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The Requiem War

  1. #1

    Fiction The Requiem War



    The Requiem War

    Chapter One

    Four Years Later


    MARK

    Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

    I smacked the alarm clock to turn it off, and woke up. I got out of bed and let out a yawn. The sun shone through my apartment window. I opened the curtains all the way and saw the sunrise. I had gotten used to the lack of sand. It used to be everywhere. We were used to being dirty. But now, it's so clean everywhere. The Taiidan sure do know how to live healthy and clean.

    I heard her groan and pull the sheets over her head.

    "Hey, we're supposed to go see John off, remember?" I said.

    "Oh yeah. Alright gimme a few minutes." she said. Arazis and I have been dating for a while now. I opened the drawer and put on a shirt. I brushed my teeth and that was it. I skipped the shower today we had to get there before he left.

    I made a sandwich for breakfast, which I should have done before brushing my teeth as it tastes minty now. Good enough, I'd end up eating in town anyway. We had to squint when going down the elevator. The sun was up now, all bright and blinding. Not as bright as that of Khar-Illume, but being here our eyes have adjusted.

    "This is what, his eighteenth time now? The Taiidan seem to be in a huge rush to leave." she commented.

    "Think about it. Their new capital world is a planet completely empty prior to the Homeword War. It used to be a small farm world. There's loads of land for a very low price. They see the opportunity to start over far away from any memory of their previous tyrannous empire."

    "I guess it's just too much to handle. Knowing so many people have died for this planet that they have no more emotional attachment to."

    "What about you? You still haven't told me if you want to go." I said referring to the scheduled departure for Kadesh. John's next mission after this one was to take all of the Kadeshi who want to return home back to the Great Nebula. It will be the first time we return since the War.

    "I haven't decided yet." she said as the door opened. We were instantly surrounded in a sweet-smelling breeze. The flowers around the city made it always smell nice.

    I left it at that. She hadn't decided yet, so I'll leave her alone about it.

    We called for a transport and were brought to the spaceport. It was modeled after the one from Tiir but bigger to compensate up to carrier size vessels. We've implemented a lot of the Taiidan technology into our ships over the last four years. There were four other carriers there who were leaving with him. The port was full of people. Almost all of them Taiidan. A lot of them were happy to see me.

    I've become a target of the media after Landfall for many reasons, partly due to my father's fame, partly due to mine, partly due to me becoming the Kiith'sa of the Soban. I've made it perfectly clear I had no interest in basking in the glory of being popular like my father. I wasn't that selfish. There were still a few perks, I could enter any high-security areas such as science labs, top secret research facilities to do with fighter technology, and Karan's apartment. I've become acquainted with her again now. She's not the same as before, then again I only knew her from my childhood prior to the War. It made sense that she'd change. I just wasn't sure if it was the normal passage of time or from being fused with the Core.

    I feel bad for her sometimes. She seems very lonely. She misses being in the Mothership. She says the feeling of being an entire ship is the best thing she has ever felt. Being removed was like losing a limb. I tried to imagine, but I just couldn't. That's the reason behind her solitude.



    The bridge of the carrier was filled with media people. Cameras everywhere. "What's with the vultures?" I asked.

    "Karan was rumored to be seeing off the last of the emigrants for this year." John said.

    "She didn't tell me anything like that, I guess it's just a rumor. You hear that! Karan isn't coming so I guess you're stuck with me." a few of them stepped back a bit. I punched a camera man once. And insulted reporters on many occasions. I've been trying to make the media like me less.

    "So off to the nebula after this I hear?" Arazis said.

    "Yeah, hoping to be on good terms with them. Possibly open up a trade alliance or something. Saiin said he was going back, did he talk to you about that?"

    "Yeah." she said. That was news to me.

    "Saiin? Really? I thought he loved it here." I said.

    "It's his sister." she said. "She's . . . well she's not entirely sane. He's worried about her. Every year he gets worse. He draws some pretty dark things when he's alone unable to sleep at night."

    "Well in that case, I hope he's happy back home." I said.

    "Where's Fiira?" Arazis asked. She was his second in command during the War, and wife after. It was questionable whether or not they should remain on the same ship, but it was allowed due to their contributions getting us here. They worked better as a team, was the official report.

    "In the communications room making sure the other carriers are ready for launch." he said. She walked in a minute later.

    "We're all set. The other ships are at a hundred percent capacity. We're ready when you are."

    "Launching in ten minutes. All those not wishing to come along should disembark within this time." he said over the communications. The media people had already left.

    "I'll see you in two weeks." I said before we left with the crowd.



    We passed by Eric and Triikor when we got out.

    "Hey!" Eric said.

    "How's it been? I haven't seen you in weeks!" I said.

    "Better than ever."

    Arazis grabbed Triikor's hand. "Is this..."

    "Eric, my man!" I said giving him a high five.

    "I proposed three days ago, actually."

    "The wedding is going to be held on the new capital." she said.

    "So you're leaving too then?" I asked.

    "Yeah. Everyone she knows is over there. And let's face it, I was a loner before Landfall, and still am now. My book might have made me popular to the readers, but I just don't feel accepted here. My entire clan has gone extinct, pretty much. There's only a handful of us left."

    "Seems everyone's leaving." I said.

    "So you heard about Saiin then." Triikor said.

    "So what brings you here?" I asked changing the subject.

    "Jeroll and Natalia left with Caleb and Amelia. She's not really in any position of power, but she knows a thing or two about politics, unlike Elson who dealt with guerrilla tactics. She's going to be an advisor to help him set up his new republic." Caleb was her brother, Jeroll her cousin who was a major leader of the rebellion on Hiigara, and Natalia was his friend who changed sides near the end to help out.

    "Your brother has been pretty much always near you these past years. It'll be weird not seeing him around now." Arazis said.

    "Well, he chose who he wants to be with, and I'm glad he chose to go. It'll be better for him." she said. I didn't sense any sadness, she really was glad he was moving on with his life. The kid has been through so much. His parents' murder, being involved with the rebellion, having to choose between the future of the rebellion and the one he loved, the daughter of the deceased emperor. It worked out for the better, of course. Natalia was mostly to thank for that.

    We went to get something to eat. We stopped and got some burgers at a chain restaurant. Not the healthiest thing around, but we just wanted something quick.

    Eric said that they'd be leaving in three months, once the year changed over and the transits started up again. They'd hope that we could make it, and we said we'd make sure we did. Then the media found us.

    "So Eric, the last of the Gaalsien sits here, engaged to his long-time love, the only Taiidan of the fleet who bombed Kharak to refuse to take part in the event. So when is the wedding?" He said far too friendly-like. He made me sick. I saw that they were both angry, but they didn't want to seem like mean people. That was my job.

    "Hey jackass. No love for the Sa of the Soban?" he looked and pointed the camera to me.

    "Well yes, but this is big!"

    "No, it's not. They've been together for four and a half years now. It's bound to happen. And you're ruining the moment. You do realize that fighting that war was no easy task? It's emotionally and psychologically damaging to all of us. You were a sleeper. You had it easy, deep within the Mothership's cozy hull while we zipped around in weak little fighters. One, he's not the only Gaalsien, and two, she doesn't like talking about the events that transpired at the time of the Genocide, neither do any of us. Don't spew out your hyperbolic paparazzi nonsense so lightly in the presence of the ones who saved your life. I have every legal right and ability to kick your ass right here and now." the look on his face was priceless. "Do you understand?" I said leaning in closer with a menacing look on my face. He ran out the door.

    "Thanks, Mark." Eric said letting out a breath in relief.

    "No problem."



    We finished eating and went our separate ways. Eric and Triikor were going to the beach as it was a nice day out. We were going to the town market to see Saiin.

    It was a ten minute walk, but it was nice. It was also most of the exercise we get now. Alright, I'll admit it. I've gotten lazy now that I don't need to be in top physical condition. My job is to train pilots with Leonard, but I have the next few days off. There's no real hard work involved. Once you're in a fighter feeling the effects of inertia, you'll understand why pilots work out a lot.

    We found him in a group of ten or so people who were buying paintings from him. He was allowed to sell right dead center of the capital building's entrance. He made the pattern for the art on the walls surrounding it. I helped of course. I showed him pictures I took of the city. He made the entire city on the far wall so that would be the first thing you'd see once entering, and he made it fade into a black and had the sketch of Kharak on the opposite wall, so it would be what you saw once you left. It was tile art, but you couldn't tell from how far it was. The end result was breathtaking. This building was huge, so it was definitely one of the more prominent features of the Tiir Nova market.

    We snuck up behind him and Arazis gave him a light punch on the shoulder. He jumped and nearly dropped a painting. He turned around looking angry until he saw who it was. She liked to pick on him for being physically weak.

    "So what you got this time?" I asked.

    "Well, I don't always paint in color, but when I do, I make sure it's perfect." he showed us one of the seashore at sunset. There was a wing of Republican interceptors flying overhead. The teal ships and the orange sunset contrasted nicely because of the way it was shaded and blended. He's got skill in this form of art.

    "How much for that one there?" someone asked about the one he was showing us.

    "This, well take a close look first." he said handing it to him. He was a Taiidan by his hair and eye color. The majority of them had blonde hair and blue eyes. They've manipulated their genetics too much and that was the result.

    "I'll give whatever you're offering, this is beautiful." he said.

    "Three hundred."

    "Sold!" he said making his transaction.

    "Why so little? That was probably worth at least seven hundred." Arazis said.

    "Well, I saw the look in his eyes, and the emblem tattooed on his arm tells me he's a former pilot, probably turned to a rebel. Triikor has the same one. It'll bring nostalgic memories to him that are priceless. And besides, I'm not going to be here for too much longer and I can't take any of this with me." he said. He got to know the Taiidan far more than any of us. Triikor was one of his closest friends. She told him much about her culture.

    "What's that, you're leaving? But you've brought so much culture to us. You'll be missed." said an old lady. Also taiidan. Her hair turned white but her eyes were blue.

    "I've got one colored one left. The rest are sketch drawings and you can all have one free." he said.

    He sold the last one that was another nebulous one, depicting his white snowball of a home. He painted that one months ago.

    "You're selling Second?" Arazis asked.

    "I'll be there soon enough, I'll just make another once I'm there." he said smiling. He sold that one for nine hundred. He wasn't letting that one off easy. Then everyone chose one of the sketches until there were none left.

    He sat on a bench and faced the imprint of Kharak. "That was by far my biggest challenge." he said pointing to it. "It's also the one I had the most fun doing."

    "The black tiles that fade from the brown of the sand really make it look like an impossible work, doesn't it." I commented. We had the same love for art. He's just the better artist. I'm not very good.

    "I guess that means you won't be there for the wedding." Arazis said.

    "I'd hope so, but I still don't know if they'll let anyone leave the nebula. John might not be able to leave. They'll have a kadeshi inhibitor specialist onboard to negate the inhibitor's effects if it's serious."

    "I don't know if I should go." she said.

    "Don't. You're happy here. You were banished from your home anyway, remember?"

    "Yeah . . ." I could tell she wanted to go.

    "Well, I'm going to the park. You two in?" Saiin said. We decided to go along. We had nothing else on our schedule.

    The park was a large open field area grass that was perfectly tended to, constantly cut along a hillside. There was a monument there that had been uncovered from moss that was illegal to remove during the imperial reign. Haalt-Nar had the same thing. They were everywhere. Monuments of our past. Scientists have been studying them non-stop since we arrived. They've concluded that they were just that, monuments. They depicted symbols of out past, some were ships, some were animals, some were pillars with names on them. They must have made sense in the past, but now they seem random and scattered, their original meaning long lost to the world, and to their descendants.

    You can hear sounds in the wind, sounds of birds chirping, sounds of life. It was one of the first things I noticed after Landfall. Life was all around us.

    Families walked around to the residential district on the other end, and children played in the fields. There were many of them, all Hiigaran-borns. No children were brought aboard unless their families payed for them, like in John's nieces case. She was ten now. Also my sister's case. She wasn't a sleeper though until later once there were tubes to spare.

