Now, i need my fix! hurry up!
One Legacies Fix, comin' right up!
*passes out Collision Fudge to all with it*
They aren't much in the way of action, but they needed to happen before the fun can start.
"That's perfect, Doc. I'll keep it in mind. 24 hours, right?"
ChiefMed bobbed his head.
"I can pinch it down to 18 if we get in any more of a rush, but hopefully that won't be needed. I don't like cutting corners."
"Yeah, well I don't either," Noreena muttered darkly, recalling some of her actions against such behavior as a Worker pilot.
"Thank the Gods you don't," the man said with a relieved sigh. "When I think about the people who want to get back to work before they're fully patched up..."
"Yeah, go ahead and spit," she replied with a laught. "I'll tell 'em off right with--"
The Sickbay doors burst open with a pair of horrendously bloodied Vaygr frantically dragging a third man towards the nearest intensive-care bed in the massive facility. With a shock that punched her in the gut, Noreena recognized Makaan's bodyguards hauling the Warlord between them. A massive gash had slashed through Makaan's left side. Blood now trickled from the wound, dripping on the floor to be smeared into a gory trail that followed wherever the bloodied trio went. The Warlord muttered wildly a jumbled mixture of Hiigaran and Vaygr as he looked about with eyes glazed over by the shock setting into his body.
What the fuck is going on here? Noreena dazedly wondered amid her shock. She remained where she stood, frozen in a befuddled stupor.
ChiefMed, and the rest of the Sickbay staff simply stood in their places, equally transfixed by the surreal scene.
"Don't just stand there!" one of the two guards shouted in heavilly accented Hiigaran as they hauled him onto the medical bed. "Help him before he dies! He won't stop bleeding!"
The Warlord struggled against the guards' trip, finally shouting something coherent as he squirmed to be let free.
"Get me a gun! I can't even give myself the Dishonor Rite properly! Get me a Qwaardamn gun!"
That plea, combined with the Warlord's ranting, launched ChiefMed out of his stupor with brutal force. He grabbed the nearest pair of gloves and yanked them on. The stubborn set in his jaw told Noreena he'd gone directly to business mode, and wouldn't come out until Makaan had been stabilized.
"Don't just stand there people! Get the equipment! And someone find me some goddamn suction for all this blood!"
As one, the nurses and medics leapt out of their collective shock, and grabbed every piece of equipment relevant to the Warlord's massive wound. They converged on him as he continued to struggle.
"Hold him still! I can't get a proper scan if he's moving like this!" ChiefMed snapped. Several of the stronger male medics quickly dove in to help the two guards.
"You don't understand!" The Warlord screamed. "This is a Dishonor Rite! This is for your honor as much as mine!"
"To hell with honor! It's gotten more people dead than dishonor!" ChiefMed snapped as he stabbed a needle into the Warlord's arm. It clanged, then bent in half upon meeting his skin.
"The hell?!" ChiefMed squawked, then came to a quick conclusion. "It's prosthetic. Teldri, get another one sedative and put it in his other arm!"
"Got it!" the nurse called out as she drove a needle home in the Warlord's surviving arm.
He promptly passed out in the middle of furiously cussing the guards out, and collapsed heavily into the bed. The medics and guards breathed a collective sigh of relief as they finally released his arms.
"Now we can work," ChiefMed growled as he began prying the Warlord's uniform jacket open.
He then barked a stream of questions at the two Vaygr guards while he worked. The pair did their best to keep up with his rapid-fire style of interrogation.
"He called us in to witness a Dishonor Rite," the shorter of the two guards replied in passable Hiigaran. "His own. We did not believe he had dishonor to purge. So we stopped him as best as we could. Then we came here."
"Good man. What'd he use?"
"His...his sword," the taller of the guards answered, struggling for the Hiigaran words amid his thicker Vaygr accent. "It was a Dishonor Rite. He--"
"Don't tell me what a Dishonor Rite is! How long ago did this happen?"
"Perhaps..." the taller guard looked to his companion for better words.
"About fifteen of your minutes ago," he said, finishing the other man's words.
The Sickbay doors burst open again to reveal a shocked Karan S'jet. She looked about wildly, then finally spotted the Warlord being frantically tended to by the medics.
She calmed, then went to Noreena.
"What happened?" she asked in a barely controlled voice. "I sensed something was wrong with him, but his mind's too incoherent to get an ans..." Upon realizing Noreena was still in a state of shock, she grabbed hold of her arm and shook it gently.
"What happened?" she repeated in a louder voice.
"O-oh," Noreena sputtered as her stupor left as quickly as it settled on her. "Suicide attempt. It's all his guards could make out. They caught him about to do it, tried to stop him, and then dragged him here."
"Qwaardammit," Karan cursed under her breath. "We need him too much for him to go off and do something stupid like this."
Noreena blinked as a thought crossed her mind, then hooked up with several other thoughts. It made too much sense. She let out a low groan as she put her face in one hand, then turned her gaze to Karan.
"Well," she grimly remarked, "no wonder he felt he could tell me. It wasn't gonna matter if I told 'em or not cause he was gonna be dead."
She let out a tired sigh, letting her emotions finally rise to the forefront in her mind.
"I don't know what to think anymore. One minute I'm scared shitless of him, another I feel bad for him, and now I'm just..." her voice trailed off as she waved her arms helplessly. "He's driving me nuts. No, make that fucking insane. Slowly but surely."
Karan let out a long, angry sigh as she rubbed her temples with her hands.
"I should've seen this coming. Damn! We need him. However we may feel about him, we need him."
Noreena nodded her agreement.
"All right!" ChiefMed's voice suddenly called out. "He'll make it. Least it wasn't an ion burn like last time. He and whatever's left of his family could do without a case of the nearly-deads for a while!"
He turned and walked to Karan, yanking his now bloodied gloves off.
"His guards threw his aim off just enough," he began, "that instead of putting that sword in his stomach, he took a good chunk out of his side. It's gonna be murder to put everything back together, and regen it all up, but we can do it. Twenty-four hours at the least, and thirty-six are preferable before I let him out of my ICU. I'd say forty-eight minimum before he can leave my sight...unless he tries to hang himself with the bedside curtain."
"Good work. Keep him under constant observation. Let me know as soon as he wakes up. I want to talk to him. There's been some...developments."
"Hopefully good ones?" ChiefMed inquired.
"Doesn't look like it, but we've got a real good chance to turn the war back in our favor. And we need him for it."
"Sounds good enough to me," he said with arched eyebrows.
"Noreena," Karan said, "I want you to go to the Somtaaw-Sa. Tell him what you've heard, and explain our plan to him and the other Captains. Once Makaan is back on his feet--and I'll make damn sure he gets over his death wish so he does--he'll be able to work his end of the battle strategy."
"You got it M'Lady," Noreena nodded back, then headed out of Sickbay.
Noreena shot a glance at Ifriit Somtaaw-Sa as she walked into the conference room. Heads from all the Kuun-Lan's departments, and two visiting Hiigaran officers had already arrived. An empty seat stood where the Warlord would sit; Sickbay was doing some last-minute patching up of his wound.
Karan stood next to Ifriit, explaining her plan to him. Noreena had given him a brief report on the recent happenings. She had left out the specifics of the conference room incident that had caused Makaan to go into his confessional; tact wasn't her strong point. She had left that bit of delicate information for Karan to divulge as she saw fit.
She watched as the Somtaaw-Sa cracked a huge, manic grin. Karan had just finished explaining the strategy she and Noreena had cooked up.
"I love it!" he exclaimed. "I love it! That'll teach 'em to listen to Ash."
Karan nodded approvingly as she settled into her seat next to him.
"Now if we just make this meeting go smoothly enough."
The conference room doors opened yet again to reveal Makaan. The Warlord looked several shades paler than usual, and his uniform failed to completely hide the shape of the massive regen-patch ChiefMed and his assistants had so carefully secured to his wounded side. He walked a bit woodenly, ignoring the contemptous glares some people tossed his way, then sank into his seat with a pained grimace as his side protested the sudden change in his body's position.
"Well," he said in a bitter tone, "I suppose it's only fitting."
Karan nodded to him; the pair exchanged a glance that said so much Noreena wondered if they were having a telepathic conversation. Then the Warlord let out a grumpy sigh, and broke the visual contact.
Karan turned back to Ifriit, and the two whispered about some last-minute detail. Noreena swiveled her seat to face the group of Kuun-Lan department heads. This wasn't going to be an easy meeting.
Discussing the plan would be easy. Discussing the Warlord, and why it was so important they swing the Vaygr to their side despite his little secret, would prove harder to do. For one thing, he had to retell his confessional tale to her to explain why they needed to beat the Vaygr upside the head collectively to get them to break their alliance with Ashoran. The worse part was that he now had to do this with a group of people who didn't feel the empathy that Karan and Noreena had for him.
How exactly Karan had convinced him to forgo any more attempts on his Rite of Dishonor, and to join this conference, was beyond Noreena's comprehension. She so badly wanted to ask, but had a suspicion Karan would simply tell her it was confidential information she shouldn't be privy to.
She eyed the Warlord from her seat. He seemed calm enough despite the tremendous pain he had to be feeling. However, unease glinted in those blue orbs, telling her exactly how uncomfortable he still felt about revealing himself this way.
Ifriit picked up his spherical gavel and rapped it into the flat stone panel set into the conference table. The murmuring in the room trickled a way to a complete silence as all heads turned towards the Somtaaw-Sa.
"As you all know from the memo brief I've sent out, we have a problem on our hands. The Crusades are out to kick our collective asses, and it's all to soften us up for Ash. I'll let Lord Makaan explain why they're out for our blood this time. I believe it'll make the most sense coming from him. You may begin, if you wish."
Makaan nodded grimly, fighting back the unease that spelled itself out in his eyes and body language. He slowly rose to stand, grimacing against the stab of pain from his injury. Once he stood, he reached out and pulled the glove off his prosthetic hand, letting the metal glint in the conference room lights. Then, just as he had with Noreena, he rapped on his bionic leg's thigh. The hollow clunk of metal covered by fabric flew through the room.
Then slowly, haltingly, as he fought to maintain his calm amid so many stares, he told his story--right from Hethlim up to Ashoran's psychic attack on him.
Both the Warlord's physical condition and the extremely reluctant voice in which he'd spoken lent him tremendous credibility. Senior officers easily understood the need to maintain a stoic appearance while under pressure, both personal and professional, while on duty. Heads nodded with steadily increasing empathy as the tale continued to the final grim crescendo retelling Ashoran's attack on the Warlord.
When Makaan finally finished, the room had become a very different one from when the Warlord had entered. He uneasily peered about his audience only to find accepting nods, and some genuinely thoughtful expressions as people absorbed the information they'd been given. Only a few hard-core skeptics still remained, staring at him in either disbelief or contempt.
