with his uniform.
    "There is nothing wrong with an open uniform, Commander. By all means, you are free to open it. We are all used to it."


    Orelis grinned slightly as the man gave him the time to finally open his wrinkled dress uniform. The Somtaaw captain had fair skin and was possibly a man in his mid-to-late 50s. His face was covered by his officer hat and he also had a notable bushy dark mustache. Orelis sensed his great presence as he was certainly slightly taller than he was.


    Even more, he sensed that there was something enigmatic about this man. While it was nowhere near what he had sensed from his former captain, Quenton Soban, his man was likewise a mystery. The Somtaaw wore a dark red uniform jacket with deep blue stripes upon the wrist cuffs. The pants were dark gray. Two epaulettes as well as what appeared to be a very short but authentically decorated military poncho was upon his shoulders; resembling much of what Hailynn used to where on duty.


    "Did you manage to get some sleep, Commander?", the accented man asked Orelis.
    "To be honest, sir, no. But certainly not you or anybody else to be blamed for. The last days were simply too stressful... And we have yet an upcoming task to be supervised."



    "Agreed."
    "Captain, with all due respect and apologies for my directness, but could you tell me more about yourself and the liberation of the Gaalsiidim people?"


    The Somtaaw man turned his view from Orelis and made a pause before answering, "Too much to say with a single breath, Commander Nabaal. However... Not much before the outbreak of the Hiigaran-Vaygr war, several of this crew and I were onboard the Somtaaw Scout Cruiser Hesbet-Tirsa. Due to a protest on my behalf regarding a questionable decision of Somtaaw High Command, we were removed from duty and transferred to the Darugis, this old lady from the early days of Somtaaw pioneering days. While we are seriously undermanned like never before though having the cryogenic bays for shifts, we have stood our duty pretty well. I insisted to take the entire blame for my decision but most of the crew decided to stay. There were a few who did not like the results.

    Nevertheless, we were on our own somewhat as we were no longer serving onboard a military vessel. We conducted many supply runs and manpower transferals prior to the war. I suppose the paperwork was punishment enough. But it was that day when the war took place and we received a notable group of people..."


    "The Gaalsiidim..."
    "Yes", the man grinned shortly, "I suppose Somtaaw High Command expected we would never conduct mutiny again... *Sigh* Nevertheless, Hiigara and probably just about the rest of the galaxy was under siege by the Vaygr hordes. We were powerless as we were onboard a civilian ship. Makaan's forces even cut through to Hiigara within the first years... I lost my family that day the Vaygr conducted their bombardment upon Hiigara."


    "Condolences, sir... We all lost myriads of good people and close members."
    "Thank you. Yes, we all did. I for one may sound unusual, but I'm sure even the Vaygr did as well. So much bloodshed... I will never understand why the galaxy is so busy killing each other. Perhaps it is just our nature... Nonetheless, we found ourselves in another situation that was splitting the crew apart. We were to relocate a great deal of refugees to a distant colony world approximately thirty light years away from Hiigara and the Inner Core Systems. We discovered that the people were not ordinary workers or simple people from the population but slaves for high class kiithid; foremost to be smuggled beneath official eyes as the war was about everywhere.

    Several of the crew disagreed with... liberating the Gaalsiidim slaves. It was not that they supported the oath of eternal servitude the Gaalsiidim suffer from, but the fact that the crewmen did not want to be bring further disgrace upon their blood and people -- and I fully respect their decisions... but things went out of hand. When the first person was shot, I instantly lost command over of the ship as conflicts and hostage situations took place. Mutiny is an ugly thing, Commander. I wish this never to happen again."


    "The midshipman who brought me here explained me much about the situation. None of you deserved this."
    "We did what was necessary, Mr. Nabaal. As of those days of mutiny and its end, we found ourselves forced to flee the Core Systems. It was difficult enough as we not only had to stay clear of the Vaygr crusades but also the Hiigaran navy and its allies. We considered ourselves as renegades, likely to be executed on sight. We were never certain if we were persecuted as Hiigara was in a bloody war, but we had no choice. We have struggled several years in deep space with little contact to neutrals.
    The mass of people on an old obsolete carrier with barely supplies made things even worse. We were lost at first as we did not know where to go. Initial choices were soon fouled with the discovery of Vaygr or Hiigaran lines moving about. Neutral factions were either annexed or deemed too dangerous to possible hostile acts - and we also had at least three attempts of boarding parties that we fended off. We were forced to maintain mere blind jumps into deadspace between known star systems. Occasionally, we were able to contact space faring traders."

    "Scouts of the Bentusi Enclave?"
    "No. Unknown space-faring cultures, but the trades were rather negligible regarding the goods we had. It took us at least two years to establish ways of improving our nomadic lifestyle. We have developed ways of harnessing solar power by reverse-engineering and combining salvaged solar panels and such from forgotten battlefields between the Vaygr and the Hiigaran forces. Every now and then, we support our survivability by emerging less than half an HU away from a star, in order to harvest from the solar winds. This also allowed us to charge the batteries and other power storage systems.

    We were careful enough and also performed search and rescue operations. So far, we found several but only three have survived so far. They are part of our crew now and decided to stay. The Gaalsiidim people are creative, too. They have discovered preliminary ways of developing a hydroponic garden. While we have the space, they still needed to figure ways on how to improve the crop gain, if you understand what I mean. At least with the flotilla, I'm certain we are ensured to survive. Nevertheless. The galaxy remained a dangerous place...

    The Darugis is an old ship, as you have surely noticed, but she has always been there for us ever since. I never really was the type to become fond with having a connection to a ship as typical for captains, but... I cannot deny that this ship has become our home. I dare say our homeworld. Now that I have founded a small family here, it is my duty now to ensure our survival... But I did a did a mistake... I trusted the Viir-Bror Somtaaw flotilla led by the Regausa-Maru. I thought this was the chance to finally bring the people to a safe haven we heard of through the waves."

    "Wait, are you talking about the Kiith Amaj, sir."
    "Yes. The Kiith Amaj -- Well, the name was unknown to us as the captured transmissions were simply too garbled. We figured we were several light years away, but without any sort of accurate navigation, it would take us a lot longer to find our goal. Our stellar maps were too old to rely on as these did not contain accurate details on the fringe space of the Core Systems. Even more, the Darugis' FTL drives were beyond capable of accurate navigation too. It would have taken us years to come. We were on our confident way of improving our life in space, but I became too eager. I wanted to bring our people -- our new families, into safety. That was when I trusted the Viir-Bror Somtaaw... only to become slaves like the rest of our Gaalsiidim people."


    Orelis noticed the captain's hands curling upon the seat's armrests, "No reason to be ashamed of decisions, sir. The Hiigaran-Vaygr refugees onboard the Vjel-Amaj had similar intentions, too. They only wanted to survive. Your motives were clearly honorable. Unfortunately, Hiigara, its kiithid and enclaves in space have become lost in greed as the empire and the Vaygr are shattered to pieces."

    "I am not proud of what we had to do, but it was for the sake of the people onboard this ship. I now have a wife and son. I only want to protect them."


    "And we will continue to follow that agenda, Captain."


    "What about you, Nabaal?"
    "Sir?"


    "Do you have any family? Anything you are fighting for? I'm certain that everybody has something to fight for."


    The Nabaali loosened his stance and looked ahead upon the distant main screen. His hesitant pause hinted that he pondered for an honest answer. Somewhere, the captain noticed that the Nabaali thought of person.

    "I... I don't think so, sir. I've always been a career officer ever since I left Nabaal Prime and the madness of the political schemes. When war was about, I've ever since served onboard military vessels and should have been dead if it were not for the men and women I now I my life to. There was never time for [such like settling down. Even after the war, the now independent Kiith Amaj became even more reliant on the few men and women like me who were not willing to let the young generations be left behind as the Hiigaran Empire intended. And as of the last days and ever since Hailynn Delixa left the crew, I've now inherited the command of the Vjel-Amaj, its crew and also the people of this flotilla. I must be there for them now.

    But... I'm just a Lieutenant Commander..."


    "I doubt it's a man, Commander..."
    "S-Sir?"


    Orelis stared at the captain who returned the gaze. He then made a gentle scoff.


    The captain grinned lightly as well, "You see, some of us tend to develop a sense for such."
    "Well... There is somebody actually... A young nabaali woman who more or less fled Nabaali Prime with me - or followed me, I don't care."

    "I suppose you are talking about the Nabaali advocate who came up with the idea of this Common Grounds meeting?"
    "Yes. Her. All due respect, captain, but I don't care about her. She's just an acquaintance. Nothing less, nothing more... "

    The captain maintained look upon the adamant Nabaali for several seconds before lowering it again, "It is your matter, of course, Commander. But let me say this. Sometimes, the people we try to stay away from are exactly the ones we should keep close to us."
    "I'm better off alone. Captain, I would like to discuss about the unknown pods we discovered on our ship's hulls."


    The Somtaaw captain nodded, deciding to drop the topic, "Yes. Commander, I have spoken with somebody who appeared to be the only one who could identify these pods. This required me to conduct negotiations with the Corsari and my crew as you recuperated."

    "Negotiations?"
    "Yes. It was Iodan Somtaaw who could identify the unknown pods. The Corsari and I agreed to offer the battered Regausa-Maru and its crew means of support. The Corsari were not really willing to, and they still possess oppressive supervision over the Regausa-Maru, but they agreed to have Somtaaw and Gaalsiidim guards rather than Corsari ones willing to press muzzles against the back of their necks. I have decided to dispatch a few armed men of my crew to replace several Corsari guardsmen. The Corsari will still maintain a suppressive authority, but my men will take their orders and relay them to the Viir-Somtaaw crewmen. I find it better that that way."


    "I understand."
    "I did not mean to undermine your command even though you were present and had fallen asleep, Commander."


    "No, no, captain, by all means. No need to apologize. I am not some sort of supreme commander. The negotiations were entirely between you and the Corsari faction regarding Iodan Somtaaw and his ship. I'd prefer nobody holding any guns against each other either, no matter what bloodline. If we want to survive, we need to stop unnecessary bloodshed.
    However, I do must confess I do not like Iodan Somtaaw - neither his enclave nor his agenda. There is something about that man, and he is probably just as shady as Sren Pethera Sjet. Captain, we two must be wary of the fact that these people are manipulative. Any move or decision they insist to do is solely for their advantage."

    Two operators saluted the men as they passed by and went to other stations.

    "I will take this note in mind, Commander Nabaal. Please note that the Sren wishes to participate in the operations with her corvette, the Hive."
    "I must protest to that, Captain. That is not good. She's a snake and should never be trusted", Orelis lowered his voice and leaned down slightly, "Captain, Gridori, please. This woman is a serious matter. She's not the type willing to participate with others without a gain on her side. As you heard from the first Common Grounds meeting, she has always been working on a secret agenda of her cult and her own. Anything she will find on that wreckage will certainly not be good for the flotilla."


    "I agree, Commander. But we do not have much of a choice. The corvette is the next smallest vessel that is capable of entering the wreckage and acting as a remote base for the astronautic operations. They also possess various ways of storage and extraction that are somewhat essential. The Corsari are dispatching a few of their astronautic marines as well and will also be deployed from the Hive."

    Orelis made a deep sigh, knowning that he was going to have to live with it.


    "Commander Nabaal. Regarding the pods, Iodan has informed me that these were indeed Somtaaw reconnaissance warfare pods. Indeed, it appears the Kun-Lann was known to use these a century ago. The technology is rather unknown to the Kiith Somtaaw itself, and if ever, only applies them with conventional means. But regarding these pods, these are by far more elusive. Iodan said these are stealthy units capable of achieving high velocities while slipping through enemy lines unnoticed. They would then latch onto the hulls of target vessels. These pods are usually capable of hacking into ship computers, decipher transmissions, use acidic agents to puncture the hull -- the list goes on. I would not be surprised if they were used with explosives, but your ship performed a scan with a probe and found nothing. Iodan referred to these pods as Leeches."


    "Leech? Heh, good codename...", Orelis wiped sweat from his forehead as he sensed the heat signature of the green screen above him merely grilling him.
    "Agreed. The Leeches had a special purpose. We must assume the Nebuli Somtaaw had dispatched them much earlier before they revealed themselves. Probably to assess their enemies."


    Orelis scratched the side of his itchy waist, "What confuses me is why we were not able to detect them. I mean, the Vjel-Amaj has very sensitive sensors..."
    "I recall speaking with your Ensign earlier and she mentioned something similar. She noted an assumption. She assumed the reason why your ship was not able to detect them was because your ship was not at its full potential. She said there was something about the ship that capped its capabilities, forcing it to rely on conventional means."

    "That does makes sense. For once, our entity, Aira, is a key unit of the ship. She was not onboard for quite some time. We do not have all the facts yet, but there are notable aspects that support the assumption that the ship's capabilities were narrowed down by her absence. However, she is back, and it is still like this. But we will deal with this."


    "Understood. Anyhow, your Ensign had dispatched a probe to collect the Leech pods. We assume the pods went idle after losing contact with the Kun-Lann. Your science teams insist to inspect these some time."
    "Heh... The SAT team is always crazy after things like these. Captain, what is our status regarding our approach to the Somtaaw wreckage? We appear to be almost in range."


    "Indeed. One moment", Captain Gridori then raised his voice, "Sensory, our current navigational status?"

    One of the woman ahead replied, "Captain, we're currently 800 meters away from the wreckage and are slowly closing in on it. We are about to reach the desired perimeter. Nothing on scan other than signatures we had already discovered. Nevertheless, the wreckage is deadweight in space."
    "That doesn't mean nobody is home". one of the helm-engineers noted from behind.
    "True, but after such a chunk being ripped and undergoing serious hyperspace surge, I doubt anything is alive anymore."
    "...Touché..."


    "Commander, what do you suggest?", Gridori asked.
    "Captain, I think we are close enough. We should halt the flotilla around the 400 meters and dispatch our search operations while maintaining a secure overwatch. Your sensory operator is right though. I agree that we do not have to be too concerned about lurking foes. Nevertheless, we know that whenever hyperspace surges both organic and inorganic materials that such will never be like it was before. I don't want to know how the people look like, but we must be wary that the wreckage itself is unstable."

    Gridori nodded, "The new Corsari First is willing to maintain a steady guard, but he demands the two Amaji escort frigates to be part of his formation and command."
    "I am fine with that...", Orelis replied and their gazed upon the screen besides the captain's seat, "Hmm... The wreckage is a lot larger than I had in memory. We will require a lot of time to explore it..."
    "Indeed. Very well... Comms: Signal the flotilla to halt whilst adjusting the velocity to the wreckage's drift. All stations, status report and intel on the wreckage."


    Following his order, a few midshipmen shared their information.
    The male midshipman of operations spoke, "Signaling the flotilla to halt and adjust to the wreckage's drift. Readying the salvage crewmen for the operation. Notifying officers for mining duty deployment. Suggest announcing Status: Yellow to the flotilla."
    "Make it so", Gridori shortly added.


    "Conning standing by anchorage profile. Programming and evaluating necessary values now", one of the helm engineers called, "Due to status of one of our engines, we suggest engaging a full 180degree yaw and perform a controlled thrust until we have achieved anchorage drift status."


    "I better get back to the engineering deck", the female helm engineer noted to the two men, "Keep me informed on any computer failures, guys. I'm sure we can patch up the errors."
    "Roger. No problem, Alistaire . See you later at the galley."

    She winked and moved away, "I'll run the numbers for you on the way with my pad."

    "Darugis to Arbeta Hitol Flotilla", the communication operator called, "We are in range to conduct salvage operations and are to assemble anchorage amidst the desired 400 meter perimeter. Caution to all units: The Darugis will perform a reverse thrust profile for deceleration until the desired anchorage velocity is achieved. Maintain distance. Flotilla command suggest engaging status: yellow and to raise security awareness. Extra-Solar operations are to standby for deployment. Darugis, out."



    "Captain?"
    "Yes, Mr. Nabaal?"

    "Is it possible for the Vjel-Amaj to dock with the Darugis once anchorage profile as been established?"
    "Yes. This is possible. This was also planned as Regausa-Maru requires further supplies. I will notify you of the schedule. Do you wish to board your ship?"

    "Yes, while we have many tasks to be supervised, I've yet to debrief the marine unit that was dispatched. There are serious matters we have to discuss."
    "Understood."


    ***


    = Vjel Amaj, Bridge Commander =


    [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMyp3_EWr4w]### Homeworld: Cataclysm Soundtrack - Theme #56 ###

    Meanwhile...
    The Amaji Ensign quietly stared above at a screen as she stood at the center of the bridge with arms crossed, spotting how the Darugis carrier began its slow yaw towards a specific arc to engage a reverse thrust position. The transparent blue visor was across her eyes, allowing her to see sharply. The bridge was populated with a fresh shift of young men and woman who prepared themselves for the upcoming tasks. In the meantime, she recalled her recent report in her mind:

    Situational Report of Ensign Kelsea Amaj. We have reached the derelict Nebuli Somtaaw wreckage that was once part of a larger carrier. It had been torn off ever since we emerged from hyperspace. Our astrogation teams discovered that we had been drifting along with the wreckage for quite some time. In fact, they discovered we are all moving on a combined vector of approximately 5km/s -- which is quite astonishing as it looks like we are holding still. The astrogators were confused as to why our velocity is this high. They said that a vessel that enters hyperspace would always have the same velocity went exiting... Nevertheless, we are close to the wreckage.

    It... It is unbelievably huge. It must be around five kilometers wide. Industrial carrier Darugis has signaled the fleet to engage anchorage and prepare for salvage operations. Commander Orelis is still onboard the Darugis and will supervise the operations along with several other commanders of the flotilla. I don't know, but I feel slightly unpleasant about being so close to it and the fact of sending people in it. But we have no choice. Judging this situation, the flotilla needs all that can get. I'm hoping for the best.



    *


    "Ma'am, Darugis has dispatched another request to engage full stop", one of the communication operatives notified.
    "Understood", Kelsea replied and raised her voice, "Helm. Full stop aligment to the Darugis and the wreckage. Bring her about to 90 degrees to the yaw minus-X", and then lowered her voice, "Now where was I... Ah yes, Brinn, notify the SAT segment. Their show is up next. I guess they've been waiting anxiously all day for this..."

    "Uhh... Ma'am?"
    "Yes?"
    "We're, uh... still drifting... ma'am"


    "I know, duh, I just ordered the Helm to full stop just before and now and -- AHH!", Kelsea suddenly shrieked and jumped before rushing over to the starboard conning station.

    Her shoes rattled upon the floor as she rushed in a nervous feminine way as her uniform skirt did not offer much freedom. Several operatives smiled and giggled as they saw the nervous Amaji rushing over to the station. Kelsea then froze when she stared upon her station. While it was the less-complicated one, it was still complicated, especially due to the fact that she was confused with the myriads of controls and possibilities.

    Where's the manual when you need it?!, she cursed lightly as she bit her teeth together.



    *


    = Vjel-Amaj - Subdeck F - "Refugee Zone - Shared Crew Quarters" =


    The shared crew quarter subdeck that was part of the refugee zone was active with men, women and even children moving about the area. Hiigarans, Vaygr, young children and a selected few Gaalsiidim people were just about everywhere. Voices overlapped and while it was not loud, it was impossible to eavesdrop. Despite the notable noise, all was calm.


    After receiving an answer from the other side of the bulkhead, the Amaji Sub-Lieutenant examined his outfit one more time, assuring his uniform attire was well in place. Ever since he and the rest of the ship was able to recuperate, his mind was remedied of stress and his body free of sweat. When he sensed the approach from the other side of the door, he instantly stopped fiddling with his looks. He felt a movement in his abdomen; a reminder of a passenger he did not like. He then reminded himself of the folded clothes he held in his hand, making sure he did not wrinkle them.

    When the door finally opened, he nervously greeted the counterpart with a salute and then presented the clothes.


    "Good morning, Gelza -- h-- Whoa..."

    Drayson's eyes widened slightly when he spotted the Turanic maurader woman in a standard Amaji outfit that was not quite her size. It was obvious that the t-shirt she wore was not her size as it was quite tight and exposing much some of her stomach. Strangely enough, Drayson noticed that there was no bellybutton where one would normally be expected. The pants she wore were obviously too short for her taste that she simply rolled the dark blue trousers up to her knees.

    "Hey there, sweetie ? -- Oh, how nice of you-"
    "Y-Yeah, uh, hi. Here -- We washed your clothes appropriately. Clean and comfortable without any stains or mishaps, ma'am", the young Amaji explained and handed her the outfit.


    Gelza's white and green hair was tied to a bun behind her head, almost making her look not as much of a punk-style as he had last seen her with. She halved her eyes and leaned in a sensual manner upon the edge of the entrance. The Turanic marauder suddenly embraced Amaji who instantly froze. Although he startled for two seconds, he urged her away and nervously looked to the sides, hoping nobody noticed how she hugged him.

    "So cute. As if you're still afraid I'd eat you just hugging you."
    "N-No, it's not that."


    "Want me to put these clothes on? Why don't you come in and --"
    "Th-That won't be necessary, Gelza. Just maybe put on the outfit's jacket as the air is a bit cooler. It's your call though - whichever clothing is comfortable for you. We... We, uh, have engaged a specific ship-wide profile that has lowered the general power consumption. This includes environmental controls as well. I noticed you don't like cool air all the time. The jacket has long sleeves that will warm up as you move around."

    "Ah... Well, this is a bit tight, but I suppose you boys like it that way. I'm sticking with this outfit", the turanic woman said and placed her pack of clothing aside, "You still look like you want to enter... How about --"

    "N-no. Uh, listen. I just wanted to say that your brothers are in space now. They have dispatched the Rock-Rat -- err, Rock-Roach, I mean. They are willing to help out with the exploration mission through the Nebuli Somtaaw wreckage. They said to say, uh... yo, sis... to you and that they would be able to handle things. They would still like to hear from you as they explore the ship though. I thought you would like to come along with me to the bridge, since I am required there as well."
    "I seeee... Aww. I was hoping I could do some exploring on you, hun, but I know already that this boat of yours needs your attention. I just hope I'm next. But thanks for last night. It was fun."


    Drayson bit his teeth together as other bypasing Amaji operatives caught her words. The operatives giggled towards him as they moved on.

    "H-Hey, nothing happened! Y-Yeah, I enjoyed the tour through the ship with you and hope you you had a pleasant sleep", the Amaji sub-lieutenant said behind the operatives, loud enough for the entire corridor to hear.

    Gelza giggled, closed the door and moved on, "Well... Let's go. Although I could have a munch on the way. I could need your hand."

    Drayson made a step behind her before pausing.


    "Just kidding *smirks*"


    *****

    To be continued


    ~ 6550 words.

  7. #7
    Good read. Soon some Salico-time I guess

  8. #8
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    The day continues!

    Oof, a lot of words here. The spoiler tags here deal with character development (Velle's especially) and minor fillers. This imput was very fun to write, but also hard to control as I wanted to avoid filling it with so much "too much information" moments.

    Aside to the debriefing, I had a lot of fun conceptualizing the Darugis scene. Hope to bring in more of it. I decided not to give any operators names just yet as the currenly known cast is too huge. I'd have to involve an "episode" just about them, but don't worry, there is something that the Darugis crew will have to put up with soon(tm). So far, only Captain Somtaaw and Alistaire Somtaaw are the known Somtaaw crewmen.
    It was also fun to finally introduce more on Hesken and Aira in a short scene. I think we will get to see something happening too. :>

    More to be read in the discussion thread.

    As for the next part, it will focus on the debriefing mainly. Unfortunately, it may involve a lot of monologs and technobable while the flotilla stays at one place.
    I will try to break the monotone run with other (viable) side plots. Especially with Quan's navigational research.



    Soooooo, Enjoy! :mrgreen:


    ==== Part 3 of x ====

    *****


    OSNA: Brekkfast?





    ***



    VELLE: An Adjutant's Plight


    Velle looked up.

    There was somebody in the crew who dealt with this… terror
    I must go to him… I must go to Aaron Salico!






    - Deadweight -


    = Space - Proximity of the Nebuli Somtaaw wreckage =


    The small group of vessels and even smaller objects slowly approached the massive hulk that stretched across their view. The humongous wreckage was nothing but an ugly mystery of mangled alloys, wiring and multitudes of unwelcoming openings. While the rest of the galactic scenery glowed in various colors, the gigantic hulk threw nothing but shadows and occasional sparks hinting some rests of power flowing through the torn grids. Cones of powerful light swept across the area before fixing upon possible entry points. As the group closed in on the vicinity, there is no doubt of the anxiety building up in the minds of many...


    ""Dr. Ebria Amaj here. Monitoring SAT team on Vjel-Amaj, all signals linked and vitality monitors, nominal. Teamleader Torbin, this is your mission. The men and woman in space will keep an eye out for you. Remember, the first part of this mission is exploration… Don't go to deep… Astro-Suits 1 thru 4, please respond.""



    His world was quite limited for the last half hour, ""Understood and confirmed. This is TL Torbin Amaj to all units, radio check. Amaji astronauts first, please. Status, over"", the young man said and quietly listened to each confirmation, ""Oh - That would be me. Astro-suit One, ready"", Torbin added.

    ""Two, live and ready"", another male voice said.
    ""Three's still here... Ready"", a young female voice hissed over the radio.
    ""And number four here - All good to go"", the last man replied.


    ""Surveillance systems of all suits are live. You are eyes and ears now. Ebria to Hive... Can you hear me, wretch?""
    Pethera's voice linked into the channel, ""Who couldn't...?""


    ""I'll take that as a yes. Just make sure you have your auxiliary astronauts ready when the area is clear. We have several volunteer operatives of our own, all standing by for a stage two salvage operation.""
    ""My associates know their job, Ebria. They are already standing-by in their space suits waiting for a secure signal. When the time is right, they will dispatch and retrieve whatever may be interesting for us.""


    ""*Scoffs* I just hope you mean the flotilla with us...""
    ""...""



    """*Sigh* Whatever... Vessels: Sejun-No, Sebun-No.... Hjorndal? You are pretty much the guardians for our teams.""


    Three separate voices confirmed her request.


    ""Well... Just one missing. Uh, Turanic Marauders... The… Rock-Roach? Are you with us?"", Ebria hesitantly called.

    After several seconds, Orson's voice responded, ""Heh, got you worried there for a moment, eh? Yeah, we're here. Chunk and me are here. Too bad our sis' ain't here.""


    Suddenly, another female accented voice linked into the channel,""Missin' the run, but not missin' the show, brothers.""
    ""Heey, Gelza. Chunk, listen, it's sis'! Thought you'd be with us for the fun, yo.""

    ""I had a nice night, Orson. Drayson here was very nice to me.""
    ""We did a tour -- just an informative tour -- The tour was informative!"", Drayson nervously added with a loud voice.

    ""Informative?""", Orson repeated, ""So that's how those outsiders call the fun?""
    "" ' suppose so, Groovy"".


    The Amaji astronaut spotted the unusual corvette approaching them from the side. He yawed his suit slightly so he could get a good glimpse of the somewhat ferocious craft. The so-called Rock-Roach was indeed a small corvette with various grappling arms and irregular limbs whose functions he could not quite determine. One thing was for sure: They were capable of tearing things apart, from what he had heard so far.


    ""Oh, yeah, hey, Pethera-woman"", Orson called.
    ""Yes.""


    ""Thanks fer the stuff. Chunk 'n' me are good t' go for the next two or three days. I'm sure there's enough for Gelza, too.""
    ""No problem. When I am done with the next two corpses, you are free to do whatever want with them. I doubt anybody will mind.""


    ""I don't like what you are doing"", Ebria noted, ""Even if they are dead Nebuli Somtaaw bodies, they are still Somtaaw.""
    ""Not to be of your concern, woman"", the Sjeti scientist replied, ""As of now, every corpse is a viable resource for our allies. I am only concerned about their well-being.""

    ""And don't worry, Ebby"", the male marauder added happily, ""We ain't gonna munch every single bit of them. Just need the calcium and a bit of something else we can store into the tanks, but them bodies will still be fine if y'all need 'em back. Anyhow -- Heard that, Chunk? Told ya we wouldn't starve with these guys.""


    Ebria felt something in her stomach that felt like a twisting knot; not sure if it was nausea or the worm moving around in her...


    ""Why don't some of you Corsari-guys hang on to the Roach, yo? I promise I'll keep this thing all stable-like. Don't wanna be wastin' any fuel-stuff.""


    Surprisingly, a few of the suited Corsari approached the awkward corvette, grappling some of the vacant and secure spots that allowed them to be moved along.


    ""AS-One, it's your mission from here on. Be careful out there"", Ebria called.
    ""Don't worry, ma'am"", the young man replied and observed his surroundings, ""We're in good hands.""

    ""Very well. Enter the derelict hulk by... Let's see... Hmm... That one seems wide enough for the Hive to get through. All right -- these coordinates.""
    ""Thanks. As for everybody else, stick together, people. Even if this hulk has been surged to oblivion, we don't know if its structural integrity is intact. Don't get too curious. Roger VJ, we're going in.""



    The young man's helmet equipment received the signal and relayed information to the small display just to the left of his head. The astronautic suit was bulky and was attached to an even bulkier maneuvering unit. Grey schemes as well as Kiith Amaji and SAT insignias were visible upon the sides and surfaces. The suit's interior offered the young man barely leeway for his arms to move around and he was fixed into a seated position. He sighed as he figured this was not an easy profession. Various tubes were connected upon his internal bodysuit and others were close to his head. Miniature screens allowed him to see what the surveillance cameras of his suit were detecting. Torbin operated the keyboard that was right before his chest.


    ""Calm down, AS-three. Breath normal"", Ebria noted.
    ""I'm fine, Ebria"", the female astronaut replied.
    ""That's not what the monitor is telling me.""

    ""Don't worry about that, Doctor"", the second Amaji astronaut added with a cheerful note, ""That's anxiety just waiting to snoop the mysteries.""
    ""- Or just the lack of freedom in these damn tight suits"", Ebria replied.
    ""It's a big wreck... Looks like we're going to need at least a day to explore it all"", the fourth astronaut added.

    ""Alright people. Keep the channel clear"", Torbin interrupted, ""We're about to enter this unknown area. I want everybody to keep their eyes peeled.""


    The Amaji astronaut chuckled and looked to his left side, spotting the group of Amaji bulky astronaut suits, but also pairs of men in much lighter suits. The Corsari astronauts possessed much lighter gear and basic units for maneuvering in zero-G environments as well as unusual weapons most likely designed for recoilless defense. The weapons were very long and did not offer much versatility as they were slightly bulky and connected to a jointed support close to the arm. Nevertheless, he was confident they would not run into any hostilities. But somewhere, he was sure they all were beyond staying calm as they were right at the verge of entering the massive hulk.

    When Torbin looked at the miniature screen at the lower left rim of the visor, he noticed the movement of the huge industrial carrier that rotated on a horizontal arc. It was the Darugis about to engage a reverse thrust to achieve an anchored position adjacent to the torn husk.



    ***

    - The first eligible Recruit -

    = Vjel-Amaj, Sub-Deck E, Gamma passage, 14th junction =


    Other than the injured marine and another person supporting his walk, she found nobody down this specific passage. It had taken her some actual time to orientate herself by the location designators at the walls and corners since she always was the type to ask operatives on main decks for orientation. After receiving the information from the logistics center on how to orientate herself, she learned that passages were the corridors leading from the bow to the aft of the ship. Similarly in fashion, alleys ran from port to starboard sides. Although the ship's corridors were not strictly perpendicular and linear, the knowledge made her life just easier, despite the fact that she should have known of this long before. She had terminated the connection before the logistic operative could question her for not knowing this for so long.


    Before the pair had arrived, she had gazed across the alley, assuring herself that nobody was on the way. She also bet her luck that nobody would be leaving the small storage rooms that were accessible along the passage's corridor just two steps lower. The young woman with the dark purple hair looked over the edge of the corner once more. The man she looked for was slowly limped alongside another familiar Amaji in an unusual robe. Recognizing him, she figured that he still had not had the chance to recuperate or even change his clothes. He was still devastated.

    She did not care much about the other Amaji woman who supported him. At least the logistics center gave her a good lead to his location. She swung around the corner and took a deep breath as she gathered all her wits. Without wasting another second, the Amaji with the dark purple hair moved out of her secluded spot with hasted steps.



    Velle stopped the pair and stared upon the wrecked marine. He was taller than her, had blond hair, and many bruises and bandages upon his military duty attire. Most of his weight was on his right leg; obviously due to the amount of bandages on the other one. His stance was slightly slumped forward with his arm over the shoulder of the robed Amaji. Many spots were ripped and there was a notable stench of sweat and burnt oil in the air.


    "Wh-Who are you?", the woman in the unusual robe asked.

    "Not now. I need to speak to you, C-Corporal. I'm Velle Xoti -- We need to talk -- Right now."



    Aaron looked back at the smaller Amaji woman who wore a severely wrecked uniform upon her shoulders. The uniform jacket was torn and messed up along with a black stain. The young Amaji had dark purple hair that was formed into a messy pony tail and wore an outfit that was certainly neither Amaji standards nor her size. The marine however recognized the colors and the ranking upon the decorated robe of this unusual woman.


    "And just… Who made you Commander, Operative?", Aaron said with a firm voice.

    "Th-That would be Velle, Adjutant Velle."


    "Oh. You. *scoffs* I should have recognized you. Saved your hide, right? Now. If you don't mind, I'm injured, got a severe pain in my leg and I have to head to a damn debriefing - I've been shot at the last days, I did not have any sleep and I've yet to take some meds. I'm not really in the mood for --"



    "Y-You're Ellendra Amaj, aren't you?", Velle suddenly said to the taller Amaji.

    "Y-Yes. Just Ellendra. A support operative just like you, judging that pin you have on your collar - Commander…"

    Velle shook her head, "Yes, yes. Whatever. I please you to excuse us. I need to -- must, must -- speak to the Corporal in private. W-Wait, is that an ecclesian robe?"


    The attire featured the spiritual symbol and traits of the Ecclesian Sisterhood of Amaj.


    Ellendra did not answer her but looked at Aaron, "Aaron… I will meet you at the conference room. Please, come there. Don't turn away. I guess you will have to take the rest of the path on your own as this here seems to be about a greater matter. I will be there at there your side. You have my word" , she said to him and moved on without saying goodbye to the other Amaji.



    The sector was practically empty once Ellendra walked down the stair segment to the lower deck. After her steps fainted, Velle was now certain that they were alone.



    "All right, Vhhheeell -- You just sent away my crutch. This better be good, woman."


    Velle did not care but looked back at the injured marine who formed nothing but a disgruntled face, "I need your help, Corporal."
    "Really? Right now, there's a whole galaxy that needs my help. Do you see my face? It tells you: I-don't-give-a-damn, now out of the way --"


    But the Amaji woman raised her hand upon his chest and pressed him back, "I am not letting you get away with this until I get confirmation. It's important, Corporal", Velle then lowered her voice," There are things I need to know about. Serious things. You are a marine. You are somebody who went through… terror…"

    "You're messing with the wrong guy…"
    "I doubt that! You know what I am talking about", she quietly continued, moving her face closer to the man until she felt his angered breath against her face, "You know what? You once talked to me. Back then, when you found me at Pethera's corvette… You figured that that rumor was true. I was the one -- The one, a month ago, who had th--that… Arsec rifle-gun thing -- The one who went berserk, hailing bullets upon the intruders! I can still feel that… anger in me -- but it was not just rage, it made me act! It made me act against the - the… is it opposing? -- Yes, opposing force, that's how you marine guys call the enemy, right? It is there… I want to control it… I want to learn how to act as a soldier. Corporal, you know what I am talking about..."


    "I've never seen a woman spam that many stutters and triple-periods with one breath."
    "Knock it off, Corporal. I know what you're thinking. I can see it in your eyes, just like how everybody else looks at me. I know I look silly - Carrying Hailynn Delilxa's messed up uniform over my shoulders. But I have a reason, though, mister. Even so, I know what you and the rest of the crew think about me. Yes, I'm that lousy low-grade support operative, that same wimp who is worth nothing. But I have a task I need to fulfill to be worthy to the only officer I look up to, who is Hailynn Delixa… I want to become somebody who is able to stand besides her. I want to be that person who she can count on rather than the damn wimp you and others see me as. I am Hailey's Adjutant! I shall carry her colors and strips as if I were her herself if she is no longer around. I want you to train me! Make me whatever it takes to become a marine - or anything that no longer just keeps me bound to that of a sissy little operative!"


    The Amaji marine raised his head a little but remained serious, "Are you out of your mind? Look, you're a woman. If you want to learn things, frell, go to Hilessa. She's a Marine Private, she can go through the basics."
    "No. There is something I could only see up to now, Aaron. The two privates of the Amaji marine - the ones we have onboard… I've been through some of that-that… terrorThey have not seen what you've seen…"


    Even the marine corporal did not twitch or even react unintentionally as he maintained a serious poker-face, something within Velle's mind told her that she struck a nerve.

    "Out of my mind? Maybe, out of mind well enough to become certain of something I must do, Aaron. I can feel it… in you. You are not saying or even doing anything", she continued and shrugged lightly as she stared him right into the eyes, "You've seen bloodshed. You've been under fire. You've had people dying around you. Frightened and yet you were not paralyzed as how Mitsuki was! And I am not even getting this from the conversation I had with her or anybody else, Aaron -- and you haven't even given a full debrief -- you're just on your way just now!", Velle ultimately straightened her pose, "I've never been so clear in mind, Aaron. I am dead serious. I want to learn everything. How to use a weapon, how to keep stay focused, how to --"


    Velle's neck was suddenly clutched and it only took a single moment until she found herself with her back against the nearby wall. Nobody was around; Nobody to hold back what had suddenly taken over his consciousness. Within a single second, Velle's psyche instantly discovered that this was not a bluff or some way of scaring her. He really meant it!

    "Now you listen to me", the Amaji marine whispered in anger with clenched teeth, "you little… prick! I don't care what you see or what I feel or bla-bla-bla! Just in case you haven't noticed, I've been devastated, shot at, and nearly got killed just to rescue that Kadeshi girl -- which I am somewhat proud -- but of course, not for that little damn damsel-ass of yourself! I don't care anymore what those Hiigaran mercs did to you. Maybe they had some consciousness NOT to rape you, I guess, or I'd be seeing you with a lot more balls of shooting them down AND THEN coming to ME!

    OH, I see it in YOUR eyes: They touched you, right? Sure. Any damn bastard with guns and brawn would! Any bloody bastard who got their mind twisted with the thought of serving to protect people! You don't understand that marines like us or what those guys once were are living on the very edge of falling corrupt just because of the bullshit we have to put up with! You're lucky I actually came to save your ass in the end, prick!"
    The inner demon twisting Aaron's psyche made him us his other hand to slip down to her chest for a short moment, almost certain of how the mercs harassed her many a times.


    "I'm sure that's how they did -- and yet, I came to save your damn day. Seriously, I don't give a damn! -- Wh-What is this?!",Aaron discovered a holster and pulled out a Hiigaran special issue service pistol, "A-Are you frakking kidding me? I see now. You're wandering around wearing Commander Delixa's torn stripes while wielding THIS thing?"

    Using his left hand, he skillfully used the mechanism that automatically slid the sled of the pistol to the back, revealing an empty chamber, "Lucky for you this is not loaded. Do you actually know what you are holding here?! THIS is some serious artillery right here, Xoti. Delixa replaced the 10mm piece with a 12mm launcher! Do you know what could happen if you pulled this trigger with a loaded shell? Do you know that this thing can fire explosives?! You have no clue, do you. You bloody prick, you have no idea what I really went through do you? I was under so much terror and fire -- YOU HAVE NO IDEA. Ever had shrapnel cutting your skin as heavy rounds explode over your head, while pissing in your pants as you lie on the ground?
    Well… I DID. I know how you see me, prick - Like some kind of badass marine who just takes on the real deal, eh? Like the guys in those movies who train some sort of apprentice to become the best of the class and kick some serious ass? Well, I'M NOT. I'm an Amaji, if you haven't noticed -- and I barely stood my ground that day… I'm just a CORPORAL! If you want to learn something, look at what happened to MAJOR BAHUR. He's DEAD… like the rest of the Hiigaran marine team I was part of, dead! You've never been under real fire…"


    The grip was reviving the terrifying memories of the night when Hailynn unintentionally choked her.

    "*Hhhrghhhl--Yeshh"

    "What? What was that?", he loosened.

    A single tear ran down her cheek, "Yesshhh… I've been under fire, too. I know what it is, A-Aaron. I've seen bleeding Amaji around me -- trying to stop the blood from flowing out of the holes that were just too many for t-two hands. It happened to me, too."


    The marine placed the Hiigaran pistol back into her holster and pushed her away slightly, allowing her to catch her breath.


    "Even if you are an Amaji, Aaron, you're somebody who dealt with what I went through. I know it is nothing comparable… but I've been through something similar… You must believe me-- I don't want to be so… so… weak again, Aaron."

    "You -- ", he suddenly limped away, "I've seen a lot more than just adults with gunshot wounds… You want to see more madness beyond that, do you? You're out of your sand-cursed mind, you frakking prick."


    "I'm still a frakking Adjutant, Corporal", she said behind him with a heavy voice.

    He stopped for a moment.


    "And I'm ordering you to train me. I don't care how or with how many degrading insults you'd pump me full with. Actually… if this is what it takes to make me stronger… if I can survive that, then I will be worthy for Hailynn… Harass me all you like, if you must… It's not like somebody never did that to me. If you think harassing me like those… *sob* dreaded mercenaries of Pethera did, fine… But you, marine, you are going to share me everything you know about weapons and military procedures. You are still a marine, not some damn blood free-sprite mercenary who spits on us Amaji… I don't care if you have to indoctrinate me with sexual or verbal harassments, pummel the living frakk out of me, scream at me -- I don't care… If Hailynn went through this… I must go through this, too."


    "I keep hearing you say her name like some messiah. Yes, the Commander really is somebody… but Delixa is also somebody who went beyond that of an ordinary Hiigaran marine… The ordinary path alone can kill a man's psyche. You've seen what became of her in the end! She's ruthless! She parted with pirates who killed even more people! And long before that: She has served in special forces and unit that is far beyond what we both can imagine… She learned so many ways of killing people, you have no damn clue. That woman you see as a hero has went through more terrors than we two have been through together. I don't know what you see in her now!You are out of your mind… You're out of your mind…"


    He limped away.

    The Amaji woman slid to the floor and grasped the empty sleeves of the wrecked uniform jacket, <I don't have a choice… I don't have a choice…>



    ***



    *

    = Darugis - Command Bridge =


    Orelis sat at one of the vacant seats just a meter away from the captain. He kept his hands away from the console pool as his arms remained wrapped upon his chest. The Nabaali was secured by seat belts. Looking ahead, he spotted the various screens of the sensory stations showing the Darugis' angular movement. Displays revealed the vessel slowly spinning on its vertical pitch arc.


    Operators and midshipmen relayed their information of the event. Although the old vessel had the artificial gravity capabilities, its inertial dampeners were not as effective; as Orelis felt as he much lighter due to the ship's motions and the fact that the bridge was located towards the aft of the carrier. He looked major screens showing the actual imagery of stars moving respectively to the rotational movement of the vessel. Disregarding space's actual physics, the vessel was slowly rotating to an upside-down position.


    As Orelis heeded the bridge's activities, he also listened to the faint music in the background desired by Captain Gridori Somtaaw himself. Surprisingly, this theme was not a distraction but somehow flew with the bridge operators' tasks. It was as if these men and women were more focused on their objectives as this music played behind. The Nabaali even noticed occasional taps to the beat of the Captain's foot as he sat.

    ### Darker than Black - Yoko Kanno - Tenderly ###



    "Vertical pitch clean as she goes. Radial approach to the Somtaaw wreckage at minus 5 meters per seconds. Approaching desired anchorage point in less than two minutes. Marked rotational cycle to 180 degrees - Our current cycle is at… 160… 163… 166…", one of the sensor operators rounded up as he counted, "Angular gain at 0.42 degrees per second."

    "Almost through, then. Signaling engineering for imminent change from maneuvering to thrust profile", the darker helm-engineer said from behind and typed on a lower console to his left, "Stabilization program standing by. I'm sure we can keep her nice and steady, Captain. Looking good."


    "Affirmative", the accented Somtaaw Captain announced, "Helm. Rudder: All thruster flaps to vertical negative, maximum amplitude. Negate angular gain until she is amidships. Apply anchorage at will."

    "Copy that, Captain", the other helm-engineer called from the other side, Thruster flaps #1 thru 5, vertical negative, maximum amplitude. Disengaging thruster idling - Negating angular gain by set cap to 20% thruster output - Bleedout set by 2.5 percent per second. Correction and stabilization handled by MAI support."


    <MAI?>, Orelis whispered to the nearby operator.
    <Stands for Manuevering Artificial Intelligence, we call her for handling fine or raw corrections and other helm tasks. She can also interpret commands by using the written programming of fellow crewmembers. MAI supports us with navigational suggestions, too. She's a blessing and a curse due to the error troll bouncing around the bones of this old lady. Yet, MAI got us through the asteroid terror two days ago…>
    <Interesting. Thank you. -- Error troll?>


    A recurring beep sound occurred, "*Sigh*", the darker helm-engineer exhaled, "#4 again…"

    "I got it - I got it. Compensating unintentional lateral gain."


    Orelis noticed how the light feeling was fading back to normal again as the values on the other screens revealed the reduction of the angular spin. The vessel was practically drifting backwards now. The Nabaali was amazed of the harmony of the operators as they processed these complicated navigational procedures. Many of them were busy trying to keep things running while watching the accuracy of values at ten spots behind the comma. The Vjel-Amaj, while having an efficient harmonic crew, had it much easier with the two helm stations and the myriads of ways of maneuvering the enigmatic cruiser. Nevertheless, the carrier was considerably massive compared to the rather nimble cruiser - likewise sluggish in maneuverability. As of now, it never seized to amaze Orelis how large vessel managed to maneuver through the thousands of hazard fields just two days ago.


    "Angular gain at 0.11 degrees per second", the left sensory operative announced.

    "Time to stop this beauty", the fair-skinned helm engineer added.

    "Hey, did you get Alistaire's numbers yet? I have no program regarding the negative thrust profile for the anchorage", his colleague asked.


    He looked at a specific screen and quickly operated an interface before realigning himself to the helm controls, "Uhhh… Okaaaay… Weird. I mean, we can handle it on our own, just that is much easier if MAI could handle the brakes here. She usually gets the job done clean."

    "Weird, indeed. Alistaire is usually quick with such tasks. Want me to call her?"

    "Nah, she's been giving us help too many times. She's certainly busy with something else at engineering. Let her be. I'll take on this one. Would be great if you could make sure MAI gets fed with those new applets for precise correctional suggestions. So, uh, yeah -- Captain, engaging deceleration profile now. I doubt I will be able to get it clean as MAI would but you can count on us."


    "Understood. Proceed."

    *



    = Hive corvette - Infirmary, secondary room =


    The Sjeti woman and two other men in medical attires gazed upon the dissected body lying on the table. Used surgical instruments were placed into a solution bath for re-sterilization. One of the men adjusted the bright cone of light that came from the unit just above. The ceiling itself was low but still offered enough space for even the tallest of the group.


    "Hmpf. I must return to the cockpit bridge and supervise those imbeciles. Without CEO Asad, they will not know what to look for", she said to the two medical associates, "Before I go, let us go through what we have discovered about the black suit and the corpse again. Briefly."

    "Very well, Sren. You know already that this male corpse here is a Somtaaw, space-borne. Physical appearance looks like a Hiigaran man of his mid-40s... but we discovered traces of what we can assume to be longevity serum compounds -- Just like the other two male bodies we had... donated to the turanic marauders you had just spoke to Death was likely caused by a critical hit that exceeded the suit's integrity -- resulting in a severe hemorrhaging trauma at the abdominal region. Lethal round was likely from a Turanic Corsari weapon"
    , the man removed his face mask,
    "I doubt we found everything we needed about the corpses as we are LiiHraalian medics, not necrophiles… We will need the help of the chief medical doctor of the Vjel-Amaj. We have yet to examine the female Nebuli Somtaaw corpse. We will do this after a break, ma'am."

    "No. Now."

    "M-Ma'am? We have performed autopsies almost non-stop since yesterday. Please allow us to --"

    "Ten minutes, no longer. I have my reasons. Do as ordered. I want a full autopsy of the female black-suit. You can then recuperate until I call you for your services for examining one of the greater Nebuli Somtaaw space marine suits. When the Dr. Jonas is onboard, we will also examine these corpses once more… Hmm… I may have to request the return of the corpses we donated to the Turanic Marauders. I shall have my cultists do this."


    The other associate frowned behind his mask as he knew the ten minutes were actually referred to the surgical tools that required ten minutes from now to fulfill re-sterilization. The first associate was rather surprised of examining the hulking suits and what was within. However, he was likely disgusted of the idea as corpses were something Liir-Hraalians like they both were did not like to handle.


    "V-Very well… Science associates have the fluids we extracted and are examining them now. In coherence with the report of our mercenaries, we've discovered that the suit is highly flexible, yet durable. We cannot specific much as our profession is not appropriate, but I can say that one layer of the suit is of an organic substance.
    However, it is not simple to access it as we do not want to damage what is left of the suit's integrity yet. The only good news is that the male specimen who received the headshot still has an unscathed suit -- minus the head piece of course. Judging the suit's secondary assets, we are certain that it is space-hardened... but other than these findings, we have yet to uncover all functions and secrets."

    "What else about the corpse?"
    The other man placed both hands upon the autopsy table, "Sren Sjet, this body right here had undergone similar invasive surgical alterations and enhancements. Predominantly, we've found unusual implants among the kidneys, lungs and bicep muscles. Micro-injectors were found at the esophagus and calf regions. Isolated wiring was wrapped around the muscles of the right arm as well. Their functions are yet to be discovered but there is no doubt that these were physiological enhancements. This specimen had different sets of implants however. We have yet to uncover the secrets and there may be other ones hidden now that we know how to set the detector for. Aside to this, we're not sure what to think of the blood, but that is something the scientists can unravel."

    "So this body contains unusual blood as well... but that was obvious", Pethera noted, "These surgical enhancements exceed Hiigaran military regulations, if not… far beyond. Even with my knowledge, no Hiigaran marine detachment, no special forces, not even agencies -- not even the secret forces or black ops have the capabilities. You two can be certain that the Kiith Sjet had developed certain implants, but it was always known that the Hiigaran body could not handle all of this. Not to mention the psyches. Even if one were to break kiithidial laws and train a specimen from child-birth onwards… Impossible… Yet we see the truth right before us."

    "Indeed, Sren. Other than that, this autopsied body was physically at top-notch levels. I suppose this is an elite-standard in the Nebuli Somtaaw forces. Although... I recall our mercenaries defining these as black ops, disregarding the obviously-colored suits. We must assume that they were definitely indoctrinated for covert missions. I suppose --"


    "Enough", the pale woman turned around and moved her hand through her long straight black hair, "Gentlemen. I require a thorough report on these Nebuli Somtaaw specimen. I must have something for Orelis Nabaal and the flotilla to present."

    The two men looked at each other, "S-Sren?"

    "You have heard right. With this flotilla more likely working for the greater good, I must provide anything to raise our reputation. If we are going to be stuck with these people, we might as well raise our chances of survival by providing them with our findings. And it is I who will decide what to reveal and what not. I do not need to discuss any further reasons. You have your orders."


    The Sjeti woman made her way out of the compartment without any further words.

    "Y-Yes… My Sren."


    ***

    = Nebuli Somtaaw Carrier wreckage, Crushed hangar sector =

    ### Deus Ex - Naval Base - Infiltration ###


    Almost half an hour later…




    Ebria leaned over to the young Amaji operating the specific console.

    "How's she doing?"
    "Not too good, Doctor", the SAT operative said to Ebria, "Her vitals are at a stressed 130s and she has elevated breathing. I issued her to do breath controlling methods but there is no doubt that the stress is getting over her head… The others are still around 100 and stable. Talking helps, thank goodness."


    "Keep it up. Have her be the candidate for scanning the hangar areas. If you think she can handle it thought, have her go along with the AS team to the interiors of the wreckage. But only if she can maintain her cool."



    Meanwhile…
    The interior area that appeared to be a hangar segment was pitch black. Sparks would occasionally light a specific area for a split second before suffocating to the vacuum. The large group of astronautic personnel and the two corvettes managed to entire this area through one of the viable ruptured zones. Spotlights frequently swept across the area. Myriads of metallic pieces floated through the vacant space as well as what people could recognize as corpses. The turanic corvette used its grappler arms to remove the metallic planks that blocked the way and noticed how soft and simple it was to remove what at first seemed to be bulky. The astronauts decided not to touch anything, but it was noticeable that the most of the structures were brittle.

    Torbin noticed a variety of bodies wearing suits. Many of them even had suits and there were a separate few that even managed to put on a full suit… but regardless of their hopes for survival, nothing could have survived the hours of complete hyperspacial surge. All life had been wiped out. There was absolutely no protection against this. No magical or technological achievements other than the jump drive technology itself that protected such vessels from instant death. By now, it was clear that the exploration team was about to witness the effects of the surge… face to face.

    Infrared and other combined surveillance units supported his visual impression of the region. So far, the exploration teams discovered that this region was some sort of corvette hangar - or what was left of it. Metal frames were warped with other subjects and chunks of debris. The resolution was too weak to give a better overview of the distant surroundings. Not only this; there were sources of radioactive leakage throughout the area. Thankfully, the suit was resistant and they were far away from the actual hotspots. However, there were surely more within the interior areas.

    This is going to be a long day…



    ***

    = Vjel-Amaj - Subdeck F - 'Hiigaran-Vaygr refugee zone' =


    ""Attention. Condition: Blue. Docking procedure in progress. Stand by for minor tremor. Bridge command, out"", the man's voice announced over the public speakers.

    *Doonk Donk*, Aira removed the backside of her hand from the metallic door.

    The corridor was lively. She noticed mixed groups of Hiigarans and Vaygr people moving about the area. It was unusual for her, but she sensed happiness amidst these people. Regardless of their appearances and heritages, men and women enjoyed the proximities with their few children. While the Vaygr specimens appeared to be more neutral with their emotions, there was no doubt that they preferred to be close to their Hiigaran mates. The Kadeshi wondered how the smaller beings actually began to exist. Before her mind began to wander, the faint release of pressure from the door caught her attention. The metallic door finally opened towards the inside.



    "Oh….. You", Hesken said with a firm voice when she recognized the Kadeshi who knocked her door.

    "Na-- I mean… Hesken. M'Gresh… Hesken…", Aira stammered.

    Hesken Delixa's facial appearance was remarkable. It was practically identical to Hailynn's face; like a perfect mirroring twin, only much younger and practically at the age of Aira's physical appearance.

    "Ma-what?", the adolescent Hiigaran asked.


    "Hesken, who's at the --", a taller Hiigaran man appeared at the entrance, "door? Oh, hello. Look, Hes, a friend."


    The two Hiigarans gazed upon the adolescent Kadeshi who bowed her head lightly and whose eyes nervously avoided crossing theirs. The Kadeshi still wore the same elegant dress with exotic patterns.

    "Friend?", the Hiigaran girl repeated, "A smelly door-knocker, if you ask me."
    <H-Hes!>, Athaniell said with a surprised tone.


    "It-It is all right. Hail-- Hesken is right. I have not cleansed my body yet. I must have -- f-forgotten? P-Perhaps I will come later."
    "Good idea. See ya --"


    "Aaaactually…", her brother placed his foot between the door before she closed it, "You know, uh… Sorry, what was your name?"


    "A-Aira. I am called Aira, entity of the Vjel-Amaj."
    "Aira… what? No last name? No kiith?"

    "N-No… I am Kadeshi but…"
    "Aira of Kadesh, I guess then. Listen, you know, the medics said that Hesken needs fresh air."


    <Wh-What?! Fresh air? *scoffs* What are you talking about? We're on a spaceship -- The air isn't -->, her young sister complained but her continued.
    "Aira. Thank you for coming. I am glad to see that you have found interest in visiting Hesken. Actually, I think it would be great for you two to hang around with each other."

    <I'm to be a princess of the kiith, soon, brother! Why are you speaking as if I were a little girl. I don't need to be hanging around with this person who looks like a frakking freak.>
    "Hesken!"


    A small Hiigaran-Vaygr family group noticed what the adolescent Hiigaran said as they went by. While the taller Vaygr woman did not know what her words meant, the Hiigaran father certainly understood its meaning, but urged to move on with the family.


    "I think you've been hanging around long enough in this quarters of ours. You've been complaining all day long about being stuck in this unit. I think you should move around out there. Hang around with Aira. I'm sure she can show you around the ship <That is, if you don't mind, Aira.>"

    "I… I would be glad to. I don't know much about it myself… but --"
    "Oh great. Like that's gonna work. I'd rather stay here, brother."

    "I made my choice. I'm still your older brother and even with you being princess of the kiith, you're still listening to the oldest around here, Hes. And right now, you're going to get familiarized with this ship. I'm sure you two will have fun."
    "But--", unfortunately, Athaniell urged the Hiigaran adolescent out of the room.

    Aira climbed up the two stairs to the corridor's passage.

    "As you said, you're not a little girl anymore. Be a grown-up and move around the ship. But don't do anything wrong, sister. I'm sure you got the message. Now have fun."
    "Ugh… But it's so loud out here. Where should we go?! Oh, come on…"


    It appeared that Hesken had no choice but to give in.


    "See you two later. Just have some fun."
    *Growls*, the Hiigaran girl turned away from the door, and angrily walked past the Kadeshi with clenched fists. Aira bowed her head lightly at the Hiigaran officer before engaging a clumsy hasty walk after Hesken.


    Athaniell saluted at the Kadeshi as she moved away, and then frowned, wondering what had happened to his little sister. Hesken was no longer the kind nature she was once was. A barely sensible thud went through the ship.




    *****


    - Debrief -


    = Vjel-Amaj - elsewhere =


    Ever since the Vjel-Amaj had latched itself upon the Darugis, the Nabaali Commander was able to board the cruiser again. He learned much from the Somtaaw Captain and the situation of the industrial carrier. After having the chance of a short rest, a cold shower and a delivered uniform pack at the Darugis, Orelis was somewhat refreshed although the sleep was not long. The man made his way to the specific deck and room. It was not easy for him to concentrate as he walked ahead, for he was listening to practically two signals at the same time. One was the exploration and salvage operation that took place in space and throughout the vast Nebuli Somtaaw carcass; the other signal transmitted the ongoing debriefing of the Tairamaj group that had been dispatched two days ago.


    Aaron had not arrived yet and the Taiidan officer, Delophane was not available, but the other participants of the operation had already conducted their debriefing. By now, Orelis and several other participants learned of the group's progress and negligible success, but had yet to learn about the specific details about the enemy, the units of the opposing Nebuli Somtaaw. Orelis apologized for his late coming when he reached the conference room. The Nabaali immediately noticed the unknown Amaji in what appeared to be an ecclesian robe. He decided to wait with asking questions but assumed that she was somewhat part of this as well, else she would not be here. The Privates, Hilessa and Desron, were also present.


    "Please… Continue", Orelis said to the police man.

    Lorne, the militia trooper continued, "Well… I pretty much said what I went through. The others, meaning the angry lady over there and her clan, and Corporal Salico ventured on. But that story had already been told. I can only say that I was glad that my men and I could say the Corsari Jorn after all."


    "Ms. Beii… How is your… en-keii doing?", the Nabaali asked.


    The Taiiranic woman wore an unusual choice of standard Amaji operative clothing. Her arms were crossed and she did not really seem like the type willing to say a word.


    "Delophane to be -- *sigh", the difficulty of Galactic Commons was something that instantly annoyed the tempered Beii, "<T'saahn di'krees>", she barked lightly, flung her hand and looked away.

    The other turanic raised an eyebrow, "Our blood sister to be recover… Uhh -- Not very oh-kei. Surgerical -- uhh… Sleeping… but doctor to be ooh-keeeiii", he said with a very uncertain tone in his voice and showed what appeared to be an attempt of thumbs up.

    "Sir…", Mitsuki's soft voice said, "She is recovering, but she is not quite over the hill. Sh-She's been stabilized but she will need a lot of time to recover."


    "And how about you and Vincent? I heard you went through a lot as well."

    "Yes."


    Silence filled the room for several seconds. Neither Mitsuki nor Vincent said any further words. Just when Orelis was about to break the silence, the door opened once more. The robed Amaji raised herself from the seat when they all noticed the injured marine slowly limping entering the large room. He stopped and looked at the others. After several seconds, they noticed another figure approaching the door. It was another Amaji with dark purple hair formed into a messy ponytail who also wore what appeared to be a torn officer jacket with several emblems and sigils. Orelis instantly noticed the sharp gaze of Beii stuck upon his arrival. Aaron did nothing but stared right back at the Taiiranic woman.


    "Corporal…"

    Despite all pain and stress he had been through, the young marine ultimately saluted to the rest, "Commander… Everybody else… Sorry, I'm late. I had a… talk…", he said and looked at Velle.


    "Glad that you are here. And you, too, Adjutant."

    She did not answer but sat down. The robed woman approached Aaron and helped him sit down as well.


    "Now… I have to ask. Who are you? I suppose you are an operative, but I don't recall anybody from --"

    "It is a long story, Commander… I am Ellendra Amaj, Support Operative, 8th grade. I was… Summoned to… help."
    "Ellendra", the marine Corporal said, "I'd appreciate it if you would stop talking like that with those pauses. I already to put up with that enough today."
    "R-Right."


    "How do you feel, Corporal?", the Nabaali asked.
    "Not good. Not good at all, Commander. But let's just say that some talking helped."


    Orelis did not know quite what he meant but it all made sense the moment he thought about the task he had given to Rico and the other operative.

    Good work, Rico…, he thought.


    "Corporal… the rest of you. I must continue. I am sure the Corporal listened to the ongoing debriefing and I am sure there is time for a personal debriefing later on regarding specific matters, but for now, I must know about your actual confrontations with this deadly foe we all know as the Nebuli Somtaaw", Orelis explained, "Drayson and Kelsea Amaj are maintaining a protocol about your words for the sake of the flotilla. Sren Pethera is also standing by, for whatever reasons, too. Apparently, she has something important to say as well. We'll see about that.
    Whatever that may be, ladies and gentlemen, let us be specific here. I want to explain you why we are stressing you to experience the mess you went through yet again. The flotilla is deeply concerned about our actual efficiency and the resulting survivability against the Corsari's arch nemesis will be after us as well.
    And we must be realistic here. In space, we only survived because stayed out of the deadly zones of the Nebuli Somtaaw fleets. We only engaged their harassing strikecrafts when we were certain we could win. We were actually cowards hiding in the shadow of the Corsari Armada. We of course saved many lives with our interventions, but besides the Hjorndal destroyer, we have no real offensive capabilities. Even so, we may have no choice but to improve our defensive capabilities by understanding this foe that emerged out of the Corsari history. If we can develop new means to counter their weapons and tactics, we will ultimately be able to save even more lives -- Lives that are worth fighting for."