    They would never know the sands of Kharak, or the heat and brightness of it's harsh sun. Some part of me is glad, another part of me is sad about it. Kharak was my homeworld. It always will be. I try to imagine the harsh heat, sometimes I take showers in nearly boiling water just to try and remember. Try and remember my past. I couldn't forget, because if I did, Kharak and all of it's inhabitants would remain dead.

    We stayed there until we got tired, and then left for home. The Homeworld War was over. Life is peaceful, and we were no longer under the threat of potential death at any minute. It's incredible to feel complete freedom for once.

    On the way, we ran into Karan who was wearing a hooded sweater and a wig.

    "Why hello there, stranger, where are you headed?" Arazis said.

    "Anywhere away from these media vultures. I was actually planning on seeing them off as the rumors said, not that I had originally planned on it, but it seemed to be a constructive thing to do for our Hiigaran-Taiidan relations."

    "Then what? I asked.

    "Then I was swarmed with cameras halfway there and panicked."

    "Your place is far from here, come with us then. You know they won't piss you off with me around."

    She laughed and agreed.

    Back at our place, I turned on the TV and sat on the couch with my feet on the coffee table. The other two joined me. Karan threw her wig on the table and rubbed her head. The news was generally always useless, but it was sometimes nice to find out things that were happening in the world, and the galaxy. Then a story became relevant. "So you say you saw him there?" a news anchor asked.

    "Yes, Mark Soban himself was there."

    "So instead of our lady Karan seeing them off he decided to do it himself? I assume he was filling in, but I may be wrong. Rumor has it that she's become ill of mind, lately. Never leaving her house."

    The conversation went on but I turned the screen off. The fools. She'd be able to have somewhat of a life if they stopped swarming her every chance they got. The crew of the Mothership showed much more respect than the sleepers. I hated the sleepers while in the War, and I still hate them.

    "I don't know what to do anymore." she said. I thought she would start crying.

    "Let me make some tea." Arazis said.

    "Just do like me. Ignore them. It's hard at first, but after a while, you realize anyone respectable won't mind if you tell a reporter to fuck off once in a while."

    "I'm not you, Mark." she laughed again.

    "Yeah, I guess that won't work. But still, you deserve better than this."

    "Well, they have a point. I barely have a social life. You two and your friends are the only real people I can talk to without feeling completely out of phase. Otherwise it's all business and politics. It's making me sick to be the Sa of Sas. I'm only twenty six. I should be doing normal things."

    "Well, it's the media. You're gonna have to give someone the finger eventually. They'll never just let you be unless you tell them you can't take it anymore." I said. Arazis came back with the tea. It relieves stress. And she's gotta be feeling a ton of it right now.

    I knew anything I said would be useless. She wanted to keep her powerful stance. People respected her. They thought of her as nearly god-like. There's been some nonsense from religious fanatics who claim that she saw Sajuuk himself while in hyperspace.

    "And now everyone's leaving." Arazis said. Nice way to lighten the mood.

    "You two aren't, are you? I'll be completely alone if you do."

    "We haven't decided yet." I said. Arazis looked at me confused.

    "Where do you plan on going, to Kadesh?"

    "Hey, I'm not the one homesick. We'll probably wait until it's safe to go there. You know, when we know we'll be able to get back." I clarified. Arazis rolled her eyes.

    "Oh. That's fine then I guess. I just don't want to be left here alone." we're the only ones she talks to without the need to keep her strong image. I can't imagine needing to live a huge lie like that with no one.

    "We're not going to leave you." Arazis said.
    Last edited by doberman211; 3rd Apr 12 at 1:47 PM.

  2. #2

    Fiction Chapter 2

    Chapter Two


    Unbound



    JOHN


    "Are you telling me rumors, or is there fact involved?" he asked, they were three days into their journey. One of the Taiidan passengers was alerting him to the possibility of attack from imperialists who have been rumored to attack fleets like pirates. "I have been doing this route for years now. Never have I once seen an imperial ship. Now get off my bridge." he said. The man left in a hurry.

    Though there was once two years ago, a Turanic Raider fleet tried to pillage from him. He deployed squadrons of interceptors and bombers with a heavy corvette escort of five to handle the threat. There were Taiidan ships in with the mix, but it was assumed that many of the members of the imperial navy joined the Turanic fleets.

    The Turanic themselves remained on edgy terms with the Hiigarans. They never dared to oppose a fleet directly if they deemed them too heavily armed, but if it wandered into their territory for trading purposes, their fleets could take out destroyer escorts with ease. They had a small amount of respect for them, because after Landfall, the Turanic prisoners were allowed to leave in the captured attack carrier.

    "Detecting two mothership hyperspace signatures eight light-years from here." Paul said. The bridge went on alert. Many systems were put on pause so he could zone in on the signature. "Recognizing First Core signatures. It's just the Bentusi." he said to everyone's relief.

    "Are they vectoring towards us?" John asked.

    "Yes, they'll be here in five minutes if we drop out now." he said.

    "Alright, drop us out." he said.

    A Bentusi tradeship found their position. They were curious, the Bentusi. They often ran into transiting fleets and made contact to inquire about the state of the government, as council sessions were only held once a season, unless emergency sessions were called.

    The tradeship arrived, but it was damaged. John inquired about it, and they said it was a Taiidan fleet. "But that can't be, any of their forces wouldn't dare attack us, let alone the Bentusi!" John exclaimed.

    "They have formed an armada. They are hiding within the small nebula near here. A fleet of survivors that banded together, turning half their carriers into mobile colonies. We were no match for them. They were too strong for us."

    John looked around the bridge, they looked as worried as he did. If there was a fleet that could stand up to two Bentusi tradeships, it was a threat to be noted.

    "We can send out repair corvettes to help fix the damage for now." he said nodding to the strike technician who made the call. "How many, roughly? In numbers?"

    "A dozen carriers, six of which have had their hangars refitted for living space. The same number in heavy cruisers and double that for destroyers. Countless numbers of the rest."

    "Paul, open up a hyperspace transmission back to Hiigara and to Kyota."

    He pressed a few buttons on the keypad and tuned to a hiigaran military frequency that the Republicans used. "All set."

    He waited for both ends to pick up. "What is the problem, captain? There must be a reason for using this frequency." the Taiidan said.

    "We're in contact with the Bentusi. They have taken severe damage and claim that it was an imperial fleet of some sort. Damnit, if they can critically damage two tradeships, I don't feel safe taking civilian passengers through the region without adequate escorts. Chances are if they find out there are republicans onboard, they will stop at nothing to make sure we're dead." He then gave them the numbers of the enemy fleet according to the Bentusi.

    "Acknowledged, captain Nabaal. We will send additional escorts, however there aren't enough in the region to make an adequate defense against those numbers." said the Hiigaran.

    "I understand." he said.

    "We will give orders to a nearby mining convoy to rendezvous with you or resources so you can construct additional units."

    "You'll find a barricade on the other end of the nebula if we can get there in time. We'll transfer the passengers there. You can cover us if it is needed. We don't want them finding out where our capital is." the Taiidan said. Kyota was under the radar of the imperialists. It was chosen after the war in secret, and development started on the world only a year later.

    The transmission ended. Kyota was still several days in transit away. Two extra days of waiting wouldn't hurt.

    "I guess that means there are actual facts involved now, doesn't it, captain?" said Hariik Sjet, one of his friends who is rarely sober enough to make it onto the bridge. He sighed and nodded to the guards to let him by. He had lost everyone. His entire family. The Taiidan that were left over from the Kharak bombing assaulted the cryotrays, and his daughter and wife's pods just happened to be one of the few that got damaged. They drowned. In response, he became even more of an alcoholic than before. He didn't blame him, he was at least a respectable man. Others simply ended themselves.

    "Yes, yes maybe I should have listened to him. We can't risk losing these passengers. There are very important people onboard."

    "So I've heard. So what you planning on doing if we get found out? Nothing the Higaran armada can supply readily can counter that kind of firepower. Twelve Qwaar-Jets? That's more that were in orbit around Hiigara during Landfall."

    "Landfall we got lucky. This time, there isn't captain Elson to trap the fleet." John said. They all knew it was true. If they had to fight, they would lose.



    JARRED


    He and Natalia were told to escort Amelia to the capital. They were the only former rebel leaders qualified for the job, and the only ones she trusted enough to allow guard her. They were in a private room on the bridge section of the ship that had a window across the side of it, so they could see outside.

    He watched the tiny corvettes swarming around the huge goliath vessels. The Bentusi stopped trading with the Empire a long time ago. They looked like huge cities within the hull. There must have be many people in them.

    "We should go figure out what's going on." Natalia suggested. He remembered they had full privileges to access the bridge. The damaged tradeships had been here nearly an hour yet there was still no announcement.

    He closed the door behind them. "How are these ships, compared to the imperial ones?" Caleb asked.

    "Very different, definitely built more sturdy. The huge bulkhead on the top has the thickest armor of any capital ship. Also worth mentioning the halls are kept cleaner and better lit, that's for sure." Jarred said. The walls looked perfectly white.

    The command bridge was an open room, guarded by two men with guns. He showed his ID and they were let in.

    "What brings you here?" the captain asked standing form his seat. The man next to him was a bit less enthusiastic to see them. He took a swig from his bottle and walked down the ramp to the front window.

    "We were just wondering what was going on. In the interest of Amelia's safety, of course." He answered.

    "It's nothing to worry about." the captain said.

    "Oh come on, John, why bother lying to them? They're your important passengers, remember?" the other man said.

    "Hariik, will you handle yourself, you're not in the bar." he sighed. "Fine, I'd better tell you. The Bentusi had a run in with an imperial fleet. Apparently the rumors going around are true. A massive fleet. All of the remnants have banded together. And any fleet that can take on and nearly defeat two trandeships, well you don't want to know the numbers it would take. You used to be on a cruiser, you should know what I mean." he said to Jarred.

    The situation became clear. "So we're waiting for reinforcements?"

    "More like a small decoy of protection. Any inhibitor technology they may be using we can negate with the inhibitor specialist onboard." he gestured to the young man with the red hair and pale skin who nodded back and went back to his business.

    "I see." he had not interacted with many Kadeshi, most preferred to avoid Taiidan. "Then will the Bentusi be joining us?" he said.

    "We would be glad to aid in your escort. We are indebted." said one of them. Jarred knew that the Bentusi were always grateful to those who help them, as shown in the Homeworld war itself. The Kushan helped them, so they decided to end their neutrality and oppose the Empire in the council. Something no other race had ever done and survived.

    They talked for a while longer. John told him stories of the War, he in return told him his own relating to the rebellion, and of Elson. How his wife was murdered by the Emperor for disobeying an order to bomb a rebelling world from orbit. The Emperor tried to make Elson kill her, but he refused. She was killed anyway. He then assassinated his son, the heir to his throne as a result, and named his flagship destroyer Kapella after her. John seemed very interested in the whole affair. Caleb and Amelia were over talking to the sensors manager who was showing them how the systems worked.

    There was an explosion, and who he guessed was damage control said, "Explosion on deck five living quarters."

    "That's where we were, isn't it?" Jarred asked worried.

    "It is. Seal it off and send a team to clean up the mess." he turned to the others. "We've got someone onboard who wants you four dead." he said. "If they've managed to get this far into the bridge section of the ship without being noticed, I can't promise your safety here anymore." he said.

    "This is horrible." Caleb said. "What do we do?"

    The captain was thinking. He sat in his chair and grabbed his forehead. "Damnit, not on my ship!" he banged the metal armrests.

    "What about one of the tradeships?" his drunken friend said. "They're neutral, they said they were coming along for the trip, so why not?" he had a point.

    "May we ask you a favor?" he asked the Bentusi.

    "We understand the situation. They will be allowed." this was shocking. No one has seen the interior of a Bentusi ship. They called themselves the "unbound". Everyone assumed that meant they had no bodies, and that every single tradeship was an individual. But that didn't explain the lights. The closest anyone got was the Kushan when they made their first trade, and even then it was an empty room with a single crate in it.

    "Is this alright with you?" the captain asked.

    "Yes, of course. It's the safest possible solution." he agreed.

    They were escorted to the hangar bay to a gutted heavy corvette used as an ambassador. There were food supplies stored on, and all of their belongings that remained after the explosion. The Bentusi were unbound. They didn't eat, or so they assumed.