"So, now that we know, people," Noreena spoke up. "We're going to have to tell this story far and wide in the Fleet. But this plan we've got...this is something Lady S'jet and I cooked up together. And if we pull this off, we've got a chance to not only deal with Lord Makaan's crew problems, but also to swing the Vaygr away from Ash's side."
"We just have to convince our people that it's worth taking a risk on," Ifriit said. "That starts with you."
He swept his gaze around the room.
“They probably won’t," Captain Alisair suddenly spoke up, "but we can talk them around to it,” he said with a sudden rogueish smile. “What good is being in the brass if I can't use it?”
“I can help,” a voice spoke up from the opposite side of the conference table. “I’ve had some practice in getting crazy plans to make sense.”
Ifriit looked to the two Hiigarans who had joined himself, Makaan, Noreena and Karan at the senior officers' meeting. The stockier of the two wore the dark blue uniform of the Hiigaran Navy with the rank of Admiral. A matching dark blue beret with a gold band sat atop his head. A blood-red kiith Soban logo gleamed on one sleeve, indicating his allegiance for all and sundry. He stood out noticeably amidst the sea of black-and-red Kuun-Lan senior officers. His companion, lean and hawklike, wore the charcoal gray of Hiigaran Intelligence. He bore the insignia that marked him as the Chief of Intelligence and a matching gray beret.
The Admiral smiled, his dark eyes glinting mischeviously. Chief Intel sported a look of disbelief, as if he'd seen his companion repeatedly make that claim in the past just to convince people to go along with whatever he had in mind.
“Back in the War,” the Admiral went on, “Plans A and B failed before they even got halfway through. Then Crazy-Ass Plan C always works because your enemy didn’t see it coming. I got to where I’d just skip A and B and go straight to C to save time.”
Even Karan smiled at that remark from her position next to Ifriit.
“I appreciate the help, Admiral Soban. I’m sure they’ll listen to you," the Somtaaw-Sa said gratefully. "Your exploits during the War are well known, even out here among my people. Marine Frigates often don’t do as well as yours did, even in our Fleets.”
The Admiral blinked, then shook his head ruefully.
“Five years on, and I still forget I’m famous,” he muttered dazedly, "just for getting my ass captured, instead of being a capturer."
He then shrugged. Such were the peculiar vagaries of fame.
"Just let me know who needs extra encouragement.”
“Thank you,” Ifriit replied. “Does Fleet Intelligence have anything to add?”
The charcoal-clad man spoke up in a calm, measured voice that still belied a fair amount of emotion.
“You're all crazy,” he said with a mischevious smile to take the sting out of his words. “What’s even crazier is that I can see this plan actually working.”
Then he sobered, locking his gray gaze on the Warlord. Noreena glanced uneasily between them; they had matched wits on a regular basis during the Vaygr War. The one thing she hoped would play in the Warlord’s favor was Intel’s ability to read people. Anyone truly honorable would show that side of themselves in their tactics. An old Paktu-Sa had said it best three hundred years ago: “War shows the best and worst of a person. You can learn a lot about them in battle, by what they will and will not do.”
“The only reason I see it working now,” Chief Intel continued quietly, “is because so far, you have proven yourself trustworthy. You haven’t left us. You haven’t tried to undermine our efforts. I still have some doubts, but if we get through this alive and in an alliance with the rest of the Vaygr, those doubts will be gone for good.”
Makaan nodded solemnly. He had calmed considerably once his part in the conference had come to an end; Noreena could tell he hoped Karan would let him out of having to do this again.
“I would’ve said the exact same thing,” he replied. “I admired your tenacity during the War. We’ll certainly need it now.”
“Thank you. However, some of your concerns about us Hiigarans are...well, quite correct. What I’m about to tell you, I and my division should’ve found out much sooner than we did. Hearing what you just told me about the War made up my mind on whether to tell you this. Tradition calls this a cleansing of the way between former enemies.”
Chief Intel sighed glumly as he pondered his next words. All heads swiveled towards him in puzzlement. What did he mean?
“I must first apologize for my shortsightedness, as well as that of my division,” he said quietly. “About two months ago, an anonymous source in the Reaches sent us a datadisc with an encryption code on it. He said it would decode the signals we’d intercepted between the Vaygr Fleet and the megaships attacking Hiigara. He also said they would translate into Taiidan coding language 4. He said it would prove that the Taiidan Imperialists, and only a few Vaygr, were in on those attacks, and not the Vaygr Fleet as we originally suspected."
He paused to consider what he would say next, then went on.
"I didn’t believe a word. There’s always messages, rumors, strange tips coming in. Most are horribly inaccurate, and don’t fit with genuine information that comes in from our operatives. When I heard about Ashoran and how he’d signed on the Taiidan Imperialists, I had the data specialists go back and take another look at his information. We had detailed scans and sweeps of the comms activity in the space over Hiigara during the attack; confirming or denying his plan would be easy.”
He paused again, then went on.
“They translated exactly as he said they would. Taiidan coding language 4, with no signs of Vaygr influence or improvement on the language anywhere. I had my teams dig deeper to see if we could prove the other half of his claims. He was right. The signals among the Vaygr Fleet at the time also were switched to a group of new Taiidan encryption codes. They didn’t show up any other time than the battle at Hiigara with the megaships. We didn’t figure this out because all our signal processing at the time was going through Vaygr code-recognition protocols. We thought they’d just upgraded their encryption, rather than put their systems through a complete switch. Most times, if Taiidan elements were involved, they were mixed in rather than used to replace Vaygr methods wholesale. Only the Taiidan taking over would’ve forced that drastic a change.”
Karan and Ifriit blinked. Even the Admiral looked surprised. Makaan smiled mysteriously, as if he knew something Intel didn’t. Noreena fought down a chuckle at all the comical expressions going about.
“Our source was 100% accurate,” the Director of Fleet Intelligence concluded with a sigh, “and unlike the scientist I’m supposed to be, I discounted him without fully investigating at first. Imagine if we’d checked everything more closely when the War ended. Imagine if we’d had a treaty with the Vaygr before Ashoran showed up. It certainly would’ve saved us a lot of trouble today.”
The Warlord nodded, an odd gleam in his eyes.
“Imagine if your source had told you much sooner, and right after Ashoran showed up,” he commented.
Chief Intel perked, and stared at Makaan in surprise.
“You know him? If you don’t want to tell us”—
“Your anonymous source was none other than me,” the Warlord interrupted. “When I realized alliance was the only way to save my people, I sent that information in the hopes of improving our relations ahead of time. In hindsight, I should’ve sent it much earlier.”
Chief Intel blinked in surprise, then stared at the Warlord in bewildered shock. Makaan fought down a chuckle in the awkward moment.
“Now that’s a sight I used to pray for during the War. The Chief of Fleet Intelligence, stunned speechless.”
The other man chuckled weakly.
“It’s not that,” he explained sheepishly. “I just lost five hundred credits and an ad-joor steak dinner. Rekira’s going to be impossible to deal with after this. It’s enough that she kept checking into whether you survived Balcora. When I told her you did, she immediately said you had to be the source.”
“Sounds like someone worth cultivating for higher rank,” Karan remarked with a knowing smile. "She made the right assessment.”
“Indeed,” Chief Intel sighed, obviously not relishing the coming dinner or the conversation during that dinner.
His body language quickly explained why: he looked like a man who'd just failed to avoid a fairly annoying woman who had a severe crush on him. Makaan looked as if he wanted to laugh, but wisely kept his silence. Instead, he turned to Ifriit, his calm demeanor switching to the stern one people recognized as his business mode.
“How soon can we get this plan underway? We’ve little time and I still have to pass this news on to my Crusade.”
“As soon as you decide where we should lead Ashoran to,” Ifriit replied smoothly. The Warlord nodded.
“The Crimson Nebula. It’s a five-minute jump from here. It’s well lit, so any fool mistaking the Sajuuk for anything but what it is will need a medscan, and then some.”
The Somtaaw-Sa grinned almost ferally as he rose to his feet.
“I know it quite well. No asteroids to get in the way either. All right, that’s settled. I’ve got to get logistics started. The Captains are going to hate me for this. Which brings up something else. Are you sure your Crusade will follow you on this?”
Makaan sighed, then nodded.
“They know what we’re up against, more so than the others. It’ll be easier to persuade them, even if they have issues with my honor. They were loyal to me even after the final defeat by Ashoran. That says something for their ability to process controversial information. And if I may add, yours as well."
“If you say so,” Ifriit replied, a hint of concern in his voice. “Let me or Noreena know if you need help. I’m sure they still remember our part in the Harangue.”
“They’d better,” the Warlord nodded grimly. “I had its recording sent to the public broadcasts in my Crusade to discourage any further dissension.”
Chief Intel chuckled, his manner suddenly much more relaxed than before.
“I saw that,” he said with an admiring smile. “Those sods sure had it coming. What was that you used on that pilot—a Beast Infection?”
The Warlord nodded.
“I accidentally picked up from a Somtaaw officer’s mind,” he said quietly. “Seemed too good to pass up.”
If Chief Intel saw any unusual reactions on Noreena’s and Karan’s faces, he didn’t mention them. He nodded to the Warlord with a slight smile.
“Definitely,” Intel remarked. “There’s something else I’ve wondered about ever since this alliance got started. Did you have mindblast powers during the War?”
Makaan raised his eyebrows, then understood Intel’s reasons for asking. He nodded. Then Intel’s eyebrows arched.
"I only use it on my own people where other methods of discipline fail...or when my temper gets the better of me," he replied quietly. "Lady S'jet has experienced a mental attack on her before from the Taiidan Emperor. I doubt I would have gotten very far in my attempts against a much older opponent."
“Hm. I see. Thank you,” he said with an odd undercurrent in his voice.
Another doubt down, I bet. Nice. I thought Chief Intel would be the hardest person to persuade, but apparently not. Once we get the Vaygr all onboard, it’s going to be them and the Navy kicking Ash’s sorry ass, so having him onboard will be real good long-term.
“Well, if there’s nothing else,” Ifriit spoke up, “this meeting is adjourned. We’ve got a lot of work to do, so let’s get to it. Noreena, I’m ordering you back into the tank. I don’t care what ChiefMed says. If he has to put you back in with a spatula and one IS tech, he’ll do it.”
She grinned at that mental image, and nodded.
“Gladly, sir,” she replied with relief. “Shame things will get crazier rather than the other way around once I'm in.”
"Can't have everything now, can you?" the Somtaaw-Sa quipped with a slightly manic grin.
There one moment, and there the next.
I'm away from my computer (but not internet access) from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon. With that in mind, I MIGHT pop up a chapter or 2 tomorrow night, but if I can't get them put together by then, expect an update Saturday or Sunday.
In the meantime, I just caught some rather large goofs in terms of missed italicization and added a line or two. If you've just read it 5 minutes before the timestamp on this post, please re-read. Thanks.