    Orelis leaned back a little, "But it is a long road, people. And we must be certain that there is no sweet victory at the end of it. Blood will spill… But there is something else. Something you've witnessed and survived and that is by far even more troublesome. The Nebuli Somtaaw have found ways to invade vessels with marines by stealth technology. If the Vjel-Amaj had the full potential of sensory, we could have detected them… but even so, we still do not know how they managed to amass themselves on various regions the Bryggen'Turasr. Whatever may be, we will discuss about this now. Please, somebody must explain the actual foes you encountered."


    "There were several sorts of troopers on the field, Commander", Aaron notified, "Several versions, but we encountered three as far as I know… indoctrinated shock troopers - ordinary marines of various detachments. They came in many waves but were not resilient. The Corsari had little trouble against those types… And then there these… marines in black suits. They were extremely mobile and elusive. They supported each other with electronic warfare and surveillance systems, mostly painting targets and having snipers or other units hail the target down with rounds…
    But nothing was more devastating and deadly than those dreaded hulks. Seven or eight feet tall suits… Massive, resilient against various weapons. The suit itself protected the wearers against various rounds. We practically did not stand a chance. And not just that -- They were agile… fast. You could sense their rage when they came charging in at you. Frakking lunatics…"

    "Aaron", Ellendra said.

    He gestured something alike an apology.


    "And how did you manage to… counter.. these enemies - predominately these hulks. These combat-exo-suits types."
    "Th-There was one thing, Commander", Vincent suddenly said, "When I was incapacitated, Aaron took my shotgun. We were greatly suppressed by the Somtaaw marines in the first contact - They were all in those massive suits."
    "Exactly", Lorne added, "And most of our rounds bounced right off them. They were practically invincible. We fired at all spots that appeared to be weak spots, even their exposed surveillance systems, but that did little."
    "It was only then when the Corporal used the shotgun, launching a crowd control bolt upon them."


    "Crowd-Control? You mean, the low-lethality round? Which one?"
    "It was the concussion bolt, designed to cause an intensive implosion at a specific range. This happened to distract their augmented weapon systems and visuals. They did manage to compensate but over the time, we found more and more ways to incapacitate them. The weapons of the Turanics proved to be more efficient, but they had to be well-aimed shots."

    "Yes, yes", the policeman added once more, "And not just that. It was Ms. Delophane Vamaii who took a dangerous initiate, sir. She suddenly ran off on her own -- running out of cover and ignoring the orders of the Corporal. I can only guess that she had a serious urge to save the hostages, as well as the child that was taken away.

    I… I cannot say much about that, but I know one thing for sure, Commander. Vamaii's pistol, it was by far the most efficient weapon against these bastards. Most of the time, a well placed aim neutralized the dreaded foes at best. The reason why could not detect earlier was because we were frequently suppressed by the enemy. There were also too many hostages in the open field that made it difficult for us to return fire. We ended up doing what we could to distract the enemy and allow any of the Corsari Jorn to run away while unnoticed…

    It never went that well, though. The weapons these suit-bearers had were heavy cannons of some sort. They fired explosive rounds at a high rate of fire. They also used armor piercing rounds… It did not really matter, sir… The shots either killed or dismembered a great deal from innocent people. I'm still surprised we actually survived… but as you can see, we took damage just having the shrapnel spraying upon us. The only one who survived such inkushane weapons was Delophane herself. Her… suit… I don't know… It withstood everything -- She even scarified her body as shield for Corporal many times… The suit withstood but she was severely injured in the process."


    "The SAT team and I suppose also Pethera Sjet will give us some information on your findings, ladies and gentlemen", Orelis noted, "Kelsea, establish a live video uplink to SAT and Pethera Sjet. We will speak about the details of these actual weapons --"

    *Thunk*, everybody turned their heads upon Aaron, who had placed something upon the table.


    Beii instantly recognized the elegant and authentic silhouette of Delophane's imperial service pistol.


    "We could just start with this one. Too bad it's not at the SAT lab… Perhaps I should do the talking myself."


    ***

    To be continued…

  9. #9
    Oh yes! I don't know why. But I love when you write about Aaron and Delophane (+ entourage).

    Keep going.

  10. #10
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!

    The Taiiranic woman slapped her fist upon the wide table. Mitsuki shook slightly when she sensed the note of hostility written on woman's face. Luckily, the inner rage of the strong woman was not aimed upon the Amaji. The young woman followed the angry gaze that fell upon dirty Amaji marine and the unusual pistol that was under his palm. Something truly aggravated this Taiiranic.


    <You -- How dare you treat it like that!>, Beii growled towards Aaron, <Have you no respect for the honor and privilege my en-keii has given you?!>

    Despite the incomprehensible taiid words for various people throughout the room, the Amaji marine did not even finch but maintained his disgruntled and unimpressed face.

    Beii straightened her back and clenched her fists, <You bastard. Delophane - my clan brothers and sisters, and I - have done everything to serve whatever you non-bloods see as honor and duty. My blood sister has done everything possible for the survival of all - She has even saved what is left of your puny self more than once. And despite all, your stubbornness see nothing but an insubordination of your command?! She had freely given in herself to her guilt and even gave you want is solely left of her honor -- and you do nothing but spit on it!>

    <As a matter of fact, Beii…>, Aaron started before pausing and changing the tongue to Galactic Commons, "Why don't you say that in a way that all around us in this room can understand you?"

    The Taiiranic woman clenched her teeth. She did not respond to his remark other than a troubled look upon the faces amidst the large room.

    "Well? Go ahead. You're free to repeat what you want - With all the insults and such", he added with a cold voice as he maintained his arrogant pose upon the seat.

    Just as the young Amaji woman in the ecclesial robe was about to react, Aaron immediately threw his hand up.
    "You will stay out of this, Ellendra."

    Before Ellendra could react, Beii attempted to say something. She stuttered something lightly that was incomprehensible.

    "We're waiting, Beii."

    Orelis did not like what was going on at the moment. Although he insisted to stop this nonsense at once, he simply remained startled. Vincent looked at the Nabaali man, sensing somewhat that he was simply puzzled as to how to react to this. But as he stared upon the Nabaali commander, he slowly began to see that while he was present, his mind was practically tied in some sort of world of indecision.

    Somewhere, Vincent could see that he actually wanted to respond to this. It was a brief reaction others did not even notice as they were distracted by Beii and Aaron's actions. Of course, Vincent knew for himself that Orelis was a naval commander, whose stand was practically buried by the avalanche of responsibilities; but there was no doubt that Orelis was a deeply troubled man…


    The many faces were now looking at the Taiiranic who raised her hands as she stammered whilst forming words. It was clearly obvious how much this man fought.

    "The honar -- on-nar of to my -- en-keii. Eh - Aaron-kor, by the. Hhrrr…. To be weapon, do of this --", many of Beii sentences started and ended abruptly with gibberish and accented errors nobody truly could understand - only to feed more into her dreaded anger, "<Kiidan, when the walls rose!> Of th-this dren-ki iitor man!", she angrily added and pointed at Aaron before slamming her fist on more time on the table, "En-keii -- Delophane, to of serrrviicing the Amaji-keii -- Life of honor she prid-- proteiiked the man. Of no conceii -- conserrrning for-- To understand?! U-Understanding? Anything?"

    But Beii's eyes fell upon many puzzled faces, clearly unable to comprehend what her broken accent vainly tried to construct. Vincent revealed his interest in helping but he simply could not figure what she desperately tried to say.

    "Uhh", one of her Turanic brothers noted, "To, uh, suppose, my en-keii here wanting is of, ehhh, saying to say that --"
    <Stay out of this!>, Beii's angry tone of words was so clear that even the others understood that she did not want her clan brother to help her with a comprehendible translation.

    Aaron scoffed and looked at his dirty nails before looking around, "I did not understand a single damn word you said, Beii. Did anyone of you understand a thing?"

    Mitsuki was about to act when her eyes unfortunately crossed the marine's eyes. She froze and lowered her head.

    "'fraid not. I thought so. What's wrong, Beii? Can't let your bro' talk for you? Fine. Go ahead, speak for yourself again. Please, by all means. I'm waiting. I'm sure the others are just burning to hear what you want to say."

    *Nghh*, Beii clenched her teeth and there was no doubt that she was merely boiling in anger, for she simply could not construct the simplest sentence with lingual sense for these dreaded people. Aaron teased her again and again, catching each word she dared to say.

    "CORPORAL. That's enough!", Orelis finally said.

    But it was too late. There was no doubt that Aaron's aggressive teasing had embarrassed the Taiiranic woman so much that she insisted to leave. After a taiidani gesture that was surely equal to that of a stretched middle finger, Beii made swift steps towards the exit. The two armed operatives at the door insisted to move aside and follow her.

    Orelis immediately shot upwards and made several steps after the woman.

    The others looked at Aaron who scoffed, "*heh* Never thought I'd see a Turanic able of blushing."

    *

    Entering the corridor, Orelis looked towards the left first, spotting random operatives who looked at him, and then beyond his shoulder. Sensing their actual attention, he turned around and noticed a pairs of steps rushing away from the other side.

    "Beii. Stop. Ms. Beii - Please stop. I want to talk to you!", he shouted.

    The woman continued her hasted steps while ignoring the Nabaali man. She spoke incomprehensible taiid phrases to herself that were most likely curses; almost sounding like as if she was angry of all that had happened over the last months. Her arms swung wildly around, sometimes pushing unknowing people out of the way as she continued her angry pace. Two operatives walked swiftly behind her, uncertain of what to do but keep on her trail. Orelis jogged after them, but clearly figured that Beii was definitely not in the mood of talking to anybody anymore.

    "<Not going to chase you all through this sand-cursed deck> - Operatives, seize her, damn it!", the Nabaali ordered as he slowed his pace to a walk.


    When the male operative dared to grab her arm, the Taiiranic instantly stopped and wrapped her grips upon the fabric of his jumpsuit. At the same moment the female operative wanted to intervene, her stomach was greeted with the unwelcoming end of Beii's boot.

    *Oof!*
    That was a bad idea, Orelis thought and immediately rushed at them. The man wove at the other operatives to stay out of this.

    Underestimating the notably stronger woman, the young man who initially had attempted to seize her was easily thrown against the wall of the corridor. His back slid upwards when the growling Taiiranic heaved him slightly.

    "No-No, stop! Operative, don't! Stay out of this! I got this", Orelis barked when he spotted the other one reaching for the utility sidearm.

    Without thinking ahead, Orelis' left hand grasped the right arm of the Taiiranic woman, whose immediately dropped the operative as her anger found a new target. Beii's left hand clutched his uniform as the other arced back, ready to deliver a blow at his face.
    Suddenly, the furious woman held her attempted assault back. For some reason, she did not do what various observers truly expected to happen. Nothing was more surprising than the fact that the Nabaali man did not do nothing but stood there as she held him. Her fist shook - Her eyes were filled with sudden uncertainty.

    "Why you no -- to defend you?!", she growled at him.
    He hesitated before answering, "Too much happened to explain my motives, but I am sure of one thing, Beii. I'm the one who was solely responsible for what all of you went through. I begged your clan to help my people on a dangerous and delicate mission that could have ended in a true disaster just for the arrogance of bringing back Hailynn Delixa. I am solely responsible for the way Corporal Salico is acting and what all of you went through - not the Nebuli Somtaaw or anybody else, but me. Why should I defend myself if I'm the one to blame here? You have more than the right to deliver this blow. And nobody will intervene or question it. Ever."

    Indirectly understanding him, the female operative nervously lowered her pistol, as well as separate others who had noticed the small skirmish and who were coincidentally armed.
    Beii's fist was still clenched.

    ### Soldier of Fortune II - Double Helix - Shop theme B/Prologue ###
    Words left Orelis' despite him not even thinking of what exactly to say, "This is no psychology I'm pulling here, Beii. And I give you nothing but the right to do as you please. You are right: Your sister did absolutely everything she could - and even if she disrespected and ignored Aaron's commands in whatever frell you all went through.

    And she even took the entire guilt for this. I know how much it is of a farce for you and Delophane Vamaii to be taking orders from people like us who are not Taiidan. Yet you and your clan brethren were warriors who were willing to take on this dangerous task.
    I know how you as a former imperial turanic and your sister take honor as seriously as I or any other Hiigaran and Amaji would take the kushan word. Honor is a serious matter.

    I'm still amazed why the Corporal is so furious about you. He is an Amaji cadre marine and yet he acts like as if he were a Taiidan officer. I do not know everything about him, but he is a rare personality who can speak your tongue. Nevertheless, I must take responsibility for his insults against your person. If you wish to assault me, go ahead."

    Beii lowered her fist, "*Hrrrr*", she hissed.

    "You are part of this crew, Beii. You sacrificed your life for the same goal. That is proof enough that you are… that you are Amaji-kay -- I mean, --keii. You are part of this crew. You --"
    She suddenly gave something like a single scoff and chuckle, "Ii'terii… How am -- to… of Amaji'keii, dren'ki?!", she attempted to say, "Amaji'keii of Orelis, no part!"
    "What?"
    "HHHRRR -- To say what of times a more!", she grumbled aggressively before calming down slightly; she then raised her right hand pointing at female Amaji who had raised her aim at her again, "Orelis to say we of Turansk and Taiid'keii to be of Amaji'keii, if - one -- You holded my blood'keii by watch! We of prison to Amaji'keii! Of slaves -- Blood'keii servicing Amaji'keii with our blood'keii if Amaji'keii prison blood'keii."

    The random operatives amidst the corridor gave the obvious confused reactions. Some asked each other what she was trying to say. However, all but one seemed to understand.

    After a long pause, the Nabaali man raised his arm until it met the tight shoulder of Taiiranic woman. Her left hand still firmly clutched his uniform.

    "I wish to apologize for this. As of now, I hereby state that your turanic clan and Delophane are no longer stated as prisoners of war. A serious wave of confusion and deaths happened back then when you boarded our ship. There were serious misunderstandings on both ends. Even Hailynn cannot cope with this guilt. Neither would or can I.
    What happened in space shall not be forgotten, but we shall no longer hold grudges. I for sure had not ever since that day we interrogated you and Delophane, Beii.
    No. By all honesty. You are right. You and others of your clan have always had guards following each of your steps. Even Chief Deena Amaj had trusted all of you long before we even dared to treat you with the true respects you deserve. As of now -- No more guards. No more about being held on a single junction of the ship. You will understand that sensitive areas still remain restricted to enter."

    Her hand slipped away from his uniform.

    "Beii. You were going to head to your sister, right?"
    She paused, and then nodded lightly.
    "Then go there. I think she needs your attention, even if she is in a deep coma. They say it helps to talk to such person. Listen. Please turn on the radio you have to the specific channel - Ensign Kelsea will most likely already had rerouted the signal the moment you walked out of the conference room. With Delophane currently out of commission, you are the next in the chain-of-command of your clan, I suppose. It is best that you listen to our findings. I will ensure that Ensign Kelsea Amaj will translate the protocol's details so that you can understand this without any lingual problems later on."

    Without any further words, the Taiiranic instantly turned away. Orelis wove angrily at the female operative who instinctively was going to follow her.

    "Beii. I almost forgot."
    She stopped without turning around.
    "I… must apologize one more time, but Delophane is still to be held in arrest as ordered by Corporal Salico. Insubordination against an acting commander - should it be an actual one or a head of military department - is a serious matter. I will look into this case, but it is as it is - A serious matter. Delophane understands this, as revealed by her confession and guilt. I know how childish he acted but Delophane takes this just as seriously. She is a Taiidan, a Taiidan Officer. You know that."

    The taiiranic slowly continued her pace, alone and without any shadows following her. Orelis helped the male operative up, who had been sitting on the floor with a shocked face all this time through. The young man was alright, but still surprised of what he witnessed. The Nabaali straightened his uniform and slowly made his way back to the conference room.


    ***

    = Conference Room =

    All eyes followed the Nabaali's actions as he slowly sat down upon his seat again. Once he settled down, he took a deep breath after leaning his back upon the seat and looking to the ceiling.

    "Just so you all know. Delophane and her entourage are no longer prisoners of war on this ship. I had a talk with Beii and I have decided that we need to loosen some strains on the people who actually tossed themselves into the line of fire with us", he then leaned forward with an audible exhale, most likely plagued by neck pain, "If I understood things right, Beii will also take the lead of the Turanic clan, as you all know that Delophane is currently out of commission until she has recovered from surgery. We must simply forget what happened back then. We were in space when all the terrors happened. I know some may have grudges about this but for now, they are part of this crew - and I will not tolerate anything held against them."

    "Whatever", the wrecked Corporal scoffed and looked to the side.
    "Speaking-of-which, Corporal", the Nabaali commander suddenly said with a tone that was a sharp as a knife, "With these people part of our crew, you will immediately seize and refrain any further attempts of insults and derogative remarks to anybody. That is a frakking order. I do not want to hear another damn insult out of your mouth. Do you understand?"

    "Yeah, yeah."
    "What was that, soldier?"
    "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir…", the dirty Amaji marine gestured a light salute, followed by the thought, <frakk off, sir>.

    The man assumed the young blood understood his message.

    "Let us get on with this debriefing finally. Where were we?"
    "Y-You…", Velle's low voice added, "I mean, the Corporal - the gun of Delophane. He insisted to say something about the weapon that is on the table."

    "Ah. Right."
    Aaron did not say a word at first.
    "Stop acting up, marine."

    "*Sigh* As I said before", the Corporal began, "We found ourselves in a bad situation when we confronted the prime threat of the Nebuli Somtaaw. We were nowhere armed well enough to counter the true threat of those juggernauts. Generally speaking, my weapon as well as those of the militia troopers just bounced off them. Our weapons dealt true damage on the more conventional hostile units such as those Black Ops and Shocktroopers - although they were damn resilient. Regarding the hulks, we were at least able to suppress them for a short while, dragging their attention on us as more of the hostages could get away."

    "Uh, don't remind me", one of the other policemen said, "It didn't take much to gain their attention… and rage. I don't know, but I'd almost say that these hulks were not exactly the smartest tacticians around - for what it is worth. Even so, they were still obedient to that one unit that seemed to be their leader of some sort. The only good news was that the Amaji shotgun's concussion bolts had a greater effect in terms of crowd control than just shooting at them with ordinary bullets. Their accuracy went down the drain once they were struck by the implosion shock."
    Orelis raised an eyebrow.

    "Right. Anyhow -- the Turanic weapons seemed to have a lot more effect on them. Their rounds did seem to do a lot more damage upon them. Well, of course. Their traditionally high-caliber weapons and Beii's accurate rifle were made for neutralizing threats -- ours are… Well, our Amaji ones were not made to kill… Sand-cursed crap…"

    Ellendra was about to react yet again to his profanity when he immediately nodded several times.

    "Yeah-yeah-yeah. Sorry, damn it. Pardon my taiid. Look Commander: When we were dispatched, we were to leave with standard equipment. Of course, nobody was expecting us to end up in such frell with these, these… Somtaaw bastards. Although -- Operation: Red Kabaalistan was to be more than just walking upfront to the Corsari and just ask them to hand over Commander Delixa. It was relentless to even go just like that with that outfit."

    "I could not send you in there in a full Hiigaran dress, Corporal. The Corsari would have killed you the moment your team snuck off our ship. Even so, you said that the true foes, the Nebuli Somtaaw, were resilient."

    "But even so -- We wouldn't stand a chance. Just the thought about it should have gotten us killed in the first place!", the Amaji marine became slightly furious, "Granted, Delophane, her entourage and I are soldiers -- but taking a long a group of civilians and policemen? I mean look at them, Commander!"

    "Corporal, I told you to stop insulting --"
    Aaron suddenly stood up and engaged a slow yet limping walk around the table, "No, seriously, look at them. Look at us, Commander -- Look at this ship. Subtract all who not Amaji. Look at the tools we use. Look at me. I'm an Amaji Cadre Marine - just like the other two remaining cadre marines on this vessel", he said at first before taking a breath, "We and several other Amaji marines were part of the Hiigaran marine sections, who are now dead. We no longer have any guidance, nothing to look up to but ourselves! The true marines are no more on this ship."

    "Whoa-whoa", Velle suddenly decided to say something, "Now just wait a minute, mister! You have no clue what frells Hailey went through to get the Vjel-Amaj to disembark only those few days ago! We discovered that the Somtaaw flotilla was conducting slavery just that day! Hailey did everything to assemble the crew as fast as possible -- this time even faster than the first deep space mission to the Mirr-- Miran-- you know, that nebula with the Kadeshi, Vaygr and all that stuff."

    "Oh, yes… Right, Hailey -- Her! The same honorable woman who brought us into this damn mess in the first place?! The one to whom Captain Soban looked at and who decided that it was time we show what the Vjel-Amaj was truly made of? To show off that we as a ship could take on the terrors lurking outside the borders of the Kiith Amaj. Frakk, we cannot even keep the pirates out of what is claimed as 'Kiith Amaj sovereignty'! Not even stop them from sneaking boarding parties and raids on Providence and other colonies of the Seven."

    "Were you asleep, man?! She ultimately managed to stop the Turanic Corsari threat upon the Amaji Seven star constellation! She brought the damn blood truce to our people, for the love of gods!"
    "That stupid Corsari cartel is just one of many! Another one is just bound to take over and continue. Did you forget that there are other Turanic freaks out there?! And I'm not even talking about the ones who are part of our crew just now!", the Amaji marine barked right back at her, "There are at least two more major cartels out there just now! Once they hear of this awesome Corsari-Amaji blood truce, they will roll right in. You forgot that there was some sort of honor-amongst-thieves sort of thing between them - The other Turanics left the Amaji for the Corsari, but now that the Corsari are no longer insisting to pillage and stuff like that, there will be a lot more terrors going on!"

    "Wh-What?", her eyes widened slightly.
    Even Orelis and the others were a bit confused, and worried, "What is your point, Corporal?", the nabaali added.

    Aaron tried to straighten his back.
    "Obviously nobody thought this through. Heh-heh --", the wrecked Amaji ironically mumbled as his shaky hand scrubbed his dirty hair, "You know that the Amaji constellation was plagued by several cartels. Not all the time through but you know that there was something bound to happen each day throughout the constellation. You know the damn news networks with their stupid spam of Breaking News, frakking sensationalists.
    Whatever. Most raids were conducted by Corsari. Yes, they pillaged, they… well, I won't say rape but they did abducted people -- for blood plasma and of course breeding. They even returned a few sometimes… but let's stay right there, they had at least some sort of a very, very vague honor code unlike the other Turanic cartels out there.
    Now… The Turanic Corsari were never really raiders to begin with. Now, they are no longer considered a pirate cartel who has claimed the Amaji as their 'feeding grounds'."

    Vincent and Mitsuki lifted their heads slightly. They were slowly understanding what he was talking about.

    "Th-That… That would…", Mitsuki whispered lightly before raising her voice, "That would mean that the Amaji constellation is more or less… uncontested -- neutral, or… Some sort of 'claimable territory' for them. As pirates, I mean."
    Vincent stared upon the table as he continued, "With the Corsari gone, the other free-spirit cartels will notice the void, the power vacuum. A-And if they are… Bloody sands, if the Corsari were not as brutal if you think about it - only to specific Hiigarans, namely the Somtaaw, which is belatedly obvious regarding the reasons. Of course, there were random unknown Turanic Raiders hitting the Amaji colonies, but now, there will be more… and they will be a lot more violent!"

    "Getting my drift, aren't we?", Aaron concluded, "Damn it, people. As soon as that stupid Amaji News Network notices that the Corsari are no longer a threat and that there are no more raids under their flag, they will shout it out loudly - and trust me, the Turanics will hear that scream in space. By all means, Hailey just traded the wolf that was hunting us lambs for an even more vicious beast!"

    Even Orelis could not hide that he truly felt that drift of deep concerns. He could not believe it. Despite all that Aaron had gone through, he still had a sense of clairvoyance; understanding the dominos that were soon to fall - starting with the very first one Hailynn Delixa had unconsciously triggered. The first one had yet to knock over the second one, but it was certainly on its way

    "And yet, we're stuck here with a situation of our own. The Kiith Amaj lacks true marine soldiers. This flagship had killed off its own already, and it dared to leave the Homeworld without any just to stop some stupid Hiigaran enclave flotilla from slavery while desperately making a damn rush to Hiigara for some ridiculous anniversary. Oh yeah, great, showing off to the Hiigarans who DESPISE us as liberated and independent Amaji for not being their breeder slaves! Oh, let's not forget that dreaded and cursed M'randara star system-nebula-place -- Kadeshi maniacs, Vaygr remnants, old-school Taiidan Imperalists -- I mean, what the frakk, man?!"

    Velle looked away as he spoke.

    "There is some serious shit going on out there, guys", Aaron chuckled sarcastically, "Things that just started rolling, somewhat because of our doings -- or should I say, of Hailynn's doings? A lot of good men and women died there, even the Hiigarans who were not the Hiigaran's like those of Hiigara. They were like us, neglected, to be forgotten, left for dead. And look as us now, while we're at it. We're in dead space - and let's face it, we're most likely lost for now.
    The Kiith Amaj is bound to be engaged by several loose Turanic factions. Sooner or later, it will be like our situation with the Nebuli Somtaaw. Damn it, it took me pages of blathering just to get to my actual point. Let's put it like that, us, our flotilla and units versus the Nebuli Somtaaw… Equatorial frells all right… And you think I'm done here?! I'm not even winded…"

    Orelis crossed his arms and decided to let this marine speak his words.

    *
    At the same time, elsewhere throughout the Vjel-Amaj

    Beii was walking with angry and hasty steps as she looked around. Various Amaji and non-Amaji were amidst the corridors. Although certain people looked at her, they did not stare at her for long. For a change, it was relieving to be walking around without the shadows following her path.
    Although she was told to take a specific path down a set of stairs to the Logistics Deck, she slowly figured that she was lost by now. Despite having enough time to get rid of steam, there was no doubt that she was still loaded with inner rage. Most of the time through, the Taiiranic did nothing but mumbled as she blindly walked through the lively corridors.
    Beii wondered if --

    *thud!*
    "What-the--", a voice said below.
    The Taiiranic woman had suddenly walked into something -- no, someone.
    Beii looked down and spotted an adolescent with short black hair and deep blue eyes. Strangely enough, the face of this young lady sparked the memory of that one Hiigaran woman-commander despite this one being much younger. Perhaps it was her daughter of some sort.
    The young one looked up at her, "Frakking hell, watch where you're going, moron!", she paused after she got on her feet and noticed the ridged forehead, "What the… This ship even let Turanic freaks onboard, too? What is this place?!"

    The gestures were understandable enough for the foreign Taiiranic to understand that this young lady was insulting her. The young lady rambled yet another set of barely comprehensible-yet-understandable insults. Beii immediately sensed that this mouthy being was an arrogant brat despite the age. Surprisingly, the Taiiranic managed to control her anger. She sighed and moved one. The young lady insulted her one more time.

    "Yeah! Right. Go ahead and leave, you monster. And watch where you are going! Next time, I'll beat the crap out of you if you bump into me again."
    Beii stopped when she spotted another young lady. It was that unusual one she had seen every now and then. Judging the slightly tattooed face, she easily assumed her to be the special one - that so-called kadeshi-one whose name she had forgotten -- or truthfully did not care about. Nevertheless, it appeared that she observed what happened, and was more or less shocked of what had happened. The enigmatic adolescent had clear gray eyes and gazed shortly back at the Taiiranic.

    "Pl-Please forgive us. We are l--"
    "Oh, shut up you! Stop talking to her! Let's go!"

    Apparently, the mouthy one was very dominant upon the kadeshsi-one. She gestured by a gentle and slight bow with her head to Beii before making what appeared to be rushed steps behind the other one.

    "Why did you apologize to her?! She ran into me -- Damn it… Where are we -- And why are you following me, anyways?! How about you stop walking ten steps behind me for a change?!", the other one complained as they moved on.

    Monster… *Sigh*
    Beii turned around.
    So this is what they think of us… A strange clanship, this is… , she thought as she looked down the corridor featuring other people.
    There was no doubt now that she missed her Homeworld now, her Turanic clanship…

    *
    = Executive Deck. Conference Room =

    "… And I don't know if you people are into ballistics, but in terms of the military confrontation with the Nebuli Somtaaw, we will most definitely have to look into this", Aaron explained as he limped through the conference room.

    "A-Aaron", the reasonable ecclesian noted, "Why don't you sit down?"

    Yet again, it appeared that Ellendra was the only person to whom he did not respond to as aggressively.

    "No. Not now. Sitting makes my injuries hurt. Moving around hurts too, but it gets me thinking at least. Now listen, please. We are more or less just about at the same spot the Kiith Amaj will be one once the true menacing foes show up, like the Nebuli Somtaaw. When that day comes where we must defend ourselves, we won't stand a single chance if we do not agree that the way we are now is… just utter crap.
    Regarding the Vjel-Amaj and excluding the rare personalities like the Taiiranic entourage, I'm pretty much the most experienced of the Amaji marines. I survived some serious shit just a day or so ago - and that crap that happened a month or two ago. One thing is for sure:
    The Amaji are puny. We won't stand a damn chance. We cannot just dispatch people like Mitsuki and Vincent here to the battlefield. All due respect to their volunteering -- they are not marines! They did not have any sort of training to handle the psychology. Frakk, I'm surprised I did not go amok just yet."

    Aaron made a short glimpse upon a specific person in the room. It was a subtle hint that he was somewhere on the verge of a serious meltdown, but that specific person managed to at least grasp his hand.

    "We cannot rely on people like Velle here either. We can't just give arms to Support Operatives. Sure, they will follow orders and such. They are not useless, but in the sight of terror, they will crack."
    "Hey! I was besides Hailey when the Turanic and Vaygr assaulted this vessel! Even if I was terrified, I did what was needed - I fired upon the enemy, knowing that if I'd stay a frightened girl, the people around me and even I myself would die!"
    "Yeah, yeah, you were just lucky that certain foes can be suppressed, Velle. But not foes like the Nebuli Somtaaw juggernauts or their Black Ops units. I don't know why you're so psyched-up with Delixa, but who cares. You would only notice the same crap we had to put with - namely bullets bouncing off them as if they were some sort of superheroes"
    , he continued,
    "The Amaji 5mm-Sharp just can't do anything. Sure, it can poke a hole on skin, but way until range and the first set of armor kicks in. Now while I cherish Suto-Arms SMG for its capacity, it is not going to lead us to success either. Weapons such as those of the Taiiranics or even those of Dr. Pethera's Hiigaran mercs could do a lot more. And not to forget that one on the table right there…"

    Everybody gazed upon the specific pistol.
    "I took some time to observe it with my common sense with military arms. I have no damn clue what that thing has that made it so efficient against the Somtaaw. Even the ammunition is not some sort of classic. No propellant. No energetic magic or whatever - Nothing but small things that look like solid grains of rice. The pistol's chamber is loaded with hundreds of them. Whatever it is, they are some 2 or 3mm caliber - and they hit armor like those Hiigaran cargo trucks back on Providence!"

    "What's the big deal", the naïve Amaji with the purple hair, "Hailey had altered this pistol to launch a different sort of round, too!"

    *Thunk!*
    Velle immediately pulled the significant heavy pistol out of her holster and placed it not far away from Delophane's elegant yet enigmatic pistol. In terms of appearance, Hailynn's pistol was dirty and scarred. The pistol was definitely much larger than the grace of the slender and sleek besides it.

    "Ah, yes, how could I forget you and that gun…", Aaron said and limped his way closer to her.

    Velle stood up. It was a defensive reaction. Even though she could hide it from the others, there was no doubt that she became more and more nervous the closer the wrecked young marine came. She breathed slightly heavier when he was besides her. Aaron did not look at her but picked up the pistol.

    "If I remember correctly," the Nabaali noted, "Commander Delixa made a desperate rush to the armory. She knew the tactics and what she had to use to counter the Vaygr intruders once they were identified. That gun right there is indeed her service pistol, the one she had used even during the Hiigaran-Vaygr war. Hmm… It does look bigger. I suppose she altered it for the said task."

    "Yup", Aaron said and ejected to sled to reveal the empty chamber, "This is a rare piece of equipment. I'll spare the blathering on the name, but it is a special issue 4mm pistol that can be altered to in such way to be loaded with 12mm rounds instead. Although the conventional Hiigaran 4mm is extremely powerful, Delixa was certainly well experienced to know that it would require more to take done such foes like the Vaygr exo-suits."
    "Exo this, exo-that", Velle added, "A well-placed shot took them down."
    "Shut up, Velle. That was just because she knew explosives and Sabot rounds could do the job."
    "Say-bow?"
    "Good-gracious, this is exactly what I was talking about. None of these Support Operatives know shit. LOOK. Explosive rounds and such may help but that was because Hailynn knew about specific characteristics. She is an expert marksman, too - and she has knowledge as a marine. She gave you the Arson Mk II LMG because she knew that covering and suppressive fire could keep them at bay. Spewing rounds as suppressive fire is a key way to combat foes who know their boundaries as mortals.
    I'm sure you kept your damn head down when you were under heavy fire, too. Exo-suits are extremely protective, yet allow its user advanced capabilities. Aside to the electronic aids and warfare, they are extremely mobile. I'm sure the Vaygr suits were made to assist the physique, too. One thing that they Vaygr ground units are known for is their combined resilience and speed.
    That is why they could move so swiftly through the ship, planting bombs and slaughtering unsuspecting Amaji crewmen on the way. It would have taken hundreds of rounds to take them down, whereas powerful rounds such as explosive ones would deal serious damage to the suit's integrity, slow them down or even render it useless."

    Velle recalled the various moments she was under fire and how Hailynn countered the enemies with the specific pistol.

    "Arming Amaji with this won't win the war. Not against the Somtaaw. These hulks just kept going -- and… bloody sands… At the Nexus Command of the Bryggen'Turasr… They are even more furious in close combat. The hulking marines stopped at nothing. Even if they had received severe damage. They went on until they couldn't. I've never seen something like that before. It was disgusting, too. We were lucky all that smoke gave us cover!"

    Velle took the heavy pistol out of his hand and stretched her arm as she looked through its aim, "It shouldn't be hard to be trained on how to use these weapons. You know well enough that Amaji learn fast."

    "Learning? Oh great, coming with that again, aren't you… Don't even get me started there. It takes a lot more than what you demanded from me back then at the corridor, Velle. You are still just an ordinary Support Operative like many throughout the crew. No, we are talking here about some serious indoctrination into marine codes here!"
    , the Amaji Corporal explained as he gestured a pointed finger downwards
    , "We have masses of weaklings - heck, I would count myself into that pile. Once the Nebuli Somtaaw marines manage to board our ship, there will be nothing but a massacre on our side. We will only end up in people being to frightened to defend themselves as soon as they see a drop of blood! And all because of what happenes here."

    Aaron poked her forehead.
    "We can be indoctrinated. I'm sure of it."
    "We can be - don't give me that crap. Amaji lack many things. It took me an age just to get the basic of physique to be considered for the cadre marine corp. And we do not have the knowledge or willpower to take on deadly foes! The big idea was to leave it for the professionals, the Hiigaran marines, who were killed off -- and Delixa assumed that we would not end up in such a mess again, so she just took some cops to fill in the holes. Great frakking engineering…"

    "That's enough, Aaron!", Ellendra shot upwards from her seat.
    "Yeah-yeah, I --"
    "No- Enough of YOUR yeah-yeah! These people are here to help you, Aaron! We are all part of the same team. The same side! And you are pushing them away!"
    "They are not --"
    "-- But they can become! ", the ecclesial Ellendra immediately responded, "You just have to have faith in them. You said it well enough to me. Without the Hiigaran marines and such people, we have nobody to look up to. It is time we look at ourselves - It… It is time we do what we can so we are not just the ones looking up to those who remain, but also that those can look at us - and count on us."

    Velle looked at Hailynn's scarred pistol, "We may not be soldiers, Corporal. But I stand to the order I gave you?"


    Orelis raised his head, "Order?"
    "Y-Yes. As the Adjutant of Hailynn Delixa, I ordered him that he must train me and others. I don't care what is needed or what we must sacrifice. I don't care if we need to be indoctrinated. I want to be worthy to Hailey and the rest of the ship once we meet her again."
    "Meet her again? You really are quite psyched on her", Aaron noted, "Pff, as if we will see her again."
    "We will do as I said. I'm ready."

    "You are? You really are?", he suddenly repeated, "Well then, how about this, big mouth, why don't we all head to the cargo bay and I'll demonstrate you something at a provisional firing range! I'm sure everybody here would like to see this!"
    "Fine!"
    "Fine!"

    "Knock it off, you two."
    "No, no, Commander. I think this will be most enlightening for you. Sir", Aaron added with sarcastic confidence, "You should see this, Commander. This demonstration will prove just one of many, many things. I'll take care of the logistics stuff."

    "*Sigh* Very well. But don't make this a long thing. We have some serious things to deal with."
    "You bet… sir", Aaron grabbed his radio set and called the logistics center to issue orders.

    Velle was already eager to do whatsoever to prove Aaron of his stubbornness.

    ""Ensign Kelsea to Commander Nabaal""
    "Go ahead."
    ""S-Sir, Dr. Pethera has been waiting for quite some time to say something. She had been participating over the audio broadcast all this time through and now heard that you intend to interrupt the debriefing despite her interest on sharing details on the autopsy.""

    "Tell he she has to wait. I don't care. And send my apologies."
    ""Yes sir. I will tell her that.""
    "No no, I mean, send my apologies to Dr. Jonas who is waiting there on the Hive. I don't care about Pethera."
    ""Understood… Standing by.""


    *****
    = "Hive" Corvette. Science Lab =

    "A-Are you certain?!", she desperately asked.
    Sunoga and others made their way over to Quan, who sat before the heavy laptop unit that was hooked to the mainframe. The young man maintained silence as the others moved over to him. He punched in a few more commands to reveal his findings to the others.

    "If you are right", the adolescent Sjeti girl said with her cold voice, "then we should be able to designate our position in the galaxy. Or at least we can navigate. Thanks to this completion, we know have significant distances in light years so that we can calibrate the hyperdrives. A suppose the test jump should factor in well enough to ensure the calculations."

    "Not quite, Kiitaiku", Quan corrected as he got to his feet, "things just got more complicated."
    "We achieved something, that's for sure, but we are nowhere able to designate our position. The Vjel-Amaj has finally completed its extensive scan for celestial stars and classified them all so that the flotilla has a unified stellar cartography of the region. We can now classify regions so that the flotilla can navigate much easier once we enter hyperspace again", he explained carefully.
    "This is good news - but you sound like it is bad news", Sunoga added with a concerned face.


    "This concluded sweep confirmed that the Vjel-Amaj truly has no clue where the frell we are in the galaxy. I'm not saying we landed in a different one -- it's just that it cannot recognize these patterns, for some reason. Another remarkable thing is that various stars are tightly together. I mean look around, at these here - and these regions here."

    The Amaji astronomer circled two separate regions on the galactic sphere of stars. The digital circle marked several stars with their obscure names classifications given by the computers of the Vjel-Amaj and other navigational units of the flotilla.

    "Look at that specific one there. We thought that to be a super giant star as assumed by our respective distance to it, but we known can see that it is actually a massive cluster of various stars - all tied up in some sort of strand. We just could not distinguish its structure because of the sheer bundle and their combined luminosity.
    It took the Vjel-Amaj some serious filtering to actually reveal that these stars are twisted clusters. Those there are just a meaningless fraction as to what other bizarre things we can see - astronomically speaking. There are so many rare and highly unusual formations of stars that I'm just startled. Granted, we now can navigate without being so blind, but we are still lost - and we have yet to figure where to fly to. Even more, something is bothering me about this, but I just can't get behind it."

    <He does have a point, Kiitaiku>, Asaku's voice echoed in her mind.
    <Silence, brother.>

    "So… What now?", the female astrogation officer said, "Point somewhere and here we go?"
    "Actually… That is just what we have to do, for now. I don't see any other way. We could plot a course away from this and find our way once the navigational computers recognize our location. At least this time, we won't be unconscious. I suppose if we cycle the jump by time and distance, we should be able to navigate throughout this region without any troubles."

    "My Sren knows of our findings now", Kiitaiku suddenly explained, "She expresses her gratitude. She agrees that to the suggestion of a coordinated hyperjump by range. She also suggests that we calculate our jump to a radius of one light year."

    Quan pinched his eyes together, "Just how did… Never mind. Fair enough."
    Sunoga turned around and walked over to the spot where she left her shoulder radio, "Let me call Kelsea and tell her about the good news. I will also tell her to relay a request to the SAT team regarding hyperspace communications. We need to improve our inter-flotilla communications if we're to do this precisely. We do not want to emerge some thousands of kilometers away from each other again. I suppose we should maintain a live link to the flotilla's respective navigational officers, too. This should save a lot of time."
    "Oh. That is a good idea."


    "One factor to the scattered emergence was the fact that our ships were in not control of their quantum wavefronts. Our forced emergence was another factor that threw all ships across a region in normal space", the adolescent Sjeti explained, "I suggest we rely not only on the Vjel-Amaj but on the Darugis' wavefront as it possess the appropriate carrier-classed wavefront. It should be reliable enough for us to emerge as a flotilla."

    "Good point there, too. We are sure to maintain a tight formation during transit this time. After all, the Vjel-Amaj is pretty much the only vessel that can see quite deeply into the wakes of hyperspace and actually alter courses unlike other conventional vessels", Quan concluded," I think it should be possible to do as you said. That should allow Kelsea to navigate the flotilla through hyperspace without having to worry all too much about anomalies due to the stronger force that will protect us. But hey, now that I just remembered, how far are they with that salvaging operation. Does anybody know?"

    As Kiitaiku explained, the Amaji SAT operative in the space suit discovered yet another floating corpse of a Somtaaw crewman. He pressed a few keys to widen the cone of light in order to give him a better overview. It was ordinary crewman. Male. Dead. The skin was pale white. He did not insist to look at the face as this body was floating somewhat horizontally with the feet pointing at him.

    "The salvage teams are still extracting various goods from the derelict hulk", Kiitaiku explained thoroughly, "And there are several interesting things that were remarkably still intact. Although one unit is not through with exploring what is left of the wreckage, they are very certain now that there are no survivors."

    But like various objects and bodies found throughout the apparently heavily surged regions of the wreckage, the Amaji immediately noticed how once solid form broke and crumbled the moment his thick hand touched the foot. He notice that the touch pushed the floating body away. Though grabbing the end of the pants, his hand was left with nothing but a torn pinch of the fabric. Once the body met with the wall, the shoulder disintegrated into a thin cloud of ashes and small pieces.

    "The surge has swept through and killed anything biological. But even more, the regions that had been under the influence of hyperspace fabric have been come extremely brittle. The astronauts reported areas crumbling away just by a single touch. They are cautious now and insist to examine what they can before things collapse to dust."
    "You mean. Just like that?"
    "Yes. Solid inorganic materials such as bulkheads have become as soft as clay. Some are deformed by the stress of vacuum. Certain areas are simply too dangerous to venture into. This does not matter for us as there are various salvageable things that are still intact."

    "I'm not a fan of stealing from the dead, but I guess they no longer need it. Oh well. Let us continue, shall we?"


    *****

  11. #11
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Typos fixed. Expanded Aira/Hesken Scene - 28th June 2012

    === Part 5 of x ===

    It took some time until the dizziness was bearable. After the short moment of darkness, she slowly recovered with a blurry vision and a throbbing head. It took her mind some time to comprehend the faces that were calling for somebody -- no, for her.
    Judging her perspective, she figured that she was upon the floor, with people looking down at her. A bright shine swept across her vision a few times. She looked to the side and spotted the recognizable pistol with a retracted sled. She then noticed other voices which sounded like an argument.


    All eyes were upon her and the nearby people. The entire surrounding was spacious yet full of crates and people scattered across the upper platforms. She spotted them looking down from the upper intersecting decks. There were strong smells of oil, metal, sweat and… coffee?

    After a short glimpse to the side, she discovered the coned Vaygr strikecraft, secured by series of chains and clams that acted as makeshift anchors. Other people in technical outfits were adjacent to the Taiidan interceptor that had exposed components. She recognized them as the iconic 'tengineer operatives' and mechanics who were obviously performing maintenance work on the fighters, but their attention was set on her location for some reason.

    Two specific figures just steps away had obviously been barking at the rebellious Amaji marine for almost five minutes.


    This was the cargo bay -- The one of the two secondary bays, for sure. It was all slowly coming back to her. The medical associate checked her through once more.

    "Operative Velle. Can you hear me?"
    "Y-Yes."

    "Do you know who I am?"
    Velle mustered him for a split second, "I don't know your name, but you're obviously a medical operative, associate t-to be precise", she stammered.

    "Uh, right. Do you know where we are?"
    "Got to be… C-Cargo bay. I guess."

    "Follow this light, please."

    The associate swung his hand with the light back and forth one last time. Although her eyes followed the light, he noticed that they were not entirely focused. Even if she could not distinguish the color at all, she began to felt the light stinging her eyes.

    "Good. Good."
    "M-My head hurts… spinning."

    "You took quite a blow to the head. Do you remember what happened? What is the last thing you remember, Miss Xoti?"
    "I… I", the resting Amaji looked to the side and spotted the notable pistol resting besides her, "I slowly remember, I don't know. I was going to - I pulled the trigger and then -- I woke up here."

    Velle looked around again. There were several technical operatives still looking down at her. One of the nearby ones shouted up that she was all right.

    A familiar tall man in a wrinkled uniform suddenly interrupted them, "How is she, doc?"
    "She's recovering -- and I am just an associate, sir. Anyhow. Operative Xoti is just shaken. It will throb for quite some time and there may be a little mark, but other than that, there are no major injuries that I can detect. She suffers a slight vertigo, but nothing that a while of rest can cure. Ma'am, if the headache or even the dizziness itself does persist: Please come to the sickbay or summon a medic at once. I do not want to apply anything to you prematurely, especially without the medical supervision of Dr. Jonas."
    "G-Gotcha. Th-Thanks for, well, you know."

    "Doc - So she'll be alright?"
    "I suppose so, Commander. I strongly advise that she remains --"

    The Amaji rolled over and attempted to stand. It took her some time to get up from the cold floor. She swung to the side and was caught by Vincent. Velle wrapped herself with Hailynn's wrecked uniform coat.
    "-- laying."

    "I'm fine. It's just this cargo bay place is moving."
    "Depends on the eye of the beholder, huh?", Vincent mumbled and held her while she stood on weak legs.

    Mitsuki supported Velle on the other side.

    Orelis raised his hand at her and then gestured it towards the door, "Velle, I'm sorry, but you're heading to your quarters for recovery. In fact, I'm going to send another operative with you, just to keep an eye on you."
    "I said I'm fine, Commander."
    "I don't care. You're heading to your bunk. Right now."

    "Where you belong anyways", the Amaji marine suddenly scoffed and looked away.

    The Nabaali Commander suddenly turned around, "What was that? I'm not through with you, either, mister! In fact, I should send you to your quarters right after her. You crossed the line with this bullshit and I've had it with your mouth! I don't need to take shit from some badass-corporal trying to act up."
    "Maybe I should!"
    "No, you will!", Orelis barked at him.

    "G-Gentlemen", Vincent called.
    "NOT NOW."
    "All right, all right… Sorry."

    "You didn't get it, didn't you?", Aaron asked after a hesitant pause.


    "GET WHAT? You just wanted to show how weak she was. You knew she was going to injure herself. You ordered the medical operative here because you knew that this was going to happen. You intentionally knew she was going to injure herself! You just knew this was going to happen", he barked one more time, "You know what? This stupid drama is just dragging us down and I'm through with it. I'm tossing you to the brig, young blood. Perhaps a cell next to Lt. Vamaii would do you well - if she weren't in a coma just now!"

    The Amaji cadre marine smiled lightly and wrapped his arms with his right palm upon his left shoulder. He looked to the side. Aaron gazed upon the makeshift shooting range. Not long ago, operatives had assembled this secure yet short lane so he could apparently demonstrate test firings. Looking down, he spotted the empty bullet casing. The Amaji leaned down with slight moan of pain and picked it up as Orelis yelled further at him.

    "-- ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING, SOLDIER?!"

    Aaron did nothing but chuckled. He really was not paying attention. But he suddenly silenced when his view crossed the specific person in the unusual attire. It was so noticeable that even Orelis and others could sense the mute dialog between the two.

    Aaron formed a serious face again and limped forward a few steps, "All right, Commander. I'm… sorry. I'll do whatever and go, but I'm not done here. It was a demonstration - and yes, I had to do this. Nobody would believe me unless you see the real thing."

    "Real thing?", now it was Vincent who was annoyed, "Velle could have seriously injured herself! Why did you do that?!"
    "Hey, she had protective eyewear. And she has a hard head, for crying out loud. All she needed. No, I had to do this. For the sake of heroic hypocrites trying to become something to stand against foes like the Nebuli Somtaaw -- I have my reasons. As if we Amaji could take on such terrorists."

    Velle lowered her head.

    "State your reasons, Aaron", Ellendra quietly added.
    "Why should I? You all saw it: An Amaji woman, and no offense about gender -- Even she were a guy, the same thing would have happened. I'm sure a guy would have a bloody nose just now."

    "She was just untrained, just like the rest of us", Vincent noted, "I mean, come on, we're not marines, she's not a marine. It's just about training."


    "Aaron. State your reasons", the young ecclesial woman said with a firm tone in her voice.
    "You and what army?"

    *


    Orelis already assumed he was not going to respond and his fragile patience had already been pushed beyond the limit. However, just when he was about to engage the move to drag the dreaded young marine out of cargo bay with his own hands, the marine hinted that he was insisting to explain after all. The Nabaali was deeply surprised.

    This was outrageous and astonishing at the same time. He as a Commander could not break through to Aaron, yet this seemingly harmless redheaded lady could easily command him with the blink of an eye. Orelis was always close to the marines, yet ever since the events of the last months till now, he noticed he was losing his connection to them - especially to this cadre marine. Even so, this ecclesial young woman had only been several hours with him and now is able to demand things from him. The Nabaali doubted any sort of sudden romance but there was no doubt that she could convince him to act. How did she manage to do this? There was something about her that slithered right past the wall of stubbornness to the true psyche.


    *


    Perhaps Rico knows more…

    The Amaji marine sighed and crossed his arms. His face remained serious as he slowly approached Velle and her supporters. The three became slightly unease as Aaron came closer. He picked up the modified Hiigaran pistol and studied the weapon.

    "You want reasons. Fine. Fine. All right. You all saw how the recoil flung against her head? Of course you did. She had the correct pose despite the foolish attempt of holding it single-handedly. But even if she would have used both hands, Velle would have still found herself on the floor with a headache. Of course, it all started off with this here in my hand."

    The young man presented the significant remains of the round. It was the discharged casing.

    "The funny part about all this is that it wouldn't have mattered if she had fired with a standard 4mm or this 12mm cartridge. It's a Hiigaran pistol, for crying out loud. But still. Something like this could have easily happened with whatever weapon that was designed to kill - minus the Amaji ones. Well, there is the Amaji carbine and other assets, but let's be serious. Those wouldn't stand a chance against the Nebuli bastards."

    Aaron looked at the Nabaali commander who straightened his back while maintaining a gaze of an angry and impatient man.

    "An Rotan-Otorian Special. This Hiigaran pistol is a special issue. The 4mm aspect is quite amazing. I'm not that much of a firearms expert, yet I know a thing or two. The other marines told me some things about Commander Delixa and this gun. Reliable. Slick and efficient. A rare piece of perfection for an officer of her class.
    It is only for the hands of a professional marksman. I can explain the reasons why it did not smack her even though it was never adapted to artificial gravity environments. In other places, this thing would send you flying across the room. Nevertheless, Hailynn's Hiigaran stature is one reason. She was quite tall and strong after all. But there's more."

    He stretched his arm and tightened the grip slightly. The sled automatically moved forward, but then cycled back beyond the edge, revealing the empty chamber.

    "Whoa. Auto-loading, neat - I didn't know that one. And with the capability of using special 12mm rounds, I'm sure it can actually deal some impressive damage -- I doubt it will do much on a Nebuli, but certainly more than the Amaji crap", when he lowered his arm, he noticed the group of people staring at him, "Calm down, people. Look, I'm sick and tired of monologizing here so I will get right to the point."

    Velle noticed Aaron's ongoing stare at her as he continued, "We all wanted to serve the kiith and our honorable Hiigarans. I think we can agree on that. Even so, we're just Amaji. And that is the problem, Commander Nabaal. You see, this demonstration was the same one I received prior to becoming an Amaji corporal.
    Major Bahur and others Hiigaran marines decided to demonstrate me something that would wake me up and assure them that I was up to the job - that I understood the very essence. Of course, hardly anybody could see anything my forehead with this hair, but if you look carefully, you'll notice something."

    Her eyes widened. It was true. He had very faint and almost undetectable line on his forehead.

    "Of course not all Amaji marines had to put up with this, but there are those like me who insist to become a greater marine than an ordinary cadre unit -- and they wanted to demonstrate me something.
    Damn, that blow knocked me out - and I have a stubborn skull, right? At least you woke up just a few minutes after, Velle. It took me at least an hour just to remember who I was. But to my defense, it was heavy revolver with a disgusting blowback. Some brute turanic piece of shit - <No offense>", he noted at the Turanics who just looked at him with confused faces, "Whatever, you all know that Hiigarans are stronger by physique in comparison to an ordinary Amaji- Under the skin, of course. But it is those little differences between us that end in results like these."

    Aaron shortly looked at the turanics one more time and the demonstration prior to Velle's moment of injury. He recalled the fact that Delophane's pistol had almost no recoil, a barely sensible sound and an unbelievable penetration upon the target and the wall behind it. Aaron gently slapped his hand upon Velle's left shoulder and massaged it firmly. She pinched an eye.

    Lorne and other police men came a step closer to push his hand off, but the marine lifted it and showed that he was not doing this with a sadistic intention.

    "Let me guess. Hurts more than your head, right? As if somebody had stabbed you right there on the arm and twisted it. This is the true weak spot aside to being an untrained individual. That - and of course the fact that we're in this artificial gravity environment. You see, on just about any place that does not have natural planetary gravity such as this ship, physics still plays its game on us.

    We Amaji lack the specific shoulder muscles fibers. Even males hardly have them. For just about any other Hiigaran and non-Amaji, all can naturally withstand the heavy and sudden shocks - even ignore pain. We Amaji however are different. We do not have that sort of natural shock absorption or strong bone mass.
    And of course, there is the physical crap about 'physical kinetic energy'-whatsoever. Whenever you pull the trigger on a gun that was not meant for the use in artificial grav' environments, that recoil energy will kick you much harder. Now there are many sorts of artificial fields that keep our feet planted on the ground and that gives us the feeling we have gravity -- it differs on various ships and such.
    That said, you people need to understand that a large variety of weapons are inappropriate - especially for the Amaji stature. Of course, Amaji personal weapons are better suited, but they are meant for self defense. Some of those are more about comfort rather than stopping power - like as if that would stop the Nebuli Somtaaw…"

    "But…", Mitsuki stammered with a soft voice, "The Amaji shotgun did help against those… monsters - or not?"

    Aaron looked at her, "Well… Yeah- but was luck after all. We'll see. It still will not save us as Amaji. Beats me if it is evolution or whatever genetic crap the Hiigaran Empire tried to pull during our breeding, but we certainly have a disadvantage by nature regarding all that stuff I just explained.
    It takes some serious dedication and training to become a marine like what I am. Not to mention the psychological conditioning to the marine doctrines. We don't stand a chance as we are against the Nebuli Somtaaw as common Amaji."

    "I believed you the first moment you said that, marine", Orelis replied after a brief pause, "I did not need a demonstration resulting in an operative knocking herself out by recoil."

    "Oh, no, Commander. On the contrary - This was seriously required. You need to understand how serious this is. They screwed me up - and we were lucky we did not get killed. We got away from the Nebuli Somtaaw with serious bruises. And now we are to stand against them and their army of maniacs? You've got to be kidding."

    "We're not defenseless. We will adapt. And I will bring this ship and its crew through these desperate tides of sand-cursed winds."

    "Right. Of course. Commander, this is some serious shit. We do not have the marines to even handle this. And as sure as I am, I'm certain you are not willing to rely on Pethera's handful of Hiigaran mercs. Not only that, if you want to find ways on killing Somtaaw like those Nebuli freaks, you have to find out how Delophane could do it with that"
    , the Amaji marine pointed at the turanic who held Delophane's elegant pistol,
    "That thing has some sort of tech I never seen before and just look at the result. It burnt a clean hole right through that target screen. Lucky for us that there was a damn thick bulkhead right behind it. Commander, if you want to learn how to kill Nebuli Somtaaws such those hulks, you better get those SAT-nutheads on researching this thing. Now it is not an essential one-shot, one-kill weapon but it is certainly the first step on finding ways how to neutralize something like that Nebuli hulk. Going ballistic is the only way."

    "I don't care. I am going to do whatever it takes to defend ourselves against any threat. We are not through yet with the evaluation of things, but as for now, you are going to head back to your quarters, marine. That's enough for now."



    "No", a soft voice said from the side.
    Orelis turned around at the young woman with the dark purple hair, "What did you just say?"
    "No…"Velle shook her head, "We're not through here yet, C-Commander."


    "I beg to differ, young lady. He's going because I say so. I'm the Commander of this ship and --", the Nabaali said but he held his breath the moment his mind grasped the sense of her words, "Oh… no you won't…"

    "I-I must. I'm an Adjutant of the Kiith Amaj, Commander -- I mean, of this ship - you know what I mean. As you said before, this kiithidial voice I inherited has some weight here. I'm not going anywhere"
    , she then looked over at Aaron,
    "Neither will he. We will go back to the conference room and discuss other things about these… these Nebuli people and this matter. And there are other things to talk about. I will be fine. I can deal with the headache. After all, it was a demonstration about the cold reality of things."

    Both Aaron and the Amaji adjutant maintained their gazes at each other.

    "*Mmhn* As you said, we must start brainstorming all that we can to help Hailynn and those who are now our allies against the Neb… Nib-- Those Somtaaw murderers.", Velle continued after sounded another moan, "I'm not a soldier-marinewhatever, but I will no longer accept myself as some worthless piece of crap just because I am a lousy support operative. If it requires me to run around with that Arsec machine gun again and die miserably - fine. So be it. If it is that what it takes to defend ourselves, so be it. But I will get what I demand as an A-Adjutant.

    I want to hear w-what Pethera has to say about that autopsy-thing, too. I hate her as much as you do, but we… we need her help. This is not over - and I will find out what is needed for us Amaji to become viable defenders. Whatever it may cost. We… We must start… somewhere, somehow…"


    After a long pause, Orelis signaled the observing operatives to get back to their previous work and told the group to make their way back to the conference room. The Nabaali appeared to be concerned of what Velle said as he looked at her several times. Before leaving, he gave the order to the two supporting operatives to make sure the shooting range stays as it is for now, for he had the feeling that they would need it a lot more often.

    As various others made their way out, Velle was halted by a grip to the arm. By urge and demand, both Vincent and Mitsuki were told by the Amaji marine to go ahead as he wanted to talk to this young woman himself. Strangely enough, Velle noticed the ecclesial operative moving further away, yet waiting at the open pressure door way to the main corridors. It was as if she never wanted to lose him out of sight.

    The young adjutant shortly looked around, noticing how the others got back to work. Before Aaron said a word, he waited until a pair of technical operatives moving by, who wondered what to do with the Vaygr fighter as its pilot was apparently no longer part of the crew.

    <You listen to me, adjutant>, the Amaji marine whispered, <You may order people around here, but I'm not an idiot - and by far, I'm no damn marine instructor here either. The people who had the power to train people are dead. And even if I share whatsoever, it won't save us at all. The last thing I need to see are countless operatives like you are running into a firefight only to get mauled by hundreds of explosive rounds. I've seen enough slaughter that should have killed me already just watching it.>
    <I'm not going to let men mess around with me, that's for sure>, Velle suddenly slapped her arm away from his grip, <We are still Amaji. We may not possess super-kushan abilities, but I know myself that we can become something worthwhile; even if it is just being cannon-fodder for the likes of you.>

    The young woman turned around and made several steps before pausing for a moment, "It is likely I will die once we are assaulted by the Nebuli Somtaaw, so or so, Corporal. I'd rather die for the Kiith Amaj and Hailynn if it is that what it takes."


    *****

    = Corsari Destroyer Hjornal - Bridge Command Sphere =

    Osna's voice echoes in her mind as she wonders about an anticipated entry into her personal logs:

    The Turanic Corsari is quite an unusual culture… One that we Amaji-- and perhaps the entire Hiigaran nation -- had always misinterpreted and feared, deeply. They had always been an adversary to the Amaji constellation over the course of the Hiigaran-Vaygr war and the very few years after. Their acts were pretty much frightening, too.
    It was common for them to intercept civilian vessels as well as ill-protected foreign transports throughout the Amaji Seven. It was said they were able to triangulate the emergence points and such things. I'm not into all the details as I'm just a A.I. programmer.

    They were always considered breeders - The types that actually abduct people for blood plasma and other filthy needs. I remember when we were children on the Amaji planet about the scary tales about those mythical blood-sucking vampires - I guess some of that was true.

    It never mattered back then what bloodline they were -- Turanics of all kinds and natures were always seeking for fresh blood plasma hosts -- well, sex slaves and just about anything else you could incorporate with brutal piracy. It did not matter if they were Turanic Raiders, Turanic Ravagers, whatever…
    But considering these Corsari specifically… Strangely, there have been reports of them returning the abducted people after a few days. Not everybody though… And the more we learn about them, we discover that some were not even considering to return to Amaj. Brainwashed or not, there was something about it. Even more, there always seemed to be some honor codex or… honor amongst thieves regarding that matter in their specific pirate cartel.

    It had gone through the news time and again. I could not keep count of the endless debates about diplomatic efforts and all the talks about the Turanic psyche. Terrorists or not, they were always considered a threat and highly dangerous. Th-They still are -- and they do require blood plasma and much more, but over the course of the last few days - They proved us to be something entirely different.

    Speaking of which, I had only indirectly learned that the bane of the Kiith Manaan Enclave, the Turanic Marauders, are not alike the legends -- Wait. Okay, the part about cannibalism somehow was true. It exists… or so - that was what the three Marauder people told us about… but they don't essentially 'eat' -- I don't know what was all about. I think Drayson knows more.

    But back to the Corsari people of the flotilla. Their history is mind-bending and deeply twisted as -- well, just as mysterious as what I heard about that Kadeshi girl of our crew. There are so many loose ends. SAT department is doing what they can to decompress the mass of historical data they received from the Bryggen'Turasr. It is quite bizarre that is hard for me to even explain this in my own words.

    So far, we learnt that they were actually the last of their people. They were once even part of a vast yet unknown empire until they splintered off it, ventured away from the outer reach of the galaxy to conquer new grounds at the core. It looks like the Nebuli Somtaaw were primarily responsible for their dismay and of course the calamities that had happened ever since. We are talking about genocide and a hunt for their blood for about a century.

    What makes things so strange are these people I was currently with. I decided to pay them a visit - To see things for myself as I figured I could help out much better with the drones' maneuvering aids for the Corsari Destroyer Hjorndal, too.

    It seems there have been various generations of so-called Corsari clans that had served onboard this vessel. Clans are… uh… Not to be confused with a kiith or such - They are like a big family, pretty much a much smaller kiith of some sort and yet independent. We also learned that various of these small clans serve the Corsari Fealty in these specific roles -- I suppose one could see it as a caste system. They do serve the greater good of what is left of their Corsari nation. This Corsari destroyer is quite as old as the armada that was capable to flee from the Somtaaw enemy.

