Archive

Pages of information/posts from the old columns and articles.

History

Dark Galaxy has undergone different iterations over the years however these can be split into 4 distinct phases of code

History

Phase 1: Initial Code - Rounds Saturn 1 - 3

After an initial phase of testing Round 1 began on 7th May 2001. AKA Colony Wars as there was in fact no actual combat so all people could do was colonise planets. 

Rounds 2 and 3 were more exciting with the introduction of combat and heralded the start of some of the major game alliances along with a number of mass inviting alliances which had 100's of players join as there was no member limit restriction.

In this phase players would start in a system with 3 planets, the home planet plus one slightly better and one slightly worse than the home planet. Other players would start in the same sector and it was a race to build up the other planets around you. If you had enough extra resources you could also take them to trade posts to exchange.

Issues at the time included larger players being able to jump to new systems and take the better planets before new players could get going and also the potential to have your home planet taken and so removing you from the game completely. 

At this time it was also possible to rename systems with this being used to spell out messages to other players..

History

Phase 2: The "New Code" - Rounds Saturn 4-8 + Mars Rounds 1-4

After the first 3 rounds the developers chose to revamp the UI of the game along with the code behind it.

A number of issues had been noted which were addressed due to abuse factors. Out went solely 3 planet systems, out went trade posts due to their misuse and out went mass alliances.

In their place home planets were moved out of the range of other players so even if you lost all your planets you could still try and continue back from your home planet. 

Alliance member limits were capped at 100 players and while this could be worked around to some extent by making secondary alliances they would still be able to kill each other if a mistake was made. 

Sectors were split into systems including a mix of 1 planet to 5 planet systems. The less planets in the system the better the planets were for abundances and space. This change also increased the number of planets available in a sector and so with the introduction of planet limits the better players would no longer take all planets in a sector, leaving space for new/smaller players to build up.

By this time some of the older alliances had broken up and new ones began to emerge. For the active organised alliances they no longer needed huge amounts of members to do well and so a organised alliances of 30-50 members became more frequent.

Due to the change in travel, in part to protect new starters who signed up late there was only linear travel between galaxies. Only once 1 galaxy was full would the next open, this lead to strategic alliance decisions to avoid/work with other specific alliances without the potential threat of being jumped on from another galaxy due to the travel times. It was quite possible to sign up later but away from the majority of active alliances and so farm your own galaxy without much fighting.

At this time a second server was introduced to allow for increased player numbers and for somewhere to restart if you lost everything in the Saturn server. For this reason the Mars server was generally considered the lesser server and no truly good alliance would play there without being mocked for hiding from the real fights.

Issues in this phase included the fact that fleet scan would show all ships in a galaxy not just the fleet you wanted to scan making it useless and meaning often it was a case of attempting to work out an enemy fleet composition based on radar score or just sending all you had to try and win the fight. 

People were also able to block enemy planets by using "the fighter bug", sending 1 fighter each turn so any combat stopped loading/unloading at the planet.

In the end a bug allowing people to abuse the building of destroyers to massively increase their score. This ultimately ended up in the game being stopped for redevelopment.

History

Phase 3: The "New New Code" - Rounds Jupiter 1-5 and Pluto 1-3

Again a new code base and a change in direction from the previous games.

Home planets were still protected however you were no longer limited to your original starting galaxy as travel was no longer linear. 

Galaxies were changed so that the even numbered galaxies had fewer but better planets in making them better to colonise/invade.  This meant there was an initial rush by the bigger alliances to claim a galaxy that was empty with the aim of avoiding others until later on when players had built up. 

This sometimes worked and sometimes lead to more than 1 large alliance in a galaxy at the start having to fight over a reduced number of planets from an early point in the game.

Fleet scan had been fixed and the combat was changed to be more staged. This meant that for those willing to take the time it was now possible to gather data, predict the outcomes of battles and also use the least amount of ships to counter specific fleets.

Unfortunately this change also had an outcome which was not helpful as eventually the most effective fleet that could be built was made up of mainly a screen of Fighters plus Battleships with some bombers thrown in. Frigates became useless as a way to speed up travel times once Traders were available. Destroyers and Cruisers required research points to build which were better spent on reaching a higher planet limit as the ships would die without really being able to carry out their function.

In the first Pluto round there was also an issue which resulted in several experienced players quitting or going into hiding their names for later rounds. The server had a problem which resulted in turns being frozen. To compensate for this the admins pushed a manual turn update once the game was ready, to bring the turn number to where it should have been. With players being unprepared for this some planned attacks broke down or were countered more effectively as people were still able to add to their queues while the game was frozen.

History

Phase 4: Sabbatical and the Next Stage - Andromeda and Beyond

Current development started after the end of Jupiter 5 however outside factors over took the creators ability to work on the game. Although some tests were carried out development effectively ceased in 2012.

Scroll forward to July 2019 and a chance question and check on the home page has led to development being restarted and at a faster pace than expected due to the more than anticipated interest from former players.

The galaxies have been redesigned again with a single central galaxy for the bigger players to fight over as the planets are much better than anywhere else.

Combat has also been overhauled and the battles appear more as expected so Fighters plus Battleships are not always going to win every battle. 

Every player will now also start with a single outpost free to use which will speed up the initial phase of the game for most players.

A Beta round during the COVID19 pandemic attracted interest from a number of original players and some new ones however this lead to some "tension" in certain parts and ended up bringing the game to a halt once more.

February 2022. With the game stagnating once more but with an almost ready code a daring plan was hatched and the code base and control was passed to a new development team to move the game forward.

After more testing and adjustment as of July 2023 the game launched a new 1 hour turn game with the expectation of more regular games while development to modernise further takes place.

Start your Outposts and watch that space, because that is my planet.

Alliances

Details of previous/historical alliances

Alliances

Angels of War

Angels of War were established in 2002 for Saturn Round 4 and lead by Father.

Saturn 4 the first round of the "new code" and as such there were some fractured/small alliances looking to find their feet against already organised alliances. 

AoW brought together some of those alliances and players under one banner in Gal 1 allowing time to learn the game and have a few fights along the way. As it turns out AoW were one of the few alliances to mass invite people in the round, something which had been more common in previous games.

Alliances

BlackRider Commandos

Motto: Listen closely and you will hear us coming

 

At the very beginning of Dark Galaxy BlackRider Commandos were there. 

After approx 1 year, the alliance leader asked me to take over the leadership role as he was unable to continue playing. BRC were the greatest group of young men and women I had the pleasure play an online game with. 

Through 7 years we grew together and many of the same teenagers became wonderful young men/women. 

Now looking soooo far back...I can smile and remember the laughs, smiles, hugs and frantic battles. 

The young men are now men with careers and families. Us ladies gained more wrinkles and family to love...and I feel a small sense of pride playing a small role in their lives as their leader for a period of time. 

My final wish is for heaps of love and happiness for each of them. For Scan, Zedd and Frosty my sincere thank you for allowing myself and BlackRider Commandos to be a part of your wonderful Dark Galaxy community


----- Treesa

 

Sadly Treesa passed away not long after writing the above.

Alliances

Dalaran Commonwealth

Alliances

Dark Empire

Motto: Mess with the best, die like the rest

Alliances

Galactic Generation

Alliances

Galactic Police

An alliance started by the original game founders Zedd & Scan,

Not much is known about the early days. Later the alliance was resurrected for the 2020 Beta round with the aim of trying to help and shelter new players.

Alliances

Losers for Real

The start: Mon Aug 23 18:10:24 2004

•18•46• |@[BRC]Ingus| how about the tag [LOREAL]
 •18•46• |@[BRC]Ingus| no matter about the name part
 •18•46• |@[BRC]Ingus| but the alliance message could be
 •18•46• |@Whilibarj| well, as I said, the name part I don't mind :D
 •18•46• |@[BRC]Ingus| "because we're worth it"

Alliances

Onix

Alliances

Romanian Federation

Alliances

Running With Scissors

Motto: Clip Clip Clip

 

RWS was created on June 8th 2003. ( give or take a day )

The background; We all started round 5 as Reservoir Dogs ( RD ). RD had the tradition that it wasn't really important who was admiral. A new person was admiral every round. Round 5 BigD was the admiral of RD. A few did not approve. BigD was controversial already back then.

After a while Riithi went more or less inactive. BigD wanted top preserve our average score ( we had the best! ) and therefore he kicked Riithi. Riithi was co-founder of RD, and naturally he got really pissed. Kicked from his own alliance. He made a thread in DG forums and that thread ended things for many of us.

We had all seen... felt that RD had changed... especially those who had been in RD since the start in R3. Everyone who played in RD was extremely proud to play in RD and to be part of the RD-thing. Back then RD stood for something new and unique in Dark Galaxy.

I'm explaining this so that u understand just how powerful Riithi's post was.

When members read it no-one wanted to go on playing. It was like a father rejected and deserted a child.

For 24 hours this highly active alliance just... stopped... and ppl just froze... paralyzed somewhat.

We were currently in several wars, but all our opposition agreed to give us 2 days to re-organise and get back up again. So we didn't have much time.


A new alliance was born. About 30/40% of RD members came to the new alliance and kept playing. Our name became Running With Scissors. It was Cricket ( then in FBL) who gave us our name. This was our starting thread. Just a short message really.


Round 5 ended well for our new alliance. We were about 35 ppl and we ended #10, which was a pretty decent result I think.

When RWS was started it was at first meant to be just a way for us to keep playing the round. We didn't have any longer plans than that . But when R5 was over it was clear that RWS could perhaps go on. We were hungry. And R6 was gonna be the first round with free sectors... we started counting... and we realised we needed a few more good players to accomplish what we wanted.

The interest was amazing... Several hundreds showed interest.

The summer between round 5 and round 6 I interviewed approx 200 people. Pretty much the same questions u have seen in the current form, but back then it was basically done with long interviews with each and everyone of those that applied that seemed to have potential.


RWS did very well R6. We had a very good score per member.

We finished the round as #2.


Round 7 we ended #1. Best results so far, but it was a round with troubles internally.

It taught us clearly that winning means nothing unless one has FUN while winning.

The alliance was too focused on score and there was several incidents with irritations between members of various kinds. I failed in stopping the nonsense and the fights.

And if that wasn't enough, there was constant flamewars against RWS in DG forums and it affected us all badly.

This is the main reason why RWS had to change a bit for Saturn 8.

Still being a hungry and ambitious alliance, but try to regain a higher level of respect and friendship as well as team spirit and generosity between members. A few that does not share this view was not invited back for Saturn 8.


----Darkest Queen

 

Code Of Conduct

"Christ that's dry, it's not like we need one. But if we should summarize a lil bit .. I think these are the only ones we need:"

  1. Make sure you have more fun than the enemy

  2. Take planets!

  3. Be cool. Laugh at flamers, they aren't worth your attention anyways

  4. Be active! Fleets shouldn't be on the ground!

  5. Treat your allymates as if they were your lil brothers !

  6. Stay within DG rules; don't cheat!

Alliances

Squadron of Light

Alliances

Wolfpack

Articles

A collection of articles written during the early years of the game.

Articles

Separating Real Life and your DG Life from Each Other

by Lightburner

Hello and welcome to this new episode of 'DG and REAL LIFE!'

Here I will try to explain the similarities between DG and RL. With my little experience i had in playing Dark Galaxy and being in the community a bit i've seen several persons entering the scene, i will explain them and how they should react in real life.


It al began in the middle of the night, when i was sleeping.. While i was dreaming about beautifull naked women (Yes I dream about older women) my cellphone went off.. trrrr.. /me wakes up.. What the hell? trrr.. So, i get out of my bed and take up the phone. "Hello? Who the hell is this?"

"Yo man, this is your m8 ****, I'm under heavy attack!" "What? Heavy attack? You doing crack again?" "No no, i just checked my comms and i noticed 3 large battlefleets approaching my 3rd planet!!" "Bye" "No, wait, I want you to sent your fleet to help me! Hello! Hello?"

It was clear, this bloke apperantly suffered from the DG decease, an extreme form of it obviously..


It is quite clear you should keep your Dark Galaxy life and your Real life seperate from eachother, some peeps however, fail bigtime in doing this.


Do you suffer from this decease?

If you experience any of the following things in your Real life then you are suffering from the Dark Galaxy Decease!


-Your girlfriend asks you how you are and you answer you're doing bad because someone just took your no3 planet..


-You're buying a PC with internet connection for your parents, so if you need to visit them on sundays, you still have the chance to check your Dark Galaxy account..


-You're having a bumper sticker on you car saying: "I don't stop for FoP"

or "Honk if you're a Reservoir Dog" or even "I believe in Zedd"


-Your boss is calling cause you're working home asking about the work he asked you to do and you're answering: "Yes, i finished the scannings.. ehh calculations.."


-You are in the middle of the sex thing and you stop just cause your settlement has just been built..


-You cancel your date cause you have enemy fleets on your comms..


If any of you peeps experience those symptons, then have the decease!


Next time: The Forum peeps

Articles

The DG Forums

by Lightburner

Aight, i promised to explain the forum personalities in this article, so that's what I'm going to do.