    "Will we ever be safe?" Caleb asked.

    "Probably not. But the capital needs you there. You'll be surrounded by the political types. They know you're there for a reason, and won't try anything like this." Natalia reassured to them both.

    The shuttle lifted off after they got secured in their seats. They watched out the front as it happened. They made it safely into the core of the ship, and marveled at the huge city of lights that looked like a golden metropolis. None of them had ever seen anything like it. Then, the ship felt a jolt, and the pilot let go of the controls. "We're being pulled in, command." one of them said.

    This tradeship's hangar was not quite as empty. There were squadrons of some type of fighter vessel they had never even known existed before, nor expected, as the Bentusi were pacifists. They assumed even they needed defenses against possible pirate raids. There were two cargo ships to the far back. The doors opened, and the ship's power was turned off. "I guess we're alone." one of the pilots said.

    "The Bentusi haven't had passengers in many centuries. We will guide you to your temporary quarters for now." a voice said. They shrugged and stepped onto the ramp. The escorting party moved their equipment on a levitating platform.

    The room was very simple. A viewport that stared out into the golden city of lights and two beds. They didn't stay too long. A voice told them they could roam wherever they felt like, as bound creatures are naturally curious, and would attempt to eventually. Which was pretty hypocritical, he thought, as the Bentusi were constantly searching for news and new technology.

    They said they were bored, so Caleb and Amelia decided to go exploring the ship. Jarred took this time to rest. He hadn't slept well the night before.



    CALEB


    They walked along the halls for almost an hour before they got to an elevator. The upper levels showed more signs of activity. "This place is eerie." she said.

    "Yeah I'm getting that feeling too. It's like a ghost ship." he said.

    "Is there anyone even here?" she yelled.

    "Maybe there only is one entity onboard." Caleb said.

    "You couldn't begin to understand our complexity, child." a voice said. It wasn't a sinister tone, it was more like that of a parent speaking to a child.

    "Then please, explain. Unbound, we still haven't a clue what that means. Are you ghosts? Or does it just mean you have no planet?" He asked. He wondered what they looked like.

    "We are efficient." was the only answer. He rolled his eyes. They kept walking. They found what seemed like a city center, or a gathering place. But no one was around.

    "My theory is that these ships are very old, before you became unbound. When you had bodies." Amelia said.

    "Again, assumptions. We simply stated we are unbound."

    Again with that word. He thought.

    "Then why not show yourselves?" she asked.

    There was a silence for a few minutes before an answer came. "We are afraid of judgement." they admitted. "No one has seen our physical form in millennia."

    "We Taiidan allied with the Turanics, did we not?" Caleb said. There was no response. They kept walking. Then, after ten minutes of wandering around, they saw it.

    It was a slim shape, biped and nearly Taiidan in nature, but also nearly transparent. It had no face, only a single eye in the middle. They could tell there was an organic brain within the body, as they could see the pink of it within. Caleb felt a bit nauseous at the thought, but got over it. "Is this what you truly look like?" he asked.

    "This is one form, yes. Like we keep saying, we are unbound. If you are wondering, this body is mechanic in nature. A machine to house my consciousness." it was the first time they'd heard a Bentusi refer to itself in the first person.

    "We're not nearly as advanced as you. Will you ever explain what you mean by unbound?" she asked.

    "It has been a secret among us, but it's not one we intended on keeping. We may come across to some in the council to be . . . well . . . monstrosities." it said. "We feel the need to tell someone. We are alone, you see. Our people interact with other civilizations purely by trade. The Taiidan especially after the Hiigaran Empire fell." They knew the stories, now that the history was uncovered. The Empire hid many things. How the ancient Hiigarans were just like the Taiidan Empire was. They walked to a bench, and sat. He was amazed by how normal it seemed. They had no gender distinction, as it stated. "By unbound, we mean many things. We tell others it means we have no homeworld, our original home long lost to us."

    "You mean you don't know where it is?" she said.

    "Precisely. It has been lost in our history. We did this on purpose, some say, to hide our well of power and knowledge from future generations so they would not use it for bad. We were far too advanced for our own good. We ourselves were not ready. We would have become the same as all power hungry empires. Only a handful knew about it after that, watching over us as we progressed. When deemed worthy, we would again be told of our origins."

    "Then why haven't you?"

    "Because the last remaining one who knows the location traveled too close to a supernova and was eradicated. We have not heard his sound since before Hiigarans or Taiidan could fare into space. But there is a double meaning only we know. We are unbound, truly, in the sense that we have no boundaries to our potential."

    "Is that not a characteristic of a god?" Caleb said skeptically.

    "It is. However, we have no belief in deities. We mean this in that our original form is no longer possible to exist. We are essentially our consciousness. It makes it simple to change bodies. The entity is who we are, our physical nature is variable depending on the circumstances. You saw those fighters in the hangar,"

    "So you do become your ships."

    "Yes. We transfer our being into them and become the vessel."

    "How many are there here?" she asked.

    "Nearly a million entities reside in this tradeship." that explained the massive city.

    "Why then use a body like ours?"

    "Efficiency. Haven't you pondered on the reasons for you, Hiigarans, Turanic, and even Vaygr to some extent, all being identical?"

    "We thought it had something to do with the Ancients? The relics of time before our very evolution."

    "Yes, but there is a reason you evolved all the same in slightly differing environments. Taiidan had much lower gravity than Hiigara, Turann far more and is nearly completely submerged." he understood what it meant. Their form was the most efficient, so it is the one that evolved.

    "Then what about you?" she asked. The body remained silent.

    "We did not evolve that same way. We . . . we looked nothing like you do." another entity said walking up from behind. He had resentment in his tone. They all had the same voice, which they guessed was a default.

    "The Progenitors never intervened with our evolution. We assume they appeared identical to you now. However, we advanced in solitude alone, possibly dating back to a time before they left. We do not know. Now, after seeing your form is the norm, we have emulated it in order to perform tasks. We may be able to merge into a ship's wiring and live as "ghosts" as you say, however this is the most common form we take to be productive."

    They talked with the Bentusi for a while longer. They knew more about even Taiidan history than they did, and lots more to do with the Taiidan-Higaran war thousands of years ago., their last reported battle in a war. There was always something missing from them, they noticed. They had holes in their history. They had gaps of nothingness between what they knew about themselves. It must feel horrible to them, to be the most knowledgeable beings in the entire galaxy, and not be able to know their own origins.

  3. #3

    Fiction Chapter 3

    Chapter Three

    The Hunted are the Hunters


    MARK


    Leonard finished up with the lesson and let the pilots get to their ships. The lesson for today was to hunt down areal drones across the city. If the laser sight hit the drone, it would be marked as destroyed. We tried to make it fun for the new pilots without making any real mess of things.

    "So what brings you here? You're off, remember? He said.

    "Yeah but I thought I'd stop by anyway. I get bored when I have time off." I said.

    "So where's the young lady?" he asked. Arazis usually comes with me to work. The Kadeshi had no more technology they could offer us, so she rarely has work to do herself.

    "She's with Isel and Karan at the mall."

    "Lady Sjet? In public? That's unusual, isn't is?" he said surprised.

    "They're trying to give her something of a social life before Eric and Triikor leave next year. After that, I don't know. I've been thinking of going into space again to train pilots there."

    "Not into full service? You'd be a high ranking officer, you know. They reward most of the original crew with higher up roles. As specially one who was already very renowned."

    "No." he knew I didn't want to go back into full service. I did my time. Every time I get into a fighter I'm haunted with memories. I don't know if I'd be able to handle a battle. But the memories of home . . . those were the worst. I could handle the memories of the War and my time battling in it, but the memories of my piloting days on Kharak, the memories of my friends. All of them died so swiftly, burned alive. And Jay . . . my best friend, he died in the War only a day before we got here. The pain still hurt me every time I think about it. He got so close to having a life for once. I'd much rather not be here training pilots on the surface. It's just too haunting.

    "So Isel's down, is she? She's that pilot that came to see me that time with you, right?" he said referring to when he made me a rank eight. He was the strike command on the Mothership. It felt like it had been so long ago. She's been a member of a Manaani border fleet for about three years now with Karu.

    "They've both been back now for about three days, landed the day after John's carrier left. There was a day delay in transit because of some resource vein or something."

    "Damn Somtaaw, always so impatient. They couldn't wait for their own fleets, could they."

    "They're staying for a few months. Their carrier is on homeworld defense for now."

    "I'm assuming they're staying with you, or are they renting a place?"

    "They're staying with us. Not like I mind." we kept up the casual conversation for a few minutes until the fighters took off in formation, then broke apart when they reached the city skyline. The skies were getting cloudy. It would start raining so I decided to start heading back.


    ERIC


    He found her by the riverside, where she goes to think. They were living in her old house since no one was using it. It was far past the tree line in a small outline town with only a few neighbors. No other Kushan to provoke him, and no media. He enjoyed the isolation. Part of him didn't want to leave. It was just so peaceful in his perspective. But not in hers. Too many memories and thoughts of the murder of her parents haunted the place.

    "Heads up." she said kicking up some water in his face.

    He made a pushing motion and she flinched. He then sat beside her.

    "I'm gonna miss this place." she said.

    "Then why go? If it's the house that bothers you, we can burn it down along with all the memories and build a new one." he said.

    "It's a nice thought." she said. "I have no attachment to this world. For a long time I thought I wanted nothing more than to return home, but when we got here, it just didn't feel like home anymore. This place is the only exception to that."

    "Because of the vision?" he asked. She had taken the hallucinogenic agriisak root with the rest, and she was brought here in its vision.

    "I think I know why I came back here in the vision. But I can't hold on to the past. It's dead now. I should leave it that way." she got up and started walking away. The wind was picking up and the sky was getting cloudy. He went with her. They made it back before the rain started to fall. They got back to the house, and she went to take a nap.

    Eric decided since he wasn't tired he'd get to writing. He had ideas for a new book, a fiction based around the events of his past and the relentless hunting down of the Gaalsien because of a few extremist groups. He enjoyed reliving his past now, it didn't bother him as much as during the Homeworld War.

    He sat on the couch with a coffee on the table and opened up his computer. He found the file and opened it, then began to reread the last chapter to get a good idea of his position in the story, and then began to type. He spends hours some days. Others, he stops after a single chapter.

    It was raining in full force now, and he could hear the thunder rolling overhead. Then, the television turned on with an emergency message. "The rumors have been confirmed a few days ago by captain John Nabaal, the leader of the convoy in transit currently heading to the new Taiidan Capital. He has reported from the accounts of two Bentusi tradeships that there is an imperial fleet hiding in the nebula acting as pirates to any trespassers. Their numbers are considered very noteworthy by the military command. We will have more on the matter in due time." the reporter said. The screen then turned off.

    Reminds me of other nebula pirates. He thought to himself remembering their entrance to Kadesh. Even the Bentusi dared not enter. Their escape, as he had claimed in his book on the war, was only due to their surprised state, since none had dared enter in generations. They were completely caught off guard, and as such, weren't ready to handle the invading exiles. There hasn't been any return there since the War. They assumed that they were now on the ready, and such mistakes would not be made again.

    He shrugged off the thought and resumed his writing.


    JOHN


    "Fire on the nearest destroyers and disable the cruisers' forward cannons!" he yelled. They had entered the nebula.

    He waited for three days for reinforcements, and they arrived. Not many, three cruisers and five destroyers with four dozen frigate escorts. There was also a Somtaaw mining operation that had arrived. The controller immediately transferred the resources it salvaged, and they were told they'd be compensated upon return to Hiigara, and they left.

    With the resources, he had support and ion frigates constructed as well as additional interceptors and repair corvettes. They salvaged a single destroyer before the kadeshi hyperspace specialist gave the thumps up, and the whole fleet entered hyperspace including the captured destroyer that was docked to the side of the carrier.

    He fell back into his chair in relief before Fiira came and told him to get back to his duties. "Captain, you're needed in interrogation room alpha. They have the frigate's captain, and he's surprisingly willing to talk, but only with you." she said.