    Regarding this generation and clan, the Hjorndal is filled with various people who never really seen anything else but, well, the insides of the Hjorndal. They have practically been living on this ship like prisoners - even though they solely wish to serve the Corsari purpose. It is ironic but I have spotted youngsters here - perhaps even adolescents.

    It also was revealed that the Hjorndal had been in space for a very long time - only to return and discover the sudden emergence of their dreaded arch-nemesis, the Nebuli Somtaaw. I cannot quite figure how many years they had been away from the actual Corsari armada of the Bryggen'Turasr. After all, the Bryggen'Turasr mothership - if you could call it that - was the head of various Turanic factions in the cartel. Mafia is just a loose term that doesn't even fit. It was all much more about a powerful tribe trying to survive solely in space.
    Regarding that matter, it seems it was common for the Corsari Command to dispatch various flotillas to serve elsewhere and do whatever task. I suppose the Hjorndal was used as a brute force unit, like an enforcer - whenever the convoys they raided had defenders.

    I cannot judge them for what they were doing, even if they were killing people… I figured they were just… desperate. I mean, I know murder is a serious thing -- but they are not that ruthless as the Hiigaran Empire had always depicted them. I don't know.

    Nonetheless, I fear the crewmembers of the Hjorndal had sought for the Bryggen'Turasr - and did not receive what they deserved. After all those years, they were finally on their way back, only to do one last task of escorting the Darugis just before the Nebuli Somtaaw hordes emerged.

    The more I think about them and their history, the more I feel the urge to learn more. You see, these people have always seen nothing but war and agony.

    *

    Osna quietly took a glimpse away from her duty laptop in the open alcove.

    The Corsari of the Hjorndal unfortunately suffer what various Turanics suffer by nature: The tainted blood. It comes in many forms and intensities. I only learned recently about it when I had the chance to socialize -- if you could call it that -- with two Corsari crewmembers. One has to understand that the Corsari do not trust us Amaji at all. We are pretty much exactly how we saw them; as serious threats.

    But there's more about that before I can go on about their natural sickness. The Corsari come in specific sub-bloodlines. I mean, you could say it is like with us Amaji. We are of course descendants of the kushans of Kharak and Hiigara -- but we are a bloodline of our own. There are different appearances and ethics.

    Hard to say if there are truly bloodlines… Some go by psyche. The true pirate bloodlines consist of thugs and brutes. I never saw them but heard that they were part of the Nexus defense during the Nebuli Somtaaw's intrusion.

    But regarding the Corsari of the Hjorndal here, they are clearly not the thug types. They are normal, if you ask me. They have a common sense -- Of course, here, I'm the total stranger… an outsider. They throw me the coldest shoulder each time I look at them. They do not trust me even though I am helping them, but that is normal… I guess.

    Osna looked around, observing the others who floated from one spot to another within this somewhat spherical bridge command center. The spherical ceiling above her was populated by operators. It was somewhat dizzying but she focused on not losing her orientation.

    She spotted the new Corsari First, Hanjur, maintaining his stand at what appeared to be the command post. His feet and shoulders were held by fixtures to keep him on the floor. Considering her position, she was further behind and on the upper arc - almost upside down. The First kept his arms crossed as he observed the ongoing salvage operation.


    Tainted blood
    All Corsari have it. It is actually a slumbering blood disease in all Turanics. Many may not reveal the symptoms while others are plagued with it for the rest of their lives. I do not know if this is the cause of their bloodline being millennia in space or such.


    I think… I think we can be certain that the outbreak of the disease is a cause for their nature as pirates and pillagers. The need for fresh blood is most certainly just one of many reasons. Again, I'm not a biologist. Truth is though that foreign clean blood is like water for them.

    If they do not receive a dose of blood plasma, they will suffer and eventually die. Not all Turanics have this, but there is always something incorporated to that feature -- no… curse -- That curse that requires them to be like parasites in need for whatsoever of a host.. They do not need it on a daily basis. It greatly depends on the individual too.

    Unfortunately, Hanjur, their new clan leader suffers the later stage of this poisoning. He must wear this heavy leather suit that covers his entire skin and most of his face at times. He strictly avoids touching anybody too. Somewhere, I can feel he only wants to protect the others from his diseases. Apparently, it is contagious on contact.

    I don't know if Amaji could get this - I suppose not since it was said that we are immune to what plagues them, but he still maintains a vigilant distance to me and others.

    The poor man now has a command to care of, too, much like Commander Orelis Nabaal who inherited the command of the Vjel-Amaj. Captain Tamrn died yesterday before I could talk to him in person… and I recently learned that it is a custom of the Corsari to forget those who fell. I do not understand this. It feels so… cruel

    Osna looked back upon her screen, quietly observing the actions of the four drones.

    Well… At least the salvage operation is going as planned. The Hjorndal is in a dire shape and I'm sure the entire vessel desperately craves for a shipyard. Some patch work has been completed on the old maneuvering thrusters. Although this Corsari destroyer has newer ones, they have received serious damage and the vessel is forced to rely on the outdated systems. If I understood them correctly, they have transferred specific vernier units that were still intact to the old ones; allowing her to become maneuverable again.

    The Hjorndal still requires the support of the drones, but the crew is assured that they can perform basic maneuvering again - I guess. Well, several appear to be certain that the Hjorndal is in such a dire shape that it will remain dependant of at least one pair of drones.
    I'm sure we will continue to support them with all four since no other vessel currently needs them. Although this vessel is apparently millennia-old from what I heard by short talks, its systems have been able to serve reliably for long. I can understand why they are stuck to it.



    As for now? Well… We're still here in deadspace - in the middle of nowhere. All ships of the flotilla are in anchorage profile as the salvage op continues. I can't say what we found since - uh… We aren't quite sure at all what we found, but it is a lot of things -- and not just little stuff either. We have brought in hundreds of goods and other stuff. I wasn't really able to see anything since my primary task was to maintain supervision of drones with my laptop. Using wireless, we were able to engage an interactive link between the Hjorndal's arrays and my duty laptop.

    I suppose we will stay here for another half of a day.

    This Nebuli Somtaaw wreckage is a large chunk from a carrier that had been torn off. A great portion of it was surged by hyperspace fabrics and we also discovered that most of wreckage suffered brittle aspects. The live footages were quite shocking…

    It did not matter if there were corpses or solid inorganic materials like metallic bulkhead -- The dead bodies crumbled away once touched and the bulkheads would just break and dissolve like sand.

    Several officials are worried about staying too long. The stress of vacuum space is causing faint trembles throughout the wreckage and some assume that a violent rupture could happen - not just yet, but it would be best that we extract our people before something happens.

    I decided to do the same as the rest of the Corsari and forego rest. There is too much at stake and I'm sure our flotilla will need anything we can grab. SAT collegues are doing a great job despite some tension going on at the lab. I heard Ebria had another argument with one of them as well as Dr. Pethera Sjet. *Sigh* Can't worry about that now since I had to focus on the drones. The drones are doing quite well and I only had to do little reprogramming. We were fortunate to have these drone corvettes. As for now, my SAT team is using them as aids to transport the heavier salvage away from the Nebuli wreckage.


    Due to the fact that there are so many bulky things, the Darugis carrier has exposed one of its high capacity ore bays as a rudimental storage bay. The salvage teams are literally tossing each thing they find in that direction and let the inertial drift do the job. We use the drones to catch any objects that drift out of the arc.

    The Darugis is quite interesting too.
    We learned that it is actually an old carrier-class vessel; one of which that had been refitted to a deep space mining vessel almost a century ago. Heh-heh, so we have this huge carrier vessel who is much younger than this smaller Corsari destroyer - ha-ha-ha… *chuckles* Ehem…

    Well… Hmm. Anyhow.

    The Darugis carrier was a ship that had fled Hiigara during the war against the Vaygr crusades. The intruding crusades were crashing in Homeworld territory, causing not only mass panics but also frantic evacuations across the constellation. Hundreds of servitors of the banned Kiith Gaalsiidim were onboard that ship as well as a supervisory crew of Somtaaw officers.
    After disputes and mutiny, a small set of Somtaaw officers and crewmen succeeded in liberating the ship as well as the ending the servitude of these people. Ensuring that those they opposed would survive on emergency pods, the remaining crew dismantled the primary food cultivator and other units. They were absolutely certain that they would be rescued as they had additionally dispatched exact coordinates as well as encrypted messages to Hiigaran-specific fleets and allies.

    Although the captain is still part of the crew, he was the one who led the mutiny against his first officer, who solely followed the orders of their respective Kiith Somtaaw enclave. He did not like the fact about transmitting slaves - as the Gaalsiidim people were slaves, no matter how history had sealed their fate before. Regarding that, they were now fugitives on the run.

    It looks like they went through serious hardships. Famine and sicknesses - lacking experienced crewmen to maintain initiative of a vessel of such size - evading Hiigaran-specific allied zones as the war was coming to an end and of course the guilt for mutiny against their Kiith. Things were not looking good.

    Well, I won't go through everything - but they barely survived -- and they were almost a goner if it were… well, if it were not for Commander Hailynn Delixa and the few others who discovered Mr. Vayn Baxtor Gaalsi - who was on the run through Providence. Gods… The other Somtaaw who wanted to capture him had dispatched the message that he was a dangerous threat to the Amaji society. I saw it in the news just these few days ago.

    Good gracious - this all had not even happened four or five days ago. I feel like I'm losing the feel of time here. Heh, they said that the entire Vjel-Amaj crew was amazed that they were gone for only a week during that crazy mission of theirs a month ago. I am now slowly understanding their confusion.

    Anyhow…
    The Darugis is not as spacious as one may think. The main cargo is filled with loads of ore that were valuable for the Corsari Lord Kroll. There are secondary ones, apparently for frigate sized vessels to dock up. Nonetheless, one of those are being used as a massive bulk storage as we… well… merely b nab all we can out of the hulk before something happens. And I'm still here messing with the drones, trying to catch what drifted off or missed the target.

    Ugh… which reminds me of Taisy screaming at me for handling the drones so loosely. The only thing that I could do was to bait her with the fact that we also found unknown Nebuli drones on our hull as well as other ones within this gigantic wreckage. I think we salvaged corvette-sized objects as well as some things that look like satellite drones. Hoo boy, there will be a lot of work for our SAT department. I suppose - and do hope - that will work with the flotilla to uncover the secrets and all these unknown artifacts, heh.

    Speaking of SAT, Quan and other astrogators are still heads deep into figuring out where we are. I heard all vessel navigation computers finished cartographical scans but still have no clue where we are. However, they did announce that we would be ready for a combined hyperjump. It is to be a test jump to align our navigational systems to the hyperspace drifts as well as the flotilla's jump signature-thing -- again, I'm just an A.I. programmer.

    Once we emerge after that short trip, we could then orientate ourselves and -- uh… Well… We actually still don't know in what region we are but I'm sure will figure it out. Shouldn't be that hard since we only jumped away from a random system that was close-by Hiigara -- a lousy few light years away.

    *****


    - Aara who? -


    = Vjel-Amaj - Subdeck F "Refugee Zone" - Outer Junctions =


    Many people moved about the dubbed "Refugee Subdeck". Although not as crowded as the denser areas, there were still a lot of people around. Ever since groups of Gaalsi and Siidim people were introduced and invited so they could feel some shared comfort of the cruiser's exotic features, the place had become more lively.


    As of now, various Hiigarans, Vaygr, Gaalsi and Siidim people conversed with each other. Even separate Amaji crewmen were still surprised to see so many cultures onboard this ship; a sighting that pleased them well.


    Although one could sense the notable gap between the cultures, one could also feel that all these people had experienced common hardships. Of course, the Hiigaran refugees had suffer only little long before they arrived on this vessel but it was clear that these specific people held close trust to their Vaygr counterparts. It was still a strange sighting for many, as the Vaygr were always deemed as ruthless to those who opposed the Vaygr Will of Makaan.


    Despite a very bloody past that only was only a few years young, the Hiigarans sincerely accept the Vaygr as one of their own - especially since the various establishments of relationships and even small young families. However, they were always certain that the future would be utmost troublesome as those with old grudges would always see this as the fraternization with an old and lethal foe…

    ***


    For quite some time, she had been walking around the dreaded corridors that were filled with people. Having not figured how to actually leave the Subdeck or even knowing where she was going, she simply tried to keep on moving while figuring out what the to do. She became more aggravated as she simply had no clue where to go. Although having dodged the various grown-ups and blathering groups in the way, nothing bugged her more than the frequent thuds from behind each time she decided to stop, from that specifically annoying shadow…


    When she finally found a corridor that was practically empty, there was a short wave of euphoria that swept through her as she finally had found a passage away from the lively junctions. Once she took another turn around the corner, she slowed down and then stopped, for she was not sure where to go from here.

    These were apparently outer corridors that were rather empty and the passage ahead was a dead end full of crates. But as she stood around, she heard taps of steps coming from the corner behind her.

    *Bump* -- Her inner bubble of patience merely shattered.

    "Sand-cursed --!", the young Hiigaran cursed when she swung herself around and instantly threw both of her hands upon the arms of the lithe figure that had frequently bumped into her, "All right, damn it -- For the last damn time, stop bumping into me! "

    Aira was deeply surprised by Hesken's clutch that she froze with shock and awe. Gazing this young Hailynn right into the very deep blue of her eyes simply swept her mind away. Although she knew it was not her, her mind simply could not cope with the reality just yet.


    Dragging the exotic figure slightly closer, Hesken clenched her teeth as she spoke, "Bloody frell -- NOT ONLY is it already bad enough that I am walking around in circles on this strange and stupid ship-place full of Vaygr and servitor hordes - NO, my brother damned me with YOU! Would you just go somewhere else?! Why are you following me?!"

    The exotic adolescent needed to some time before responding, "I-I wa-was to guide you along your path, Naj-- I mean, H-Hesken of Delixa. Your brother implored me to --"
    "Yeah yeah, my brother, so?! Still doesn't mean we have to do any crap he says! I could care less about you - so beat it!"


    "I-I… My soul only wishes to join thy--"


    Aira hushed the moment she felt gush of warm air snorting from Hesken's nostrils. The Hiigaran suddenly lifted her head and barked, "AND COULD YOU STOP TALKING LIKE THAT?! My soul - my this , thy that - thou shall not -- Equatorial frells, knock that damn talk off! I'm so sick of it! Ever since I met you, you've been talking like some damn oracle. Bloody sands of Chenarra"

    , she cursed and barked once more at the frail being,

    "Knock it off! Can't you talk normal like any other kushan being, you git?!"


    "My -- I-Me… My sou-- I did not want to anger thine -- I", Aira stammered again and again, deeply intimidated by the Hiigaran's words.
    "I've never heard of a Hiigaran or any other bloodline talk such crap? Where are you from, AARA, huh?!", Hesken's sharp tongue rambled forth, "Who are you? Why are you here? WHY AM I HERE?! WHERE ARE WE?! A-And -- No just what or where are you from, to begin with?! You can't be Hiigaran, unless you are from some damn backwater region of our Homeworld."


    The lips of her counterpart trembled but did not answer.

    "Answer me! I'd normally say you are --", Hesken paused and mustered her with a quick glimpse, "from the Urtheis Province judging that silly tongue of yours but you are by far too small! And you don't even have curly hair to begin with. In fact -- I never saw a person with such silvery straight hair!"

    , she shook her head,

    "Definitely not urthesian or liir-hrallian, for damn sure! Tambuur, Tambaan -- No, no resembling markings or anything such either! I can't even figure what those tattoes of yours are from."



    Hesken mumbled more names as she kept turning, moving and mustering the shocked female like an obedient plastic doll. Many ethical names of kiithid, clan and enclave bloodlines just kept pouring from the young Hiigaran's mouth, and while her mind became more and more furious, her voice and temper actually lost intensity as both wild and precise guesses remained unanswered. Each guess was denied by the missing significant details, as a kushan of any Hiigaran kiith would never roam without them.


    Her counterpart remained silent. Although intimidated, this Aara figure did not resists but let Hesken swing her around, regardless of how aggressive it was. The unusual girl was agitated and her breathing was quite audible. Her head moved around slightly and her eyes were slightly tainted with red. Strange enough, Hesken could have sworn they were clear and almost as silver as her hair before.

    The young Hiigaran lady mustered the unknown person whose appearance and heritage was a true mystery. The strong note of this enigmatic person disturbed her deeply. Just about everything on her was simply… different. Hesken decided to muster her from head to toe one more time.


    Aara's dress was truly exotic. The attire resembled much of a robe that seemed typical for the creepy cultist types of people on Hiigara. Beige and light purple were common colors of the fabrics. Patterns subtly shimmered as the soft light fell upon them. Judging the bizarre patterns, she had at first assumed she was a manaani, but this specific being was far too calm to be even considered wild at heart. The straight silky hair was as pure as platinum. Even the calm blue of artificial lighting shimmered almost perfectly.


    Her hair was so pure that it was always like a mirror; shimmering some of the dark blue of the wall besides them. Her skin was rather pale. Hesken's fingers examined the hair as she stared at it with big eyes. But nothing was more confusing and bizarre than the light tattoos that were written on the side of face. Although they sparked a very deep and distant reminisce of history class, her mind simply could not unravel the mystery to this puzzle. Lastly, the young Hiigaran clutched Aara's arms again.


    "Wait-a-minute… Aara! You're not Hiigaran! You're an outsider!", Hesken finally concluded, "Of course. You must be some sort of alien. Hopefully not illegal."


    "My existence is of --!"
    "There we go again! For the bloody sake of all gods, just say 'I am' - knock it off with all that mystical talk!", the other girl growled and intimidated the foreign girl once more, "Stop beating around the bush - and just say where are you from, then?!"


    "M-My name is Aira… It-It…", the accented girl stammered, "My so- I mean - Yes. I am not a Hiigaran, l-like you; or an Amaji like any other being on this vessel. You could say that I am a fo-forei-- outsider."

    Hesken dropped her hands from her arms as she stared into the eyes that were now almost white again, "Was that that hard?! Huh?... Aira-who? What is your bloodline's name?!"

    "Where I am truly from, I do not know myself. It is said however, that I hail from the distant Great Nebula. I am… thousands of thousands of light years away from my Homeworld, the Sungarden of the Gods - The eternal Garden of Kadesh… I… I suppose my bloodline is of k-kadeshi descent. At l-least, that is what is said about me -- It is the truth. I do not possess a bloodline last name. I am only... Aira."

    "For somebody who is that foreign, you sure do make a lot of periods…"The Hiigaran rolled her eyes, "*Sigh* Whatever…"
    "I do not know what I am…"
    "What do you mean: You don't know what you are?"

    The two could hear muffled voices from around the corner, as well as short announcements that echoed through the corridors.

    The Kadeshi girl turned away, her eyes scanning the surroundings, "I am a special being of this enigmatic vessel, for I am its physical entity. I am part of this ship…"
    , her left palm touched the plating of the wall besides her,
    "And the ship is part of me. I am able to sense what lies beyond - In space. I can heed the songs of the galaxy…"

    "What? Entity? What is that? You got some kind of superkushan powers? S-Songs? What are you, some kind of galactic radio? Sounds like crap to me."


    Now it was Hesken who suddenly silenced the Kadeshi turned around. There was a split second the eyes of the enigmatic girl had changed from what appeared to be purple right back to pure silver -- or was this an illusion?


    "I can heed what the stars of our galaxy sings. I can sense their warmth as the wind spreads through the galaxy that surrounds us. There are so many things about me that I do not know. My soul has heeded to sorrows of… many songs. The ship is part of me… for am I part of this ship…"

    , Aira suddenly looked around with questioning eyes after she finally accepted reality,

    "But... Th-The songs -- They are gone. Silence… Emptiness. I can no longer heed them. Everything is… simply gone. I am blind… deaf. I cannot heed the songs no longer. I do not know why… I can no longer feel the ship's presence, as if I am no longer part of it. To be truthful with you, Hesken Delixa… I do not know what I am."

    The troubled Kadeshi lowered her head, lost in a world of uncertainty about her true nature. Of course, she was a Kadeshi, but she never truly knew what she was.

    But suddenly, Aira remained surprised as the Hiigaran began to muster her again, turning her around, examining every corner of her appearance. After the surprising event, Hesken stopped, holding Aira in front of her.

    "…"

    "Well… Aara… That's some serious problem you got there. First time I heard somebody not knowing where the frakk they came from, heh. So… You don't know really know who or what you are?"

    , Hesken said, as she mustured Aira's looks,

    "*Hmpf* You're a tad taller, you have a soft voice, you got damn long and unusual hair, you even got slightly more front than me *grumbles* --"

    , the Hiigaran girl suddenly paused and stared her counterpart into the eye,

    "Entity… Don't know what that is. But you said you are able to feel some weird things that I never heard of. And Hiigarans don't have that stuff. You say you're not like us, but you damn-look-like-us for sure… Wait, lemme test something here."

    Hesken still maintained her seemingly iconic skeptical gaze. Her hands still held Aira's sides; her head was almost at the height of her shoulders as she still felt annoyed of the Kadeshi's exotic attributes. Aira became uncertain and nervous as the young Hiigaran lady moved her face closer to hers. The Kadeshi remained silent as Hesken once again mustered her again. Hesken noticed free skin at the side of her arm and pinched it.

    "*Nnnhg…*", the Kadeshi counterpart moaned lightly.

    The Hiigaran then poked her cheek, feeling the soft skin as well as Aira's reaction. With the help of her thumb, she gently pinched the edge of her mouth and motioned around. The skin was flexible and definitely not fake. The Kadeshi did nothing but let this curious girl examine her. Hesken made a confused face, as if she wanted to test other things that were rather farfetched - For sure, as Aira noticed her pinching her eyes together with greater skeptism.

    "Wait, for sure robots can't…", Hesken said and suddenly clawed the sides oft he Kadeshi with both hands.

    Aira instantly responded by light squeels and sqeeks she did not understand. The Kadeshi twitched and even formed smiles; unaware of why this was actually happening.

    "Bloody sands… ticklish."
    "Tikk-lish?"
    Hesken once again grasped Aira's shoulders - even more skeptical. The Kadeshi stared back at her with a slightly astonished face.
    "Why, that was unusual. I never felt this tik-lish -- How do you do that? C-Can you do this again?", Aira happily asked as she tried to scratch herself in a similar manner yet with no effect, "Th-That emotion. It felt strange. I never felt this. Do it again. Why did I respond like that? Why did -- *huh*?"

    Hesken ignored her words, pulled the Kadeshi individual closer while moving her head forward; turning it to the side as she placed her ear upon Aira's chest.

    "O-Oh?", Aira sounded lightly, "W-What is this gesture now? Is this a Hiigaran way of --"
    "Shh-Shhhhh!", the Hiigaran girl swung her arm as she demanded her to seize the talk.

    At first, the Kadeshi felt quite unusual as this Hiigaran had her head upon the center of her chest. Hesken held her slightly tightly and made a reaction that resembled slight astonishment. Many thoughts went through her mind, but nothing confused Aira more than what Hesken was listening to. She was apparent hearing something.

    "Hesken --?"
    "Quiet!"

    Many seconds went by with Aira pondering why this Hiigaran listened to her. There were times where she noticed activity from the same spot within but she never understood anything about it.

    "Bit faster - what the… sounds different… Almost three… Weird…",

    Hesken said as she lifted her head before the Kadeshi dared to say another word,

    "Granted. Robots or whatever you want to call it could have all this stuff, but you've simply got too many real features. Okay, I really don't know who you are, where you're from… or just what you really are -- but other than that you look pretty much like anything else I've seen so far…

    I guess you could say you're just an ordinary kushan after all. Heck, I never heard of kah-dash or how you call it, but -- You're just an ordinary girl I guess. Suppose you're almost eighteen like me. Looks like it. Like a young princess like I am."


    Aira suddenly formed a gentle smile. Oddly enough, her eyes were barely tainted with green now; which was more than weird for the Hiigaran.


    But known to the Hiigaran, unusual reactions were occurring within Aira. She was not certain at all. It was a light twist of some sort in her stomach region. Without warning, Aira threw her arms around Hesken's neck and embraced her. It was an awkward urge that the Kadeshi did not understand, but for some reason, the sudden emergence of thankfulness simply urged her to embrace the Hiigaran lady. Somewhere, it felt like she was embracing her absent caretaker...


    Hesken however was more than surprised and annoyed by this sudden gesture. She truly did not like this much of closeness.

    "Y-Yeah yeah, okay, okay -- All right now."
    "Thank you, Hesken of Delixa."
    "Ye-eah yeah, you can let go now", the Hiigaran finally managed to slip her hands beneath Aira's arms so she could remove them from her shoulders.

    "My sou-- I sense… An unusual feeling in me. Is… This an emotion. I sense the presence of joy. It feels unusual."
    "Whatever", once Hesken pushed her away, she adjusted the awkward clothes she wore, "Stupid clothes, this is for guys…", she complained and tried to put things back to their spot, "Damn cups, too big for my size. That Amaji-woman said this would be my size -- Oh yeah, she said I'd grow in. That b--"
    "Thank you, Hesken of Delixa. Your words mean much to me. For the first time, I feel like I am… I -- feel like I am…", but the slightly euphoric Kadeshi seemed to be lost with the words.

    "… like a real kushan person, eh?", the Hiigaran sighed.

    The accented Kadeshi nodded, "I-I think so."

    "Well, then, now that I am sure you're not some sort of vampire", Hesken rolled her eyes, "At least… You feel real at least. But don't get me wrong. You're still a freak to me. And --"

    Hesken noticed that Aira was not paying much attention. She seemed distracted, frequetly placing her hand on her stomach and other spots around it.

    "Hey, I'm talking to you!"
    "H-Hesken. Why did you eavesdrop my body?"

    "What? Ah, never mind that. I supposed you were a robot. You know, non-kushan-things without kushan-things", the Hiigaran sighed, "You sounded weird, that's for sure."
    "S-Sound? What do you mean?"

    Hesken raised an eyebrow, "Look. Never mind that. It is just kinky and cheesy. Besides, it's just creepy to be listening to a girl. Damn it, I'd rather have it be some muscular guy."

    But the Kadeshi seemed too eager to let loose of this. Without warning, the Kadeshi gently grabbed Hesken's head so that she could listen again, but she refused.

    "Hey, let go! I'm not doing that again, somebody could see us! It is so embarrasing."
    "What was this you listened of? Do please tell me. It interests me."

    Once again, Aira's eyes shimmered a different color, but nothing was more annoying to Hesken than her urge of interest.

    "It's creepy anyways. And it is just stupid for girls to do this. It's so cheesy and dumb. You just sound different. You're just slightly different. Now let's go somewhere and --"

    Hesken noticed Aira still trying to feel anything, but it was clear that she would never feel anything as she kept tapping her stomach region.

    "Oh come on… Listen, silly. Not down there, it's here", the Hiigaran finally said, grabbed her hand and placed it upon her chest.

    "But I don't -- Oh?"

    Strange but true, it was the first time Aira actually felt the periodic yet gentle thuds against her palm. For the very first time, she felt the consitant motion deep inside of her.

    "Oh… here it is. What is this? I forgot about it - but it always became noticeable whenever I was in…", Aira made a long pause as key moments of the last six months swept through her mind in a matter of a second, "despair. I had always felt this… booming deep within my soul. I can heed its… its song once I was one with this ship… b-but no longer."

    Hesken sighed once again, "Whatever."
    But the Kadeshi suddenly awoke from her short moment of concern, "Hesken of Delixa, do you have this booming in you, too?", she asked with large eyes.

    "What?! Uh-duuh. Of course I have a heart, silly. Creepy as it is, of course I do. I'm a living being after all!"
    "I-Is this the truth? Of course it is. Please, allow me to heed it", Aira said and placed her hand upon Hesken's chest.
    "Whoa-whoa. It was already creepy enough to have those doctor-guys be listening to me all the time. Knock it off. It's just a heart."
    "Heart… Is that the name? Of course… The core…", Aira silently said to herself, slowly understanding the meaning of things that were obscured for her psyche, "A source of life... Though… I can barely feel your core", she added as Hesken removed her hand.
    "Because I have all this thick clothes on. Now I would really appreciate it if you --"

    Unfortunately for the Hiigaran, it was the Kadeshi who now had too much interests and wanted to explore more about this. Mimicing what the Hiigaran girl had done before, Aira surprised Hesken by placing both of her hands upon the shoulders and placing her ear upon her counterpart's body. Clearly, Hesken was deeply embarrased.

    "I hear --", Aira said, but formed a confused face, "Grumbles… growling… of some sort."
    Hesken was at the verge of slapping Aira's head off her stomach, but just before she acted, she decided to raise Aira's head slightly to the right spot.

    "It's here, silly."
    "Ooohh… This is that heart you speak of…"

    It was only now when the periodic beats sounded in her ear. It was not all too clear as the fabrics of Hesken's clothes were thick. But Aira had only two seconds before the Hiigaran urged her away.


    "All beings have this?"
    "Okay enough. Yes. You have one, too. Great for you. Great for me. Everybody has one. Now knock it off! Enough now. Damn, read a book about biology or something. Let's go somewhere. Actually, all this stupid talking got me hungry. Where can we eat something, Aara?"


    "I suppose… at the ship's so-called mess hall - or somewhere here on this subdeck, as I am sure that the people have food storages too. Oh, e-excuse my correction, Hesken of Delixa. My name goes by Ae-rah. It is Kadeshi for -- I… I don't quite know myself. Please, tell me more about this bio-loh-gee! Tell me more. About this. Why do we females only have this heart."

    "Men have it too, silly. Do you know anything -- Did you ever read a book or go to school?!"
    But it was clear what this freak would answer…

    "I'll tell you whatever. Just don't tell me you don't know anything about men and women either --- oh gods no…"

    Aira did not know what she meant but repeated the word biology.

    "Oh. Fine by me. Speaking of names - Stop calling me Hesken of Delixa… Well… You could, for I'm a damn princess of the Delixan clan and kiith, soon to be joined with another prince. But, you know, call me Hesken. Or just Hes."

    But the Kadeshi just stared right back at her with an unusual euphoric face.
    "Or whatever…"


    *****
    Last edited by Sparki; 28th Jun 12 at 6:43 PM. Reason: damn typos!

  12. #12
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    *****
    Part 6 of X

    - The unfortunate souls -

    = Wreckage of the Nebuli Somtaaw carrier, interior. Location unknown =


    ### Soldier of Fortune 1 OST - Level 6A - New York, All Clear ###

    Single cones of light struck their path through the darkness. Countless grains of floating dust were revealed - The majority falling slightly to the floor. One of the light beams began to scan the area; gently slipping upon surfaces, objects and more clots of unidentifiable particles. After a short moment, the beam widened in size as its intensity weakened.

    Soon, it had widened enough to illuminate the area, making it possible for the eye to achieve a better impression of the surroundings. As of now, a small portion of the area was flooded by the gentle glow of yellow and red. The eye could now at least distinguish this small eerie realm.


    The durable patch upon shoulder regions revealed the sigil of the Kiith Amaj as well an astronautic badge of the Amaji Science and Technology Department. The heavy astronautic suit made three slow steps forward before pausing again. The protective spherical globe reflected the surroundings. More dust particles floated away as bulky figure stopped. The torso turned to the left and two the right, followed by a smaller illuminator following precise movements as it struck light upon specific areas.


    When the figure decided to move its voluminous foot, it unintentionally kicked an unknown chunk of metal. The piece flew almost three meters until it met the floor again. No sound emitted as it rolled and knocked upon the messy floor. The astronaut spotted several pieces just besides his foot and slowly kneeled down. The puffy glove opened and attempted to grab one of the nimble pieces of solid material.

    After several slips and the soundless growls of light profanity, the astronaut lifted his bulky hand close to the wide helmet and examined the piece. It was a solid piece of plating. He was most certainly that it was a durable slate of metal, yet it was clearly perforated and deformed; proving that an unstoppable force had struck upon it.

    Several seconds went by… Certainly used for a moment of pondering. The stiff helmet motioned slightly with the torso as the astronaut apparently gazed upon the messy floor. After a hesitant pause, the torso bent back, allowing him to look at the ceiling. The astronaut immediately noticed the frightening ruptures upon the ceiling as well as a trail that led to the walls and possibly beyond.

    Following the observations of the amount of damage and results, common sense sparked assumptions that there must have been some sort of explosion… no… an implosion -- Or something of both. The astronaut immediately looked away when he spotted a corpse with a notable chunk stuck within the temple of its head -- or what was left of it.

    The astronaut made a gentle toss and noticed how the plating flew a long parabolic path until it knocked against the wall further away. Again, there was no sound the astronaut heard aside to his mind playing tricks. He then noticed changes in the illumination of the surroundings. The yellow-reddish light began to change to a purer white as another glow of light apparently approached.

    The first suit made a short hasty movement, surprised by the approach of another suit. The other figure entered the small area. The suit emitted dark blue fields of light.


    The second figure was much slimmer yet certainly more resilient than the other astronautic suit that was made of a lighter and thicker fabric for extra-solar activities. The helmet was practically enclosed by a protective shell of armor. Clearly, this was one of the so-called exo-suits, Torbin assumed. Unlike his astronautic suit, the Corsari one was not only to support life in a hazardous environment.

    The entire body was well protected by the exo-suit and additionally offered much leeway and mobility for its user. The obvious militaristic suit appeared to have many scratch marks, dents and missing paint as well as the sigil of the Turanic Corsari Fealty crudely engraved to the protective torso plating. Like the other Corsari marines he had recently seen in this salvage mission, they all had obviously seen some serious combat. Although the face was entirely covered, the Amaji astronaut assumed it possessed sophisticated visual aids.


    The Corsari marine raised his space-hardened, recoil-less rifle and engaged a cautious stance as he moved further into the room. The suited man was cautious about every aspect of his surroundings, scanning not only the floor but also the ceiling and certain areas the first bulky suit did not look at. The foot frequently shoved layers of thick dust and metal pieces from the floor.


    *


    Inside the suit, the Amaji sighed once more as he calmed down and observed the subtly glowing Corsari exo-suit moving slowly across his side - rifle first. A set of low voices spoke over the suits intercom radio; their volumes low enough for him to concentrate. Aside to the voices, there was an ongoing crackling sounding from another internal speaker along with an internal small gauge at the corner of his eye flickering identically to the noise.


    "Bloody sands… I told you not to sneak up on me like that", Teamleader Torbin Amaj said to the Corsari over the interactive channel, "Even a deserted graveyard-place like this can give the creeps to a trained salvage astronaut."


    The Corsari marine did not answer but kept his vigil as he carefully made secure steps forward. The astronautic marine continued his militaristic approach through the small area.

    Torbin grumbled and looked around. The small flashlight cone followed his head movement. His breathing was audible inside the suit.


    The Amaji leaned his head to the side until his mouth could pull the straw. Using his teeth, he bit the special elastic mouth piece tightly and applied pressure upon his left forearm with his other hand. With this specific mechanism, water could securely be ingested without the danger of it floating into his helmet.

    Luckily, practically all the components were water-resistant - yet nobody would want to test their luck regarding this matter. After his throat was hydrated again, he used his cheek to push it back.


    Torbin's suit had become only slightly warmer over time, and there was nothing that was more of a torture than the itch on his head and his back. Yet again, the Amaji astronaut reminded himself of reminding the SAT segment to apply specific thing to scratch those spots. The man forgot about the urge as he brought his attention upon his surroundings.


    "Hey… Did you notice the faint effects of gravity in this area?", Torbin added as he began a slow pace forward, "I can slightly feel the suit's weight despite the supportive hydraulics. Looks like not all is dead on this ship after all…"
    , the Amaji lifted his head towards the ceiling and then looked downwards,
    "If you ask me, there must be some rudimentary grav-emitter on this deck. Hmm… Zero-point-three G. Far too low for Hiigaran standards - Heh, even for Amaji. I'm sure you don't care, but Amaji Prime has a zero-point-seven-five G effect. Sounds probably like nothing but trust me… It means a lot."

    The Corsari aimed his rifle upon a mangled corpse on the floor.


    "Eh… *scoffs* Guess it doesn't matter for them", the Amaji astronaut mentioned while trying to forget about looking to the floor; he then noticed the crackling sound, "Anyways… Where there is artificial gravity, there must be power… Looks like this deck is adjacent to a nuclear power plant of some sort… Something still linked to an enclosed power grid maybe.
    That would mean that there is still some life. Don't know, could be a small power unit or maybe leakage from nuclear weaponry, who knows. The Sievert levels are below the worrisome ratings.

    We should be careful nonetheless. We must assume there is a leakage and possible radiation spikes. After all, we have no clue what sort of ugly materials these Nebuli guys used. I don't know about your Corsari suit, sir, but we Amaji-nauts have protocols. Precaution is everything. Applying a provisional raise of power to suit's shielding. Going to sap some power from a different unit I currently do not need. Will affect other system's efficiency but that should be no problem. Applying minor meds - just in case. Prepping iodine for worst case."



    Torbin observed the micro display in his helmet revealing a minor raise in the consumption level of his sophisticated astronautic suit. A very slight sensation went through the back of his left hand. Bringing his attention back upon the area, he decided to speak further as his words and sightings were being recorded. His illuminators shined around the ceiling as well as the other areas. He tried to figure the whereabouts.

    The Amaji cleared his voice, "There… There was no sign or any sort of designator to explain the function of this sector. We discovered that power must still be active in this area - However, we also detect minor radiation leakage. I doubt we are close to the engineering deck because… well… That deck is probably still with the rest of the original carrier riding the ongoing wavefront -- It is likely still infusing power to sustain it. Or there are exposed radiological warheads. I doubt it is a good idea to find the source but we will be careful."

    , he then noticed the slow amount of dust continually falling from above,

    "We are standing in a mass graveyard. As bizarre as it sounds, I'm not all too clear-minded about this. Most of the surged bodies have disintegrated to dust… likely caused by the minor gravity field applying to this area. Looks - Looks like not all has fallen to ashes… I can see a few remains of skeletons. And some of the uniforms are still intact. Also separate bodies… I assure you, this is quite unpleasant."

    The Amaji suit needed a few seconds to kneel to the floor, focusing upon the three nearby corpses.

    "I cannot tell anything about this one. Impossible. The middle one… Most likely a female… Good gracious, the face is somewhat intact and --", he immediately turned it away, hoping he would ever be able to forget what he had just seen, "This one, male…
    Wearing what seems to be like an ordinary overall. A crewman perhaps? Several remains of these overalls share the same looks… Hmm… I cannot read the name well enough. Can't lean further down. Let me zoom in -- C-R-E…A-N… Tirsed Uly-- Ulyssio or Olyzzio… Somtaaw. I don't know… The relentless cruelty of hyperspace and vacuum did not spare much…"

    The astronaut lifted himself; his voice remained uneasy, "I don't know what these people went through. It was certainly terrifying. The mangled faces show agony in their final state. Vacuum of space conserved most of the corpses. No wonder my internal sensory were detecting confusing heat values from these corpses. Physically, heat cannot escape once in vacuum space -- well, of course, the body is frozen but there is a faint signature of heat inside in the core… N-Nevermind. I do not like what I see…"

    The few faces he remembered as well as several others that were in the room revealed similar aspects. Their mouths echoed endless screams in his mind. He began to understand the poses of the corpses. The noisewas simply eerie.

    Although the Amaji astronaut kept his wits, his mind clearly had slight troubles coping with the surroundings. The entire wreckage was dreaded necropolis; home of the dead and those to be forgotten…

    "So many people… I'm not some sort of forensics expert here… but I am beginning to see a pattern in this room. It looks like they were caught in this area. Or. It could be that this was their last resort. Maybe they were caught here by surprise. I don't know.

    Perhaps they survived the initial surge but probably were captured on this wreckage like everybody else. Certain bodies are actually partially intact unlike others that left nothing but empty uniforms with crumbling skeletons…

    Certain bodies look like they were crawling on the floor… These poses… Gods… As if they were craving for something -- something like… air. The ruptured ceiling has several bulged trails from the nearby wall. We must assume that uncontrolled air pressures and decompressions tore their way to this area.

    This would confirm other sightings found throughout the corridors and other areas. This should also prove that the carrier had sustained serious damage from the initial surge… But I think this did not matter as another violent surge must have purged the most of the wreckage of life itself."

    The Corsari marine did not care about the dead but began to search the bodies for anything that seemed useful. Indeed, he apparently found things -- as usual. Torbin did not like the sight as the greedy Corsari once again looted the dead and everything else. Since weight was quite meaningless, his capacity was practically huge.

    "I feel like a monster. We're looting the dead. I know we need to survive and that they won't be needing this stuff… but… I don’t think we can just blame all the Nebuli Somtaaw. I'm very certain that there are such individuals that either had no choice but to serve or never fully agreed with the executive officers.
    Look at these corpses. These are youngsters. I dare say a large number of them are -- were around the current Amaji age generation. They may be Somtaaw, but there are clearly a few adolescents amidst the many young adults here. If these are crewmen - and I'm certain they were of the youngest generation. I now wonder if they were all foes…

    There has got to be something about it. I could care less about their actual deeds. In the end, we're all just mortals of flesh and blood. Are they all evil? After all, we Amaji are following the command of the elder veterans of the Kiith Amaj without any real questioning.
    *Hesitation*

    Surged or not -- these people did not deserve to die like this. Regarding my experience and what I heard so far about the Vjel-Amaj is that we cannot just blame everybody. Some were really just following orders…
    Even foreigners who are now trusted members of the crew… and I can be certain that there must be a few who do not fully comply to the Nebuli Somtaaw's terror agenda.
    Unfortunately, I heard the rumor that the Nebuli Somtaaw executive officers were quick to shoot anybody in the head if one were hesitant about an order. Can't really tell. I don't hang around at that bridge.
    I'm willing to go so far to regret not being able to apply a proper burial service for these people."

    For the first time, he seemed to have gained the attention of the armed marine.

    "What? Now you're willing to respond? Just in case you haven't noticed - I am a salvage astronaut. In fact, time and again, I had to sometimes retrieve more than just junk from obliterated vessels after pirates mangled them."

    The Corsari turned around and straightened his stance. The tone of the Amaji was direct enough.

    "You heard right. You and your pirate cartels slaughtered much and left many for dead on those ships. For me, it doesn't matter who a person is. A meaningless death is something nobody deserves.
    I heard about you Corsari guys having some damn honor codex, but you could have at least told your damn cartels to just demand whatsoever instead of shooting first. Outgunned Amaji vessels would have surrendered…

    *Sigh* I'm sure these individuals were just ordinary crewmen following orders. I know about the grudges between your people and these Somtaaw, but I am sure that they are not all guilty.
    Killing them all would not make us any better. It is no different than what you or I am doing. Granting a burial service to outsiders is a custom regarding my bloodline heritage. I'm of kiith-hrallian descent, and we respect the dead."


    As the Corsari maintained his stance, the two suddenly noticed a tremble transmitting through the floor. While it was barely sensible, it certainly was perceived as a reminder that time was their worst enemy. Occasionally, one could feel single thuds accompanied to the trembles. It took several seconds until the tremors faded.

    ""TL Torbin, this is Ebria speaking. We just detected another one of those seismic spikes. Are you all right?"", her voice was accompanied by notable hisses and static.
    "Torbin here. We're fine here. Felt another tremble. Do you know what that was?"


    ""Confirmed. We had planted a survey drone on the hull of the wreckage before to maintain a better comm-uplink and observation when the area started to shake. Frigate Sebun-No discovered a severe breach several decks away from your possible location. It looks like not all regions were decompressed. We can see bodies, objects as well as gases spraying into open space. The previous rupture revealed a massive object leaving the wreckage.

    Sensory indicated gravimetric values -- Looks like one of the artificial gravity units just went AWOL… We already dispatched one of the corvette drones to observe the batch but we must engage further safety plans. The survey drone is detecting minor tremors even now. We must assume these are ripple effects.

    I don't believe in fate but that was a wakeup call. This was the fourth breach - and quite a severe one within the hour, so we are cutting time off the deadline. Torbin, what's your status right now? Over.""


    "Roger. We retrieved a lot of things on our way to this current location. Most of this area seems intact unlike other places that suffered deep surges. We discovered, uh, for sure artificial gravity fields here as well as a light radioactive leak - possibly from a nearby power plant or cracked warheads.
    We're not sure. But if we assume it’s a power plant supporting what's of the power grid…. Hmm… Assuming such, it might still be fusing power to malfunctioning grav-emitters."

    ""Malfunctioning grav-emitters… That explains the progress. It seems that that would be the plausible cause for the progressive damage to the already severely weakened integrity of the wreckage. The fields are more likely running asynchronously. With the stress of vacuum space, irregular fields…
    The fluctuations must be shifting deck segments like plateaus bound to tear the region apart.
    I don't like the sound of this. The same thing could happen in that area. Both Amaji frigates are sending us live feeds and we can see a pattern here. If you are adjacent to a gravity field, then you may be in grave danger.
    If that specific emitter-generator decides to leave this wreck for good, it might tear you and your bodyguard with you.""

    "We should be fine. In fact, I am intending to go deeper and shut down power grid conduits. I’ve already discovered several indications that this vessel uses separate conduit controls to regulate power.
    Older hiigaran vessels use this system as well, especially in emergency situations. I’ve dealt these types several times so I know what I’m looking for. Shouldn’t be that difficult to deactivate them, either – Should also stop the individual gravity field generators from tearing this place apart."


    ""No. Negative. That blast was quite a massive one. If you end up in one, your suit will get damaged – and I am not in the mood for any casualties on my watch. I think that wreckage has harvested enough lost souls. You know the timeframe of this EVA-mission, but I think we should consider serious precautions. Can you give me your suit status, Torbin? Radiation is obscuring live feed values. I want to be certain here."


    Maybe it was a bad idea to tell her all that…


    "Affirmative. Primary Life-Support shows that I have around three hours of standard air supply; Three hours to primary battery supply. Auxiliary is on two hours. Can apply various means to lengthen the EVA for another five hours on top.

    If I maintain conservative protocol and stay away from radiation levels level 3 and above, power consumption should be kept to a minimum with no problems. I want to explore further. Gathering a lot of data here. And we -- Well, my Corsari friend here -- found quite a lot. I am only taking what looks feasible. I'm sure the other extraction teams are grabbing what they can.
    After all, without Tsuji around, somebody has to do the exploration job."

    ""Negative, Teamleader, ne-gah-tive. You have been already out there for almost eleven active hours. You know the protocol. If our assumptions about the asynchronous gravity fields are correct, then we must be aware that such will stress the suit each time you cross the fields, too. The power supply not only applies active protection, it also maintains your suit's overall integrity.

    We are extracting all that we can from the wreckage, but once it is time to go - we're gone.

    Pethera's henchmen are at it again, though. Looks like they are pulling in not just anything that was not nailed to the bulkheads but also corpses - but to frell with her and her sick intentions. I have greater things to be worrying about.

    I must ensure that you and your guardian stay within the perimeter. The Corsari and you are my only concern rather than Pethera. I am giving you the direct order: Do not wander off deeper into the vessel. It is too dangerous. If we need to make a hasted escape, you will be too far away from the Maneuvering Unit - and I will not take on that risk. You are part of my team and you are just as important to us as the rest of the people out there right now. Return to the throne and explore other areas within the hangar area we are extracting. No risks. Do you copy?""
    "…"

    "Torbin. Do. You. Copy? -- And don't give me any fake distortions."

    He close his mouth, as he was actually intending to do that just now.
    "Of course I was not thinking about that, Ebria"Torbin made a long pause before answering, "*Sigh* Roger. Understood… Moving back to the throne. Torbin standing by."

    The astronaut looked at the Corsari marine. He could not see his face but he was certain he was looking at him. The Amaji applied sequences on his forearm panel, deactivating his microphone transmission as well as specific functions.

    "Come on, we're moving on. I'm not going back yet. Let us take anything technical that could contain data - and then move on", he suddenly said, "We're moving on before this ship decides to split its luck. Let's go."

    But the Corsari remained standing.
    "What. You're on her side now? I thought you marine types got your own heads. More to loot, man. Look, if your Leader or one of those Corsari-Thirds order you back - Then just leave and head back. I can worry about myself. See you at the flotilla."

    Torbin moved on to a random area, but soon noticed he was being followed. At first, he thought the Corsari was not willing to leave him behind; yet he remembered that he was giving the direct order to guard his life at all costs - at least until further notice. On the other hand, the Amaji felt fortunate that he had some company.

    *****

    = Vjel-Amaj - Conference Room=



    The Nabaali commander sat just offside of the group of people that chattered with each other. Having the plug of his shoulder radio in his ear, he listened to what the mechanic had to report about. Although he was almost through with debriefing the few strikecraft pilots that had joined the conference room, he insisted to take this call.

    "… Yes. What about it?", the Commander asked.
    ""Sir. We received word that the Vaygr Ray is, uh, no longer part of the Vjel-Amaj crew. Our team just finished the patch work and it should be operational for a new sortie. However, now that the pilot is missing, what shall we do?""

    The nabaali rubbed his head, "Batphone another Vaygr."
    ""What?""
    "Nothing. I just wondered if that fighter is available for other feasible pilots - with the Vaygr's consent of course."
    ""Ah. Uh, hmm. To put it short, sir, I doubt that would work.""

    "Explain - but make it short."
    ""Yes, sir. We're not into all the details of this strikecraft, even after having an in-depth look at it as well as with the help of tech-data. Even so, there are various functions that are unique - even more obscure.
    The cockpit functions are by far not alike common ones. One main reason why things are so enigmatic is due to the suit he wears. It is not just a protective suit but also controls various functions, uh, wirelessly - You could say. ""

    "So the suit is the key. Can't we just train somebody or just have Ray hand the suit over. Even though we saw him without one just a few days ago, I'm not too certain if he'd like that idea."
    ""Doubt it would be that easy, sir. Training and usage is one thing -- But finding somebody with the actual stature and profile to fly one of the most maneuverable strikecrafts in the field?

    That is practically unlikely, sir. And the same goes for Colonel Manaan of whom we just heard about, too. Chief Medical Doctor Jonas revoked her active flight status due to health reasons -- Well, obvious maternal reasons, which we understand. But that brings us to the next problem.
    We not only have a Vaygr Interceptor without a pilot, we now have a heavy Acolyte fighter without one as well. Granted, it is easier to find a pilot, but it requires just as much of an initiative as the Vaygr one. We're just lucky that the interactive suit is lesser of a problem.""

    "At least we are not stressed of dispatching pilots right now. What about the craft the Imperial Major flew? Is that one alright as well?"

    ""The general good news is that all fighters only took hits to the paint. I would say that all were lucky. Uh, right. We finished the patch work. Regenerative fuel cells have been replaced. There was quite a lot left despite the long run.
    However, the staff heard that there were still issues with vernier and maneuvering thrusters, as well as other minor systems. We also have to find a way to give the Major a better suit as he used a rather inappropriate astronautic one.""

    Orelis noticed the Hiigaran Imperial Major in the room rubbing his forehead coincidentally.

    ""The linkage between the rather ancient Taiidan hardware and our Amaji tech worked out quite well. Rudimental, but it worked. The Major promised me a full report. I also asked him for his demands regarding alterations and changes. Since he is a strikecraft pilot of the Hiigaran Navy, he certainly knows what to ask for. We also await the report of Operative Leeta Amaj, who was his co-pilot, but she is still recovering. Anyhow, sir. We paused our efforts as we are not certain what to focus on…""

    Orelis pondered for a while, but he knew he had to continue with this debriefing, "I can't worry too much about the strikecrafts, but let us stay logical here. For now, I would say that you package and secure that fighter. If we need space, it might be smart to put it in the secondary junction. Not the main one as we can still dispatch the Taiidan Interceptor. Put your focus on the Taiidan one for now and have the next shift follow-up on the Acolyte. Take a good rest. Judging what the salvage operation found, we won't just be needing scientists…"

    ""Affirmative, sir. That is all I have to report.""

    "Roger. Nabaal, out."
    ""Pride. Over and out.""

    Orelis lastly turned his seat back to the table, so he could finish his conversation with the few strikecraft pilots as the conference was about to continue on a very much terrifying subject


    *****
    = Elsewhere throughout the Vjel-Amaj. Personal Crew Quarter =


    She rested upon her bunk with back against the nearby wall. The room was dark, only sparingly lit by single LEDs. It was dark like this for the last hours. While not a single word had been said ever since, tears had fallen time and again. Certainly, there were several people throughout this big ship that had to cope with the last days of terror…

    There was no true way to explain her emotions. Were they tears of fear or of joy? Many times did her hand wipe away the tears only a weakling would shed. But she was only seconds away from sobbing again, for she was no longer a warrior.

    Even more, her outbreak of fear for the future and the certain fate was so strong that she almost could not breathe. It took her much discipline to suppress her emotions again. She huffed and sobbed several times before she calmed.

    However, regarding this single individual, her frights and despair dealt more about the unknown tomorrow… the future. She lowered her view. Even in this small world known as her quarters, even being enveloped in its darkness in utter solitude…

    She was not alone.

    The twist of sorrows and fears of the future had never frightened her so much. The Manaani dared to look down once more and place her hands just upon the lower hemisphere of her stomach.

    She was sentenced to death. It was a fate she had to accept. She neither knew how much time would be left, nor if she would even be capable to witness the miracle that was now within her.

    Many times did this Manaani question her divinity’s intention. Was this her macabre humor? It had been clear since Kaydaana’s young years that she could never give birth.

    She was undoubtedly infertile – A fact that was considered a serious farce in the Manaan culture, bloodline and heritage. Furthermore, the custom claims such as a serious matter especially due to the fact that she was to be the heiress of the enclave. But Kaydaana chose the only path to ensure that her reigning clan would not fall… which was full exile.

    It was a flight of despair as she was to leave all that behind that meant something to her. Even if she had proven that she was a worthy and brave warrior, she was never to be considered a true Manaan. The dark woman accepted this fact. Her life never had been easy.

    Being a career strikecraft pilot was something that stressed her to the maximum. And yet, against all odds, she had survived countless conflicts, deadly moments and even the greatest of all – The grand Hiigaran-Vaygr war.

    Having been a sole exile of her own, the young warrior had always lived by her Manaan spirit; laughing and daunting right into the face of death as she risked her life. She was always wild at heart, ensuring that she would always be riding the edge of her downfall as she knew she was a failure to her clan and kiith in the first place. She used to laugh at death, fate and everything else…

    But not anymore… This time… They were laughing at her. Even in this empty room, she could hear the laughter of people in her mind; People of the past who had seen her as a despicable farce of the clan… The voices of many who had always doubted her… and in the distance awaits fate and death...


    Kaydaana curled in slightly and began to nervously look around. Her face was full of fright and tears. The miracle of life was growing within her. Even in times of terror, such bizarre miracle occurred. But even so, it was the first time that she felt that she was vulnerable. The poor woman only had roughly a year of living – give or take whatever time fate granted.

    It was clear… They were alone. The future remained uncertain for both her and the unborn child that now dwelled within her. She accepted her fate, but she could not tear this innocent being with her. She could do nothing but pray for the slightest mercy of her divinity.

    *****


    ”The Nebuli Autopsy”


    *

    ”Quan and company”



    *****

    Meanwhile…
    = Nebuli Somtaaw wreckage - Interior, true location unknown =

    The two had retrieved many things of considerable importance over the course of the last hours. The Amaji astronaut and the Corsari soldier had helped each other as they had ventured quite deeply into the wreckage. There were times where tremors would disturb the two, but they seemed fortunate that further breaches had occurred elsewhere throughout the vast wreckage.

    However, time was running out. While the two did have enough time to retrieve various artifacts and other things, it was clear that the wreckage was slowly approaching the first true phases of its instability. Using his knowledge, he managed to deactivate a very selected few of the conduits, giving him and the Corsari more time to retrieve whatever thing they could. Unfortunately, they were practically loaded with loot and most of the provisional straps upon their limbs were already used.

    Torbin’s breathing was elevated as the nearby gravity field was applying weight to his suit and his body, causing each movement to become a strenuous act. But he was willing to get through this.

    The Amaji astronaut heard that the rest of the salvage teams had retrieved quite a lot of things of various sizes - but as time slowly began to fade, the whole act certainly became a desperate grab and forget mission for just about everybody.

    The Hive even dispatched even more of their crewmen in basic spacesuits that were barely suitable for dangerous salvage operations.

    Despite this, they proved to be indispensable. As long as they would remain within the decompressed yet enclosed hangar area and the nearby corridors, they would be at little risk for the time being.

    After another frantic hour of incentive pillaging, both Torbin and the Corsari made their way into one of the remaining corvettes within the hangar region. Able to transfer their findings to the nearby survey drone, they were able to move freely again. Luckily, Ebria did not notice that they had been much deeper within the wreckage than ordered.

    Torbin looked around as the other salvage teams hasted to get whatever they could. The hangar was indeed spacious. There was enough space for the large Hive corvette to levitate and maintain a steady position as its ore bays were being filled with hundreds of things.

    Notably, a lot of the Hive’s subordinate crewmen wore what seemed to be auxiliary space suits; likely sparsely equipped suits for the likelihood of an emergency. In this case, it appeared to be a very drastic and dirty way to get more people and helpful hands on the field.

    Some of them were quite untrained in zero-G space environment, but they managed as long as they stayed next to experienced person who secured them.

    The suits were not truly made for extended periods in space but certainly offered its wearer a breathable world for the cost of comfort and decent heating.

    The deadline was almost up and yet a lot of people were still operating in the area. The Amaji astronaut looked around once more and spotted two survey drones planting themselves upon another corvette that had not been explored.

    The young man had heard that the flotilla command came up with the idea of undocking these corvettes so that they could salvage whatever was useful without the worry of disintegrating wreckage.

    Although he had checked out the few corvettes before, he decided to check out this one. He looked on his suit’s status that was upon his left arm and discovered that there was still a half an hour left, give or take another twenty minutes if he would infuse more meds and smart power allocations. However, he could feel that the constant intakes of meds were affecting his senses. Acute sleepiness and disorientation was only the beginning of side effects, but he did his best to keep this secret.

    Waving over the Corsari soldier and the female Amaji astronaut to follow him, the three made their way towards the corvette that was about to be lifted away.

    The corvette was similar to the initial one they had recovered. Unlike the bulky form of the Hive corvette, this one was quite oblong. It seemed large enough to possess large cargo bays. However, one could see that various portions of it had been surged unlike the other one that appeared to be widely untouched.

    The notably huge marks as well as the deformed and fatigued hull left no doubts that the most of its hardware was useless. The stress of whatever gravimetric forces within had caused a sharp bend its form like a crushed tin can.

    However, it was strange that they were detecting radiation from it. However, it was not nuclear emissions but somewhat gravimetric signatures.
    The readings did not confirm that it was for artificial gravity but rather similar to that of an active FTL drive. This made no sense but the Amaji teamleader slowly became intrigued of investigating this one at least.


    The Amaji teamleader notified that they would board it first and engage a short survey as the drones would carry into open space. When he received confirmation, the three ventured to the open access duct. Like various areas throughout the vessel, this small craft was likely just as decompressed.

    Once the anchoring was released, the three entered the corvette and began another expedition through its interior.

    *

    Inside, the three noticed that although this corvette had most certainly been surged, not many of the floating corpses had been affected by disintegration. The few that were here were still intact. The two Amaji astronauts secured their maneuvering units before following the Corsari into the the slightly narrow corridors.

    As usual, the Corsari did not care but simply began loading his auxiliary pouches with whatever that seemed valuable for the greater good. Desla was not as enthusiastic but began to focus on the nearby things that seemed better than staring upon floating bodies. Her Amaji teamleader soon did the same and began to venture forward.

    ””Ugh… Isn’t there one place on this damn wreck that is not loaded with corpses?””, the female Amaji transmitted, “”Getting sick and tired of this… literally.””
    “Hang in there, Dessy”, he replied, “We’re almost through with this.”


    “”Operative Osna Ontaria Amaj to Torbin and Desla. Brace yourselves, I am initiating the program to bring that corvette you are currently in into outer space. Don’t worry, I will be observing the movement. It will be nice and smooth. Just hold on to something until I get this thing outside.””
    “<Affirmative.> Okay, hang on. You too, Mr… Corsari.”
    After several motions and changes in inertia, the corvette was soon outside of the vast wreckage. The three continued their exploration.

    Torbin began to feel the fatigue hitting him, but he forced himself to stay focused on the task. Once again, he found himself keeping his thoughts to himself and grabbing whatever that seemed useful. It did not matter if they were datapads or personal belongings such as iconic dogtags - he wanted to at least make sure that none of these people would be forgotten.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVDRW9bk8O4 ]### Jagged Alliance 2 - Caves[/URL] ###

    Another ten minutes had gone by without much happening. Desla found herself in an enclosed area that seemed to be an arms locker room or a possible area to put on space suits.

    Certain pieces seemed to be missing, and there was one corpses halfway within the thick astronautic leggings of the suit… obviously failing to put the suit on just on time.

    Likewise, this confirmed that everybody was likely caught by the sudden decompression by surprise and that little time was available. The surge certainly gave him the ultimate rest, apparently.

    The pounding in her chest had not taken a single pause ever since she had been on this salvage mission.

    Desla looked at her readings and discovered that there were indeed gravimetric fields flooding this area. She could feel the physical weight applying to her body. The faint trembles hinted that there was indeed a hyperspace module active; possibly intact, yet spooling a field in an idle state. This was quite unusual.

    Insisting to examine his surrounding, she reset her visor’s sensor to infrared, paired with thermal and emission sensory. She scanned his surroundings. Once again, she could see that corpses still contained heat; once again proof that body heat could escape due to the vacuum.

    After examining several things, Desla found herself in front of large lockers. Two were standing while others seemed to have been thrown across the small compartment. Apparently, these were supposed to be anchored but nobody had time left.

    The Amaji was astonished when she spotted one of the lockers not closed all the way, revealing yet another corpse with an object that seemed to be an oxygen mask. Unfortunately for this lost soul, having oxygen in a decompressed area was one thing it had found -- having a pressurized suit, however, was something this body lacked…

    She began to understand that some of these possible corvette crewmen took the desperate attempt of locking themselves up in these things just with a large oxygen tank, hoping they would survive. It was clever, but certainly too late for all of them as they were certainly surged.

    Desla looked down, noticing faint signatures from the thick glass of the locker that rested upon the floor. She wiped the dust that had settled upon the glass and gazed inside.

    Another corpse… A female one. There were heat signatures coming from head; at least that was all from what he could see. The corpse wore a mask and had closed eyes. He raised his head and looked at the one corpse that had not made into the windowed coffin.

    Poor people… They were desperate
    The heat signature on the corpse was only amidst the stomach area. The rest of the body was practically dark blue. He stared a long while upon the corpse, wondering how the situation must have been.

    It was likely that these people were forced into these secured lockers as a makeshift pod against the ongoing decompression. There were batches of rifles that upon the floor, confirming that those were certainly inside these huge lockers before.

    She looked once again that the corpse’s signature… and suddenly frowned when his mind became aware of something the moment he looked down. Again and again, she looked upon the corpse and the corpse below, whose entire visible head and shoulders emitted faint signatures.

    “Noooo…. Way…”, she quietly stammered, as she noticed faint activity within.