Being a regular on the Dark Galaxy forums, I've seen various personalities enter and leave:


The happy newbie:

The happy newbie often starts offtopic threads and put them into the 'Alliance sectíon' for example.. Of course, nobody listens to him and some people just use those posts to spamm (Lord Tino comes in mind) The rule for being a happy newbie that there are no rules.. They just start topics everywhere they want and then act confused when someone complains about him posting 20 threads in one hour. He can, for example, start various topics about Zedd & Scan being gods cause they program so good or whatever and then put the threads into the 'Game help' section.


The Pisshead:

They often are pissed off about something and they never really contribute to the community. These peeps often post stuff like: 'Hey muthafucka, i 0wn ya ass, why do you think you can't build deep core mines yet? You need a settlement! Read the fucking manual!' (excuse my french) Often these are 14 year old boys having problems in real life.


The Computer nerds:

These peeps often post stuff about their super duper computers in the forums, they ask questions like: 'Why do i get a msg saying the DG server is down? I have a Athlon XP 2100 and 512 MB DDR and i am running a T3 Line' you keep explaining them that it isn't their computer but just the DG servers. They often have sigs telling you what kind of stuff they have in their computers. (Like we give a damn..)


The all-knower:

These peeps think they know everything! They can justify many things and if they can't, then they just ignore the post. In NO WAY he should jump into a convo with some who knows more about a certain topic. Ignorance is blizz.


The Aggressive one:

Yes, these are the nicer ones, the peeps that start shouting at you at the moment they see you, telling you that they will come to your house with a baseball bat and crack your skull open. Often these are just 14 year old kids who are trying to get over their beating which they get on a regular basis on school. If they ever tell you that they will drive to your house and hit ya, don't worry, cause mommy prolly won't let them drive the car. Example: 'Oh yeah? How about i come to you right now and kick you in the nuts, you little shit!'


The newbie girl:

Strangely enough, while many men on the forums look like they're cool and all, everyone having a girl, they immediately jump on any female that enters the forum, that's why these girls act that way. I give you an example so you know what I mean: 'Hey! What's this game, how do i signup and how do i build farms so i can make food and i can get lotsa people? Kizz xxxxx :D'


The Spammers:

And of course you have the spammers, but you have allot of different kind of spammers. People that spamm but only with funny posts (still useless) and the ones that think they're all that. Example: 'Oh great! Another n00b!'


That's it for today peeps, cya next time :)

Articles

DG Round 1

by Lord Tino

Well as most of you know this is my first round of DG and i think it's worth me taking a few minutes outta my day to write about it.


I first came to this game as my brother told me about it and said it was free so what the hell, if i don't like it, i don\'t lose anything. Well after playing for about 5 mins i was hooked even though all i could do was look at the 6 hours left on my metal mine and wait for inevitable invitation to join TDF..at the time they were 6th and i was a n00b i thought it'd be cool to be in one of the best ranked alliances.


I joined TDF for a matter of days when i thought it'd be fun to play admiral for a bit and created the SPA (supreme power alliance). And to get a few members to work on we mass invited O_O for a few weeks. It was while i was Admiral of SPA that i first used the forums to post an alliance add...kinda tragic i know...and so began numerous visits and posts in the DG forums. I still had a friend in TDF and he sent me a report about an operation called "Grand Slam"...it's in the forums somewhere read it at ur leisure...due to grumblings from my ministers i had to consider a merge. I remembered in my recruitment thread a certain spammer (boba) asked if i wished to merge. i thought now y not? and contacted him. although he no longer was leading an alliance he put me in contact with chris1415 and soon SPA had merged with GoD.


It was really at this time i started using IRC and began chatting with the ppl who i knew from the forums...namely NaturalBornHippy and sometimes Gorilla. and soon found my way on a lot of channels and chatted with ppl and got familiar with them.


One day i logged into the account and saw i had about 5 messages asking "what happened to the alliance?" i had no idea what happened, but soon found out chris disbanded it for reasons i\'m still not clear on. So i was allianceless...this for me was a blessing and the turning point in this round for me.


I often talked of joining Psychoactive Planet if i wasn't in the HC of GoD now i had the chance. I joined psychoactive with 9 mill points and no plans to expand. I was soon brought upto speed by Noratron on #psycho about what we have in gal 15 (my galaxy but most knew that anyway)...literally a few days later i spent my fleet and invaded my first planet...i got the mop up operation so only 2 :3's there to take but it was my first conquest. I built up and then when psychoactive invaded sector 27 i was on the forefront we successfully gained full control of the sector and this time i had done a lot better capturing many planets, destroying a lot of opponents score. Finally me and alliance comrade Chronos85 began an attack on sector 23 with a new friend of mine Xenopus. Here again i had no real problems and sweeped aside most rulers there.


By this point i had been made a HC in psychoactive planet and more score had increased to over 150 mill...but i wanted to be in a real battle with many ships and many fleets involved. So the big battle plan was born. Although i missed the first tick (happens to me i have the memory of a sive) i survived several rounds of fighting (i also proved that cruisers weren\'t crap which was important to me) i won the battle and lost only 30 mill in the process.


The game is great...but this community is the best online community i have ever seen. The majority of members, despite some ppl stating otherwise, r the best guys (and girls) u\'ll ever met. On IRC i have talked to some interesting ppl (politest word i could think of :p) and always..well normally...okay sometimes get a warm reception on #darkgalaxy. Thanx to Zedd and Scan for making the game...but the best thing about this game imo is the community. I had fun this round and hope to be around for many more.


Cya soon guys,

Tino aka Reno aka Emperor Gav II


(really need to make up my mind on a nick don't i :P)

Articles

What does a Successful Alliance Need?

by Xtrafresh

Some alliances win, some don't. Why? Well, because the members play well. but what is behind all that is often forgotten, and it's equally important.


In my opinion, an alliance has 5 major topics to look at:

1) Recruitment

2) Internal Organization

3) Politics

4) Propaganda

5) Gameplay & strategizing


When you are starting a new alliance, don't make the mistake to forget any of these topics. I will give short comment on each of these topics.


1) Recruitment is needed to give body and continuity to the alliance. You need the right type of players, that fit your type of alliance. Hint: Make it clear for yourself what kind of alliance you want to be (eg: national alliance, small club of real life friends, renegades, peacekeeping, sector or galaxy alliance), and start recruiting members that fit that role.


2) The need for good organization is obvious, but not always do people put enough effort in it. Things that an alliance definitely need are: a forum, where they can discuss in private, two IRC channels (one open and one private), and a clear command structure. Lots of alliances fall, because they simply have too many officer's positions. Make the structure simple, and make sure to be flexible. Adapt your structure to current needs from time to time.


3) Politics are very very important when your alliance starts running. Good politicians doing their stuff will guide your alliance to wars that you are prepared for, and that you can win. It helps to have bigger friends, and NAPs. Make the right friends, and also the right enemies.


4) Propaganda is something that most alliances just don't do, or only do in a passive way. The best propaganda so far seen in DG is from SK. Granted, they have been here from the beginning, but does that make them as fearsome as they are? I say it is their brilliant image. Hints: make sure you have visible members on the forums, make sure that you act sensible and calm to most situations, and talk to many people. Not only the ones in key positions, but everyone that is around. Also, giving smaller players some space or showing some helpfulness now and then can pay off big.


5) Ahhh... NOW we can actually start hitting buttons. Meet in your secure channel with all the cool people you gathered around you, scan those enemy planets together, and exchange these scans through the forums or PM. Set your strategies: let them attack first and exhaust their soldiers, or set attack yourself and set the time and place for battle? What ships to build? How to structure your account? How to build up these planets. How to attack, and where? And ultimately: Have the fun of the game :D


To all the brave ones out there that want to start the adventure: good luck, but know what you are starting. You won't make it anywhere as an alliance leader if you are not prepared to invest lots of time and effort. I'm talking about months, with 3 to 4 hours a day on average, working on the alliance alone. This can be brought down by giving the right people the right tasks, but still if you don't feel like investing that much tome, you'd better just join one of the many alliances out there.


I hope this is helping all those new people who would like to give it a shot. I wish you all good luck, and a wonderful round IV :D

cheers!

Articles

The Players Who Play the Game

by Kreskin

The Different Level of Players...


Inactive:

This player wandered on the Darkgalaxy site by accident one day and signed up and looked at his planets and said I dont think I like this game and Never cared to look about it again.

This player is the most agrivating kind of all...


Quiter:

This player started and enjoyed the game untill a person, just playing the game, invades one of his planets and then he post a complaint thread in the Forums and cusses the person out with in-game-mail and then is never heard of again becasue he quits.

This players planets come in handy after awhile becasue he may have a few and then you can invade them and take their acumulated resourses and not have to worry about an reveng attack.


Annoying Noob:

This player doesnt care about the game and only wants to annoy larger players. This is the kinda player who will attack a planet knowing full well that it would mean the end of his game carrer. This is the type of player who would foolishly open a war thread in the Forums and declare a war on the galaxy he is in becasue he has just completed his Launch Pad and is alittle exited about it. This is also the kinda person who when after being attacked threatens you with his alliance and says somehting of the following..." you little **** Why did you take my ******* planet. I hate you. You will die a painful death. I am going to get my alliance to come and beat you up. DarkSide is my friend and he doesnt like you. Good bye you little pile of ****.

This is the player who doesnt last long becasue he creates enemies with everyone.


Intermident:

This player starts off in the game and really enjoys the game fully. He colonises a few planets and really gets a good start in the game. This player though he starts off good probable will not get in the top 1000 till far later in the game becasue he Doesnt exaclty know how to manage his resourses to the best of their ability.

This player is a fairly good foe and he can defend himself fairly good but not knowing the right combinations of ships in fleets has a problem attacking better players sufficiently.


Expert:

This player is a round veteren and knows exactly what to build, when to build and what not to build. He Knows who to allie with, who not to and who to backstab before they can backstab him. This is the player you see on your scanner with a 20 million point fleet when you are just starting to get one or two fighters. This player will strike all of those who oppose him and may even declare war on an entire galaxy ( DarkSide comes to mind )

This player is nearly impossible beat out becasue he has so many resourses built up do to good management.


And lastly but certainly the least ;)


Annoying Expert:

This player knows how to play the game he is better at it than you...and he isnt afraid to tell you that. This is the type of player that you either just exept as a sarcastic prick or you get all your friends together and get rid of the annoying person.But as he being the good player that he is would most likely take you out anywazs.This is the sort of person who can really bug you...annoy you and drive you to quite becasue you know you cant beat him...but you really dont wanna play this wonderful game while he is playing...

The annoying expert tries to spamn the noobs down....the expert annoy them so long.....that they stop posting stupid...questions in the forums...

A person I can think of that fits this profile would be non other than naturalbornhipp ;)...I of course did this at his own request :p



These are basically all the players that I could think of...

Articles

Starting an Alliance

by Khevlar

Many people try to start alliances or join them, but don't really know what they're getting into. When you start an alliance, as many know, it is EXTREMELY hard to grow. Here are a couple tips to help get you on your feet.

#1 - Don't be a jerk to alliance members, don't boss them around, etc.

#2 - Don't make a chain of command with only you at the top. Find another person who will work as hard as you will and has experience with alliances. You both will function as HCs. As you grow, you will need to add more HCs. You should have some sort of subordinate of the HCs (GLX [an alliance for another game] uses ACs).

#3 - As you grow, you might want to add new positions in the categories of defense, war, recruiting, and communications.

#4 - Recruit, recruit, recruit. Don't go spamming your alliance in channels like #darkgalaxy or #e-tidalwave. If someone in #darkgalaxy is asking for an alliance, PM them with the name of yours and your IRC Channel.

#5 - GET AN IRC CHANNEL. I cannot stress this enough. Before you even start recruiting, register one ChanServ.

#6 - Get a website.

#7 - Establish goals. Decide whether you want your alliance to be focused on defense or attacks. Also, decide whether you want to NAP or Ally or not.

Articles

Too Old to Play Games?

by Postal

Some of you may know me; most of you probably do not. I run an alliance in Dark Galaxy, the Old Phartes Alliance [OPA]. No really I do, and yes I do know what OPA means in German (that’s the whole point of the acronym!). As you can imagine we get the always witty lines, “Heh, do you guys smell or something.” “You guys suck.” and the always popular “Ph34r meh uber 1337 haxx0r skills”. Oh how I weep for the future.


How old am I? Let’s just say I actually owned a Pong game. I still have my Atari 2600 (Super Breakout rules). I began programming Basic on a TRS-80 Model II sharing one 5 and ¼ disk drive with the whole class. I can remember when 4 Megs of RAM and a 20 Meg hard drive were more than enough. Worst of all, I can remember a time when you had to get up off the couch to change the channel!!! The horror, oh the horror. You tell kids today these stories and they won’t believe you!


Sure I have underwear older than most players in DG, but does this make me too old to play computer games? No way! I may not always remember where I parked my car, but I can still come up with good strategies and put together fleets to challenge any player around. So what if the hair from head is now growing in places hair was not meant to grow, after over 30 years of gaming I’m still having fun. And when it comes right down to it that’s what it’s all about, “Having Fun”. I can’t wait for the day when my son is old enough to challenge me to a game, and then have my wife yell at both of us “Your not on that damn computer again are you?”


I’m glad that I’ve never let that little kid inside of me die over the years. In fact he has grown, living on a constant diet of Count Chocula (for those who remember) and Kraft Dinner. I don’t consider myself old at all, just experienced. Yeah, that’s it, experienced. And I know I’m not alone out there. There are more of us than you think. So watch out, and for god sakes, “Keep off the bloody lawn you damn kids!”