    "And you want me to give him the satisfaction? Very well, it's not like I've got anything else to do." "Hariik," he said and the drunk man stumbled to his feet. "Actually, never mind. Paul, you're in charge." he said before leaving. He nodded with a smirk saying he understood what he meant.

    "Ah well, there's no use stayin' here then." he said and followed out." he didn't want this man controlling the fleet in his condition.

    He saw the man through the one-way glass. He was well dressed and kept his hygiene unlike many others he'd seen. He walked in with Fiira and sat across from him. He was cuffed, so there was no worry of him attempting anything.

    "You say you want to speak to me." he said.

    "Not with the wench around." he said glaring at Fiira. "She's too much of a mouthful. I might snap on her."

    "Hey buddy, that's my wife you're talking about."

    "Then I feel bad for you." he said.

    He rolled his eyes and gave her a look.

    "Fine. I'll wait outside."

    "And order Hariik to get to detox will you, I can't have him drunk at times like this. We don't know if there are more of them lurking around." he said before she left.

    He shifted his gaze to the destroyer captain.

    "We're both captains here. I've turned off the audio recordings. So what is it you wanted to tell me?"

    "Not much, really. I'd be betraying my people if I said too much, and I'd be shanked in your prisons if they find out I said too much. Believe me, my crew won't hesitate."

    "What are you asking?" he said.

    "Salvation." a simple answer, but in his eyes, he saw truth behind his intentions. "If I don't have to face the rest of them again, I see no harm in telling you what I know."

    "And you think I can grant you this?" he said.

    "Of course you can. When the empire fell, I was stuck. If I surrendered, my crew would have killed me before I got off the ship. I decided to play it off showing the personality of a battle hardened badass of a captain. It earned me respect even among carrier and cruiser captains. Though I wasn't high enough in rank to participate in the voting of our new laws. I might have been able to make this more of a . . . civilized society." he paused.

    "Go on."

    "They want nothing more than to destroy you, hiigaran. You and the rebels alike. I couldn't care less. I've got a family. I heard they survived and are in your fleet right now on their way to the capital."

    "How can you know this?"

    "We know many things. We've got our own spies deep in your government. We heard you're taking Taiidan over to the new capital. We don't know where that is, but there was a list of names. Every time it came in, I checked for my family. This time, they're on that list. I surrendered willingly. I could have told my crew to resist, but the only ones who did were the ones loyal to the former emperor enough to die for him, even if he's dead."

    "So you told your men to stand down. That'll be good rep for you if I decide to wipe your record." he said.

    "Please. I've killed enough to know that my record will never be clean. Not to me anyway. Getting down to business, what do you want to know from me?"

    "Details. Numbers. A story of how this happened."

    "Well, there are five fleets like that one lurking around the nebula, so chances are you'll be running into another one soon enough. They've been alerted to your presence so it's just a matter of waiting. I'm still not sure how you managed to get away, but you'd better hope you can pull it off again. Anyway, we were being hunted down by rebels constantly since the fall of the empire. We couldn't hide anywhere. We banded together. Strength in numbers, you see. Eventually fleets encountered a carrier and that was basically the best thing to happen. They had protection by frigate guards sometimes in the dozens as well as supplies. I met up with another destroyer and a cruiser before we found the carrier. Supplies had to be traded over manually between our three ships. We were just about to run out too. Then, a carrier had its inhibitor field set up, and we detected it, dropped out, and it was being attacked. We showed up and saved the day, really."

    "And then you found the nebula?" he asked.

    "After a few more months, yes. Our small fleet were the first to find it. We then harvested resources to build up more ships. We scouted out for others in the region. We used imperial channels that the rebels didn't know about, and broadcast the location to anyone who could hear. Ships came pouring in in search of refuge. We were tired of being hunted down. Tired of being persecuted by the rebels."

    "Then why not surrender? Is everyone so against the very idea?"

    "Yes. They don't all support the emperor himself, but at least most of them agree that the new republican government the rebels have created didn't suit them. We would never be allowed to continue our ways. We are mercenaries. You could say we formed a sort of pirate nation now. We have five leaders, one for every fleet. We are allied with common intentions, we are imperialists, and we'll always be."

    "But not you?"

    "I have more than myself to worry about. My family hasn't seen me since the War started. I can't imagine how they feel. I personally don't give a damn who's in charge. If my kids have the promise of a safe future, then that's all I need. I'll kill anyone I have to to ensure this, rebel, hiigaran, or imperial." he respected his resolve. It was absolute. But he needed to know more.

    "The carriers. Some of them were converted to mobile colonies?"

    "That is one of our more recent ideas. Last year we gutted the hangars of three carriers in each fleet while we were all in the center of the nebula to trade. The hangars were completely redesigned. The resource drop off and storage systems were no longer needed either and were also removed. We took out pretty much everything we could and replaced it with living quarters. There remains only one small spot at the top where corvettes dock to transfer supplies and passengers. They're our colonies. After four years families are made. Our ships have limited supplies. We can't keep kids running through the halls. It's not good for combat and not good for them either."

    "How many could one hold?"

    "Up to five thousand each. But we don't have nearly that many yet. We've started holding planets and threatening to bomb them from orbit if they didn't release their imperialist prisoners. So far we've got thirteen thousand that way. I'll even go so far as to say that these imperials are a serious threat to the republic and maybe even you hiigarans."

    "I doubt that."

    "Oh? Well then this next part will shock you. They're planning on hitting the jail planet where there are thousands of imperialist prisoners. We know where you sent them. We can get them. An armada is being constructed. After that, Well, you can imagine the rest."

    And he could. Jigoku was a heavily guarded system. They must know that, or else they wouldn't spend years building an armada. It could very well bring about another war.

    "Now you see what I mean."

    "I . . . I have to tell my superiors of this immediately." he said getting up. He breathed heavily. He imagined it. They had weapons that could destroy entire planets and burn them to ash and glass.

    If they got to Hiigara . . . if they did, would they really destroy it? Could they? Just like Kharak? The thought made him dizzy, almost nauseating. The fear overwhelmed him. All that they had fought for, all that they had died for, could be destroyed if this matter was left alone.

    "What about me?" the taiidan said.

    "Yes, yes I'll put a good word in for you. This is urgent." he said. He ran out the door when the alarm sounded. They had been pulled out of hyperspace. Again.

  4. #4

    Fiction Chapter 4

    Chapter Four

    Raining Diamonds


    JOHN


    He ran to the nearest phone line. He called the bridge. "Paul how's the situation up there?" he asked.

    "Not very good. This fleet's the same as the last one. The hyperspace specialist is having trouble locking onto the source of their inhibitor field."

    "It seems as though they're alternating every few seconds between the carriers. It will prove difficult to close in on specific ones. It will take more time but I can do it." he said reassuringly.

    "Good. Hariik will be there soon. He's in detox at the moment getting the drunkenness beaten out of him. I have to make a call. It's extremely urgent." he said.

    "Alright. I'll be fine." then he hung up the call.

    He found the nearest room with a phone and locked himself in. He called the communications room. "Get a call back to Hiigara and to Elson. Priority black. This is a matter of extreme urgency." black meant highest priority possible, a matter of life or death on a global scale.

    "Done. We have you through to Elson, but the nebula is interfering with communications back to Hiigara."

    "Good enough. This is captain John Nabaal."

    "Again? What is it this time, Captain?"

    "Shut up for a second. I don't have much time before I'm cut out. The Taiidan are planning to take Jigoku by force and they are building an armada to do so. After that, they are going to completely destroy Hiigara."

    "That's impossible."

    "I swear on the grave of Kharak that they can, and they will. Don't be a fool, this should be treated as a call to war. Extra defenses should be made. Stop the long range patrols in the wastelands and other areas and focus on the areas around this nebula and around the former Empire. Do as much as possible about this now before it's too late. Relay this message to Hiigara."

    "Sajuuk have mercy. I will take this matter to the D..." it cut out.

    "Sir, they've disabled our long range communications now." He hung up the phone and had to sit down. He wouldn't allow it to happen. Hiigara must remain. He devoted his life to its protection, and he took that oath seriously. It meant everything to him.


    PAUL


    He had been doing his best to try and manage the fleet, and it was going better than he expected, but it still wasn't good. There were too many of them. The Bentusi ships could handle the cruisers no problem. That was, of course, before more had joined the fight. They were firing on the carriers, meaning they probably found out what the cargo was, which wasn't good.

    "Protect the carriers at all costs! We can't lose them!" he said. He had his eye on the sensors the whole time, he knew where everything was. He watched more red dots appear, and more green dots disappear.

    He couldn't take it. He was no leader of the fleet. He was better at just knowing where things were. He couldn't give orders like John could. He was ready to snap under the stress when Hariik came onto the bridge. He walked in looking surprisingly fit for duty. It was the first time he'd seen him not drunk in years.

    "Alright crew, I'm in charge now. Paul, back to your station you look like shit, son. He's right, though, protect the carriers. Take out their cruisers' main cannons you know the drill. The destroyers will take their attention off them once we surround them with our own. Keep pressure on them, swarm their destroyers with ion frigates, and keep those bombers away from the cargo." he shouted. It was almost as if John was in command. There was a reason he was second in command, and now he saw it. "Keep those damn cannons off the carriers. Frigates six seven and eight fire on that lone ion frigate and make sure it doesn't finish the job on that carrier, it looks critical. Repair corvettes get there now, and support frigate five you're closer so head over to repair it. Frigate three will take your place in supporting your assigned group."

    He sat in the chair and had a look on his face as if he missed this part of the job. They took the upper hand. They were being reluctant to go for the carriers after they saw how the fleet protected them.

    "Status on our escape." Paul said.

    He kept pressing buttons and his eyes shifted across his screen without stopping. He took it as being worked on. After a few minutes, the enemy had started to put pressure on them. He shouted orders that kept them on the upper hand, but that would only last so long. Their ships were damaged, and they simply had more support frigates.

    "Dock the fighters now I'm making progress, and the jump will have to be made fast." Paul looked at the kadeshi, who's name he still hadn't known, and saw him sweating. His face almost looked angry. He kept glancing back at him. He would be the one to save them from this mess. The problem seemed to be they were alternating their inhibitors between the five carriers and four cruisers. He had to get all the signatures in the correct order, as he stated he assumed there was a pattern to it. A mechanically calculated order, not a simple randomizer.

    It went on, and then he got the correct order at that time, and then highlighted all the ships, and jumped them himself. When they were safe, he sank back in his seat, and threw the headset on the desk. Others congratulated him. Hariik applauded him.

    "Kid, you've got mad skills. You saved us, pretty much." he said. "Anything you need?"

    "A fucking rest would be nice." he said rubbing his wrists. "I'm going to my tube. We'll be out of the nebula in two minutes. We're free. I never thought I'd be more glad to leave a nebula in my life." he said walking out. He was very angry, Paul could tell.

    "I'm detecting Taiidan hyperspace signatures heading opposite to us, we're all good. They're not following us." Paul said and left too. It was time for the shifts to switch anyway. He ran ahead to the kadeshi.

    They made eye contact and he sighed. "What is it, Paul?"

    "Nothing I was just wondering why you still seem to feel out of place here. It's been nearly a year, hasn't it?"

    "What's your point?"

    "I'll buy you a drink. You deserve a break."

    "But I don't drink."

    "Why not? Your sleeper tubes get rid of the alcohol anyway, right?"

    "Put that way, I guess it wouldn't do any harm."

    "Sorry, I still don't know your name."

    "I haven't told many people yet. It's pretty long just call me Hel."

    The place was full of Taiidan and Kushan alike, Paul was regretting this decision but he didn't seem to mind despite the looks he got. The hair was kind of a dead giveaway to his origins, but he didn't mind talking about it when he had a few.

    "So you were actually one of the salvaged escape pods?" Paul asked.

    "Yeah. I was told to get in, and I did. I was only eleven so I was kinda terrified. My father sent me off before getting in his own. There's only room for one in each."

    "So he's fine then?"

    "Oh yeah he's great. He's going back to the Garden with the others."

    "And you aren't?"

    "Not a chance! Here I can actually make a name for myself. I feel useful. Lots know how to handle the hyperspace technology back home. It's taught to many of us in school. The inhibitor identifying that I do was taught to me by my dad. He's the one who trapped you all there in the first place. He detected the presence of a powerful hyperspace signature and put up the field. I bet he regrets it now, right?" he laughed.