    She panicked.

    Nervously setting her radio directly to her Torbin’s unit, she immediately broadcasted, “T-Torbin… Get over here… Now!”

    *****

    To be continued.

    ~14593 words.

  13. #13
    Moar!

    Good read Sparki. I'll get back to you about the PM later. Totally forgot.

  14. #14
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Thanks ;D.

    Oki here's the continuation.

    It is a bit of a filler, but it is necessary for future plots.

    Thought I could conclude chapter 31, but it is just this piece and one more part that I will upload once I refine it.


    Enjoy

    =========================================


    OOC: I noticed there were a few errors in the last scene featuring Desla the Amaji astronaut having several paragraphs referring to her as male. This was due to rewriting the scene with her as the lead instead of Torbin.

    ==== Part 7 of 7 ====

    - The Iron Coffin -


    A slight change in inertia took place as the course of the large craft was obviously altered by the corvette drones. As the ship was slowly towed through open space, Torbin made his way to the section where Desla’s beacon was. The young man needed some time to get through to the other side as the changes of inertia and narrow passages made it difficult for the bulky suit to fit through. At times, he was lucky to form the soft warped materials out of his path.

    His strenuous path was filled with obscured obstacles, twisted metals and dreaded revelations of twisted corpses. Even with his experience as a junkyard dog, the Amaji had never seen something like this before.

    There was a short moment of thin beams striking through his path… It was obviously part of a light beam that had coincidentally swept upon the fractured fuselage. These were not bullet holes. He believed the surge had fatigued all materials so intensively that even a rock could punch through it like a hot knife through butter…

    Even though he was annoyed of fighting his way through, his mind was elsewhere; wondering why his colleague intended to call him over directly.
    At first, he assumed that it was because of the Corsari marine, but nothing became more worrisome than the text message he had received just moments after. According to what he read, he noticed the instant message was not diverted to Amaji mission control either.


    Desla demanded him to shut down his camera unit… subtly. This made him even more uncertain but he had to deal with the fact that he had hid his position and status before from the Amaji mission control as he insisted to delve deeper into the wreckage. He was also certain that there was more to find within… but for now, the Amaji astronaut was elsewhere.

    Nevertheless, what could possibly be of such importance that one would not even trust the Amaji command? Nothing could have such an immense value, either, that --


    “”A-Are you alone?””, her crackling voice immediately stuttered into his helmet.

    The teamleader stopped and looked at her surroundings. The small area resembled a locker room of some sort at the first sight. Busted rifles immediately hinted that the surge and stress of decompression had caused the rounds to implode.

    A selected few corpses had bunched towards the corner as the faint inertial acceleration had pushed them. When the wrecked craft performed a curve, the pale bodies motioned towards the other side, followed by warped objects that had resembled rifles before.

    He then noticed one of the large lockers being only partially sealed, followed by a leg and an exposed arm whose skin was widely unavailable. Apparently, the body was tied and hooked to the interior of the huge locker; perhaps this poor victim was unable to seal his iron coffin before time.

    “”Torbin - Do you read me… Are you alone? I hope so!””
    Desla’s voice hissed into his bulked helmet. Each time she spoke and ended a phrase, the digital tunes hinted the fact that they were on a private channel.

    The female astronaut bent over slightly in order to look beyond his side, luckily not spotting any blue glows or the other figure nearby. Torbin stared at the reflective shell that revealed his warp image.


    “”Thank goodness, that Vaygr ‘s not here…””
    “”Vaygr? You mean Corsari…””, Torbin corrected.

    The bulky astronaut before him lifted the head at first, but then lowered it again. Kneeling down, it seemed the attention was upon one of these huge locker containers.

    “”R-Right… Listen. I don’t know. You should check this out. I’m picking heat signatures below. A-And… A-A…””
    “”Desla. Are you alright?””

    The heavy suit before him remained as it was, clearly hinting that she was startled for a moment. The channel was still open. Torbin heeded faint stammering, sniffing and breathing, as if she was far too uncertain about herself.

    “”Listen. I think we’ve seen enough corpses for this EVA mission. We both are pretty much running low and auxiliary is already pushing us to our limits. Even if we could handle another shift - We better see that we get back to the VJ. Just… stay calm. Breathe slowly. You know the drill.””

    It took some time until he began to hear how she took deeper breaths, trying to stay focus as he shortly placed his thick hand upon her buffy shoulder. Torbin had to give a slightly strenuous swing due to the lack of gravity and to show her that he was there for her. After keeping her encouraging her, he looked down, insisting to check out what he had called him for.

    The Amaji slowly kneeled with his hulking suit. The resilient material of his second skin squeezed more wrinkles as the joints flexed inwards, allowing him to take a close look from above. He spotted a very thick yet transparent shell, allowing them to gain sight into the interior of the bulky locker unit.

    Indeed. His helmet was detecting readings. Torbin assumed it was the same reading as with the other bodies. His cone of light gently fell upon the face of a female being, with a transparent mask upon the face. The eyes were closed and despite his helmet filter and the intensive warm glow of his light emitter, he could perceive that the corpse’s skin was pale.

    “”Looks like these people vainly attempted to survive in these unsual lockers. I fear I must disappoint you””, the Amaji man explained slowly, “”That woman in there is dead. Like the rest here. You see, due to the decompression and the… well… vacuum of space filled in here, heat cannot go anywhere. Even though they say bodies freeze to death in space, it is somewhat contrary to physics as heat needs a medium of some sort to escape. Everybody here suffocated.””

    He turned his attention over towards the corpses.

    “”I was never a forensics expert… but after being part of various salvaging teams and missions, you tend to develop some instincts. It looks like these people ran here, hoping they could survive. It looks like those two over there had suffered a severe skull trauma… And those over there were -- They were all either caught by surprise or knew that something serious was bound to happen. They… They probably came here -- perhaps some sort of last resort to stay alive.””

    Even Desla began to see what he was explaining. There were indeed corpses that were halfway in their suits… with possibly fitting helmets motioning past them as the huge corvette performed another course alteration.

    She could even see now that there were not enough suits for everybody… Another pair revealed the fact that the one without any chance of survival had desperately tried to assemble everything upon the other person -- and it was possibly hopeless for both of them.

    There was no doubt that nobody truly had the chance.

    “”By the way, Des. There’s still power flowing through this craft. Even though it is an unknown Somtaaw craft, I’m sure we can grab auxiliary power cells. For sure, SAT would love to check out these things. Remember, Gamris noticed that the power cells survived the surge - so there must be something about them.
    Perhaps there are data packs too that we can extract as well. I’m considering to call over SAT so we can get an additional unit to extend our mission once more… Although I’m really considering to send you back alone.“”

    “”No -- Not now!””
    “”I’m the Team Leader here, Des, and I decide what needs to be done. I can handle the injections as well as expended periods breathing this obnoxious artificial air. You on the other hand had not had many missions yet and that is what is giving you those slight headaches and disorientations you may be sensing just now. Listen. Just head back. I’ll be fine until I get the delivery.””

    “”That delivery will take too long!””
    “”As I said. I’m used to this. Why you think they call us -- *sigh* Never mind.””
    “”I refrain from --””

    Torbin suddenly looked at the spot where his hand was on.

    “”-- going back and -- Hey… Torbin -- Are you listening to me!?””

    WHAT… What was that?!
    Desla looked down at the unit, only to see a sudden event that stung practically each nerve in her body with fear. The event was so overwhelming that she even made a step back, almost losing her balance as the ship had motioned once again.

    “”D-Did you see that?! I could have sworn that I --””

    A moment of utter hesitation went by…

    “”G-Gods… of… D-Desla… Y-You were… right… This is not a… ””

    The heat signatures proved it, although subtly at first. The skin of the being was indeed pale and the signature readings themselves were low… much lower than the other bodies -- hinting that there was a tight and condensed atmosphere within this hulking unit. But upon all, nothing was more stunning than the fact that heat actually had dissipated from the body…

    As well as the reaction of frightened, red eyes gazing right at him!

    *


    The more Torbin gaze into the interior, he noticed the crystalline layer of ice. Even more, he began to see how the being with made another sudden jolt… and again!

    Now it was the Amaji Team Leader who was startled. For the first time ever since his career as a salvager, he gazed upon something that was frankly impossible… Despite this entire craft having been exposed to the lethal wave of hyperspace surge, he stared upon a breathing, living being…

    But there was something wrong. It was as if the female survivor was undergoing severe agony. The faint moment of seizures clearly hinted that she was trapped in an iron coffin, slowly tearing her life away!

    “”Th-This is real - She’s alive! Torbin, she’s alive! We’re not dreaming! T-Torbin! Wh-What are we supposed to do?! Torbin! Are you listening to me?!””, the female astronaut cried and approached him.
    “”W-What the fff- -- What the-- What f-f-f-f- ?! ””



    Once again disregarding the physics in this almost zero-G environment, her suit knocked against his when she made a hasty step forward. The thud luckily awakened him from his shock. Yet, his mind was still captivated by the sudden situation.

    “”Gods… Gods!””, she stammered as she looked back down as she tried to shake his suit, “”W-What are we going to do?! We’re astronauts! Salvagers -- and we, we have a live S-Somtaaw in here -- Those, tho-- Nebuli Somtaaw!””

    Torbin lifted his helmet, slowly gazing upon the other ones. A terrible thought struck through his mind like a well-placed bullet.

    “”Oh no… There… There might be more survivors in here!””
    “”But how did they survive?! I mean -- We are clear that they all got surged! Nobody can survive that! That entire vessel --””
    “”Desla! We have no time to theorize here!””
    “”But --!””
    “”Whatever! We don’t have time! This thing - This metal crate lockerunit… It’s not protecting her from the cold!””

    “”B-But you said it was impossible for heat to --””
    “”Metal will still absorb anything! It is merely siphoning her body heat away… And if she’s been in there already for an extended period, she is certainly on the verge of dying in there to hypothermia if we don’t get her out of there! And there could be more who need our help!””, he barked as he swung his hand around, “”We should --””

    The female astronaut kneeled down and began to scan for something viable, “”-- We need to get her out of there before she dies in there! She’s still a kushan being, Torbin! We must get her out of there! FAST!””

    She found what seemed to be the lock unit and immediately began to mess with it. Obviously, it was some sort of astronautic pressure lock with warning symbols and colors. The words were written in dialectic mix of Galactic Commons and what was certainly of the Somtaaw tongue.

    “”Right… We need to --””, he replied, when a sudden thought just shot through his mind like a bullet; instinctively forcing him to push her hands away from the lock unit, “”NO! DON’T!””, he frantically barked, “”You’ll frakking kill her!””

    “”But we’ve got to --!””
    “”WE’RE IN SPACE! IF WE OPEN THAT THING, SHE’LL- -””, he paused his words as he tried to get a firm grip of the thick arms of the astronaut before him.

    Finally, Desla understood what he was talking about. She paralyzed, showing how devastated she was. She was indeed about to kill this person she actually wanted to save… but the thought of this person being a Nebuli Somtaaw individual frightened her even more. The artificial air as well as the surge of stress was merely melting her common sense.


    “”Tor-Torbin… She’s a Nebuli Somtaaw… A foe… The enemy. She’ll kill us once we let her out.””
    “”W-With what? Even if she’d have a gun, these suits are quite bullet proof to some point. I doubt she has a weapon -- She’s almost nude in there. What could she do other than striking us with her humility? Right ? Ha-ha-ha-hah””

    The garbled voice of the man chuckled further.

    “”Wh-What are you talking about?!””
    He suddenly stopped, “”I DON’T KNOW! -- I’m probably losing my frakking head here because I used up most of my AUX and these injections are making me nuts!””, he shouted, “”Whatever! We’ve got to get her out of there! A-S-A-P!””


    “”B-But how? She’s stuck in this… iron coffin… She’s going to either suffocate or freeze to death. We can’t just leave her in there with her doom. And if -- If you’re right, we got to rescue those other ones - right?! I mean, there could be more people out here. E-Even inside the carrier wreckage… We can’t just let them die!””

    Now it was Torbin who finally calmed down and paused. The question echoed many times in his head. But how…?
    Hundreds of failed suggestions just shot through his mind.

    Radio for an urgent emergency evacuation?
    No. This would possible cause too much attention. Even if this was a medical emergency, they would likely cause serious troubles throughout the current salvaging mission. He knew himself how important this mission was.
    If he said had found somebody -- Good gracious, the Corsari would certainly just execute them here and now. Here and now -- Perhaps even right here. It was clear now that they had to hide the fact that there was a living being in this thing from the Corsari marine who was still elsewhere in this warped craft.

    But a life was at stake!
    Not just any life… A Nebuli Somtaaw life… A living being… but not for long. Yet, this was an enemy. In fact, a prisoner of war, judging where she was held within. She was practically in her coffin already - ready to die… Not unless he could do something about it.

    “”We can’t just leave her here, Desla. Even if she is a Nebuli Somtaaw… and there is no doubt about that… we just can’t leave her for dead. I don’t know if she’ll survive this… We… We must assume she has oxygen somehow - perhaps something like our suits but I’m surprised she was able to stay that long alive. But we’ve got no time to lose. We must get her out of here -- and by how: We’re taking that whole damn thing with us. With zero-G, it should be lighter than a feather! And --””

    Desla suddenly lifted her head, looking over his head and beyond, spotting something shocking “”Oh no… T-Torbin!””
    “”W-What?! You’ve got to help me carry this thing --””

    “”Blue lights… approaching!””, she cried.
    He instantly turned his head, “”Wha-- Oh shiiiii-!””




    Prior to the arrival of the Corsari marine, Torbin had nervously told Desla to keep that woman inside that thing quiet as he would distract the Corsari and develop a desperate plan to save whomever was stuck in these coffins. The blue spheres of light were making themselves through the warped obstacles; noticeably easier as the marine was not even as bulky as the Amaji astronaut suits.

    Before the arrival, it took the female astronaut much time and desperation just to get the attention of the young Somtaaw being within. Desla had no clue how to speak to the captivated being as the vacuum did not transmit sound. But the suffering Somtaaw was alive… Suffering - yet not blind as she responded to her motions. Time was running out and she had to bring her attention away from this thing or the Corsari would instantly notice something about this.

    In a moment of anxiety, Desla frantically gestured something instinctive that somehow brought over the decisive message she had desperately tried to transmit to the Somtaaw woman that was agonized by the cold stings and possibly the effects of poisoning air. It was a gesture that apparently was not forgotten even in this ancient clan of forgotten Somtaaw…

    Shhhhh…. Shhhh…, she hissed from her lips as she held her overly thick finger before her helmet -- if not before her mouth. It was a gesture that the being below began to understand. The frantic movements followed by the vertical finger before the mouth finally hinted that the situation required her to remain quite.

    It was almost impossible as she still rocked and jolted around due to uncontrollable muscle spasm… but the Somtaaw apparently did what she could to condemn her activity as best as she could…

    Desla gave a last nervous prayer after deactivating some of her light sources… hoping they both would be able to play along… long enough…

    *

    “”Hey - hey - hey. S-Sup, bro’ ?””, Torbin transmitted.
    The Corsari marine stopped at his tracks when his unrevealing and aggressive looking helmet aimed right at him. He seemed rather disgruntled and surprised at the same time. All this time through, the dreaded Corsari had not said a single word.

    “”Man. Y-You’re quite quiet for a Corsari, Snake Eyes. H-Hey, by the way…””, an idea instantly shot through his head, “”See those guns over there. Since you’re quite the gun nut, I thought you’d like to --””

    The Corsari almost responded instantly to his words as he discovered what he was pointing at. Without a single word, the marine made his slow way over towards the warped weapons.

    What the… freaking gun nuts…
    <Torbin what now?!>, Desla privately transmitted.
    “”Desla, just --””, he responded but then made loud cuss.

    The Corsari turned around for the moment when he heard his accidentally transmitted words.

    “”Oh- uh - uh… ehm -- I sorry about that. I was talking to my collegue right over there in the darkness. She - uh, uh -- uh -ehm -- wanted -- eh -- right yeah! She wanted to do something and I just said <Desla, just stay right there and… an-and and… and… right there and …””

    Now it was Desla who was not sure if his suit’s life support was entering the dangerous red zone or if he was desperately trying to come up with an idea…. Or if it was everything in one. Truly, his repetitiveness was hinting that he was either out of ideas as well as running out of air.

    “”and stay there so -- So sheeee doesn’t waste too much aaaaair! Right, yeah, stay right there, Desla. Heh!””, he nervously repeated more than once.

    Bloody hell - Torbin. You’ll blow her cover!

    Yet again, the Corsari stared for a long while before turning its attention back upon the warped rifles. Even if these were warped, he seemed to have found very small things that were apparently worthwhile.

    Torbin looked over at Desla, who was most likely on the verge of a heart attack as gestured by her stance; with her puffy hand upon her covered chest.

    We’ve got to get out of here

    <Desla!>
    <What?! Are you sure he can’t hear us?>
    <Don’t worry, I set it correctly. He can’t hear us since there’s vacuum in this place, too. Sound won’t transmit>, he shouted, and made sure by insulting him, the Corsari and the supreme lord, Kroll; ensuring the Corsari was not listening.

    Well, either a smart kind of guy or he’s deaf enough for us.

    <Desla… We might be able to get her out of here>, he explained carefully, <We should be able to carry it. As well as the other ones that might have survivors -- though I’m not sure as I cannot detect any signatures alike this one. We can easily claim these as that sucker over there is certainly going to loot the guns and everything else. He’s not interested in the corpses -- not even the women, heh. Anyhow, we can do this!>
    <That thing certainly weighs almost a ton! We can’t carry that!>, she yelled over the private channel.

    <Of course… Unless you’re in space where zero-G is practically nonexistent.>, his idea made sense to her, <And… I think I know a way to give us some time and at least get her moving… It won’t be easy… but you must play along. Don’t say a word to anybody or anything else until I give you the sign to talk. I have to think of a plan! Radio silence is essential!>


    But even now, the Amaji team leader could feel the heat of time stabbing upon his back. They were only two sworn in a web of terror, time pressure and the life of a foe hanging on a single thread of destiny.

    They need help… but with the current situation and the flotilla beyond out there, he was going to have perform a desperate plan… starting with the frantic need of trustworthy people and those who would not execute this woman and other possible survivors on sight.

    *****


    Meanwhile…

    = The Hive Mining Corvette - Crewmen’s Deck =

    Vangelis - BLADERUNNER Soundtrack - Memories of Green
    (Quan’s and Kitaiiku’s theme)

    Both slowly paced as they walked through the narrow passages of the heavy mining corvette. Judging how long they had been moving about this craft, one could assume they had been almost half an hour walking through these corridors. The two had been patiently listening to each other’s words; barely distracted by the hasty groups of industrial crewmen who seemed anxious.

    Ironically, the ceiling was quite low even for the Amaji who was actually not as tall as the average Hiigaran industrialists onboard.

    Despite the rush as well as occasional thuds against them due to the narrow passages, the two usually moved out of the way as if it were a ritual, not letting them be distracted all too much by the somewhat frantic people.

    “Th…That was the third time we have had people rushing by. Is there something wrong, Kitaiiku?”, he asked as he looked behind them with a pondering gesture.

    The female cultist did not look behind the industrialists but maintained her stare upon him for a brief moment, “My Sren has issued a general call of duty to all shifts of the corvette. She has decided to stress the crew to its maximum potentials to further raise the extraction of salvage material from the carrier. Time is running out. Your vessel and the Corsari destroyer have detected another rupture inbound.”

    “Oh… Do all crewmen were those industrial suits as a uniform? Most of the people running past us had it.”
    “Those are class II space suits with minor protection versus radiation. They are sufficient for the Sren’s desires as the men will operate outside of the red zones. We are also mostly protected from the stellar signatures inside the hangar. Heavier industrial suits have already been dispatched to retrieve artifacts from the flooded regions.”

    The Amaji scratched his head, “Ah. I get it. Sounds like they need all the hands they can get. Shouldn’t we be out there too?”

    “You are an astronomer. And I noticed your faint moments of imbalance when climbing through the bulkhead segments.”

    He looked at her with a surprised face. Her gaze did not change at all.

    “Heh. Yeah. I feel a bit lightheaded. Actually, been feeling like this ever since I boarded this craft of yours.”
    “The mixture of air as well as the rudimentary field generators might explain your situation. I am a stargazer. There are others who are better in such salvaging task. After all, our cult is paying them and their families for their enduring duties.”

    “That - and the fact that I’m not used to space itself to begin with. Heh, I know it’s weird. An astronomer who has some sort of fright of heights. I guess we both simply suck for that task.”

    “Suck?”, her voice sung with a confused tone.
    “Ah sorry. Another one of those Amaji terms. We are simply lacking. But back to what we were talking about.”

    Her empty stare persisted for the moment before her lips moved, “I… suppose so that we suck, then.”
    The Amaji astronomer smiled light, “I suppose so, heh. Anyways, we’re scientists after all.”


    “… I suppose… so…”

    The two began their slow walk once again.

    “You’ve been in this Sjet cult all your life?”
    “That is correct. It is my devotion.”

    “I understand you can’t share details as it is, well… a cult. You have your duties and swears to your cult, and I deeply respect that. But if I may ask. Why do you devote yourself so deeply? I mean - by all means - you are young. I’m sure you’ve heard often enough that you should be enjoying life as a young lady. The Sjeti I’ve met so far don’t really seem to like you or even cherish what you are doing for them -- I mean. Sorry. I did not want to insult you or others in any way.”

    Unknowingly for the Amaji, his words made her ponder deeply.

    “N-No. To be honest with you, Quan Amaj, nobody ever asked me such”, she replied with an emotionless voice.
    “Hey, I told you. Quan is sufficient. We’re pretty much friends, right?”

    He stopped for a moment. The young Sjeti did not look at him but continued forth until she decided to stop as well. Quan stared upon the back of the robed Sjeti who did not turn around. The robe was both elegant and elusive.

    “There is an old saying… a quote… from an unknown person of our kushan history who was possibly of the Sjet bloodline: If knowledge is power - then to be unknown is to be unconquerable. We live in the shadows following the word of the forgotten Shaiid clan that was once like a sibling to the Sjet kiith. There are many wise sayings like these that dwell our everyday minds.
    To serve is our destiny. Many of my generation are blessed with neural and psychological capabilities beyond the ordinary. Even without the implants that may shock you; Our minds alone are able to delve into the deepest of secrets, mysteries and complexity of logic and numbers.
    It is not easy at all to ever receive any praise from the elder Sjets. Until then, I shall continue my duty as a Sjet’Nij.
    B-But…”

    The Amaji raised his hands, “I’m sorry. I did not know it was that personal or confusing for you as a cultist. I should not even be confusing you with this talk. After all, you’re Amaji.”
    Her eyes widened.
    Just kidding. I did not mean to disturb you with my talking.”

    “Your observation was a scientific one, Quan Amaj.”

    “…”
    “Your observation is correct to some extent. Neither my brother, nor my Sren - nor any other being has ever given attention to me. I am somewhat alike your Kadeshi entity, you could say. I am only a walking computer.”

    “That’s not true, Kitaiiku.”
    “Ah, yes. The illogical sense of assuming things as worthwhile - A common trait for Amaji”, her lips precisely pronounced without a single error, “I am much like her, Quan Amaj. Even though her mind and body is not only older, much more enigmatic and beyond my capabilities - we share the same trait. Same as my brother.
    We are servants. We have implants. Many of which we do not even know the functions of other than what has been told about us. We have capabilities that are inkushane. For many, deep within, we are cybernetic monsters - and I am surprised I am capable of saying illogical metaphors myself. Our appearance may appear as ordinary beings, but beneath our skins, we are beings that can no longer really be considered kushan.

    And due to all that what my cult and Sren has done, I can easily assume even without any sort of calculation that you have an innermost hatred for us. Commander Orelis Nabaal is only the beginning and I am assured he is more than angered having you and other Amaji onboard this corvette.
    Nonetheless. Even your beloved kadeshi entity, Aira, believes she is a machine. She cannot even answer the simple question regarding who or what she is. Somewhere. Somewhere… We are not different.”

    Quan stared at her for a while. The cultist did not even move a muscle but stared right back at him. Another set of seconds went by, and the Amaji soon began to recall how it was with his secondary console at his observation station. She was standing righter there, waiting, like that blinking cursor on his secondary screen - patiently waiting for his input.

    The Amaji stared a long while at this being who claimed to be devotional, stoic machine of an enigmatic cult. Her robe was just as elegant as mysterious as the golden patterns were; accurately woven to trick the ordinary eye into a mind-twisting labyrinth.

    Kitaiiku’s skin was as pale as artificial lighting of the corridor beyond. Her perfectly round face as well as the gently sharpened eyes easily hinted to him that there was a bit of Asune blood in her. The central region of her lower lip even had faint single red stripe, reminding him of the cultural women of the distant Asune kiith.

    Nevertheless, she was a young lady, possible at the age of 18 or 19, who had the sharpest mind of a wise woman. Alike all Sjeti of her kind, she had straight black hair that disappeared into the hood of her robe. It was notable that her forehead was quite visible.

    Yet, the Amaji made an audible breather and smiled lightly.

    “Somewhere, you’re right about things regarding Aira. She really doesn’t know who or what she is. I agree with you on that one. I must solely disagree about you thinking we of the Vjel-Amaj think she is only a machine. You are gravely mistaken, Kitaiiku. There was a time where we all kept our distance from her. Not to mention how much we feared her, especially once we learnt that she was of the legendary deadly Kadeshi cult.

    No. She has proven us that she is just as frail as we all are and that we are all kushans, regardless of what may be above or beneath our skins. In the end - we’re all robots -we’re all machines, Kitaiiku. My sister had discovered much in Aira. She is being who is far, far away from her homeworld, unlikely to ever see it again in her lifetime. I… I do not even know how long is a lifetime judging how old people said she really was, but she is by far one of the most kushane beings I’ve ever met.

    And you are not that different. You are pretty much as enigmatic to me as Aira is, yet I don’t see why I should see you as a threat of some sort. Orelis may have his reasons to hate you -- or say, Pethera Sjet -- but I already discovered that you’re just… you. We outsiders tend to misunderstand and even misjudge those we cannot see through the first time. I don’t know if it is fear or just ignorance… but you know… Aira kind of… opened my eyes on things.

    I heard of something she did once that pretty much blew away Hailynn Delixa’s mind… I just can’t remember what it was. But Aira showed that she was brave being who could look beyond whatever people had done before. Even my sister proved me that. She went to the Corsari corvette even though she knew she was going to be walking past hundreds of drugged thugs and whatnots. She is gone but I will find her.

    And I will take her and Aira as an example to better myself and change that attitude of mine - starting with you, Kitaiiku.”

    Another long moment went by. Quan could not tell if his rambling actually meant anything or struck a nerve as her face remained just as empty as the very first time he had seen her.

    But finally, she broke the silence, “Even if it is illogical to say this, I endure your words --”

    *Not sure if compliment or troll--

    “-- I see that I was right about the assumption that you are more of a challenge. Strangely… while you do prove that you think as an Amaji, you are not as unbelievably stubborn that tall Amaji woman, Ebria Amaj - or that colleague of yours, Sunoga Amaj.”
    “Oh, believe me. Amaji woman can get very -VERY passionate when it comes to specific things. We guys tend to keep our heads on our neck. But we make a good team, heh-heh.
    Heh, I should have known you were tossing numbers along with your calculations. You need to know that kushans like we all are are unpredictable. You have to sometimes use the other side of yourself, Kitaiiku, the real you. The real side.”

    “…….”
    “What?”

    The Sjeti cultist looked to the wall just behind his right shoulder. He followed her stare and noticed the words written upon the solid wall.

    “Oh.”
    “This is your designated bunk where you may recuperate, Quan Amaj. Aside to one industrial crewman inside, the rest of the sleeping tubes are empty.”

    “Tubes?”
    “This is a mining corvette with a large crew. Although the Amaji crew may possess spacious quarters for four or six crewmen, our corvette does not feature comfort. We are industrialists after all, you may say. As I was explaining, the only crewman in there is off duty and must recuperate due to nausea.”

    “Oh dear…”
    “Do not worry. It is only a minor food poisoning due to smuggling something onboard. I suppose it is an appropriate gesture to apologize for any inconveniences. Nevertheless, Quan Amaj. I shall warn you that you may experience rumbles and negligible quakes throughout the ship. We have considered to detach ourselves from the deck of the hangar but due to the erratic gravimetric changes, the wreckage is actually not only moving at several kilometers per second; the irregular fields are causing it to move back and forth. We nearly collided with the nearby crafts before. Whatever may be - We do not have all too many hours. I suppose you are to leave when Dr. Jonas has finished the first stage of autopsies.”

    “Uh… Okay. Wait - First stage?”
    “There are too many subjects he must dissect, Quan Amaj. My Sren is in a deep and enduring need for his expertise.”
    “You’ve got to be kidding me. Orelis won’t allow it to have him bouncing between the two ships as she like it. He’ll go nuts - not to mention Jonas, who’s a Hrallian.”

    “I am not kidding you, Quan Amaj. You are a young adult as much as I am.”
    “That’s not what I meant, I meant -- Heh-heh… Let’s just leave it right there. Agree to disagree, right?”, he lastly added and made a gentle understanding smile.

    The cultist looked at him yet again with her iconic empty gaze.

    “Anyways, I did not know this craft was that huge. It looks a lot smaller from the outside when you guys used to be docked with it on the VJ. How long did we walk around? An hour or two?”
    “Exactly thirty-seven min-- roughly Half-and-hour as you would say it.”

    “Really, still quite long. I did not know the ship was that much of a maze.”
    “It is not.”
    “No?”
    “We happened to have walked through from one end to another, bypassing two decks as well as walking through this corridor twice.”

    “Oh? Ooooooh, no wonder this place looked so familiar”, he chuckled, “Why did you walk around with me so much? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

    The female cultist was about to answer when there was instantaneous emptiness in her mind that left her merely speechless. While it went unnoticed for the Amaji, Kitaiiku found herself in a brief moment where neither purity logic nor her advanced consciousness could generate an answer to this unexpectedly complex question. The moment of silence was only as long as her single heartbeat and yet millions of unanswered questions swarmed her mind in that particular moment.

    “Anyways. I suppose I will see you tomorrow?”, he added only a split second after his recent words, insisting to drop the topic as lighthearted as he was, “It was nonetheless nice talking to you. It really is great to talk to somebody who listens to you.
    Not really easy to do that with Amaji scientists who -- hmm, only the female Amaji ones involved are more interrupted and unreasonable -- Actually, you are the first young woman to actually listen at all. In fact, we were actually able to take turns to talk!”

    “You seem more the stubborn type like an Amaji female.”
    “What?!”
    I am kidding you”, she said yet with a rather firm voice and a short faint smile. It disappeared as the moment she became thoughtful again.


    Quan paused at first, and then smiled. He seemed quite surprised, much to the subtle surprise of Kitaiiku, who was not irritated by words but by the fact that she simply could not find an answer as to why she walked around with him for so long. The more she asked consciousness about this, the more unresolved questions were generated, looping into a vicious circle.

    “I’m sure we’ll have more chances to talk later on, right? *Yawn* Ugh, sorry. We’ve been up for at least two or three shifts. I’m sure you can tell me the exact time of that, right?”
    But the Sjeti did not respond.

    “You can, or? Are you alright?”
    “What?”
    “I asked if you…”, he raised an eyebrow for a short moment, and was surprised that she did not immediately respond, yet he assumed she was just as tired, “Never mind me. I suppose you need some sleep, too.”
    “I am capable of remaining active for extended periods without REM-sleep. At times, my implants are capable of shutting certain regions of my brain for it to recuperate some of its efficiency.”

    “That is just cool.”
    “Coo--? Ah… yes.

    “Whelp, all right, Miss Kitaiiku Sjet. Hope we can talk tomorrow. Just remember, it sometimes helps to think outside of the box.”

    Quan raised his hand, insisting to say goodbye by shaking hands. She did not react to it. At first he assumed she was not used to the Amaji gesture, but it was then when the she grasped her temples that told him that she was in pain. Kitaiiku raised her hands, signaling him not to come any closer or help her. Strangely, her gesture was more about signaling him not to say a word.

    He was deeply shocked by what he was witnessing as he could merely sense the pain just by the look her face. Yet the troubled Sjeti seemed like as if she was used this to this. However, Quan could find neither find any plausible reason for this agony nor why she did want him to help her or even say a word.

    It was more than painful enough just to observe her. Even now, he was not even sure if he was holding himself back because she desperately demanded him to or because he was simply too shocked. The young lady clenched her teeth together as she not only felt pain in her head but also in her torso as well.

    The startled Amaji however could no longer just stand there and decided to instinctively act. Kitaiiku moved a step back as she swung her left hand upwards, insisting that he should leave her alone, but here, he was the one to be too stubborn to let this happen. Before she lost balance and fell backwards, the Amaji grabbed her arm and pulled so that he could catch her plunge.

    Quan instinctively wrapped his arms around her, not knowing what was going on. The young man could not find any explanation to her sudden weariness and pain. This was definitely not a ruse; He felt the intensity of her agony by her embrace alone.

    But there was something else beyond this unknown pain. He could merely sense how terrified she was by the unknown. Her grip was so tight that it hurt his ribs. It was as if she desperately seek for refuge, but he simply could not figure from what.


    At last, after an eternity of ten long seconds, the pains or whatever it was began to vanish. The Sjeti he still embraced breathed irregularly and he could sense still her agitation. After another moment of calming down, she insisted to free herself from him.

    “K-Kitaiiku, wh-what? Was that a panic attack? Wha --”

    Suddenly, the solid door opened, revealing a groggy Hiigaran who leaned his head down below the rim of the narrow bulkhead. The man had only industrial pants on. He scratched his slightly hairy, bare chest. He also had a slight pot belly and appeared to be bald.

    “Kiith’s blood - What’s with the noise, damn it?! I’m tryin’ to get some sleep here”, the crewman said, wondering what was going on, “Who are you?”
    “I’m --”

    Kitaiiku suddenly turned away and began a slightly hasty walk away, “W-Wh -- We shall meet again some other time, Quan.”

    It was too late for him to stop her as she was already steps away.

    “Oh, you’re Quan Amaj, eh?”, the other man said, “They told me you’d drop by. Thought it was a joke, but I guess here you are. Hey, want a cigarette? Don’t worry about the smoke alarms, this one can’t be detected, heh-heh.”
    The man held an awkwardly wrapped and deformed cigarette up.
    “Sig-what? Uh no”, he responded but looked after the young Sjeti who made her way to nearest flight of stairs, “W-Won’t be… necessary…”

    The Hiigaran leaned over and looked at the back of the distant young lady, immediately recognizing her, “Ah. Her. One of those weirdoes of our weirdo boss”, he snitched as he put the Quan’s cigarette into his mouth and burned the tip with a makeshift lighter.

    The crewman exhaled and blew some of the smoke upon the glimmering end, “Hey, hey, you not gonna say ah-word to da boss riiiight, ese?”
    “B-Boss? Oh, you mean Pether--”
    “W-Whoa, we got rules here, man!”, the other man instantly said and lowered his voice while waving his hand downwards a few times, <Don’t ever say the name of that damn witch so loud here! We hate her.>

    Quan shrugged and looked once more towards the end of the corridor, but Kitaiiku had already disappeared. She was quite swift.

    “She some sister or girlfriend of yours?! What happened?”
    “W-What? Yeah -- I mean, no -- I mean. No”, although the thought of sister did strike his mind that moment, “I was just talking to her and then she just had this moment of pain out of nowhere. I’m not really sure what happened myself.”
    “Sounds like you’re not even sure if that is your sister or girlfriend yourself, hah”, the man joked, “I don’t know if you know it, but you better not be having anything with your sister, brother. The empire will kill you if you --”
    “Whoa, whoa, hey. Where are you getting this from? No, she’s not my sister. She’s a --”

    A thought shot through his head; a fact that signified who she was for him. Her last words were clear .

    “-- friend.”
    “W-What was that? You’re a friend of the boss’s brats? Sajuuk’s feet, you’re the first one to do that. I don’t know if I should congratulate you or feel frakking sorry for you. Heh -- Pardon my Frenaan.”

    And yet, the man still gazed upon a confused Amaji who was not sure about anything other than the notable stench of vomit coming from the compartment.


    “Hey, look, man, my house is your house. Or… tubes. Sorry for the smell, but you’ll get used to it. Bad cookin’. Looks like there was something in that meat I ate.
    Bloody bastards from the Bryggen’Turasr didn’t tell me this meat was actually that crap of bio-mass stuff, literally. They said they got it from raiding a freighter some three years ago during the war. Said it was all vacuum-cooled and stuff. Thought it was a taste chunk of meat. Smelled like it at least -- well, not now anymore. ”

    Quan remained at his spot.
    “Look, that young lady - Nobody would dare to mess with her. She’s like the boss, only dauntingly younger and certainly without much of that shitty attitude. Yet she’s just as much as a pain in the ass I tell you. Trust me.
    Oh wait, let me guess, she had this wonko-moment of pain or so?”, he noted and blew another cloud of smoke; while it was an intense smell of unknown burnt materials, it helped overcome the obnoxious smell.
    “W-What do you know about it?”

    The man looked at Quan, wondering why he was so surprised or even interested.

    “Man, you really want to know. Well - What I know?”, he opened his arms and shrugged as he held the cigarette with his mouth, “Beats me, brother. I just know that that girl does some mistakes sometimes or did something wrong like disobeying or doing things on her own - I-dunno-I-duncare.
    I just know that the boss just stands there and she suddenly gets this intense pain”, the man explained as he jokingly gestured exaggerated fake movements of pain, “Like in her head and everywhere else - like with those woman problems at times, ha-ha-ha-haaaaaah -- Okay okay, that was a bad joke.
    Oh goodies, you’re one of those kind of players. No seriously, no clue. But some of us are happy to see her like that at times. That brat unfortunately, can issue commands at us. That frakking contract fooled us, stating that only the boss was in charge but we were wrong. Imagine our anger -- as well as our glee when we see her in pain. Feels good for us. Like a treat”
    , the cigarette in his hand left trails as he swung it around and tipped the filter end in order to break some of the ashes,
    “Luckily, she’s that dumb to do things so we can get our taste of revenge just watching. Little prick should take an example of her brother.
    He never got any of that pain stuff and he never actually ordered us around like a pack of slaves. Say, just come on in. Your tube is over here. We better talk further inside here. The bulkheads out here have ears - if you know what I mean.”

    “R-Right”, he said, and gave a last faint sigh as he made one last glimpse down the corridor.


    *****

    = Hive corvette - Secondary industrial compartment =

    ### XCOM Apocalypse: Alien Infiltration ###

    The Hiigaran doctor nervously removed the tissue. It took him much time to gather the wits to mess with the warped tissue with the instruments. Practically all of his moves being carefully observed while he did his best to remain calm.

    Jonas spoke as his instruments delved deeper into the flesh of the hulking suit. Using all of his medical knowledge, the Hrallian doctor used his common sense to develop theories of the subject. Pethera and the much younger male Sjeti aided him while avoiding the distraction of his tasks.

    As of now, Jonas had performed several preliminary autopsies upon several subjects. It was quite devastating for the man as his kiith background always respected the dead and to nurture the living. At times, he needed to stop for a moment just to regain grasp of his senses. It was gruesome for him to see what was done upon these people; especially the women he found upon this makeshift autopsy bed. One of them happened to be in one of the black suits while the other was indeed within one of the hulking battle suits. Trying to find an ironic refuge and peace of mind, he decided to focus on the next obliterated hulk that happened to be male.

    The subject is male and happens to possess similar features regarding the preliminary scans that were dispatched by Dr. Gredan Amaj. At least two of the recent subject revealed traces of what I can see in this one.
    A sort of… Longevity Serum - but a different type. It is much thicker, gelatin-like - but limited in length. Gredan confirmed that there used to be some sort of biological activity, proving us that this may have been some sort of lifeform -- however, it was not sentient. I cannot confirm it is something related to nanobot-tech as these are full biological cells. Even the Bentusi could not program something like this.
    At least not all of them were infected by The Beast.
    However… The more we delve into the mystery of the Nebuli Somtaaw, the more I believe that they have been conducting experiments against all that is kushane. I dare say that whatever that was kiith in their blood died… We… We must assume that some of these people were forced into this. I have discovered small apertures that can be no other than nerve stingers -- Such that was commonly used by Somtaaw interrogators before the abolishment in 84 AHL and of course the convention of 85 AHL. The nerve stingers are just one of many things.


    The Beast materials are just the beginning. I cannot imagine what terrors these people have gone through - and there are certainly hundreds… or thousands more. Whatever may be, the scientists of the flotilla must uncover things as I will not be doing this all my life now. I am a medical doctor.

    N-Nevertheless. I have noticed distinct deformations in bone structures alone. I can tell because the muscle tissue has been perforated -- before this devilish inauguration with their suits. No. I can see it on this one, as well as what I saw on the female Nebuli Somtaaw before. Some of these were tortured prior to their implantation with the suit and the beast materials.

    It is a disgusting sight, I know. Without their skins -- the flesh is merely exposed without the pressure fluids. But these markings here

    Once again, one of the bystanders left the room. Likewise, one of the operatives at the conference room of the Vjel-Amaj could no longer stand the image and immediately rushed towards the nearby waste dispenser.

    Orelis remained still while staring upon the live feed. The image lacked color and flickered, but after a short while, he was able to see what the Hiigaran doctor was speaking of.

    The disgusting texture flesh of revealed a faint yet notable trace of a cut that had healed. There were many traces of cuts and invasive insertions like these.

    The previous female one had this too. The ribs were broken, the arms had been twisted at least twice as revealed by the shoulder tissue. Fractures indicate severe dislocations and going back to the female one, I can even see that the cardiovascular vessels had been punctured and warped as well. Somehow, whoever of the Nebuli Somtaaw was able to keep these people alive.

    I-It is is just madness. The other one over there had sustained so many premature injuries that one could merely read from his tissue like chronicle!

    I… I can’t do this anymore. I’ve seen enough for now - if ever. I don’t care what you think!

    Right after hearing the sounds of falling instruments, the shaky camera image turned upon the back of the doctor who had knocked away things as he rushed out of the compartment.

    “”I suppose we shall call it a day””, one of Pethera’s subordinates nervously said after a very long moment of silence.

    The Sjeti woman suddenly turned around and approached the camera.
    “V-Vjel-Amaj”, she began, “I think we are done here. For now. I suppose it is fine to allow your medical doctor to recuperate for a day - but mark my words. We will need him again. If you want to survive, then he is our only hope.
    Nonetheless. I suppose we shall conduct a set of research, Orelis…”

    The Nabaali lifted his chin slightly.

    Pethera lowered her view, “With the forthcoming of the Nebuli Somtaaw threat and the unification of the flotilla’s resources until further notice, we must introduce research doctrines if we are to survive and to be viable for the survival of all.
    If we should ever rejoin the Corsari armada, it is likely that the battle will not be fought between the mightiest of vessels but by the sole battle from eye-to-eye. The Nebuli Somtaaw can and will invade all of us. And if we are not ready, we will be eradicated.
    As much as you may hate me, Orelis… We need one another. Science, technology and one more subject are the only things that will save us. Not the Amaji diplomacy, not your keen evasive navigators, not the wits of a naval Commander -- but the brutal force of utter violence.

    Whatever may be. We will need more than just ourselves. We will need soldiers - men and women willing to stand and die for the cause. Now I know the Amaji… and I know the Nebuli Somtaaw… I think you can imagine how a confrontation will be. The Somtaaw will rip their hearts out before they know what will hit them.

    Nevertheless, Orelis… We must conduct research - develop theories, uncover mysteries, find whatever we can to improve our both survival. Physics, biochemistry, tactics, doctrines… We must play as dirty as our common enemy. From the very use of technology to the bare fist… everything.”

    *****

    - The Plan -

    = Space - Flotilla anchorage =

    ### Mad Max - Brain May: Max Decides on Revenge ###

    They were lucky… at least time…
    The Corsari marine was far too busy transporting other goods from one spot to another. However, there were soon to be more to assist him.

    Torbin made a desperate gaze across the surroundings. Desla was right behind him with the hulking coffin. The moment was as crucial as the critical levels of the auxiliary supplies. Although there was still time beyond that, it was clear that both astronauts were already suffering under the intense levels of the injections as well as the artificial air slowly becoming ineffective.

    It was an unfortunate feature of this special breathable gas that was only used for emergencies as any living being will become immune to it over greater periods of time. It was not uncommon for the two Amaji astronauts to shake their heads and frequently press their eyes together as if they were dry.

    But Torbin kept his focus to some extent. They had a serious task to do - right under the very eyes of the flotilla.


    The Amaji astronaut gazed one more time across the region, with the desperate moment of having to make a decision. Desla, the captivated Nebuli Somtaaw woman as well as himself were at the edge of the destroyed corvette.

    The makeshift exit offered enough leeway for them to get the iron coffin through. Desla applied more force upon the soft metals of the hull, deforming it enough so that she was certain enough to move it out the moment the time was right.

    Meanwhile, Torbin scouted the vicinity by stretching himself out of the makeshift hole. To the far right and above, he spotted the seemingly massive vessels of the flotilla. The Vjel-Amaj was too far away. Of course, the distance did not really matter, but it would have been too obvious, not to mention how fast word would spread once they would figure what was inside the heavy locker behind him.

    Projected beams of light focused upon the hasted operations at the base of the wrecked carrier. It was obvious that all attention was upon that area. Sooner or later, he was going to have to put up with Ebria’s hasty contact.

    He shook his head and looked further.
    No… No… Damn it…, the two Amaji frigates as well as the Hive mining corvette were out of the question. The options were narrowed down to just two, more or less.
    The Darugis was the best bet. He knew that they had enough auxiliary pressure cabins for transferring over to the interior, but the current auxiliary supply would not last long enough. They needed to make a short pitstop somehow, but in a way that they would not gain too much attention from the Corsari.

    That fact made all matters worse, because the only choice was left was the dreaded Corsari destroyer, the Hjorndal, floating just some two hundred away from his location. He stared upwards. The sight was rather mindbogging. Either he was losing his sense of orientation or he was simply not believing what they were forced to next.

    It was rather unfortunate that they were forced to be transported here. Osna had used her corvette drones to transport this wrecked craft close enough so the Corsari could salvage things. The only good news was the fact that they were too busy on the other end of the place.

    Osna…, he thought.
    He looked over at one of the Corvette drones. Although these were currently maintaining the stability of the craft as well as assuring that outer forces would not crush it like a tin can, perhaps she was able to spare one for a transport.

    Osna!


    <Des -- Do you read me?>, he desperately called over the private channel, <Desla, are you with me?>
    <I… I’m here *pant* Just need to sit down.>

    Damn it… Desla is entering phase III
    There were a total of five phases during extended periods of astronautic missions. The third was the acute fatigue due to the body’s adaption to the artificial air. This was a crucial and unfortunate matter, as while one seemingly got used to the it, it actually would slowly suffocate the body as it depleted it of oxygen.

    In this case, the auxiliary oxygen was only for serious emergencies to begin with. Having deactivating a few security protocols, the mission control of the Vjel-Amaj noticed practically nothing as one easily could claim that the signal was due to the local radiation.

    Nevertheless, Desla was not far from the fourth phase that would include disorientation, acute fainting and the more or less loss of common sense as the levels would slowly sink to a critical status. Emergency injections would spare time but would not save the person unless something was done to replace the artificial oxygen gas.

    <Hang in there Desla. I already called the reserve team to transport the auxiliary supplies. Listen, I need your attention - Are you with me? Come on, are you with me?>
    <I’m… here.>

    Torbin looked around as he nervously explained the plan, <Listen. We will need Osna’s help, but there is something we have to do. It is going to be a dangerous jump. It is impossible for us to load the drone corvette unnoticed from this position. Those damn Corsari would certainly want to load some things into it too. We’ve got to use the distraction that is going right now>

    , he paused and pressed his eyes together as he felt a short pain his head,

    <*Nnghhh* L-Listen. The Hjorndal has its secondary loading bays open. I think that one over there is just large enough for us three to fit right in. We can then have Osna dispatch the drone over to us. It should provide us enough cover so that we can load at least this woman onboard.>
    <W-What about the others?>
    <Don’t worry, I have a plan already rolling in. And we will have some help. Desla, listen… I don’t know if we will be able to save all, but judging how chaotic things are getting just now, we will have no choice but to do what we can. It will be too perilous if we were to notify the flotilla of Nebuli Somtaaw survivors.
    Nonetheless… I have called for further assistance by the SAT team. We’re getting another two EVA teams out here. Secondary shift as well as auxiliary operatives who can at least keep their cool at bay while operating in this zero-G environment. I’ve trusted our findings to two of the twelve. I’ve called the others but they notified they were too many eyes and ears to talk freely. It is quite tight, but they at least know what to look for.
    VJ and Darugis are also dispatching another separate group of auxiliary operatives via shuttle transport so that they are protected from stellar radiation. Looks like VJ decided to join the race - but we can’t go there just yet. Not with this woman in here dying -- and I’m such a bastard just talking so much with her in there. Damn it -->

    <W-What…>
    <What?>, he barked back without control of his voice.
    <What do we do when we are on the Darugis?>
    <Pressurize as far as we can and get her out of there. We are going to need a medic or two for sure -- but I will worry about it once we’re on the other side. Right now, we have to make this plan work. And I won’t be done yet once were on the Darugis.>

    <What do you… mean?>
    <I will be injecting ABL into my suit. You might have to do the same just be on the safe side>
    <Th-That b-breathing liquid? I am not going to do that! Forget it.>
    <I thought so. Well, you’re going to stay with this woman. The rest of the aux supplies should be sufficient enough for you to handle the time during the re-pressurization on the Darugis! No buts, you have the order. Now, maintain silence just one more time, I need to contact Osna without the Corsari noticing a thing.>

    Torbin shook his head and lastly used his puffy fingers to press the sensitive radio button on the backside of his other hand several times. Each time he successfully pressed it down, he heard a specific click from his radio speakers, hoping that Osna would hear it too without gaining attention.

    Come on, Osna… Come on…

    *****

  15. #15

  16. #16
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Yo !

    Aannnnd that's a wrap. Chapter 31 finally concluded. Oof, it was quite massive for an introduction/prologue. More in the discussion thread to jabber about.
    It is a bit massive and far over the update-target words, but the situations are essential for the future. I just had to dowit!


    Enjoy ;D


    === Part 8 of X ===

    ”Aira and Hesken continued”



    *****



    ”SAT ‘Mark IV Iremov’ Amaji Astronaut Space suit”



    *
    = Outer space. Flotilla Anchorage - Close proximity to the hull of the Darugis Industrial Carrier =

    He readied himself for the desperate task. The young Amaji performed the breathing method, readying himself to merely breath and drown the liquid that was soon about to fill his helmet and body.

    However, the young man could already sense the lightheadedness as well as darkness and stars slightly filling his sight. This was not the effect of hyperventilation but the truth that his body was becoming oversaturated with the breathing gases he had been exposed to for far too long. He shook his head repeatedly whilst trying to keep focused on this desperate task and mission.

    A lot of time had been lost just keeping this entire [i]covert operation under a running operation subtle. He had explained everything to Osna who was onboard the Hjorndal and who had to keep things secret. Not only this, she had to subtly dispatch one of the corvette drones they were riding now from one place to another.

    As Torbin performed his breathing preparations, he observed Desla’s astronautic suit hovering over to the specific emergency airlock of the Darugis.

    According to the information he gathered, the airlock possessed an emergency re-pressurization segment that would allow them to align pressure to the interior of the iron coffin of the captivated Nebuli Somtaaw person. Luckily, he discovered that the lock of huge locker was actually a mechanical pressure lock with basic ways of determining when the pressure was aligned to the exterior environment. Furthermore, there were two operatives in lighter suits who supported the transport of the sealed Somtaaw.

    Meanwhile, things were apparently going as planned. One SAT astronautic team was already extracting the lockers whilst the Corsari focusing on something else on the destroyed corvette. The other teams had reached the hangar segment and began their subtle yet urgent mission for extracting more possible survivors captured in their iron coffins.

    There were serious doubts if these Nebuli Somtaaw people would survive, but they simply had to do what they could do for them. Despite all, they were still living people. Torbin knew this, as the rest of the few SAT operatives who were sworn into this desperate and secret mission. But time was certainly running out. These people must have been captured in these things since the very moment of emergence from hyperspace. Under the disturbing haste of various people trying to extract anything they could from the decaying carrier wreckage, the new SAT teams were possibly able to extract whomever during these serious distractions.

    Due to the very sense of this subtle undertaking, Torbin had absolutely no clue how things were going as radio silence was the key to everything. Not only this… all of them were doing this right under the watchful nose of Dr. Ebria Amaj, who was always actually wary of everything thing and person. However, regarding the desperate announcements of extractions, it appeared that fortune was shining down upon Torbin and others as they could fake their signals and move about the areas without her asking annoying questions -- for now.

    But Time… Torbin cursed inwardly. Time was his worst enemy. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave behind his astronautic maneuvering unit onboard the other corvette whilst relying on the basic one of his suit. The corvette drone was rather slow due to the fact that it had to avoid gaining attention itself.

    This was not good at all. People were most likely dying at this very moment. Sworn-in SAT members also mentioned that there was a possibility of infusing some oxygen into the iron coffins; though this was dangerous as the slightest mistake could either decompress the interior and implode or cause it to expand violently… Whatever the attempt, all was dangerous.

    Without any further thought, the Amaji teamleader closed his eyes and confirmed the injection of the breathing liquid. At this point, he was never more frightened in his life than this very moment. Within seconds, a liquid mass floated from the side of his helmet, bounced against his skin but soon grow more and more until it filled most of his helmet.

    The entire equipment of his helmet and interior units were water-proof and isolated. The liquid itself was rather clear, allowing him to see almost perfectly once it had filled in enough. But it was a crucial moment. His instincts and fears of drowning were responding by forcing him to hold his breath - even against his will. Torbin knew that if he would hold his breath too long and inhale this liquid too late, his body would not be able to adapt fast enough…

    He closed his eyes and did the only thing he could do to force himself. Following the forced urge of exhaling, there was nothing else his depleted lungs could do but to suck the liquid realm that enveloped his body know. Spasms and various other violent reactions caused him to rock back and forth within the suit. The event was utmost unpleasing and frightening. Although he was trained, he immediately noticed he was losing his senses.

    The transition from breathable gas to fluid was always a painful experience. Drowning was the least of troubles as this was actually part of the process. One had a greater battle to fight against one’s own will and instincts that would actually kill one. The pain was as if one’s lungs had been punctured over and over again.

    Despite experience, he could not understand why he was truly drowning rather than adapting. He was nowhere near calming down. The more this came clear to him, the more his body responded.

    This was a terrifying moment. If he could not control himself, then he would be a goner as this was a decisive moment. Yet, he could not believe that he was failing. Foams and small bubbles came from his submerged mouth. His terrified and pain-filled voice hummed within the fluid.

    But at the crucial moment of his life, a shine of light penetrated his suit as well as feeling a notable impact upon him. Though shaking uncontrollably, he spotted a figure before him.

    <Torbin!>, a muffled voice hummed from his speakers.
    It was Desla! But what was she doing here? And why was her voice just as muffled and submerged as his was --? Only then did he figure that she had injected the breathable liquid into her suit as well. Though one’s lung and surrounding was filled by the liquid, one could still talk almost clearly; though this required a lot more strength to produce a sufficient yet slightly painful pitch through the vocal cords.

    <I’m here, Torbin. We’ll make it through this! I’m here. Lishn--Listen to my voice>, she frantically transmitted before calming herself down, <It almost got me too -- But I remembered you were there for me back then, and now I’m doing it for you. We’re a team! I’m not letting my teamleader down! Hang in there. Remember the method. You are almost through… just a while longer… Come on, Torbin, come on.>

    Almost a minute or two went by until the young Amaji man began to calm down. Although his vision faded and he blacked out for a short moment, he came back to his senses. Once he recovered from his fright, he motioned his shaky arms upon Desla’s side; revealing his infinite gratitude for helping -- if not, saving him from death.

    <D-Desla… You’re out of your mind…>, he said.
    <Wh-Whad?>
    <I said you’re out of your mind. This is going to kill you>, he said more louder with weakened lungs.

    <Says the man who was nearly a goner>, she replied, <We will have enough time to talk about this later. Right now, we have people to save, Torbin.>
    <We’re unlikely to make it with basic units, Desla. I don’t know if this was even worth it. Even with this drone, we wouldn’t be able to transfer whomever we could find.>

    <There’s still hope.>
    <I’m too weak and I think I injured my lungs, Desla. I can feel some serious pain. I think I spat some blood too. I don’t know if I can actually move for the next five minutes.>
    <Then I will go alone right after I bring you into the airlock.>
    <NO. You’ve been exposed to gas long enough. This liquid could be your death sentence.>

    <Torbin. Don’t worry about me. I can handle this liquid better than the gas, to be honest with you. I feel better now… much better than before>
    <You’ve got to be -->, Torbin responded, but then noticed the sudden beam of light stopping upon them, <Wh-What the-- ?>

    Both noticed the bright shine and turned around as they maintained their magnetized suits upon the hull of the corvette drone. Torbin rolled over slightly so he could see beyond Desla’s bulky suit frame.

    The two astronauts noticed the massive corvette merely hovering not far away from them. It was somewhat upside down and had a very irregular, asymmetric and awkward appearance; with many grappling arms and other distorted limbs raging from its hull. There were markings, bullet holes, dents, symbols and unusual paintings all over the frame of the adjacent.

    There was a short sequence of tones, followed by a long hiss until the signal synced with the frequency… Strangely, somebody was linking into the private frequency - but how was this possible if this frequency was private and encrypted.

    ““Yo””, a young man’s voice sounded the internal radio, “”Uhh… Sorry to crash the party, eh. Hey, is this how you people do it? Didn’t know y’all need space suits for the job -- ir is this all part of the show? Hey Chunk, I think we missed it. They sound like they just finished it. Didn’t know y’all breath liquid like we do.””

    <I-Is that that Turanic marauder corvette?!>, Desla asked.
    <Th-Think so. But what is he doing here?>

    ““’ey, stop acting like I can’t hear a thing or I’ll harvest you two like ore!””

    Apparently, this was no joke. The Turanic marauder pilot was actually listening to their conversation.
    <All right, aw right -- J-Just… What are you doing here and how the heck did you get into this channel.>
    ““Whut? We were told to come here. And we had some help””, the savvy Marauder replied.

    <Wh-What? Who would that be?>


    Suddenly, another sequence of sounds occurred, signaling that another person had linked into the secluded channel.

    “”Torbin. Desla, do you read me?””, the voice a young woman transmitted, “”Torbin, do you read me? This is Ensign Kelsea Amaj of Bridge Command. Please respond.””

    The young Amaji man clenched his teeth in despair. They have been compromised.

    “”I know you can hear me, Torbin. There is no point in hiding. I overrode your radio privileges I’ve been listening to almost everything ever since you made contact with Osna on the Hjorndal.””

    Shiiiii--
    “”It was clear of you using the mic-clicks to catch her attention - not bad of an idea using a specific method to speak unnoticed… well, for novice communication operators. You did several mistakes though. I actually already picked up your hidden signals long before.
    I was back-tracking your bread-crums. I am not sure what is going on out there but it sounds serious. Nevertheless, I decided to help your communication by supporting your transmission and conversation with Osna. I suppose you noticed the better quality during the talk.””

    After another long pause, he decided to respond, “You’re right… I did notice a change. I still don’t get it. I did everything along with all the tricks to hide the transmission, Kelsea. How did you do it and how did you actually figure things out?”

    ““Torbin. I’m a communications operative… and I’m a communications operative. It may not seem so, but I know my profession. Tele and astro-communication is my lifeblood. Aside to that, you forgot that some of your communication units are supported by the Vjel-Amaj’s arrays; even if you disengage units of your suit, it still subtly captures your encrypted signals. Not to mention the bandwidth - though you also altered things there too.

    I would not have engaged these bizarre decryption decompressors, if I had not noticed your signal hiding behind data echoes and such. You made me had somebody reprogram the code a bit so I could interpret it and add some of my own subtlety to the formula. I also noticed there was a lot more data coming through than on the surface. Very clever, I must say though. You got a damn-lot of tricks up your sleeves.””

    Torbin needed several fluid breathings before gaining enough strength to speak, “All right. You got us. I suppose you know about the other SAT astronaut teams that had been dispatched. We’re on a serious mission here. Though I think I downed myself - stupidly. I sustained a slight injury from this liquid. I can handle it, but I need to get moving first. People’s lives are in our hands.”

    “”I don’t know all about your plans, Torbin. In fact, that is the only part I did not understand - including the mission of the other teams. But I will be honest with you Torbin””
    , Kelsea carefully explained with a low voice,
    ””I do not like the idea of doing things secretly. You are lucky that neither Commander Nabaal nor Sub-Lieutenant Drayson or others noticed this move of yours. I do not know who you are trying to save; especially since you apparently did not give all the details to Osna while I was eavesdropping. Lucky for you that your frequency is hidden well enough and that I am able to further encrypt it with my privileges.
    I guess your instincts warned you about walls having some ears. But listen, Torbin. You are widely unnoticed even though I noticed you. I picked up your signal and linked into it subtly with a minor delay. You said you need to get somewhere from A to B pronto, so I called the Turanic Marauder Corvette Rock Roach to help out.
    Torbin, nobody else knows of this. Even I am whispering though I know I swore never to hide things like this again. I did something secret before that was dead wrong… and now I’m on the verge of doing it again. I… I should actually tell Drayson and Orelis right now.””

    But the Amaji astronaut responded frantically, as if that would had been the greatest mistake of all kushanity, “NO NO NO -- Kelsea don’t. I repeat, do NOT notify them. I’ll swear you in -- I swear -- but you must vow to me that you will not share this. This is imperative!

    “”A-All right. I swear, but you better tell me this is not a joke.””
    “No wait, Kelsea. I want your word - the kiith’s word[u]. If I am to tell you things, then you must vow yourself into this too like the rest of us. If anybody outside of this channel gets the word, we’re screwed. “

    She paused. Obviously the word is a serious matter as it is more than just a promise. It is something that goes even beyond an oath that vowed any kushan being to fulfilling such no matter what. Breaking it is merely impossible and there are never exceptions about the word and the combined oath.
    By nature, a kushan always stands to the word as only death can stop them from fulfilling and obeying it. A kushan will never fail this or lie as it is the true essence of the being.

    After a hesitant pause, Kelsea finally responded, “”Very well… Torbin… You have my word of loyalty to your cause. I… I cannot believe I am doing this… but you have my word.””

    “”Hey Yo -- Chunk and me are a swearin’ in here on this stuff to, got that?””, Orson suddenly added.

    <Guess we don’t have a choice, Torbin>, Desla added.
    “”Very well. But we have to get going first. Kelsea, why are the Marauders here? <No offence>””

    “”None taken, bro””
    “”I sent them over because I heard you need a faster ride. You wouldn’t have enough time retrieving those maneuvering units as you said earlier with fellow SAT astronauts. I contacted the Rock Roach since their corvette is quite fast and has been pretty much moving about the anchorage unnoticed by other vessels. I took the chance and sent them to you. They can transport you were you like.””