Articles

Retro Galaxy

by Kier

Granted, I have not been with Dark Galaxy the longest, nor have I been the most involved, Az and dpcows have been here longer, MeM writes guides, Ib3n gets all the gossip. However I still think I have been around long enough to give a few comments on things.


The DG community is one of my favorites. In fact, it’s the only message board I use for anything more then pure info (or shameless DG plugs). That said I guess I am a little biased towards DG. Fortunately that does not matter, as I won’t be doing much comparing.


Lets see, I suppose I should dive right into what I plan on saying.


THE PRE-COLONISATION ERA


Thats right, all we had was building one planet! Not to mention the fact that we had a fraction of the buildings and they all cost more!


A fun time to be sure, there were a lot of people there that did not stick around. Though the ones that did are almost to no exception famous. Mostly because they have high post counts and any one with a high post count is well known. (some might say that’s why people want a high post count)


The Mods of the time were, : SoBiteMe, ChasesDaemons, Azhrarn(I still can’t spell it, sorry Az) and Dpcows.


A good lot they were. Though just like now the mods caught some flame for something or other they didn’t do, or intended to do.

Articles

A Working Day of an Ordinary Ruler

by Gledkoom

The soft red light of the bigger (should I say hugger) of the twin suns that every day hung on the orange-painted sky of Icemania woke me up. Since last moth, my life had become a real mess as I had been appointed Head Administrator of the major planet of the empire, and that means to carry a heavy weigh.




After a quick breakfast, I met my secretary to have a look to my agenda; The first thing to do was visiting and inaugurating a brand new deep core mine, that would boost our metal production in a few months - I must confess that putting a greasy and dirty helmet on my head were not one of my favorite ways of spending that sunny morning, but what can one do?




I jumped into my new fusion-powered limousine to get as soon as possible to the next meeting with trader's labor union. It seemed that they were going on strike, due to high taxes applied on the transported goods and the increasing and worrying insecurity ( they were constantly held up by space pirates) so they wanted an escort service for every commercial trip. I replied that at the moment, we were not able to supply them with such escorting frigates, because our military plans were firstly focused on defending other weaker and strategic planets, and our resource incoming was not high enough to quickly made the amount of warships that their escorting plans demanded. So the traders would have to wait. As for the taxes reduction, we rapidly reached a reasonable agreement.




I took all that discussion as a warm-up to my next "course" of the day: the Imperial Space Army (ISA) wanted to develop a new cruiser ship project, with more fire power and some kind of reinforced hull; the problem is that everyone thinks that credits fall down from the sky, and I wonder if our loved workers would admit another raise in their rather high taxes without protesting only to enrich Military industries and high classes ( which, obviously would generously make a "donation" of some amount of money to my next electoral campaign).I told them that the project must be passed by Empire's senate , and I saw some frowning , annoyed faces staring at me, because that will mean that money for their war toys was going to take a little bit longer than they expected; " the former Administrator was a more reasonable man!" they mumbled as they were leaving my office.




After this, I decided to take a break and have some meal -it was about time! The second twin sun was raising and that means "noon" in my planet. I like having a look at my HNB (Holo note book) to find out about galactic economical affairs. I noticed that colonist price on Milky way's trading post was incredibly low, contrasting to soldier or robot values, that was more than 10,000 times the price of colonists. "It's amazing" thought I " how a cheap machine can be worth more than an human life" but it is the law of supply and demand, I guess.




A meeting with Foreign Affairs minister started the afternoon; we had to study a proposal of local alliance in my sector. To me it seemed a good idea, but the minister was not so sure about that; he doubted if that pact would interfere the global alliance we firstly signed . We resolved to present the plan on our Alliance forum- although I was totally convinced about the handiness of that local sector alliance.




My working day was ending; I relaxed and faced my armchair to the majestic large window from where I could see the whole city. The second golden sun was slowly setting, and on the now dark blue sky two of the three moons were appearing. I closed my eyes and slept. Tomorrow was going to be another tough day!

Articles

Mini Game Over

by Cadavre

Well the first mini-game is over and although we didn't have anywhere near as much time as we'd have liked a few fun things happened. The final top 10 were: -


1 Dildo Baggins 10,069,330

2 Juy 7,352,400

3 Sachem 7,021,802

4 Troxx 6,886,534

5 DazMcG 6,427,741

6 FrostyCoolSlug 5,435,205

7 ~space R@ptor~ 4,448,439

8 Admiral Thrawn 3,645,680

9 Ironpants 3,495,161

10 TheDominian 3,426,619


I'd liked to have listed a few more places so I would appear but the line has to be drawn somewhere right? :) Most of the round was building up resources, the 2 major alliances were at war from the beginning (Protectorate and Unknown-Quartet) however not many battles took place. The first attack on anyone of the round (as far as I know) was an attack by me on space raptor (getting her back for the attacks in the closed beta) which was successful in wiping out the orbiting fleet however unable to take the planet : The first successful invasion (again, to my knowledge) was by Craig (FrostyCoolSlug) who took over Earth (which was taken back fairly soon afterwards).


I think the funniest part for me would have to be when the trading post died! This was not dies to abuse (according to scan and zedd the new code is unabusable :rolleyes: ) because at the time of death we were unable to conduct trading. It just kind of died. Suddenly the prices went to -400000 (yes that's right, minus 400000) for energy to the other extreme of 4E97 for soldiers!


All in all not a complete success in finding new bugs, the military button still doesn't work which was a dissapointment but alot of fun was had.


Congrats to Mr.Dildo for winning the round


Proves that Dildo's have more than one use ;)



Signing off, Cad

Articles

Mini Game 2

by Cadavre

The first round of the mini game was all about who could colonise fastest and looking at Skute’s score it was him. During this round we saw the establishment of the two alliances that have so far dominated the mini game (mainly because they were the only two that have been started) one called AoGPS started by yours truly and the other, GAK started by Skute. The ranks for the first half are as follows: -


1 Skute 2,216,942

2 Lord Jon Snow 2,084,523

3 The AcE 2,076,494

4 Mythor 2,074,193

5 FRoGuLoX 1,818,684

6 kaliane 1,772,765

7 Troxx 1,760,358

8 Zarg 1,715,323

9 Mental 1,586,490

10 Zedd 1,573,843

11 Ogre IV 1,527,673

12 Zeox 1,358,429

13 Scan 1,352,495

14 Cadavre 1,254,978

15 Lyza 1,214,857


And below are the alliance rankings: -


1 AoGPS 14,900,580

2 Galactic Ass Kickers 11,552,634



We’re all looking forward to the second bit as it promises battles which were lacking in the first.


Exciting things in AoGPS in the second part! The AcE has been building a fleet to wipe out Zedd all round and it finally finished, he sent it and time ran out with 1 tick before he got there!!!!! The rankings are much more spread out now to earlier on so the alliances have also spread out.


1 Troxx 10,674,840

2 Mythor 7,517,988

3 Skute 7,383,769

4 Lyza 6,454,087

5 Lord Jon Snow 6,284,305

6 The AcE 5,434,309

7 Zedd 4,785,122

8 kaliane 3,902,930

9 Cadavre 3,839,496

10 Ogre IV 3,683,799

11 Scan 3,563,829

12 FRoGuLoX 3,479,124

13 Mental 3,297,409

14 Zarg 2,860,942

15 Zeox 2,255,563


And the alliance table


1 Galactic Ass Kickers 40,576,852

2 AoGPS 36,294,491


We’re all waiting for the bloody war that is sure to happen tomorrow at 2pm BST !!!! I will have much more to say about it tomorrow than I have so far it the war we expect actually ensues.


The third part of the mini game was, as expected the one for all the wars. We were all expecting GAK to attack AoGPS and they did, oh god they did :)

I was one of the unlucky ones to be attacked by this well organised alliance (much better organisation than my AoGPS, but what did you expect? We are plastic soldiers ;)). The Ace was actually the first one to make an attack (he’s from AoGPS) and he attacked Zedd with a fleet that we all thought was unstoppable. . . oh god were we wrong. Zedd had built a fleet of bombers back up by fighters and had been waiting for The Ace to arrive and so wiped him out which pretty much ended The Ace’s round. Then came the gang banging. I was attacked on a planet (at the time it was worth 1/3 of my total score) by a 3 separate fleets which wiped out my fleet and several allies fleets. Even after this I was confidant I would keep the planet due to the amount of robots I had. The first invasion attempt came through: -


[I]Scan failed to invade your planet Unknown. Scan lost 47200 soldiers. You lost 372220 colonists, 49894 robots and 0 soldiers during the invasion.[/I]


Followed by Skute finishing the job. This meant I now had Skute who was 1st in the ranking in my home system! Kaliane received a similar blow in her home system. I forgot to copy the tables at the end of this part so I’ll just give you the jist, Skute was first by quite some way with Troxx second and Lyza third whilst the alliance ranks were still the same as last time just different scores.


The final stage was really a bit of a let down, it was all about who could get the most score as quick as possible. Well, Cobra put a few blows on Skute that messed him up at the end but other than that not much happened.


The final rankings were


1 Lyza 31,912,251

2 Mythor 25,398,448

3 Troxx 25,077,295

4 Zedd 20,201,404

5 Cadavre 19,588,543

6 Cobra 19,379,712

7 Skute 18,570,479

8 Ogre IV 18,470,874

9 Lord Jon Snow 16,082,947

10 kaliane 11,111,561

11 FRoGuLoX 10,992,920

12 Scan 9,579,568

13 travisswccg 9,322,503

14 Zarg 8,134,695

15 The AcE 7,109,144

16 Mental 6,803,066

17 FrostyCoolSlug 6,750,435

18 Zeox 5,026,481

19 . Atomic . 4,147,845

20 Fizz Stickle 3,971,734



Top planets were


1 Bases Lyza 22,911,040

2 The Hague Troxx 14,429,312

3 Rebel Cobra 11,792,332

4 My 01 Mythor 11,687,532

5 Elephant Ogre IV 9,490,837

6 Stronghold I Zedd 8,003,570

7 Highgarden Lord Jon Snow 5,753,526

8 The Planet of Pain FrostyCoolSlug 4,707,616

9 Potrag Bib FRoGuLoX 4,372,445

10 . Plutonium . . Atomic . 3,783,429

11 Planet Internet Troxx 3,734,117

12 Mars Colony Scan 3,501,110

13 Dorne Lord Jon Snow 3,336,157

14 Stark Lord Jon Snow 3,213,019

15 IO Prime Lyza 3,196,612

16 caer sidi kaliane 3,102,472

17 Prospero Magnus the Red 3,040,667

18 Earth Defender Zedd 2,948,004

19 Timber travisswccg 2,748,878

20 Zargo3 Zarg 2,720,425


And the alliances


1 Galactic Ass Kickers 168,923,521

2 AoGPS 59,470,724

3 OPA Deluxe 23,527,557

4 The Dark Host 3,494,638

5 Sons of Frans Bauer 3,262,185

6 The Sneaky Group 1,324,928

7 LONELY ONE 1,051,629

8 The Collective 344,846


Overall a much more enjoyable game than the last one even if we were missing rappeh (I will get you next time) and caprius along with all the people living in Germany due to a bad connector in Texas. All that played have learnt to respect the bomber, those that didn’t will do soon.


Signing off

Cad

Articles

The Community of DarkGalaxy

by Naturalbornhippy

The 4th round is over and so I thought I should write a column not about the game, so I decided to write about the Community.


THE FORUMS

The forums have ever min 50 visitors when you visit them. This says a lot about the activity from the DG-Players. In the forum you find all kinds of players - the oldschooler, the spamner, the new-spamner, the noobs and the players who view them for information or game-strategy.


The Oldschooler

These are the people, who are there for a long long time...most of them are in the forums and in the game since the first round, yes the first round this none-combat round. The have a lot of posts, the know a lot and the are always not so nice to the noobs, but the good fact is that the clear soon who is here the chief and how the community runs. Yes it is true we lost a few of them already, but noone can escape and the past has shown that all of them come back...sooner or later...but everyone comes back...


The Spamner

These are the people, who are always in the forums when they are online...ok not always but most times. The discuss a lot of things in the forums...most of these discussions are really good and the quality of there posts is still high. A lot of these people are around a long time too....and so the help new players and answering questions too. Good to have them - and the spamn battle is still running....the fact that Zedd and Scan removed the number of posts in the normal profile did not stop them. A note to the roots of the spamners......where the come from??? I can answer this too....in the beginning of DG there were some thing different to today.. Not everyone was allowed to have an avatar - 100 posts was the right to get an avatar so the people started to get 100 posts and this small little picture under there name. There were some other feature too...like polls and rank...but I cant remember the posts and so.


The New-Spamner

These are the people, who have seen how cool it must be to have a name in DG, so the started to post a lot in the forums. The old-time spamner call them new spamner or noob-spamner. These guys are not really funny the post in a low-quality way and most of there threads are senseless and have nothing to do with the game. These people made the off-topic sektion so full and not interesting. Someone should teach them the game and how to help other and new players.