And now...*knucklecrack*...a battle to sort out. :flamer:
*heads off humming the Battle of Heroes music from Episode III*
nice work deep. i do like the idea of makaan ebing partly cybernetic... kinda suits him.
keep it up!
"Every mind became focused on the true Origin of our people. Every effort, on the construction of the ship that would seek it out, among the stars."
Fanfiction: Homeworld: The Mothership Sails to Hiigara
Looks great, but don't you should have something a bit more Homeworldy for an action sequence soundtrack? Hmm... outside of HW the only thing I can think of off the top of my head is either Serenity or some Middle Eastern style music I have.
Good luck and hope you can some chapters up tomorrow, this is seriously the best fan fic I have ever read. Much better than crobato's. True, being a fan fic writer I am inclined and encouraged to have different creative views on the unfinished Homeworld universe than I do and in many cases I do, but I think your view is enticing and brilliant and as far as I'm concerned it can be the universe.
Not quite sure why I just said that but I thought you deserved to know that in least in my book, you're probably the best writer on the boards. Now all we need is for you to make sketches related to the story .
I have the sajuukfade music from HW2 that a friend sent to me. I also have...oh...a ton of other stuff, including Babylon 5 music, which has some killer action sequences. That's the closest I've seen to HW and HW2 music. Hmmm, what else? I have a few Mannheim Steamroller pieces, also very techno/space-y at times. And if I need choral...LOTR soundtrack. That's got moments that make me think of the Adagio music for Hiigara.
Oh, and there's some stuff for Legacies up in the Art Spam threads. There's a pic in the old Art Spam thread of Makaan holding Jerel after he was shot. I'll probably create a Legacies Art Dump thread as I'm piling on a few pieces.
I honestly don't know about chapters tonight, but I'll give it a try. I'd rather get them right in my mind before putting them here, and if they're not right, they won't make it. If I make any, I'll edit them into this post.
I'm honored by your thoughts of my writing and this fanfic. I'm flattered that you'd think of them this way. I'll do my best to not disappoint. I appreciate your support.
Okay, I had enough brainpower left in my fried head for ONE chapter tonight. What follows afterwards is the battle so I'm going to need to take more time and really get the details right then.
I caught a continuity goof from some earlier chapters and Makaan's confession that needed an explanation. You'll remember Mak was in Sickbay for wounds pertaining to that barfight, and nobody pointed out that he had a metal right leg, and left arm (or whatever else I haven't come up with for him yet). Then I did that recent chapter with him admitting that those limbs were prosthetic.
So anyways, the below chapter solves that problem....I must be slipping or something to miss a detail that big. Sheesh. If anybody sees any other quirks in II, let me know please, and I'll edit accordingly. Thanks.
So without further ado, here's Chapter 25. :tooth:
Noreena tromped out of the IS HQ women’s room as she pressed the last piece of her wirehead suit to her left arm. Saeri trailed behind her, shaking her head in amazement.
“You picked up on that suit so fast you’re as good as the Boss now,” she remarked admiringly.
“Thanks,” she said as she headed towards the tank. “Practice makes perfect. Now if only I could handle extraction without needing to pass out for two days straight.”
“Couple more months’ Core time, you’ll be fine,” Saeri said so cheerfully that Noreena shot her an exasperated look for so much perkiness.
“If we get out of this,” she said levelly, hoping to cool Saeri’s mood a little. “You heard the announcements like everybody else.”
Saeri nodded glumly, all her previous cheer evaporating instantly.
“Yeah, I know, I know. I just…I dunno. I have this thing about having to cheer people up before a big mess. Call it a character flaw if you want.”
“It’d work if things weren’t so bad.”
“Tell me about it. Py was pacin’ around like a caged animal when I left. I even heard him yell at someone.”
Noreena winced; the IS Chief’s patience knew very few bounds, except on the eve of a major battle. Then he would start fraying at the edges, although not enough to cause undue concern among his crew, but enough to surprise less experienced officers. He had become too seasoned to let his nerves get the better of him. For him to actually yell indicated the severe pressure all of Somtaaw felt right now. Even seasoned officers had to struggle to wrap their minds around the audacity of the two wireheads’ plan. Once they did, they accepted it wholeheartedly while secretly nursing doubts about their surviving long enough to see it come to fruition.
“Well if it helps, we don’t get to put up with the tension for long,” Noreena replied as she peered about for a medic to attach her backup feeder-lines. “Twenty-four hours or less left till the Vaygr and Ash show up.”
“All set?” Saeri asked. Noreena nodded.
“Just short some medics,” she remarked.
The IS HQ chamber buzzed with activity. Officers, Marines, and noncoms scurried to and fro, carrying any equipment needed in or around the Kuun-Lan’s battle bridge. Marines hurried to their guard postings. Tydaar had long dreaded another boarding attempt by Ashoran’s cultists, and now posted his people at every critical junction. Even Noreena had lost her bodyguards in the flurry of Marine reassignments. He ran the risk of spreading them too thin, but he had no choice. Makaan’s Crusade would’ve added extra corcom support, but holding their own ships against the combined might of the other six Crusades forced them to keep every able body with themselves.
Crewmembers’ heads turned as they spotted the familiar sight of a wirehead readying for reinsertion. Noreena’s suit hugged her body so tighty it left nothing to imagine, while her bald head’s neural slots gleamed in the overhead lighting. One ensign actually gawked at her as the pair went past, earning a giggle from Saeri.
Noreena rolled her eyes, and ignored her friend’s behavior. She had too much to worry about, especially her ablity to handle so much sensor input and multitasking after so much time spent Bound.
She still had her mind buried in how to tackle the delicate reinsertion proccess when she spotted a familiar red, black, and gray uniform moving towards her. She blinked, then looked up. Makaan strode towards her from another elevator entrance, his two guards trailing behind him as usual. He seemed particularly tense for such an experienced warrior; perhaps that conference had left him more on edge than she previously thought. She noticed the regen-patch's shape still showed through his uniform jacket. Even so, he looked much healthier than he had two days ago. He nodded to Saeri then moved closer to her Somtaaw companion.
She gulped, then backed away from the towering Warlord.
“I got some stuff to check up on. Don’t take too long, Nor,” she said nervously, then skittered off.
Noreena watched her hasty departure, then looked up at Makaan’s regal face.
“What’s up?” she asked curiously.
“I wanted to see you off,” he said quietly.
“Thanks,” she replied, puzzled at his behavior. Of all the myriad details he had to attend to before the fighting, he took time out to see her get reinserted?
He smiled silghtly as he overheard her thought.
“I need breaks just like everyone else around here,” he remarked with a mischevious smile. “Part of that off-duty time I told you about.”
“Heh,” Noreena said in a single bark of laughter as she remembered that exchange when she’d woken up in the Tank from Hell two months ago. “Flog any good morons lately?”
“No floggings, but I did hand out some punitive reassignments,” he quipped back. “Can’t have trouble in my fleet now, of all times.”
“That reminds me,” she said in a shift to more serious topics. “How’d your Crusade take the news?”
“Quite well, actually. There were a few purists, but Kasall gave them so much hell for such stupidity that they decided they had better things to do.”
Noreena grinned with relief.
“Good. I was worried there.”
He gratefully nodded his agreement.
“So was I.”
He clasped his hands behind his back as an uneasy pause sank between them. Noreena eyed him, impressed by how well he hid his prosthetic limbs. Even in Sickbay after that barfight, he hadn’t shown any sign of cyborg limbs. He had looked perfectly normal with two intact albet regen-sheathed hands.
Noreena froze in shock.
Wait. Those hands DIDN’T look messed up or bionic then! How’d he pull that off?
She arched her eyebrows, then eyed him quizzically.
“You know, I forgot completely about this when you made your confession, but um…I didn’t see anything prosthetic when you were hobbling around in those half-sized crutches after the barfight. How’d you manage to hide all that from ChiefMed?”
The Warlord blinked at her in confusion. Then his eyes widened as understanding dawned on him. He nodded, then pulled the glove off his left hand, revealing what looked to be a perfectly normal flesh-and-blood hand. The seemingly real flesh ran all the way past his wrist and up his uniform sleeve. He wrapped his other hand around a spot above his elbow and pressed on it as if it were a hard-to-close door.
The arm suddenly detached from above its elbow. He pulled it out of his sleeve and handed it to Noreena. To her surprise, the limb felt warm, like its flesh-and-blood counterpart. She turned its elbow towards her, recognizing part of the arm’s familiar metal sheath sticking out from under the expanse of realistic synth-flesh. The eerie skin-like material above the arm’s elbow peeled away from the metal in thumb-long strips. Noreena guessed Makaan kept those parts wrapped around the area where his prosthesis joined real skin to complete the illusion of unbroken flesh covering his bionic arm.
“I take the synth-skin off at night,” he explained, “and I left it off when I went to tell you about the bionics. I have a glove of the same material for my other hand so its scars stay hidden.”
So that’s how he fooled the medics. Bet those bionics have some kind of ECM for medical scanners so nobody finds out with just a sweeper unit. With gizmos like that, he probably had ChiefMed thinking they were just broken, and got regen-sheaths to keep the illusion.
The Warlord nodded approvingly.
“That’s exactly how that happened back then. Good deduction,” he said with a small smile as he held his hand out for his detached arm.
She quickly held it out to him, eager to unload such a macabre item. He pulled up his sleeve and reattached it with such aplomb that Noreena felt her stomach turn over.
“However, that ECM system isn’t as good as you think,” he remarked. “I usually have to lean on people mentally to keep them from seeing anything amiss.”
A throat cleared behind them. They blinked, then turned to see ChiefMed standing several paces away. He had folded his arms and regarded the pair through narrowed eyes.
“I hate to break up your little talk,” he interrupted grumpily, “but Noreena needs inserted in the tank yesterday, and you’ve just run us ten minutes late.”
The Warlord blinked. He wasn’t used to someone telling him to hurry it up. Noreena shot ChiefMed a warning glare. She had no idea what Makaan did to people who told him off, and after seeing his fury first-hand, she didn’t want to find out.
To her surprise, Makaan merely nodded.
“I wanted to share some last-minute planning details,” he said smoothly. “A few more moments, and she’ll be with you.”
ChiefMed blinked dazedly, then went to check on the tank’s systems
“I hadn’t thought to give you a demonstration, but there you have it,” the Warlord said ruefully, his face showing the same oddly attractive smirk she'd seen on him when he'd translated the writing on Ilania's statue.
Noreena grinned. Then the Warlord sobered abruptly. She instantly knew what he would talk about.
“I apologize for making you see that debacle I made of myself in Sickbay," he remarked quietly. "Once again, I’ve been the fool who didn’t see the bigger picture.”
“Hey, no worries. You had a lot on your mind,” she sputtered out in surprise. Then she scowled, wishing she had a better-sounding reply.