    <This just might be a divine intervention, Torbin>, the female astronaut quietly said to him.
    “<Or a deus ex machina… Whatever> Copy, Kelsea… I don’t know… but… thanks. People are counting on us.>

    “Guess Chunk ‘n’ me just got sworn into somethin’ here, too, eh? Don’t worry ‘bout Gelza, man. Our sis’ is just as trustworthy -- heh heh…”
    Desla raised an eyebrow.
    <Desla, what about her.>
    <Don’t worry>, she said before inhaling a greater mass of the breathing liquid, <Those two will attempt to infuse oxygen into that thing of hers while pressurization is in progress. They will be careful and will only open if ultimately necessary.>


    Kelsea voice continued, “”You have to explain me who these people are… or… a-are they exactly who I am thinking about right now… No… Noooooo -- Don’t tell me that--?>””

    The astronaut was supported by Desla to stand up again, “Yes *fluidic cough* You are guessing right. I won’t say their name but you know who all right. I’m just as edgy as you are about this.
    But they are people, Kelsea. And being a salvager, it is my duty to rescue whomever, even if it is the enemy him or herself. That is our duty. We need to get going. This is not over yet… Rock Roach - Come closer please. You need to bring us somewhere ASAP. Let’s save these people.”

    Kelsea amazed and shocked at the same time, yet even more disturbed and frightened that she was forced to keep this a dreaded secret…
    The nervous Amaji looked ever the edge of the bulky seat, spotting an exhausted Drayson Amaj at an operative pool. As she correctly assumed, he did not get a single word of this.



    *****

    - Clan matters -
    = Darugis Carrier - Main Habitat Deck =

    ### Deus Ex 1 OST - Liberty Island Ambient ###

    The renamed and so-called Main Habitat Deck was no other than a makeshift dwelling of the GaalSiidim clan. Unlike the deck above, this region was vast and filled with large fixtures consisting of major plating and other flat solid objects; all assembled to a wild mix of structures and minor accommodations.

    The majority consisted of large dismantled platings that had been rearranged and assembled to large huts and basic dwellings or shelters for the numbers of families throughout the clan. One could also discover outdated and large vehicles that had been eviscerated for their parts or even people who had found a new home just by the abundance of reassembled platings and fabrics to form tents.


    The region itself was likewise as nocturnal as the rest of the ship. The general ruling of power conservation was practically everywhere. For all it was common to be walking through this evernight world. However, there were various spots illuminated by reusable and energy efficient poles. Many of them glowed in warm orange; while not all too powerful, it was more than sufficient to recognize the surroundings. Yet most of the time, one had to become familiar and friends with the darkness and the sudden shadows moving around as people made their way through the narrow passages.

    The many makeshift accommodations were somewhat tight together however. Various passages were not wide at all and there were so many similar ways and tight alleys that one could easily become lost in this labyrinth.

    Due to the fact that this region was actually an outdated auxiliary hangar for corvettes, various objects and segments still contained gadgetry spread all across the region. Even discarded light mining corvettes that had been retired and scuttled many decades ago. One could immediately recognize the chimes of chains and loose bolts and platings as faint tremors travelled through the entire vessel.

    Aside to the everlasting smell of burnt oils and other fumes, nothing was more physically present than the heat in this deck. Unlike the industrial sector above this specific deck, this area was quite enclosed as it was the safest and easiest to seal off in cause of outer decompression breaches.

    But one major factor remained in the mass of people that resided here. The more or less truly civilian population resided here; at least a thousand of breathing subjects certainly raising the CO2-coefficient of the entire area. As there were no real environmental control in this region, both active and passive air filters only maintained the levels of breathable oxygen; ensuring that one only needed to worry about taking breaks should one feel lightheadedness.

    Yet, alike the command bridge and various other distinct areas, the suffocating heat was the most common aspect one could not escape. However, thanks to the initial share of resources and vital repairs, flowing water systems had been reestablished along with harmless biological fluid-solutions that could be used to cool oneself down.

    Despite all, the population was quite used to the situations as they had been living on this vessel like this for several years. Despite their rural, humble and rather lowtech reality of life, the Gaalsiidim people still were motivated and determined. Having survived years of servitude and days and months of famine and deep concerns, they truly had overcome serious hardships of life. Foreigners of the clan could instantly sense that they were a simple yet tribal people. Though once having been considered eternal slaves for the Hiigaran Empire due to an forgotten past, they were now free.

    However, some of the clan never believed in true freedom, as one survived hardship of slavery was only traded and returned in a different form; leaving a many skeptical of ever sensing true freedom. Nevertheless, it was truthful to believe in the fact that they had achieved more than any other GaalSiidim clan in history. It was most likely that these were the first to venture through the stars not as slaves of the eternal servitude.


    *

    ”The Gaalsiidim and the Restless…”



    *****

    = Vjel-Amaj - Conference room =

    ### Soldier of Fortune 2 OST - Shop_B ###

    Almost three hours later


    The long-lasting conference finally met its end. Many and many topics had been tackled and realized. After so many hours, all were exhausted yet listened to the last words of the commanding officer, Orelis Nabaal. Like many others, the commander was exhausted. He never really had much sleep and it was clear that he never had a real chance to even recuperate enough. Even so, he frequently rubbed his eyes to stay awake.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, allies, everybody. It is clear that the future won’t be simple. No easy way getting in or out. No yellow brick road leading to success. After all the information we have gathered, we now know that we are to be standing against a serious threat whose shadow is much greater than our will.
    On top of this, we are lost, but we will find our way back. We have no choice. The galaxy may be an infinite mystery but we will not perish. At least we will not make it easy for any threat.
    But we stand against dangerous odds. The Nebuli Somtaaw are the most dangerous threat we have ever encountered in our lives. I dare say that the Vaygr crusades are nothing compared to this vicious threat. They are… monsters…But will not just stand there…”

    He cleared his voice.

    “I hate to say it, but Pethera is right. We are going to have to utilize every single dirty trick - if we may like it or not. Rules of engagement must be altered for the sake of survival. But not only this, the Nebuli Somtaaw are highly advanced in dangerous technologies and even exceed those of the Hiigaran Empire.
    Aside to our wits, the Vjel-Amaj is probably the only ship that has a tad more up her sleeves -- but even so, the cruiser itself just can be showing how fast and good it is at running away. We have to confront the enemy.

    Technology is one of many things. We have discussed a lot so I do not need to go into detail. It is clear that the flotilla must establish scientific organizations that infuse all available resources into finding new ways, new technologies and answers to threats and mysteries. From physics to chemistry to engineering and production, all of it must be utilized to develop weapons, doctrines and whatsoever to ensure our survival.
    Even in the bleakest of moments, even if it may be true that could be very much be fighting a losing battle, I for sure will never accept the fact that I would run away from these bastards.
    Regarding my word and will, ladies and gentlemen, I have come to one last conclusion that must be dealt with. It is the serious decision that we must utilize everything and everyone - and by this I mean every single being on this vessel and beyond.”

    Several seemed worried of his words.

    “Everybody. I have decided to initiate military doctrines regarding the mobilization of forces with domestic resources. As you all know, our military force is practically nonexistent other than dedicated defensive units.

    We lost an entire Hiigaran marine unit a month ago. A lot of good men who sacrificed themselves for our survival. And now we rely on the very few youngbloods that are left. Even just days ago, I dared to rely on them, dispatching them on an operation that had gone seriously wrong - and I am to solely blame. I will stand for my guilt someday…

    And yet, I was fortunate enough for them to return safely, even though they have suffered injuries far beyond. Nonetheless, I have decided to do the following:

    We are going to establish a set of indoctrinated marine and specialist units. From special training to clandestine tactics and strategies- we will utilize everything. For the beginning though, we must first train the very basic that we have -- and that is the mass of operatives.
    I want them all to be drafted and to attain serious indoctrination to combat and military training. We must release them of any weakness that will seal their fate against the Nebuli Somtaaw. I will not tolerate any exceptions.

    Every being throughout the Vjel-Amaj is good for something beyond their basic profession - and I am going to find and utilize this. Over the course of the next days, we will be training our crew to deal with the harsh reality… It will be tough, but I have no choice but to issue this doctrine and order to the entire crew.

    As of this matter, we will need the experienced men and women to stand up and train each one of them. We will need drill instructors from all corners of the Vjel-Amaj -- if not those from the entire flotilla. Likewise, it is clear that flotilla must do this as well though it is unlikely to find many recruits.

    The Vjel-Amaj is loaded with operatives we can train to become viable support or even primary units the Nebuli Somtaaw threat. But we cannot just rely on sound military tactics… We need every dirty tactic. We need to break the weak will and re-forge it with true military blood.

    The Corsari Hjorndal has its amount of exo-marines but they will require more viable units. Even the Darugis and the Regausa-Maru must do this - although the selection and failure rate will be high. This military indoctrination won’t be easy… but I have no doubt or choice - This is absolutely necessary and I am dead certain about my decision.”

    The Nabaali commander looked over towards Aaron Salico and the Turanic soldiers, “Doctrine: Recon units will be our main unit. The Turanics of Captain-Lieutenant Delophane Vamaii have proven themselves in various moments that they are a fast moving, hard-hitting force that relies on guerilla tactics and unorthodox warfare. Something is telling me that even with the heaviest of armor, we would not survive and thus need to think reversely in terms of doctrines. Sometimes it is the lightness that succeeds rather than arming soldiers to the teeth.

    We have learned that the Turanic soldiers are especially experts on their field as marksmen and support units; Beii being a trained designated markswoman while her fellow clanmates being efficient assault units that work in tandem with the commanding officer, Delophane Vamaii. Although Vamaii is absent, it is clear that the Imperial Taiidan tactics still prevail as one of the best on the field. And we will utilize these as well with our new doctrines.

    Leadership is the Alpha and Omega in this case, and that is the role for marines to take on as they know the ropes of tactics. I know the Corperal will disagree on things as Turanic recons will always act on their initiative but in reality, you two kept each other alive - and we will count on that.

    But we will also need support units -- units that take on the dangerous of missions with the current marine units. The current Amaji operatives cannot handle the terrors and stress -- so we must do what we can to strengthen their psyches to withstand the greatest of stress. We also have a small police force onboard that we can mobilize as well… We need a backbone force that the marines and recon units can rely on - and vice versa.

    We will need specialists - special forces units that further utilize unorthodox warfare against threats - and much more.

    I will require some time to emphasize on viable military organization doctrines but we must start with the immediate drafting. Once the flotilla is at a safe region again, we will conduct basic military training. For the days to come, we will instruct the operative crew before conducting full basic training.
    We will be utilizing all that is needed for them to be trained in the use of combat weapons beyond self-defense.”

    *

    Meanwhile and elsewhere at the same time…
    = Darugis industrial carrier, outer desolated sector =


    After their suits had been degaussed, sterilized, secured of no radiation subjects and realigned to the internal pressure of the carrier, the two Amaji astronauts made their slow pace towards the interior of the carrier.

    Their steps were quite slow and cumbersome as their suit power supplies were in dire need of recharging. Hydraulic supports were almost nonexistent, causing each step to be a strenuous act. After so many hours of exo-space service, the two were greatly exhausted.

    Once the suits left the airlock the two almost fell to their knees if they had not been caught by several SAT operatives. It was especially the astronautic team leader who seemed to have serious issues.

    There was no time to lose. He gestured the hand signal that he had issues and could not wait any longer. His arms swung around many times, showing that was not going wait for those two last minutes of pumping the fluid out of his helmet. It was not certain that the fluid itself had been depleted or that his body had been under intense influence of artificial subjects that it could no longer bear them.

    As Desla had much lesser problems with her breathing liquid, she remained focused and calm as the level of the slightly brown fluid decreased. What had once been clear blue had changed its color to the notably depleted brown aspect. But she handled the matter of holding her breath for an extended period of time.

    Torbin on the other hand had been under so many hours of stress and medical influences that his body was no longer tolerating anything further. When the interior finally aligned itself well enough to the pressure, he nervously pressed several secured attachments of his helmet and finally removed the outer protective shell.

    Operatives helped him by taking the helmet away and pressing whatever was needed to remove the ultimate protector. As soon as the final seal was removed, the depleted fluid immediately spilled to the floor, along with his lungs ejecting the rest.

    *

    ////////////
    Kaydaana goes to Darugis, meets Vayn and Beylo to discuss Gaalsidiim clan matters.

    Same place, Fenna and Ray to have observed Kaydaana as she went to surprise Vayn and co. Ray to comment about Kaydaana.
    Feena to be racist (lightly) about Gaalsiidim, to complain about the place they are (with all those other people around the area, practically zero privacy). Ray asks if they should return to the VJ - Fenna say FUCK-NO. Explains once more why they must do this - and becomes psyched with the idea of joining with him to conceive a child like Kaydaana is (though with no avail).
    Not to forget the first revelation of the Nebuli Somtaaw survivor. Feature, helmet off, Torbin suit holding the nearly suffocated “Sammie Porter”.

    *

    Orelis rubbed his face before continuing,
    “The flotilla is deciding on where to go, but we are most likely to be emerging within a star’s proximity to allow the Darugis to charge its capacitors and other battery segments to maximum. It won’t be easy but this is the only way to ensure their survival without having to worry about consumption for a very long time. But the final decision will be shared tomorrow…

    As of now, we all know what our prime objective is. But despite all, we must keep in mind about the truth: The Nebuli Somtaaw are a deadly threat...”

    *

    Torbin’s entire throat and lungs were sore from breathing the thick liquid and the greater force needed for speaking comprehensible words. The air around him was quite cool; his breaths causing visible hazes each time.

    The nearby operatives tried to help him and gave him an oxygen mask and removed some of his helmet’s internal displays, but his attention was elsewhere. Torbin urgently pointed at the iron coffins. His exact repetitive pointing hinted that he wanted to have it open -- now, before it was too late!
    *
    They are monsters… They have lost their kushanity ever since they had disappeared into the Galactic Core… They will kill us all or use us in their twisted experiments - who knows, I just made that one up and yet I fear that is the bloody truth… I do not like the truth but it is clear as the air in this room:
    The Nebuli Somtaaw must be dealt with… They are no longer reasonable… We must do what we can to support the Corsari in annihilating every single one them.


    *


    Finally. The pressure locks of the iron coffin were overridden and sprung open. Although the pressure was not entirely aligned, it was just about enough for it to be opened without causing greater injuries or worse to the beings within.

    There were a total of four huge lockers in this area alone. All filled with Nebuli Somtaaw survivors desperately craving for their release.

    Torbin had crawled over to the one with the female Nebuli Somtaaw who was at the verge of suffocating. Others rushed to his side and helped him remove the last seals. A loud popping sound cracked through the entire area, echoing several times as the noise went through the depths of the corridors beyond.

    The exhausted Amaji nervously reached down with his bulky hand. Exhausted breathing fluid dripped upon the body of the young woman below who removed her oxygen mask. Even though there had been the careful attempts of infusing breathable oxygen into the lower side of the locker, the woman for some reason could not breathe it.

    Torbin examined the young woman who had almost suffocated. She was of a lean build, with notable orange hair. She wore a basic tanktop along with undergarment shorts. Her skin was merely bruised and burnt by the many hours of fridge cold of the locker sapping her body heat. Cold fog swept away. Ice crystals were all over the body.
    Her chest rapidly rose and fell; highly agitated and urging for the much needed oxygen. Her voice moaned loudly and uncontrollably with each hasted breath.
    *

    They have done enough damage. And we won’t just stand there and just take it. Noh…
    No. If one shall be before us, we will not tally with our diplomatic ways. We will no longer seek their kushanity… They are deathbringers - and if we hesitate, we and all of that we love and know will die… Sooner or later.
    No… We will be the first to pull the trigger this time. We will be fire to kill them. They have been corrupted -- and are using what is left of that insidious Beast material for their wickedly-twisted experiments! NO. We will kill them because we must - for the sake of all.
    It is our destiny… and we have no choice… It is them… or us… and it will not be the latter… I tell you - I swear this by the blood of the Kiith Amaj… and my very own!


    Orelis fist ultimately slammed upon the solid table. The force was so intense and surprising that not only the cups jumped, but also several operatives who did not expect such a violent determination…

    *
    Torbin’s huge puffy hands pulled the desperate Nebuli Somtaaw survivor out of their misery. Others did the same, but had certain complications. He immediately told the bystanding operatives to aid the others as this one here seemed to come through.

    The young Amaji man held the delicate being in hands as she desperately inhaled and exhaled. Each rapid breather was a loud and wheezing one. It was so intense that he was deeply worried about her. She coughed several times; a times coughing not clear but a faint reddish haze.
    His puffy suited hand gently wiped away hair and the saliva upon her lips.

    “J-Juhhsh…”, he tried to say but his throat was simply too sore and his voice too hoarse, “Hhnnhg… nnh… thhhere…”, he desperate said before needing to take breathers himself.

    The Amaji instinctively grabbed her hand and pressed it, gesturing that he was there.
    Just hang in there!, was all his pressured grip could say to her. He hoped she understood him. Torbin fell slightly to the side as his exhausted body could no longer carry the kneeled pose of the heavy suit.

    The Somtaaw’s eyes were reddish, but it appeared she could see him - though most likely blurry. He was not sure, but he noticed the path of frozen tears… and a face that revealed gratitude.

    “I… NEED… HELP… HERE”, Desla desperately shouted with pauses in between.

    She cried for a medic but no real one was around.

    SHIT, Torbin’s mind cursed. Apparently, the Hive had not docked yet. Neither was Osna around, showing that the Destroyer was not here yet either. This was not good. Osna had to show the doctor the way to this location before it was too late…
    Torbin lastly looked down upon the Nebuli Somtaaw woman, who responded to the grip of his hand.
    *

    “It… was a long day. You all have done an extraordinary and outstanding job. I thank you all for your indepth report. I am now giving you the order to stand down, retreat and recuperate as the next day will be a very long one… and I need all of you to serve at your best.
    Dismissed.”

    Almost everybody saluted him at him and bid him goodbye as they were left the conference room.
    I said dismissed. All of you.”
    The Amaji marine made a long stare at him before silently limping his way to the exit; aided by the ecclesial young woman, Ellendra Amaj.

    It did not take long until he was alone in this room. The Nabaali did nothing but leaned back in his seat. His right hand covered the side of his face; his right thumb massaging his right eye as thoughtful moments passed by…

    What should I do, Hailynn…

    *****
    End of Chapter 31

    To be continued…


    ~18220 words

  17. #17
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    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Chapter 32 - Beyond the Pillars of Eternity

    - Yield testings -

    = Space - Location unknown =

    ### Robotech - Season 1 OST - Reconstruction Blues ###

    [i]The next day…

    Silhouettes quietly distance themselves from the clouds of the dissolving mass. What was once a wrecked yet solid necropolis was now disintegrating, as irregular forces of gravity and the unforgiving realm of space granted no mercy. Torn into pieces from inside out, all forms exceed to exist… crumbling to nothing but meaningless dust. Many are soon to wonder, who all these people were; when they were born, why had they become hideous - So many questions, yet one will always wonder: Who were they

    With their distancing, those that remain have no choice but to look to forward to the stars shrouded in myriads of colorful mists beyond… to leave behind a graveyard of foes that were once known as kushanity’s last stand against the deadly Beast.

    *****

    The voice of a female junior officer of the Vjel-Amaj is heard. Her voice is soft and nowhere near happiness.


    Situational report of junior helmswoman and Ensign, Kelsea Amaj. It has been a rough day for many of us throughout the flotilla…

    Over the course of the last day, many things had occurred and been decided upon that I am yet again lost on where to begin. Practically all frequencies were full of happenings. Aside to my ongoing curse of staying at the helm, I quietly eavesdropped into various events out there. Nevertheless… P-Perhaps I should just start with… myself.

    I spent yet another session of skipping R&R and not even taking a break from active duty for three shifts straight. I had been stuck at bridge command for the entire run and only recently found some time to say something into the log before I rest… Well, there is not much time either, but I doubt I can really sleep much - or at all.

    I… I’m not sure if I can even get any decent sleep. I don’t know. I feel like something changed. Aside to all the stress we had the last days, I’ve been staying awake for extended periods - and I can feel it getting worse.

    Hours and hours go by and I don’t feel any sort of fatigue, although I can sense that this cannot be healthy. I feel like those undead -- those zombies from those stories our caretakers used to talk about when the rest of the Amaji generation were young, or well, younger.

    Not to mention that I have this ongoing feeling of unease -- I feel nervous all the time through and there are times where I feel cold sweat. I should probably report this to Sickbay…

    Whatever… I am finding it harder and harder to even leave the bridge. Whenever I dare to think about leaving it, my duty is required yet again. There is always something bound to require me at the front of the bridge. I always knew that the job of a helmsman is tough; let alone this vessel being the most sophisticated and complicated of all.

    I never will understand how our former and missing Commander, Hailynn Delixa, ever managed to handle this vessel with such easy. Even that bitch-- pardon my Manaan, woman, Fenna Amaj, was able to handle this ship much better than I ever could.

    And yet I am currently the only one everybody is pointing their finger when this vessel needs to be going places. Maybe this was all a stupid idea after all. Although the secondary helm, conning, has more sense of understandable controls for a simple mortal like me, it is still a complicated mess.

    At least Chief Deena, wherever she may be, thought about me specifically and added an auxiliary console for me to further operate as a communication officer… but never mind that. There are times where I feeling things in my mind while sitting there… I'm guessing I just need sleep.

    Anyways. I think I said enough about it before. So… So far I’ve been stuck at the bridge. Sub-Lieutenant Drayson was also there most of the time, although he seemed to be quite nervous all the time with that Turanic Marauder woman, eh… Jelzah - or Gelza, not sure.
    Although she’s pretty much a Turanic, she’s quite different than we all expected and is quite helpful, too. Most of the time, she was explaining various salvaging teams how to extract things appropriately without damaging them. Looks like they are quite experienced in tearing things apart… without tearing them apart. Or something.

    Despite all that work, she never seemed too disturbed enough to stay on Drayson’s tail.

    No matter where he would go, that tall and strange woman was always behind him. Drayson is quite troubled and certainly not sure how to handle this interest on him.

    I think any woman throughout the bridge crew can sense that she is hitting on him like a damn hammer. Even with his clumsiness, he does seem cute -- I suppose that is what is attracting that punk woman like a magnet. He's a good guy, though.

    Poor boy doesn’t seem like he can handle her heat at all. Strangely, I think he should feel lucky. Anyhow, in the Amaji world, it’s the girl that usually does the first move. After all, we have to, since the ratio of men is lower.

    Whatever.
    I haven’t seen Commander Orelis almost all day long. He’s been stuck at the conference room with all these all people throughout the flotilla. He's also been dispatching commands and whatnots from there to the entire flotilla and our ship. I think he had not seen the bridge ever since…

    From what I heard, though, it seems like there are quite a lot of things to be worried about.

    Absolutely everybody is certain that the Nebuli Somtaaw is a deadly force. I think that has been said more than often just the past day alone. But to be precise, everybody - and Orelis especially - are certain that we will need more than just a handful of armed specialists to take on the threats.

    He is planning something big… and I don’t know if the Amaji onboard will like it. Despite all… he is the Commander, after all. We have to obey as we are Amaji operatives... And as… As the Corsari say: For the greater good.

    Speaking of the Corsari, there have been some concerns about them. Something appears to be boiling over there. Aside to the serious distrust and even abuse against Suderans, I’ve intercepted a message of concern about certain Corsari subordinates still abusing the Somtaaw of the Regausa-Maru -- abusing as in seriously beating them up until they’re dead. Even though Common Grounds seriously prohibited such, there are still hidden executions happening. This is not good at all, and with this news spreading, things are bound to go wrong.

    Think positive, they say…
    *Sigh… pause… Sounds of fabrics being removed from the body…*

    As for now, we have cleared the Nebuli Somtaaw wreckage site… or what is left of it. The flotilla has merged with the Darugis as it engaged a very slow cruise away from the site.

    The carrier - or what was left of it - has dissipated. Literally. There were random talks that some 93% of it was exposed to hyperspace fabrics for far too long. I don’t know what they actually meant - my job is to dodge all those physical hyperspace things, not understand them. From what I understood, the entire vessel was merely breaking down. Apparently, it was so that the fabrics had… soften the entire structure and everything within.

    So the entire flotilla extraction team was running against time. They became so desperate that they dropped all exploration efforts for grabbing just about everything that wasn’t bolted to the bulkheads or soft as rubber.

    Everything became so hasty and in a hurry that most of us lost the overview of what we actually extracted. I just hope nobody grabbed a live warhead. Nevertheless, the torn mass of the carrier has been deemed too dangerous for anybody to move around - and rightly so…

    Right now, the flotilla grabbed all it could… and is now distancing itself as the entire carrier has collapsed. A series of ruptures occurred and almost the entire mass has blown up to dust particles. There are still husks but it is clear that that chunk of that vessel is no more - and who knows what happened to the rest of it. It is probably still moving throughout hyperspace…

    It was quite amazing - the sight of the dust erupting from all sides. There were so many particles that it even reflected the light of this unknown galaxy. It shimmered beautifully… and yet, I am somewhat filled with sorrows about it. I don’t know why.

    Which reminds of the mere scavenger hunt even for objects that were then free-floating. The Turanic Rock-Roach as well as Osna’s corvette drones were able to catch several of the malfunctioning and free floating gravity units - of course, those that could actually fit. They were able to track the power source and disable it so they would not do any troubles on the Darugis. I guess the tech-heads of the flotilla will have a lot of work to do.

    Speaking of grabbing… Our excavation teams found something as well. I… I can’t talk about it. L-Let’s just say that something is bound to happen, too. They discovered something -- huh

    Kelsea stops her speech as a specific chime is played. Soon after, there is another voice of a young man speaking from the public announcement speakers of her quarters:
    “”Attention all decks. Standby for a general flotilla-wide transmission by Commander Orelis Nabaal…””

    *Sigh* I… guess my sleep just got cancelled. I better get back to the bridge. Kelsea Amaj. End of report.


    *****

    As the practically all but one specific vessel had docked onboard the voluminous industrial carrier, the voice of the Nabaali Commander was heard throughout all channels of the flotilla. Various people, regardless of bloodline and faction, had seized their duties and listened closely to his words. The speech of the Nabaali Commander was long. He sounded exhausted and his speech was full of pauses, yet deep under, one could sense determination.


    “I do not need to reiterate what we will be fighting. But the commanders of the flotilla agrees that we all must now rally up our own forces. I shall explain this afterwards… For now we will do what the honor as soldiers would require us. Even if we have confronted probably the deadliest of all foes… We are not monsters. Many souls have been lost on the Nebuli Somtaaw carrier. Neither can we just leave their soulless bodies here for eternity…

    To all members of the flotilla. Please standup and please grant the Nebuli Somtaaw - even if they are our enemies - a final moment of silence before we grant them absolution.”

    The very few thousand throughout the flotilla did as he had suggested. Not all agreed…

    “Flotilla. Thank you… Very well. This is the Vjel-Amaj to the Corsari Destroyer, Hjorndal. I am done. *sigh* You’re free to do as you have been requesting ever since we emerged from hyperspace…”

    The voice of the new Corsari First, Hanjur, linked into the channel, “Finally, some sense. With pleasure. <Hrensr nid voguur. Kor ned hrimtisr mnir>”, he suddenly ordered along with several other commands in Corsarsk.

    Following his commands, the Hjorndal destroyer began a near perfect vertical spin that ended almost at the 180 degree mark. When another voice confirmed something, the Corsari First then shouted a satisfying command that anyone throughout the flotilla could comprehend as fire

    A single, large and semi-guided torpedo made its curved path from the destroyer directly towards the core of the dissipating Nebuli carrier… And once the anticipated impact occurred, a sudden blinding flash swept through the void of space - followed by an all-consuming field of extremely raging hells.

    Despite the emptiness of space, absolutely nothing and nobody could avoid sensing the sheer force of this explosion. Though a greater force of the deadly yield swept across the hulls, all were unscathed… though many were greatly shocked by the single yet immense tremor.

    “”K-Kiith’s blood””, an angry Somtaaw crewman of the Regausa-Maru transmitted across the open frequency, “”-- Damn it, that was not necessary to blow away that place with a damn nuclear torpedo! You nearly --””, but the man was cut off the line, apparently gagged and pummeled down by a nearby Corsari soldier.

    The general quality of transmissions worsened as the radiation freely flooded that portion of space. It took some time until the one could understand something beyond the annoying interferences of static.

    Hjorndal -- Hanjur, was that really necessary?”, Orelis said, most certainly doing his best to stay diplomatic.

    “”We had to be certain. We have our reasons. Additionally, it allowed us to test our yield settings. We are satisfied by the results.””

    The Corsari was direct and did not even allow the Nabaali commander or others to respond as he had disabled the commlink.

    “*Sigh* Flotilla, I suggest applying diagnostics to make sure none of your vessels sustained damage. I also suggest all to prepare yourselves for a flotilla-combined hyperjump as planned. The senior crew of the Vjel-Amaj and its lance frigates are to take a final six hour recess for recuperation as final preparations are made. The flotilla should do the same… Nabaali, over and out.”

    *****
    - Air -

    = Hive mining corvette - Crewmen’s bunk =

    Just a moment later…

    After sensing a notable tremor rushing through the tight tube, he immediately woke up. The young man felt disorientated as he did not recognize his tight surroundings at first. It took him some time to recognize the slight stench of vomit as well as the smell of freshly illuminated cigarette… though the smell of it was a lot more intense than before.

    He groaned a few times before urging himself to open thin yet pressure secured duct of the tube. He also noticed that somebody familiar was leaning down at his tube, waving at him as he had noticed he woke up.

    As the sound of a slight pop occurred, Quan yawned and growled once more before opening his eyes and spotting the pot belly hovering over his head. It was that friendly guy he referred to ever since yesterday. Finally, the man above leaned his head forward while blowing a thick cloud of smoke.

    “Ey. Mornin’ man - or night - Not sure, but who needs a clock out here in space”, the Hiigaran greeted at Quan, “Slept well in that coffin?”
    “Uh… Yeah… Sort of”, The Amaji’s hoarse voice replied.

    “Certainly not as comfy as that bunk you have on that comfy star cruiser of yours, eh? But see, you survived it, man. Heh - I’d expect you to be a lot more messed up and all edgy about it. Hah!”, the man above chuckled before taking another deep one from what was not a cigarette but an all-out traditional cigar.

    The tip glowed with a long bright blue before fading to a deeper and darker tone again. He once again blew another cloud of smoke from his mouth and seemed quite satisfied of what he held in his hands.

    Quan on the other hand seemed to have had an unpleasant sleep. Although he had enough space due to his more or less leaner build than the ordinary Hiigaran, the young Amaji certainly did not really have all too much sleep. One could see that his sleep was rather unpleasant.

    “Whoa. I guess that tube wasn't your type?”, the bald man above asked.
    “N-No, it was not the tube. Honestly. I just had too much going through my head.”
    “Ah right. Well, you’re the Chief Astrogah-- Astron -- star-dude. Sure your head is just full of stuff like stars and everything else out there in space, eh?”

    The words of the jolly Hiigaran was not all too farfetched as one would think.

    “Sort of…”
    “Hope I didn’t wake you.”

    Quan looked up at the man, “Actually. I did feel something. Was a very, very strong jolt. Did this boat bounce against something?”
    “Really? Ah - Oh yeah. Heh”, the guy scoffed and chuckled once more, “Just happened a moment ago and I already forgot. Yeah, there was a blast of a nuke just nearby.”
    “Ah…”, but the eyes of the Amaji suddenly widened, “A what?!


    “Bah - Just a nuke man. Your boss commander guy ordered a short moment of silence for the dead Somtaaw guys on that wreck we plundered. Right after, he gave those Turanic Horny guys to do their job and fire a missile or such on it - and then shortly after… KA-BLAAAAAM!

    , he shouted with a single clap of his hands; scaring the rest of the sleep out of Quan’s eyes as he bumped his head,

    “Commander Nabaal had ordered a torp to be launched at the disintegrating Nebuli carrier wreckage, but did not expect the Corsari to use a nuke. Heh, I heard they said they wanted to be extra sure. Talk about overkill! But… yeeeah, that shock that woke you up was likely that nuke shockwave-thing. Not sure about shockwaves and nukes in space, but you felt it.”
    “Yes. I surely did…”
    “But yeah, man. Your boss and other in the flotilla are now readying everything for the hyperjump. They’ve been announcing it for quite some time, but it looks like it’ll happen in some five or six hours. Plenty time to relax. So… Yeah, man, relax. Com’aaaan…”

    , the pot-bellied Hiigaran said leaning back with open arms and a laid-back voice,

    “You can get some more sleep or if you’re that awake, let’s talk more bad things about she-whose-name-we-shall-not-say… Or talk more about girls. Hey, you know I love that topic, heh”, the man suggested as he took another puff from his thick cigar.

    “*Cough, cough*”
    “Oh. Sorry about the heavy stuff. I forgot I even have a guest. Hah, you’re like a contracted crewman for me”, he said as he held the cigar with blue gleams, “T’is like breakfast for me -- or the first prayer for those religious types, heh.”

    “Breakfast?!”
    “Yeah. Sure. What do you have in the mornin’?”
    Quan was about to answer but shook his head, “Eh. Never mind. But since we’re talking about it. Why is that cigar glowing blue? I thought flames were orange.”

    The crewman scratched his chest as he moved through the tight compartment.
    “Oh that? Oh that’s because we don’t have oxygen here, you know. Too dangerous. Blows up easily when somebody is holding something flammable”, he explained as he wove the obvious torch in front of his cigar to revive it.

    “But… You got a torch in your hand right now, right? Doesn’t fire need, well, oxygen?”
    “Ahhh… Almost got me there. But I know now that you don’t know something. Nothing bad or important. Just for those medical and industrial types of people. Actually, it needs a gas like all things do, but even if you don’t know, let me try to explain, eh?”
    , the man continued as he messed with other things from another crate,

    “Although we all ain’t dead for not breathing oxygen, we’re breathing pretty much a special mixture of air. I’m not into the chemistry as stuff burn in specific color, but let’s say we can breathe specific mixtures that allow us to obtain ox out of that mix. So more or less, we got the tech to clean the air of CO2 and also splice what we need out of it to call it a rebreathable gas. Quite some cool stuff, but it ain't easy on everybody. Perhaps something you should talk about with your Sjet friend.”

    “…”

    “Aaaanyways, moving on. These flames require that mixture. Despite them being flames, they don’t burn as hot as the other one. It takes some special equipment to burn things like this cigar. With other gas combinations, it can be used to produce welding flames and much more. Somewhere, the fusion drives of this boat can apply such for, uh, sorta-atmo-flight -- beats me, I'm an industrialist, not a… whatever. Just awesome stuff several wiz-kids came up just a century and a few squashed years ago. Don’t worry about the gas. You still breathin’ and alive, so don’t worry. All cool.”

    “Guess so.”
    “But yeah, so we docked up on that Darugis carrier, managing some business and stuff as the boss gave all of us some break time. Flotilla is gonna jump somewhere in a few hours or so, so we better enjoy it. At least this time, we won't be tossed around and will be safe on this carrier. Guess she knows we’re kushans after all…”

    Quan dropped his head upon the head rest, just when he opened his eyes the moment he noticed something.

    “W-Whoa, what?! Did you say we docked onboard the Darugis already?!”, sounding slightly anxious.
    “Uuuh. Yeah. Actually, yeah, we did. Been here for some thirty minutes or so. Give or take. What’s the hurry, man?”

    “Damn it *ugh*”, the Amaji below mumbled and rubbed his eyes, “I’m the Chief Astronomer. The Commander said to return the moment this craft docked up again. It was a direct order. Plus, well, I’m the Chief Astronomer - and I have to make sure the preparation of the upcoming jump is précises as possible. Doctor Jonas and Sunoga are probably already waiting for me. We’ll be jumping within a star’s adjacency, so they need my help.”

    “Holy! I guess we will be grilling tomorrow. Hah”, the chubby Hiigaran joked as he watched the Amaji of Asune descent crawl out of the tube with cracking bones, “Heh. You really sound like a crewman all right.”

    “The tube was fine-- just had too much going on. Still feel like a moon just ran over me.”

    “Is that how you astronomers call it?”

    “I better get going. Hey, it was nice meeting you-- Uhh. Sorry, but what’s your name actually?”, Quan said as he moved past him with an open hand.

    The man without a shirt leaned back slightly as he reached over an open hand, “Oh yeah. Well, everybody got a nickname ‘round this craft. The nick’s Wrench - but just for the official stuff: Name's Ordaan Asmir Liir-Paktu -- obviously Paktu for the preggy-tummy, eh”

    , he joked as he presented his pot belly,

    "Never mind the long name. I'm just a Servo Engineer with an exo-space license <Which is most likely what got me a chunky and wealthy contract with those Sjet cult freaks>", the man added with a lower voice, "Just wish somebody would have noted the part about the more complicated assignments much louder. Aaaanyways. People call me 'Daan or Wrench.
    And hey - Sorry for the inconveniences here, you're always welcome here though. If you need a place to stay and some outfits to sneak on this boat, just let me know. She does not need to know. Since some of the crew aren't fans of that bitch, I got some ties to officials. I know ways to get things and people onboard -- Just *shhhh*…"

    "Uh. Dr. Peth-- I mean, her -- She knows my face."
    "Heeey", he said and smiled gave his hand out and smiled, "Half the crew runs around with masks and equipment. She'll never know".

    A few seconds went by until Quan ultimately reached out and shook his hand. Both men smiled.

    "Thanks for, uh, everything, Ordaan."
    "Hey!"
    "Wrench. Wrench."


    "Now that's more like it", the Liir-Paktu chuckled and placed the blue glimmering cigar into his mouth; speaking forth as he mumbled the words, "Jus' takin' care of business."

    "I better get going. I can already sense Sunoga complaining about me…"
    "Soo-noh-gah? Ahh, sounds like the name of a beautiful young Asune lady. Say, she's not your girl of interest or such, eh? We men on this boat respect the code of bro."
    Quan looked at him, "Uh. No."
    "But she's cute."

    "Yes, but --"
    "You're not sly or so? Hey, Wrench's all cool with that, too - even if Hiigara is not. We're in the future and in space so --"

    "No, I'm not. She's just already has a kid and --"

    "Aw. Damn. Well… She still might need somebody to talk to. All ladies do."
    "To be honest. She really could need somebody to talk to, actually. She's been undergoing some stress and misses her son. Not easy for duty career women with family -- especially Amaji families that are not even a year old."
    "I gotcha, Q. I'll chat with her next time. I'm sure this wasn't your last visit or sleep-over on the Hive. Oh yeah, just take the stairs up one deck. There's a map to the airlocks. Don’t bother heading to the personnel ones. We load and unload stuff much faster with the main cargo one."

    Q?

    "-- Oh and watch out for Pethera's little brats."

    The Paktu smiled and saluted, leaving a trail of smoke and having ashes fall to the floor. Quan wove him and exited the pressure door. When he closed it, he paused, raised an eyebrow, and then made a friendly scoff while making his way out.

    *****

    = Darugis carrier, outer desolated sector - service airlock =

    Ever since the secluded SAT team arrived to this location, they had found themselves pretty much secure of any unexpected bypassers. The small area belonged to the remote and rarely used sectors of the carrier. The team however still had to be careful about any coincidences of anybody showing up after all. Two operatives surveyed the corridors, hoping nobody would appear.

    Other operatives in lighter astronautic suits had already retrieved all the worthwhile items and transferred them over to the flotilla's storages.

    At times, mission control of the Vjel-Amaj and bridge command of the Darugis would contact them, asking them if everything was alright. It was not easy to lie as several of them had to cover the mouths of the injured survivors. Even more, they had to make sure that the Darugis crew would not dispatch a team… but the situation was already crucial, for they had been here at this location for many hours and it is only a matter of time until somebody would start sending help after all. What made matters worse was the ongoing echoes of moans, coughs and incomprehensible words filling the small zone.

    The two Amaji SAT astronauts still carried their bulky suits, yet without their helmet units. Stains were upon the rims of the thick collar frame. Both astronauts were still exhausted and did have slight issues with breathing as well. Having used the special artificial air as well as the emergency breathing liquid for so long, it was clear that they were somewhere minor casualties that likewise required medical aid.

    But this was the greatest issue as all were sure that receiving medical aid would sooner or later expose these people to the flotilla public, condemning the survivors to their doom. One of the greatest problems was the fact that these people were nowhere near being transportable. The slightest movement always caused serious agonies and the worsening of respiration. Many simply had no clue what to do but wait and hope for the only person who could really help.

    SAT astronaut Desla Amaj rubbed her head… or at least tried to as her bulky and puffy hand covered most of her forehead. She felt a slight pulsing headache in her head. Much like with Torbin, her throat and lungs were outright sore. Swallowing water from ration packs was not easier either.

    Due to this status, she had already lost the sense of time. It was so intense that she even forgot how long she had been here with the others. The young Amaji woman had already removed the cap that had covered her stained hair.

    Her body and suit had been placed against a wall, so that she would not fall to the side or towards the back while the others were distracted with other desperate tasks. Desla leaned back again. It was not easy though. The large collar ring made it impossible for her to rest the neck, forcing her to float. The personal waste disposal unit at between her legs made it worse. Gravity and a sitting pose was something that was not quite comfortable for any astronaut wearing these huge sophisticated suits.

    But as she mildly cursed about her discomfort, the heavy moans and painful cries would immediately remind her that she was actually lucky. The young woman looked to her side.

    The Nebuli Somtaaw… Only a handful of retrieved lockers… They were fifteen people in total. Six women, nine men. It was possible that there were more rescued by the second SAT team. Neither Desla nor Torbin received any word from the other team since radio silence was imperative.

    Unfortunately, not all survived. Two of the recovered lockers already had had a frozen corpse within, while another person had recently deceased due to serious health issues… and more were soon to follow.

    She looked around, spotting the other Amaji SAT operatives. There were only a handful of them around the area. This was more or less a serious and secret undertaking that another selected few knew of. Not only was this a confidential act, it was also a desperate one…

    But nothing was more worrisome than the urgent necessity for medical support… The Amaji woman looked over at her team leader, who quietly gazed back at her. He knew what she was hinting him to do, but the young man shook his head. Desla shrugged, gesturing him to act - to finally tell the Vjel-Amaj or the Darugis that they need serious medical support.

    Yet, he shook his head. It was too dangerous for the survivors. Their revelation would only spark serious trouble. With them being here and instable, the Corsari would figure their existences… and end it instantly. Even if the Vjel-Amaj were to sneak them in under the nose of the flotilla, this secrecy already would greatly jeopardize the trustworthiness of the Amaji faction.

    Torbin was just as worried about the survivors as she was. So were the other few Amaji SAT operatives. The Amaji team leader still had the head of the female Nebuli Somtaaw upon his puffy lap. Even Desla still held the hand of the male Somtaaw who had actually already deceased…

    The Amaji woman noticed how Torbin at the other end of the zone looked up and mumbled something. His lips spoke clearly…

    Where are you… Hurry up… We desperately need you, more than ever!


    ***

    = Darugis carrier interior - Hjorndal - Vessel loading bay =

    Meanwhile…

    For now, the Amaji with the pale short hair had no time to waste. Pressurization had stolen much time already and she was very nervous if she was going to miss the person she desperately needed to talk to. Unfortunately for her, she had no time to talk to the new Corsari lord, First Hanjur or any other Corsari.


    The enigmatic Corsari lord did not even care about her or her blathering. Nothing but an ignorant and careless disregard of her presence. But for now, she had to take it as things were, that she had yet a lot to learn about this strange space-faring culture… and that her help was desperately needed elsewhere.

    The actual pressurization process was quite nauseating for the poor Amaji. The difference between these two vessels was quite intensive. For her being foreign to both, this did not make things easier. Yet this young Amaji woman had a serious task to do.


    Mechanical sounds occurred along with corsarsk voices announcing what apparently seemed to be the confirmation that the pressurization had been completed. Three armed Corsari guards and many servitor crewmen quietly waited for the heavy airlock to open. Everybody, including the Amaji operative held themselves ready, as they were soon to cross the border from zero-G to artificial gravity.

    Once the secured airlock finally opened, the Amaji floated forward until she fell to her knees -- already having forgotten that she was entering a gravitated region. Running was impossible, for she felt how her legs somehow wobbled awkwardly as she tried to speed up her pace. Her balance was also out of phase.

    Although it was assured that her muscles would not degenerate, it was clear that her body did change. She also noticed it was harder to breathe than usual and that her body was indeed stressed not only by the desperate situation, but also by the sudden effect of gravity.

    Osna had no time to rest… People's lives were depending on her. Splitting away from the Corsari group, she rushed into the darkness, keeping her hand on her ear as she had set her radio unit to distance pinging upon a specific location of that specific person.

    ***

    Almost seven minutes later

    The group of some twenty people walked back through the darkness, quietly talking about the last day and other events, when they began to hear a panting person approaching them from behind. Guided by two members of Gaalsiidim clans, they made their way through the nocturnal maze. The few groups that were onboard the Hive corvette and other vessels of the flotilla had either met up with each other or made their ways directly back to their respective ships.

    Everybody seemed to have enjoyed their field trips -- all but one. Sunoga walked quietly moved alongside and slightly behind the group. She did not say a word as she was quite annoyed of the fact that Quan was not even insisting to talk to her. The Amaji woman did nothing but gripped the straps of her backpack with subtle anger.


    Even more, the Amaji astronaut had all his attention upon that Sjeti cultist girl who had shown up prior to their departure to accompany them. It stung her eyes like salt.

    The Amaji astrogation operative was quite annoyed of Kitaiiku's presence. Sunoga was quite sure this was some sort of scheme of Pethera by sympathizing with Quan. Unfortunately, practically all of her assumptions found no evidence as most of the topics the two spoke of was harmless.

    The intelligible Sjeti girl merely spoke on the same wavelength with the Amaji astronomer, who was still amazed of her knowledge about numbers and astronomy. Kitaiiku even listened carefully to his interests about planets and their existences. The two even discussed even about theories of specific planets and the six other colonies of the Amaji constellation.

    Kitaiiku, though certainly the arrogant type of girl as revealed by her raised chin and interlocked hands behind her back, kept a disgustingly close proximity to Quan. That damn girl just would not get off his back. But nothing was more annoying than the fact that Quan was nowhere near being disgusted by the Sjeti's presence. On the contrary, he was pretty much not even caring about this possibly being a scheme of the slithering Pethera.

    What the… There it was again -- or not?, the annoyed astrogation operative thought. This was the second, perhaps even the third time Sunoga had noticed an unusual event that was so subtle that even she had trouble to actually sense it. But the fact that this had occurred more than once, she was now aware that it was indeed not a random event.

    At times, Sunoga noticed a gentle bump right upon the side of the Amaji man by the Sjeti girl. At first, Sunoga thought it was just a random encounter due to the minor obstacles of this dark world. One could assume that that was the case, but after a while of lesser and even lesser things on the obscured floor, it became clearer that this was intended. And nothing made it clearer than the timely precise reoccurrences. Apparently, the Sjeti cultist's inner clock was precise to the smallest nanosecond.

    Before Sunoga insisted to bud into the group, she and others began to hear a hasty approach from behind.

    [CENTER]*[CENTER]


    "W-Wait! Wait up --!", the exhausted voice of a woman shouted many times.

    The person happened to be out of breath and it was certain that she had been running through the dark for quite some time. It took several moments until the woman had finally reached them. She wore a familiar jumpsuit, much like the other Amaji.

    "O-Osna? Is that you?", Quan asked with a wondered tone in his voice, "Is something wrong?"

    It took her much time to catch her breath. She coughed so many times that one almost thought she was about to cough her lungs out. She wove at them that she was all right but needed some time to simply catch her breath. Osna's voice was still too hoarse.

    The Hiigaran doctor, Jonas, came to help her. However, instead of letting him examine her, she whispered something several times in his ear, urging him to stay with him. Jonas looked at her with a concerned gaze, but finally insisted to stay longer. Ultimately telling Quan, Sunoga and the other operatives to continue on to the Vjel-Amaj without him, both Jonas and Osna were soon left alone.


    The doctor immediately noticed that something was not all right. Even after the short wait, he had noticed that the Amaji woman was not recovering. Though Amaji were not known for endurance, quick recovery was still a notable trait in their physiology. Their recovery rate was unique and unlike the gruffer Hiigarans stature. However, this young woman was nowhere near recovery. The Hiigaran doctor immediately began to examine her by hand.

    "All right, Osna. Listen. I don't know what this is about, but your health may be in danger. You've been exposed in a different air pressure and zero-G environment for almost a day and now you're moving through an active gravitational field. The breathable air of this vessel is very complex and requires a lot of time to get used to for Amaji people. Your pulse rate is far too high and I don't want to even guess your current blood pressure -- please, you need to calm down and --"

    But the Amaji grabbed his shoulders, urging him to listen to her, "N-N-No time for long explanations, Doc-- Doctor. *haeh* I -- I mean, we need your help! I'm not making this up. You must come with us *gasp* to us, I mean. Torbin and the others need your help!"



    "W-What? I don't know what is going on, but I will call an EMS at once", the Hiigaran said and grabbed his radio; but the Amaji immediately snatched his hand.

    "No-no-nononononono!", she denied like a machine gun," *pant* Don't -- for the love of gods… DON'T!", Osna cried, and dragged his arm, "W-We have to go somewhere in that direction. I've already pinged their location. We need to go there, now!"

    "Osna, now calm down", he urged her, "If there is a serious medical emergency happening, then I must call for help. It is my duty and --"

    "As… As a medical doctor, I must remind you of your oath of silence -- Please… This is a serious matter… n-nobody must know of this. Nobody. If they do, people will die, doctor -- You've got to trust me… believe me!", she begged him.

    The Hiigaran doctor had no idea what to do. Osna was so emotional that she was even on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He could sense it just now. It was clear that Jonas was confused and lost between understanding what she was trying to say, or hide, and the fact that there was indeed a medical situation.

    This was no hoax. This was real… and she meant each of her words. But nothing disturbed him more than the fact that lives were apparently at stake and that they would perish if he would maintain silence and come along. This was not a prank either. The man began to hate the fact about everybody keeping secrets. It was already bad enough how many he had to keep alone for being a medical doctor who had sworn the oath.

    But her eyes were so determined. It was as if his decision and act was crucial between life and death, and that the whole fate was also depending on her. Jonas could feel it. It was not the first time he was staring into the eyes of a desperate woman.

    Jonas took a deep breath and lifted his chin…


    *****

    = Vjel-Amaj - Sickbay, recovery section =

    *JOLT* -- *SLAP*

    She froze and held her breath. The underside of her hand had landed upon a strong grip upon her left shoulder and it took her another second until she figured that she was not in danger. She realized that the dream - or nightmare - was no longer happening. The hand was large. The bone structure was hard, somewhat similar to hers.

    The skin itself was much rougher and hairy than her hand. She recognized the hand of a trusted fighter… and clan brother. The gruff behind her did not mention a word but stared forth upon the third person that was resting before them.

    Although there were two other people recovering, they were just as dormant as the person of their focus. There was a lot more activity outside of the

    She inhaled once more and looked around as she was indeed lost for this very moment. The air was cool. She found herself sitting upon a seat, slowly straightening her sore back from the slumped position. It was clear that she had fallen asleep due to exhaustion. The tough woman moaned and rubbed her eyes. Even though the lighting of the small area was dimmed, the light of the nearby screens still stung her eyes.

    Despite all, her minor complaint seized when her eyes fell once more upon the dormant being in front of her. It was another woman with chestnut brown hair.

    A plastic mask covered her mouth. The chest slowly raised and fell. The blanket and light straps assured her warmth and security in case of the loss of gravity. Veins of cables and infusion lines were riddled beneath the blanket. Lifesign displays revealed that the patient was stable.

    <I… I fell asleep during guard>, Beii said with an annoyed voice in Clan-Turanisk.
    <Do not worry. We all have been guarding for more than a day. We are in safety, clan sister>, Dreiik explained, <I think even now that we do not need to chant our clan duties. We are no longer with the clanship or on dangerous missions after all.>

    The tall Turanic maintained his hand upon her shoulder as they stared upon her.

    <I did not quite understand these Amaji'keii healers *bah*>, she silently explained, <I don't understand them at all. Damn this Galactic Commons.>
    <Said by the one who said that we would never use -->
    <Shut up.>

    Beii figured that the clan brother behind her formed a smile.
    <My en'keii is apparently recovering. The operations cured most of her deep injuries. I am amazed how much punishment she was capable to withstand. I assume we can thank the strong blood.>
    <I did not know you actually believed in the blood chronicles. Would be the first time to hear pious words from your lips.>
    <I don't, dren-ki. It is just that I was -->

    The turanic woman did not end her sentence.

    <It is not weakness to be concerned, clan sister, let alone to be concerned of a member of a clan or drop a line of blood for such… Let alone for one's very own en'keii who is very much blood of our own.>

    Again, Beii did not say a word but just stared ahead.

    <Our past and present are riddled with terrors and battles for survival. We have lost many warriors of our clanfleet before. Even I am… concerned… which is quite rare for such of our bloodlines>, Dreiik added, <I still wonder if our clanship has survived the battle between the Vaygr, the Taiidans and the Kadeshi of Curse.>
    <So do I…>, she quietly whispered.


    He felt a slight vibration from his hand, obviously hinting that his clan sister had grumbled. She lifted her head before speaking forth.

    <From what I understood from these foolish Amaji'keii, she had been operated and… or was it more-than-once… I don't know. I just know that she has been under the healer's hands for many, many times and hours. They have remedied her of deep bloods but now, as obvious as it is, she must endure a battle on her own. And it is battle where her blood'keii must survive and recover without our support in her shadow…>

    The taller turanic scoffed lightheartedly before responding, <I am still surprised about your concern. Don't misunderstand me. She is our clan and blood sister. She is one of us. But her acceptance to our clan many cycles before was not like this. I still have not gotten used to you being so -->

    The sudden sharp gaze from below dared him to end that phrase. But it then calmed, and turned back upon the Taiidan woman.

    <She is one of us. I don't care how we or I acted against her in the past. She is one of us - for good>, she explained with a firm voice.
    <Blood's truth.>
    <Blood's truth… Look at her eyes. They are moving even though they are closed. The Amaji'keii say her mind is wandering. I doubt it is pleasant vision. I even heard her mumble something that made me believed she had awoken. She twitches at times, too. Her life-signs have been slightly elevated ever since and I can even smell her. It is like as if she is reliving terrors as we speak.>

    Dreiik had noticed the faint trace ever since he entered this small dark area. It was the smell of fear, but also a smell they could identify as Delophane's fragrance. Their clan bloodline was known for having heightened senses.

    <Beii. Did you manage to listen to the talks of the Amaji'keii and their leader?>
    <No. I could not stand listening any further to them - or that dren-ki bastard soldier…>
    <I must share you that our efforts will be required again. Their leader wishes to train their weaker bloods as the Nebuli Somtaaw are a threat that they must confront with willpower.>

    <What? That is nonsense>, Beii noted, <You saw them on the field. They were supportive, no doubt, but they were too frightened. Training them won't do much either. Granted, even I was concerned about our survivals against the enemy.>

    <Delophane's relentless bravery is what almost got her killed. We cannot teach those weaklings that.>
    <I think this will be worth it. Their leader is developing a serious plan, Beii. And I think it is something that we should be part of.>

    <And what do the other clan brothers and sisters think of? Our Lieutenant officer is in an endless sleep right before us. She would normally know where to guide us - but without her? What shall we do?>

    <You are her en'keii, Beii. After all. It is plausible that -->
    <You know very well that I do not care about those military traditions, let allow what they call command.>

    Beii was right, and Dreiik knew it, for she was a cunning loner. She was a very efficient fighter who worked alone, staying at the edge of a battle or taking directly on adjacent enemies. But in terms of command, she was quite lousy as she never really cared much about the others. Not many other Turanics of their clan actually had command experiences.

    The two knew that Delophane was a very special Taiidan and officer. She became more than just being some dreaded taiidan liaison officer who the allied Tenreii thought they could use to manipulate the Turanic clanfleet. Over the few decades, they began to understand that they would only survive if they were to work together; Delophane's keen mind and the Turanic's focused aggression made them into an unpredictable force combat unit. But without this clear mind, only chaos remains…

    <Whatever>, she scoffed, <I suppose we are to just train along. I don't care about those foolish Amaji'keii or taking lead of the clan. We're just going to train along - to stay sharp. Bet these fools will someday want us to obliterate Somtaaw hulks again. *sigh*>
    <They also examined the pistol. Don't worry, I made sure it remained undamaged and that they would preserve it. They assured me, uh… Nun-invarziv-skanz… Whatever… They want to examine it to see if they can discover how come her honor pistol was so effective the most resilient of all foes.>

    <Keep sure that they do not do anything to that pistol. You know how much it means to Delophane's life and honor>, she explained with a firm voice, <I must make sure that these dren-ki reapply her suit. It would devastate her if she were to awaken without it.>

    Dreiik was never sure why she never removed for ages. Of course, there were times she would, but other than that, she had always been wearing it. They say it had become her second skin, yet she fears to remove it for some reason…

    <The flotilla will be jumping this day's cycle. We must be ready and recuperated.>
    She stared back upon the Taiidan's body, <I don't care. They have their duty, we have ours. Recuperate if you and the rest of the clan must. I will stay here.>

    <Beii.>
    <What?>
    <It is likely that the leader is insisting to transfer us elsewhere other than this ship for the training effort. I suggest you to rest, clan sister. I sense the next task will not be easy - as usual.>

    Dreiik turned away and left without saying goodbye.

    As usual…


    *****

    = Vjel-Amaj - Former quarters of Captain Quenton Soban =


    The Nabaali commander had been sitting on this seat for almost two or three hours straight. The troubled man did nothing but kept spinning and moving the special flash drive in his hands. It was a small piece of technology that was full of information and privileges of such utter importance that one would immediately stick into the nearest interface.

    But Orelis refrained from doing such. There was so much power and information dwelling in this little thing that it merely stunned the body and mind. Over time, the Nabaali had gained command of this vessel, but predominately, he was still just an acting Commander until he would finally stick this digital key into the administrative interface; either within this room or the bridge.

    The man had not even seen the bridge for the last day. It was pretty much the first time he was not fleshly present at the bridge. As for now, the Nabaali relied on his subordinate officers who did their jobs well as he relayed various commands to them. Furthermore, the need of talking to each executive of the flotilla and other people practically anchored him in this supervisory room of the former captain.

    Orelis stopped spinning the small drive and looked around. The quarter was well lit for an executive room. The fixed desk he sat at was sophisticated with consoles and other concealable hardware that dealt with the ship's interior and exterior affairs. Minor and medium priority messages kept coming in.

    In fact, the Nabaali was lucky and fortunate that his actual command was not needed and that he and the main shift were actually on recuperation phase. The flotilla was preparing for the first hyperjump through unknown territory…
    The man finally let go of the small drive, placing upon the center of his desk and leaned back. His nabaali uniform jacket was upon his seat along with the dormant shoulder radio. He sighed. He actually did have some time of rest, in a very short and unusual manner. Though it was most certainly not a real and long healthy sleep, he was sure he had enough time for it.
    Lastly, the man looked at the console to his side and stared upon the current time.
    *

    [i]A notable chime occurred… After a pause , it occurred again…

    When Orelis heard the tone again, he found himself in a slightly slumped position in his chair. Taking a deep breath as he rearranged his seat in his chair, he frequently opened his eyes wide open and rubbed his face.

    What was that…?

    The tone occurred a third time. It was a familiar sound but the man was quite lost as his mind was still quite confused and empty at the same time. Shortly after, he heard a tone along with a scratch from his radio, followed by a voice as it was set to conference mode.

    ""Operative Huseri to Commander Nabaal.""
    Finally getting grip of his mind, he used his left hand drag the shoulder radio from the edge of his seat and pressed the specific key. He moaned before answered.

    "What."

    ""Greetings, commander. I have guided Captain Miur and Major Athaniell Delixa to the captain's quarters as ordered for a personal discussion. Sub-Lieutenant Drayson is with us as well. You seem to be within the captain's quarters already, yet have not responded. Sir, is it possible that you left your unit at the designated quarters -- or is the door unit not audible and functioning?""

    "Wh-What? You're in front of this room? I told you that the meeting should be at 0500 board time."
    ""S-Sir? It is… 0503 board time.""
    "W-What?!", he grumbled and looked at the console.

    It was indeed that time; the screen actually flipping the fourth minute just now. It was clear now that he had actually fallen asleep -- almost for an hour, and he had not even noticed it! However, his mind was clear now though his body was quite strained by the awkward position it took while slumbering.

    "Uh. Right. Yes, yes, I am already at these quarters. I just, uh, was not paying attention and -- No, I have my radio unit. I was just too busy dealing with things here. You may enter", he stammered and ordered.

    ""Very well, commander. The door, however, is sealed on your side and requires your admittance…""

    "Right… Right. I will open it. Just let me end this thing I'm doing right now. Orelis out. *Sigh*"

    ""See your soon, sir. Pride.""

    When the commline ended, the Nabaali leaned his head towards the back and felt how the neck muscles enjoyed a moment of stretching. Without wasting any more time, he stood up and put on his uniform jacket; arranging it yet keeping it open.

    "All right, you may --", he said loudly, but then reminded himself to access the small panel on the desk to open the door, "-- enter."


    "Gentlemen…", Orelis greeted and saluted them.

    A small uniformed group of men entered the room. They saluted back to him before taking random seats. The imperial major, Athaniell Delixa, wore an Amaji operative jump suit that was not quite his size as the largest Amaji size was not sufficient. The injured strikecraft pilot was still limping, but one could easily sense improvement and that he was on his way to recovery.


    Drayson had a slightly different hairstyle. The young man looked quite lively and tucked his uniform before finding a spot to sit down. The guiding operative sat down as well, and operated his media pad, most likely checking out his next tasks.

    Orelis was the last to sit down, who had placed himself behind the sophisticated desk again, "I wish to apologize for the wait. I was preoccupied with internal affairs."

    The operative made a faint snort. The nabaali looked at him, but the young Amaji lowered his head, messing forth with his tablet pad.

    "That would be all, operative. Please wait outside."
    "But --"

    Orelis stared at the operative with an annoyed gaze until he left.


    "Honored, commander", Miur added, "I must say, this is a fine vessel. I am glad I am able to see it from the inside, for a change."

    It was more or less the first time the lance and frigate captain was actually onboard and inside the renowned Vjel-Amaj cruiser. Orelis looked over at the young man.

    Alike Amalia Tegron, Miur DaCowl Amaj was a young yet one of highest ranking Amaji officers in command of a military vessel. Due to the fact that the Kiith Amaj Navy lacked initiative and integrity to effectively field the larger vessels, the navy was forced into applying unusual yet vital small vessel fleet doctrines. Currently, multitudes of frigates were serving throughout the Amaji constellation.

    He wore a white uniform with blue stripes and schemes. Unlike the uniform of Orelis and others, frigate uniforms were more or less semi-astronautic due to the fact that a frigate was by far not as resilient as a cruiser; even lesser like a sophisticated one such as the Vjel-Amaj. In any case of emergency such as decompression, he would be able to fit an emergency helmet. However, such uniform was much like a sealed Amaji jumpsuit that could support life for a limited amount of time as space would deteriorate its integrity.