The Noob

These are the people, who post only crap and stupid questions....Eddy had always a nice picture for them...with said...read and search....on this picture was a teacher with pressed a student on the board. It was really cool and i miss it a bit...lol....a bit only....so these players make threads about everything...the cant read the manual and the cant read other thread or the board rules the must just make a new thread.....ahhhh....not so cool at all...and they are the reason, why a lot of people and oldschoolers quit the forums already...the maked the forums shity...not more...just shitiy


The normal Player

These are the people, who need information or who are just bored so the join the forums read a bit around and make a post there and one there...noone really see them in the mass of posts....the are posting in threads about there alliance or there sektor two...that is all I have to say about them.


At all we have a nice Community on which we can be proud...but the noobs and the new spamners should stop to be so stupid and they should start to read and learn from players, who are longer here than them..maybe the should try IRC too........oh...there we are...by the second part of our great community.


IRC IS DA GAME

I think i have said this 100s of time on the forums before but it is just true....everything is made on the forums...big diplomacy...friendships for real and cyberlife.....IRC is like your second family. There are diffrent types of users too but i wanna say some more words about it before....yes there is more than this facts....IRC = The world of the inet...the main power in online games...the real power in online games...everything happens there and a lot of feature were made there....in the times Zedd and Scan idled there too and discussed stuff with players there...but this times are over...Me and im sure you know it too...so only inner gamethings like wars...naps and such things happens there...ok this has nothing to do with the game itselfs but it is a big part of the Community life and the way people play this wonderfull game. So join IRC search a nice chatroom...for example #darkgalaxy or #chatspike......try /list when u are there....to find out more......oh again next thing, the people which u find in different rooms...


The Idler

These are the people, who are in all rooms or in the most intresting rooms...mostly bouncer or flat-rate user....the bring the life in the rooms and discuss there a lot of things....not only game related, but you can find discussions about the game too....If u need anything about IRC just ask this people the know to 90% what they are doing here and what kind of help u need. These people making fun with noobs a lot and kick and ban very fast...but this has nothing to say, they are just sick of the ignorance and the stupidty of the noobs. There are this trivia guys too...which want to play this game...1000s of times and spamn the rooms with it...but i like this game and play it by my own so i should shut the fuck off.


The Alliance-IRC-User

These are the people, who join only there alliance channel and idle there or have fun with there alliance mates.

You find them only in 2-3 rooms in the public and the private alliance channel and on some public other channels like #darkgalaxy. Nothing to say against them..if u not know them from forums or ingame u will not reconize them.


The Meeting-User

These people u find only for IRC parties and alliance meetings online...normaly the do not care about IRC only when the alliance send them a msg the join and talk..thats all....but these users make it possible to see what an alliance does....if u find a lot of players in a normaly empty chatroom u know whats going on....so a speacial thnx to this players....we love ya


The Noob or Help-User

Ok everyone must start once...but not with so much questions please...read the fucking manual..IRC isnt so difficult so just read 5 mins and u will know most things or use the help command.....the help-user...this are the annoying players which join IRC to ask questions about the game...like;”Is tha game down????”

With this players the idler and user, who are online more than 3-4 hours making fun...because the cant read the topic....yeah this thing in the top when u join...mostly in colors...not so hard to find..i think....so just read it...and shut the fuck off.......


In the end I can say...we have a nice Community with lots of nice people and if u do not like them...just run away...the space in the DG-Community is big enough.


BUT AT THE MOMENT

all this loose which are only there for the game do not join IRC and killed a bit the life in the Community...hey the game still runs....only not ingame so come back and chat with us....

I want to thank kreskin, which gave me the idea to wirte this there and if u wanna read something about the players who play this game just join the article sektion and so..u know.....

Sorry about my bad english and my bad langue.

Articles

Running With Scissors, a review

by Ib3N

Running With Scissors, a review


Running With Scissors - RWS has made themself a well known alliance in Saturn last round, I was curious on what they had to offer this round, so I went off poking around.


What I found was a fun-loving alliance, with many nice players, a few wierd ones, and something rarely as a female leader/spokesperson! Darkest Queen is a female from sweden, a former teacher in psycology and modern politics, but works now in a institution for demented pepole with schizofrenia and other pschotic conditions.


WOW! I thought.. this was interesting. So I met up with Darkest Queen in their public channel #scissors and had a chat with her.


(Ib3N-) Q0: Running With Scissors, RWS, is a pretty strange but cool name for an alliance, how did you come up with it?

(DQEliza) I didnt . It was given to me by Cricket. It was his suggestion in the beginning.

(DQEliza) and its also the name of a Wierd Al Yankowic album

(Ib3N-) hehe, ok

(DQEliza) it was a late night and i wanted a new name

(DQEliza) it couldnt be something serious

(DQEliza) it had to be a funny name

(DQEliza) cause in the "post-depression" after RD died- the only way to go on was with humour

(DQEliza) and Cricket is always full of the wierdest ideas..

(Ib3N-) hehehe

(DQEliza) and he suggested it to me.


(Ib3N-) Q1: RWS is one of the well known alliances in DG, how come you think? Is it because RWS did well in previous rounds?

(DQEliza) Im not so sure we are that well known. We have some well known players.. and the clever ppl make sure to know where players are.

(DQEliza) RWS is pretty new.

(DQEliza) Unfortunately many ppl still see us as RD-light

(Ib3N-) Thats free respect ain't it?

(DQEliza) I only ever played in RD really .. they trained me ... and all ideas and values I have of DG is what I was taught in RD - so in a way ofc there will be similarities maybe

(DQEliza) as i think the ideas that RD was based on - are still the best ones

(Ib3N-) ..and what ideas would you say that is?

(DQEliza) well .. the biggest thing is perhaps the organisation .. its kinda flat .. a lil wild talent free kinda play style .... we dont have ranks and hierachy. all players in RD are strong individual players with lots to offer.

(DQEliza) I think a hierachy and chain of commands limits the true talent of players.

(DQEliza) We dont have a HC

(DQEliza) Anyone with a good idea that gets supported by the members can step up and play an important part for a while

(DQEliza) but nobody does it all the time

(Ib3N-) How is diplomacy and structual integrety of the alliance maintained if you do not have a HC?

(DQEliza) hehe .. Its going very well thank you

(Ib3N-) hehe..

(DQEliza) Its the mutual respect within the alliance that makes it possible


(Ib3N-) Q2: What attetude do want RWS to display towards the community?

(DQEliza) Attitude ... Hms .. this is a hard one .. ppl have so many ideas about that ...

(DQEliza) Im not sure i wanna send any message at all there... I dont really care how ppl see us . We are a group of ppl who have alot of fun ingame

(DQEliza) RWS prolly have the most irc-active members of all alliances

(Ib3N-) IRC is a critical part of the alliance?

(DQEliza) yes it is .. the fast decisions are possible that way

(DQEliza) In this alliance theres no member that will ever receive an order

(DQEliza) we dont do order-shit ..

(Ib3N-) hehe

(DQEliza) ppl are politely asked to participate in killing off this or that player or alliance

(DQEliza) and since most are warmongers in rws the response is always very high

(DQEliza) its not a very peace loving crew im afraid

(Ib3N-) so you would classify RWS's playstyle as very agressive?

(DQEliza) Im prolly the nicest of them all

(Ib3N-) I'll take that as a big yes

(DQEliza) yes .. I think so


(Ib3N-) Q3: RWS is ranked pretty low right now, is this pure tactics, or a slow start?

(DQEliza) LMAO!!!

(DQEliza) the alliances ranked high right now are the ones we will have for dinner later..

(Ib3N-) hehe..

(DQEliza) an alliance with high rank now are sucky cause they have too much ppl in one sector

(DQEliza) wait til tick 350-400 when alliances start linking up

(DQEliza) and since nobody have launched a merch to other sectors yet the link up isnt possible yet

(DQEliza) then u can see who is big or not

(Ib3N-) I'll look forward to that


(Ib3N-) Q4: Some of the top players in RWS has formed their own ingame alliances, eg. Death to noobs, The vikings, do you wish to comment this?

(DQEliza) its not own alliances .. Its sector teams .... and its standard procedure in most alliances that use the sector team thing I believe

(DQEliza) its a way for the group to be able to cooperate til we all link up

(Ib3N-) In other words, standard alliance beginning tactics?

(DQEliza) yepp


(Ib3N-) Q5: How high ranked can we expect to see RWS when the alliance show a little muscle?

(DQEliza) How high .. hms .. It depends ... round 5 many alliances died, dissolved, quit, regrouped etc .. I expect to see many new strong groups round 6 .. many are just starring after the old big names .. well they arent gonna be there .. but

(DQEliza) In each galaxy we now have 1350 players

(DQEliza) they already formed and "known" alliances make up maybe 350 of those..

(DQEliza) and

(DQEliza) therefore its 1000 unaccounted for

(DQEliza) lets say that as many as 500 are n00bs or ppl just signing up and wont play

(DQEliza) there are still 500 player i have no idea of their strength or what alliances there will be

(DQEliza) after tick 300 or so we may begin to see what really is in the galaxy.

(DQEliza) and after that we can make some sort of estimate of the opposition

(DQEliza) i cannot predict anything right now

(DQEliza) we may do well though .. I hope we will

(DQEliza) but every round is new and nothing is for granted. old merits dont count


(Ib3N-) Q6: there's been alot of players trying to join RWS, is there any special requirements to joining?

(DQEliza) Yes ))

(DQEliza) lots

(Ib3N-) hehe, figures

(DQEliza) they have to be active, be strong individual players yet team players...

(DQEliza) and they have to be funny, very active

(DQEliza) and not very sensitive ppl.

(Ib3N-) IRC active perhaps?

(DQEliza) ofc..

(DQEliza) hehe

(DQEliza) and also ppl that have special 'talents'

(DQEliza) high ranks isnt as important as attitude and will. when I was brought in RD I was kinda sucky. But in 3 weeks they made me a top 100 player.. and I havent left top 100 since. So the environment and the support and mentor ship is a big part. so the most important thing we look for is attitude, hunger and some aggressiveness.. no peacelovers...

(DQEliza) we think we can make anyone with big ears and willingness to listen a good player.

(DQEliza) this round we have a few trainees (3). brand new players with us.



(Ib3N-) Q7: What's the alliance's biggest achivement so far, you think?

(DQEliza) what a question ..lol

(Ib3N-) hehe.. I was running out of questions.. *joke*

(DQEliza) i dont know..

(DQEliza) lol

(DQEliza) I think we had a good round

(DQEliza) we didnt lose much

(DQEliza) won most our battles

(Ib3N-) last round in saturn?

(DQEliza) yes

(DQEliza) rws was never on mars

(DQEliza) but some of our players was


(Ib3N-) Q8: There has been an increase of old players returning to R6 Saturn, do you think they can bid on a few suprises?

(DQEliza) RWS doesnt see oldies returning as a threat .. rather the opposite .. It awakes the killer insticnts in many of my players .. as its more fun to kill someone 'well-known' than just anyone

(DQEliza) RWS dont do any naps

(DQEliza) especially not this round.

(DQEliza) Ive always been against naps ..

(DQEliza) sometimes its neccessary .. but only from a machiavellian point if wiew


(Ib3N-) Q9: Except RWS, who do you think will be DG Saturn's 3 most dangerous alliances this round?

(DQEliza) Ceots ! no doubt! I cant see ceots being beaten by anyone this round

(DQEliza) Spearmint Rhinos will deliver alot of surprises aswell They are kinda strong.

(DQEliza) I cant think of a third one ..

(Ib3N-) hehe, fair enough.


(Ib3N-) Q10: I'd like to thank you for your time, and do you have any last words?

(DQEliza) I hope everyone will have a fun round 6. We sure intend to have one. RWS are very hyper and tagged for the game to start for real ...


So my conclusion is, watch out for that RWS tag, both now and in the future.


I'd like to apologize the lack of rich text, but that bast... scan has disabled the tags.

Articles

It's All About Communication

by BeckerC

An important part in playing DarkGalaxy is the part of being in an alliance - sooner or later everyone will be in an alliance as all members do realise very fast that playing alone without any friends or at least comrades is playing without even the chance of having any access. An alliance is the place you belong to, a place to find comrades, a place to co-ordinate attack- and defence-strategies and having fun. I've seen very different ways alliances are organised - some are organised very military-like with a strict commandment, some are more anarchy-like, where the members only agree upon the lowest level of co-operation and only set up common targets in a very open way.


What all succesfull alliances do have incommon is some way of MASS-COMMUNICATION. They use their ingame-forums, some even use specially created forums on their own web-sites, but all of them use some matter of instant communication like iRC, ICQ or any instant massenger. Joining iRC is even more useful to communicate with other alliances, which is an utmost important thing for having success in DarkGalaxy.


Some alliances try to build up immense organisations, with every kind of military-structure, you may think of. They have an admiral, a high-council, some sub-commanders for different Galaxies (which will not be necessary in DG 4 anymore), some sub-commanders for sectors or even for minor squads and teams. Some also do implement specific rules for specific fields, like having a minister of war, a minister of diplomacy, etc. I believe that all these command structures are completely without any sense. DarkGalaxy is a game and in a game I do play. I'm searching for fun while playing, not for being bossed by someone or being just the receiver of orders. I won't do anything someone tells me to do just because within my alliance he has the necessary rank to do so. I follow orders or suggestions of someone I know I can trust, sometimes even like, but at least I should know that he (sorry to the girls, but it makes it much more easy to read if I only use ONE form of sex, not always need to write he/she) is someone who is acting to make the game for succesful for the alliance. And being in a succesful alliance leads to being succesful and is a part of the fun. It is always more fun to be a member of the winning team, not of the losing one - nevertheless it is up to your definition what winning and losing in DarkGalaxy-terms is.