Moisture glittered in the Warlord’s eyes, and shame oozed from him like heat from a radiator. Noreena rested a hand on his good arm. She desperately wanted to say something, anything that would calm his tumultous emotions. To her surprise, his reattached bionic arm reached up and patted her hand.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he assured her. “Your thoughts say more than enough."
He had an almost tender look on his face. Noreena stared at him in amazement. She had seen him devastated, infuriated, sad, concerned, and annoyed—but not this. He must really be loosening up. Perhaps confessing such a deep secret did more for the soul than she thought.
As if suddenly overhearing Noreena's thoughts, Makaan froze. Realizing that he had let his self-control slip, the Warlord quickly reasserted his typical severe expression. He nodded curtly to her.
“You’re running late, Commander,” he said brusquely, then motioned her towards the tank. “I must be on my way. We will speak later.”
He then whirled and stalked away from Noreena, leaving her to stare at his back in bewilderment at the emotions swirling within her mind.
Gawds. That man fucks up my feelings more than anybody else I've ever met--even Rey. Gods help me to figure out how to deal with 'em before my head explodes.
She abruptly shook herself for dwelling on such distracting things before the battle ahead. Then she resumed her trek towards the tank.
Last edited by Chrome; 22nd Feb 09 at 7:15 PM.
i may just be one of those random romanticists, but something MUST be starting to go on ebtween those two. come on, it's OBVIOUS *cries*
nice chapter, Deep. takre your time with the netx one so it can be as brilliant as the others.
Great addition, DeepChrome, glad to see you managed to slip a chapter in. Mystery solved (although I'll admit I wasn't on guard enough to notice there was a mystery), relationship between our two favorite bitchy Unbounds deepened, and the battle anticipation running at sky high.
Keep it up.
Yeah well, rather than leave mysteries to be found, I'd rather find them and resolve them in ways that carries the story further. Besides it annoys me no end to discover such blatant slipups. >_< I can't believe I didn't even THINK of the Sickbay thing when I wrote that confession chapter. Grr.
I couldn't leave that one alone. I just couldn't. It's like that Far Jumper issue I had to tangle with in Legacies Part I. I either resolve it or ignore it, and I'd rather resolve it.
Anyways, I'm going to work out battle stuff when I get back to my own puter (I'm at my brother's here). Expect the next few chapters to be very interesting. BWHAHAHAHAHAhahahaha...haha...haha...ha.
Having just finished the second Honorverse book (Honor of the Queen), I should have plenty of ideas kicking about in my head by then. He does some damned good space fights.
just a question, whats up with jerel and his mini warp cores? we havent heard about them for some time.
You mean Progie?
Jerel is Makaan's kid, the one who left to join Somtaaw. Also the one who got shot.
Progie is the slightly crazy--or quite crazy--Somtaaw scientist. Oh, well remember the Kuun-Lan has had a Far Jumper of Progie design for the last two months? If you're looking for him, just go to the Kuun-Lan's Engine Room. He's busy monitoring his baby. Where else could he be?
I didn't notice that mystery either. Even then, the addition of this chapter to mend the plothole is so natural it seems like you calculated this whole thing from the start.
Keep at it!
Well, I've been thinking, where the hell did telepethy and mindblasting come from? Can one of you guys(and/or gal(s)) point me in the right direction.
The Part II bit is a clue
Part I is floating around the Studio somewhere, most likely drifting on the second page of the forum. But someone will probably bump it with a "lol this r0x" sometime in the next day or so.
Reality is only a special case of imagination
Random, it was a hint left in the minimal backstory to HW2--something about Karan's consciousness having been expanded by the Core along with her lifespan. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that meant the Core granted psychic powers. And of course, being able to telepathically "blast" another mind like a loudspeaker at full volume (B5 has great examples of telepathic mind-messing), would follow. And of course, I had to figure the Taiidan Emperor's mental powers into this, and his having his own powerful hyperspace module not only explained that in my mind, but emphasized the theory that Cores makes psychics.
That is where I got the psionic powers from. It just made sense for the story, and gave people like Makaan and Ashoran an extra edge of badassitude.
Wow atma...heh, no it was not calculated. I just discovered it one night, and went "oh shit, I have to fix this before someone figures it out." It helped that the solution seemed natural enough to work.
It's funny how I'll discover stuff that fits well, but isn't calculated. Sometimes it's annoying, but most times it seems helpful. I guess my mind just likes to find solutions to continuity problems or annoying plot hitches. It's a fun challenge...how to make one thing fit without having to rewrite other things and without having to severely alter what I want to do either.
hell, fanfiction is supposed to be our own takes on things. how we see things as they may be are not what others may seem, we can only put our views across, after all.
i tihnk Deep is doing a damn good job of covering the disugstingly large plot holes left oin HW2. even if they are five hundred feet deep.
anyway, i have wriitng to do so i've said my bit.
Let the ass-whooping begin.
Ifriit paced around the Battle Bridge within IS HQ, peering about uneasily. He refused to sit; sometimes he circled Noreena's tank in a slow, measured pace that somehow calmed her nerves whenever she tuned in to the IS HQ cameras. Officers barely spoke, and ventilators hummed more softly than usual. Tension lingered like a cold clammy fog that could materialize into hands clamping around each officer’s neck with a chokehold. People glanced nervously amongst themselves.
The hologram pit near the currently empty command chair glittered with the status symbols of Makaan’s Crusade in one half, and the Somtaaw First Fleet in the other. Ships were indicated by their fleet's logos, their names, and class. Admiral Soban’s Progenitor Dreadnaught, escorted by its pair of Hiigaran battlecruisers and a quartet of destroyers, showed as Angel Moon logos clustered next to the Kuun-Lan. The First Fleet hung around its Flagship as a mass of Beastslayer logos.
Noreena could easily imagine the Somtaaw and Hiigaran ships pacing about as uneasily as her kiith-Sa. The peaceful holo-display belied the high note of keen alertness that sang through everyone in the First Fleet and its supporting ships.
The Crusade had put some distance between themselves and the First Fleet, heading towards the Crimson Nebula as if Makaan intended to avoid drawing his new allies into the line of Vaygr fire. The Kuun-Lan and its Fleet had headed in a completely different direction, perfecting the illusion of a fractured alliance on the verge of falling apart in the face of Ashoran’s comeback.
On a wall screen, the Kuun-Lan’s active sensor range glowed as a hazy blue sphere against a black background and the digitized specks representing stars. Within the very center of that sphere sat the huddled group of Somtaaw and Hiigaran ships.
“Nothing on hyperspace sensors, sir,” Noreena reported for the thirtieth time as she swept the space around the First Fleet with yet another scan. “We’re still half an hour down on the Vaygr’s ETA, though.”
Ifriit didn’t miss a single beat in his pacing as he nodded to the nearest eye-level camera.
“Thank you, Commander. Has the Core’s jump program to the Crimson Nebula been uploaded?”
“Yessir, and all Fleet ships’ hyperdrives are slaved to the Core. The minute the Core’s regained full charge, it jumps, and they go with us, no matter what happens.”
“Excellent. Carry on, Commander.”
Noreena nodded back to him from her tank, then let out a mental sigh. She’d set the sensors to run a fresh sweep every five seconds. Right now, they showed absolutely nothing. She knew all too well the minute those readings changed, the waiting would come to an end. Then the fight of their lives would begin.
She shot a glance to Karan, who sat atop a bench next to Noreena’s tank. Her eyes twitched under their closed lids, as she continued her meditation. Soon Karan would link her mind to Noreena’s; their joint mindblast of Ashoran would begin the second they picked up the Sajuuk sliding out of its hyperspace window.
Alarms abruptly screeched an alert at Noreena. Over a hundred green hyperspace windows had opened around Makaan’s Crusade. They slid aside to reveal the six Vaygr Crusades in all their might. Carriers spat out fighters the minute their windows closed behind him. Battlecruisers turned slowly towards Makaan’s Flagship as their Trinity Cannons readied to fire. Then hyperspace inhibitor detections peppered the battle zone, effectively pinning his Crusade to the spot. Noreena nodded in her tank: she expected no less of the Vaygr if they wanted to pummel the Warlord’s fleet to bits.
“Sir! They’re early,” she called out, “Vaygr just jumped in and pinned him down! Ash should be here any minute”
“General quarters!” Ifriit snapped as he made a beeline for his chair. Alarms screeched throughout the Kuun-Lan, and then the First Fleet.
Karan’s eyes flashed open. Noreena suddenly felt as if lightning had slammed into her brain and lit it on fire. Then all her thoughts recrystallized into perfect clarity, as if frozen so solidly in ice that no mindblast could touch them. Karan’s serene calm oozed into every pore of her mind. Icy determination settled into the pit of her stomach, and refused to budge as it filled her veins.
Good. He’s coming. I can feel him.
More alarms sang shrilly in Noreena’s consciousness; a sea of red and gold hyperspace windows blazed all around the First Fleet. A mixture of Imperial Taiidan and Ashoran cultist ships barreled from those gates, aiming themselves squarely at the combined Hiigaran-Somtaaw fleet. Then the tribally-tattooed Sajuuk slid through its golden window already aimed at the Kuun-Lan.
NOW! Karan shouted.
Noreena felt their minds intertwine more; for a moment all of their memories swapped between them like two sheets of glass melting together in a furnace. The pain of tremendous loss at Kharak meshed with Noreena's innocent childhood. Karan's memories of her strained relationship with her father blended with Noreena's constant arguments with Ilania. Memories flashed together in a crackling flurry of light until a single entity rose from the psychic merging of the two women.
Karan-Noreena regarded the space around her, noting the two fleets moving quickly into weapons range. First salvos had already flown from their launchers and now soared towards their targets. ECM systems came online as counter-missiles flew about, turning the sky into a fireworks display. Jammers blasted their electronic pulses at their targets with savage power. Then plasma cannons, ion cannons, and railguns came within range, blazing to life the second the final kilometer faded away.
The Sajuuk plowed ponderously towards the Somtaaw Flagship, resembling a massive animal barreling furiously towards its prey. The captains of the Somtaaw-Hiigaran fleet’s heaviest ships already knew what to do. The Vanguard, the Kuun-Lan, and the Progenitor Dreadnaught turned in unison, then opened fire on the Godship with both their primary and secondary weapons.
Now Ashoran had the perfect distraction to worry about before firing the Sajuuk’s main gun. He marshaled all of the Sajuuk’s defense-field power into stopping the combined firepower headed at him, sacrificing any chance of charging his main gun. Even so, the Godship's shields couldn't quite handle that much of an assault without showing some gaps. The Godship's armor began to spark and fly off in small pieces as shots punched their way through the weakening force shield.
The capital ships' timing was poetic in its perfection. Karan-Noreena leapt mentally across the space between the Kuun-Lan and the Sajuuk, and sought the crushing darkness she remembered from two separate mindblasts—the attack on both her separate Selves.