    Since this was a secure environment though, he had removed sealed gloves as well as other uncomfortable things of the suit. Fortunately, Miur was quite mature and calm-minded; much differently than the frantic Amalia Tegron of the Sebun-No escort frigate.

    Despite all terrors and such, one could assume he was like a young Quenton Soban - cool-minded and always subtle and reliable. There was no doubt that Miur was one of the first greatest officers to rise into command of a frigate. The young man removed his officer's cap. He had short dark brown hair as well as dark eyes. His stature was more or less the Amaji average.

    "I have to thank you yet again for your service to the kiith, Captain", the Nabaali began and saluted once more, "and of course to you, Imperial Major Delixa. Especially you. I know we had a long talk, but I cannot emphasize on just how much we are in your debt… We dragged into this mess… and yet, you came to support us and even assure the return of all our strikecraft wing - while almost getting killed yourself. I promise you by my word that you will receive the appropriate attention once we get you back to where you belong. The Hiigaran Navy won't be able to ignore this as stated by kiith laws."

    "Serving the pride, sir. The only way for the kiith to prevail in these dark times", Miur said.

    "I'm more than flattered, Commander Nabaal", the Hiigaran gave a light salute, "It was a genuine experience… and it also shed some light on the secluded life of my lost sister. The more I interact with you and this crew, the more I am understanding that this had become her homeworld… No wonder she disappeared and decided to never come back. She found a new family here."


    Indeed…

    "You should have seen her while she was younger and just becoming a Lieutenant helmswoman..."
    , the older man replied; subtly hinting about the times of the violent Hiigaran-Vaygr war,
    "A lousy young lady in a dangerous age… Strangely, Major, I've been so long with her that I must tell you that she is just as much as a mystery to me as for you. And I am willing to share this, but for now, we must talk about other things."

    Athaniell nodded.

    "Before I talk with you", the Nabaali said and looked over to the frigate captain, "Captain Miur said that there was something urgent to discuss."
    "Sir?", the young Amaji said and paused.

    The pause went into a longer phase of silence.

    "It is all right, captain. The Major is a part of this crew now and he is a senior officer after all. He deserved our trust already."

    "Of course. Apologies for my hesitation. Commander. Major. I want to inform you of a matter I discovered throughout my crew. It is a minor one… but I have greater worries about my second discovery -- though it is a more of an assumption."

    "Go on. No beating-around-the-bush now, captain."
    "Very well. Sir, I noticed word going through my crew that they are concerned about our situation and the Kiith Amaj. Although neither my crew nor Captain Tegron's crew took part in the conference of yesterday, word has still slipped through. Various topics greatly disturb them",
    Miur explained carefully as he took a comfortable position upon his seat,
    "The situation of the pirate power vacuum in Amaji space has struck some fears in our crews, predominately in Tegron's Sebun-No crew. Your Marine Corporal was right about something we were not aware of, at all. Our kiith will be entering a dangerous age of terror… and we are light years away.

    Which brings me to the next point - though that one is quite obvious… We do not know where we are - and we are about to sail through stranger tides. My navigator joined me yesterday and he is greatly worried that we are farther off course than we can imagine. He has not proof, but ever since the flotilla finished the spherical star map, he was practically devastated. I am sure we do not need to reiterate everything of yesterday, so I shall focus on tomorrow."


    Orelis crossed his arms as his back met the cushion of his seat… Drayson leaned forward while placing his elbows upon his knees.

    "Commander, Sub-Lieutenant. I do not know how to say this, but I wish to warn you about something. The flotilla itself is certainly a stressful task to maintain but I have a dreaded feeling that there may be something boiling right beneath our feet."

    The Nabaali officer made a sudden yet gentle and self-assured scoff, "Don't worry, Captain. We already know about the Corsari and Viir-Bror Somtaaw situation. Something is going on and I don't like it at all. We're talking about further executions and harassments behind the back of the new Corsari First… and we will investigate that. ASAP. In fact, I already consulted --"

    But the lance captain shook his head, "No, sir. I am not referring to the Viir-Bror Somtaaw and the Corsari. Yes, that is a serious matter as well, but I am about something else. I am referring to our vessels, our Kiith Amaji ones."
    "What?", Orelis replied and raised his eyebrow.

    "I had a very personal conversation not only with my navigator but another operative crewman who happens to be a low grade support operative.
    Sir, I don't know how it is on the Vjel-Amaj, but I have discovered only recently that support operatives are a common target of harassments throughout my crew -- not only this, it turns out that this is actually the common reality within the shadows of many vessels of the Kiith Amaj."

    Athaniell was not sure about what this was about, but as he quietly noticed the Nabaali's reactions, he slowly began to understand that this was perhaps indeed a serious matter to be aware about.
    The Hiigaran major was actually amazed himself about the Amaji and their unified common sense of being an independent kiith - but now that he is listening this, he slowly began to understand that even he was blind to see this. Nonetheless, he only met this kiith and vessel just days ago.


    "I am not sure if you know about it, so do please stop me if you do… but support operatives are considered inferior to many Amaji, sir. Even before their entry to their duty for the kiith - They have always been in the shadow of majority who are more fortunate with their natural talents. You know that the Amaji population is full of bright minds - but even in our small and new society, there are such who were not as fortunate. The sightings may be rare at the moment, but I assure you… they exist.
    We are talking about such harassments that one can compare with how it was during the times of the breeding grades and how any individual was selected and forced to a specific class of the imperial society. There is slow yet growing… I dare say, segregation… slowly splitting the crew. I thought this to be a minor thing of the crew but after speaking with my navigator, I am now certain that this is like a tumor.
    However. Do please allow me to remind you that these are just assumptions, but as you may know, sir, we frigate captains are very close to our crew as it is much smaller, tighter and less comfortable than a vessel like this one. I cannot prove my assumptions with true evidence. And there are some things even a frigate captain cannot do for his crew"

    , Miur took a very deep breath, as if he was about to force himself into a topic that was quite unpleasant,

    "Lastly, sir… I must also warn you about the Sebun-No. Word has it that my lance sister has had a lot of conferences of her own with her crew. I do not want to bad mouth the frigate captain who is not present. It is already a shame that I am talking about her here and now without her being present.
    Commander. Even if she is a personality to deal with, you must know that she is still a sharp-minded captain. Even if she may be frantic at times, she and her crew are a very special team… and she is an officer one should not deem as a weakling…"

    "I have my head about Tegron, DaCowl. I do not need to worry much about her. I know how to put her at her place."

    Somewhere, Miur wanted to add something, but he felt that the Commander knew what he was doing and that he took Amalia Tegron as a person seriously. But there was also a slight feeling that the Nabaali was not quite taking her that seriously, either.

    "Captain. What about your crew? How are they?", Drayson asked.

    "Oh. They are all right, other than what I had mentioned about internal affairs. Although life on a frigate is tight and tough at times, we are all looking forward to the exploration hyperjump. The earlier we start FTL, the faster we will find our way back to our homeworld."
    "… Agreed."

    "Anyhow. I thought I should share this matter in person, Commander. I should be heading back to my ship."
    Orelis lifted his hand, "Captain, you just got here. Why the rush?"

    The Amaji frigate captain looked around, stood up and place his officer's cap upon his head before answering, "I don't know, Commander… This is not my ship. Maybe it is too big. I don't know. Permission to disembark and return to my ship, Commander", and engaged a military stance.

    The Nabaali saluted and nodded, "Dismissed, captain. Thank you for your visit."

    "Pride. To all of you", the young captain said, saluted to all and left the room.

    *

    Orelis did not say a word to the other two young officers at first. Before he insisted to continue, he took another deep breath.

    "*Sigh* All right, gentlemen. Major. Sub-Lieutenant, the reason I brought you here, is because I have assignments for you. While Drayson here may not have a choice, you, Major, must tell me if you are insisting to take on this task as this will most likely be an ongoing dangerous one."

    Drayson and Athaniell looked at each other before looking back at the commander.

    "I suppose it would be easier to start with me, then, Commander", the Hiigaran Major replied, "What is this assignment about?"

    Once again, the Nabaali leaned back into his seat and turned away, pondering as he began to explain, "Major. Your service to this crew was more than extraordinary. You served this ship by your own will even though you know that we are indirectly -- no… directly responsible for what happened high above Hiigara just three days ago.

    Even so, you insisted to support not only this vessel and me, but save the lives of many people beyond - especially those of our more or less novice strikecraft wing. Now. What I am about to ask you is something I am truly not proud about. In fact, I'm more than disgusted about what I am about to ask you for."

    The Imperial Major raised his chin, "Commander Nabaal. I suppose you are insisting to inaugurate me to this kiith vessel?"

    Drayson figured that this was going to happen sooner or later…

    "Yes and no, Major Delixa. You see, it is solely against my honor to be demanding an imperial major to support this vessel. Just because we have a serious necessity does not mean that we must force or beg you to help us for the greater good, as the Corsari would say. I am nor Corsari, and neither will I even demand you to participate.

    I have indirectly sworn to Hailynn that I will bring you and your younger sister back to where you belong. You and Herris need to --"

    "Sir, her name is Hesken. Herrintine, [i]or just Herris, is an older sister of ours of the clan who is also serving in the Hiigaran Navy."
    "Ah, yes. Hailynn told me about her. What unit?"

    "The Fourth Armada…"
    "I heard little about that one. Too much happened as the war was entering a desperate age…"
    "Most of it has been obliterated in the final stage. After Hiigara was rescued by the intervention and emergence of the progenitor Amaji colony vessel and the resulting victory, the remaining units of the Fourth Armada dispatched with several FTL-capable vessels to a region where the Pride-of-Hiigara had received intel on another final scheme of the Vaygr who did not agree to surrender.
    Nobody knows what happened ever since… I fear things just went wrong, just like what happened with these Nebuli Somtaaw guys just a century ago…"


    Orelis nodded, "I understand. I am certain she is all right."
    "All due respect, sir, but what makes you think that."
    "She's a Delixan, Major, just like you. And her name begins with an 'H'…"

    After a moment of silence, the two began to chuckle for a short while; with Drayson not actually catching the joke.

    "Heh. Good one, Commander… Listen, sir. I think it is for the greater good to support your crew. Over the time, I discovered that this vessel and kiith is so different that what I ever encountered. Even if your acts were indeed terroristic… I already discovered that Hailynn and the rest of you were forced into this dreaded situation -- and the Nebuli Somtaaw matter was something that nobody could have foreseen.
    Sir. I am strikecraft pilot and imperial major of the Hiigaran Navy. Even if I were to deny this with all the rights I may have, it would be wrong. Your crew proved me it is worth fighting for them - and if lost sister found this kiith and crew to be her new family, then I am pretty much part of, it too. My name may not begin with an 'H', but let's just say that girl names don't stick well with the Delixan men."

    After yet another hesitant pause, the Nabaali man formed a faint smile, "Very well. Thank you, Major. Your duty will of course not go unnoticed and I will make it official that you are to support us as a Liaison Officer, Special Grade, to ensure that the Hiigaran Navy will not punish you for cooperating with us terrorists - even if Hailynn's head is the one they are actually hunting, I will ensure you and Hesken will return safely and without any stains on your reputations.

    Lastly, as I said before, my strikecraft wing is quite green behind the ear. While they actually finally experienced real combat, it was still their first run - and a desperate one. Regarding that case, I am insisting to only ask for your service as a strikecraft pilot predominately for instructing these young pilots.
    I will not deliberately dispatch you as the man for the hour all the time through. Nevertheless, while I take care of the privileges, you can assume yourself now as the supervisory officer of the Vjel-Amaj strikecraft wing."


    "Honored… but… supervisory officer? What about the Lieutenant Colonel Manaan, sir? There is no way I can just take command like that away from her. She's Manaan. She --"

    "Major. Colonel Manaan lost her flight status due to her status of… well, being blessed. Chief Medical Doctor Jonas has revoked her flight status for the fact that she is pregnant. No arguments about it. The life of her child foregoes everything, even that of a Manaani warrior. It won't be easy for her to cope with that matter… and there is a lot more about this venture that will be probably the most difficult matter in her entire life.
    As for now, we can only support her and wish her the best. Right now, you are now the man everybody will be looking up to. Don't worry, you will not be alone as she is certainly to be on your tail while you're walking through this ship."

    "Shouldn't be that hard. I've dealt with Manaani before, women of course."

    "Not this one… This one was banned from the Manaani Enclave, Major. Not this one… This one is different…", Orelis lastly noticed.

    "Oh… Hoo boy…"

    *

    "Which brings me to you, Sub-Lieutenant. Your task is probably not going to be much easier either."

    Drayson woke up from his daydreaming, "Uh-Yes-yes. How may I serve, sir?"

    "Sub-Lieutenant. Your task is going to be a lot more complicated. At least for a day, I suppose. I have decided to dispatch my orders earlier than necessary as suggested by the Corsari Lord, Hanjur."

    "W-What?"
    "We are going to train a great portion of our operative crew and introduce them to the various aspects of marine doctrines. With the rise of the Nebuli Somtaaw forces, we cannot end up being inferior to them due to having wasted time before. If we are to survive, then we are to act now.
    That said, I am insisting to have both basic marine and weapon proficiency training be conducted. We are going not only draft men and women of this crew, but also those of various vessels throughout the flotilla."


    "Well… that sounds… interesting", the imperial major said.
    "Y-Yeah", Drayson added, "But, sir. The operatives are civilians, at firsthand. Even those who have been trained with light weapons will never be able to become marines as, say… Corporal Salico."

    "That is not point, Drayson", Orelis explained carefully; wording his intentions with determination, "Millennia of warfare has proven that battles are not won and survived by technology. It is won by those who have the will to survive. There may be many philosophies - but we will count on those that were forged by the blood of Hiigarans and Kushans.
    Nonetheless. The flotilla and I need a standing army. I don't care if we have to arm civilians. I don't care if I am pulling a martial law on everybody who is wearing the Kiith Amaji badge. We need soldiers… Brave men and women who can still support our real warriors in the heat of battle.
    It will be tough. It will be a long road… and there is nothing assuring that any of us will survive, but I will not face it any longer that everybody feels doomed due to our sorry state. We have to fight for our survival.

    Now before I start blathering walls of text, I'm getting right to the point here. Logistics operatives have already gathered a plethora of individuals of our crew. Everybody must learn the military service. This doctrinal training will allow us to not only grant the flotilla a defensive army, it will also show us who is capable of what as all individuals have slumbering talents and abilities within them.

    As said before, this won't be easy... but this will begin - and there is no way around it. History has shown that anybody, even the weakest of kiith blood, has a warrior spirit within them - or brains. However, we have no choice but to break their will and that will require the harsh world of drilling new recruits and much more…

    Regarding recruits, we have a very large cadre to train. I have already spoken with various officials of the flotilla as well as the Hiigaran refugees. They are even thankful for the chance to pay back what they assume as debt for rescuing them. They want to protect their Hiigaran-Vaygr families as well, so recruitment will be done among them as well."

    "I… understand…", Drayson said after listening to him for so long, "But what is my assignment, sir? I suppose I will need marine training too, but after all, I'm just a bridge officer."

    "Not just any bridge officer, Sub-Lieutenant. As you need rise in experience and rank, you must also participate. While I won't allow you to be broken into pieces like the rest of the recruits, I want you to take my place and act as a temporary liaison officer of the kiith onboard the Darugis carrier.
    While Captain Gridori Somtaaw has a first officer, he is sure that you can learn many things from him and the rest of his crew. The Darugis is a very old lady, but after being there, I've already discovered that it is a vessel made for survival. You will become part of their command structure, which will help you in your career. Since it has various decks and both spacious and obstructed areas, it will be the best grounds for training ground troopers.
    Assemble your gear for your stay. Don't worry too much about uniforms over there. Main areas are quite hot and you'll melt over there. Just so you know."


    "What about the Adjutant, Support Operative Velle Xoti, sir? She's more or less our superior officer as stated by her kiith status."
    "I know. And she knows that, too. As I said, I spoke to a lot of officials. She's still sees herself as a support operative", the Nabaali explained, "Velle is going to participate in this marine training. She has her personal goals."

    "Uh… O-key… then, sir", the young Sub-Lieutenant replied.

    "I will be needing you there, Sub-Lieutenant. You've proven me many times your abilities in these last days, and I am proud of it. This task will be hard, but trust me, you are just to learn how to support and serve a foreign vessel. It will be a genuine experience.
    Ensign Kelsea will maintain tertiary command of the bridge. Since we are likely to be anchoring the flotilla when we emerge, your executive presence will be useful elsewhere."


    "Understood, sir. I accept my assignment… I, uh… better start packing."
    "Very well. Dism--"

    Just as the Nabaali was about to dismiss the two men, he suddenly heard a frequency scratch that sounded not only from his radio but also from Athaniell's as well.

    Hmm. Weird.
    ""O-Operative Nakamura to Commander Nabaal.""
    "Go ahead."
    ""Sir… I think we need your attention here. We got a bit of an argument going on here and, uh… I'm sorry, sir, maybe you better get over here. <Whoa hey!> And it has to do with our navigator, Aira. You better get down here, sir.""
    "I got enough work up here, operative. If I figure you're calling me down for worthless crap --"

    <W-What?! Seriously?!>, Athaniell almost shouted; interrupting Orelis' reply, <But-- Damn it. I'm coming! Just make sure she doesn’t run off. Uh, Athaniell out.>

    <This better be good… Stand by, operative *sigh*>, Orelis said into his radio before looking at the imperial major, "All right. Seems like somebody down there requires my scarce time."

    "S-Sorry, Major. It's most likely my fault."
    "What do you mean?"
    "It's… Hesken. I don't know, sir. Looks like she's gotten herself into trouble. Intentionally! Damn it. What on Hiigara has happened to her? She's going rampart…"

    Both Drayson and the Nabaali commander raised an eyebrow and looked at each other.

    "Sir, I'm sorry. May I leave?", Athaniell grabbed his crutch, "I better get down there before she goes amok or something."
    "No apologies. I'm coming with you. Let's go."

    The two Hiigarans moved towards the exit.
    "U-Uh, wait for me…", Drayson added.
    "No", Orelis pointed at him, "Get your gear together and disembark and report to the Darugis at 0800. Get going, Sub-Lieutenant. This matter right now is on the Vjel-Amaj. Your attention is all about the Darugis now."
    The young man dropped his arms, sighed and said, "Yes… sir… En route…", before leaving the room.

    Just before Orelis sealed the room, he shortly rushed back in, grabbing the small flash drive and securely storing it inside a personal pocket before leaving again. The lights of the quarter shut down the moment the door sealed itself behind him.


    If I only had an 'H' here…

    *****
    To be continued…

    ~13600 words.

  18. #18
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Part 2 of X

    = Darugis - Airlock section to the Vjel-Amaj =

    The gleams of soft bright blue light enlightened the borderline line area of the Vjel-Amaj. Despite the Vjel-Amaj and the Darugis being of different heritages, the Somtaaw industrial carrier had the means to adapt and maintain an atmospherically secure link between two vessel.

    A mere hundred traversed through the area, transporting equipment and other goods between the Amaji cruiser and the nocturnal deck of the Somtaaw carrier. At times, single cargo loaders would transport multitudes of crates to specific locations while voices from P.A. speakers would dispatch notices and announcements.

    The area was quite lively. The many groups of conversations formed chants of echoes as the sounds ventured through the open areas of the dark deck.

    *

    Having finally reached the desired airlock sector, the large group of homecoming operatives felt relieved from their field trips to the other vessels of the flotilla. Many waves of sighs and moans of relief sounded from the group.

    Quan stopped and looked around. Most of the group made their way to the area leading to the notable Logistics Deck of the Vjel-Amaj. Armed but eased support operatives greeted the approaching group and verified their credentials.

    "Well? What are you waiting for, Quan?"

    He turned around and spotted the silhouette of a young woman who carried a duty backpack as well. The young man pinched his eyes slightly as the light of the airlock hurt his eyes. Although he could not see much of the face of his colleague, Sunoga Amaj, he instantly heard the subtle seriousness in her voice. Both were quite exhausted from the long venture through the carrier.

    "Uh, right", he said and turned around towards the robed figure behind him.

    The young Sjeti raised her head.
    "Well, Kitaiiku, it was quite interesting talking with you. I've yet to cope with the fact of your excessive knowledge about astronomy and physics. I think haven't spoken that much about planets or even those… rare discoveries you and your brother prospected. I guess I really need to learn more about you stargazers."

    "Pleasure", Kitaiiku replied with a single breath.

    "I guess we will have to wait until we can meet again. Our debate about Hiigara's seventh planet isn't over, yet", he joked lightheartedly, "Would love to talk more about various things, but this is pretty much the end of the road. With today's first hyperjump through no man's land, VJ bridge and flotilla command will be wanting our attention around the clock. *sigh* Guess it will be a while until we are granted another shore leave like this one - if you can call it that."


    After a hesitant pause, "Qu--, I mean… Operative Quan Amaj", the adolescent Sjeti cultist called, "I have a proposal to make."
    "W-What?"

    A subtle reaction occurred by the Amaji woman, unknowing for the two.

    The female cultist straightened her stance and lifted her chin after the thoughtful pause, "I have become aware of specific orders issued across the flotilla. A very large number of crewmen of various vessels will be boarding the Darugis carrier. I am not authorized to share reasons yet, but I am curious about a proposal to you -- f-for you."

    "Sure -- Well, I mean… You know, just out with it", Quan remarked kindly.

    "All astrogators and astronomers of the flotilla are obviously obliged to work together.I have discovered that our efficiency and success rating will be raised by an impressive value if we continue to unify our potentials."
    "We do make a good team. I was surprised to see us Amaji working with your guys quite well - positively meant. But I'm sure we will be always in close contact with you and others of the flotilla."

    "I wish you-- I would like to explore a closer and ongoing cooperation with you as an astronomer. As the Sren'Sjet has mentioned many times, we Sjeti are in need for those that… think differently - who are illogical, and yet logical. You have proven to me that you fulfill various criteria for me to propose the necessary mean for our success and survival"
    , the cultist explained with a delicate yet faint tone of nervousness,
    "I would like you to maintain an extended stay onboard the Hive corvette."


    "What?!", Sunoga suddenly exclaimed from behind.
    Her reaction actually surprised Quan.


    Kitaiiku ignored the woman's remark, though revealing a faint moment of intimidation, "Wh-While your supervisory status as chief astronomer at the observatory station of the Vjel-Amaj, it is important to share that the Hive and the Darugis will be conducting the primary quantum wavefront as it is too dangerous for each vessel to maintain wavefronts independently.

    Even with all vessels applying synchronized frequencies, you know very well that it is too dangerous to risk mal-synchronization, as we would never find the missing vessel again. Especially the Regausa-Maru, the Hjorndal and the Amaji escort frigates possess FTL aspects too foreign to each other - hence the imperative need for wavefront that was designed to carry more than a single vessel.

    To… cut to the chase… The Hive will be the key leader in quantum astrogation. I do not need to reiterate our objectives. The Vjel-Amaj will only be an ice breaker and it is the Hive that will guide the flotilla. Regarding this fact, I -- I mean, we require any professional assistance."

    "Wait-a-minute, you little witch", Sunoga suddenly said and darted between the two, "I think I can speak for myself. The flotilla and the Hive is well prepared enough. And now the Sjeti supremacy wants to ask us to help them? I'm calling this bullcrap. I'm not going anywhere, and neither is Quan.
    Commander Nabaal gave us orders and applied authority to Quan. We are not going to put up with you or Pethera's slithering intentions - regardless how much imperativeness you tag into your monologs."

    "I am not asking you or anybody else, Operative Sunoga Amaj", Kitaiiku replied with her iconic monotone and soft voice before looking back at the young man, "I am asking this proposal solely to Chief Astronomer Quan Amaj who is a crucial factor to success. According to Amaji and even Nabaali command structures, a chief is an independent officer, even if he or she is a mere operative.
    Thus. I am dispatching this proposal more or less a way that we require an attaché, a liaison officer, of the Vjel-Amaj. I'm sure I do not need any further convincing…"

    Even her calculations showed a notable success rate despite the annoying interventions of the young woman…

    "She does have a point, Sunoga. I will be more of a use being on the actual vessel that is providing guidance - not the ice breaker that will be bashing us through hyperspace quantum physical resistances. After all… I'm already packed up. Plus, I doubt this is some sort of scheme, you know…", Quan explained.


    "But--!"
    "Most of all, I've noticed we've all been arguing too much with each other. You and me. You and Kitaiiku. I'm sure that we all could need a break from one another. Plus, I'm already packed up. I think this is worth it."
    "You cannot be serious! It is obvious that she--"
    "I'm a chief, Sunoga, and I think that's enough. I would like you to get back to VJ and get some rest. It will be a long day as we're just hours away from the jump. Right now. I'll notify Commander Nabaal. Even if he'll be fuming, he'll know that I must do this after all. Plus, it is just temporary. Look, when we emerge, we will certainly have another exchange and I'll be back. Can't go wrong."

    "This is just wrong…"
    "Whatever, time to get your rest, operative. Pride be with you."

    The undertone in his voice was clear. After a pause, the Amaji woman leaned over, about to whisper something but held her breath. Instead, she turned away, leaving the two behind.

    "Pride. You're gonna need it, Quan."


    *****

    = Elsewhere throughout the Darugis - Secluded airlock sector =

    It appeared they were reaching the end of the journey as voices and noises sounded just dead ahead. After having walked through a maze, he followed the woman's guidance by the beacon. Just as they heard the echoes of moans and cries, the Hiigaran man in the medical lab coat instinctively raised the pace of his steps, moving faster than the young Amaji woman who followed him. Soon, his fast steps entered a jog, then a hasted dash to the end of the corridor.

    When they reached the end, the two stopped, not believing their eyes. Although the young woman knew of this, she was clearly shocked - but it was the Hiigaran doctor who was practically paralyzed by what he was seeing.

    The man spotted a group of Amaji trying to support a group of unknown people who were apparently injured.

    "W-What is going on here?!", Jonas almost yelled; his voice echoing through the large chamber.
    Several Amaji operatives looked at him, seemingly relieved of his sights.

    His guide, Osna Amaj, gently grabbed his arm, "Sir, please. Y-You need to help them!"

    She dragged him. And while there was a natural certainty that he would help them, he was clearly confused and lost.

    "I-I will help, but I must what is going on here! Who are these people?! W-Why are they injured and --"

    Before he said another word, he noticed many of these patients were almost nude and full of bruises and other visible injuries. Their gasping and moans were loud and intensive.

    "Go ahead, Osna… Tell him! We're safe here… For now…", a familiar voice shouted from further away.

    Osna looked across the small area, spotting the exhausted Torbin Amaj in his bulky astronautic suit.

    "O-Okay… Doctor. Please. You must listen now", she explained as she urged him to approach one of the unknown patients on the solid floor, "I know I have said it again and again, but you must maintain your oath of silence
    These people… They are [i]survivors[7i]. Survivors of the surge incidents. We do not know how they survived, but we know that they are dying and that we cannot save them alone. Torbin and others told me nearby that they are unable to stabilize them. We know they have been --"


    The doctor instantly shot down to his knees as he examined one of the male patients. Shortly after, he moved over a female one who was clearly more injured and critical than the others. The skilled man did several quick examinational procedures that only gave him little yet crucial information.

    Another SAT operative joined them, "-- They… It looks like they had sealed themselves in these crate-like lockers as some sort of last resort before the surging began. We cannot confirm this as all of them are unable to speak. We have provided them with water -- or whatever common sense to help them. Their containers were not sustained by power or any means of life-support either. They were quite frozen when we retrieved them. We already brought things to warm them up and so on, but they -- or at least their bodies, are not responding.

    We just lost another person just moments before you came, doctor. They need your help!"

    "Th-This is a medical emergency greater than my capabilities as medical doctor!", Jonas complained, "You all know well enough that any emergency of this level requires a staff -- a-a medical team and not a single doctor! You should have contacted the flotilla about this long before and --"

    "Doctor. They are Nebuli Somtaaw survivors. Not just any random sort."

    "Wh-What?", he calmed for the moment.
    Osna continued, "We are not sure if all of them are actually Nebuli Somtaaw, but they most of them are. We are assured that they will not act hostile. Right now, we just need to ensure their survival. We couldn't call for a medical emergency because these people are Nebuli Somtaaw. The flotilla would only interrogate and if not kill them. By the time help would be here, the Corsari would have already abducted them. You heard what the Corsari did already to the Hiigarans of the Regausa-Maru
    We had no choice."

    Jonas was about to say other word when he looked back down at the suffering young woman below. Her body was trembling and certainly aching. Various textures of blue and purple were patched all over her exposed skin. The gasps sounded humid and deeply agitated. One operative tried to keep her still on the floor but nothing could really stop the uncontrollable shaking.
    The Hiigaran doctor however remained paralyzed for almost three seconds straight. It was as if he had seen a ghost. Nobody knew that his mind was captured by reminiscences of a dead body that was exposed by his very hands many hours ago. Nobody could sense how much he was frightened by the autopsy of a female Nebuli Somtaaw specialist whose body had been punctured by various rounds.

    Suddenly, the man felt something upon his waistline. He looked down and noticed the shaking and bruised hand of the young woman. The grasp was weak and almost nonexistent and yet he felt how desperately she tried to grasp the fabric of his medical lab coat.

    Awaking from his astonishment, his common sense noticed the extremely hoarse and wet coughs emitting from various patients. Although he had a very small medical kit with basic tools, Jonas leaned down and listened carefully upon the chest of the woman before coming to first conclusions.


    "…We have no time to lose… Yes… They are dying… But I -- no, WE -- have to do something. Listen, all of you", the Hiigaran doctor called out loudly.

    All but the patients hushed.

    "These people are undergoing serious hypothermia -- freezing. That is no surprise. But there is a lot more to it, even without a full medical procedural examination"
    , he explained nervously as he pulled out his small kit featuring sophisticated yet small and typical medical tools,
    "my experience tells me they are suffering a greater problem across the board. I've had patients like these during the war… More than too many who were exposed to vacuum of space… They did not s-- Listen, all of you, listen carefully. If we want to save these people, then we have no choice but to initiate some associates of my medical staff to this situation --"


    "W-What?!", the hoarse voice of Torbin shouted, "Are you crazy, doctor?! One gossip and --"
    "No, listen! I cannot save these people alone. You are misunderstanding the facts, young man", Jonas almost barked back even louder, "Among the many injuries, one remains the toughest to stabilize! I just heard it just by listening to these people… Their lungs are already on the verge of collapsing. They are just surviving because they are using all of their waning strengths. Upon all: They can't breathe!"

    "What do you mean?! They're breathing. I mean, they're suffered a lot but they --"
    "Air does not equal air. W-Wait, you are an astronaut. You should know well enough about gas mixtures. In fact, you really do know. Think about it: These are Somtaaw -- No, Nebuli Somtaaw, people who certainly never breathed this sort of breathable gas mixture!

    Even the Amaji may feel strange or nauseated if they are exposed too long and not carefully as this is an old Somtaaw vessel. Even with the Somtaaw-name, we all know that the Nebuli Somtaaw are people from a past century. Their lungs certainly did not have the time to adapt to this environment."

    Although many did not really understand much of what he said, it was still clear that this did explain the slowly encroaching deaths.

    "Their skins have undergone severe trauma as well. Some of you may not know it but… It is also an organ. If it fails, the body fails… Keeping them warm is not enough - and if we do not provide them with the most crucial, we will fail. You all must do what I say, if we want them to survive! All of you… Now… No more time to be wasted…
    I… I understand that we cannot make this go public for the sake. I am sorry for my outbreak but you are right. If word spreads, they are as good as dead… but not if we can stop it. I won't let people slip away into their deaths just like that. I am a medical doctor… with a chance of saving lives. I don't want to see anybody to land on an autopsy table from here on.
    But we have no choice: We must contacted my medical staff of the Vjel-Amaj. M-Maybe even others of the flotilla. I do not know who of the other vessels but for now, we can count on my staff. I cannot summon all of them, but a handful must suffice. They must bring the equipment here. They… Oh no… They might even need to smuggle various objects off the vessel…
    Whatever, I will take care of this. Do we have any chance of contacting them silently?"

    "Y-Yeah, we do, doctor!", Desla shouted.
    "How?!"
    "Contact Operative Kelsea Amaj. She is at the bridge but is quietly supervising a personal bandwidth over the comms. She also is diverted more potentials to the comm-array so we can speak without too many interferences - especially now that there is radioactive static out there in space…
    She has the needs to communicate subtly. We already have Dr. Ebria Amaj hot on our tails, and we already are worried about a possible patrol coming over to us by Darugis' internal affairs.
    We haven't contacted them and we played for time for far too long. It is only a matter of time until they show up -- and if they do… We done for. Wh-Whatever may be, Kelsea will help you contact exactly those people, subtly."

    "<Subtly… *Sigh* All these secrets…> Very well. My selected staff should be able to bring equipment. We have experimental units to artificially combine air mixtures, which should allow us to produce at least some air their lungs can adapt to - that should buy us some crucial time."


    "I… I would like to remind you that there are more out there, doctor… We have at least two other SAT teams that had retrieve several other patients like these."
    "Equatorial hells… I will see that we get the gas units to them as well. As disgusting it may sound, but we are fortunate their collapsing lungs are a slow death. We must use that to our advantage to save them before it is too late."

    "Doctor, may I suggest something?", Osna suddenly asked.
    "What - but make it quick, operative!"
    "This carrier is quite big. I noticed a lot of spots that were quite safe and sound. As Desla said, we can't stay here since we've been here for far too long. My suggestion is that we try to find a spot somewhere either within or just remote of the civilian establishment. Sir, the people on this vessel are of a tribal blood. I am certain there is a small clan or family of the kiithid that respect the accommodations of those in need - and in silence.
    But among all: We should try to bring these people to a rally point that will save time. The other SAT teams should do the same. I… I could get going and try to find a place to stay."

    Jonas paused but then nodded, "That makes sense. I'm glad all of you are using your common sense."
    "What… What about our astronauts?", another SAT operative said, "Ebria is already going haywire at SAT lab."
    "Don't worry about her. I will talk to her and say that whatever medical-situation is needed to state that they must stay here… I guess we all will be staying on the Darugis for quite some time. Enough - We need to get going!"


    = Vjel-Amaj - SAT laboratory =

    Quietly moving along workstations and nodes, the lead scientist read and listened to the report of an operative who was part of the astronautic salvage team. The file itself was rather short but featured an interesting discovery. She adjusted the volume of the cordless earplug as she played the file:

    "This elongated corvette seems quite intact despite enduring hyperspace surges… and it looks like we may have found the reason. According to previous findings, most of us assumed the Nebuli Somtaaw had not the slightest chance to survive the surges. Ever since that great chunk was torn off the Nebuli carrier's flank, there was no chance that wreck could have generated any fields…

    But now, ever since we salvaged a few of these unknown corvettes, we discovered that most of them were indeed still had active power grids. Maybe people thought they could just leave the wreck - but all was too late. We don't really know.

    However. We found corpses in what seems to be like... locker storages and something else. Ever since we deactivated the power grids, we noticed a substantial drop on our equipment. The radiation was not hazardous - that was already confirmed before…

    No, the actual radiation was projected by a hyperspace module. It seems that these corvettes are not ordinary ones, which truly confirms that these are indeed for military purposes. Nevertheless, it looks like the people used the fields hoping it would protect them. But they hopes were in vain and they are all dead.

    There is only one corvette that is intact. The others are damaged and mangled beyond repair. More in-depth research is required…"

    Ebria stopped the file.
    *****
    = Vjel-Amaj - Subdeck J, minor cargo cache =


    Just as Orelis entered, he immediately moved aside, just barely dodging a random object that had flown his way. Athaniell limped into the area right after him, surprised of the noise and shouting that was happening inside. When the Nabaali stopped, he spotted two small groups trying to keep two people away from each other. Both were quite enraged and angry at each other. Surprisingly, Orelis instantly noticed the young Kadeshi standing just outside of the mess.

    The cargo cache was not quite large. Apparently, there was small handful of operatives conducting some inventory duties when this happened.

    "Can somebody tell me just what in the equatorial hells is going on here?!", the Nabaali yelled.

    Although all other Amaji seized their actions, the two were apparently still raging for each other.

    "H-Hesken! What --?!", the Hiigaran major barked.

    Hesken threw her view upon her older brother, who was shocked at what he was looking at. Several crates had been knocked over throughout the small cache. It was quite easy to follow the anatomy of somewhat moderate vandalism. It was as if a whirlwind had gone through this area.

    Both Orelis and Athaniell spotted Hesken and the other female operative who was apparently her opponent. The operative was just slightly older than Hesken in appearance, but was certainly not that strong as the smaller Hiigaran. Judging their messy hair and looks, the two had fought each other…

    "S-Sir, they, uh -- Well, that -- I'm not really sure where to start. That girl just came in here, started barking things at Operartive Marsa and then… well… cat fight. I called over a few more operatives as it was quite tough to keep hold of them with two operatives alone."
    The Nabaali commander frowned, "What?"
    "N-Not just that, Commander, it looks like the young miss was responsible for various acts of, uh, light vandalism through the Subdeck, you could say. I received reports of thing deliberately knocked over, thrashed crates that took some time to order and some eight other reports that are being investigated right now… but all point out on a young Hiigaran girl with black hair alongside an exotic girl with a cultural robe…"

    It was clear that both Hesken and Aira were meant.

    The Hiigaran girl blew thin strands of her hair away from her face, "I'm not a little girl, moron…", she then mumbled.
    "Hesken Casaiina Delixa!", Athaniell instantly shouted, "Is this true?! Are you out of your mind?! Wha-- Why -- ?!"
    , but the limping officer was not quite sure where to start as he once again made another look upon the thrashed surroundings,
    "Answer me, damn it!"

    "This sand-cursed bitch thought it was funny to give me the wrong clothes! She made fun of me giving me a boy's outfit and stuff that don't fit. She thought it was funny to see me, a Hiigaran princess of the Delixan Dynasty, humiliate herself through this ship with these clothes!"
    "Operative Marsa. Is that true?!"
    "It's not --"

    But the operative was suddenly approached by the Nabaali commander, who did nothing but maintained a long and enduring stare…

    "-- It was just a small joke!", she replied, confessing that she intentionally applied a ruse on the Hiigaran, "I shared the footages around to some friends showing her walking around in those twitchy clothes, knocking things down - tripping, being ignored by the general public as she complained around like an oh-so-noble princess in distress.
    It was quite funny -- How was I to know that people were going to share it further and even dispatch it on all screens throughout the ship like some social media thing?! But it was just a small joke - She just went rampart through the ship and then assaulted me!"

    "Throughout the ship?"
    The other operative handed a small pad, showing various scenes of how the Hiigaran girl in a very unfitting jump suit had troubles moving along. Aside to the evidential footage of her causing vandalism and knocking down carefully sorted crates, there were frequent moments of clumsiness - and the more the starring Hiigaran girl became angry, the more clumsy acts resulted. The more she roamed through the ship, the more acts of clumsiness and humorous enrage occurred. Indeed, for many, this was certainly a hit video every operative had to see.

    There was another adolescent girl in an exotic robe that aided her -- however, she was mostly a victim of awkwardness, slipping and tripping due the long drapes of her robe.

    The Nabaali tossed the pad to the operative. He had seen enough. Orelis then grabbed the collar of the young woman. The other operatives who were holding her instantly released her as the commander harshly drew her head closer to his.

    "We are at war, woman! We have no time for fooling around like this."
    "S-Sir-- please…", the other operative notified, urging him to let go of her.

    He released her and looked over at the adolescent Kadeshi who had a pale and frightened gaze. Aira did nothing but stood there.

    "Aira… From all that I just heard up to now, I still can't believe you're part of it."
    "Uh-- She did nothing, sir", the operative said, "B-But she accompanied the Hiigaran girl, silently."
    "You could've stopped her, Aira. Why did you not do anything?"

    Aira did not say a word.

    "Did you swear an oath of silence or something?! Why didn't you stop the girl from doing this, huh? "
    "Stop calling me girl, punk!"

    "Major. I suppose you need to talk to your sister."
    "Not just that, Commander. By all possible due respect and my honor -- Everybody - Please accept my deepest apologies for these embarrassing acts of --"

    Hesken merely exploded, "Are you seriously apologizing - for me?!", she was so furious that some saliva shot out of her mouth; her face boiling red, "All of you are always making fun of me. All of you are controlling me like I'm some kind of puppet! Frakk you, you sand-cursed bastards!"

    Her words merely blew the last fuse of Athaniell's mind. Instantly throwing his support aside, the limping Major approached her and grabbed her even harsher than how the commander had detained the operative. Before he said a word, the fuming Hiigaran spat some of her rage upon his uniform.

    "What is wrong with you, Hesken?!", he shouted outright into her face, "We're on this ship! We are guests! You are spitting on their honor -- You're spitting on my honor! These people risked their lives for us - and even I was out there helping that we all would survive! What is the damn matter with you?!"

    Aira became more than unease as she witnessed the harsh reactions of the Hiigaran man, as if it was awakening old memories of a recent past.

    "Everybody is against me! You! Her! Everybody! EVERYBODY", Hesken cried full of hatred, "I'm on a ship full of Vaygr! They killed us! They killed mother! How can you be breathing the same air with these monsters!"
    "W-What are you talking about?! You were just a child when --"


    "Frakk that! I'm a woman!"
    "So you freaked out just because of being woman?! You just reached the age of consent, oh-young-and-bright-princess! And your damn tongue… What in the world happened to you?! You're swearing more than any Turanic pirate I ever heard! I've been arguing almost a day long with you for things I cannot even explain --
    I can't even get why you are acting up like this! What happened to my little sister? It-It… It -It just blasts my mind that I don't know what to do. You-You just lost your mind! I don't know! You're barking around, insulting everybody, vandalizing the entire ship -- what's next?! I should have you locked up! You're practically an unnecessary evil nobody needs!
    And even if the lady over there made a damn gag, it was just a damn joke -- Are you going to kill somebody if they pull another prank next time?! We're better off locking you up - and maybe that is what I should --"

    Out of nowhere, the uncontrollable fury of a Hiigaran girl managed to free herself from the clutches of her brother, followed by a jab to the jaw and a forceful push to his chest. Due to his weakness known as his injured leg, the young Hiigaran man could not catch his balance and soon found himself tripping over once of the knocked over crates. Hesken's eyes were full of hatred and tears.

    "YOU'LL NEVER JAIL ME UP AGAIN! YOU'LL NEVER CONTROL ME LIKE AN OBEDIENT DOLL! I HATE YOU - ALL OF YOU!", Hesken ultimately cried at them with boiling blood and all the hatred she could squeeze out of her lungs, "And I won't let you captivate me like some sand-cursed animal for your amusement!"

    Ultimately, the young Hiigaran lady grabbed the wrist of the paralyzed Kadeshi, "L-Let's get out of here while we still can! We must escape them -- These-These control freaks!"


    Tears met the floor.
    Aira almost fell to the floor as she was dragged by the fuming Hiigaran. The operatives moved out of the way as she rushed to the exit whilst pulling the frail Kadeshi behind her.

    Several seconds went by and all that was left was cache full of dazed people and a mess caused by a small and unpredictable whirlwind…
    Orelis snapped out of his surprise. He was almost willing to call security to arrest the young maniac but he refrained from that intention the moment he was reminded of the Hiigaran major. Without further thought, Orelis and another operative rushed over to help the injured man up. Athaniell moaned once more.

    "Are you --"
    "I'm… fine… Commander. Th-Thanks… Listen, I'm --"
    "Major. No further word… We'll talk about this… later. As for the rest of you, help me get the major to a seat and then clean up this mess. I'll help…"

    "What is wrong with that girl?", the female operative commented.
    Orelis stood up and looked her into the eye, "Get out of my sight, operative…"


    *****

    Several hours later
    = Space… =

    The flotilla slowly cruised forward through the emptiness of space as the voice of Captain Gridori Somtaaw was transmitted to all vessels.

    ""This is Captain Gridori Somtaaw of the Darugis carrier to the rest of the Arbeta Hitol flotilla. We have concluded all preparations for the combined hyperjump event. All ships are to stand-by as we enter the last phase prior to the hyperjump.

    This will be a dangerous undertaking, flotilla. While the Darugis is a robust vessel, she is quite an old lady with a rusty FTL. It is imperative that all vessels maintained a synchronized frequency at all times. Deviating will result in a catastrophic breach of the wavefront, leading either to an uncontrollable emergence into normal space or even worse… surge. But we are confident.

    Our destination will be a star roughly one light year away and are to emerge within one HU to harvest stellar energy. All ships have already applied respective magnetic fields to shield themselves from radiation.

    I can only say that we shall look forward and strive for a better future. This may be our most difficult task in life, but all journeys of life begin with the first step. We will only succeed if we work together…

    Flotilla. Commence hyperdrive alignments and attain your respective FTL profiles. Captain Gridori, out.""



    *****
    = Darugis carrier - Main Habitat Deck =

    Darkness… Scarce lighting…
    Hundreds of men and women of various ethics talked to each other as they patiently waited for something to happen ever since the announcement of the Somtaaw captain.

    "May I have your attention, please!", the voice of a young man announced through the wide area.

    Several seconds went by until the broad wave of conversations fell to single mumbles. Everybody spotted the young man standing at a higher position. His face was obscured by the lack of lighting as the rest of the populace that stood in the area. His uniform differed


    "I am Sub-Lieutenant Nolan Drayson of the Vjel-Amaj. Following the orders of commander-in-chief, Commander Nabaal, and the rest of the flotilla, I am to supervise this special undertaking and… well… operation. I cannot talk for long as you are to accommodate and brace yourselves as fast as possible due to the upcoming hyperjump. Likewise, I must report to Darugis CIC…"

    Drayson paused and gazed into the realm filled with hundreds of people. The ages varied greatly throughout the massive groups of people. Many were young, almost too young to be part of this group while others were much older. It was clear that this was quite a very mixed group.

    "I will be honest with you", Drayson's voice echoed through the vast hall, "I wish this were not the reality, but I must fear we have no choice."

    After another hesitant pause, he took another deep breath,

    "There will be a full and detailed explanation of the procedures once the flotilla has emerged from hyperspace. However, while the entire populace of the flotilla must participate, our commanders found it imperative that no time must be lost.

    You all know what you are here for… You are mixed number of volunteers, draftees and recruits. With the startling reality of the Nebuli Somtaaw threat, we must face the truth that we do not stand even the slightest chance if we are to stay as we are.

    As Commander Nabaal and the Corsari Lord stated, we all must fear the fact that the call to arms will not rest at the hands of the very few soldiers and warriors who endure to protect us. Even if there is the slightest chance, we must be truthful that we can only survive if everybody pays the same sacrifice and bravery as these fine men and women do.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I do not need to reiterate how serious the future will be. Even if we do manage to manage to evacuate the weak, the confrontation against the Nebuli Somtaaw is inevitable.

    I shall repeat the words of my Commander, for he was not born a warrior or a man of leadership as you may think -- He was a very young and civil man when the terrors of civil war and dispute reigned through the outer kiithid enclaves. But as these terrors occurred, he had to learn how to wield a weapon - learn how to survive in battle.

    Everybody. We must do the same here. But as I gaze upon you all - and even though I am just as you are, I am confident that we all will find our ways. We all shall not stand powerlessly against the Nebuli Somtaaw..."

    Suddenly, another man appeared besides him. Compared to the young Amaji officer, the older man was of a taller and tougher stature, wearing what could be no other than the attire of brawn and battle.
    Drayson recognized this man as part of Pethera's special forces, noticeable by the military looks and the tattoos upon his muscular arms.

    "Listen up", the man with the deeper voice announced, "As this young man said, we have a common foe. We are at war - and the other side will not wince to slaughter you even if you beg to surrender. No rules. Nothing.
    My men and I have seen many battles… and wars. We survived and were forged by them. Who we really are does not matter, but it is sufficient to say that we are the mercenaries of our contractor, 'Sren Pethera Sjet. The Sren has given us the command to train you civilians.

    While the Sub-Lieutenant and his Corporal will conduct basic training with you, we will train those who are feasible for the next phase - to learn all that is needed in terms of surviving a dirty war.

    There will be a lot of explaining to do, because you all are pretty much just a bunch of softies… Let's be honest here. A wide number of you will only be viable for whatever titles those Amaji wussies will give you. No offense"

    The Sub-Lieutenant raised an eyebrow as the brute spoke forth.

    "But you're lucky. Darugis gave us permission to use the lower deck as our playground. We will enlighten you with hardware and discipline. But more about that later on once we've bounced through H-space."

    After a long pause, Drayson figured the mercenary leader meant for him to take the word again.

    "Oh -- Uh, right. As said before, we do not have enough time to go through everything now. I want everybody to get back to the accommodations ASAP and brace for hyperjump. I must head to Darugis command. Dismissed."

    *****

    = Darugis Industrial Carrier - Bridge =

    After a long while, Drayson found himself in a large bridge dwelled of Somtaaw bridge officers and suffocating heat. The young Amaji discovered that the final countdown was already in progress. He was quite surprised of the bridge's actual design as the navigational helm stations were at the rear of the area.

    Frequent commands and reports bounced alongside the ongoing countdown between the Somtaaw captain and his officers. Due to the fact that the Sub-Lieutenant arrived late, he did not have much of a chance to speak with the Captain. There would be enough time do so during the relocation flight through hyperspace.

    When the countdown reached the last thirty seconds, the entire crew began to witness the iconic persisting tremors slowly gaining on intensity. Shortly after, Drayson heard the mainframe and other minor segments sounding rumbles and clatter. But nothing was more surprising than the unusual sensation upon his body as he felt a pull from all sides. The spooling hyperdrive module began to envelope not only this vessel but all others of the flotilla.


    One of the operators from the navigational engineering station commented something, "Just a quick question - Did anybody ever get or hear anything from Alistaire?"
    Other Somtaaw operators who were standing by shook their heads.
    "Nobody? Not a message - or something? Anything? Hm…", the young man said and then quietly leaned back.

    Even though Drayson had no clue who this Alistaire-person was, he noticed the subtle wave of concern sweeping through the bridge. But nothing was more noticeable than the pure anxiety of the Somtaaw operators, who were likely just a year or two older than the average Amaji operative crew.

    Other operatives shared last flotilla specific circumstances.

    "Flotilla quantum wavefront alignment completed. Chief of Engineering confirms: All green. She's ready 'n' all yours, Cap'."
    "Vjel-Amaj has achieved full control of HWN and is at position at our bow - dead ahead at 12 o'clock . Escort frigates and both the Somtaaw and Corsari vessels are maintaining tight formation with the Amaji cruiser and are ready."

    The Amaji Sub-Lieutenant double-checked his seat harnessers before looking to the right, where he noticed another operator about to confirm another aspect of the imminent jump. He noticed the large screen revealing a wide number of both graphical and mathematical amplitudes, curves and images almost in complete harmony.

    "Flotilla-wide synchronization confirmed. Whatever is within our bubble will be coming with us…"

    He remembered a large field of debris accompanying the flotilla's retreat…


    "I hope the Regausa-Maru can keep together", one of the lieutenants mentioned, "I was on that ship for a while. She has more loose screws than our ship. I'm very worried she'll hold together… I have the feeling this jump will take some toll."
    "Excuse me", Drayson asked, "but what is HWN? I'm not into astrogational terms."
    "Hyperspatial Wavefront Navigation", the other operator of the rear helm station explained, "Technobabble for who's controlling the jump."
    "I thought hyperjumps were always a straight, oneway A-to-B event."
    "Yes, they are. But it is still a dangerous undertaking even with our reinforced wavefront shielding. We are in unknown territory and we did notice our previous jump to this location was quite unpleasant and violent. We are playing it safe this time. Should be much easier now…"
    "Yeah… Sounds good. Thanks."

    He could see how nervous they were. Drayson thought that the bridge command would have mostly older Somtaaw, but he found the opposite - despite the crew actually having more lieutenants older than the average. But it was clear that their anxiety was justified as much as his.

    Where are we? What lies ahead?
    "The projected wavefront looks very… worrisome. I've never seen it like this. It looks chaotic -- but… Well, this is it", a different operator said from the other side just before single quake, "This ought to be different."

    "Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three… Two… One…", the lead operator finally announced.

    To the stars… They say… *sigh*

    The Somtaaw Captain raised his voice and announced loudly: "Initiate FTL profile! Jump!"

    *

    = Exterior space =

    At the very moment the Somtaaw Captain announced his command to the entire flotilla, all vessels witnessed the concentration of gravitational stress tearing a dangerous hole between time and space. Several stars appeared before their bows just as they unified into a singular point, soon to expand and widened.

    Gazing into the energetic maw of the majestic hyperspatial beast, one could easily sense the anxiety sweeping through the crews that were witnessing its arrival. Matter and whatever was amidst the flotilla were immediately attracted by the irregular window leading to a dangerous and violent world…

    Visible energetic fields and static began to dance and sting alongside the hulls of every vessel. As this occurred, the irregular wall slowly began to slip upon the vessels, devouring them like a voracious snake… soon to leave nothing behind but emptiness and desolation.
    ***************

    To be continued...

    ~7300words

  19. #19
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    The voice of a young man speaks

    Personal log of acting chief astronomer Quan Amaj, liaison officer dispatched by the Vjel-Amaj to the astrogational group the Hive corvette, whilst under the supervisory command of Sub-Lieutenant Drayson Amaj and his group onboard the Ordet-Somtaaw carrier, Darugis.

    A sigh is heard.

    Yesterday - Well, it's just several hours later, but it feels like a yesterday… The Arbeta Hitol flotilla has conducted its first combined hyperjump to a unknown star with the intention to harvest solar energy for the long depleted capacitors of the Darugis. Sjet'Nij Kitaiiku explained a few things about it.

    The general plan of recharging the capacitors would allow this vessel to revitalize various industrial segments and other feasible features that would prove imperative and vital for our ongoing tasks of reinforcing our stand against the Nebuli Somtaaw threat. Although the Darugis could have done this a long time ago, it was a task proven too dangerous to undertake as non of the Somtaaw navigators ever performed a hyperjump to a star. While common physics would stop such a vessel when reaching the yellow zone of a star's gravity well alone, it takes serious calculations to make sure one can enter and leave it. As said, physics would normally stop a vessel long before getting in too deep, but there are specific ways to bend the rules just a bit. With our help, it would not be a problem.

    However… One thing just led us to another issue. Our first journey through hyperspace proved to be a challenging and if not just as wild and uncontrollable as that previous jump that had knocked us all unconscious. While we remained conscious this time, we were shaken quite well. It was hard to actually see anything. The entire surroundings were… were…. stormy -- it was like as if we had jumped right into a dislocation wave - like the one we escaped just barely some week or so ago. It was hard to see the other flotilla vessels, too, but in terms of combined hyperjumps, one does not have to worry about the emergence point. The whole flight was to take half a day, but it turns out we only remained in hyperspace for less than six. But that is the least of our worries.

    Although foreseen, communication between other flotilla vessels proved to be difficult and many dispatched messages were distorted by the obvious interferences. A different method was used to transmit messages fully, but there is a major delay to such due to the heavily encrypted codec to survive the interferences. Darugis CIC wasn't certain why the other flotilla vessels, the Vjel-Amaj specifically, had dispatched a desperate message. It was a response to a message Dr. Pethera Sjet had dispatched just prior to when things got really… really wild.

    I did my best to support her and her navigators. We did our task well, but … I don't know. Something seems to be wrong. I think. Maybe it is just pessimism. Anyways. During our flight, I was able to confirm several regional star positions to determine constellations for our navigational initiative just before were fully enveloped by major shrouds. Turns out I found some important things, not sure what, but I'll know soon enough. Mainly kept a focus on our arrays to consume all that was visible for us. But that was also when Pethera became anxious and fervently dispatched that one message.

    I don't know what she sent as it was quite noisy and shaky during the transit. She sounded deeply concerned about something even for her usual cool attitude. In fact, she sounded quite concerned. But I'll figure things out.


    We have yet to see where we landed, but judging the rumbles and such, we're surely close to the desired star. We just have to confirm our position and how the galaxy moved during our transition, but that is what the Hive's navigational computer is rendering with the Darugis mainframe systems. Should be done, very soon. We were all told to take a break as this flight was quite a wild one. I met up with the friend of mine I met here before, a Servo Engineer called Ordaan Liir-Paktu -- or just Wrench. He's a good guy.

    He doesn't know what is going on, but he heard from fellow members that something may indeed be wrong. I'm going to investigate this very soon. Speaking of which, the ship is still rumbling. There's an ongoing faint tremble. I suppose it must be the solar winds of the adjacent star tearing against our magnetic shields.

    Nonetheless, we should be right at LZ-- let's see if I memorized the classification… LZ-dash-DA-degree-889… oh, never mind. We surely emerged within 1 HU -- if not, far below it, but as far as things are, we did not melt. I'm guessing the magnetic shielding is protecting us very well. I'm sure the rest of the flotilla took a safe position nearby as a wind shield.

    But I am going to meet up with Pethera now. She had contacted me before to link up with her entourage, insisting that we and her entourage head to Captain Somtaaw and Drayson to discuss things. I don't get why everything is that tense, but we'll see soon enough.


    *****

    Part 1 of X

    Chapter 33 -
    - The Message -


    = Darugis - Bridge Command, lower section =

    After the sequence of mechanical sounds, the group heard a last short hiss of air before the sealed door began to shift open. But just as the segments began to move apart from each other, the mechanical sounds suddenly seized.

    "Oh, not again", the voice of a young man said from the other side, "Zeris, give me a hand, will you?"

    The group then spotted a pair of hands horizontally grabbing each frame and then heaves. Two people helped the pull from the inside. Within a short moment of time, the passage was more or less wide enough for each to move through. One by one, each person leaned forward slightly and moved to the other side.


    *

    The Amaji astronomer straightened his back and stopped the moment he felt a suffocating heat hitting him. The air was so thick it almost felt like he had walked against a wall. A short look around revealed that this command bridge area consisted of two segments. The group found themselves at the lower area, with several operator pools most likely dealing with internal affairs of the vessel.
    The area was certainly larger than the Vjel-Amaj bridge, obviously due to the sheer size of this carrier. It was likely that the upper area was the primary command center while this area dealt with secondary means. Like most of the ship, the areas were rather weakly lit.

    "Hey, out of the way", somebody said from behind.
    "R-Right. Sorry", Quan replied and moved to the side.

    The Amaji cadre marine, Aaron Salico, moved through the small entrance followed by several others of the group. The young marine seemed annoyed and rubbed his forehead.
    Quan quietly watched each person leaving the access lift. He spotted 'Sren Pethera Sjet and her two cultist stargazers leaving the lift and noticed a very faint and an almost unnoticeable glimpse of Kiitaiku as she moved besides the taller Sren.

    The young supervisory officer, Sub-Lieutenant Drayson, also made his way into the opening just after his forehead had an unpleasant confrontation with the upper frame of the door that had not moved away. He mumbled something Quan could not understand.

    Lastly, the astronomer spotted an unnamed Corsari Third, his two armed bodyguards in exosuits, the Gaalsiidim leaders Vayn and Beylo as well as two further Somtaaw operators leaving the lift. Before the Third said a word, one of the operators handed him an industrial welding goggles; the perfect shades for the upper brighter areas.

    "Damn, its hot here", Aaron grumbled and zipped the collar of his suit open a bit.
    "Sorry about the heat, sir", Zeris, the female operator mentioned, "but it's a standard of the area. The obsolete heat sinks died several years ago. The mainframes can handle the heat easily, but we are forced to deal with it as it is. These units are too old and there are no real heat sinks that can consume the heat effectively. Many of us got used to it, but it is not uncommon to find oneself waking up at the nearby recovery room."

    "I doubt we'll be here for long, anyways", the Amaji marine responded, "We got people down there waiting for us."

    "*Sigh* Looks like one of those regulators-things died out, at least that's what it smells like", the male operator said from the side after examining the lift, "Better have this lift shut down and tell a techie to get over here."
    "Hmm", Zeris commented, "I guess its safe to say that the star's radiation is having minor effects on the ship."
    "-- Or it was just an old unit that needs a replacement."
    "W-Well, that too. I better notify the Captain, too."


    "Speaking of which. How do we get to him?", Aaron asked.
    "This way", Zeris and Drayson suddenly said at the same time, "After you - Thank you, no, after you."

    "Oh come on… Knock it off", the marine grouched and moved through the two.

    ***

    "What!?"
    Nobody could overhear the exclaim of the Corsari Third, yet somewhere, everybody understood his reaction was justified.

    "You must be mistaken!", he barked at Pethera.
    "Sir. Please calm down", Beylo said, raising his hands, "I know this is frustrating but we should hear her out."
    "This is preposterous", the Third repeated once more, "This cannot be right. Your --"
    "Allow her and these astrogators to explain, Third. We are all part of this situation."

    The Corsari needed some time until he finally calmed his anger. Once straightening his stance, the angered man briefly raised his chin at the woman on the other side of the transparent panel. The panel revealed digital imagery for all participants to view. Once one of the Somtaaw operators removed the live feed, it revealed a much simpler display of the situation. All gazed upon the lone Darugis carrier and impressive large round circle not all too far away from the vessels location.

    Several voices overlapped as operators spoke with each other. One could also hear distinct hums of not one but at least three separate power grids infusing life into this large center.

    Captain Gridori Somtaaw sat upon his command seat that not far from the group, allowing him to listen to their conversations as well as other messages from nearby operators.

    Quan looked upwards when he noticed operators walking on the grated platform above. Just as he noticed something, Drayson gave him a nudge, silently telling him not to look up.


    "Thank you", Pethera continued, "Allow me to reiterate: We are alone. And the flotilla is not with us… on top of all, this is not the designated star we insisted to emerge at. However, lucky for us that we emerged only a few million kilometers away from it. The reason why we were not receiving any feedback over communication was solely because of the star's radiation. The noises are not garbled messages but just vague sounds of the star itself"

    "So", Aaron suddenly said, "You're telling us that we just made a trip with all the other ships - in the same bubble before - and now they're missing?"
    "Actually. It should go by: We made a trip with several ships and we are the ones missing", she corrected the annoyed marine as she mimicked his tone, "The rest of the flotilla, namely the Vjel-Amaj and other vessels, are certainly still together. I am certain they are doing fine despite the torrential hells we recently flew through."

    "I do not care about your analyzing, Hiigaran", the Corsari Third noted, "I care about the whereabouts of my clanship, the Hjorndal."
    "Your lovely clanship as well as the rest of the flotilla are still united. Do not worry about that, Third. I need further evidence, but there is no doubt that the wavefront was perforated by the fabrics of hyperspace. It was so violent and sudden that it merely cut it into two. The separate fields of the Vjel-Amaj and the Darugis most likely saved us all from sudden death. Yet, this is also the cause why we emerged elsewhere. You must imagine that the same thing happened like when our flotilla was torn away from the main Corsari armada when the Nebuli carrier tried to link with us. But enough of that. We've spoken of the Nebuli more than enough.
    However, judging this star's specifications, I can confirm that this is not the star we insisted to emerge at. This is not LZ-DA°8893'11-23, White Star. More about that in just a moment."

    The Sjeti woman made a slight head gesture, noting the operator before her to zoom out. All spotted that the star was not classified as LZ-DA but something else, and as the image zoomed out to stellar imagery, the group could also see navigational markings showing great deviations from the desired destination and waypoints.