This doesn't mean that the player with the highest score is the one who should automatically be the leader. Team-play, coordinating attacks and defence, laying out strategies and making the contacts to other alliances is one of the most demanding but also one of the most demanded thing within an alliance. A leader is one who has good ideas, who knows what are important tactical target, who is capable of laying out succesful strategies and who knows a lot about the enemy you are probably dealing with. By having good ideas and succesful strategies you will automatically achieve a state, where your alliance-members do follow you, agree to your plans and strategies and are not doubting that whatever you will advise them to do is good for them, too.


Lets take a look of two totally different concepts of alliances I did expirience last round. At the beginning of the round I was a member of the "Steel Company", an alliance founded by a real-life friend of mine together with some other people I did know from real-life. The alliance did exist for only 1 months and did break apart due to the lack of communication. Our admiral wasn't using the ingame forums, we didn't use iRC or any other mean of communications. Some of our members - including me - used the ingame forums for request, seeking for advise or even help, as our admiral was ranked #1 within the 2 first weeks of round 3. No replies had been given, every member was totally alone and within 4 weeks all members did leave the alliance and the admiral himself than cancelled the "Steel Company". On the other hand I did play a long part in round 3 together with the Reservoir Dogs, a bunch of chaots, the complete anarchist. No command structure was given, the ranks within the alliance varied from "The ring bearer" over "Mr. Dildo" to "Fluggiest Dog" and actually no one was commanding or giving orders. But Gollum was someone full of ideas, someone to arrange things, someone listening to his members, someone knowing the weaknesses as well as the strengths of his members. We used outgame-forums to make suggestions, gather informations, seeking help, and they had been very frequently visited - furthermore we used iRC, discussing about strategies, incidents and happenings, discussing about other alliances and possible enemies. Each member trusted the other one, which is - IMO - the most important part about being in an alliance. I can remember events when Gollum entered the iRC-Channel asking "Who is willing to fight in war in Galaxy 6?": Some members just stated "/me raises hands" in iRC, others refused and decided on making up the home-defence. It all worked out perfectly. Attack dates were agreed upon, movement-plans made, soldiers gathered, all the stuff needed to be succesful and all went out being succesful.


As far as I can see it being in a bunch of players you trust in, being together with a lot of experienced players and some newbies, will make the game succesful. You will have most if the fun possible the more members stay active, the more you communicate within your alliance and with other alliances. Having a nice alliance-idea, like making an alliance according to a specific book or a specific movie is nice, but somewhat irrelevant. It's all within trust and communication.


You don't need to have 200 members in your alliance to be succesful - many members ot cause many problems and need many help. But a couple of people, lets say 30-60, will always be enough to reach a strong position. Active members for sure - and active does also mean taling part in the discussions and strategies. If you are in an alliance full of egoists, who check their accounts every tick but never lose a single word about WHAT they are doing and never even thinking about teamplay and co-ordination, you won't ever have fun within DarkGalaxy. Reaching the #1-spot scorewise may be a nice achievement, may be something you have done, something you have achieved. But playing in a team, co-ordinating strategies and tactics and then seeing how everythings works out as you and your comrades did plan it, THATS fun, thats DarkGalaxy. So I wouldn't care for ranks or titles, allthough many alliances try to recruit new members by offering them something like that, thats worth nothing. Being a commander without troops is no fun at all, fighting wars without having anyone to trust on at your back isn't fun and furthermore won't be succesful.


Another important part of DarkGalaxy is the way, Alliances interact with each other. Being on iRC you will realise quit fast that the DarkGalaxy-Community has its specific rules, that there are persons representing alliances you should know - not only the admirals. If you reach a status where people do respect you not only for your strengh but also for your behaviour, reaching a status where you make friends outside your own alliance, will help you a lot in the game. I go back to the example used before: As the Reservoir Dogs moved to their war against FoP in Galaxy 6, leaving their home-galaxy mostly undefended behind, another alliance made up the home-defence for them, cared for their homes. You cannot achieve this by being arrogant or only relying on your own power, but by being a well-known member of the community, being a respected player, being someone people - even from other alliances can count on as they know you keep up your word, as they know if they would be in an equal situation you would help them the same way they did without even the need of discussing about that. Some people do thing those "powerblocks" are unfair or leaving no chance for other alliances, but thats simply nonsense. Meta-Alliances aren't working very good, there is only a limited way of incorporating as your troops still keep hostile to each other and would fight against each other ingame when being at the same place at the same time. These powerblocks have been formed by alliances which have some common ideals and common states of mind what this game is about, which do think in some common categories. And they are not a closed "club", there are new alliances every round on the catwalk that make their way fast towards being a fully accepted bunch of players within the DG-community. Some never get that status and there are good reasons why they never reach that status, e.g. cheating, abusing bugs or fighting unfair. Let me add something: Fighting a war against each other doesn't mean people do not like each other. As far as I can remember there has been no personal reasons why the Reservoir Dogs went into war against FoP, it was only about being in war as DarkGalaxy is and will ever be a wargame. A warGAME - some should keep that in mind. No one loves to lose the efforts he did spend months long being active, building up his own planets, building up large forces, within a tick, but as it is still a game, it shouldn't be the reason for any personal insultats. If someone beats the crap (escuse my french) of you, you should just realise that he did have the better strategies and that this is a strategy game. Being a game if leaves you some options when being confronted with an overwhelming enemy. You could just lay down and die, making a new account in a far away Galaxy (dunno how that will exactly work next round), you could even try to fight back as long as possible to give your enemy a good battle, or your could seek for some help, even outside your alliance, to fight the attacker back. It is also an option to insult your enemy, to complain and whine and never accept that you did lose, but that is the worst way of all. Being a good player does also mean realizing when you have lost. And if the enemy you thought you would have already win again suddenly brings in some good friends raping you, you should keep in mind that diplomacy is also a part of a strategy game. Thats not unfair, thats smart.


So keep in mind, no matter if you are a newbie or someone only searching for a new alliance: It's all about communication, its all in the mix

 

Columns

A collections of works/stories from various authors within the community.

Columns

Xtrafresh

Prologue

 

After five hundred years of mass-availability of healthcare, Earth has become more and more overpopulated. The big funding for the Mars colony in the year 2218 was way too late, as it took over one hundred years to accommodate a mere million people there. In the year 2400, Earth’s population consisted of over two hundred billion people. This was all that poor mother earth could bear. Conditions were awful. Food was scarce, nature non-existent, civilisation had all but collapsed. The whole world was one big city of factories and huge residential towers. Traffic was a jungle of people hitting and slamming each other on their magnetic scooters. Thousands were killed each day, but nobody cared. Now that the earth’s population had reached it’s maximum, governments saw the earth deteriorate faster and faster. Another three hundred years and things would go terribly wrong. Maybe even sooner. Voices were raised that a geostationary ring should be built, that could house up to ninety billion people. Plans were being drawn, and funds were raised. But the future would prove to hold a better solution…


It’s the 8th of July 2451 that a message spreads over every network worldwide. It spreads just like most viruses, abusing peoples mailing lists and such, but everybody who opened it, found out that it was something different:


“I have returned to finish my task, and you reading this means my work here is finally fulfilled. In the following document you will find detailed instructions on how to reach out. Mankind can finally take its place among the others.”


This rather cryptic message was followed by a 900-page document that describes how to build a “solidspace” generator, and the mechanics through which it works*.

Nobody really understood the massive calculations that the writer had made, but the generator was relatively easy to build in a well-equipped garage at surprisingly low costs. The government tried to forbid people to build it, but of course the desperate population ignored that, and started building spaceships by the millions. A year later, 20% of all the earth’s population had left earth to build up new homes and civilisations somewhere in the universe. Lots of people perished in outer space, but since the only news that ever came back was good news, more and more people wanted to leave. At the start of the 26th century, earth had only twenty billion inhabitants left.


A lot of “universal” governments were set up, but it was the trade agency CFT**, founded in 2506 that gradually got more and more power, and when it finally set up a main office on Earth in 2587 they were considered the new law on all planets they covered (a lot of planets had isolated themselves from the rest of humankind, so the CFT only covered about 55% of the occupied planets in the universe). Their internal affairs investigation team took up the role of the new police force, and the government was complete. Since the first leaders were smart enough to understand that the only way people would accept traders as their rulers was out of their own benefits, they were easy on people, and the universe prospered and grew and grew.


In the year 2503 a little boy was born on earth. Growing up in times of terrible shortage of people strong enough to do any labour (since all the others had left), he developed a strange hate for old age. It was out of this hate that his obsession for stopping the aging process was born. He started recruiting people for his cause, and soon his movement exploded. With almost a million followers, he moved to the planet Argus, where they isolated themselves and started conducting experiments. The First Wizard, as he liked to call himself, grew older and older. Finally, in the year 2623 a rat survived their treatment, a combination of genetic manipulation and implantation of a few extra organs. Despite the risks the First Wizard insisted on being the first human to be immortal. At the age of 124, he was treated. Amazingly the operation was successful. He would be 124 years old for the rest of eternity… he had lost to his enemy, old age. Devastated, he left Argus with only a few close friends to isolate himself. Rumour has it that he is still flying around the universe in his ship “marathon”.


On Argus a man called Dyson quickly took control and changed the nature of the discovery: he created an army. One million people were treated, and trained. They weren’t trained in combat though, but in politics. The best of them were sent to some of the isolated planets in the universe, with one objective: Gain control over the planet. Since they were theoretically immortal, they had time on their side. The first ones were sent out about 700 years after the First Wizard had left. A thousand years later, 4376 A.D., the now firmly established CFT found out about it and raised the alarm… too late. They were totally unprepared for Dyson’s siege of Earth two years later. With the universe at his feet, he returned to his birthplace almost two millennia after he left, and seated the core of his power there. For over seven millennia, mankind suffered under his crushing fist. He tracked down most planets in Isolation and simply added them to his empire. Everybody who dared to oppose, was executed, and replaced by one of his immortals, who were called ‘Lords’ now. Like the First Wizard, Dyson had an obsession. He kept referring to the last sentence in the message that sent Mankind into space: “…Mankind can finally take its place among the others.” Dyson believed he was the saviour of mankind, born only to prepare the race for a violent clash with these “others”.


But like all great empires, his wouldn’t last forever. One day, (11524 AD) the Immortal Palace was wiped away in one of the biggest, and the most mysterious explosions the earth had ever seen, killing over a million people, all Dyson’s scientists, and Dyson himself. No clues remained, but the common belief is that it was the doing of a few of Dyson’s closest followers with a double agenda. Possibly the gorgeous Leela of Cantrigus, one of Dyson’s chaperones and daughter of the executed Sartaign of Kelda, avenged her father this way.

One way or another, the explosion was a fact, as was the incredible vacuum that Dyson left…


Countless rulers on remote planets, placed there by Dyson himself, now found themselves alone. Some of them went back in the isolation that was so popular in the days before Dyson. Others tried to claim his place, uniting in groups of five to a thousand Lords, all fighting each other for control of more and more planets. It is in this chaos that we stumble across a common commander of a common fighter unit in a common fleet of a common alliance… or so it seems…


*: Solidspace is a very difficult theory, based on a very simple concept. By now, the universe has been deduced to two elements by scientists: space/time and matter/energy. The solidspace theory places matter/energy as an eleventh dimension in a ten-dimension universe. A generator with a computer strong enough to make the calculations in eleven dimensions can steer a ship along the higher dimensions, in which the lower dimensions are coiled up. Unravelling those dimensions has the same effect as travelling through the lower dimensions, only with incomparable speeds. Data can be sent through the 5th dimension of space, but matter will come out “re-arranged” on the other side. This restricts humans and their ships to use the 4th dimension. Travelling from one end of the galaxy to the other will only take seventy standard hours this way. In the vast emptiness of extra-galactic space travel can be sped up, allowing arrival in the nearest galaxy just five days later. The 5th dimension data-link allows normal conversations from planet to planet, with a waiting time of maximum ten seconds inside one galaxy, and messaging back and forth from one galaxy to another in just three minutes.


**: Coalition of Free Traders. They are originally a group of adventurers that fly with a self-built cargo vessel from one planet to another. They quickly evolved into a strong trading alliance, bonding more and more planets to the products they delivered.

 

Chapter 1: Mosquito's and Battleships

 

Half-sleeping, Jack pretended to ignore the buzzing sound around his head. Damn those Vlearian Mosquito’s! They had been in his cockpit for 5 days now, and he still didn't see it. Are these things cloaked or something?


The alarm clock went off. Jack cursed his superiors for allowing him only 2 hours of sleep each 48 hours. The REM-enhancing injection everyone got never worked very well on Jack. Some reacted very good to it and only slept for a half hour each 4 days, but Jack never seemed able to do that. And he NEVER felt refreshed afterwards. All he felt was fear. The weight of it pressed down on his chest like a genova-class battleship with full armament. Speaking of the battleships...


Jack got out of his small sleeping container, and crawled to his cockpit. Strapping himself down in the chair he looked around. He looked out the windows every few hours to see the growing armada of gunships that he was a part of. Every time he got up he stared in amazement to all these huge ships, as far as the eye could see. The Lord did talk about the "biggest fleet ever to be assembled", but Jack (and all his friends) thought it was just propaganda talk. He quickly learned to have more respect for the word of his Lord. After only 3 hours of travel the first allies joined the armada. And after that small and big fleets kept joining them every half hour at least.