    "So that makes you what? Fifteen now?"

    "I guess. We don't measure years the same as you."

    "So that means technically you shouldn't be here." he said. He didn't realize he was that young.

    "Probably not, but like I care."

    They talked about their stories, which is what people usually do at the bar when they're drunk enough. Unlike Hariik who is always too drunk to understand. They had a laugh on his behalf too. Hel was from Third, the same as Mark's girlfriend, he recalled. Arazis was her name. He asked him if he knew her at all.

    "Her? Well everyone on the ship knew her. She was the captain's favorite. Royalty also." that part was new to him. "She was always with that cheery boy Saiin. I knew him more but still. I guess I just didn't talk much. I remember Saiin showing me a swarmer once. He was older so I guess my dad told him to watch me. He didn't mind. It was so complicated. Then I realized that most things were.

    I started to try and think of things as puzzles, and taking them apart mentally. I'm just good with hyperspace tech because that's what my dad had lying around all the time. Blueprints, books, all on advanced usage of the technology we had. He could trap people in the field, after a while I figured out a way to counter this. I found a weakness in the system. It surprised him. He hadn't even figured that out. But they assumed it would take someone ages to figure it out, and there was really nothing they could do about it but alternate.

    Which we did, but the system hadn't been completed and there were a few bugs. One of the needleships had a glitch, and trapped us in with you. It wouldn't shut off its field. I was going to the bridge of the Amun when the ship was destroyed. I wanted to save us so badly, but it turned out that the captain was sacrificing himself anyway, and ordered the evacuation."

    Hariik walked in and grabbed a bottle right off the shelf. The bartender rolled her eyes and didn't say anything about it. Then, he saw them and joined them.

    "Hey there, Paul! And what's he doin' here? He's just a kid!"

    "Yeah I didn't actually know his age. It doesn't matter, their tubes take all the alcohol out anyway. You should probably invest in one yourself." he said taking the bottle.

    He took it back. "But that ruins the nice warm feeling of being drunk, my friend!" he rolled his eyes and decided to let it drop. He knew his past, and his reasons.

    "We're done here for tonight. I'll see you tomorrow at the transfer." he said. "Come on, Hel. Let's get you home you look barely able to walk."

    He walked him to his room. "See you tomorrow Paul." he said and closed the door."

    Paul headed to his own room and crashed on his bed. He laughed to himself. "Did I really just get that kid drunk? John will kill me if he finds out." he said before falling asleep.


    MARK


    The thunder roared right overhead. Lighting struck a building not far off. Rain fell outside. "Well isn't the weather just great." Isel said.

    "What's worse is this new threat. The Taiidan of the nebula." Karan said.

    "Don't think anything of it." Karu said. "John's got it covered, trust me. And if it comes down to it, anyone can agree with us on this, we're all more than willing to fight to the death."

    "But they probably won't even get as far as Jigoku." I said. "It's heavily guarded. But just in case I suggest sending reinforcements. We still don't know exactly how many ships they have."

    "I'll make sure to take it up in the next Daiamid assembly tomorrow. They called an emergency meeting because of the circumstances." Karan said.

    "And this is the first I've heard of it, being a Sa you'd think I would get news faster." I complained.

    The television turned on. "This just in, the newly scheduled Daiamid meeting has been pushed to eleven thirty tonight. All Sas and representatives please report to the conference room immediately." the reporter said.

    "What the . . ."

    "We have to go now. It's worse than we thought." she said pressing the metal thing on her head. It's a sort of implant for communication. At the bottom of the building there was already a transport waiting to escort us. Karan, Arazis and I were taken to the conference room.

    The conference room was full. I sat with Arazis along with all other Sas at a half circle table facing Karan and two others. One was the Taiidan Republic representative only there because of the context of the discussions, and the other was a judge chosen by the galactic council to regulate the laws being made if any should arise to make sure it isn't infringing on the rights of any other nation and other legal stuff like that. Behind us was a large open area of rows of seats for any spectators who wished to hear the discussions. It was mostly empty tonight because of how late it was. There were a few worried faces, and I gave them reassuring looks as best I could.

    The representative stood up, and we silenced. "We have new information to give you. After your civil convoy got through, we took precautions by sending long-range probes into the nebula. We found their pattern. They have outlying fleets like the ones you encountered, and in the center, they have their shipyards and foundries. They have a fleet of hundreds of ships. The captain of the Ifriit was away interrogating a captive for information, but his second in command was informed of the new information. He said he wouldn't dare send anyone to them, and that we should refrain from further action. Elson agreed with him, we are no match for them at this point."

    "What you're asking is that we help you in defeating this armada?" Nabaal-Sa said.

    "What I'm asking you is to help us defeat them before they reach the prison planet. They have the ships, just not the crews to fill them. If they take the planet by force, which they can and will if we don't stop them, it would be disastrous. It would bring about another galactic-scale war."

    "This is outrageous!" someone yelled.

    "What threat do they pose to the safety of Hiigara?" Karan asked.

    "Total destruction. We have heard word from Captain John Nabaal. His interrogations proved of the utmost importance. He got a priority call out to Elson but couldn't reach Hiigara through the interference. They have the same weapons as they used on Kharak, and are more than willing to take their revenge on you." the room fell completely silent, not even the sounds of breathing could be heard. Same could be said for me. It can't be happening.

    "Th-this is true?" Somtaaw-Sa asked.

    "Yes. Even we still have the plans for the weapon in our databases. I didn't think after what happened anyone would have the guts to actually remake them, though."

    "Dispatch a fleet of twenty heavy cruisers with destroyer escorts to Jigoku as soon as you can gather them." I said to Nabaal-Sa, his kiith was in charge of ship production and military recruitment.

    "I will make the call." he said picking up a phone. The conversation continued.

    "We are willing to give our full cooperation in this matter. It means the protection of our Homeworld, and that is all that matters to us. We cannot allow the galaxy to fall into another war." Karan said. "Manaan-Sa, do you have fighters willing to help out within close range?"

    "We have ten carriers with full sets of squadrons. We're ready to help, but I can't promise all will be willing to fight. We are nomads, after all. We have very little ties to the Homeworld, however I'm sure most will agree to fight"

    "Good. Miss Restion, you are related to one of the Kadeshi Elite, are you not?"

    Arazis looked surprised and shot her a look instantly, as if wondering what she had in mind. "Yes, my father is the governor of Third. I still don't see how this is relevant. If you're asking me to pull strings and get the Seven Colonies to help in this matter, you're wasting your time. I haven't spoken to my father since I was very young, and he exiled me into military service because I was too curious for my own good. I doubt he'll even want to see me."

    "We are sending a group of Kadeshi back to the nebula soon. Can you at least see how the situation is?" What was she doing? She's sending her to the nebula, knowing she doesn't want to go to begin with? Karan? I couldn't get my head around hers.

    "Are you asking, or ordering?" she said glaring at Karan.

    "Maybe a little bit of both."

    "Then I'm going with her." I said. "As a more official representative of the Hiigarans." I could tell she didn't like the idea, I was valuable, unlike Arazis. She has tuned out her emotions completely, as it seems.

    "I'll fill in for him. I was strike command on the Mothership after all." Leonard said. He was an observer in the back.

    "Agreed." she said moving on to other things as if she didn't know who we were, or who she was, for that matter.

    Arazis looked at me and I could tell she wanted to leave the building. Which we did when the meeting ended. We walked out together. The rain stopped now, and it was one in the morning. The Angelmoon was high in the sky, and full. She didn't say anything, just held onto me not to fall.

    "I just need to go sleep. I can't believe she's telling me to go back when she knows it's the last thing I want."

    Karan walked out after, but I shot her an angry look and she stopped. "I only said what is in the interest of the Homeworld. If that means I have to rid myself of all sympathy and personal matters, so be it. We need all the help we can get."

    Arazis inhaled, walked over to Karan, and smacked her hard across the face. "Then maybe I'll shed all my sympathy for you. You're lonely and depressed, you're bringing it on yourself now."

    She was walking away when Karan said, "You're acting like a child. You have a job to do, and all I did was order you to fulfill that job because that's my job."

    She turned around, walked back to Karan, and punched her to the ground this time. "Know when to shut up. This isn't just some easy task you can ask someone to complete. The Kadeshi kill heretics who go against the word of the sacred texts. If I go back there, I might not come back. We might not even get as far as Third! We might not even survive the encounter. They might realize who we are and open fire on the carrier without a second thought because of all the people you've killed!" she said.

    She was speechless. We left as some guards came running over.

    Back home, Arazis went straight to the room to sleep.

    "What happened?" Isel asked. "Where's Karan?"

    "Don't ask."

    "The meeting didn't go well then."

    "No, not really. Prepare for war, and prepare for the worst of it again, is all I can say to help you. Hiigara's in danger and we're being sent to a nebula to try and accomplish something that'll never happen." I said closing the room door.

    "It'll be fine." I said laying next to her.

    "No, it won't. Let's not talk about it. I'm too tired." she said.

    "Fine. But you can't run away from this now. I'm here, remember? I'll be there too.

  5. #5

    Chapters 5,6

    Chapter Five

    Game Plan


    JARRED


    The battles were all short-lived. The tradeships were giants compared to the other vessels, so they were safe within them. Caleb introduced him and Natalia to one of the entities. They were hesitant to trust it at first, perhaps a bit of xenophobia. The former empire didn't allow any non-Taiidan into the general public, so they hadn't ever met any other alien lifeforms. Not even Turanics. Though Jarred had seen them over a video feed once to give a Raider fleet instructions.

    When battles started, they could see some running to the hangars to their acolytes. They watched them closely. They sat in an area together, and their consciousness was transferred from the avatar bodies into the fighters. The Bentusi, as far as he could tell, were beings of energy. They did not have any physical permanent bodies. He still couldn't imagine being one himself. It seemed too odd a thought.

    "Sir, are you and the ambassadors ready?" one of the avatars said.

    "Yes, we're just getting our things ready." they had arrived at the rendezvous point. The republican fleet would receive them now. They were lead to the hangar and boarded their ambassador ship.

    On the Taiidan carrier, they were greeted better than usual even with Amelia's presence. Probably because Jarred was a very well-known rebel leader and a hero. "Welcome, ambassadors. Elson awaits your presence back at the capital. We have assigned you to a sectioned off floor that is heavily guarded to avoid any problems like you had aboard the Hiigaran ship." he said.

    They brought their things to the room and waited there. It took three hours to transfer all the civilians and prepare for hyperspace. It had to be done hastily. They were in a dangerous position despite their defenses, and the Hiigarans had to leave as soon as possible to return home.

    He could tell a war was coming. The captain briefed him on their situation. They were in trouble. He would talk to Elson about being assigned a new role once they got to the capital.

    The captain announced that all the passengers had crossed over, and initiated the jump. The Hiigarans were preparing to jump as well. They would be at the capital the next day.


    PAUL


    "Do you really think it's such a good idea to keep him here?" Paul asked pointing at the former enemy destroyer captain. "I mean . . . you can't really just trust him based on his word, can you?"

    "He knows how to navigate this nebula and he knows where the enemy fleets are. We only have half the defenses we came in with. We're in trouble and I'll accept anyone's help, Hiigaran, Bentusi, Turanic, and even Taiidan if I need to, and right now, we need him."

    "Were my calculations insufficient?" the Kadeshi asked still staring at his controls.

    "No, they were perfect given the circumstances. I'm impressed you actually got us out of there at all." he said.

    "Avoid going straight ahead. They're heading outwards so turn ten degrees towards the center of the nebula. It should be sufficient to completely evade their sensors." the Taiidan said.

    "Sure thing." Hel said.

    Later that evening, the course was adjusted straight for Hiigara. No other patrols were to pass by for a few days. Paul was walking with John to go get a drink. "So Hel tells me that you brought him to the bar. Paul, that's stupid."

    "Honestly I didn't know his age. He deserved it. You can't tell me that you waited to be legal age to drink. Besides, he deserved to live a little. He's always alone."

    "There's a good reason for that."