    "Equatorial hells…", Zaris' soft voice mentioned from the side.

    Like the rest, Quan looked over at the Somtaaw operator. She was young woman who was a tad shorter than he was. Her hair was quite short, sprouting upwards and towards the outside as one's eyes reached the top of her head. Thin bangs looped upon her forehead. The young operator wore a blue light uniform with a medium size skirt. The shoulder segments had distinct stripes of green and black; apparently having a meaning the operative did not know of at this moment. However, judging the equal colors of those at this station, he was certain they were navigation operators. The strands of her hair moved as a gush of warm air pushed into the area from the nearby air control unit.

    "W-We're off course. Big time. The LZ-DA star is… what… 8.72 light years? How is that possible!? Our FTL cannot have managed to cross such a distance in such short time. It can only manage 2 - or 3 - light years at best without breaking down for maintenance or worse."
    "Not just that, Operator Zaris", Quan said as he came closer to the panel, "We ended up at an entirely different constellation, too. Seems like this star is part of a tight ternary system… with four further neighboring stars that are outside their cycle. I can tell by proximities alone that we are indeed near one of the three", his finger drew a triangle on the designated stars, "… And it looks like these three were responsible for our actual emergence. Actually, I'm certain their gravity well caught us like a big net. We just flew right into their region. Of course, such a massive gravity well is like a magnet, especially with how our wavefront was set."

    "Wait-Wait-Wait", Aaron suddenly said, "Why didn't we just burn up? I'm glad we weren't grilled…. But,in fact, how come we still landed right here so close at this star if we are actually off course?"
    "I'll explain it as simple as possible - although I am not all too well with FTL principles, it is something like this: The drives were set to, say, a specific recipe. See it as a code if you may. Usually, modern hyperjumps are calculated precisely with little to no deviations, and they are straightforward in terms of results. From point A to point B -- and there are many aspects and differences in regards with FTL.
    Now, here's our method: Since it was the plan to emerge deep within a star's yellow zone far below one Hiigaran Unit, our wavefront's code was set to do such. Now if things go wrong, you could miss the target and end up elsewhere -- but still land close to a star due to that setting. The good news with this method that is very secure, reliable and precise when super computers and dedicated manpower manage the calculations. The passive magnetic field also shields us from the star's deadly radiations.
    All in all, you could say we just happened to have landed a different spaceport. Safe, but it’s the wrong one."


    The female Somtaaw operator continued, "Exactly. The Darugis-class carrier may be old, but it still holds the greatest virtues of Somtaaw engineering and sustainability. When struck, the outer plating can use solar energy to emit a natural field as well. The next level of plating absorbs the crude radiation and uses it to utilize further emitters to enhance the projections. Of course, the ship itself uses an active field generator to ensure radiation is at its lowest."

    The Third seemed disgusted as he heard of these virtues.

    "W-What? You mean radiation is still going through?", Aaron wondered.
    "Yes. But that is normal. There is always a bleedthrough, but the value itself is below nano-range. No reasons for any concerns, Corporal, sir. However, it looks like some of it may still effect vulnerable and old electronic systems."

    "Enough. What about the flotilla?", the Corsari Third demanded.

    The Sjeti woman did not answer. But within a very short moment, the young male cultist besides her began to speak.

    "My calculations confirm that they would have landed at this star, here", the adolescent boy noted, pointing upon the specific star upon the panel, "BE-LR°8801'42-12. According to the values our wavefront had, it would have propelled them to that location - undoubtedly. They should be safe as they have the appropriate means of solar radiation shielding."
    The Third raised his voice, "but that would mean they are far beyond feasible communication range."
    "And it is not just that", Zaris explained, "Even if we were in range, it would not work out as well. Communication would not even work well enough as we are quite deep within the yellow zone if they were with us just now. We are literally being hailed by the star's radiation waves. It wouldn't matter as the static would garble up everything. If they were with us, we'd have to rely on laser beam communications. That would take us a while to adapt. That is not the case. We'd have to first leave this star, at least reach the upper yellow zone bordering to green so that we can perform a safer hyperjump. That is no problem as our STL drives are very powerful for that task.
    But good gracious… If this young man is right, then the flotilla is another 18 light years away?"

    "So. Just… How do we get back to the flotilla?", Drayson wondered.
    "That is the challenge, oh-Orelis'-prodigy", Pethera replied, "I was lucky to dispatch a message prior to losing contact with the cruiser icebreaker group."
    "What? What message", the Third asked with slight astonishment in his voice.

    "When we entered hyperspace profile, I immediately noticed we were not going to emerge at the desired location and that things were not going to proceed as planned. When the severing of the combined wavefront was imminent, I immediately dispatched a message. *Sigh* I was foolish to believe in the optimism of those who do not understand logic.
    Whatever. I calculated that we had missed our desired destination star -- We were merely swept away by the torrential fabrics of hyperspace. Most importantly, though…. It was crucial to designate a new rally point - one that would be feasible while respecting our new discovery about the rules of hyperspace in this unknown region."
    "What do you speak of, Hiigaran?"

    "I am speaking of quantum physics -- that… that are not entirely the quantum physics we know. You will not understand this, Third, nor others, whose mind are not fond with such. However, this shall be certain:
    We are within a region whose nature we do not understand. It differs greatly from what we ever knew of. We do not know where we are. We do not even recognize the very stars around us. These findings are literally putting all our knowledge upside-down.
    As of now, we must understand that the current means of FTL must be re-adjusted to safer rules or we will be doomed. More data and knowledge must be acquired - and we ourselves must conduct research in this field, but I am assured that our journey must respect this hyperspace's physics. If we conduct another FTL procedure like the last one, then we will overshoot far beyond our desired destination… or worse.
    Whatever may be, my message was brief, but the Vjel-Amaj received it… and I'm sure Commander Orelis will not disregard it -- H-He… did furiously tell me to be silent, but I immediately gave the demands further to his subordinate. At least his little Ensign, Kelsea Amaj, confirmed that they captured my message. The message I dispatch mentioned two things.
    The first: Utilize an older method of hyperspace travel.
    The second: Designating a rally point to a star that is likely to be reachable for our flotilla to reunite.
    I did this also because the young astronomer over there, Quan Amaj, made a very important discovery about hyperspace."

    His eyes widened as a few looked at him, "I did?"
    "Yes. You did. While you confirmed various stars and constellations before our view was shrouded, you unintentionally discovered hundreds, if not thousands of facts we were not aware of. I had gone through the records as our computers were rendering our exact location. It turns out that this region alone is flooded with hundreds to thousands of dislocation torrents - with magnitudes beyond the scales of those we know of in our known region of Hiigaran space.
    This is crucial. They are like a stream… a bloodstream, you could say. And like such, a power pulse pushes everything through the veins. There are other hyperspace anomalies that… are not quite those we know of. These are persistent - like landmasses, you could say.
    To be brief, if we are to navigate through this ethereal realm, then we are to rely for now on the basics of hyperspace travel."

    "Wait! Why did not tell us all earlier? We could have done something!", the Third suddenly exclaimed, "How could you let this just happen like that. My clanship is capable of leaving the torrents instantly. It would have stopped the entire wavefront from protruding."
    Asaku took the word, "No. That would have ultimately sealed our fate. The moment itself was too crucial and sudden. As my Sren notified my, I immediately conducted calculations. If it were not for my senses and abilities, we would either be dead, or all individually spread across the stars of this unknown region, separately. Personally, I had no time to tally with dimwitted people not understanding the bleak reality."

    "Why you --!"
    Vayn raised his hands, "Gentlemen, please. No insults. We're all on the same side. No need to become violent."

    The adolescent Sjeti did not say a word. Just as Quan looked over to his sister, he noticed her eyes nervously moving away, as if they were trying to avoid something.

    Pethera continued, "My 'Nijs did the plausible task and you should actually thank them. I was the one to issue the order to Darugis' engineering to fortify the wavefront and isolate it from the forward icebreaker group. This of course is the final cause for our separation, but I did this for our survival after all.
    Now. This older method of hyperspace travel is not all too known, but it is possible. Such travel was utilized twice by the Khar-Toba of kharakian history before the vessel ultimately conducted true active hyperspace profile. As I am a Sjeti, I know of the specifications and am aware that the Vjel-Amaj has this propulsion method as well.
    To explain… A wavefront is not only just a mere carrier wave. It is variable - not essentially by technologies and emitters as you may think, but by methods of what I would even call physics unknown. Regarding a specific one… It is unlikely that any of you know this, but various vessels actually utilize a specific method when the emergence point is unknown. This is specially used for expeditionary and explorative means. Even this vessel has the capability of doing such.
    To be blunt, it is like sailing or just soaring through the winds - hyperspace winds that is."

    "Y-You mean, that we are just to ride the waves and just hope they take us to where we want?", the female operator asked.
    "Yes and no. Our actual mistake was to assume that this region of hyperspace was like the one we knew of. We unfortunately did not possess enough knowledge of just how torrential and violent it was. It was likely due to the resilient wavefront when we were with the Nebuli carrier those days ago. However, it was failing, likely due to tearing right against the stream.
    Whatever. The mistake was the fact that LZ-DA White Star was behind us in the actual stream. We attempted to go against the stream and were swept away as our wavefront was not even set accordingly. I doubt we will be able to do such, but our calculations confirm that that was the prime cause. Aside to that, we were already drifting off course and we could not even see it because of our unaligned wavefront that attracted the massive fabrics.
    I do not believe in luck or optimism, but we must look forward. I had used our current knowledge and discoveries to designate a rally point that flows with the stream instead of against. The designated star should be safe as this one. But even more importantly, the star's constellation is within a much calmer region of hyperspace. I think we would even be able apply sub-ether communication methods.
    My message also contained compact data on my findings. I'm sure that even that fool, Dr. Ebria Amaj, will understand it. Rest assured, the Vjel-Amaj and the rest of the flotilla will make it. The chance is practically under 1% that they will confront any issues."

    Unknowing to others but Quan, he noticed the two cultist siblings immediately looking at each other with poisonous eyes. It was as if a thought had gone between them.


    "Okay, it's official. This heat is killing", Aaron noted, "I -- huh?"
    He suddenly spotted the head of a sweating plastic bottle just before him, held by the female operator, "I thought so. Here you go. It's anionized-water."

    "An-what?"
    "Artificially-mineralized and charged water using the ionic solutions we have in the system. It is very refreshing and always cold. It does not have the full replenishing effect of true water, but helps counter the heat here."

    The marine grabbed the bottle, opened and tried it, "Ticklin' like static."
    She smiled, "As I said, anionized."


    "Sounds like science fiction you made up, but I guess I can live with it. Thanks."
    "No problem, Corporal."

    The Sjeti woman shook her head, "*Sigh* Operative Quan also discovered something in that region that appears to be like bubbles… Perhaps safe locations for us to enter and maybe even persist in hyperspace… see it as travelling without moving. But I must conduct more research."
    , the Sjeti woman cleared her voice,
    "Whatever may be. You may all be optimistic that we will see the rest of the flotilla. They received our message and they are capable of the travelling method. I find this is no reason to be of concern… Only the time frame may disturb you… We should be able to reunite within three or four weeks.
    -- Right here… At this Red Star, TO-CR°8733'31-02", the robed Sjeti explained carefully, "But once we leave this star, we would be in hyperspace for most of that time… with very, very few stops in between of course. We would rely on STL and constellation jump profiles to shorten the time necessary as well. This would also allow us to harvest information about this region and more about ethereal physics."

    "Th-That's almost a month!", a male operator suddenly said from above, "You sure that is necessary?"

    Several turned around and looked up at the young man at the upper level leaning over the railing.

    "My operator is right, Dr. Sjet", the accented captain mentioned , "That's quite a long time frame, and do must confirm that I'm slightly confirmed about reuniting with the flotilla at this rally point. Can you please explain why we cannot do reunite sooner, if not, directly?"

    The Sjeti woman did not answer at first until something started blinking upon the screen of the operator who sat before her, "Would you confirm that data package and projecting it upon this panel screen? Please."
    "H-Huh, oh. I did not know you sent us something, ma'am, one moment", the young man said, and applied the contents to the panel so all could see it.

    One again, Quan witnessed this strange moment of silence and yet action occurred without the slightest movement. Before he forged another thought, he looked at transparent screen that soon revealed an image of hyperspace; an image that closely resembled topography and various circles and lines that reminded of weather forecasting.

    "They are unfortunately on the other side of this specific mass. It would be too dangerous to engage a jump between unless we rely on other methods. While it would be much faster, the risk would be too great that the carrier's hyperdrive module could sustain great damage. On top of all, the Vjel-Amaj has received the message, so it is unlikely they would be at that position unless we were to move out immediately. But the Darugis is nowhere ready for such just yet.
    I have calculated enough time for possible hyperdrive maintenance and of course the need of charging. Utilizing deadspace, we should be able to move through this region with practically zero chances of stumbling upon sentient cultures. Those are the least of our worries"
    , Pethera made a notable pause,
    "Yet, we must be certain that sailing through certain passages will require great caution. As said, this is like a river. Streams full of sharp rocks just waiting to shatter our bones. Although we would be too far away from these specific chokepoints, their formations reveal that it will be just as wild as our recent transition. However, once we are around that area, we may be able to utilize these bubbles, these pockets… here, to dispatch messages. The Vjel-Amaj knows which frequencies range to be aware of - and thanks to the Bentusi technology, they should be able to hear us. As said before, I'm not the type to be believe in optimism - but I'm optimistic."

    The Sjeti woman ended her speech with a brief tilt of her head.

    "So, I guess we're going to be on our own for a while", Drayson commented, "I'm confident that we will be fine. Err, I think…"
    "Says the guy who is in charge", Aaron added.
    "Excuse me, Captain, what is our status, if I may ask? This is your ship after all, sir."

    When the Somtaaw captain leaned into his seat, his finger went over his moustache, "This is actually our ship for the next month, Sub-Lieutenant. Well, now that we know our situation and new goal, it is probably the smartest to ensure our survival by conducting our previous plan when we were with the Arbeta Hitol flotilla."
    "I was just about to suggest this to you, Captain. I am glad you insist to conduct this", the Sjeti woman mentioned.
    "Yes. It is best that we do this. Although we can survive without the power, I have heard many crewmen and even the civilians looking forward to having the capacitors charged. Even my chief engineer is pretty much excited, you could say. We have a lot of segments and industrial units we never used or utilized due to years long of lacking power and knowledge. I would really hate to disappoint them again. This happened more than enough."

    "Tell me about it", Vayn and Beylo said at the same time.
    "Indeed. I wish to conduct with the plan given by the flotilla. Since we are here, we might as well fulfill it. I will initiate the specific profile to dispatch our collectors and have my chief engineer verify all conduits before engaging harvesting. The last thing we needs is a power surge."

    "Captain, there are few 10-Gees with us. I'm sure they can be spared before participating in basic training."
    "10-Gees?"
    "Oh, excuse me. Technical engineers; operatives who are specialized in the obvious profession. I'm sure they'll be handy."
    "Thank you. My chief can need any help he can get."

    As the captain ended his sentence, another voice called for him. It was one of the men at the rear, operating one of the two larger stations.
    "'xcuse me, Captain, but since you mentioned him, I wanted to notify you that engineering already completed the verification of conduits. They are currently linking further capacitors and portable battery segments as well."
    Gridori grinned slightly, "I guess he wants to fuel her up to the maximum. Very well."


    "Also, sir, STL and basic maneuvering profiles are standing by. Ready for any necessary changes in course and heading."
    "Excellent. We will need to align her appropriately. We may need to engage a slightly deeper zone. Before we do anything, analyze the star and make sure we can harness this."
    "Right away, sir. Dispatching orders."

    "Shouldn't we try to stay away from the star? I thought this range was fine", Drayson wondered.
    The Sjeti woman turned around, "That is unlikely necessary. It is a class-K orange star with approximately half the mass of the Hiigaran star. We have emerged from hyperspace with the same velocity as when we entered it. We are currently traversing around three thousand kilometers per seconds, more or less on an elliptical orbit and we are still a few millions of kilometers away. We do not need to worry about ending up at its corona or such. Despite the distance, the star's radiation is still aggressive and its luminosity is quite intense for an orange star. No reason to be concerned. We already have the necessary means to leave this star, even if we are deep within the yellow zone.

    *Sigh* I wish Asad were here. He would come up with brilliant ideas."

    "Uh… Well, it sounds good."
    "I don't know about you, Sub-Lieutenant, but we better get down there. We have people waiting and we've got a job to do."
    "Oh, you're absolutely right, Corporal. Captain, I would say that we leave it here. Sir, if you do not mind, I will conduct the inauguration sequence and initiate the training operation with your consent."

    "Granted, Sub-Lieutenant. Don't be hard on them. Many of these people are civilians. I have doubts that all of them will be viable soldiers."
    "Thank you. That doesn't matter, sir. There are still talents under them who are willing to do the job. Various of our military experts are certain about it. But the main goal is to training everybody, no matter if civilian or soldier. They need to know how to defend themselves if they should ever find their backs against the wall. At least that was the agenda of Commander Nabaal."
    "Agreed."
    "We also will be conducting basic crewmen inaugurations, be it operators or operatives, or even Corsari soldiers. We'll see what we have, but basic training is what everybody needs. That is my standing order."

    "Very well, Sub-Lieutenant. The specific industrial sector is all yours. It is now a restricted area due to the obvious use of firearms. Please be careful - but do not worry. There are enough operators to support your intentions. There are also open ranges in the deck below for further field tests. Good luck to all of you. We will conduct our mission of harvesting energy."
    "Good luck as well, sir."

    "Oh, I almost forgot, captain, should we let the public know of the situation?", the tall Gaalsi asked.
    The Somtaaw captain pondered before answering, "I am not the one who likes secrets, Mr. Gaalsi, you know that… but we must keep everybody calm. We cannot keep everybody from this forever as a month is simply too long. Right now, let us focus on the current tasks. We shall notify them once before we leave this star."

    The Gaalsi nodded, though slightly concerned.

    "I suppose I will conduct some research on the Bentusi vessel that had sacrificed itself for our survival… After all, it appeared to be a second Vjel-Amaj, which is quite stunning", Pethera noted, "Although... *sigh* Without Ebria's assets, I will not be able to do much."

    Several saluted to the captain while others simply turned away without saying a single word.


    *****

    - En-rock'n'roll -

    = Darugis - Industrial sector, restricted area =

    Almost a thousand of people, if not more, stood or sat throughout the nocturnal area. Most of them listened to the officials standing at a higher position. Once again, the area was filled with people of various bloodlines listening to the speeches.

    As they spoke, two awkwardly robed figures moved through the masses, at times accidentally stumbling and stepping on other people's feet. Both of their heads were covered with makeshift hoods of rags. It appeared the slightly taller one dragged the other one around, soon forcing the one behind to keep low and sit down as the speeches went on.

    "… but anyway. Allow me to reintroduce myself. I'm Sub-Lieutenant Drayson Amaj and will be in charge of this… uh… well, operation. I am your supervisory officer, for those who will be joining the Amaji operative corporation. I am not essentially an instructor, but I will be monitoring your progresses. Let me get right to the point.
    You all know the reason you are here. You all know what is at stake and what the main threat is. You all know that it will take all that you got. And of course, none of you want to stand there, defenselessly as those few who are able to protect us are outnumbered. While not all of you will make it through advanced training - do not be discouraged. The fact that you are standing here is already enough that you are serious - and it does not matter if you are marine or simply somebody carrying a crate - We need you. All of you."

    Drayson gazed upon the mixed numbers of people.

    "We are not completely defenseless. Even a handful of dedicated men and women managed to survive the threat. They nearly lost their lives, but only because they were on their own. It is time we change this. As I can see, we have at least a thousand of volunteers - maybe even more, mixed numbers of Amaji, Hiigarans, Vaygr, Ordet- and Viirbor- Somtaaw… Corsari, Suderans… Imperial Turanics --"

    The young man suddenly spotted a specific woman in an industrial outfit waving him in a seductive manner.

    W-What is she doing here!?

    "T-T-'ranic marauders as well. It does not matter where you are from. We all can provide a specific task, whether being part of a military force or providing duty and supporting any faction of the flotilla - as the Corsari would say: For the greater good. Whatever may be, you will all be inaugurated, especially the new operatives to the Kiith Amaj.
    Inaugurations will be proceeded by the new Gaalsiidim arbiter and advocate to the Kiith Amaj, Naleigha Bajula Nabaal.

    To make it clear, the inauguration is the process that leads to the commitment to the respective faction. Following command structures and disciplines will be imperative. You must support the commands issued the best you can. We will do our best to find the compensation for your services - but you all know that the utmost goal is the survival of all.

    In terms of the Vjel-Amaj, this step is more or less to show you what the Kiith Amaj and others stand for. It is more than just a traditional step. However, I do must advise you that if you do happen to become a talent in any way, the need of your capabilities may become more than just a mere necessary favor.

    Although you will be recruits, you will more or less receive a field commission to the basic rank once basic training has been completed. Once completed, the second step will be shipwide training with basic military hardware and command structures. One of the several new units Commander Nabaal desires are duty operatives - as opposed to the basic support operatives level that many of you will reach once you succeed.

    Just to be clear, the operatives who - well - who are already operatives, will cooperate with the Somtaaw operators and recruits.
    I will explain more about this concept later, but allow me to mention this. The Nebuli Somtaaw units operate as a bulk strong of mixed units. According to reports of the siege of the Bryggen'Turasr Command Nexus, we discovered that they relied on the procedure a lot.
    If we utilize guerilla tactics along with the doctrine of dispatching basic units in very small and fast packs, we may be able to counter them. This should also allow us to emphasize the traits of individuals who are not of marine blood. Remember, even an individual can bear an arm. There is more to it than just assuming you are weak.

    The Commander has spent a lot of time of conceptualizing what we could simply put as soldier doctrines. Although not all of you will be soldiers, it is true that these concepts were developed to utilize the very abilities of each individual.
    Corporal?"

    The two robed figures moved forward until they were within a group of people who significantly more mature than the rest were. Hiding behind them, the taller one urged the follower to keep low again.


    The Amaji Corporal moved a step forward, "Everybody. Even though operatives are actually civilians, we need to train our basic line of operatives to be able to operate military hardware beyond the basic self defense weapons. Duty operatives are essentially the intermediate between a simple operative and a cadre marine like I am.
    Everybody, absolutely everybody needs to undergo this training - that is what the Commander demands. Some of you may even be eligible for even becoming a cadre marine. At least the Commander is confident that some of you have the willpower to join the next tier.

    For orientation, the Hiigaran military determines an individual's level of experience by tiers. As of now, practically all of you are tier zero and one; basically civilians and operatives or operators serving throughout the flotilla as crewmen. The few militia troopers here, who are more or less police officers, are tier two - people who have been trained with weapons for instance but are not part of a military force.
    I for instance am an Amaji Cadre Marine; pretty much the only one who actually has seen combat. Tier three. That includes the imperial turanics as well.
    The men to my left here are Hiigaran mercenaries - former marines. Assume they are tier four and above. Probably the most experienced of men throughout the flotilla, next to the few Corsari soldiers of the Hjorndal."

    Aaron looked across the area.

    "Thanks to our former chief logistics officer, who is missing in action, we have so much ammo to start a war ourselves. Well, we better not waste it all, but there is more than enough to train all of you with hardware…
    But one thing must be certain. If I'm to train you, then you will be undergoing the same terrors I went through. I don't care if you won't like it."

    A very awkward silence went through the nocturnal area despite the mass of people present.


    "Several of us been under fire. We've seen people die. Those who are chosen or willing to join the tier three and above ranks must be especially indoctrinated - and I won't make any secrets about the fact that it will not be that easy. I'm sure that… The Colonel can tell you more."

    The audience gazed upon the group of Hiigaran mercenaries… specifically the mature gruff with silver hair, brawn and a thick smoking object glimmering at the end.

    "Indoctrination is pretty much like it. If you are to join our ranks, then you need to fulfill the requirements. There is something special about it. A very special thing… and I think I know how it can be explained. I did enough talking yesterday - and there is a person throughout you who actually knows what I mean."

    Everybody suddenly froze and wondered what he meant. It did not take long until the colonel's sight fell upon a specific person in the darkness. Although the person did not feel like to respond, the tall soldier pointed at this specific individual. Soon, the individual had no choice but to climb up to the heightened area.

    "Don't be shy now… You know exactly what I am talking about, aren't you? I'm sure some know you well enough."

    It only took a mere second until Aaron recognized the person that entered the cone of deep blue light.

    <You?!>

    The young woman turned around towards the rest.
    "I… I am Ellendra Amaj. J-Just a support operative… but… yes, I know what he speaks of", the redheaded operative stammered.
    "And just what?", Aaron suddenly asked.
    "Psyche…", she replied and repeated it once more so that all could hear it, "Even in the darkest hour, the psyche - the very own power of the mind… or willpower, it does not matter what term as they all mean the same -- The psyche is what can move mountains. A strong will is what can withstand even the greatest of all terrors. The psyche may be deeply wounded by such, but there are ways to mend it as well."

    "I recognize you as that young miss of the ecclesia, am I not right?", the mercenary leader mentioned, "Why are you not in your - well - attire."
    The Amaji woman was indeed wearing a standard operatives jumpsuit.
    A few seconds went by before Ellendra answered, "Y-Yes… I am of the ecclesia. It is something personal and I do not need to explain it. However, I am also an operative - a support operative", she explained carefully as she made a short gaze towards the Amaji marine, "I wish to prove that I am not just a fr-frightened weakling. But as a woman of spirit, I know that where there is a will, there is a way. I can sense it in the many faces that are here this moment. Many have witnessed terror… and yet they are willing to stand against it… again. My only goal is to support them… by mending their wounds, whether physically… or psychically."

    Aaron looked away.


    "Yet, I'm still just an operative. If it is true that you can make more out of me, then I'm here to stay."
    "S-So am I!", another female operative shouted from below.
    Several noticed the familiar face.

    "Well, if it isn't the Adjutant herself… The little princess of --", one of the mercenaries mentioned.
    "Sh-shut up… Yes, it's me, Velle Xoti Amaj."
    "Shouldn't you be the one commanding people around around, Adjutant?"
    She lowered her head, "N-No… Right now, Commander Nabaal and everybody else are in charge. As of now… I'm just the same support operative as Ellendra. If we want to become real fighters, then we must be grabbed by the root."
    "Heh, I grabbed you there already. Not much found, to be honest -- huh", the merc mentioned, but stopped speaking the moment another merc slapped against his chest.
    Ellendra looked at the mercenary leader, "The strive begins by the psyche. If the psyche is strong, it can survive even the greatest of definite injuries…"


    "And that is the point, people", the leader explained, "My boys 'n' girls been through a lot. We've seen much in the recent war against the Vaygr - and more beyond that. Although those Nebuli suckers are quite different, we kept our cool because we're a hardened sons of --", he stopped himself, "Eh. Whatever. I know what it takes to take on those enemies. But it all starts with what's here in your head. This is where the battle is fought. Got that?", he lastly said and tapped the side of his temple, "But we'll see who's really up for the job. I have my doubts."

    Drayson raised his head.

    "There are more things I wish to explain. Some details about the procedures and what decisions remain open. The next hours will be full of orientations and drills. Physical training will be the main course.
    But one thing I want to say. We do not need soldier-types. There are various of other fields that require support. Mechanical aides, medical, research - the list goes on. Once you fulfill basic training and everything else, we will give you access to various segments throughout the flotilla and this ship. But first, basic training."

    "Ahh… Basic training…", The colonel continued with a firm voice, "Feels like we're back at school. We got a huge playground here. It is quite dark, but you'll get used to it. Heh, I'm startin' to like it. It is very dark and it will be the perfect way to sharpen your senses and skills.
    We will also instruct you on how to survive in unknown and uncharted territories. For now, we will rely to urban industrial territories training as this resembles well enough man-made environments. I doubt we will have the chance to train in a verdant biological region ever, so we will work with what we got.
    There's enough space for shooting ranges as well - and enough time to test hardware and even school you boys and girls with the latest of military procedures. Yes, you will be using weapons and such that we have. Light stuff, mainly - but is all a science you have to understand. Nonetheless, most of you are going to be the lightfoots of the flotilla and stay behind while men like us do the job."

    "We will be splitting you up into troops", the Sub-Lieutenant explained, "These are not essentially fixed groups but since we need you to learn how to cope with others, there will be a few mixes. Right now, we have to train you with how to move around with equipment. The task won't be easy, but don't worry, I'm confident you will all make it. We also have more than sufficient foodstuff and rations to cope with heightened needs for nutrition."

    "Just so you know", Aaron loudly noted, "There will be a lot of shouting, a lot of swearing and a whole lot of sweating. If you don't feel up to the task, then you're better off elsewhere. I'm not joking. I messed with the Nebuli Somtaaw - and I don't need people crying as soon as they get a scratch."

    Aaron was direct and hostile, sparking certain enthusiasm but also concerns.

    ***

    As more details were announced and the inauguration process began, large groups of people began to split up to specific areas. During this time, the two robed figures moved along the groups until they found a spot that was secluded and dark enough. The second person was dragged along to an area that had various piles of scrapped metal and vehicles that had already been eviscerated of their interiors.

    "Looks like the coast is clear…", she noted.
    "Coast?"
    "Shh-shh, not so loud, dummy", she growled.

    After removing the makeshift hood and the scarf that was wrapped around her mouth, the young lady leaned over and spotted the large group of specific people gathering at what seemed like a post.

    "H-Hesken?", Aira gently asked.
    "Shh-Shh!"

    Although it was quite dark, her eyes could sharply recognize most of what was going on. Several operatives were apparently gathering identities and splitting people up to several groups. The Hiigaran girl soon turned away from the edge.
    This was it.

    "A-Are you sure this is right? I… I should be on the Vjel-Amaj. It is not good that I am distant from it for so long."
    Hesken suddenly grabbed Aira's shoulders as they kneeled down, "Knock it off. You're all right! Forget that ship-place. This is so much better, Aira. We're free - and I have just the idea on how we can be free from those who are trying to command us around because they think we are kids.
    If we join these people here, they won't take us away again. I know that people are always telling you what to do - okay, so am I, but you can see that I'm doing this for you, and you're doing it for me."

    The exotic kadeshi seemed quite insecure. Her eyes fell downwards, avoiding the Hiigaran's pearl blue gaze.

    "Aira. Remember what we did to get here?"


    The kadeshi girl recalled the memory of what they did many hours ago, grabbing large rags and other fabrics to wrap themselves up with, stolen from nearby crates and unaware operatives. Once wrapped up well enough, the two were well enough disguised to enter the large group of people who were just about to leave the Vjel-Amaj and board the Darugis carrier. As this occurred, the kadeshi sensed a great deal of an unusual emotion merely boiling in her… a mixture of nervousness and fright as they moved deep into the group of willing Hiigaran and Vaygr refugees. She looked back, wondering about the place that had been her home for so long.

    "Wasn't it exciting?! You could feel it! It was fun! And now is our chance to get more of that. And we'll stick together, no matter what."
    "It-It was… quite an experience. It feels wrong, b-but…"
    "You want more, right? Riiiight?", the young Hiigaran made a mischievous grin, "Let's do this."

    Aira nodded, though quite uncertain. Just as she insisted to raise herself, Hesken dragged her down again.

    "I-Is something wrong?"
    "Wait. A lot of people don't know who I am or really care much, but I better do something about my looks - However, they'll certainly recognize you easily with that hair of yours."

    The kadeshi grabbed her silky silvery hair that ran beyond her shoulders.
    "I got just the idea and thing to make sure it won't be that easy…", Hesken whispered and then lifted a sharp object… a knife.

    The knife was not any knife but one with jagged teeth and a perfect design to wreck havoc upon any foe. Clearly, it was a military weapon.

    "H-Hesken, where did you find this?", she nervously asked the Hiigaran.
    "I, uh, found it. Now hold still…"

    During the activities of moving through the groups of people, Hesken planned ahead and noticed she was going to need something sharp. Spotting one of the Hiigaran mercenaries who was in the bunch, she approached the person at the same moment he was distracted, intentionally bumping into that person and then slipping back into the groups of people.


    *****

    Not much later…

    Each process did not require much time. Groups of people lined up at the areas representing the factions that required manpower for a specific role. Each individual volunteer moved up to the rows of people asking for names and minor questions.

    Although the two were not as obvious to others, one could easily see that they were not adults but adolescents; just a tad too young to actually serve in the older cadres. Instead, the two very young women were directed to the basic field careers instead.

    After a certain while, the two soon found themselves at the front with several others were slightly older and taller than they were. Only the duty laptops illuminated light, offering enough darkness to obscure most of their faces. The two then spotted a young man and a woman lifting their heads.

    "Welcome to the Ordet-Somtaaw enrollment", the young Amaji man greeted, "Although I'm an Amaji operative, I'm here to help you understand the process. This attractive lady next to me is a Somtaaw operator. While both operatives and operators will train together, there are distinct differences."

    "One's a woman, the other's a guy", a random Hiigaran joked from behind.

    Several chuckled before the young man continued, "Heh, good one. Operatives, specifically support operatives are capable of adapting to various fields where manpower is needed; whereas operators focus on a specific field alone. Your decisions can be made later on as you gain knowledge and experience, but at the end, you will have to be certain which base profession to choose. Just a rough orientation. There a lot more to it, but you will learn over time."

    "All right, what are your names?"

    Hesken suddenly frowned.

    To be continued
    Last edited by Sparki; 8th Nov 12 at 7:14 AM.

  20. #20
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Chapter 33 - Part 2 of X

    Almost five seconds of silence went by as the two unusual girls stood before the makeshift table. While a practical mastermind for spontaneous responses, the question truly caught the disguised Hiigaran off guard. But as these seconds went by, practically every synapse in her brain was sparking myriads of ideas.

    However, nothing had left her lips and she found herself against wall… running out of time.

    The Amaji operative lifted his head, and then looked at the Somtaaw woman who seemed just as confused.

    "A-Are you all right?", the operator asked, "You look concerned. I mean, you do have a name, or not?"

    Hesken was deeply startled, as she knew their names would most likely make it too easy for her brother to find her. Their appearances were well disguised by these robes, the extra rag that covered their mouths and oily black smears Hesken had wiped upon her face and that of Aira to give a decent appearance that they were alike refugees or even of the tribal types from Darugis.

    "How about you, young lady with the bright hair?"
    Aira hesitated at first, but then answered, "My name is Ai--"

    "Aneari", Hesken suddenly shot out, scaring Aira and the two before them, "Her name is Aneari-- Aneari is her name!"

    "O-Okay, okay!", the operative nervously said and tried to type it into the service laptop, "Well, Miss Ah-neer-ri Uh, how do you spell it?"

    The young man looked at Aira but was once again intercepted by the one besides her.
    "A-N-E-E -- I mean, A-N-E, uh, -A-R-I",she replied loudly.
    "No need to be so loud, young miss", the Somtaaw woman said, "By the way, what is your name?"

    "I'm H--", Hesken's startled once more for that brief moment, "Hiira. H-I-I-R-A. Just that."

    The young Somtaaw woman typed the name into her laptop as well, "All right… Bloodline or kiithid heritage?"

    Damn it!

    "She's my sister", Hesken, better known as Hiira, answered, "W-We're were -- err, still are orphans, but we're fine on our own."

    The disguised Kadeshi paused when she heard Hesken's sudden answer.

    The Somtaaw operator looked at them, "Sisters? Interesting. You two are quite different, if I may say"
    "Who said we were twins?", Hesken countered, just barely stopping herself from adding an insult, "We're sisters. My sister just happens to be different, but we're sisters. Deal with it."

    "I did not mean to undermine that", the young woman before them replied.
    "I suppose you two are part of the refugees?"

    Hesken herself was quite surprised that this Amaji operative did not actually recognize Aira. Perhaps he never actually had the chance to meet her. It was likely that the oil smears and the rags before their mouths truly obscured their true identities. But now the disguised Hiigaran had to watch out. Saying the wrong thing could expose them.

    "W-We're… Uh… It's complicated, ", the disguised Hiigaran girl began rambling rapid words, "Yes… W-We… We were on this one station some long time ago, we then joined the refugees of this big ship-place and uh… I don't know names. So much happened, I'm a young woman, heh-heh, I'm not into these technical terms", Hesken said, faking her voice with naïve undertones and giggles, "Saaay, you are kind of cute, Ah-mah-gee."

    Following a short nudge by the elbow, Aira began to mimic Hesken's weird giggling. Hesken's sister made giggles that sounded quite awkwardly. Using the momentum, the Hiigaran girl suddenly looked at the Somtaaw woman.

    "Don't you think, too??"
    The operator turned her view upon the startled Amaji, "W-Well, actually yes, he does."

    A few others chuckled from behind.
    The young man shyly wove his hands, "No, I'm not."

    "Anyways", Hesken continued as her mind finally dug up the farthest and bizarre thoughts it could remember, "We're from a Hiigaran enclave… a rather unknown clan t-to be honest --", random but fitting syllables filled her mind, "the, eh -- Fiirterr clan, uh, not far from the Kiith Muniir - I mena, they are part of the Muniir kiith but uh, not officially - youknowpartofitbutnotreallypartofthebigthing, right? That war tore us apart and we somehow ended up here. And we're both of 18 Hiigaran cycles. Ready to learn stuff and serve the greater mood... I mean, good."



    The Hiigaran subtly nudged Aira to nod excessively like she did.
    "Don't worry. Listen, you two, we're happy you want to help. The flotilla needs every hand it can get. To be safe, though, you still need to participate in, well, let's call it war games, here"
    , the Amaji explained carefully,
    "Not everybody is fond of using guns, but it has been proven that the flotilla's civilian population needs to know how to defend themselves -- if they can even serve somehow, even better. We all have to learn these things. The next days could get heavy, from what I heard. But even if you decide it is too difficult, there are various fields that require help from people. Just to note a few: technicians, researchers, just about any helping hand."

    "Me too", the young woman next to him mentioned, "Kiith's blood… I hope we never come to the day where we have to fight against them… A-Anyways, regarding you two, it seems we do happen to have a very large group of youngsters. I'm more than amazed to see so many young people willing to help us. It makes me a lot more confident… It is good to know that we are not alone but are willing to work together. I'm sure you will be making a lot of friends. No matter if you go for operative or operator --"

    "-- marine recruit, or even Corsari servitor", the Amaji jokingly added.
    "That too -- Working as a team is essential. Just as reminder, operators are similar to the rank of Somtaaw Petty and Warrant officers, obviously NCOs like the rest of those we mentioned."

    "Ahh, yes yes… interesting", Hesken noted naively, but then went silent, scoffing and mumbled quietly, <I work best alone…>

    "Very well, then. Just so that all of you know, this process is not fully completed just yet. We will need more information, but this is the very basics we need for now. As for now, please walk over to the groups over there. Madam arbiter of the Gaalsiidim will inaugurate all you… More or less per mass-inauguration."

    The Somtaaw woman smiled lightheartedly.

    Somehow sensing that Aira was about to say a word, her energetic new sister grabbed her arm, dragging her away from the post, "Come on, Anny!"

    *****

    = Darugis - Bridge Command =

    As the persisting heat kept the entire area in its grip, the bridge crew continued their routine efforts. Several operators left the area in order to recuperate at cooler sections as reserve bridge crew moved into the area.

    Meanwhile, the Somtaaw captain was about to leave the bridge between the helm engineering stations when somebody just called him from the other side.

    "Captain, sir", the voice called from further behind.
    Gridori stopped, "Hm? Yes, what is it?"
    "Sir, Chief Ydris just contacted the bridge. She says she wishes to speak with you. Sounds important", the operator notified.

    "Heh, it's always important, cap'", a helm engineer joked from the side.
    "Indeed", the captain replied and returned to his command seat, "Well, I did not leave the bridge yet… Patch her through to this unit."

    The man made his way back to the sophisticated seat and made himself comfortable until the specific white button began to blink overhead. Deciding to take it directly over wire, he pulled a phone unit from above.

    "Gridori, here. Go ahead, Chief."
    ""Honored greetings, Captain"", the voice of a mature woman greeted, ""Sir, I wish to inform you that we may have certain complications with the harvest operation.""

    The Somtaaw captain took off his peaked cap and swept his hand across his short hair, "Explain."

    ""Sir, it turns out our diagnostic systems did not reveal that we had sustained minor damages over time. A maintenance team recently discovered two fused power relays at one of the abandoned sectors of the ship. Obviously, since there are no habitants there, nobody noticed the trouble until recently. To get to the point here, sir, the problem is that these fused relays are important for several means of actually storing power into the capacitors. This is actually a minor issue, but that is not all…""

    "This is not good. Go on."

    ""Aside to that issue, looks like the lady has rusty joints. Our initial attempt of dispatching the solar panel units failed. Though our systems show all green, we've already confirmed that this is not the case. Well, nothing is happening on the hull, unfortunately. To be precise: the solar collectors are blocked for some reason. The shell plating moved slightly, but now seems to be stuck.""

    "Do we have any alternatives?"
    ""Not really. I have already dispatched two operator teams to do full scale diagnostics at the abandoned sectors as well as an engineering team to see what we can do about the relays. They are confident they can apply alternative solutions. They want to also double-check there won't be any power surges and even insist to habitat that area until it is safe.
    However, sir, it is very likely that we must dispatch an EVA team regarding the collectors. There is no doubt about this.""

    "I will ask our allies for volunteers to help your teams out. I'm sure we will find several willing people. However -- An astronautic maintenance mission?", Gridori raised his voice, "So close to a star?"

    ""Yes, it is possible, sir. Technically, we can expand the secondary panels to starboard and port, but aside to the technical issues blocking the primary sails I just revealed, we have a serious problem. I had a conversation with Rinon. Using secondary panels alone would delay our venture by another five days.
    He told me that the equipment of the standard suits will not function well enough to perform the tasks. Our astronauts are likely to lose contact due to the suit's simplicity. It would be too dangerous, and I have serious doubts our heavy suits are ready for this task. We still did not have the time to reinforce them.

    Regarding the star and its violent radiation, it is no problem to realign her so that her belly is towards the star. Likewise, we can divert our magnetic fields accordingly. We could dispatch the EVA mission. However, we require experienced astronauts as well as suits that can maintain contact. And it seems only a specific few could help us in this case.""

    Gridori paused for a moment, until he too discovered the answer, "I see. This will leave us to the fact that we will need assistance from our allies. Chief Ydris, continue your efforts. I will notify the Amaji Sub-Lieutenant of this. There should still be several astronautic crewmen that could support us."

    ""Confirmed…"", the female voice said but then hesitated.
    A long hiss went through the channel.

    "Is that all? You sound concerned."
    ""I don't know, sir… Did Operator Alistaire Somtaaw report-in, sir?""
    "One moment."


    The decorated officer turned around, not spotting the woman at the rear areas of the bridge where she would normally be at. She was nowhere to be found as he looked around. Moving the phone shortly away, he wove over an operator who was bypassing his seat. After a few questions, he raised the phone again.

    "No. Nobody saw her today."
    ""Strange. Maybe she is still working on things. I noticed another two people of my staff not around. Officer Orriz - He had reported in earlier today, but I haven't heard anything else from him. I suppose he joined the maintenance teams, but I do not have confirmation on that. And also operator Zeelis, she has a substitute here instead, but I haven't heard of any entry from sickbay. Maybe there is a notification I missed.""
    "Possibly. Plus. It is not the first time of Alistaire is gone taking care of errands regarding engineering."
    ""Agreed.""
    "Very well. I will contact the Amaji delegation as they likely have the personnel for the task. Bridge out."

    ""Yes, sir. Engineering. Out.""


    *****

    = Darugis - Restricted sector, training compound. Upper complex. =

    Meanwhile…

    The two men watched down upon the dark areas filled with various people. Groups of twenty or thirty people moved up as the mixed rows ahead of them fulfilled the conduct. Though too far away, the men could hear the groups repeating the words of a woman standing upon a makeshift platform of discarded alloys.

    "I never thought this mass inauguration would actually work. I'm surprised that so many people are willing to help the cause -- or the greater good, as the Corsari say… I guess there may be hope. Even our tribe brothers and sisters listen to the Madame Arbiter and her words. Can you believe that?", the Siidim tribesman said from his side, "Vayn. Are you listening?"

    Though the dark man was staring down, it was clear that he was not listening. His attention was elsewhere as his hands rested upon railing of the catwalk.

    "You miss her, don't you?"
    The Gaalsi man woke from his daydreaming, "S-Sorry. My mind wandered off."

    Several seconds went by.

    "*sigh* Yes, I do."
    Beylo crossed his arms, "I must say, it is quite interesting to see you like this. The last time I saw you like this was when you were pondering of that escape plan when the Viirbror-Somtaaw seized this vessel. I must say, tribe brother, when you are troubled, you cannot hide it."

    The Gaalsi man smiled before looking back down.

    "I've yet to understand why you actually disregarded the way of the tribe. After all, you could have had two. Two."
    "Strange, I know. Isn't that always a man's dream?"
    "Right."

    The two men chuckled for the moment.

    "But you were more worried about getting us out of slavery again. I know that. And I cannot say how much I must thank you about it, on behalf of both of our tribes."
    "Don't mention it, Beylo. You know how it is. You would have done the same."

    "No, I wouldn't. You know that."

    The smile vanished from his face, knowing that the desperate attempt for freedom would have been a lot bloodier.

    Beylo turned around until his back met the railing while resting his forearms upon it, "After all… It looks like the Viirbror got what they deserved for enslaving us. Although the Corsari enslaved us for quite some time, they more or less freed us -- well, of course by the intervention of this Hailynn Delixa woman and her Kiith Amaj friends. You know me well enough that I do not believe in eternal liberty as even now, we are still enslaved -- though we can actually choose where to go. But with the Nebuli Somtaaw, we are already a target for them and it would only be a matter of time until they get us… so we have no choice but to remain part of this greater good.

    I still cannot figure how you actually managed to stumble right into her hands that day you escaped the Viirbror captivators… either luck or just a damn deus ex machina."
    "That was barely a week ago… and it still feels like yesterday. She was our savior. I could not believe it was her. After all these years -- light years away from Homeworld."

    "Those bastards… Remember, even if we were born on Hiigara, you know we were never accepted as real Hiigarans. Nothing but scum in their eyes to spit on and command around, feeding their desires as eternal slaves for things and reasons even they forgotten about. It just cannot be that we have to serve them. We may be going against the will of our bloodline and ancestors, but I think after centuries, we should have our chance of freedom."
    "Beylo. I know we've been through so much. Eternal servitude is a vicious curse… but these people did not deserve to die like that. "

    "I'd hate to be the one welcoming their deaths… but you know I would not have acted differently to liberate our people. You know that that would have been the last resort had we left that Kiith Amaji space station", the Siidim leader noted.
    "Colony…"
    "What?"

    "It was a big colony vessel. One of those exotic relic types of behemoths like the ones floating throughout this galaxy for whatever reason. I do not know how they managed it, but it was a gigantic vessel with a city inside. The only way I managed to escape was running through the alleys like a lost animal."
    "I see. Manhunt, their favorite game. However, if this all had not happened, you would not have met this Kaydaana woman."


    "Indeed."
    "You know, Vayn, she is quite a special person. I never thought one could find such a companion. Not to mention finding something special in a bizarre being such as a Manaani. No offense."

    The darker man smiled, "As long as she is not here, you're safe. Just don't go over the edge. This is my wife you're speaking of - heh."
    "Heh, seize fire. No, seriously speaking now, I am amazed. Not only that she is blessed, but also about what you told me about her, that she was actually a Grade-Z. This is a miracle. Something we should just accept and not question. But nothing amazes me more than her devotion to both of our tribes. During our clan meetings, she was devoted in expressing all the concerns of the participants despite being an outsider herself. Even so, our tribesmen accepted her without any hint of denial. And she was close to you as if she were a Gaalsi herself. I am amazed."

    "Kaydaana is an outcast of her enclave, Beylo. I'm sure you know how heavy it is to be on your own, away from home. But for a Manaani, it hurt so much more to her than anything else. It is like she has an eternal wound never to heal from. However… she now discovered that her life is not futile though she was banned from her own people.
    What makes things bizarre is that this child of ours is not a shimmering light in darkness… This is a dark shadow in a world of light."

    "Hmm?"
    "That was what she said to me. I have yet to understand her words. I-I don't know. She's been quite metaphorically ever since all this happened. Not to mention a lot more angry."

    Beylo turned around and slapped the shoulder of the Gaalsi, "Tribe brother -- You forgot she's Manaan… and your wife. A Manaan wife… The one that is always angry. You're in for serious trouble trouble. *chuckles* But I see why you are concerned. However, this is an intimate thing between you and your companion."
    "It is okay. After all, you could say I am seeking guidance. Aside to our child, she still sees herself no longer as Manaan although this shows she could have been blessed with an heir for the enclave. This child could even be that heir, just speaking logically -- but she has fervently made it clear that she is no longer Manaan, and that is the way it must be. Our child is to be of Gaalsiidim will, even if the mother is of Manaan heart."

    "We are lost, Vayn. But she has found something more worth despite being lost…"
    "What would that be?"

    The Siidim straightened his back and arranged his heavy leather jacket, "Something to believe in. Not just our tribal kiith, but you… and this child of darkness. She is not alone anymore, despite being just as lost as we are. In fact, I must apologize. Your concerns are well reasonable."
    "She -- I mean", Vayn corrected himself, "They are on the Vjel-Amaj. I knew I should have let them stay. I thought it would be safer and --"

    "Do not worry. I'm sure they are doing well. That vessel is quite something special. Although we have lost contact, I am confident we will find them again. Especially with the assurance of the Sjeti woman."
    "She's strange… and very deceitful from what I've heard and seen… but she is focused on a specific task. She knows the flotilla is the key to survival - whether it includes us or not. I too believe that we will reunite with the flotilla again. It will take a while, but I'm certain."

    "Then a man like you should not worry too much, Vayn. There is nothing wrong with thinking about her and the miracle at times. You know, I think I know what you need", Beylo suddenly figured.
    "What would that be?"
    The Siidim man was about to answer when he stopped before the actual words left his mouth, "No. Trust me. I know what it is. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until you meet them again. I am not the type to play games with you like this, but I think this is something worth anticipating. Say, imagine you reuniting with her and your child - that is all I need you to do for now. Promise?"

    Vayn straightened his stance as well when he noticed the open hand. After a thoughtful moment, he performed the tribal gesture of confirmation by knocking the back side of his forearm against Beylo's, then the front side, and then finally shaking hands.

    The two paused as they heard the next groups concluding the mass inauguration ceremony, also heeding the coughs of the so-called Madame Arbiter a few times.

    "I see that our Madame Arbiter is taking her role seriously. I am impressed of her. My my, tribe brother, you surely did bring us a lot of interesting women", the Siidim man added.
    "Hey… I was not even responsible for this."
    "I am just kidding, friend."

    "You got me again… But you are right. This young kiith advocate really is taking this as serious as her blood. The Nabaali never seized to amaze me."
    Beylo looked down once more at her, "Quit a nervous one, but it is true that advocates take their duty seriously. They live by the laws. She has already taking on some four separate cases as she calls them -- By Siimian… She even cleared the dispute between Izmek and Liidet."
    Vayn looked back at him with a surprised face, "What?! Seriously now?"
    "I'm not joking."
    "That is… amazing.
    "It's not entirely clear though, Vayn. She says she wishes to go over the results once more, just to assure that justice is equal for both parties."

    He nodded and noticed the next groups moving ahead and lining up towards the arbiter as she shortly took water from a field bottle.

    "So, am I getting this straight that they will be training operatives, operators, servitors and soldiers?", the dark man asked.
    "Exactly. It will be a wild mix and confusing, for sure. I did not get behind all plans, but several feasible ones have been agreed upon. Physical training, initial training… eh… first doctrinal command structures and weapons range training"
    , Beylo explained carefully,
    " -- I'm not even sure what will happen. There are so many plans they have, those soldier types. But what is interesting is that the people will have access to professions in order to support any flotilla ship as a feasible crewmember."
    "Interesting indeed. I suppose we are to participate as well?"
    "Due to the fact that we are tribal leaders, we have a greater importance for our kiith."

    Vayn looked down once more, "I can't just stand back and let these people do the work. Even if I'm a leader."
    "They believe in us and the cause, Vayn. Even if we are still enslaved to the situation, they count on us. But I do agree that we should participate as well. This ferocious threat will certainly be a foe that we must counter. In fact, I think it is imperative that we at least become acquainted with basic defense measures. After all, an assault can happen any day with our pants down."
    "Word."

    Beylo lifted himself from the railing, "Speaking of which, we better move over to the safe zone over there. The complexes throughout this area are bullet proof. It is likely that the first groups will be familiarized with weapons and we do not want to catch friendly fire."
    "Right…", the tall dark man said as he thought about his absent wife.
    "Don't worry about your waifu - I'm sure she's all right. I'm even sure not even a black hole could stop her."

    Vayn began to follow him as he walked across the catwalk, "What makes you so sure?"
    "With that everlasting scorn of hers? She's mad for and at you. I doubt you can hide from the fury of your waifu, Manaani or not. "
    The two laughed as they moved on…

    "My waifu?"


    ***
    = Further below - Inauguration ceremony =


    After repeating the paragraphs of each separate faction of the flotilla, the mass of people pledged to serve the cause with utmost obedience, honor and pride. Despite the pledge, the so-called Madam Arbiter, originally known as Naleigha Bajula Nabaal, stressed to all that their survival remained imperative and that neither all are born warriors nor should those who may fail in any particular field sense defeat. Supporting the flotilla in any possible way, whether as soldiers or simple crewmen, was the key to all.

    *

    As of now, all of them were now inaugurated and pledged as respective initiates of the factions or professions they wished to join. Hundreds of men, woman and adolescents were split into specific groups again and were instructed with various plans and anticipated schedules.

    Meanwhile, both Aira and Hes-- or should one say now, the sisters Aneera and Hiira Muniir, found themselves in a group of youngsters that consisted of Hiigaran, Corsari and Gaalsiidim refugees.

    One of the Corsari youngsters looked at Hiira and suddenly said, "You're face looks funny…", as he stared upon the oil smeared face of the young lady although most of it was hidden by the wrapped scarf.
    She looked right back at him and replied, "No… Your face looks funny", as she looked at the iconic ridges upon his forehead, "it's like a raisin."
    "What is a ray-zin?"
    "Are you kiddin--", Hesken was just about to argue with him when she and various others noticed another group of youngsters coming closer, led by a slightly older Amaji and a Somtaaw.

    The Hiigaran girl grabbed Aira's arm and deceitfully moved themselves past their tight group like a snake, ensuring that they were always in the dark.

    "Hello, everybody", the male Somtaaw operator greeted, "I'm not quite an instructor, to be honest, but I will be taking head of this class for now. Just to be brief: We are quite a lot of people -- too many to be precise. So many that we do need to rotate groups up on various subjects so that no time is wasted. But if there is one thing we shall never fail on, it's training. A steady physical training is the first thing to do.
    We all are not of the same physiology as you know. Some are Hiigarans, other are Corsari -- and there are several more. There are significant differences. However, with the right training each day. Anybody can become acquainted with any artificial gravity environment just by training alone. We're going to focus on this for a while, but first, we are going to grab equipment. Water is the most important feature we all need.
    Just a warning though. I don't know, but it sounds like once the military types of instructors show up, they will make things more difficult for all of us as they must evaluate who can actually help out in dangerous missions. I do not have doubts in you, but remember that you are very young -- You should not see what they've already seen.
    All right everybody. Follow me."

    As the small mass of young people moved on, Hesken held back her disguised sister until they fell back far enough so that they could talk without others listening.

    "Th-This is exciting", Aira noted, "I have confidence now that I may become more helpful for the people of the Vjel-Amaj."
    "Yeah, yeah, whatever", Hesken said as she wove her hand back and forth, "Listen. You stick with me, got that?"
    "Stick with --?"
    "*Sigh* Just stay by me. We must stick together, you and me. After all, we are sisters. Things could go wrong if we split up, so don't let them try to split us."

    "I… I like the thought of sister. It --"
    "Shh, now come on and let's move! This ought to be exciting, as you said…"

    ***

    - The Office -
    = Elsewhere throughout the restricted area, lower complex =

    ### Deus Ex OST - Training Facility ###

    The turanic woman entered the room just behind the female operator. The stench of intensive fumes immediately stung her nose. Chatter ended abruptly just as they noticed the woman with the ridged forehead was recognized. The air in this area was warm and humid compared to the cooler areas of the open sectors above. Like the rest of the sector, this room was dark enough to please her eyes.

    The ceiling was low, certainly in arm's reach. Certain cables and other mechanical segments hung down from above, pretty much supplementing any assumption that this huge carrier vessel was very old. A thin haze filled the room, obviously caused by the few smoking cigarettes and cigars.

    There was something like a table before them. It was irregular as it was expanded by other objects that were almost at its height. Several weapons rested upon it… conventional ones, advanced ones… exotic ones. They were apparently being examined. One of the mercenary brutes played around with what seemed to be a heavy pistol; swinging it around on his hand, discharging the empty clip, flipping it again, auto-loading it along with the slide in that order.

    Almost immediately on arrival, she discovered three turanic clan mates -- and another turanic woman who was not part of her clan. Her clan mates greeted her silently just by raising their chin, a tribal notice of her presence. The other unusual and tall Turanic just winked with a smile, only responded by the raise of an eyebrow.

    The woman spotted several familiar faces; mostly men and just a few women who had ran into hell and back out alive. There were other faces that she did not know of, but it was clear that they were more of the military types. Most of them still had stitches and minor medi-patches slapped upon their bruises and scratches.

    Yet nothing was more obvious than the predominant Hiigaran mercenary brutes serving under the rule of the Sjeti queen, who strangely resided outside of the group. The turanic woman gazed only single moment at her, wondering why she was not with the group… but judging her reputation, she had always been the cunning puppet master behind anybody's shadow.

    The turanic then spotted the dreaded Amaji marine, already sensing her blood slowly boiling with apathy - but the woman did not even show the slightest emotion.

    Aside to these people, she also spotted the Amaji police men as well as Somtaaw men and women who apparently were part of the security team of the Darugis carrier. Only a selected few seemed to be true marines while the others were just the standard.

    It seemed that viable marines were a scarce commodity across all boards… -- though she already discovered that there more than enough firearms to arm an entire army as she moved through the lower complex.



    <Bloody mercy. About time you showed up>, the Amaji marine instantly snapped in taiidanese the moment he recognized her.

    "Sorry we are late, this is more or less my fault", the Somtaaw man said, insisting that the Amaji said something about her, "After she got lost, I sort of lost orientation too, so it is not her fault."

    Aaron scoffed lightly and crossed his arms. She noticed that he finally took off his combat dress and traded it for a lighter Amaji military standard outfit.

    The lower complex was an underworld just below the wide open restricted area that was an unused hangar sector on the so-called habitat deck. Safely secured by the massive pressurized entry bulkheads, this area was perfectly segregated from the other populated portion of the deck. Not all too many people worked here.

    The complex was rather desolate and used as an accessible storage facility though a lot of the crates were considerably empty or loaded with loads of ammunition, gadgets or simply junk. However, one could easily assume that this place used to be an actual base of operations, offering accommodations and other sections for the massive crew that used to operate the hangars and industrial forges. Yet, ever since this vessel had come to age, the ol' rusty was to find itself only as mere carrier of commodities.
    Regardless, this underground base offered enough for serious military business. Beii was sure of that, for she had grown up on a vessel like this. For such who grew up on military clanships like she had, there was never an excuse for Imperial Turanics and Taiidans to seize marine training as the survival of the fittest meant serving the clan fleet as a soldier. Intruding boarding parties seldom stopped for women and children for these were either abducted or worse - or worse.

    From what she could see, there were also minor areas feasibly arranged as shooting ranges and weapon testing. Operators were still rigging scraps as protective shielding and apparent armor penetration dummies, even spotting several righting names and joking around with them.

    Nonetheless, she did not care about this. Although she actually did not even care about the people outside of her clan, it was the will of her half-sister to take her place and show the honor of the clan; to support the Amaji and the flotilla during her sister's absence.

    "Whatever. Well, turanic lady, welcome to this new office of ours", the Hiigaran mercenary leader with the cigar greeted, "Get used this place, because this lower complex base here will be our mainstay of our training ops. Quite an interesting place… This place is perfect for talking business. Since we'll be meeting here to discuss about training plans and such, let's just stick with the name: The Office."
    "Heh, sounds good. Has a nice ring to it", the obvious wise-cracking mercenary besides him added.

    The mercenary leader paused for a moment when he looked at the woman once more, remembering her duty during the dangerous incursion of the Nebuli Somtaaw upon the Nexus of the Bryggen'Turasr. She wore her iconic tank top, and though this time she was not wearing ballistic vest or other light protection gear, her outfit had an exotic urban-grey military camouflage pattern. Despite her casual looks, she had a holstered pistol just on the left side of her ribs, a secondary sidearm on her belt, an exotic looking rifle strapped on her back as well as extra gear in a lousily-packed duff bag. There was even another rifle on her back.
    The Somtaaw operator who had guided her carried further bags as well; apparently having insisted to nobly help the lady carrying further ammunition and personal wear for her... and surprised how much weight this woman could carry despite her simple athletic frame.
    Although she was turanic, there were features proving that she was not a true full blood, especially since her ridged forehead was not as defined as the others in this room.

    "You know… I am not sure about things. About you and others of your kind here. Likewise, even after all these pages and chapters of blathering ever since the last days, we did not even really get to introduce one another"
    , the mercenary leader continued,
    "You may have heard of call signs, nicknames, and such from my dogs of war, but I think we should settle down and just get familiar with one another. Since we will more likely be the official commanders of these ongoing ops, we have to know each other. Although, we do not have to introduce everybody's names as there will be enough time to do such later on. Plus, with so many people bunched together on this carrier alone… I think anybody who is reading about experiences and lives are getting a damn headache with the thousands of notorious names."

    The turanic woman did not seem to care much about anything as the mercenary spoke further. She shortly lowered her bags just after the winded Somtaaw operator slumped slightly to put down the heavy load. He shortly noted that he would take her personal wear to her designated quarter once he caught his breath.

    "Nevertheless, let us keep it simplistic. You'll know the dogs soon enough. I'm a colonel. Well. An ex-colonel, but my men refer to me as such. It's sufficient. I had a chat with your turanic relatives."
    "If I may", Drayson suddenly added, "Although they're considered as clan brothers and sisters, they are not related in such manner as relatives. It is more of a house."
    "Ah. Nonetheless. I remember you on the field. Though I did not see much, I did see here and there that you are just as combat-proven as your turanic clan members -- and the Taiidan officer woman. We were actually talking about something related to her as well as all these weapons here. Before we continue, your name was Bay, right?"

    Although the Taiiranic woman did not understand all that he said, she did notice him mentioning her name, though slightly mispronounced.

    "Beii, is of name", she corrected.
    "Ah yes, sorry. I know you are not used to speaking commons, but it is sufficient for you to understand the basic of things. I already know that you and your clan members operate independently. Don’t worry, nobody insists to force you into tight squad duties", he mentioned, "Turanic - or Taiidan - or not, keeping it true is what will keep us alive. After all, unorthodox warfare is our medicine as well."