The Armada quickly became too big for the human mind to imagine. It was as big as the eye could see, in every direction. When he asked his battle attendant in the Cruiser 'Lionheart', he was told these ships came from befriended Lords. Jack thought about the implied complications. How many of these Lords are there? How much fleet can they assemble? Could it be possible that somewhere else, another Alliance of Lords is assembling an even bigger fleet? Jack was told there are 11 more days to go to the meeting place, where other fleets (!) would already lie waiting. From there on it would be going straight to the classified target. How many ships are there in this armada? How many ships are there already waiting? And - more disturbing - how many ships were there on the other side? How many lives would be lost? Jack shivered every time his thoughts made that circle.


But not this time.

Looking out the window, he saw nothing. No fleet. No ships. No huge battlecruiser to cast its shadow on his modest little fighter. For a moment, Jack panicked. Looking the other way, he saw he was merely placed on the outskirts of the armada. His radar (old fashioned yes, but Jack liked staring at the 3d holographic it made) was acting weird. One side was completely covered in green, One side completely empty. His device reached for about 3000 miles! The end of the fleet was nowhere to be seen. The familiar shivers came back.


To get his mind of things, he sent a message to his best friend Zell in a nearby fighter. Radio contact was supposed to be kept to a minimum, but Zell was a quantum mechanics student, and subspace transmissions were easy for him. He always said that he could cloak the signal, and then a whole 15 minutes of gibberish would follow, of which Jack understood absolutely nothing. But he trusted Zell, so if he said it was ok...

Adjusting the LoRaC to only reach up to Zell’s ship, Jack spoke: "Hey Zell, what's up?"

"Woohoo, you woke up!" the radio shouted back. Zell was one of these people that reacted incredibly well to the REM-injection. Jack had never caught him asleep yet. Rumour had it that he could last almost 200 hours with no sleep.

"Nice vieuw eh?" Zell asked.

"Scared me to death to be honest" confessed Jack.

"Hehe, I knew you would like it. We have new orders."

"Ow?"

"We're supposed to make a small interception on the way there. Intell has spotted some spies 2 parsecs away. Just some small junky fleet. And they gave it to us."

"Since when did we get demoted to Garbage men?"

"Haha, glad to see you are still the ever-grumpy Jack. We got this assignment because i asked for it. I thought we could use the exercise."

"Ah. And there was no way you could have consulted me?"

"You were asleep. And i will eat scunchol maggots before I ever wake you up," said Zell. "Besides, you would have said no anyway."

Jack capitulated; "I give up. When is mission briefing?"

"2 hours from now. You'd better get your butt in gear man."

"Ok, I will see you in 2 then."


Jack couldn't resist smiling. His friend always got this enthusiastic when a fight was about to come. He had been fighting together with him for about 2 years, and had seen 43 big battles, and numerous small assignments such as the one they would take on in a few hours. After the 30 year older Jack, Zell was the best fighter in the unit. Together they were unstoppable.


Clearing his head, Jack started strapping himself in the combat-gear. Doing that, he realized Zell was right. His unit had been on guard duty for two days now, and a small cleanup mission now and then would keep his men motivated.

 

Chapter 2: Coming out of the Sun

 

They were only halfway through the briefing, But Jack was already bored out of his skull.

27 Fighterpilots, a pretty nerdy intell guy, nervously chewing a piece of gum, and the unit’s chief Byrne were sitting in a small room aboard the LionHeart. The flickering holographic images in the middle of the table failed to catch Jack’s full attention. The sight of the armada outside didn’t help either. Under the table, Treesa gave him a kick. He snapped back to the holo.


"... appears to be a fleet of only fighters and bomber class ships, but their formation is odd. They are all floating around in a sphere-like formation, as if they were protecting what is in the middle. The problem is that we cannot pick up any signal from the centre. Furthermore there are 8 bomber class ships floating on the corners of a huge cube that can be drawn around it, which could be considered their 'outer defence ring'. The mission will be to identify and destroy whatever is inside that sphere. You will need to penetrate...."


That was all that Jack needed to hear. His thoughts roamed towards the upcoming big battle. not this one - Jack knew they were going to smoke these bandits within 30 to 45 seconds, as always. This unit was famous for their almost suicidal fast-in-fast-out attacks - probably why they got the job - and this one would be no different. No, the battle that would require an armada like the one on the right worried Jack. How could this ever bring any good? He had another worry on his mind: sleep. He felt like he should ask the medics to look at the effects of the REM-pills on his mind, and adjust the dosage a bit. A detailed overlay of several possible attack routes caught his attention back to the briefing. He noticed people were looking at him, so he pretended to be thinking about the question he missed.


“Well?” Asked the nervous intell nerd. "What do you think about those Jack?"

Jack gave the holo a good look, and said: “what is the brightest star seen from their position?”

The officer looked confused, but Zell started digging in his palm computer right away.

“…I … I don’t understand what you mean…” stumbled the poor guy from intell.

“If we fall in from coords 21-765-349-A5 we’ll have Dernius XIV in our backs, and 26-426-462-D1 will give us Entarra VIII.” Zell interrupted.

“Which is brightest?” asked Jack.

“Entarra, by far. But I’m not sure we can make it in time, our go would have to be in 17 minutes.”

Jack looked around the table, asking: “Everybody got those coords?”

His crew nodded, they were all trained to remember any coords they picked up during briefings or battles.

One last question needed to be asked before they could go: “Does anyone have any more questions for Stan here?” asked Jack. Nobody did, so he stood up and said: “Let’s get to work then.”

Stan, the intell guy felt pushed aside, and started to object, but Byrne hushed him with a short “they got it from here, let them do their job.”


So there they were, exactly 9 1/2 minutes later, with Entarra VIII in their backs, waiting in ambush for the enemy formation to pass by. 27 anxious combatpilots, all pumped up and ready to go. All machinery and devices turned off to avoid being scanned. The only thing that distracted the mind was what appeared to be a small star, two parsecs to the east.

"Unsettling isn't it?". Zell. How did he always read your mind like that?

"Yes, a fleet that can be seen with the naked eye, two parsecs away. And there will be more at the meeting place."

Only a painful silence came from the other side, so Jack asked: "What's on your mind, Zell?"

"I have a weird feeling about this mission. I wonder what could be so important that it has an escort like this. I don’t think this is an ordinary spy."

"Yeah, I'm pretty curious as well. Anyway, we have orders to blow it up, so we won't be able to look at it for a long time."

"Ow, and another thing" Zell said, "what do you think of this Treesa?"

"She's our third for this mission."

"Yes i know that, but do you think she will be able to fly such a leading role in the mission?"

"What are you talking about?"

"My god! You didn't pay any attention during the briefing didn't you?"

Jack wisely kept silent during the next painful seconds...

"Ok, ok, I'll fill you in" sighed Zell, "she is the one carrying the nuke, in case we need to do some brutal damage."

"Oh my god, an ancient nuke? A nuclear bomb?"

"Yes, apparently our Lord has allied with people who have little consideration for the Code...*" Zell speculated.

"That's disturbing... so our personal objective would be...?"

"...to protect the device, yes." Zell shook his head. "I never expected that one day I'd have to defend one of those things..."

"Well, at least you are not the one operating it." said Jack.

"Let's talk later, we have 46 seconds till our launchtime." Said Zell nervously

“Yeah, good luck mate.”

"Ok, let's rock and roll buddy!"


Jack smiled. He knew this battle was already won. When Zell got all pumped up like that, he could take on the entire battlectuiser Hope of Orion if he had to. He and Treesa were safe. He made a last prayer for the other teams, and then focused on the upcoming 45 seconds of chaos...


*: the Code is a rather short manifesto that most Lords signed. It forbids them to attack certain planets, and also forbids the use of nuclear weaponry, and a few other things. The manifesto says that nukes are forbidden to spare innocent lives, but the real reason is more shocking: radiation might damage the two extra organs that the Lords have.

 

Chapter 3: Mayhem Minute

 

Time always seemed to pass so slowly in that last minute...

Jack stared at the timer, which indicated another endless 57 seconds... 56... 55...

Jack peeked out the window. He was looking around for one of the ships on the ships from the outer defence ring. He knew they would be painted pitch black, so they were hard to see.


He picked up his LoRaC*, setting it to a radius for the whole unit to hear, and started going over the mission one last time. “Team one, leader: Richard, report.”

“Check 16” was the short confirmative answer from the man in fighter number 16.

“Your task will be to take out four of the eight bombers in the outer defence ring, four groups of two please.”

“Got it” Richard never wasted any time with mindless talk. The people in his team usually joked that he swore an oath not to say more then three words at the same time ever.

“Good, Team 2, Jaric, come in.”

“I’m here.”

“Jaric, you’ll be taking the family photo’s. Go in, penetrate, snap and leave. There is no need to take out all the fighters, team 3 will follow you with the artillery.”

“All set Jack, happy hunting!” Was Jaric’s witty reply.

“Team 3 has the…”



"Jack! Oh my god! These ships are way bigger then they told us!" Zell suddenly screamed over the LoRaC

"What? Where are they?"

"Use your Radar, that should show you, remember?"

Jack felt stupid when he heard that. He always checked his radar before a mission. Why not this time? "Thanks for waking me up again, Zell."


***Thirty Seconds to launch!*** the central computer screeched


Jack switched on his 3d radar, which seemed to take for hours. When he finally got a picture, he was shocked. "This can't be right..."

"What's there?" asked Richard.

"Damn! These ships are frigate class at least! But I don't recognise any of the signatures..."

"What!?! you mean that these are not Core ships?”

“Well to be honoust, these things don't look like ships.”

“What do you mean?”

Jack set his radarvieuw to the smallest scale.

“Well, they don’t seem to be ships at all, rather a collection of apparatus mounted on a frame.”

“What, no hard outer shield?”


***Twenty Seconds to launch!***


"No, but that is not the only weird thing about them. They seem to be facing inward..." mumbled Jack.

"Inward? As in: guns pointed at the thing in the middle? That seems rather odd for a defence ring, doesn't it?"

"Hmm, yes. There’s more strange stuff going on though. I’m getting nothing in the middle. There simply is nothing there…”

“I know Jack, I’m using all scanners I have, and I’m not getting much.”


Jack looked out the window, and tried to get more clues from the small black-in-black dot that was the ship, about 100 km away**. Of course this was no use, so he shifted his eyes back to his radar. He decided to change plans slightly. If the attack would not be over by the time these things got their guns (or whatever they might be, Jack wasn’t curious) online, the whole unit would probably be toast. He turned back to his LoRaC unit.


***Ten Seconds to launch!***


Jack cursed the irony of the situation. "Oh great, every time that last minute lasts forever, but now that I need time, it is over before I blink my eyes!" he mumbled to nobody in particular. He grabbed the LoRaC, and made an announcement:

"Plans changed. Richard, your squad will investigate one of these things, and give a go or no-go for Jaric. WoO*** goes down from 45 to 30 seconds. One sign of life from those frigs and we all hightail it out of here. The rest stays as planned." Jack paused for breath.

“We (squad 3) will penetrate and destroy the target after 2 has taken its pictures. When you see the boom, everybody leaves." That's it, everyone. Good luck, and may the Lord seal your fate."


Jack closed the connection. He was just in time...


***Three Seconds to launch!***

***2...***

***1...***

***GO! ***


--------------------------


*: LoRaC: Low Radius Communicator. This device sends waves that stop after travelling a certain distance, so that only receivers in a certain radius from the source could pick it up. Simple wave interference makes for the basics of the system, but practical (small, light) transmitters could only be manufactured after the invention of solidspace devices.


**Distances are all illusionary, as the entire unit was still floating in solidspace. In reality, they were much further away from the enemy, but all waves (radar, light) seem to ingnore distance in the presence of solidspace fields. it is this characteristic that the LoRaC is based on


***: Window of Operation

Chapter 4: Treesa's Twist

 

*** GO!! ***


Squad one and two blasted off at maximum power. In 6 seconds Richard and his 7 companions would be in close range of the frig he chose, and give the go or no-go. Jaric and 12 followers approached at lower speed, to give scanners and image-processors more time to analyse the object.

Jack counted to 4, and then hit the throttle too. 4 seconds were all the time Jaric and Kira would need to scan and give the go/no-go for Jack.

At exactly 6 seconds after launch, the LoRaC gave a clear "GO" for Jaric.

Jack knew he would have 8 seconds before Jaric would arrive, so he asked Richard: "Status?"

"Nothing. No biomass, low energy. Engage?"

"Negative Richard." Jack was happy with the way things were, who knows what would happen if they started shooting at these ships.

Inspecting the radar, he saw the inner defense ring react. Looked like they had some worthy opponents for a change...

"Deploy a sentinal and join Three. We'll need backup."


Jack was more right than he wanted...

Jaric's team slammed themselves into the claw formation that the defenders had formed.

Jaric claimed the LoRaC to issue commands. "Dyne, Cigg, distract!