She found the entity she recognized as Ashoran lurking deep within the Sajuuk’s belly, and formed a lance of dazzling light in her mental hands. Then she plunged the lance into the darkness that was his mind, flooding it with the brilliance of a nova. The darkness squirmed around the light, only to have the lance transform into a gigantic barbed net that caught him in its glowing snares.
Karan-Noreena grinned ferally.
Time to take it up a notch.
The luminous net morphed into brightly glowing bubbles that grew across the field of darkness surrounding them. They swallowed up chunks of the cold blackness, and illuminated them until they vaporized. More and more of the blackness flew into the bubbles like dust particles caught in a tractor beam, only to slowly vaporize inside the brilliant spheres.
Ashoran squirmed violently as his essence writhed inside the expanding bubbles. He stabbed outwards from inside them in a bid to puncture their walls. However, they were only light, and bringing his essence to bear on them simply brought them closer to that intolerable brilliance. Tendrils vaporized at the slightest touch to the bubbles. Karan-Noreena heard a slowly rising growl of displeasure as the cultist leader began to fully comprehend the situation he was in.
The Vanguard and Soban’s Dreadnaught had bracketed the Kuun-Lan at either side and now fired at anything foolish enough to get near them with their point-defense systems as well as their primary weapons. Numerous cultist-run Marine Frigates and dozens of fighters heading towards the Kuun-Lan exploded under the withering drossfire of its protectors.
The Sajuuk hung in space as if immobilized, its main gun still inert thanks to the women’s joint minblast of its controller. However, its automated point-defense guns continued to fire at any ship that veered too close, posing considerable threat to anyone attempting to repeat Noreena's lucky Siege shot from the last battle.
All around the Kuun-Lan, the First Fleet and its Hiigaran counterparts blasted away at anything bearing Ashoran’s logo with a fresh vengeance. To the combined fleet’s surprise, the Qwaar-Jet cult’s ships moved very sluggishly, their cannons and missiles missing their enemies so widely that Allied gun crews whooped with glee. The reason for such behavior became obvious: Ashoran’s Unbound powers had allowed him to grant his fleet superior firepower-coordination capablity. Without him at its head, his ships now had only their internal fire-control systems to manage their weapons with.
As long as the S’jet-Sa and her pupil kept Ashoran too distracted to do anything for himself or his fleet, the Somtaaw had a chance to wreak some real havoc.
Ifriit barked orders left and right from his command chair as ships formed into attack groups that went after the largest targets in Ashoran’s fleet. Qwaar-Jet IIs and other dreadnaught-class ships shuddered under a hailstorm of Somtaaw and Hiigaran missiles, ion beams, and railgun slugs. The enemy replied with their familiarly bewildering firepower, but continually missed their targets. Even the usually ferocious Taiidan Imperialists seemed equally caught off-guard; Fleet Intelligence would have a field day with analyzing what made them flail about so spectacularly here.
The Somtaaw and Hiigaran ships plowed on into the battle, pouring as much firepower into Ashoran’s heaviest ships as they dared. Within moments, even the ships’ heavy armor began to buckle; they fired futilely as they crumpled into dazzling balls of fire. The only thing stopping the Somtaaw ships’ push towards complete victory was the swarm of Ashoran-allied frigates, light cruisers, and strikecraft that battered at their hulls. Those craft had less dependency on their Unbound, and could operate with more free will in the current situation.
Then an Archangel II exploded under continuous heavy fire from a dying Qwaar-Jet II as a cluster of cultist missile frigates destroyed its engines from behind. Then the heavy cruiser plowed into the front of an Aurora-class Somtaaw carrier in a last-ditch kamikaze move. The resulting explosion sent fiery debris flying everywhere, into Allied and cultist ships alike.
Ashoran’s fleet took heart from that unexpected victory, and began turning the Somtaaw’s tactics against them, using their smaller craft in swarms and flotillas that surrounded those that attacked their capital ships. The victims themselves aided their fellows with just the right amount of firepower to finish the job.
Now the Somtaaw-Hiigaran fleet would have to work to get their kills. Ifriit cursed and quickly re-directed the ships into a new strategy—they would target the smaller enemy craft in a bid to eliminate future harassment when they re-engaged Ashoran’s capital ships.
On a nearby console, the words Core Charge glowed next to an increment bar that read 72% as it slowly crawled upwards. Ifriit scowled, then glanced back to the holo-display as he continued to manage the battle. The fleet would have to manage for a while longer before they could jump away.
Karan-Noreena surveyed the mindscape around her. Ashoran’s presence now thrashed violently within massive glowing bubbles. However, those bubbles had grown so large that parts of the cult leader’s mind escaped their brilliance within their very centers while surrounded by more of their dark essence. At a thought from the combined entity, the bubbles grew even brighter as they shrank. They compressed the fragments of Ashoran’s mind within them, illuminating their darkness as they grew ever more cramped.
Then they exploded like miniature supernovae, drenching Ashoran’s mind with dazzling brilliance as they seared it with the heat of a thousand suns. For a single moment, the darkness saw light wherever it looked.
Now the Qwaar-Jet cult leader’s mind let out a growl of pain and fury. The Sajuuk promptly lost all navigational control, and began to drift.
Ifriit glanced at the Core Charge meter again: 81%.
He nodded approvingly as he surveyed the raging battle around the Kuun-Lan. His changed tactics had taken down a good number of Ashoran’s frigates and strikecraft as the combined fleet had turned its attention to them. They would face far less opposition when they took on Ashoran's capital ships this time. He quickly ordered his ships to re-target them, and watched with a satisfied smile as his original strategy added more kills to its track record.
"Nothing like walking from the frying pan into the fire," he whispered ferally as he steepled his hands.
Karan-Noreena surveyed Ashoran’s quivering darkness as the supernova brilliance of so much psychic explosions began to fade. She held both arms out sideways from her psychic body, grabbing an invisible hold of Ashoran’s mind. The cult leader’s dark presence then stretched like a piece of melting taffy. Images flickered on the squirming wall of dark thoughts, for it had weakened enough to let Karan-Noreena see into its fabric. She realized the images were his thoughts, and eyed them with morbid interest.
Then an image of his fleet and several dozen T-MAT megaships battering at Hiigara with a mix of ADW missiles and heavy ion cannons flickered into view. Karan-Noreena scowled dangerously.
So that’s his plan—burning Hiigara. Well, isn’t it a real pity I know now, huh?!
The writhing wall of Ashoran’s essence thrashed even more violently as its attacker squinted at the other memories it displayed. An image of a strange, angular warship firing a snap-flash beam of light at some unseen target flashed across the dark wall, followed quickly by a scene of a space battle bigger than anything either of Karan-Noreena’s Selves had seen. A T-MAT fleet led by that odd-looking warship battered viciously at a tattered yet distinctly stubborn Progenitor fleet headed by the Sajuuk. Energy beams of horrible power slashed through the space between the two armadas as massive ships died in explosions that dwarfed anything a Siege Cannon shot could produce. A stray thought flickered through Karan-Noreena’s mind: that strange super-warship reminded her of Ashoran’s three-pronged claw logo.
Then the cult leader had finally lost the final shred of his patience. A throaty growl of rapidly building rage rose from the squirming wall of darkness and memories. Black tendrils lashed out towards Karan-Noreena, seeking a stranglehold on her mind. She wrapped a dazzlingly brilliant shield around herself; it resembled a gigantic spherical hurricane with her in its eye. She watched as the storm sucked the cult leader’s essence into it, and slowly stretched his darkness across its violently sparkling currents until it was a sheet of darkened psychic taffy wrapped around a spinning ball. The storm’s brilliance increased as Karan-Noreena sent it into a bewilderingly fast spin, twisting and bending Ashoran’s mind into agonizingly stretched shapes as it whipped around her.
The cult leader’s presence clung tightly to the storm, struggling to push through its brilliant currents, but to no avail. Little by little his strength faded. Finally, the blackness spun away into space with a grunt of pain.
Karan-Noreena unwrapped her hurricane from around her mind and reshaped it into its proper storm-like shape. She then unleashed it upon the floating swirl of blackness between the Sajuuk and the Kuun-Lan. The storm barreled towards Ashoran’s presence, and promptly gobbled it up like the Beast looking for a juicy meal. Once again, the Qwaar-Jet cult leader’s furious growl echoed in her consciousness, reminding her that this was not what he wanted to partake in today.
Aww, poor widdle Ashy-poo doesn't like my pet hurricane? she gleefully taunted. I see you're a real sucker for punishment. Guess I'll just have to dial it up AGAIN!
Then a wave of boiling darkness, infuriated at the combined entity’s clever resistance, tore directly through the storm, weakening and ultimately vaporizing it. It lashed towards Karan-Noreena with massive tentacles that groped for her coldest, darkest fears.
Oh no you don’t, Karan-Noreena retorted icily.
In the Battle Bridge, the Core charge meter ticked to 92%.
Karan-Noreena summoned a pair of brilliant stars into her hands, then hurled them at Ashoran like bowling balls fired from a railgun. They smashed into his dark core like Siege Cannon shots, shredding it in half as they blasted clean through. Karan-Noreena pulled the twin spheres back towards her, then sent them after each half of the stunned cult leader’s mind as they drifted away from one another.
Then Ashoran’s halves quickly flew towards one another, interweaving themselves with dark tendrils that leapt across the space between the two halves and grabbed onto one another. The tendrils pulled, yanking the two halves closer together. By the time the spheres had returned, they merely nicked the darkness’ outer edges as they shot past it.
Karan-Noreena scowled as the darkness swirled around her in a bid to surround and then choke her thoughts with its fury. She willed the two miniature stars into a single massive sphere that grew at her touch, then pumped its brightness to a maximum even she had to psychically squint against.
Then she hurled it at Ashoran with all her might.
She never saw whether it impacted. The mindscape vanished with a startling abruptness, leaving behind a mind-numing blankness.
On the Battle Bridge, the Core charge meter had just ticked to 100%.
All around the Kuun-Lan, ships disappeared into their blue hyperspace windows. The battle broke apart as quickly as it had begun. Then the swirling blueness of hyperspace replaced Karan-Noreena’s sensor view of the war zone.
With relief, she slowly and carefully split into her original forms: Karan S’jet and Noreena Somtaaw.
“Da-AMN!” was all Noreena could get out in her shock. Karan’s eyes slid open as she smiled wearily. "That was one hell of a ride!"
“Phase one accomplished,” she said with a victorious grin. “He has no clue what’s coming.”
Ifriit grinned as he leaned back in his chair with relief. His concentration had begun to fray slighty at the edges; he welcomed the short break before the next fight. Noreena scanned the status reports quickly. While she had linked with Karan’s mind, she had focused the bulk of her concentration on mindblasting Ashoran. After several minutes’ quick review of the battle recordings taken by her sensors, she grinned evilly inside her tank.
“That’s some frag-fest you guys had out there. Looks like Ash’s dream fire-coordination worked both ways. Hit him, and you can hit his fleet.”
Ifriit’s grin turned into a smug expression.