    Suddenly, the group noticed a reaction from the Taiiranic woman, as if she had recognized something on the table. Within a single second, she made big steps forward and was about to grab it when Aaron's hand intercepted, grabbing the specific weapon from the many others upon the table.

    "No", the Amaji marine said.

    Others were quite surprised, not understanding what was going on.

    <You have had it long enough. Give it back>
    <Forget it. We have serious some serious things to do with this>, Aaron replied.

    "Corporal. Beii…", the cold yet soft voice of Pethera noted from behind, "Calm yourselves. Allow me to explain something."

    Drayson rubbed his forehead and took a deep breath. It took some time until everybody else calmed down. The Corsari lowered their weapons, as they most likely saw their Thirds in danger.

    However, the Taiiranic woman was still what anybody could consider as edgy. Yet, the attention of the attendees went over to the Sjeti scientist woman.

    "Everybody, we're on the same side", the Sub-Lieutenant noted, "I would really appreciate it that we keep the weapons down, even if there may be minor disagsreements."

    It did not seem that the present Corsari cared much about his words.

    "Just to reiterate…", Pethera began, likewise not caring much about what just happened, "This pistol is very special weapon. It is one of the most efficient ones to truly take down the heaviest armor of the Nebuli Somtaaw. I do not need to stress how important research is. The Corporal handed us this pistol so that we - and by we, I mean my resources for research - that we could begin preliminary investigations."

    All watched the elegantly robed woman walk to the table full of weapons. She raised her hand, insisting that the Amaji marine would hand her the elegant pistol over.

    "Care to explain some things, contractor?", the mercenary colonel asked, "I'm sure you and your team got some interesting intel for us. I can smell it."
    "Good nose", she replied, "Indeed, I do. Preliminary things… unfortunately, only bringing us to the next mystery."

    The Sjeti woman held the weapon up just before her chest, clawed by her fingers as she presented it to the others.

    "Beii. You do not need to worry. We did not insist do dissect it. Yet -- At least it is not necessary. Fortunately, my assets are able to perform deep scans and give us digital layout designs of the interior as well as the makeup of its chemical and physical attributes. Although I do not have the additional resources of that dreaded woman Ebria and the Vjel-Amaj, I was already able to come up with initial discoveries and reports. You might want to be hear this, too, hence why I insisted to wait until you arrived."

    The Taiiranic did not seem like she care much about her words, but more kept her eyes upon the symbolic weapon.

    "The reports themselves are quite long and full of technobabble nobody really cares much about. But there are things I should present. First of all: You all know that weapons come in many forms…"

    Pethera looked over at the mercenary who had been playing around with his pistol all this time through. He stopped when the attention fell upon him.

    "There are so many technical features, series and weapons of all sorts that it is difficult to even sort them to the Hiigaran weapon classifications. One thing you all know is that ordinary and traditional weapons have their limits. They may be effective in one area, but fail in others. Technology plays its roll in just about anything that deals with advanced and exotic weaponry."

    The mercenary looked at his pistol. It was most certainly the traditional type, chemically propelled by the iconic bang.

    "Most weapons are projectiles, but there are key differences. Especially with your clan weapons, Beii, the Hiigaran ones that my mercenary use - and this one of your half-sister -- although there are ties between these three generations. I know this is complicated, but I will explain it as simple as possible. Colonel, would you mind presenting one of your AAR?"
    "Oh here, have mine", the wise-cracking mercenary next to him said, raising the specific sophisticated long arm, "A piece of my pride right here."

    Judging the mass of scratches, paintings and other symbolic features, the high-tech weapon clearly showed it had seen hundreds of combat theaters already. Regardless, it was clear that it was not the typical rifle, let alone that one could easily spot technology behind it. The man held it up. Although it was long, there were both compact and heavier variants on the table.

    "We performed similar scans upon the Turanic and Hiigaran ones", Pethera continued, "There is a link between all these tier 3 weapons. The Hiigaran one is based on the reverse engineering of Gauss technology, something that the Imperial Taiidans and Turanics did as well.
    The Turanic variant however is only loosely based on this, as it combines both the conventional chemical-propellant with gauss technology. It is obvious that the Turanics always prefer brute-force… though these specific clan weapons do have some elegance.
    But now, we have this pistol… We discovered so far that it is a very special weapon. It goes so far back in technology that we must assume it is even alike railgun principles - and yet it is contained in this small and handy form. The frame and design show it is of an exotic culture… Only a fraction of has taiidan features, which leaves me to engage the theory that your half-sister has inherited a very special piece of history.
    I do not know anything about her, but this pistol is only the beginning. What I can confirm so far is this: The technology cannot be reproduced in any way. It is so old and sophisticated not even my logical senses can bear the depth of this mystery. I can confirm that the chemical materials are of the age of the ancestors… The Progenitors -- but it has no siginificant connection to the said Progenitors…"

    "Whoa-whoo-whoa, wait", the wise-crack mercenary added, "So this magical gun that can take down stuff like those Nebuli Somtaaw hulks is not part of the big ol' janitors?"
    "Torque…", a female mercenary noted.
    "Heeey, hey, come on now. Oh, sorry, I mean Progenitors, of course", the wise-crack apparently nicknamed Torque corrected; then lowering his voice while rolling his eyes, "<She's Hidraali> As I was saying, this piece is what, different? I got that part. But what's so special about it."

    "The specialty? Let me start with one fact", Pethera said to him, "Most of its interior, its material, its base of elemental chemistry does not even exist in our periodic tables."
    "What? Not on women's --"
    "Knock it off", the Colonel suddenly growled loudly.
    "Damn it, can't you shut up, Torque!?", the female soldier said and palmed her forehead, "Frakking moron."

    "The periodic table of chemical elements", the Sjeti continued, surprisingly not responding to the joke of the merc, "I do not have any true evidence of its origin. Even the basic elements show that they are extremely different than what our science knowledgebase. But I can confirm that so far, none of it is known -- not even in the Bentusi's knowledge base of chemical elements. I do not need to explain how bizarre that fact is. Our scans cannot really penetrate all layers either, or even explain its procedure as it hurls whatsoever projectile with astonishing speed."
    "Well -- Now THAT is weird", Torque added.

    Others looked at him.
    "Hey!"
    "At least something that does make sense…", the Colonel sighed, "So, boss, correct me if I'm wrong. We need real hardware to kill these hulking bastards - the faster the better… but that gun is one of a kind we cannot mass-produce somehow?"
    "In this galaxy? No. What makes it so special is it being similar to that of a handheld Railgun… yet it is a handheld pistol. It is unlike Linear guns - heavy pistols that are like Railguns… but the attributes of the round alone are simply not from our knowledgebase of chemical elements as the rest of the pistol. Plus, a Linear pistol hurls a powerful surging and distinct noise whereas this pistol is much quieter. Such Linear weapons are heavy, hard to produce… let alone maintain."
    "Great. Well, there is no such thing as not enough gun", Torque snapped once more.

    Just before the Colonel was about to tell him to shut up, he held his breath at first, soon to say, "Word."

    Strangely, the female mercenary and others repeated what he said.

    "So, we're back to square one", the Colonel added, "The only way to take these guys down is using that gun along with ours -- but there are still too many and we are few. We're used to being outnumbered, but I won't be sacrificing my men just that easily."
    "I know, Colonel, I know", Pethera replied as she placed the pistol back down upon the makeshift table -- but then paused thee moment she recognized a specific pistol she noticed until now. It was the scarred pistol of the dreaded Hailynn Delixa, "W-What is this doing here."
    "Since we were going to talk about weapons, Velle insisted to give me this for a while", Aaron explained.

    The Sjeti froze. It was the same gun that Hailynn had pointed at her over a month ago, seriously undermining Pethera honor and supremacy as a Kiith'Sren. She could remember gazing deeply into the muzzle pointing right at the bridge of her nose. It was the first time ever that the Sjeti was threatened… and humiliated by a lesser --


    Pethera awoke from her moment of astonishment, "But not all is hopeless. The hulks are not invincible. There are still hybrid weapons to research and tests to be done upon the Somtaaw armor. We may not be able to produce weapons like this pistol, but if we focus our efforts and resources, we can develop the means, while using what we already have. This vessel has materials, the manpower and means to produce weapons and more. Not all is bleak. Difficult, but not futile - at least that is what logic says at our current state."

    "Speaking of which, that would bring me to tactics and such", the mercenary leader continued, "Beii."
    <Zass?>
    "What is your actual procedure in combat, the term referring to your role as a combatant?"
    The Taiiranic seemed slightly confused as she pondered, <Oadris Arende'keii>
    "What?"

    "Wayfinder of the pack", Aaron translated.
    "Wayfinder? Like what, pathfinder of Boyscouts?"
    "The Imperial Taiidan Commons obviously dialect differs from the Galactic Commons", the Sjeti noted.
    "Recon, but the special type", Aaron explained to them, "They operate loosely, and fast."


    "Sounds plausible. And your weapon?"
    Beii noted his gestures but could not figure what he was referring to until Aaron explained it in taiidanese. After understanding what he wanted to see, she removed the rifle from her back.

    "That would be a Turanic repeater -- though it is not the type that actually hurls horrendous amounts of rounds", Aaron explained, "It is more of a special marksman type."
    "Sniper?"
    "No. She doesn't follow that philosophy. Doubt she has the patience, though she could actually do such a task. But she and her troop were quite flexible. Run and gunning - She took care of firing aimed shots. Sniping, but she's not a sniper in that case. Her shots were more about finding the weak spots on the hulks. Took some time but she found them over time -- although it differed from hulk to hulk."

    "I understand. I'm guessing their Turanic repeaters and better than our AARs."
    "Depends", the Sjeti added, "Hiigaran AARs have sophisticated modifications, tech and other gadgetry whereas the Turanic ones are essentially hybrids between the conventional and exotic weapons. But all in all, we'll see soon enough. Weapon testing will be conducted, no matter what."

    *

    "Roger… All right, everybody", the commanding mercenary said, "There are other things to talk about. One of those will be about the schedule. After our long talks earlier, we established a schedule to cycle along with, so that each group will participate on all fields. We have the upper areas as a playground for field training and hardware proficiency training as well as this area down here for specialized training and rooms for instructing tactics and more.
    The first week will be an evaluation, so we need to perceive over time who is feasible to join the next tier. There are various roles that we desperately need."

    "I have a question, Colonel", an Ordet-Somtaaw soldier asked, "Will this not require loads of ammunition? I mean, if these Nebuli Somtaaw are that resilient - high tech weapons or not - that many people using guns will eat a lot of ammunition."


    "Good question. We have various plans to counter the issue. Actually, you'll be surprised. For starters, the Amaji actually came with huge load of ammunition…"
    "What?", the Somtaaw man said and looked over to Aaron.
    "*Sigh* Don't ask. Our MIA-Chief Logistics Officer is a crazy woman."

    "Oh… That was her?"
    "Hm? You know, Deena Amaj?"
    "Not quite. But I recall the substitute CLO of yours that doing a lot of tasks in her name. He had this pad that played her voice all the time while he was establishing the trade of resources between the Vjel-Amaj and this carrier."
    "Ah… Yeah… Poor guy. But yeah. That crazy nutty woman bought tons of ammo with the massive requisitions our vessel had. Aside to that, she also took a long a lot of paintball ammo, too - for whatever bizarre reason. We can use these to train new units. However, Amaji ammo is not the right weapon against the Somtaaw suits. Trust me."

    "But it’s a start…"
    "Right."
    "We have the right thing for the right job… The right thing to really shake the people with reality. But you know what - that will be a surprise", the Colonel noted, "You'll see."

    *****

    His foot moved through the necropolis; his shins walking through walls of corpses that swept away into dust. Their frozen faces reflected agony, screaming their endless silent woes. When he stopped, the world around him began to fall into pieces; the floor itself crumbling away under his feet… Soon to fall into the endless deep of black. Voices echoed in his mind as he fell…

    *

    He suddenly woke up after something gently slapped his cheek. Just as he was about to move, he noticed his body was greatly hindered by an enveloping mass. He took a deep breath at the same moment his mind came back to reality.

    "Torbin. Torbin", a man's voice said from the side.
    "Huh-- Oh, it's you, doctor… Wh-What happened?"


    Torbin looked around, still finding himself inside his bulky astronautic suit sans helmet. The surroundings were dark and cool while he noticed several people around, resting, whispering or quietly moaning. Everything was slowly coming back to him. This was a hideout just at the rim of the habitat deck… After several seconds of disorientation, he discovered Osna and Dr. Jonas besides him.

    "Don't worry, we're safe for now", Jonas noted, "But it looks like we have a slight problem."
    "Just one? *heh* -- huh?", the astronaut said when he suddenly noticed his hand was upon something.

    Torbin leaned forward as much as he could so that he see over the edge of his suit's collar, spotting the head of a young bruised woman resting upon his lap. He soon discovered that he was sitting upon the floor with his back against an obstacle. Her face was covered by a transparent hard plastic mask with a cable leading away. Each breath left a visible haze on the inside.

    "Oh…"
    "It seems we managed to stabilize these people. But we have an entirely different problem, Torbin…"
    "What would that be? I just dozed off."

    "-- For almost 10 hours straight", Osna noted.
    "What?"

    "We already hyperjumped and emerged."
    "Hmm, all right - but what's the problem?"

    "Torbin. It seems Darugis command needs your expertise as well as Desla's again. Darugis bridge had been calling you several times ever since. I decided to take the call before they would triangulate your beacon", the Amaji woman explained, "Looks like we don't have much of a choice."
    "Sounds like I'm the one who's not that lucky… Why should I do this?"
    "You're the astronautic teamleader after all… and the one wearing the heavy suit just like Desla."
    "Oh, great… *Sigh* Well, that's my job…"

    "You're not the only one… Several sworn-in operatives were forced to leave in order to conduct ordinary tasks. I, too, have to report at the hangar bay. Looks like there are several SAT teams inspecting the salvaged objects… I'm not looking forward to that either… I'd rather be here."
    "Don't worry, Osna", the Hiigaran doctor said, "My associates will take care of these people as I handle the unfortunate bodies we lost… I was told there was an area that resembled a morgue. I do not like the idea of this, but it is a safe place to store corpses with an induced sealed vacuum environment. We must be certain that we cannot keep these Nebuli people hidden forever, but I do wish to give these lost souls their deserved burial when the time is right."
    "Agreed", she answered.

    "Hmm. Okay… What about this task you're speaking of?"
    "They said that something is stuck outside of the hull. Has to do with the collectors -- err… The solar panels. Something is blocking the mechanism. Desla and you are to help out since you have the heavier variants. I am not sure if other astronauts can help as they are still recovering from their previous mission. They did not withstand the side-effects as well as you and Desla did."

    "Right… Okay, then. I guess it is time for us to save the world again, eh?", he said, "But my suit is depleted, so is Desla's."

    "From what I heard, the Ordet-Somtaaw have pressurized air units they can infuse to your standard capacity… Of three hours maximum at best. Not much but it is a start", Jonas said, "And from what I extracted from your suit's bio readings, I can see that your body decomposed most of the toxic subjects. I still advise you never to apply injections of any kinds for the next 72 hours. I am serious. Since this mission does not require any haste, you can return and retrieve the next set. It is too dangerous to do this out in space."

    "Why?"
    "The hull is likely loaded with particles and static. After all, we emerged deep into the star's yellow zone."
    "Whoa… That's deep… I thought green was idea."

    "Same here, but we're all alive and good to go. Okay, Osna, help me heave this young lady away from his lap. Over there to the others. We'll take care of everybody else quickly and then help you up."

    "*Sigh* All right…"

    As the two did as Jonas said, the Amaji dropped his head to the back.

    Great… Still stuck in this suit…

    ******

    To be continued….

  21. #21
    Wall-o-Textian
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Germany - In "Yurop"!
    Chapter 33 - Part 3 of X

    UNCHANGED FROM ROLLBACK




    *****
    = Restricted area. Upper complex center. =

    The secured observation point was situated almost two hundred meters above the lower compound that was now being showered by the rain. It was more or less at the centric region at the ceiling of the area.

    The observation point was a small center that apparently used to be a secondary control room that used to regulate the happenings of the independent area below. This specific center was also connected to the compound and the lower complex below by the cylindrical pylon as an access by feet or by a mechanical lift.

    The Amaji officer pushed himself away from the protective glass and looked around.

    The surroundings had a handful of operators and operatives moving about the area. The young man also spotted a group of Hive workers applying their equipment to the mainframes. Servitors, though quiet, helped the groups as ordered by the Corsari Third who was also in the area.

    The center itself contained eight vantage points like the one he just turned away from. Thanks to the extremely durable glass, the small control center was safely protected from any chance of misaimed gunfire as it was surely made to handle the stress of a decompressed environment.

    The air here was stuffy and despite this area having filters and being a very large space ship, dust still managed to settle in. At times, the fine dust even managed to tease his nose. He could hear both environment control and the aqueous solution systems vividly operating at the same time.

    However, as it had been said many by now, the habitat deck as well as the area below had been securely sealed off and pressurized for good and the carrier itself offered enough viable ways for other vessels to dock. This area as well as the rest of the habituated deck was practically sealed off for good from the outer sectors of the carrier. The junkyard compound further below was more than secure enough as a massive barrier segregated the actual habituated deck by half.

    Nonetheless, one was still surprised that the vessel was indeed humongous and even though a mass of people dwelled within, the aged carrier itself was widely undermanned.

    He looked around once more. Several men and women operated some of the old consoles, bringing them back to life after a long age of collecting dust. The area itself was only moderately lit as there were Corsari servitors who did not like brightness at all. From what he had heard, people only occasionally moved through the area below. The junk far below always offered enough material for patching up the ship; one could even agree that there was always enough components to salvage from the dead husks of old equipment. Somewhere, it seemed that the carrier had also been active within a ship graveyard…

    *

    Meanwhile, the Amaji had been indirectly listening to the conversations far below by the open commline that had been established as the so-called Colonel and others were talking.

    The commline was put on standby as he had ordered the others to conduct another training unit followed by a physical stress test. The young officer was slightly worried about this militaristic theme and mindset, but each time one considered a comment, it was always overwhelmed by the very baneful mentioning of the supreme enemy. [/indent]

    *
    *Sigh*

    "You seem… troubled", the specific woman said from further away, "Anyways. Care to join us, Sub-Lieutenant? This should be interesting for you to know."

    Drayson raised his head and spotted a small group that was part of team that revived this center. The young man straightened his uniform before he quietly walked over to them. It was not easy to hide the fact that he was slightly exhausted.

    The very small group consisted of the Hiigaran woman who had called him, as well as an obvious silent Corsari soldier, an Ordet-Somtaaw marine and another male Hiigaran mercenary.


    "I'm fine, ma'am. Just been on my feet for too long I guess", the Amaji explained, "After all, we've been walking a lot. Not to mention the endless flight of stairs just to get to this area. Felt like that communication tower level…"
    "Agreed", she added, "Too bad the lift was offline. Yes… That tower level took some time."

    "The what?", the Somtaaw marine wondered.
    "N-Nothing", Drayson replied.
    "Nonetheless. The power grid supplying the lifts throughout the carrier had always been this unreliable", the Somtaaw marine explained, "Operators are doing what they can, but decided to patch only the primary areas. Not so bad though. Where there is a will -- and manpower -- there is a way."
    "Indeed."

    [indent]Taking a moment, he observed each member.

    The Ordet-Somtaaw man had no special features worth truly mentioning. As Drayson had learned, the marines were mostly just a selected few fireteams of NCOs who had decided to stay with the Darugis after the mutinous event.

    Most of men like he was were actually green behind the ears as they had joined active duty during the Hiigaran-Vaygr war to maintain security for the apparent slave transport scandal. Nevertheless, after the event and departure of the others, they had been acting as the Darugis' rudimentary board security team, but mostly found themselves helping out as much as any other operator.

    They had only seen action during the violent mutiny shootings. Currently, these specific men and women were supporting the crew training initiative as supervisory instructors for physical training and hardware instructions.

    The Corsari marine happened to be a Corsari fullblood whose body was mostly covered by his scarred battledress. Nobody was ever certain why these Corsari soldiers constantly wore their armor but somewhere, they were probably just overly cautious warriors. After all, the soldier types never really appeared to be the calm types and they did had been living a daily life full of terrors. Drayson had not figured his name, but was slightly nervous about asking such.

    The Hiigaran merc was known as Jamiiris, a specialist who was trained in field combat engineering such as explosives and electronics. Like the various other mercs, the man was muscular and certainly more resilient than Drayson's pitiful frame. He had short spiky dark hair, the common looks of a mercenary who had seen several theatres of war and had similar tattoos resembling his former special forces unit. Though the Amaji had not paid all too much attention, he did recognize that most of the mercs had the same one.

    Drayson had noticed the Hiigaran mercenary wore the iconic dispersive flak jacket just like the woman who sat in front of the console.

    "But actually, Tammy, that's about it", Jamiiris added, "We have to get down there. We don't want the Colonel to be thinking we're having a good time up here. See you later when we get some food after all this work. <Come on, Virrt.>"

    The Hiigaran woman wove at them while Drayson gave a swift salute. The Somtaaw marine also wove at the group, leaving them so he could acquire his equipment and follow the other two down to the lower training zones.
    "See you around", the woman noted, "<Virrt? So that's his name… When did he mention it?…>"
    "I have no idea. But speaking of names, I suppose you are Tammy, then?"

    "Just a nickname. Akartam Jerthesias Riig-Astodes… I know, I know. A boy's name. An obvious mistake by parents… You'll get used to it. Everybody knows me as Tammy", she explained swiftly.
    "I'm sure I will. Hmm, Riig-Astodes? Now that’s a rare one for me. I heard of a rumor of the enclave's colonized constellations mostly being cold world?"
    She smiled lightly, "For a change, not a rumor. The main constellations do not possess feasible planets… The three barren planets as their names hint have no atmospheres and they're pretty much only suitable for industrial and mineral harvest corps.
    There are a lot of gas giants that have an impressive amount of large moons that actually maintain an atmosphere… somewhat. However, they are usually too far away from the star, so it is not that pleasant. But it's home, I guess. My parents were loosely involved with the military but managed to settle down before the big wars."

    "Heh -- I do not know my parents…"
    "We're you orphaned by the big wars?"
    The young man shook his head, "No. Well… Depends… I do not know exactly, to be honest - but short answer is no. Practically all Amaji never met their true parents. We were gene-seeded by the Hiigaran Empire prior to the war to a frontier constellation."
    "Ah yes, yes. Sorry for the ignorance. You see, the company has been in frontier action for almost two decades straight. We seldom know the actual kiithid and enclaves… We mercs 're too busy fighting other people's wars…"

    The Sub-Lieutenant tilted his head slightly with a curious face, "I was wondering, though, you don't seem to be a merc -- I mean, no offense."

    The Hiigaran woman was not essentially much older than Drayson. It was the first time for him to actually meet a person of the Hiigaran Riig-Astodes enclave; a unified kiith not that far from the Hiigaran homeworld. There were many enclaves and people throughout the core systems - possibly too many to know of or meet in a lifetime.
    Tammy was taller than the young Amaji, which was a common trait that coined any Hiigaran. But other than this, her dark straight hair and other features were common - although he did notice her skin was much paler than the Hiigarans he had met before.

    Regardless, she was obviously part of the mercenary force, though more of a true operative supporting the unit from the outside. The Hiigaran woman wore a grey military uniform, but with a skirt and a flak jacket; for whatever reason.

    "I'm not a mercenary warrior, to be precise. You are right about that", Tammy explained, "I'm part of the hired gun's unit nonetheless. More or less as an agent - but not in any military sense as one would think. I act as an attaché between clients, outer affairs and the unit."
    "Just you for the task?"

    "Oh. No, not really. There are few more on the Hive. Mostly administrative co-workers as I am. The big boys 'n' girls count on us to handle the acquisition of hardware and moving things around as they desire it. Whenever they need something, we're there to support them. Of course, we also maintain communication and overwatch."
    "I see", Drayson replied, "I'm surprised to actually see a troop like that one around. I suppose any other questions related to the mercenaries are classified?"

    "Depends, Sub-Lieutenant."
    "Rolan, ma'am."
    "Tammy, sir."

    The Amaji smiled lightheartedly, "Well. I'm not that kind of person who'd be digging in anybody's secrets. I rather go by 'Live and let live'. No need to stick one's nose in anybody's business."
    "I like your philosophy, Rolan", the Hiigaran woman answered, "However, there are some details that I will have to share with you sooner or later. After all, we are all on the same side, right?"
    Drayson paused for a brief moment before breaking the silence, "Uh -- I mean, yes. Of course. If you have any questions regarding us on the outside, just go ahead…"

    "You seem to doubt that for a moment…"
    "I'll be honest with you, Tammy. I've been warned about private military organizations as well as your contractor. This is by no means offensive, but I do must say that your organization is likely to go by other intentions. My Commander has confronted merc organizations as well as your contractor more than often - for the worse", Drayson explained, "O-Of course… We're on the same side, but I'm just concerned about when your organization decides to pull out when they feel like. For somebody who studied command is now more or less on practical field duty, secret agendas are things that I'm greatly concerned of…"

    There was a moment of thoughtful silence. Aside to the clicks of typing fingers, humming power grids and distant dialogs, none of the two said another word for this moment.

    "Even though we are mercenaries, we're the honorable type, regardless of our contractor, Rolan. Yes, she may have her own agenda, but she well knows that we're a force not to use for wrong-doings of any kind", she replied, breaking the silence between them.

    "Look, I went too far with that one. We are on the same side. I apologize for saying that", he answered but clearly revealed that he was indeed worried.

    "You don't have to be sorry, Rolan. You're right about your concern. It is not the first time I'm hearing such either. But listen. I think it would be best I do what my administrative job is meant for."
    He nodded, "Very well…"

    *

    "Here", she said, handing over a tablet, "The administrative staff has compiled the plans for establishing several organizations consisting of the new units that will be trained over time. These files also contain the actual names for the desired special forces."
    "Special forces? How's that to work, I mean -- The entire population of the flotilla are mostly civilians. S-Sure, there will be a selected few of talents amidst the standing defense force once basic training has been completed, but how is this to work out? I mean, aside to all the people, military people like you are after all the only ones eligible."

    "Special forces is only a specific term for a classification, Rolan. We have derived information from the Common Grounds meeting as well as your commander-in-chief", the Hiigaran continued, "Your Commander was indeed focused on developing a set of new doctrinal aspects. I'm sure he mentioned for instance the term, Duty Operatives."
    "Uh… Oh yes, he did. I think I have to explain that one. Duty actually has a special meaning in the Amaji world. It stands for a military sense. As you know, operatives are not military crewmen as say, Servitors or military crewmen of any Hiigaran vessel.
    Since all people of the flotilla are to learn to bear arms for the sake of all, Commander Nabaal is counting on the Duty Operatives establishment as an additional supportive unit to complement the true military ground forces of our flotilla.
    That is at least coming from the Vjel-Amaj. Duty operatives will most certainly be the best support unit to aid the higher tier military ones such as your mercs."

    Tammy lifted her head while slipping some of the hair behind her ear, "I am pleased to hear that. Indeed. There will be several units. I am not certain about the Servitors' take on this, but yes. We will be establishing organized units to be commanded and trained by special doctrines to ensure true success"
    , Tammy added,
    "The tablet has the information I wish to go through with you. The capitol names stand for the actual organization. I am not sure about the actual special forces focused doctrines but that will be for the Colonel and other commanding military officers to decide."
    Drayson shortly read it, "TARAHEJ?"

    "Kushan for Pathfinders. It is based on a military branch of Hiigara, formerly a special one of Kharak. While this will not consist of elite members, it is a designated a small mainstay of a standing force - historically meant for warriors who led the way. In our modern society, it focuses on tactics such as fast-moving recon and skilled marksmen"
    , the Hiigaran associate explained carefully,
    "I have studied the armaments of your kiith with other colleagues and we have decided that there are interesting potentials. After all, this Operation: Red Kabaalistan featuring the Taiiranic squad proved themselves in the field… We have yet to see how they evaluate themselves but we are confident."

    Random coughs were heard further away. Apparently somebody breathed too much dust.


    The Amaji sub-lieutenant lowered the pad, "I'll study it…"
    "Excellent. I am sure you will concur with --"
    "But one thing must be certain, Tammy. The Amaji and those affiliated with my kiith - regardless of what special command they may underlie - will still follow my word of command as well as my superior, Commander Nabaal. Whether it is for the good or bad. Just to be clear."

    "I understand, Rolan. It is… just that we know what will be effective against such a lethal foe. We know secrets of warfare you cannot imagine. The Colonel is… not the only one who has special knowledge."

    "R-Right. I must simply assure that even if there people who are highly experienced soldiers will not simply own us or anybody as their own private army."
    "You've made your point is clear… Sub-Lieutenant."

    The Amaji turned around shortly and looked beyond the vantage point down below.
    "SHAIID-JAK… or Jacks… Leader of Shades…", she shortly mentioned.
    He turned around, "Wait. I've heard of that name before. That's not just any random one. That's a Kiith… or… no, a smaller clan. I'm sure of it. You must be joking"
    , the young man suddenly stammered,
    "You're insisting to introduce the deadly art to the flotilla's defense force? You cannot be serious!"

    Tammy seemed quite surprised for the moment. Surprised, that this Amaji was surprisingly well informed over a historical clan that had actually vanished over the last century; unknown if it had melded with another kiith or simply… vanished. Yet, hardly anybody studied the vast existences of kiithid, let alone the unknown and unspoken clans.

    "Just hearing SHAIID does not require more explanation", he said with a firm voice, "During my educational phase at the academy, we were introduced to the topic of long forgotten clans. One of the participating officers had great interests in the Shaiid - for whatever reasons. I know only one thing… They were a special breed of warriors… silent ones. The types that follow their own agenda… their own will."
    "Rolan", she said as she raised herself from her seat and approached him.
    "No. I will not allow any of the Amaji or other affiliates of our side to blindly join the SHAIID-JAK. As the current commander-in-chief of this Amaji expeditionary force, I'm denying any Amaji indoctrination around such an agenda. Keep your assassin's creed to yourself."

    But the Hiigaran woman appeared to be concerned of something. It was as if she wanted to say something, but feared she might be crossing a line. The Amaji did not truly know what was causing this reaction though his words were certainly harsh for her. Nonetheless, there was something that seemed to disturb her.

    Yet, she gathered what was left of her courage. Without any further mentioning, she placed her radio communicator next to the console. Insisting to talk to him privately, the Hiigaran suddenly stood up and urged him away from the area they stood.

    "W-Where are we --?"
    <Just… Just come… shh>, she whispered.

    The young man was confused as he followed her. Her walk was aimless at first until she seemed to have found a place. Drayson was lost as to where this was going. Predominately, Tammy avoided the small groups of people through the center, but soon found a spot mostly covered by obstacles.

    The Hiigaran led him to a small area featuring decomposed mainframes that emerged from the low ceiling and ever since had not been pushed back up into. The specific smell of plastics was quite strong, causing him to rub his nose several times. Harmless cables hung around, unclear if they were ever to get any attention again. Nonetheless, the two did not care about this. Although people could see their legs partially, they were certainly private. She even had dodged a merc who had not noticed her moving through the center.

    "Tammy, I really --"
    "Rolan, turn off your radio…"

    Though hesitant, he set it to passive, assuring her that his unit was inactive yet capable of receiving any specific requests.

    "I'm sorry about all this, but I want to be honest with you, Rolan…"
    "I am all ears. What was this all about?"

    "Listen. I am only telling you this privately, because I want to show you that I do not want to hide any specific things from you. It… It is true that the SHAIID-JAK is of the deadly clan of the past… but there is more to it… and I wish to share it with you"
    , Tammy carefully explained with a lower voice,
    "The reason I wish to keep this private is because there are indeed people eavesdropping to conversations. I… I am loyal to my unit, Rolan, and to contracts… but you must know that our contractor is capable of many things. One of these is the capability of intercepting codecs."
    "The radio?"
    "Yes. But not all. Of course, those that are not heavily ciphered like ordinary chats are the ones she can heed."

    "…Th-Thanks for telling me this, Tammy. It is good to know, but in all honesty, we Amaji have nothing to hide, after all."
    "But this is one of many ways how she keeps informed of everything, Rolan. She's like an invisible eye - the walls being her ears. There's something else… Open the file I tagged as Ordnance Suggestions and select Smoothbore 14mm… It is actually a file about something else. I was actually going to send you a message regarding how to decipher what I encoded there."

    "Encoded?"
    The woman took the pad and pressed several keys, "Just a safety measure. It is unlocked."

    The young man wasted no further time and examined the file. It was mostly about the Shaiid clan and a lot of information. It took some time until she led his attention upon digital pictures.

    Drayson gazed upon a set of pictures featuring groups of soldiers… colonial marines… until the Hiigaran pointed upon a specific picture. They were posing, proudly representing their military units.

    "W-Wait… What's this?"
    "That group… Check out the person at the upper row, fourth from the left."

    His eyes fell upon a young woman. The photo itself lacked color but was well detailed enough in quality. For some reason, the face sparked a striking resemblance to somebody - A person he had already met. But there were features that confused his memories. However, the face was partially covered by a mask, yet it was the sharp gaze and the characteristics that seemed so familiar to him.

    "This digital photo is just one of many revealing several Special Operations units… I picked this one out because I was doing some research as I was searching for more about the secretive clan. This unit however was clearly influenced by Shaiid doctrines. These people here were involved with this secret organization -- though possibly indirectly."

    "This woman… I see this is picture is some ten or twenty years old… but I feel I know this woman. Okay, you got me there. Who is she? But she is damn familiar, I tell you."
    "Of course you should… It's Hailynn Delixa, the ex-Commander of the Hiigaran Navy."

    "WHAT? HER…?", he almost said loudly, but she urged him to keep his voice low just before his words could be heard, "Sorry. But… What is this all about? Are you tell me that --"

    "Rolan, this Commander Delixa woman, Hailynn, used to be part of the special forces, too. According to the reports, the Colonel's team had retrieved her from the interrogation chambers during the Nebuli incursion upon the Bryggen'Turasr"
    , Tammy moved closer as she whispered on,
    "The Colonel recognized her tattoos, resembling the special forces she was part of. After he told me about her and these connections, he was sure there were strings… connections."
    "Well… She was a marine after all. And she was in the Hiigaran-Vaygr war too. She actually had experienced a lot. I heard most of it even before the war itself."

    "That must be true. I was able to acquire specific files regarding her background, Rolan, or the shattered pieces of it. It is not much about her, but you should know about her. And there is a lot more about her. One thing is her actual kiithid heritage. Of course, we know that she is from Kiith Delixa… but she apparently went by an entirely different name. You know well enough it is actually impossible and not to mention forbidden to impose of another kiith.
    There is of course the fact that she was involved with the a secret organization, but certain files clarify that she already had a different name before that did not resemble her Delixan heritage. Apparently, she went by the name of Heilia Denebru -- maybe. I'm not sure, but my organization has some files that I was able to access.
    Dr. Pethera Sjet most likely does not know about this information, but I will have to hand this information to her."
    "W-Why? I think it is better that she--"

    "I must, Rolan. I'm tied to authority as much as you to your kiith and pride. And I'm telling you this because we're on the same side."

    Both of them maintained their concerned gazes. Even now, privileges and duty always stood its ground.

    "So… What I see here is that Hailynn was involved with the Shaiid doctrines… but why is this relevant? <Heh, I see she has much brighter hair, too.>"
    "I… I am not sure. I just wanted to share you this. Things that you should know of, before my contractor insists to keep it a secret as it was. I do not want to convince you of anything. I just found it should be known. I loaded that chip with the information. That one file has several more ghosted under it. Maybe you can start something with it."
    "Tammy… On behalf of the Kiith Amaj, I wish to thank you for this, nonetheless. It is vital, regardless of whatever."

    "As the Colonel goes by the motto of his former special unit: Knowing is half the battle. Oh, there's more that might interest you. Her special forces unit also inherited various special treatments. We are talking about biotechnology. It is likely that her body was infused with implants. And according to her location, it is likely that she was involved in the Kyori revolution."
    "Good gracious… Hmm… I heard about this, loosely. It only happened a decade or so ago, but it was in the news somewhat. Heh, I was just kid when that happened. Nonetheless. There was a time when marines were infused with biomechanical implants. That changed though as technology further advanced.
    So far, modern tech of today allows implanting microchips transdermally. This was mainly used to operate the higher tier weapons and security lock. Pretty much harmless and without the severe intrusive operations."

    "But these that this unit received were a lot more intrusive, Rolan. Designed for enhancing the killer instincts of what the Shaiid lore followed. Means of assassination is just one of several… Even so, I must say that the Colonel was part of a different special forces branch that somewhat stumbled upon Hailynn's unit during that time, which is why he was more than surprised about her.

    He also had heard once of a rumor about this Shaiid unit's recruiting methods… Whether it be brainwashing or simply convincing the person of interest."

    "Just… How did you manage to get all this?"

    "I'm in the administrative field that has access to a lot of data. After all, we are a mobile mercenary unit. Dr. Pethera has more or less… well… acquired our unit with a very, very hefty sum. She has decided to take the best of the best along and we established our assets upon the Hive as our new mobile HQ.

    Nonetheless, the Colonel can become quite talkative when drinking. He's a soldier after all. But he is a good man. Nonetheless, Pethera and the Colonel insist to introduce a small unit such as the SHAIID-JAK as military intelligence and subterfuge is just as essential as the backbone force of an army. D-Don't worry, we won't go that deep into the very bits of this clan, Rolan. The Colonel as well as his team is well aware how important intelligence is."
    "All right. Thanks for all this. I will take the chip."

    "Okay. But avoid sending it without ciphering it. Pethera is a Sjeti… after all."
    "Got it."

    "Hmm… Commander Delixa just got even more interesting…"
    "And scarier", he added, "But trust me, while I do not know her as much as Commander Nabaal does, she has always sided with justice. I heard of the feud with Pethera… but I just know Delixa is not a mindless woman."
    "That may be true… but remember, everybody remains a mystery, no matter how much you know about them. Listen, we better get back, before some people think we are getting too much involved with each other…"

    The Hiigaran woman added and then moved out of the private spot when the coast was clear.
    "Okay…"
    What's so bad about getting involved with each other?!

    *****


    *****

    - 1837 -

    Almost an hour later

    = Darugis - Bridge Command, upper section =

    Current time: 1810…


    "Hmm. Are they all right?", the male operator asked as he turned his seat.

    The young man sat at frontal area of the command platform, operating the frontal sensorial station.

    "I suppose so", another man replied, "The static is simply to intensive, but I can see them on the hull with that creepy Turanic corvette. The image itself is flickering all the time, but all looks good."
    "Good to hear about that."


    "Hey, did anybody see the Captain?", a female colleague asked as she just walked into the bridge.
    "Oh, hey, Sela. He was here, but he is currently recuperating at the den. He's been on extended duty for quite some time, after all. Anything important?"
    "Oh… Okay. I do not wish to disturb him just for this. Just a few maintenance reports and assets request to sign, but nothing that can't wait", Sela nervously explained, "So he's at the den? I thought he'd take the chance to head downtown."

    "Nah, the Captain insisted to stay at the den."


    "Den? Downtown?", a male operative asked from further away, "Sorry to bud into the conversation, but I just had a look on my tablet but couldn’t find these locations."

    "Oh", the female operator noted, "We refer to the den as a place for rudimentary R&R. It is located several doors down the main hall - over there"
    , she explained, pointing at the specific door between the two large helm engineering stations,
    "It is a cool area with beds and very calm. It is just the perfect place for finding serenity. Nobody actually knows what it was used for before, but is a calm place. Many bridge operators use this place to find some rest and recover from the ongoing heat wave of the bridge.
    Even if one may still be on active duty, one may leave if all is calm. I suppose the Captain insisted to stay on this deck rather than going downtown."
    "Indeed, it is quite hot here. I could actually need a break myself"

    "Oh, sure. Be free to do such. This is not some military vessel that requires everybody to prove iron discipline. Of course, red alert situations are a different case."
    "Exactly. Captain Gridori should be taking a nap at the den. He told us to notify him when the ship has finally completed its solar harvesting operation. It will take several hours, but with that power, we'll be good to go. Nonetheless -- about downtown, we're just referring to the Habitat Deck populated by the Gaalsiidim people. I'm not sure if you know, but the Captain has family down there."
    "A new one, by the way", she added, "I'm so happy about it."
    "She always is."
    "Heeey…"
    "Anyways. Several from the Somtaaw crew have family and friends down there. But as you know, it takes a while to get down there, especially now that we have issues with access lifts."
    "More than ever", she added.
    "Right. It takes quite a while to get down there. It only makes sense to go down there once the active shift is over. It is quite fun down there. The civilians recently invented a few games of sport - of some kind. I'm not sure how it all works, but it is quite refreshingly different. Some of us are actually enjoying this. Quite different than usual busy day up here - and it can get dull at times."
    "Tell me about it", the female operator added, "But the people are great. Although… Since they are a free unified kiith, we respect the times they request privacy. Both the Gaalsi and the Siidim people converse in sort of clan meetings, but those are rare. We are still allowed to move around the area, and only participate whenever they like."

    "Got it. That is quite interesting. I mean the lifestyle on this carrier. Feels like a small city… err… like a town, on a ship."

    "Heh, yeah. Ever since we became stuck on this place, our lives circle around this people in space with problems thing… It is weird, but you know… Darugis became our Homeworld."
    "Yeah… Yeah", he noted, firmly as he shortly looked at the floor.

    "I'm impressed. Heh, this ship is big after all. Big family."

    "Indeed. I would --"

    Just as she was about to say something, she heard one of the helm engineers from the rear notice something at the same time they noticed a recurring sound along with blinking symbol, "Hmm… What's this…? You getting this?", he asked to his colleague to his further left.

    The three turned around and gazed upon the two who operated the primary helm engineering stations that were undoubtedly quite complicated as easily noticeable by their size alone. The Amaji operative immediately these two surrounded by various bulky screens, panels and hundreds of cryptic buttons and interfaces overhead.

    The other engineer turned around as he operated one of the interfaces, "Uh… Confirmed. I'm getting this, too. But I'm not sure what's going on. Just a yellow, though. Looks like some kind of request for a high security action."
    "That is still worrisome…"

    "Should I get the Captain?", the female operator ahead asked.
    The first helm engineer pondered for a short while, "The man needs rest. I'm in charge right now -- but we better get one of the Lieutenants up here. Call her up, while we investigate this unusual request, please."
    "I'm on it", she confirmed and pulled out a walkie-talkie.

    The Amaji operative remembered that the old-fashioned radio systems, while primitive in function and the usage of over-out comments, was essential as carrier was much larger than the Vjel-Amaj; let alone the current fact that the magnetic field and the star's fury even affected internal radio quality.

    Nonetheless, amplifiers throughout the vessel as well as old yet reliable codecs ensured a basic level of understanding - though the codecs themselves always cursed transmissions with distortions that made voice sound robotic, as well as the ongoing static.

    "Looks like this strange signal was dispatched by an astronautic engineering request -- which is quite weird, since we currently have an astronautic mission going on right now… Err… whoa, wait. Okay, this is strange. The alert shows astronautic, but I have several interfaces showing me this is more about fire suppression."
    "W-What? Is there a fire? Where is this happening?", the male operator asked.

    "Lieutenant Odera is on her way. She's just below at one of the operator pools."
    "Roger", the other helm engineer said, "Hmm… Here it is… Location: AFT-Port board, Deck H, Tertiary Hangar… Section U-E-22…", he explained as one of his screens focused on the blinking section of the wireframe layout, "Outer section, to be precise. That’s a tertiary hangar all right."

    "We used one of those as an extended storage for salvaged goods", the other operator at the other station said, "Nothing of high priority though. But this does not explain the fire alert."

    A uniformed woman appeared from the accessible ramp. Various other operators turned around when they noticed her arrival.

    "Report", the Lieutenant ordered.
    "LT. We're not sure", one of the helm engineering began, "Our systems picked up an astronautic engineering request… which seems to be tied to some sort of fire suppression alert… or request. All at the Tertiary hangar at AFT-Port board, the one that was used as a storage."
    "I'm getting surveillance camera feeds, we need to see what is going on", a different operator added, "Hope it is nothing."

    "<Me neither. Do it.>Operations. Do we have anybody over there?", the officer asked, turning over to the specific operator pool.
    "Just did the run on the duty roster, ma'am", the operator reported, "It is confirmed that there is indeed a team that has dispatched to that particular section. A mixed group, tagged as Maintenance Team #41, a team of five operators, along with two Amaji operatives and a Corsari servitor. The roster says they were dispatched to perform general inventories regarding the salvaged materials stored in AFT as we did extract quite a confusing mass of things from that salvage operation yesterday. There's a Team #33 that is listed as well - as transport support, currently not in the area, but in transit. Information was passively acquired by their beacons as these are just tertiary tasks."
    "Understood."

    "I think we should get the Captain…", the female operator reminded.
    "Not yet. We're probably making too much out of this", the female officer explained, "Helm, what about that fire-astro-- request whatever…?"

    "Not sure… Whoa. Okay that's weird. I just received discovered the request received confirmation from a bridge command authority... for whatever!"
    "What? Really? Why did you confirm it?!"
    "I-- I did not confirm this! Come on, this is a bad joke. I did not do anything. Nobody did -- but I can clearly see that the link in blinking green, stating that one of the Helm Engineering stations confirmed this."

    "<Stand-by>", the female operative said, "Engineering just contacted me. The chief is wondering if we're getting this, too. He has no clue what is going on."

    Lieutenant Odera looked around with a very confused gaze, "Just what in the torrential --?"

    The other male operative interrupted her cuss, "Wait. I just went through the surveillance and found some activity at that section, ma'am. Had to use IR motion detection to narrow the search down much faster."
    "What are you waiting for? Patch them to the damn main screen right now!", she instantly demanded.

    As he did what she demanded, most of the bridge quiet down as they nervously waited for the live feed to appear.

    Finally… A series of several live images appeared… revealing different angles and locations of the section, featuring a selected few people moving about the area, minding their business, showing no signs of trouble or panic. As reported, it was a small group of eight people spread throughout the area. Everybody seemed focused on specifics tasks; mostly examining and inputting logistical data into their pads. Others carried things around, placing them on small transport vehicles.
    The area itself featured a small auxiliary shuttle transport as well as two unknown corvettes and a set of huge containers with unknown contents. But all in all, this team was examining the goods with calm.

    "Uh… A glitch in the matrix?", the helm engineer wondered, "Looks like all is fine there. This is not the first time we had glitches, after all."
    "But… none were like these", the officer said, "I don’t like this. Patch me through to one of them."

    "Copy. One moment."

    The Amaji operative calmed down. He was slightly nervous at first as how things were building up, but as he heard how the others began to comment about glitches and how many times smaller events like this had happened, he figured that they were used to this and responded well to the task.

    <Stand by. Patched.>
    Lieutenant Odera pulled her walkie-talkie, "Lieutenant of the watch speaking. Anybody of Team #41, please respond, over."

    She repeated her request once more, when she then discovered somebody on the screens reacting.
    ""Operator Fiir here, LT. Over.""
    "What's your status, over?"

    ""All clear, here, LT. Making an inventory on the salvaged goods. There are quite a lot of things here that is chewing most of our time. We've been tagging every single unidentified subject with registry numbers. The ones that we had done so far had already been transported away by Team #33. They should be at the industrial sector, dropping off that stuff for the flotilla industrialists and scientist to have a look on. So far, so good, bridge. Over.""

    "Really? I mean, are you sure? Nothing at all? Over."
    ""Uh… Negative. All okay. I can see a few. Just talking. Over.""
    "R-Right. I can see it on surveillance feeds. Over", the Lieutenant said as she took a deep breath.
    ""Oh, you're watching us? Well, we're working - heh-heh. No complaints, though an additional team could help, to be honest.""

    The man carried on with other comments, but the Amaji operative did notice the young Lieutenant lowering her arm that held the walkie-talkie. Her face revealed that she was confused and unsure as she looked at the floor. She was truly trying to handle a possible situation… but the situation seemed to be no situation at all. The PA speakers continued with the young man's voice.

    ""… and that about sums it up. Oh, we found some interesting things, but as said, we already had it transported. I guess it is safe to say: nice find. Oh… I can hear the blast doors opening. Looks like Team #33 is back. Other than that, I guess that --""

    The voice suddenly vanished. It took the Lieutenant several seconds until she noticed the absent voice. She lifted her radio unit.

    "Come again, Fiir. There was a hiccup, over", she transmitted as she walked in a slow circle.


    "Guess it's nothing big", the other female operator noted.

    The Lieutenant pressed the button several times before repeating her lines; audible as mic clicks well heard throughout the bridge, "Fiir? Do you read me? Come back, over. <Did my walkie just die on me?>"

    "Uh, no. Your's still working, ma'am", another male operator added, slightly stammering, "And his is working, too. I'm picking up echoes from his transmission, but for some reason, I can't capture them."

    "And I think I know why", one of the helm engineers suddenly added, "The local transceiver of that sector was cut off from the power grid, for whatever reasons. Several tertiary areas just went dead there. They still have lights and everything else though. Just the radio that is suddenly offline.", he explained, as they noticed the light shortly flickering on the live footages.

    The young man on the screen was seen by various angles, showing him as he tried to use his walkie-talkie with no avail. He shook it, but figured that the signal failed. He shrugged and wove at one of the surveillance cameras, then pointed at one of the Amaji.

    "Oh, but of course", the Amaji operative suddenly said, "Our radio units use a different way of communication. It is independent and is quite an advanced piece of technology. It should be able to patch through to the operative there. Unfortunately, since we do not have the Vjel-Amaj around, it is a bit complicated for contacting somebody directly if one does not know whom that person is. I cannot recognize the person on the camera."

    "I could give you the name", the other male operator said, "Let me call up the roster of the team again."
    "Okay. But it looks like he is heading to the Amaji right now. Good idea."
    "Hmm. Yeah."

    "Huh?", the female operator suddenly said as she pointed at the screen, "Why did he stop?"
    "What?", the Lieutenant wondered and lifted her head, looking over her shoulder as she observed the screen with various surveillance angles.
    "I don't know", the other male operator said, "But… Uh… looks like the others stopped doing what they were doing, too. That's weird."

    The bridge observed the reactions for a short while, likewise confused as the two teams looked around their section. They seemed to be wondering about their surroundings. They were hearing something. Another pair of operators lifted themselves, obviously hearing things. The operator walked over one of the cameras and wove at it, obviously wanting attention. The bridge crew noticed that the others were bending their heads slightly - ultimately figuring they were hearing something loud as a couple of team members covering their ears.

    There was a sudden reaction from one of the helm engineers -- and within an instant, the second one on the other side responded almost just as suddenly. The Amaji operative immediately noticed how the two began turning back and forth, nervously hammering on keys as they eyes bounced between screens.

    "Wh-What the… No… no… no…", he said.




    At the same time
    = Outer Space. Dorsal hull region of the Darugis =

    Ever since the discovery of an unusual crushed object blocking the mechanism of massive solar collectors, the two Amaji astronauts figured that they were unable to remove the blockage with their powered suits alone. As time was working against them, they had contacted Darugis command for support and within a short while, the desired help had arrived. The two witnessed the approach of the Turanic Marauder corvette Rock Roach slowly making its way to their location.

    The craft was small enough to remain within the safe shadow of the massive carrier whilst avoiding the chance of damaging any arrays. Thanks to the powerful grappler arms, the Turanic craft was able to dissect and tear the unusual object that had been crushed between the mechanisms. The Rock Roach captured the torn debris of the unusual object and removed itself so the massive collectors could finally be deployed.

    "Rock Roach, come in", Desla called; her speech ending with a notable tone.

    ""All ears. 'sup?"", Orson's voice responded, well distorted by background static.
    "Could you bring your grappler arms together and hold the remains together so I can have a look at it?"
    ""Sure. Chuck'll take care of that for you.""

    The two loaded arms of the large craft moved forward, carried the desired objects before her. The Amaji froze as she gazed at the corvette craft that truly brought fear through her body. As the streams of pure solar energy and the waves of aurora borealis swept beyond, her eyes could perfectly see the profile of this terrifying craft. It had more than two grappler arms; retracted deranged limbs loaded with various means of decomposing and tearing anything apart.

    It took some time until the mind of the Amaji calmed down, learning that she was nowhere in danger. Her suit maintained its stance as it stood before the presented pieces. The Rock Roach occasionally sprayed periodic gaseous bursts, maintaining its position as it hovered just before her.

    ""Des' "", Torbin said, ""Are you all right?""
    "U-Uh… I'm fine, Torbin. But I recognize this debris. Did you hear about those pods that were stuck upon the hull of the flotilla vessels? Several were extracted during the salvage operation at the Nebuli Somtaaw carrier wreckage."

    ""Hmm… Negative. I was deep within that carrier… Busy…""

    ""Well, I've heard 'n' seen them"", the Turanic Marauder added, ""Heh, Chunk too. We helped yer mates remove those pods. And… now that you mentioned it, little lady…""
    "It must be one of them. Even though it had been crushed… It is clearly a pod."

    ""I'm confused however how it actually managed to get stuck at this spot"", the young Amaji man mentioned, ""After all, the flotilla most likely contracted these weird pods during the battle just days ago. Since then, I'm sure this array was secured.""
    <Say again?>
    Torbin repeated his words once more.
    "<Damn static… Got it…> I don't know either… Maybe they had opened it sometime during that battle?", she answered back at them, "Nevertheless, it could be that it was deployed during the salvage operation, for whatever reason."
    ""We shouldn't waste our time speculating out here"", Torbin noted, ""At least we removed this… thing.""

    *

    "Daren!", the Amaji operative shouted into his shoulder radio, "GET OUT OF THERE!".

    Despite the volume, almost everybody could hear the buzzing sounds of alarm sirens crying its frightening song of terror.



    *
    = Darugis - AFT-Port board. Tertiary Hangar bay. =

    Current time: 1835

    The blaring sounds continued… The cries and shrieks of young men and women could be heard as they bunched at an area. Many of them panicked and were confused of what to do. The alarms truly struck fear the hearts of many… but absolutely nothing was more frightening than the dirge.

    The ground began to trembling, dazing many with fright as they looked around at the ceiling.


    *
    = Darugis bridge =

    "GET THE CAPTAIN HERE AT ONCE!", the Lieutenant cried out with utter despair, "Helm! Engineering -- OVERRIDE! OVERRIDE! STOP THE SEQUENCES!", she shouted at the peak of her voice, "D-DO SOMETHING!"

    The bridge had various operators shouting out loud, doing their tasks as demanded, but each attempt ended with people failing to do anything to stop the dreadful event that was imminent.

    *
    = Restricted Area. Upper complex =

    At the same time

    The Amaji Sub-Lieutenant spoke with Tammy when the two suddenly noticed his radio automatically picking up a broadband transmission. Other operatives throughout the center picked up the signal as well. Several people stopped when they heard the recurring alarms coming from the shoulder radio's speakers…

    "Huh?"
    ""Daren! GET OUT OF THERE!"", one voice cried.
    ""We CAN'T! The doors are not responding! The operators tried heaving one of the emergency entries but it is pressure locked for whatever reason! What is going on? We have this loud alarm blasting here -- and people are panicking!""

    Drayson stood up, as did several others. He was about to link into the channel when he listened further.

    ""The ground here is shaking! Tr-tremors, I'm not sure what this about."
    ""Daren! Please! R-Run! Don't stay there! Y-You will…! GET YOURSELVES OUT OF THERE!""

    The Amaji officer decided to act and grabbed the small transceiver of his shoulder radio. Looking upon it, he immediately set the frequency to the preset of Darugis bridge command.

    "Sub-Lieutenant Drayson Amaj to Darugis Command! Come in!"
    ""Lieutenant Odera reporting --""
    "Lieutenant, what is going on?!"
    ""Drayson! We have a serious situation happening at AFT, Deck H! Two teams are locked at the tertiary hangar bay of that section -- we're powerless! We… W-We… We can't do anything --""

    "What? But --"
    ""No - Listen! There is an automated sequence in place -- This is no joke! That hangar bay is about to be forcefully decompressed by exposing the entire bay to outer space!""
    "WHAT!?"

    ""This is a drastic sequence that was hard-coded to the carrier's fire prevention system in order to maintain atmospheric integrity and fire control -- but there are no fires! The main computer had been detached from all the respective systems regarding that long damn time ago! AND YET THE MECHANISM IS IN PROGRESS! IF WE CAN'T STOP THIS, THEY'LL BE BLOWN OUT TO SPACE!""
    "!"

    Tammy was shocked, as the rest of the people who listened to this.

    "Lieutenant!"
    Odera was crying out orders as she panicked, but her attention was caught the second time he shouted out for her.
    "Lieutenant! Can we do something!? Th-This ship is old -- There has to be a mechanical way of overriding this!"

    ""Th-They're trying to get people into safety! Yes -- yes, put them there! They should be able to surv-- DAMN IT! They need to secure those -- those… Tell them they need to secure those or they'll be blown into space with everything that is not nailed to the damn deck! D-Damn it! The star will scorch them like Kharak's final hour if --!""
    "Lieutenant!"
    """I-- I read y-you, Drayson… I h-heard you… There might be a way…""
    "What can we do?!"
    ""…"""
    "There has to be something! Anything!"
    ""Helm Engineer Kendrik here -- Sub-Lieutenant, I don't know if there is enough time, but if we want to save anybody then we can't just stay and do nothing -- Get yourself and anybody who can help to the perimeter of Deck H at the AFT-Port board side! Pressure locks can only be accessed from the safe side -- Maybe there are people we can save beforehand. Dispatching three further teams to that location!""
    "Got it! But I don't know how to get there as fast as possible!"

    "But I do!", an operator shouted from the group, followed by another one who immediately made his way to the exit.

    "Bridge -- We're on our way!"
    ""R-Roger… HURRY!""

    Drayson and almost everybody else rushed to the lift, just when he slapped the wall, remembering that the lift was inaccessible. Without any other choice, the operator led the way to the seemingly endless staircase. Going upwards would not help much as the actual hangar bay was at the lower deck section, forcing them to first run down all these flights of stairs…
    Tammy ran after them at first, but Drayson shouted at her to stay back.

    However, the group stopped when they heard the outcry of the Somtaaw Lieutenant, who desperately screamed as she witnessed the horror live on screen…

    ""KIITH'S BLOOD, NOOO!""



    Reference Scene



    *
    = Hangar bay =

    At first, there was high pitched sound of ripping winds that almost deafened her and others. The Somtaaw operator turned around with great despair as her hair began to dance to the air stream that swept across her body. Others frequently punched against the door after vainly attempting to open it by emergency access. All happened so sudden that they did not have enough time to access the emergency suits…

    Her eyes spotted the opening crack from the massive gateway as it slowly shifted open. The air began to enter a persisting howl of terror, stunning almost every nerve in her body. Her heart raced like never before…

    Loose objects slowly began to slide… soon to engage uncontrollable rolls as the draft became powerful with each second. The operative she knew as Daren rushed to her, daringly dragging her as she gazed down the hangar's field… spotting how the gateway slowly widened - Streaks of orange as well as colorful waves continuously slipped away beyond the massive doors.

    They movement slowed until they could no longer walk. Their stance was sharply angled forward… Unfortunately, the pull became so strong that they fell. It was so strong that it merely swept them from their feet. More objects flew past them, one even hitting the poor operator against the shoulder. Daren caught her arm, able to bring her close to his body as they slowly began to float. He shouted something, twice, but she simply could not hear a word but his frantic voice trying to say something to her. The Amaji wrapped one of his arms around her as the Somtaaw woman locked her thighs around his waist while wrapping her arms around his torso.

    Daren shortly looked up and noticed others that tried to save themselves somehow… most of their attempts failed… He spotted a selected few managing to get into an intersection… but he knew the only thing he could do was abandon hope…

    Dazed by the pain and the world around her, the young Somtaaw woman began to look around as the turbulent pull simply intensified. It was merciless. It was a pull that was clawing her skin and even the fabrics of her uniform. She screamed but noticed how the air rushed from her lungs; she tried to breath but even this task was being coming excruciating.
    She froze when she opened her eyes for a brief moment. The gateway was wide open… witnessing how the pull had tore away one of the salvaged shuttles into the deeps. Her hair whipped before face. Her eyes then caught the colorful streams, peacefully dancing in the furious warm winds.

    A deafening blast occurred, almost knocking her out as the torrential winds became colder and colder. The shock struck her as instantly as the moment of the heartbeat… She held the young man as firmly as he held her as the slowly spun. He embraced her… yet the entire universe was encroaching on their bodies.

    It demanded their lives back…

    Peaceful silence…
    Her vision was failing, barely sensing anything as time and the flow slowed…She trembled but her mind did not care… Her eyes remained open, last to see a massive object she could -- colorful… dancing fabrics… beauty-- warmth… a bright orange--


    18:36:57
    18:36:58
    18:36:59
    18:37:00…


    *


    ""… Uhh… Guys?"", Orson called out, ""What's that?""
    "What? What are you talking about?"

    A third arm extracted from the frame of the Rock Roach and pointed at the specific direction. The two bulky astronautic suits noticed it pointed beyond them and turned around.

    "Just the solar winds -- or are you referring to the colorful streams? That is an aurora borealis, caused by the projected magnetic field to protect us from the -- W-Wait…"
    ""Not that stuff. That stuff…"", Orson added.
    ""I'm not sure what he's referring to, Des."", Torbin said, wondering what he meant.
    "Look -- There are moving… objects."

    ""I don't -- Okay, I think I can see it too.""
    "Hmm… Maybe the Darugis is just ejecting useless junk?", the female astronaut wondered.
    ""I guess so.""

    The two astronauts spotted objects slowly moving away. Despite these being small, they were clearly visible as consistently dots as the intense light of the Orange Star reflected upon it. They noticed that these were not single objects but a patch of dots of various sizes, moving like a group… or a line… spraying out into the open of space. Some were too small to recognize... Those nothing but dots… but nothing became more astonishing than the larger object that was surely not just some random unidentifiable dot…

    The observers stared upon the largest object that truly surpassed the dots that had preceded it. Its luminosity was so intense that nobody could ignore its shine. Torbin heard Desla's commline still active; wanting to say something, but just like he was, both were simply confused about the objects.

    But as time passed, they noticed how the objects gradually dissipated -- instantly burning away once they crossed that last field, vulnerable to the deadly fury of the Orange Star. They spotted several short-lived flares… sparkling like stars before vanishing into nothing… but nothing was more astonishing than the larger object that continued its awkward spin into the wide open until it cut through the last field…

    They then witness a great flare right before what one could assume to be an explosion… The astronauts raised their arms in order to cover the short yet bright glare. When the streaks of light ended, they lowered their arms.

    And then nothing…

    ""W-What… What… What the f-f--f…. What the…"", Torbin stammered.
    "That… What was that?!", Desla added, "Junk?!"

    ""Hey. You two better get behind some cover or somethin'. Y'know… Explosions out and suits ain't a good mix, if ya know what I mean.""

    Insisting not to waste any time, the two moved out of the open range. Luckily, the hull of carrier offered more than enough obstacles for protection. It did not take long until a notable cloud wove across the area, most of consisting of micro-particles spraying upon the body of the Turanic craft.

    ""Uh… "", the Turanic Marauder suddenly said, ""Chunk had the chance to focus upon it with our eyes… Hang on. Didn't get to see