Two units of three dispersed to distract some fire from the fingers away from Jaric and Kira. The enemy responded by closing the claw into a ball after the main group had past them, to stay out of range. At the other end the ball openend up with clockwork precision, enabling all the enemies to keep shooting at Jaric and his three remaining units. 22 Enemies all had more then a second of clear shots at them. To the left of Jaric, King's ship blew up. In front of him, the centre of the claw opened up as the five enemies in question fled for the heavy pulses that Jarics team unleashed on them. Two of them got away with minor damage, two blew up, and the last one seemed uncontrollable. It stayed right in Jarics path. He avoided it in the last second, flying past it at no more then ten metres.

Kira was not so lucky. She had taken a blow from one of the defending forces, and lost control over her fighter for one second. She hit the lonely enemy fighter dead-on.

The shock of the explosion and the sudden loss of two pilots had shocked Jaric. To make sure all his men were focused, he grabbed the LoRaC again.

"Ok men, we are through. Cover my back while I go for some footage of whatever it is that's there..."


Dyne and Cigg now found themselves facing the enemies backs. Only two seconds behind them was Richard. They didn't wait for it. The enemy had formed a perfect claw again, this time facing the other side. Attacking them in the back, the 6 friends wondered why this formation was formed. They soon found out.

The enemy went after Jaric in full force, simply ignoring the fire in their backs. Dyne and Cigg shot them one after the other, desperately trying to get them to turn around. Jarics remaining backup of four fighters was now facing an overwhelming wave of mayhem, berserking towards them. About 14 of them were left. 4 versus 14 is a slaughter in most scenarios, but the defending pilots were not interested in the four fighters in front of them. Jaric was all they cared for. Each taking one arm, the escort managed to score three more kills. At the same time, two more were blown away by Dyne.


The LoRaC shouted. "Alert!"

"Status?" replied Jack.

"Main weapon seems to be charging. Power readings off the scale."

"Ok, mission abort. Jaric, report on the object."

"There is no object. Nothing on all possible scans."

"All bogeys destroyed." That was Richard. His team had used the five seconds of talk to destroy the 9 remaining fighters.

"Nothing left here for us then. We leave." No one disagreed with Jack, so they all took off.


Two seconds later the eight vessels at the far corners revealed their function. Beams of pure energy blasted from their main "weapons". Z'Ahm warned the unit.

"They are shooting slowlight! Get out of there!"

"Z'Ahm, why are you still there?" asked Jack.

Unlike most waves, these beams progressed extremely slowly. There were about 10 seconds left before they would meet where the fighter escort used to be. More then enough time for Jack and his friends to gain a safe distance.


Suddenly, Treesa made a 180 and started a mad dash towards the centre. She shouted over the LoRaC: "Flashover! I want a bioscanner, ASAP!"

Flashover is the word that any pilot could shout to gain immediate command. Basically, saying the word immediately strips Jack of all his powers, and places full command and responsibility with the person who called the flashover. Jack had been frowned upon, laughed at, ridiculed, branded as an idiot, and even reported to military court for this. None of his critics had any idea how many lives it had saved, and how many missions had depended on this tactic for success.

Zell was the first to react, as always. His lightning reflexes made sure he was only half a second behind Treesa, following her to the central point, apparently flying towards certain death. “I have bio, 0.50 seconds behind you.” He reported.

“Scan the centre. Two backup at 3. The rest, get out of there. You too Z’Ahm!”

Seven fighters had already turned around to follow Treesa. Kink and Jack were the first two, so they stayed, the rest fell back to full retreat. All, except Kurt, who mad another dazzling 90 degree turn. Jack knew immediately what he was doing. He planned on using his heavy weaponry on one of the delicate high-tech ships, to buy Treesa some more time. Treesa saw it too.

“Stop being a hero and leave the area Kurt!” she yelled. Not that Kurt would listen to her.

“You won’t make it. You need time.” Was the

Kurt always had a tendency to play the hero. Jack silently cursed himself for putting him behind the buttons of that mighty weapon. On t he other hand, Kurt was right. They were not going to make it, and they needed help if they would be able to do whatever it was what they were doing…

Zell seemed to understand Treesa’s intentions better then Jack: “20 degrees left at 6 clicks Treesa!”

“Are you sure?” asked Treesa. “That’s where we blew up the last fi… good job Zell!!”

At her current speed, Treesa would take 7 seconds to reach that point. Too much, as the slowlight beams would be meeting in 5…


During his mad run, Kurt heard Z’Ahm over the LoRaC: “Kurt, I don’t see you man, I thought you were going for … oh my god, NOOO!”

He switched the LoRaC off. What he was about to do would require all the concentration and precision he had in him. One by one, he started to turn all of the flight assistants off, until all other then weapons and the cabin light were down. A few last course and speed adjustments…

Last of all he switched off his propulsion, armed the missile, and waited what would happen…


Jack had heard Z’Ahm’s outcry, and saw on the radar what Kurt was about to do. There was no time left to say much, so all he said was: “Thanks Kurt…”. One second later Kurts fighter fell into the leading edge of one of the slowlight beams. The sight that followed was as horrible as it was beautiful. The blue light seemed to come to a complete stop, eating away at the poor little fighter in a blaze of brightblue light. When it seemed as if the heatsinks in the fighter’s skin were about to give up, the explosion came. But again, the beam only seemed to consume the energy, rather than be disturbed by it. The tip of the beam blew up to monstrous proportions, and then imploded again, after which it continued it’s original path with deadly precision.

Jack had lost a great pilot and one of his best friends, but he realized that the whole process had taken about three-and-a-half seconds. That was all that they would need.


Treesa reached the spot indicated by Zell, and flew past it sideways. When she straightened her craft again to boost off at maximum burn, Jack saw a small hatch closing on the side. With a sickening turn upwards Zell followed Treesa. When Jack made his turn he had just half a second left before the 8th beam would meet the rest 2 kilometres behind him…


When the final beam struck, Jack saw what he would see in all his nightmares from that day on. A hole was ripped in the empty space, giving a clear view to what was behind it: a battlestation. Thousands upon thousands of fighters swarmed towards the three fugitives.

Just as Jack realized that they were doomed, something strange happened. The first fighter that seemed to have reached the magical jump point, exploded. A few milliseconds later, the second blew up too. Zell reasoned over the LoRaC: “Kurt’s extra weight and energy must have made the gate unstable! Man what a fireworks!”


And indeed, the explosions were fantastic. Even at this distance, Jack was shuddering of adrenaline as about three thousand fighters threw themselves to death in under four seconds. Suddenly, the image of the explosions faded away, and space itself seemed to buckle and twist as the Gate fell. One last blast of blue light and orange flickering was the result. The shockwave was unreal. It completely obliterated the eight frigates that were still hanging in formation. Jack, Zell and Treesa reached their deepjump speed just in time, leaving the scene of destruction and death right before the shockwave would have wiped them out too. Nothing but empty space was left where the awful battle had taken place…

 

Chapter 5: Byrne

 

Jack felt uneasy as he walked through the 3rd level hallway in the command cruiser LionHeart. He was on his way to report to captain Byrne, his direct supervisor. He had the habit of reporting directly after he got out of his fighter. The debriefing of the unit was done on the way back to the fleet, which usually lasted no longer then a few minutes.

Jack didn't feel at home on this cruiser. He had no sympathy for most people aboard, he thought most of them were arrogant incapable folk sitting behind too big desks all day. Captain Byrne was an exception to that disliking. Jack never really knew if it was because of his lively and homely looks, or the informal way he treated his crew. Fact remained Jack liked the man. Byrne was a small guy, a bit on the fat side, and of middle age, about 70 years.* As a nice example of what kind of man Byrne was, he had requested (and gotten) a wooden door for his office. It was the only wood in the entire state-of-the-art command cruiser.


Jack always liked reporting to Byrne, the man wanted Jack to spare him no detail and didn't insist on overly correct use of language. But this time it was different. Jack brought bad news, for the first time in over two years. Two of their best pilots died. Jaric was heavily wounded. They had taken a prisoner, ignoring a direct order to destroy whatever was in the centre. He was lucky that Z'Ahm had his scanners logging and studying the warp frigate (as he had come to call them) all the time. It had been a mistake of Jack to let team 1 with their cameras fly right past it. No, Jack wasn’t all too happy about the outcome of this battle, and he was quite sure that Byrne wouldn't like it either.

Nervous, Jack knocked, instead of identifying himself to the scanner to the left of the door. Byrne would know who it was. And he did.


“Ah, here we have the most underestimated man in the fleet! Gentlemen, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Jack.” heard Jack from behind the door. What was this? More people in the room? And apparently important people, or Byrne would never use a word such as ‘gentlemen’, or talk in such a bombastic manner. Reluctantly, Jack opened the door.

“Good day Jack, how are you?” said Byrne. He continued without waiting for an answer. “I have the honour to introduce you to three of the thirteen Members of the League’s High Council.”

Byrne said their name when Jack shook hands. So he did know some protocol after all. “Master Sline Odax from the Naxon Empire.” A very tall and slim man, well past 150 years of age, with almost elfish long white hair and the weirdly long-stretched eyes that was so characteristic of the Naxon. Unlike their appearence often suggests, the Naxon are a strong, overactive race. They are known for bad temper, but people who know them better explain it as "a directer way of communicating".

“Mister Axel Mordechai representing the Tanuka Estates.” Mordechai was a handsome, but very plain-looking businessman. He was the ideal representative for an empire that was know for it’s fabulous trading skills. The man was wearing a suit that looked annoyingly perfect, just like Mordechai himself.

“And Sir William Goldblum, representing our own.” Jack was really honoured to shake the hand of this living legend. At an age of 234 years, he was the oldest member of the council, and he was said to be the wisest of them all. All his years were showing on his face, his eyes still burning with a clever sparkle behind the big brushy white-in-white eyebrows. He had extremely long white hair, and a beard to match. He was the only one of the three to wear the official garment of the High Council: a heavy, purple with gold long robe. He looked everything like the man of which you were very glad he was on your side.

He wanted to sit down, but looking across the room, Jack spotted another man, sitting in a chair in a corner of the room, almost invisible. Byrne nervously touched his nose before announcing this last guest:

“Master Silk, from I-3.” Jack took a good long look at Silk, and while shaking his hand, he decided that this man was successful in being absolutely normal. There was nothing odd about the man, except that he apparently had the authority to sit down with all these high officers in the room. Being part of I-3 givesyou a high rank, but certainly doesn't allow you to take the three councillors for granted as he seemed to do. And why was Byrne so nervous about him? You must be a real dangerous man to get the chubby attack coordinator off-balance. Jack decided not to ask any of his questions. The ones that needed to be asked would get an answer in the next hour anyway. And the ones that they didn't want to answer would only put him in an awkward situation. He walked to the empty seat besides Byrne (facing the three Councillors), and sat down silently. He seemed to have passed the first test, because Goldblum proceeded to answer his first question.

“You are probably wondering what all of us are doing here, right?” It was Sir Goldblum.


"Yes, sir.” That was really all that Jack dared to say.

“Well, I-3 (Goldblum sent a look over to Silk) has notified us of contact with another fleet. When we gave the order to intercept, we found out that somebody jumped to conclusions and ordered a destroy mission already. We are all here to get to the bottom of this, and try to save whatever can be saved.”

Now Jack was really confused. The orders came from somebody without the proper authority? As he regained his balance he also realised his luck: he didn’t destroy, he captured.

“That is very disturbing news sir,” Jack said, eyes facing down at Goldblum’s feet; "but I thought info like this is always on a need-to-know basis?"

"It is, Jack, it is. I want you to understand the importance of your report. And please call me William. I understand that every man who steps inside Byrne’s office is a friend.”

“But sir, I…” objected Jack.

“No but’s, if’s or maybe’s. I will have none of it. William is the name.”

Jack was amazed. He was allowed to call the legendary Goldblum… William? He sent a look to Byrne, with renewed respect.

“Very well then, S… William.” Jack had trouble finding his balance.

“So let’s all relax, have some Linda**, and hear what Jack has to report, shall we gentlemen?” Byrne’s proposal found great enthusiasm, especially with Mister Mordechai, who was an expert and an enthousiast when it came to Linda.

“I will open a bottle of VI Antulo from two hundred years back I have been saving for a special occasion.” Byrne boasted.

Hearing this, Mordechai’s eyes doubled in size. “Is that a Black Ridge?” he almost shouted.

Byrne checked the label before he confirmed the question.

Mordechai was rejoiced. “Praise the Lords!” And then: “Do you know the last price I heard for a bottle like that floated about a million sol?”***

Jack had difficulty breathing for a second, but Byrne quickly recovered.

“Well then, I suppose it is a good choice then, since we have such an expert amongst us.” He took six glasses, and poured everyone a drink. Impressed with Byrne’s flair, everybody sat down, and all eyes turned to Jack.

“Well” Odax said, looking at Jack; “let's hear it all.”


And so Jack reported about the whole battle, front to back, leaving no detail untouched. Time didn't seem to be a problem to any of these men, so he took all that he needed. Every once in awhile, one of the wise men asked a short question, but most of the time Jack could talk undisturbed. As he was sitting there, smelling like a pro, still wearing his pilot’s gear, holding one of the finest Linda’s in the universe, with three (four?) of the most powerful men in the universe hanging at his lips, he had difficulties to see this as reality. Byrne was looking at Jack with an almost proud expression on his face. Mordechai seemed to have problems dividing his attention between the Linda and Jack’s report. Goldblum and Odax were listening carefully. Silk was still sitting in the corner, rapidly making notes on some kind of processing unit. Jack was really getting a bit nervous about the man.