    "Oh?"

    "He's depressed and doesn't generally like being around people."

    "Oh. It's about his father?"

    "And just generally the feeling of failure to save his fleet. His lack of a normal childhood might also be part of it."

    "Do you think he'll ever get over it?"

    "Maybe. He's still young, after all."

    "How exactly did he end up on bridge command anyway?"

    "That should be obvious, do you know anyone who can calculate coordinates so perfectly and deal with hyperspace inhibitors better than him?"

    "Good point." they walked in on Hariik yelling at the Taiidan whose name he still hadn't gotten.

    "Break it up in here or settle it outside." his voice was louder than anyone in the room, and they stopped. They got a table in the back. "Get over here, Hariik."

    "Why should I?" he said but ended up listening anyway. The Taiidan came also because others looked like they wanted to tackle him.

    "Your crew is pretty hostile. Not exactly what I expected form Hiigarans." he said. "In other words, I feel right at home." he laughed and sat down. Hariik glared at him.

    "We're just relaxing is all, we have a pretty serious destination after this." Paul said.

    "Oh yeah? Where too?" the Taiidan asked.

    "The Great Nebula of Kadesh." John said.

    "You can't be serious. That's suicide!"

    "We made it out once."

    "That was sheer luck. There's no way you can make it out this time."

    "That's my job." Hel said taking the last seat at the table."

    "This kid is something else, that's for sure. Hyperspace tech is very well known to him. Escape will be easy if it needs to come to that." Hariik said. The Taiidan took his word for it.

    "So they all want to go home, do they? After four years . . . have they not moved on yet?"

    "It's not that easy. Some of us have families we want to get back to. Some of us just want the comfort of safety behind the reddish veil of our goddess."

    "And you?"

    "I have no family left to go back to. I like the freedom I have out here. I'm not going back."

    "By the way, I never got your name." John said.

    "Call me Tom. There's no point in remembering the whole thing." he said. Another shortened name. He thought.

    Someone from the cross-shift said he needed to see John about something. Hariik went too, probably to get away from the Taiidan, who left also to go get some sleep. They left as well after a while.


    JARRED


    The skies were blue, and it felt a lot like Hiigara. Colder, but still bearable. The escorts surrounded them and walked them to a transport, which was also guarded. They took many security measures to ensure the ambassadors' safety.

    Captain Elson met them when they arrived. "It's been a while!" he said.

    "Far too long. Still but a captain? Surely you should be a general by now at least."

    "No, I refuse any promotions offered to me. It's just my way of running things. You on the other hand, are getting a reward of sorts. I haven't been told everything yet." the building they were in was highly secured, so the escorts weren't needed. "Make yourselves at home. You'll be staying here until this mess is sorted out." he said. "Jarred, come with me. I need to get you up to date on things." he said walking out the door of the apartment.

    The Republic had very minimal resources. It was just scraping by with what it had. More resourcing fleets were being sent out, and they have agreed on a territory line with the Vaygr to avoid being attacked. The Bentusi only traded to the outermost world and didn't offer much assistance. The Osyrian Alliance to the south stopped by many of their worlds to trade on the way to Hiigaran space, so they are on relatively good terms with the sprouting government.

    There is a lot of internal conflict, many worlds not agreeing with changes in the governing style, but they were trying to settle some major issues every now and then.

    "And now there's this latest news to worry about." one of the men said. He was a general of sorts. "Our military budget is as high as it can be, and it is still quite small. We have ten carriers in total, about a quarter of what they have. The Hiigarans are going to need to send far more than we asked for."

    "We've already agreed to this. It's us they'll take revenge on first, not you." someone on a video screen said.

    "Tell me how you believe the battle will play out with the information we have." He said.

    They opened a battle scenario hologram. "They have many ships to spare, but they will be crewed with the bare minimum, and therefore won't be as effective as they could be, so that is an advantage we might be able to count on."

    "There's also the problem that these people are mostly all mercenaries trained for space combat, many of them from the Elite Guard that was trapped in a gravity well my fleet set up at the time of the Hiigaran Landfall. This weakness can't be relied on." Elson explained.

    A few green ships appeared on the field. Another explained, "These are the ships we could theoretically spare for the initial battle. As you can see, it's still not much by comparison. With these numbers we'd lose. We've discussed heavily with the Hiigarans about this, and they can send this many." the field showed about three times as many blue ships now than green ships. They were now matched for numbers with the yellow enemy ships.

    "The problem is the timing. We don't yet know when the Imperialists will launch their assault. The prisoner questioned by the Hiigaran captain did not know either, as secrecy was very high to avoid information leaking out." Elson continued.

    "Hiigaran forces are already being assembled to jump to the prison planet now to be there for the initial strike. We would like the Republicans to come in from behind and surprise them. It will take them time to rethink their approach." the person on the screen said.

    "Also they've been in a nebula this whole time with minimal resources to spare. Chances are their weapons are lower grade than before, like the former Kushan Fleet scraping by on what they could gather." Jarred commented.

    "Now that you're up to date, I'd like to ask you to take over here on the capital as I spearhead the assault." Elson said to him. It took a bit of time for him to realize he was speaking to him.

    "Me, I thought Amelia was here for that?" he said.

    "Are you kidding me? Amelia is still widely distrusted because of her heritage. How would the people react if we put the blood heir to the former emperor in charge? No, you have experience with this. She can however give you helpful advice."

    "So I'm back in the game, am I, well this should get interesting." he said.

    "Just remember, commander Alaiikir, this is no longer a guerrilla war being fought by rebels. This is now a nation. It's a much larger responsibility."

    "I get it. It's not as if it's permanent." he said.

    "If I don't make it back it might be. Anyway, that's all we needed to discuss today. Meeting adjourned." he said.

    "Not quite, Elson. You can't be the admiral of a fleet with only a captain rank. You're being promoted to general and no arguing it this time." someone said.

    "Well, if I must. But no big celebration or anything. I hate that kind of thing."

    ----------

    Chapter Six

    And Then Came A Departure


    MARK


    John's carrier came back. It's been a while since Karan last spoke to us. She suffers from manic depression as I was later told, meaning she's bipolar. That would explain a lot now that I think about it. The doctor that told me said it was probably a side effect from being disconnected from the hyperspace core.

    Arazis finally decided to go along with this willingly. She worried about actually seeing her father. She didn't know what he'd say, saying stuff like, "He'll probably label me a traitor and get me arrested for heresy or something." which can't happen seeing as we're ambassadors of an interstellar empire who knows more about their civilization than they'd like. But the last thing we need is another war by the looks of things, since the Taiidan are making a comeback. We'll try to be as peaceful as possible about it.

    Eric, Triikor, Isel and Karu were there to say goodbye to us. Isel and Karu would be leaving shortly after us on the Manaan carrier to join the fight against the Taiidan. So either way, I'd be leaving the homeworld. This way at least, I can do as little killing as possible.

    There were so many Kadeshi here with us. I think over a hundred wanted to go back home. Some of them made new lives together, but for the most part these were the lonely ones. The ones who hadn't lost it all. They had something to go back to. I saw it in Saiin a lot sometimes. He was always alone, and when he wasn't he always seemed to be somewhere else in thought.

    "I didn't even get to sell all my paintings." He said.

    "So what did you do with them?" Isel asked.

    "I stood them up on the wall of the capital building. Hopefully someone will make use of them."

    "Doors closing in five minutes." John's voice said. I sighed, and started walking.

    "Well guys, I guess we're off." I said. Arazis and Saiin followed. I didn't want to say goodbye. I'd see them again. We survived one war, we'll survive another if it comes to it.

    On the bridge, we saw John, Paul, Hariik and the rest, with a new addition. He was Taiidani.

    "Who's the new guy?" I asked.

    "I'm the captain of the destroyer that was captured. I'm here to help against the Imperialists as best I can. But for some reason the other carriers don't want me aboard. So I'm kinda stuck here." he said.

    "I've gotten you clearance to have your destroyer back if you want. It's been painted republican colors of course."

    "A trust test I assume. As long as I get to go home after this whole thing I'm fine with whatever. Wherever home is."

    "Any names?"

    "Koshiir-Tel seems fitting." he said.

    "You should get aboard before we leave. Get to know your new crew a little better." he left the room thanking John.

    "So I heard you didn't like Karan's choice?" he said to Arazis. She didn't say anything. "Oh well, gotta do what you gotta do, right? I'd much rather be going directly into battle than go back there." she didn't seem to want to talk much right now.

    Saiin was looking at the Kadeshi in the room. He was blankly staring at his console.

    John took notice and said, "You know we aren't leaving for another few minutes. You know Saiin, come socialize a bit." he stared up and walked over.

    "It's been a while."

    "You're the scientist's son, aren't you? Hel-"

    "I don't use my name anymore." he said. "How has it been on the homeworld? I haven't spent much time on the surface."

    "Lots of rebuilding. We have a few large cities but that's it. The Taiidan leaving freed up a lot of living space. I think over all we've gotten used to it. The original members of the Mothership fleet are highly respected among the other colonists. It's working out for the better." I said.

    "Let's just hope this war doesn't screw all that up." John said. Fiira walked in and said it was time to go. John told everyone to prepare for liftoff over the speaker system.

    "Calm down. It's not nearly as terrifying as our launch system." this Hel character said. He walked back to his console. I looked at Saiin, and he was shaking.

    An alarm sounded outside to warn people to back away. The engines fired, and it was deafening. The ship climbed up for a few minutes. Gradually, the engines became quieter and quieter. Not because they were cutting out, because we were now in the quietness of the vacuum. I don't really know how the liftoff system works, it has something to do with these stabilizers near the bottom of the ship that also serve to keep it in a hover state.

    Out the large front window I could see a fleet of frigates and two destroyers, one of them the taiidan one named Koshiir-Tel that would be escorting us there. The nebula is within Turanic territory, so it was just a precaution.

    I could see the old Mothership in the distance, now serving as a shipyard. It brought back many memories to see it, the good, and the bad.

    "Alright fleet, prepare to jump. Coordinates, the Great Nebula." John said. Hel nodded, and engaged the hyperdrive.

    "Estimated time until arrival is fifteen days." he said.

    "Half a month when it took us eight last time... Incredible." I said. During the Homeworld War we were only using what we thought was the "safe" limit to the core. After installing the outer casing units designed by our ancestors and better cooling systems, well, we could make that safe speed much faster. It's a lot more complicated than that, but that's what I understand of it.


    DELTOM


    "Well crew, I'd like to get to know you over the course of this transit. My name is Deltom but I go by Tom. Some things you should know about me is that I'm not imperial scum but was more a prisoner aboard my own ship. Sorry about the mess, I'll order someone to clean it up soon. Reduced to nothing but pirates we kinda let ourselves go. I have a wife and kid like most of you, and just care that they're safe. That is all." he said to the bridge crew.

    He called cleaning crews to get to work and went to get something to eat. He sat alone. He knew they didn't trust him yet, so he'd give them more time.

    He got lost in thought, remembering the time the hiigarans called Landfall. His crew was in a panic. They looked to him for advice. He overheard them talking about finding all the rebels on the ship and decapitating them on film, and then sending it to the rebels to show them their resolve as loyalists. Which they did. They found ten rebels in the whole fleet, lined them on the carrier's fighter deck and cut off their heads with a sword. One of them was a friend of his.

    He looked up realizing some of the bridge crew were looking at him. He wasn't very good at hiding his angered expressions. He smiled, got up, and left to wander the halls of his ship. He passed by the gym, which smelled rancid. He remembered a murder happened there. The victim was a suspected rebel, so nothing was made of it, and after a few days the killer came out and was considered a hero to some of the others. He killed again, this time their communications manager, who he knew was definitely not a rebel. His punishment was being jettisoned out into space on their next stop. He had a kind of following who broke him out of confinement. He remembered hunting him down himself, and shooting him in the head, ordering the others to get busy or he might reload.

    This once again consolidated his badass appeal. No one messed with him. He drank alone and talked to no one. He was respected highly. Now he lost all that, but didn't really need it back. He looked forward to leading this new group.


    ARAZIS


    She was in the large meeting place she remembered from years ago. It hadn't changed much. It was no longer the home of the Kadeshi's occasional gatherings, but was now empty again.