“We didn’t expect them to get caught that far off-guard by your mindblast. I figured an opening found better be an opening used. Losing a third of capital ships and his ego to a mindblast should take him down a few pegs.”
He shot a glance at the chronometer; in fifteen minutes they would drop out of hyperspace at the Crimson Nebula.
“He’ll be plenty pissed,” Noreena pointed out, “but I think we’ve got a head start. We kicked his guts up into his ears back there.”
Karan nodded her agreement.
“He’ll be every bit the killer Makaan’s been warning the Vaygr about when he comes out the other side,” she said in a warning tone. “They better be ready for this.”
Noreena blinked in her tank. The chronometer read only three minutes until the fleet’s exit from hyperspace.
No Vaygr hyperspace inhibitors? They were all over the place when I last looked. We should’ve gotten kicked down to normal space by now. What the hell are they doing over there?
She’d fully expected to slam the combined fleet into the inhibitors' fields the minute they got too close to the Crimson Nebula. Shrugging mentally, she switched mental gears towards the battle ahead, and watched the chronometer tick down to the end of their trip. The closer they came to the Vaygr, the closer Ashoran would jump to them when he arrived. That would buy the plan an extra whammy of its intended shock factor if they could pull it off.
Then hyperspace slid away. Noreena ran a fast sensor sweep of the area, then let out a particularly sinister-sounding snicker. Makaan had lived up to his word.
His Crusade had maxed their sublight engines in a frantic rush towards the Crimson Nebula. Once they had reached their destination, they had turned around and made a gauntlet out of their ships, forcing the other Crusades’ leading ships to jump into a vicious hailstorm of railgun slugs, missiles, laser beams, and Trinity Cannon shots.
From the looks of things, the Crusades had just shut their inhibitors off so they could hyper their ships behind and around Makaan’s formation. Ifriit smirked upon realizing this. The Warlord's cleverness would serve the alliance well when they delivered their bombshell revelation to his people.
“Hold our positiion here,” the Somtaaw-Sa ordered. “They’ll see us presently.”
“Yessir, and they just did,” Noreena reported as several battlecruisers and destroyers in the rear of the Crusades’ fleets turned towards the incoming mix of Somtaaw and Hiigaran ships. Then their first salvos rushed towards the new arrivals.
Noreena triggered the Kuun-Lan’s PDS and counter-missile systems, watching them demolish the Vaygr salvos with ease. The First Fleet's networked ECM systems promptly blipped back online as the second wave of missiles hurtled towards them. Unlike Makaan’s Crusade, which had been fighting for the last twenty-odd minutes, the Somtaaw had taken far less damage. This would allow the new arrivals to defend themselves with some ease until Ashoran arrived.
Then alarms sang throughout Noreena’s consciousness. A sea of golden hyperspace windows opened up in front of the Somtaaw-Hiigaran fleet, directly between them and the Crusades. They deposited the Sajuuk and Ashoran’s fleet into normal space, then vanished.
The battlecruisers and destroyers slowed to a wary crawl, their commanders treating the Sajuuk as if it were under Hiigaran control. Then Vaygr sensors recognized the motley cluster of battered Taiidani and cult-run ships clustered at the Progenitor ship’s sides.
Noreena fought down a raucous laugh threatening to explode across all the Alliance com frequencies.
Look close, boys and girls, cuz that is NOT a Hiigaran fleet! Now come to Papa Mak and Mama Karan before the big bad monster rips your arms off.
Someone finally caught sight of Ashoran’s giant black claw logo on the Sajuuk’s side. In a burst of horrified realization, the Vaygr battlecruisers and destroyers’ captains ordered their ships to veer hard to port or starboard to avoid the new fleet. Shocked transmissions flashed between them and the rest of the Crusades; Noreena hoped these captains’ superiors would as sensible about the truth lying plainly before them.
Then everything went straight to hell.
Brilliant red beams, laced with blue-white lightning, lanced out from Ashoran’s fleet, smashing into the Vaygr ships with ruthless abandon. The beams skipped from ship to ship, plowing into several others that hadn’t broken off with the group attacking the Somtaaw.
Noreena gaped in stunned horror as agonized screams rang out across all the Vaygr channels she had been monitoring.
What the...?! INFECTION BEAMS?! The Beast? HOW?!
Every jaw in the Flag Deck, the Bridge, and the Battle Bridge dropped in shock. Nobody needed to hear the screams; the Somtaaw knew those particular sounds well enough from the history tapes.
The beams finally cut out, leaving behind ships that drifted as black and red ooze grew from the weak points in their hulls. Then those ships regained power with blistering speed as they turned towards the remainder of the Crusades. A new hailstorm of Infection Beams crashed into the combined Vaygr fleet. They danced across the densely packed cluster of ships like a creature gorging on a surplus of its favorite food.
Then Ashoran’s fleet advanced towards the Somtaaw, cutting loose with their own weapons as well as Infection Beams. With their commander back in control, and the element of surprise on their side, they could now avenge those ships the Somtaaw had killed. Two Archangels fell to the Beast in unison with a cluster of MBFs in a matter of seconds.
Ifriit jolted out of his shock with the speed of a slug launched from a railgun.
“Engage Anti-Beast measures! Naar those bastards!” he bellowed, his voice having an identical effect on his crew. They lunged back to their stations, and scrambled to do the best they possibly could against their old foe.
Throughout the First Fleet, ships triggered the Naar Directive for the first time in eighty years as they struggled against the first tendrils of the deadly subversion organism. Crews scrambled to get clear of Infected areas before superheated plasma from their drives swept through them.
Noreena watched in horror as more Archangels and frigates fell to the Beast. Fortunately, the Somtaaw had upgraded the Archangel IIs with automatic Naar Directive systems for eliminating boarding parties. The revamped dreadnaughts quickly countered any Beast presence onboard them, and plowed towards the nearest Infected ships in a bid to destroy them quickly.
Suddenly a golden Trinity Cannon shot tore through the sky from a completely unexpected direction, slamming into an Infected Archangel near the Kuun-Lan. The blast hit square in the middle of its engine block. The resulting explosion completely shattered the ship. Debris flew in hundreds of directions, causing an impressive amount of collateral damage to nearby Beast-controlled ships. Then the golden beams fired again, aiming for another Infected Archangel in the same fashion.
Noreena tracked her sensors towards the friendly fire’s source, and nearly screamed with relief at what she saw.
Makaan’s Crusade had hypered past the swarm of Infected and opposing Vaygr ships to render aid to its allies. The Warlord’s super-battlecruiser led the charge as it fired another Trinity Cannon blast, this time at an Infected Hiigaran carrier that turned towards it. The shot completely blew the carrier's forward half off. The gigantic piece of debris smashed into an infected Vaygr destroyer, obliterating both in a spectacular fireball. Besides the spuer-battlecruiser, the Allied Crusade's remaining battlecruisers, destroyers, frigates, and carriers opened fire on the Beast-controlled ships. Space once again blazed with the dazzling spectacle of weapons fire flying in all directions.
Suddenly the Flagship’s Trinity Cannon’s unusual beams made sense. Makaan had upgraded his primary weapon to a Phased Trinity Cannon, a Vaygr backengineer of the Progenitors’ favorite primary weapon, the Phased Cannon Array. No wonder he could blow up ships with well-placed single shots!
Someone had also briefed the Warlord’s crews on the Naar Directive—Noreena recognized the flames spewing from several ships’ hulls as leaking drive plasma. The Crusade’s ships quickly pounced on the Infected vessels, pouring all their firepower into them to prevent any further Infection Beam attacks. If they lost the Somtaaw to the Beast, their own chances against Ashoran would shrink to nil, with or without the other Crusades’ help.
Suddenly realizing how long she had simply hung there gobsmacked at this turn of events, Noreena shook herself firmly. She quickly regained control of the First Fleet, and sent every un-Infected ship at the Ashoran’s fleet and its newly Infected members. The sooner they went down, the better off everyone would be.
Then the Infected Vaygr fleet—now doubled in size with its first ships’ Infection spree earlier—flew right into Makaan’s ships from behind, tearing into them with every weapon at its disposal. Before Noreena had a chance to report the changed situation, the battlefield turned into a frantic free-for-all, with every un-Infected ship going up against the subverted ones, using every trick their Captains could think of.
In the fringes of her sensor range, she saw the other six Crusades also battering away at the Infected ships despite the dazzling flurry of crimson beams that continued to whittle their numbers down further while providing them with multiple new targets. She counted the number of remaining intact Vaygr ships and swore. The Crusades had lost a full third of their ships!
Real panic clawed at the edges of her mind. Not once had anyone thought Ashoran capable of using the Beast to his own ends! Her timers counted fifteen seconds on the Infection Beams’ recharge time—a staggering improvement over the old Beast’s capablities. Entire capital ships had fallen to it within seconds, rather than the minutes such events took a century ago.
There’s no way it should’ve been THIS strong, even Ash he rebuilt it off the original hyperspace strain! What the fuck did he DO to it?!
Then Noreena realized she had forgotten about the Qwaar-Jet cult leader in the confusion. She frantically switched her attention back to the Sajuuk. As if perfectly timed to her thoughts, the Progenitor super-dreadnaught, with every Infected and Infection-capable vessel, vanished down a golden hyperspace window.
Then they were gone. Noreena stared in shock, then cursed creatively at full volume in IS HQ when she realized what Ashoran had done.
"The Qwaardamn BASTARD!" she roared. "He was using the Beast as a DIVERSION! The extra ships were just frosting on the cake!"
Nobody jumped at the sudden blast of furious sound; everyone was still too shocked at the battle's events to comprehend what she said.
Only someone cruel enough to ADW unarmed mining bases would think to use a subversion entity whose methods caused the most painful death—and yet non-death for they lived on as fragments of the Beast’s mind—anyone could possibly experience as a mere distraction! If Kydir’s destruction had made her aware of Ashoran’s evil nature, this had simply crystallized that awareness.
Noreena shivered in her tank as she swept her gaze across the battered remains of the seven Vaygr Crusades. Their ships drifted in space as a perfect echo of their crews’ shock. Smoke and flames oozed from gaping holes in each of their hulls. Not one Vaygr ship had escaped the fury of Ashoran’s expanded fleet, and all would need extensive repairs to fly into battle again.
A signal crackled outwards from Makaan’s Flagship in one of the Vaygr’s public-broadcast frequencies. Noreena tuned her sensors to pick up the transmission, knowing fully well what he would say.
“The time of foolishness has come to an end,” the Warlord announced quietly, as if he were saying that to himself as much as to his people. “You have lost half your fleets to your so-called ally."
He spat the word out as if it were an epithet, then continued.
"If we are to survive the hell this galaxy has become, then we all must work together. No fleet alone can defeat him—you have seen why. Only an alliance between ourselves and our former enemies can hope for victory. They defeated us before. They can help us defeat Ashoran.”