    She laughed. "What am I doing?" she asked herself. I was afraid once I left, and now I'm scared to go back. I'm pathetic.

    She heard someone walking in. It was Hel. "Oh. I thought no one was around." he said.

    "I was just leaving."

    "You don't need to do that. This place was once somewhere for our people to talk, after all." he said. He sat next to her. "You don't want to talk to the others?" he asked.

    "No, the less people the better right now."

    "Then you don't want to go back either." he said. "Why come then?"

    "I have to. I've been ordered to actually. Diplomatic stuff."

    "But Saiin wants to?"

    "He worries about his sister. He draws her often so I can tell it's worse now."

    Neither of them spoke for a while. They were both consumed in the lonely silence. "I tried saving the Amun. I knew how to fix the inhibitor problems. But it was too late." he said.

    "It wouldn't have mattered. Jeremiah would still have sacrificed himself. It's kinda late to worry about any of that now. It's done. I've moved on. You should try to do the same. You'll thank me." she said. She saw Mark leaning in the entrance, and went to join him.

    He kissed her and asked if she wanted to talk.

    "I'm just tired. Let's go get something to eat."


    ERIC


    Three days after the Ifriit left, he got the call. "This is Eric Gaalsien? Yes? We are reactivating your profile. Due to recent events we will need all the help we can get, and are calling everyone back into service. Triikor? Yes she can come too. You are being assigned to the Caal-Shto carrier due for departure tomorrow. Sorry for such short notice." there was a pause. "Thank you for your cooperation. The homeworld needs all of us." he understood.

    He told her when she got back from town with groceries. "I even requested your interceptor be transferred there." she dropped the bags.

    "I guess we won't be needing any of this then." she said. "So back to war it is."

    "It seems that way. Come on. Let's pack our stuff for tomorrow. I've finished up the first part of my next release, but it seems I'll have something else to write about now."

    It started raining after that, which didn't help the already sad mood. A worse storm was to come, they knew that. He spent the afternoon with her out on the porch writing what they both felt at that moment, finding out they were called back into service and the fear of what was to come. He decided he'd take a different approach to this book, and she agreed it would be good for both of them.

  6. #6

    Fiction Chapter 7

    Chapter Seven

    Distance Is Destroying Me


    ERIC


    The carrier was already in hyperspace. They were on the hangar deck with all the pilots, being briefed of their mission by the captain. "Jigoku is four days away. We have two, sorry three of the best pilots of the Homeworld War here with us. They know what they're doing, so take their advice into consideration. I know we're supposed to be very loosely tied to the homeworld after our fragmentation, but we are still Hiigarans above Manaani. It is our duty to protect Hiigara with our lives. Isel is in charge of Squad One as usual, Eric is in charge of Squad Two now. The rest of you, figure it out. Any questions?" no one said anything. "Good."

    The captain left and people started socializing. Isel was talking with her squad members, clearly she knew them all. He looked around. Everyone was in their own groups.

    "Let's go check on our ships." Triikor suggested. They found them on the deck, the odd ones out. A yellow Taiidan interceptor and the gray Kushan one. The Manaani had green ships, and they were all in the racks.

    "You'd better paint that thing. We might mistake you for an enemy." an older-looking pilot said laughing. He was missing an eye.

    "I'll get right on that. Heh...heh..." she said. He walked away. "But I like yellow and red." she said.

    "How about yellow and blue? Then it'll match your eyes too." she liked that idea. They asked it to be done. Eric decided on orange with a black stripe, the colors of the Gaalsien before the extremists took the clan into chaos back on Kharak. He wanted to show he was true to his clan despite it being nearly wiped out.

    A few hours later they were in the mess hall getting something to eat. They were avoided by most, they were used to it. It wasn't as hostile as it could have been. Out of all the Kiithid the Manaani are by far the least hostile towards the Gaalsien. Many seeking to renounce their heritage to escape the war joined them as nomads and traders. They also have an old common enemy, the Siidim. Long ago, they accused the Manaani of raiding a coastal city as a way of validating an attack on Ferin Sha in 513KDS. They slaughtered all the Manaani they could find during the festival. In response, the Manaani became hostile towards them, and raided entire cities and trapping citizens to wander into the desert to die.

    But that was all in the past now. There was no point in keeping the conflict going anymore. Karu is a Siidim after all. Isel a Manaani. Century old conflicts should remain dead in this new age.

    "You're staring into space again." Triikor said.

    "Sorry Trix, just wandering in thought." he said.

    "I give them a week. They can't hate me forever."

    "I talked to some of the guys, You're fine here, no problems for the most part. It's not that you're Taiidan it's that you're new here and suddenly given your own squadron." Isel said. She was with others that he noticed her talking to earlier. "The captain is never that generous. Even I had to fight my way back up despite my rank." Karu wasn't there.

    "So where's your corvette captain?" she asked.

    "He's mostly alone." she answered.

    "Feels guilty about the past still." another said.

    "Ya two should just get married already so he can renounce his name to the dead and gone Siidim clan." another joked.

    "Speaking of which, aren't you Gaalsien? Damn. The two superpowers of the Hersey Wars, reduced to nearly nothing." he said as a joke. They clearly didn't take anything seriously on this ship. He was fine with it. "Now it seems power is left wide open for the Sjet to take."

    "Oh shut up Sjeti nerd." she said.

    "Wanna race over it?" they glared at each other. Clearly they had a kind of rivalry going on.

    "Kaal, Joss, shut up both of you." Isel said hitting them.

    He started to laugh.

    "What's funny?" she asked.

    "You used to be the annoying kid. Now you're the boss all of a sudden?"

    "Ooh tell us more about it. We'd love to hear about the leader's stupid mistakes." the one named Joss said.

    "Hah, no I think I'll avoid her fist." he said.

    "And what about you? Come on, introduce us." he said.

    "She's Triikor. She's been on our side since before Kadesh."

    "Call me Trix for short. Sorry about the imperial-looking clothing. I just like red and yellow. I'm switching the red out for blue. I'm an insomniac so you'll probably find me wandering around all night. I live in the now, I have no ties to anything but what is in the moment."

    "That's the spirit! You'll fit in well here." Kaal said.

    "So who's the guy with the eye patch?" Triikor asked.

    "He's Kesto the deck officer. He can't fly no more because of his injury. It's better to avoid him and make sure ya don't mess up his deck. Try to stay on his good side." Joss said.

    "I'll keep that in mind." she said.


    JARRED


    "So you're in charge of the whole Republic now?" Natalia said.

    "Yeah?" he said.

    "You know nothing about politics."

    "Thanks for the support. I'm worried enough as it is."

    "I'm assuming the politics are my job then." Amelia said. "I think it would be best if no one knew, right?"

    "That's pretty much what they told me." he sighed and sat down on the couch. "I think I liked being a rebel more."

    "Oh suck it up." Caleb said. "It'll be fun not being the ones sneaking around with a constant threat of death for once."

    "We'll see." he said.

    They turned on the news to see what was new around the Republic, to get an idea of where to start tomorrow.

    The next day, he had the official ceremony to make him the president. "Because our fearless leader who banded us all together has to participate in the upcoming battle against the Imperialist remnants, I shall temporarily be taking his place as president. I led the resistance on Hiigara and myself brought the former Emperor to justice, meeting his end by my bullet." some spat at the name others cheered for him and called him a hero. "I know we are in a financial crisis, and I have a group of specialists to help me along with that, they have chosen to remain anonymous for their own safety. I promise you, I believe in our new government. I truly think this can work. I will be continuing to support the changes Elson has begun, and hope to finalize them. Are there any questions?"

    "Yes, is it true that Amelia Riesstiu, the former emperor's daughter, is within the main presidential building with you at this moment?" someone asked.

    "I can't answer that for you, sorry. Anything else?" he said trying to avoid the question.

    "Is it true that Natalia Herren, a former Imperial spy is also there with you, and that you two have a sort of intimate relationship?"

    "That's a bit personal, and again, I can't answer as to what happens within the main building, I don't have the authority."

    "Well then please, at least tell us if it was true that your cousin Caleb betrayed the rebellion right before the imperial palace was taken over?"

    "No, that is not true. He has contributed greatly to our former network, and I will defend his actions to the death. Any further questions about my personal life will be ignored. I am here on business. That is all." he said.

    Later that night back home, they were watching the news again. "The newly appointed president was doing very good until the questioning came along. He did not confirm or deny the recent suspicions surrounding the emperor's last blood heir and refused to accept any personal questions. Well, mister president, you're new here, and we want to get to know you better. Elson, your apparent hero, gave us his whole life's story right down to his beloved Kapella's murder. Bad move, president Alaiikir. We'd hope you clear some of this up at some point. You have conspiracy suspicions surrounding you with these so called anonymous specialists." the reporter said. He had his face in his palms.

    "It's alright, Jarred. You did your best." Natalia said. "You never were good at being on the spotlight." she said. He went to school with her, so she knows how he is with public speaking.

    Elson called. "We'll clear this all up. Well . . . you will. I've called a press conference in a week from now. That should give you time to get a story straight. The anonymity of it is too ominous and reminiscent of the former empire. I think it'd be better just to come out clean and just say Amelia's there. You can increase security whenever you want. They might not take it well, but you can say that you're at least being honest about it, and that she's been basically bred to handle a large government."

    "I don't mind. I just don't want them thinking I'm controlling everything." she said.

    "And that's what the conference is about. Set it straight, Jarred. I am leaving in my flagship tomorrow, so I won't be here to support you."

    "That's fine, you have enough to deal with. I'll figure something out." Elson ended the call. He looked to the others, and said they should get to planning.


    SAIIN


    He woke up breathing heavily. He had nearly the same dream every night since coming on the carrier. It had been a week. Almost halfway through the transit. His sister had committed suicide in some way, be it by drowning in the sea, jumping off a tower on the floating city, a simple knife to the wrists, every time she was dead, and he had to deal with his reunion after this. See his mother torn apart by it all, hating the city for the damage it's caused to them, hating the Hiigarans for making all of this happen. But then he'd see them for breakfast and have to contain his thoughts. His best friend is going out with one of them, albeit he helped the Kadeshi a lot during the War. Mark was his friend. So was Eric. Life was confusing him, and at times he thought he was losing his mind. He didn't know if he could take much more of this.

    "It seems you're having some kind of chronic nightmare based on your reality and past, we call it clinical anxiety. I'll prescribe you these, but it just means you can't use a sleeper tube when on them or it'll flush the drug right out of your system." the ship's psychologist said.

    "That's fine . . . I haven't been using one anyway. Otherwise I wouldn't be dreaming at all." he said.

    "Right. Since you also have suicidal depression, these might help reduce any of those thoughts too."

    "I haven't had any thoughts like that in a few years."

    "I'm a doctor, Saiin. You can't lie to me."

    "Right, of course. Do you deal with us often?" he asked.

    "Sorry?"

    "Kadeshi."

    "Oh." he paused. "Yeah. There's a lot of you here who still have many issues coping with the present reality you're in. Especially one of our own."

    "Hel?" he asked.

    "I can't talk about it though. Patient confidentiality."

    "Yeah. He's been through a lot too." he got up to go meet up with the others. "Thanks."

    He walked in on them all gathered at the same table. They all finished eating and were just talking now. The captain, his wife who didn't really like Kadeshi all that much, Mark, Arazis, some others from the bridge crew, and Hel sat a little farther alone. He was with someone else who was the sensors manager. He went to them after grabbing some food.

    "Hey Saiin." Hel said as he sat down.

    "Hey. Don't wanna eat with the others?" he asked.

    "Not really."

    "He's always been alone like this." the other said. I'm Paul by the way."

    "Oh yeah, we were introduced earlier. I forgot your name, sorry."

    "No problem. You looked lost in thought. Names are useless to some anyway, right?" he said.

    They didn't talk much. There wasn't much to talk about.

    "Captain to the bridge, captain to the bridge." someone said. "May sensory and hyperspace control also report to the bridge please."

    "Well, I guess we'll see you later." Paul said. They both got up and left.


    JOHN


    "What is it? We have another week to go." he said.

    "Well, your fault for leaving a Somtaaw on sensory's cross-shift." the acting commander said.

    "What do you mean? Explain yourself, Somtaaw."

    "Well, there's a very resource rich asteroid belt close by. A half-hour from here at our speed."

    "And you want to go harvesting. Great."

    "We could use a bit more funding on here, wouldn't you say? We're way below upkeep for our financials."

    "He's right, John." Fiira said. "Resource wise, we're far below our harvesting quota. Being a passenger ship or not, it's a secondary objective we can't ignore for very long."

    "Oh fine. I'll give you five hours." he said.

    "Five? We're gonna need a minimum of ten to get what we need!" the Somtaaw on the screen said. He was the head of the resourcing unit.

    "I never said we'd be getting it all in one shot. We can stop by on the way back if it's that important to you."

    "We're going to be in the most resource-rich region we've ever recorded anyway. We'll make our quota in five minutes!"

    "Uh . . . May I add something?" Hel said raising his hand. He never speaks, so everyone payed attention.

    "Go ahead." John said. He knew what he was gonna say, so he let Hel explain.

    "Are you all incredibly unintelligent?" he said. "My people, err . . . The Kadeshi won't really like that. Do you not remember the last time? Those who defile the Garden are punished."

    "Hah! Watch it, kid. And like I care. We'll just stop on our way out somewhere near the edge and no one will notice." he said. He'd probably risk it too, knowing how this Somtaaw was. Kadesh was worth more to this maniac than his life probably was.

    "Ahem." he cleared his throat to get attention back to him. "If you even think I'll pull out of hyperspace for you for that purpose within their territory, you're mad. And if you try anything once we're at our destination, I'll gladly leave you to them once they arrive to apprehend you. I'll even send off a ping for you to make sure they find you."

    "Is that a threat, captain?"

    "Yes, yes it is. I won't defend you or your collectors. "Oh, we'll see, captain. My refinery is nearly ready to be launched." he said. The ship sitting in the hangar being constructed was his resource controller. This Somtaaw was going to be a problem for him, he knew it.

    "Get out of my face, I'll allow seven hours for your harvesting then. Just never mention this again or I'll have a replacement ready for you faster than you can take a piss."

    He sighed, sat in his chair, and turned on some music. "Fiira,"

    "Yes, I know. Another coffee."

    "Thanks."

  7. #7
    Chapter Eight

    Those Who Slay Together, Stay Together

    MARK


    The ship slowed to a stop, I could hear that we dropped out of hyperspace. I didn't know why, then John said over the comm system that we were making a stop to fill up on our resourcing quota. He didn't sound too happy about it.

    Saiin came over. He was with Paul and that strange Kadeshi kid. It was shift change, so they all went to work leaving Saiin with Arazis and I. The three of us went up to the auditorium.

    "So you slept in?" I asked.

    He showed us a bottle of pills. "Actually, I decided I'd much rather like to start thinking straight again." I read it, Escitalopram.

    "You know you get addicted to these, right?" I said. I didn't know much about antidepressants, only that they rarely if ever work the way you want them to. Post-landfall, these small pills were everyone's best friends as it seemed.

    I'll never forget that one kid. A Sjet boy. One of the new pilots at the school who was training directly under me. He started on some pills, but they had the exact opposite effect. He became increasingly depressed and suicidal, worse than he was to start with. He lost both his parents in the Taiidan assault on the cryotrays. He was one of the few that were saved from that damaged area. Just a bit of bad luck. After three weeks of taking some kind of pills, I found him tying a noose on one of the railings of the jet hangar. It looked as if his arms and legs had more cuts than skin. There weren't any words I could say to him that would be good enough to help. We got to talking, and he knew it was the pills.

    All I could do was tell him about that time watching my whole world burn to ash and glass. Nothing I knew prior could compare to that. It was so much to take in, I didn't want to believe it was actually happening. I told him that this was something we all had to face, something we all had to come to terms with. I then told him of my dad who died fighting, he died protecting everyone, and how I knew I could never be him, yet there were people who expected me to, so I tried to be. It was my only goal that really mattered, getting everyone safely to the homeworld, and I would die trying. I told him that we were all like that, or at least someday we would be remembered that way. One day the next generation will look back on how strong we had to be. They wouldn't remember the weak hearts, the ones who weren't strong enough to earn a place in Balcora. I think he understood what I meant. To be remembered, we had to be great. To be great, we had to fight. After that night, I could tell. He graduated a few months later, and then went off to a carrier fleet somewhere. He's one of the best I've met out of the people I've trained in these four years after landfall.

    "If it works, what do I care?" he said bringing me back to reality.

    "And if it doesn't?" I said. There was a long silence after that.

    "I'll be fine. Stop worrying about me." he walked away. He didn't want to talk about it anymore.

    We were alone now. She leaned in on my shoulder. "Saiin's fine, Mark."

    "Can you be sure? There's a lot spinning around in his mind."

    "I'm sure."

    I embraced her. "And what about you?"

    "I'm fine too."

    "Liar." I said before kissing her cheek. We decided to go do something a little more productive with our free time.


    ERIC


    "Good morning." she said. He groaned and sat up. "Wait, since when are you up before me?" he said.

    "I was woken up by the drop from hyperspace." she said.

    "Huh? We're out? I thought we were on a tight schedule."

    He got dressed and they left to go eat. Isel was there with some of her squad members, so they decided to go over to them instead of being alone as usual. It was a day before arriving at the prison planet. Karu was there too, which was surprising.

    "Was wondering when you two would get up. If I have to get you up tomorrow to fight some surprise ambush, you won't like me."

    "She means it." Kaal said. He laughed, and promised to be awake and on schedule next time.

    "Hey there, haven't even seen you yet since we got here." he said to Karu.

    "Yeah sorry about that. It's nice seeing the two of you off-world and in the game again."

    "Only missing that Sobani now, eh?" Joss said.

    "Oh he's off doing his own work." Eric said. "Off to Kadesh, of all places."

    Conversation continued as they ate. They found out the carrier was out of transit to harvest and build up their fleet, and train the pilots in the meantime.

    "We'll be out running practice drills soon. Do you know who's on your squad?" Isel asked as they were walking to the hangar.

    "Not really." Triikor said. "We just know that three others will be joining us out there."

    "Well you'd better communicate with them. We don't want another Blood Squad now do we?" she said referring to Mark's habit of being incapable of keeping his last two wingmen alive.

    "I'm a better squad leader than Mark. You'll see." he said.

    "Alright, just don't let your confidence kill you out there." they went to their own ships.



    The drills were made to put squads up against each other. They were using weak lasers so no one gets hurt. That didn't change the fact that it still felt real. They were put against all the other squadrons in a free for all dogfight.

    "Bank up and turn left." he said.

    "But they'll be right on our tails then!" one of his wingmen said.

    "Just do it. I know what I'm doing." he said.

    "I see what you're going for. Alright." Triikor said.

    They did the maneuver and the enemy took the bait. They went full ahead at them. "Break away and come up behind, then pick your targets!" he yelled.

    "Four, follow me. Three and Five go opposite to us." she said.

    "Roger!" they did as instructed, and Eric spun around and fired right at them. He dodged lasers form every direction, then dropped down out of the crossfire as the others came up from behind to take all five of them out by their engines.

    "Ah! What the hell was that? Alright, you guys won. Squad Four is out."

    "Any more surprises like that we should know about?" said Three panting.

    "Maybe a few. What? Can't handle it? Guess what, in battle, there is no time to think. No time to plan. You need to think instantly. Trix helped you today, but we'll all be caught up in the chaos in the future that we won't be able to help you. That's maneuver number six. Anything that complicated we'll give you a short warning right before. I'll do my best to try and keep you all alive, but don't think you don't need to do any of the work. If you see something we don't, say it. If I wanted you three as nothing but extra guns, I might as well just go pilot a corvette." It was silent.

    "We understand. You wanna fly with the best, you have to be the best."

    "In from the upper-right and lower-right." said Four.

    "Squads Three and One finally showing up to the fight? Alright this one is number eight. It works better in squads of seven, but it'll be fine with five." he said.

    Triikor led two others down to what was left of Squad Three, four interceptors, meaning they lost one already. They spiraled down and looped up, firing on them from the bottom, taking two out. In the meantime, Eric led his last wingman spiraling up doing the opposite of what the others were doing, and firing on Isel's squad from the top.

    "Nice try, Eric. But I know that one." Isel said. She spun back in a complex maneuver to counter their plan.

    "Drop!" he yelled. His confused wingman followed him, dodging as many lasers as he could, but his sensor went red and his ship stopped.

    "Looks like I'm out." he said.

    He panicked in frustration, and pulled up and around to the left, firing on her wingmen. Triikor and the others regrouped after being done with their targets.

    "She saw through it, did she? Well then. Let's show her something new."

    "Eleven?"

    "That's what I was thinking."

    "Everyone scatter and pull back around. But before you do, you'll notice them doing the same to try and get you from behind as well. Jerk your ships out of it, and fire on them as their guard is down while turning." he said.

    "Got it."

    From behind, it looked like their formation exploded, and sent them all flying up, down, side, around from every direction.

    "What the... alright chase them down!" Isel said to her pilots.

    "Now!" Triikor yelled. They flipped their ships back and fired while recovering from the inertia of the move. They took out Joss and three others, leaving only Isel and Kaal who broke out of the turn at the last minute as they saw what was going on.

    "Yeah!" Five yelled.

    "Don't get too excited. We're not done." he said. "Now then. Do we charge in, or would that be taking the bait."

    "Charge. They lost three of their pilots, I doubt they planned for that." she said.

    "That's what I'm thinking. Okay, let's do that." he charged with the others, and fired. But their targets broke apart, and came in from the sides.

    "Break away! Damn, shouldn't have underestimated her." Eric said. They did, but one wingman was shot down. Five, that overconfident fool.

    "Good one Isel, seems you don't even need a Spectre to vanish from sight." he complimented.

    "How the hell do you handle that pull?" she asked.

    "I think I'm gonna be sick." Four said before his mic cut out in the disgusting sound of breakfast erupting from his stomach.

    "Call it a tie?" he asked.

    "Sure. I thought you'd be rusty after all that time on-world."

    "I'll admit it, I underestimated you too. Now let's take a break."

    In the hangar, he could hear Isel's voice loud as ever, yelling at her wingmen as if it was their fault.

    "But how could it'a been our fault? One of theirs got sick from the whole thing! Damn Gaalsien has skills!" Joss said. She almost hit him but she noticed his squad members walking over.

    "So what was that?" she asked.

    "An Eleven." was his simple response.

    And what if you were in battle? How do you recover from that if they all get inertia sickness?"

    "Well, if they did it right, they'd have turned completely around falling back into their seats instead of being pulled to the side and then back."

    "Not everyone has our experience, Eric! That's dangerous!"

    "And so is being out there to begin with. I almost died doing the simple task of docking. I know the risks of taking off. I'm trying to shake them up a little is all."

    They heard a loud metal clank on the deck floor. They turned and saw the older man with one eye.

    "Ooh Kesto ain't none too happy about what you done to his deck." Joss said.

    "Huh? Oh. The vomit." the clank was a hose. He was staring right at Eric, right into his eyes. He got a bit nervous. "It's all in the training, right? Heh..." then he walked away with the hose to the fighter with the pool of breakfast under it. They drained the ship, but now Kesto had to clean up the rest. And he didn't look impressed.

    "Alright then, let's not try that too often. In the meantime, try and toughen your stomachs up. Spicy food. It helps." Triikor said.

    "Yes ma'am." the others left to relax a bit until the next training run.

    "Seems I beat you again, haven't I." Kaal said.

    "Oh shut up, you got lucky. I tried to pull outa there too but didn't make it. That Taiidan over there... She's a snake. Once she bites, can't run from the venom." he said glaring at her. She laughed.

    The day continued on with more training. They got used to their ships again, and got to know how how the others flew. In the meantime, they had harvested all the resources in the area and built up a large fleet. Dozens of frigates of all kinds, corvette squadrons, and a few more fighter and bomber wings. After that, the day was done. The captain engaged the hyperdrive, and they would be at the prison planet the next day.

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