He paused for a long, contemplative beat.
“Who will join the Vaygr-Hiigaran alliance?” he asked, his voice an invitation to every commander in the Crusdes.
Last edited by Chrome; 23rd Feb 09 at 7:01 PM.
Why did you bring the beast into this, WHY?
Nice . I wonder though, I think there's more to this Ashoran guy than meets the eye. I have a feeling his use of the Beast as a weapon is more than mere coincidence.
Remind me... how long has he been an Unbound?
EDIT: What's wrong with the Beast ? They're not actually that cliche, I mean only the Zerg and Borg are really similar and there's significant differences between them and the Beast.
Last edited by Ishaar Niirfa; 25th Oct 05 at 8:25 PM.
Contrary to Cata, this time the Beast serves as a well thought out plot-device. Not just a "cool" filler.
Of course the villain wouldn't die THAT easily, but the Beast was quite a shocking surprise.
I'll agree with Ishaar on Ashoran - there's definitely some horrible secrets lurking about him.
You guys would be correct. He has a few...nasty...secrets. I wouldn't come up with somebody that evil unless he had a couple of really moldy skeletons with bad attitudes in his closet.
I really wanted a bad guy to outshine Riesstiu and Makaan in the HW storylines, and after a crazed Emperor who prefers to burn planets as punishment for their rebelliousness, I had to pull the stops out. He had to be EVIL or the lucky Hiigarans would kick his ass fairly quickly.
And Ishaar...you might be onto something about Ash's Core time. Keep that in mind down the road, okay?
more...More....MORE I say! I needs it!
"I am a Ranger. We walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge and no-one may pass. We live for the One, we die for the One."
Marcus to Neroon, Grey 17 is Missing (Babylon 5)
Ahk! What is with these subtle hintings! Such a great chapter was bad enough, now how am I supposed to stop the nervous twitching between chapters?
Less hinting, more blatant slams to the brain with an anvil. Enjoy.
Noreena watched the Chief of Hiigaran Fleet Intelligence as he rose to begin his briefing. He looked as haggard as everyone else in the room felt. With a spurt of gratitude for her currently Unbound state, she noted the densely packed ampitheater had not one empty seat. She wouldn’t have wanted to sit in that psychic soup of mixed emotions anyways.
Doubtless the Vaygr battled everything from sorrow at their losses to shame at having ignored Makaan’s warnings about Ashoran. How Karan could sit so calmly in her seat, bracketed by her Sobani bodyguards, completely eluded Noreena. Even Makaan, who’d taken a position of honor among the Vaygr in the room, had a skittish gleam in his eyes as if the torrent of emotion pouring into his psychic awareness from the people around him was almost too much to bear.
Every one of the remaining six Vaygr Crusades had joined the Alliance in a heartbeat after Makaan’s invitation. Ashoran’s betrayal and subsequent attack on them had completely eroded whatever loyalty they had left for the Qwaar-Jet cult leader.
Crusade Admirals, with their seconds-in-command, the Flag Admirals who ruled their super-capital ships, sat calmly alongside the Somtaaw and Hiigaran Admirals and Captains in the ampitheater. To Noreena’s surprise, they had treated the Hiigarans, especially the Somtaaw, with a fair amount of respect. The Somtaaw’s experience in defeating the Beast eighty years ago probably had something to do with it. The Beastslayer kiith had destroyed the predecessor of what had gobbled up almost half of their Fleets and were the closest thing the Vaygr could find to experts on the Beast and Ashoran.
Karan, as Fleet Command, had summoned the remaining detached patrol units of the Hiigaran Navy—those that weren’t assigned to the Homeworld Defense Fleet—to join the new Allied Fleet. Now their Admirals and Captains sat amongst the Somtaaw and Soban's group, eyeing the Vaygr warily. The Somtaaw had spent the last two months getting used to the alliance. Now the Hiigarans would have to do the same in considerably less time if the full Alliance had any chance of going after Ashoran. To their credit, the Vaygr seemed quite willing to put aside their hostility against the Hiigarans for the time being.
“I want to thank everyone for coming on such short notice,” Chief Intel spoke calmly, without the lest reservation in talking to the assembled Vaygr as well as Navy officers. Noreena suspected Makaan’s honoring his part of their trap for Ashoran had eroded the last of his doubts about the Warlord and his people.
Heads bobbed in acknowledgement, then Intel went on.
“I did a full run-down on current Hiigaran and Vaygr fleet numbers. As of right now, despite the steep Vaygr losses at the Nebula, we’re at six times the First Fleet’s size. Somtaaw’s Second Fleet will be here in eight days to supplement the Third which has been helping out since the Alliance with Lord Makaan's Crusade. Once they show up, we’re going to be big enough to finally give Ashoran's fleet a run for their money like a bunch of Turanic Raiders out for some loot."
A few chuckles went through the room; numerous stone-faced Vaygr cracked slight smiles at his dry humor.
“However reassuring the size of the Alliance Fleet, that’s nothing compared to what we’ll face if Ashoran’s use of the Beast continues. My department’s done a full analysis of the hull armor and power-output of his ships. Subtle Beast signatures in the hull composites and power emissions we found comfirms that he’s been using it the whole time. We just didn’t see it coming because he kept it hidden from blatant external notice. And thus, we never scanned for anything of the sort.”
He sighed as his words sank home among the assemblage of officers.
“It gets better,” he said grimly. “Fifteen-second recharge rates on their sub-capitals’ and capitals’ Infection Beams means that any future engagements must take the loss of more ships into consideration. Compared to the Beast the Somtaaw fought, we saw a 30 to 40 percent increase in armor strength and weapons power. And my Beast specialists aren't even sure if they can get a figure on the EPA capabilities of Ashoran's Beast."
"All in all, it made perfect sense for Ashoran to throw it into the open against the Crusades when he saw our trap.”
A nervous ripple went through the room. Makaan’s left eye twitched slightly, as he silently railed at the situation in which the Alliance had finally come together. More of his people had lost their lives in what had turned out to be a futile attack. At least they hadn't died due to a lapse in his judgemtn.
“If it weren’t for his leaving when he did, he would’ve taken all of the Crusades with him, minus the shipyards and support ships left behind in the Reaches with their guarding detachments. The only reason my analysts think he left you alive is to make an example of and to you.”
“You mean,” a stocky, bald Crusade Admiral spoke up, “he was trying to scare us?”
“As you know from the information my people sent to you,” Intel said with a curt nod, “Ashoran’s talent for psychological warfare is unparalleled. I'm fairly certain that was his intention. However, I'm also fairly certain he just made his first mistake.”
Surprised expressions at Intel’s words of respect, followed swiftly by fierce, feral grins, went through the Vaygr in the room.
Noreena smirked to herself in her tank. Having Chief Intel willing to consider an alliance with the Vaygr had provided a huge bonus. The moment after every Crusade had sworn allegiance to the new fleet, he’d ordered his people to send them every scrap of information they had on Ashoran. The amount of protest he’d gotten to those orders from his subordinates showed the depth of confidentiality he’d sacrificed in his guesture of goodwill. His actions’ value had not been lost on the Vaygr. For his honorable behavior, he had become the first Hiigaran to ever earn the undivided, respectful attention of all seven Crusades’ commanders.
Now that influence with them allowed him to provide an open briefing without having to tailor his information for each side alone.
“Well, why settle for just giving us the shivers when he could’ve had all of us?” the same Crusade Admiral went on.
“Obviously he’s got some sort of long-term war plan,” Intel replied, “which involves, for reasons I wish I knew, keeping the Crusades alive. He’s never yet skipped on a tactical opportunity, so I think he’s got something in mind for you. The only time he ever ran before this was when the Somtaaw blew up the Sajuuk’s main gun. What we saw here was a not an escape, but a tactical move.”
“Perhaps,” Karan spoke up, “he hopes for this alliance to self-destruct on itself from internal tensions, and weaken and distract everyone in the process. It certainly would help him in the long run.”
Heads, both Hiigaran and Vaygr, nodded in agreement. Ashoran’s ablity to manipulate people and entire races into moving when and where he wanted to had become apparent. Noreena doubted these Crusades’ people or the Hiigaran Navy’s crews would be so unwise as to repeat that riot in the Collision several weeks ago.
Karan’s suggestion had just made very sure of that; once again Noreena wondered at her ability to persuade people into doing things they would normally greatly resist the very idea of.
At the very least, it looked as if Ashoran’s understanding of his enemies had fallen short.
“We know a portion of his ultimate plan now. I’ve heard accounts from both Noreena Somtaaw—our resident Unbound, who some of you have already met—and Lady S’jet about what they saw in Ashoran’s mind. Whether Hiigara is his ultimate goal or part of his plan, we don’t know. However, the very idea that he could commandeer more than five T-MAT megaships and equip them with worse weapons than the Taiidan rebels did…won’t help anybody sleep at night.”
Chief Intel sighed again.
“I don’t have to explain to you the kind of mess we’ll be in for if he’s using Infected T-MAT, either,” he continued grimly. Shudders went through the assembled crowd. Even a few Vaygr looked worried now.
“What I do have to explain is the eye-opener my people and I hit on when we analyzed his theft of the Sajuuk…without which his entire plan wouldn’t have gotten off to its lovely start.”
The room went dead silent as everyone perked their ears and regarded Chief Intel with the intensity of gun turrets locking onto their targets. He nodded grimly.
“As you know from the data I've had my department send you, he didn’t touch the Sajuuk’s computer mainframe. We had to work to figure out which backdoor he had used to get into the control systems. Then it became obvious for the simple reason that we were so used to their existence, that we forgot about their potential as weapons in electronic warfare."
He let out a wearied sigh.
"He simply hacked the Trinity System, and ordered them to Far Jump the ship to where he could take it over.”
He paused a beat.
“Not one person, to my entire knowledge, has ever cracked the programming that controls a Far Jump Core. That takes a level of understanding of the Cores that nobody in this room has.”
Makaan nodded his agreement of that assessment.
“I tried to do that when I first took control of the Hethlim Core,” he said quietly. “My best techniques were like a child trying to penetrate a military bunker. With a slingshot. The effort proved useless in the extreme. I had to settle for simply linking my neural networks to it, and letting it do what it did best.”
“Now, this begs the question,” Chief Intel continued quietly, “of who could possibly have such intimate knowledge of Far Jumpers to the point of penetrating their software.”
Makaan and Karan hit on the inevitable conclusion at the same time. The Warlord muttered a particularly vicious Vaygr curse under his breath while Karan went whiter than the chamber’s walls. Then Noreena realized what Intel had concluded. Shock and horror mixed in a single blinding instant of understanding.
The only people who could hack a Progenitor Far Jumper would have to be…Progeni--oh dear Gods. No. This is NOT what I’m hearing. TELL ME MY SENSORS JUST WENT TO HELL!
“Exactly,” Intel said sadly as more people came to his conclusion with groans of horror. “Our friend is a Progenitor in the flesh.”
The ampitheater went so silent Noreena could hear the life-support systems chugging quietly away in the background.
Eight words had just transformed Ashoran from simply a dangerous tactician into the Enemy from Hell, and now real fear swirled through the ampitheater. The Progenitors’ technology was the most advanced in the galaxy, and had proven exceedingly difficult to even find, much less control. That their enemy could manipulate that same technology with such ease boggled and unnerved even the most imaginative minds.
“That will most likely explain the mindblast account the S’jet-Sa gave of his commanding a T-MAT fleet against the Sajuuk and the Progenitors. There have been numerous theories that the Progenitors were divided into factions that flew their banners behind each of the great Gods. Sajuuk and the faction behind it likely created the Keeper-Destroyers, the Dreadnaughts and so on. It would seem that Ashoran enjoyed the support of the T-MAT builders. And if my personal guess on this is correct, then the ship Commander Noreena and Lady S’jet saw leading them, would have to be the Godship Qwaar-Jet. This would explain his leading a Qwaar-Jet cult.”
More shocked expressions flew across the assemblage. Then a female Hiigaran Admiral suddenly stood, her bright blue eyes gilttering in the overhead light with a shocking realization that forced her to speak before she had fully comprehended it.
“But he doesn’t have the Qwaar-Jet!” she exclaimed. “Why else steal the Sajuuk?”
A sudden jolt ran through several officers. For the first time, Noreena saw hope flickering on the Hiigaran and Somtaaw officers’ faces. Ashoran was short a ship for his plans! Chief Intel nodded.
“How he came to lose it is open to speculation. It might even have been destroyed,” Intel went on. “However, I doubt the Progenitors would be so foolish as to get rid of a warship that could protect them against future threats. Ashoran may be actively looking for it, and he may be slowing his plans down in favor of a search. If we can find it before he does, our chances of beating him get a hell of a lot better. I also must point out that a number of religious factions not only see Qwaar-Jet as the God of Pain and Retribution, but also the God of War. It may well be the only ship with the firepower to tip the balance in our favor against the full might of Ashoran's forces.”
For the first time since Ashoran began his War, fire blazed in every officer’s eyes. Chief Intel had just provided them with a possiblity of defeating Ashoran rather than just holding off the inevitable showdown with his fleet. Even if it yielded very little practical results, its value was incalculable to any experienced military officer. Crews fought far better battles against a seemingly undefeatable foe if they saw a chance, however slim, of winning the war.
Chief Intel held up one hand to indicate for silence. The excited murmuring that flew about the room promptly died down.
“I’ll close on two points. One: We cannot expect Ashoran to sit still now that he’s returned. He knows we’re actively working against him, and he’d be a fool not to seek every chance to tear us apart. Two: We need to look for any and every chance to acquire technology that can help fight off his fleet and the Beast. That includes the Qwaar-Jet if we can find it. We’re going to have to do both while keeping the most unlikely alliance in the galaxy together. Because if we don’t, Ashoran’s going to take us down, and then become the kind of Emperor that Mad Riesstiu would’ve worshipped in fear for his own life.”
He nodded crisply to the still-stunned assemblage of officers, and strode back to his seat. From the worst news possible to a glimmer of hope, he had run them through the entire gamut of emotions.
Karan and Makaan rose in unison and strode to the room’s center. They turned to face the crowd before them.
“Now,” the Warlord said quietly, “we must come up with a plan. We know what we must do, and we must do it quickly, before Ashoran strikes again."
“Ah Qwaardamn it all!”
My sentiments exactly.
Noreena chuckled at the voice despite the deluge of archaeological data that swamped her consciousness from every side. The speaker had elegantly summed up her feelings, and she felt obliged to thank him. At least the conversation would provide her with a badly needed distraction from her current reading assignment.
After three weeks’ searching the Allied Fleet had not found a sign of the Qwaar-Jet anywhere in the ruins they’d confirmed as Progenitor. They had moved on to more tentatively identified relics. Unfortunately, after two more weeks spent tracking down of all the archaeologists involved in the various sites order to learn more about them, Noreena had eliminated half of them as candidates for the resting place of the God of Pain. Where she could go from here, she had no idea, and dreaded telling Karan when she asked for a report.
To add even more pressure to the Alliance’s plate, Ashoran’s Infected Fleet had begun hitting Vaygr as well as Hiigaran frontier posts, and anything else that dared get in its way. The string of attacks proved much harder for the Alliance Fleet to keep up with, since the Qwaar-Jet cult leader’s command of the Sajuuk allowed him to vastly outpace them with his ship’s three Far Jump Cores. That meant by the time an Allied flotilla showed up in response to a station’s distress call, any Ashoran-run ships had already vanished down wake-jump windows provided by the Sajuuk. Half the border posts that had remained in either Vaygr or Hiigaran hands had fallen to Infection in those five weeks, and numerous bases crews had already deserted them out of fear for their own lives.
Karan had tried futilely to persuade the Hiigaran bases’ populations to stay and fight. Now even more ships full of frightened people—ships that shouldn’t even be flying in such dangerous space—provided juicy targets for the cult leader’s Infected fleet of Vaygr ships. To everyone’s dismay, Ashoran had caught on to the latest crisis quite quickly, and now dozens of bases sat abandoned, their crews long absorbed into the Beast during their bid to escape. Makaan and the Crusade Admirals had grumbled in a recent conference of similar problems with their own base crews.
She sighed glumly, hoping that the cursing didn’t preclude worse news than the reports she’d had to relay to Ifriit of the latest transport convoy to fall to Ashoran's forces. She quickly hopscotched across her feeds to find the source of that angry remark.
To her surprise, it had come from Pyalun in IS HQ. He sat amid a bank of consoles hooked to her tank, glaring at one screen as if he wanted to punch it. She blinked over to the eye-level camera nearest to him.
“Problem, Py?” she asked.
“Definitely,” he said worriedly. “Manufacturing was so quick to put your tank together back then, they skipped some of the quality-control inspections along the way. I should’ve checked into it, but we had Ashoran and the Vaygr to worry about.”
“What’s wrong? My diagnostics are coming up fine.”
“It’s not an internal problem,” he said grimly, “but an external one. Someone screwed up when they put together the clear-alloy for the tank walls. You’ll remember we decided to upgrade from glass to a transparent metal so Ashoran can’t blow it apart by turning your body into a missile.”
“I do. Wasn’t Manufacturing in new territory when they tried to shape the alloy into a cylinder? I remember a few structural guys worrying about it back then.”
“They were right. I found severe cracks on the molecular level through the whole thing—and it’s not as strong as it should’ve been in the structural simulations. The liquid, the null-G fields holding you there, and the weight from all the equipment on top are pushing it harder than if this were just a viewport. Someone steps or jumps on it the wrong way in the next couple of days, we’ll have a hell of a mess. What makes it worse is there won’t be any psychic force throwing you at the walls when the tank goes.”
“Should I call ChiefMed and get the extraction underway now?”
“Please do,” Pyalun replied glumly. “I’d feel a hundred percent better having you out of there. It’s a Qwaardamn death trap right now.”
“That makes two of us,” she said, shivering as she made the call.
Upon hearing her explanation, ChiefMed burst into a stream of paint-peeling invective she didn’t think him capable of. Then he shouted for a pair of medics to accompany him as he sprinted out of Sickbay to perform the emergency extraction.
She sent a flurry of transmissions to Ifriit’s desk, Makaan’s Super-Battlecruiser’s Flag Deck so the Vaygr would stay abreast of news about her, Karan’s computer console in her quarters, and finally to all the distinct Kuun-Lan crew departments so they could anticipate the side-effects of her leaving the tank.
With a gut-twisting mental image of the tank falling apart around her when ChiefMed’s team took to the ladder, Noreena began the pre-extraction proceedures that shut down neural link after neural link.
Last edited by Chrome; 23rd Feb 09 at 7:24 PM.
It's a wonder how he survived the millenia that have passed.
Now THAT is freaky, to actually be the enemy of a Progenitor. I wouldn't be surprised then at the alarming improvements made to the Beast.
But even if they find the Qwaar Jet, how will they stop Ashoran from hacking in to take control? He did it to the Three Cores, and since he'd be most familar with his old flagship, who's to stop him from reclaiming it?
Things are looking bleaker now...
oooooh, a cliff hanger!
personaly the statue from before could have been a good answer to the where-abouts of the quaaaaaaaaaaaaar-jet.
Well the statue isnt gone....its just forgotten.....*cue omnious music*
Hmmm... Progenitor, eh? Sounds dangerous. There must be more to him than just being a Progenitor though and that fact that he survives suggests that, once again, not everything is as it seems.
I'm sure he's more than just a Progenitor and might not even be one at all but simply someone with deep knowledge of Progenitor technology or somebody who is very well connected to the Progenitors.
In either case, I'm looking forward to more of this.
interesting... i like the twists, Deep.
keep it up, i want to see more.
pretty good so far i have a few guesses about ash but i'll keep them to myself incase of it might ruin the story keep up the good work
Chapter 28, Chapter 29 posted 27-10-2005, 09:31 PM
I agree, the fudge is done and the Colision has been re-stocked with courage, its time to open the doors.
maybe thats why we arent geting any updates?!
Deepchrome, are you sucking up all the courage?
She'll post up a new one when shes ready, dont worry and no thats not her drinking all the courage *hic*that was me. :Pint:
Uh huh....still a month to go on the Collision, guys.
I'll get 2 new ones up in a day or two. I have to write this second chapter here...I had to rewrite this other one several times. -.-' Meh. But things are looking up.
well, as you can see by my post count under my name, im a little new here but i like what i see so far.
anyways, great job on the story! i was hoping that i wouldn't catch up to you but owell... illjust have to wait patiently like everyone else now...
ha! patiently! yeah right! :weep:
well, waiting for the next one... keep up the great work!
Welcome Xero. Thanks for making your first post here at the Legacies fic. BTW, I don't know if you knew, but there is a HW: Legacies thread further back in the Studio that is Part I to this story. You may want to read up on that because that'll let THIS story make more sense for you.
May I suggest a link to it in the first post of this one Chrome? And perhaps a couple links are due in your siggy as well.
yeah, i already read through part I.
all im here for really is fic reading (life in the military does have its down time!!)
i already read wrath of the gods and im trying to find the three stories of this crobato guy i keep hearing about...
anybody have any ideas where to find a story called the kadeshi crusade? or the sequel(i beleive) to that one?
and chrome... less talky... more writy (joking)
but get the next one up soon, your doing great!
edit: HooYaa! 2 posts!!
the white beast and kadeshi crusade are in the garden iirc.
its a subforum of the studio, you should see it at the top.
you can find a list of most previous fic's writen by the comunity here: http://forums.relicnews.com/showthread.php?t=2918
thanks bunches! :clap:
edit: HooYaa! 3 posts!!
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