“After the blast we made a last fly-by to check the area for survivors like we always do. There was absolutely nothing left in a 300 km radius of the blastpoint."

Odax interrupted: "And what about parts? i would much like to see some of the tchnical novelties of those warp frigates."

Jack didn't know how to say this without making Odax sound stupid, but he tried anyway. "Well, when I said 'blown up' i should have said 'obiterated'. What i mean is that the biggest object on the radius was a jettisoned missile round that Dyne dumped after we returned. The blast was absolutely far worse then anything i've ever seen or even heard of before."

"He is right you know" Said Silk with an unexpected interruption; "we recorded the blast from our MSU*. We are still analyzing the data, but the experts are all yelling 'doomsday weapon' and saying that blasts like this can blow up entire planets."

"Unsettling thought..." said Byrne. "Was there more Jack?"

"That is all. If the gentlemen would like to ask some questions, I’d be happy to answer them.”

Silk looked amused at that sentence, and Jack realised that he had gotten a bit too arrogant. He cursed himself, but it was too late to correct. Oddly enough, the councillors didn’t seem to mind.

“Yes, I certainly have some questions, Jack.” Said Goldblum. The others nodded, and Jack realised this was going to be a long de-brief.

Goldblum proceeded. “I think I’ll go first, if you don’t mind.” Of course the others didn’t, so Goldblum launched his first question. "Do you have an ID on what Treesa captured out there?"

"To be honoust, I don't even know if the man is alive or not. I ordered Treesa to take him to the Adamantine right away for investigation. You should check up with them to find out more about him."

Goldblums eyes lit up when he heared this, because the Adamantine was a ship from his fleet. Jack knew he had just scored some points. Silk didn't seem happy with the situation at all, but he remained silent.

"Could he have been a fighter pilot?" Wanted Goldblum to know.

"Unlikely William," Jack couldn't believe he was saying this, but continued: "the fighters acted like unmanned drones. No humans can be trained to fly as synchronised as they did." After Jack said this he noticed Silk raise an eyebrow at Byrne, who nodded very slightly. Again, Jack saw himself forced to adjustthe impression he got from Silk.

Silk was the one asking the next question: “Who was the man briefing you?”

“A man from I-3. I found it strange to be briefed by such a high-ranked officer.”

“What was his name?” Goldblum wanted to know.

Jack honestly didn’t remember, but Silk saved him by saying: “We from intell never give out names if they are unnecessary.”

"Then how did you know he was high-ranked?" asked Silk.

Jack wondered. Why did he ever think that? "He wore no insignes at all, just like all of you are doing, and ... well ... he really bathed in luxury." Silk and Byrne exchanged another look, like they knew the man Jack was talking about very well. The serious look they both had didn't mean alot of good.

“Thank you, Jack.” Goldblum looked aside, to indicate that it was Mordechai’s turn to ask.

“You say that Z'Ahm's scanners were continuously logging. Who will receive that data?”

“That is not up to me, sir.” Replied Jack. “Standard procedure is that I give mission data to Byrne, who passes it on to I-3, and they distribute it further.” Again, Silk saved Jack from a tough situation, with a few quick words: “I will see to it that all thirteen embassies get their own copy.”

That didn't satisfy Mordechai. “I would rather see the original version directly out of Z'Ahms blackbox.”

Jack felt stuck in the middle of a powerstruggle here. he decided that he was on the same side as Byrne above all else. Byrne was exchanging hand signals under the table with Silk. Well, if Silk was an ally of Byrne, Jack would be his ally too. Pretending to be thinking about the question, Jack glanced at Silk from his eyecorners. Silksaw this and nodded, so Jack answered Mordechai: "If you give me a valid D-TAG, I will personally send the data as soon as i can get a hold of Z'Ahm."

That was more to Mordechai's liking. Jack knew he would have to send the data to I-3 before uploading it to Mordechai. This would mean stressing for every second, and Jack was already fighting his after-adrenaline-dip. He didn't let his fatigue show on his face though, because Mordechai wasn't finished with him yet.

"You say these fighters fought like drones?"

"Yes." Said Jack simply. Mordechai should have gotten the message that Goldblum accepted Jacks word as a fact in this. Jack was slightly annoyed for having to answer the same thing twice. Then he realized who he was talking to, and cursed himself for getting to arrogant a second time. He took some water, in hopes of getting rid of some of Linda's effects.

Mordechai finally asked what he really wanted to know. "were these drones branded in any way? A logo, a mark, anything?"

"I haven't had the chance to analyze all the images we took yet, but if i find anything, you will find that info along with the rest of my D-TAG report." said Byrne. Apearantly, Mordechai got to more people's nerves then just Jack. Silk showed no emotion at all.

"Good." spoke Mordechai, and he looked to his left, giving the shell to Odax so to speak. Odax took a good long taxing look at Jack, sat back in his chair, easily took a slow sip of his Linda, leaned forward again, opened his mout, closed it again, and said: "Do you have time for a private conversation in the next few days?"

This time it was Goldblum who gave Jack the signal: a narrowing of the eyes, and a contemplating nod to indicate that he should do it, but with reluctance. Jack gave away the best show he could.

He faked to be in deep thought, looking at Byrne for an answer, who played along by saying: "You have a new assignment in an hour or eight, but after that I have nothing for you."

Jack turned to Odax: "Will 48 hours be fast enough?"

Nobody in the room fell for it, except for Odax, who thought he just recruited one of Goldblum's finer pilots. "I will see if I am available too then."

Poor man, thought Jack. He was not made or trained for the level of intrigue that these others operated on. He would be slowly stripped from power, influence and people, untill his Lord would have him replaced. Jack finally got an idea of the magnitude of the intrigue, hostility and false intent in the room. Getting dizzy, he focused on Byrne, who he would stay loyal to at all cost. Knowing this gave him the strength to keep concentrating.

Odax sat back, and both Byrne and Silk indicated that they had no questions. Jack had timed well, his Linda was empty when he stood up to leave the room. His basic knowledge of Linda-etiquette told him to greet the guests, then walk to the sidetable, take a glass of water, propose a toast to the host, and down the water. "To Byrne, and his endless hospitality!" he shouted. Following the custom protocol, he marched straight to the door, as leaving without looking around symbolises that although intoxicated by the Linda, you stand by your previous actions. No douts, no regrets.

But Goldblum turned around on last time before jack reached the door. “Oh and Jack?”

Jack decided to push his luck. “Yes, William?”

“From now on, I’d like you to call me ‘sir’ again. I wouldn’t want the ‘William’ thing to become a tradition.”

“I understand, sir.”


As he closed the door, he walked around a corner first, before leaning against a wall with his back, standing still to let it all sink in. He couldn't believe what he had just done. He had been talking to extremely powerful and demanding people. He had even deceived one of them. He had fuelled their intrigue for at least a few weeks, maybe longer. Even though he knew that he was just a pawn in this game, he had felt the power and the influence surge through his body. Continueing his way to the temporary quarters that his crew was given, he realized more and more that where he was done for the day, these five men in Byrne's office had a very very long day ahead of them. With renewed respect for Byrne, he realised how happy he was with his position, and that he wouldn't want to lose it for the world. He promised himself to get out of their way as soon as he could, forever leaving politics behind.


*: In this day and age, people live to be about 200 to 250 years old. Most retire at 150 though, because the body is unable to deliver any real labour after that. The record for the oldest man (apart from the Lords that have all lived for about 9000 years) is 372 years, set by a man on Gainoa XII, a planet with earth-like environment, but slightly less gravity, and more oxygen in the air.

*2: Non-alcoholic, yet equally intoxicating and soothing as wine. The advantage was that the effect was quickly reversible by drinking a simple glass of water. The name is said to be the name of the girlfriend of the inventor, and has a tradition of being written with a capital L, more a joke born out of great enthusiasm then anything else.

*3 : The Sol is the universal currency unit, invented by the Tanuka. It was set at the value of one standardhour of uneducated labour on the planet Arak, Tanuka's main transport planet.

*4: MSU: Molbile Sensory Unit. Basically, it's a Destroyer-class hull, filled up with high-tech equipment, tracking movement, activities, and presence of enemy and own ships in a wide region.

*5: D-TAG stands for Data Transmission Adress Gate. It's a set of frequencies, locations, passwords and access keys, needed to send a message. The D-TAG system for data transfer was cooked up by Colonial scientists. The added safety that the system offers lies in the safety codes needed to send a message, instead of focusing the security on opening those messages. The concept sounds ineffective, but I-3 claims to have noted a decrease of 80% in intercepted and hacked messages. Because of the lengthy process it takes to actually send such a message, it is only used for very classified intra-fleet communications.

 

Chapter 6: The Void

 

Kurt had no idea what effect his action might have on the beam, but he knew that he had to buy Treesa and Jack a second or two. He could only hope he was doing the right thing, because he would never know. With trembling fingers he turned off his LoRaC, but Z'Ahm's scream seemed to stay in the air a long time after the speaker was silent. He turned off all equipment that he was told never to turn off, not even certain why he did it. He made a final minute adjustment in his course, armed and disengaged the torpedo, and then turned the last active subsystem of his Raptor fighter off: the engine.


Total silence dominated Kurts universe for one of those seconds that seem like a century. He rested his body in his chair, relaxing all muscles to deal with the upcoming impact. Through his closed eyelids, he could see the intense blue glare of the slowlight beam intensify... he almost couldn't restrain himself from turning his head away. He counted down... 2... 1...


Nothing happened... did he miss the beam? Impossible! Unless the beam had accellerated in those last two seconds... But when he openend his eyes to try to make a second run, he was instantly blinded. He had no idea light could be this intense. It seemed to pour in through every hole in his head, burning, scorching every thought other then pain. After he managed to cover his eyes up with his arms, he slowly realised he somehow got stuck in the middle of the beam. His panic made room for acceptance. He had no cards left to play, and knew for a fact that he would die in a few seconds. It was out of his hands now. All he could do was hope that his action at least had slowed the beam down enough to Give Treesa time to do whatever she was doing. He noticed he had been holding his breath for the last ten seconds, and exhaled, trying to lock out the painfull light that still ripped his head apart.


Suddenly a huge shock ran through his craft, ripping off several parts of his poor Raptor. Engine, weaponsystems, nav dome, he could see all of the Raptor's vital parts fly around him. He realised that he was very lucky, cabinpressure remained stable, and it seemed like the blast had thrown his capsule out of the raging ball of light. The light seemed to slightly lose it's intensity, and the pain slowly went down to an almost acceptable level. Kurt still tried to focus on nothing else but exhaling, keeping his body releaxed in the tight straps of his seat.


What he didn't realize that he was behind the Ball of lightning, following it at roughly 20 metres. He had not seen the worst of this yet...

About three seconds after the torpedo went off, the beams smashed into eachother, tearing up all old meanings of space and time into a ball of twisting flashes of energy. Kurt's little Raptor (or what was left of it) fell right into the still growing and unstable wormhole.


Some 6 milion lightyears away, a strikefleet awaited the green light for launch. Lieutenant Geril Kubrow overlooked the twohundred fighterdrones from his conrol room, and coordinated them to the designated place. Seeing the counter slowly drop to zero was always the toughest part. Every fibre in his body was ready to go, but this little annoying clock was holding him back. Ten seconds... Geril fired his gear up, the drones came to life, ready to follow any orders from his fingertips. Five, Four... the massive generator gehind him started tearing away at space and time... Three... Two...


Nothing could have prepared Kurt for what happened next. His whole being was streched, folded and crumbled to fit through the way too small and unstable wormhole. If the light was pain, this darkness was agony. His head exploded with unspeakable sensation, and suddenly, his mind was free. Pain was no longer pain, it was just a fact. Floating around in the holes of natures laws, he could see nothing. True nothingness. Not just empty space, or a blind wall, but true Nothing. It reminded him of the blind child on Rana VI, that explained what blind people see:

"Try to look through the back of your head. What do you actually see behind you? Not black, as most people would characterise nothing. Less then that. Absolutely nothing."

Kurt heard the words, saw the nothing, and realised that this nothing he was staring at, was nothing less then Death. It also occured to him that he was getting closer to the Nothing, exploring it, feeling it. But why were his thoughts still there? Did he actually have a chance at survival?


Two... One... Abort! ABORT!! Geril almost had a heartattack, with even the tiniest little muscle he had screaming: "Go! Go! Go!", and the speaker by his ear saying the exact opposite. For a moment he was petrified, but then he lifted his fingers off the control panel. Instead he leaned over to the speaker, and pushed the big yellow button besides it.

"What's wrong with the wormhole, command?"

"It seems to be destabilised on the other side." Was the answer. "Anyway, it's too small for you. Prepare to salvage the CryoPod, and scan for any resistance that comes through."

"Sir, if my drones don't even fit through, what kind of resistance do you expect?"

"Just be on your guard, I'll ask the questions."

"Yes sir," said Geril, and then with the connection down: "Stupid idiot!"


Thinking about survival was enough. Back towards the agonising state his body was in, back to the extreme bursts of light and darkness, allthough in this dimension there seemed to be no difference between the two. He went back in with the will to survive, but he wasn't prepared for this. He reached a point where the pain ws no longer humanly possible to comprehend, he felt a blockade. He could not get back into his body because of it. He tried to turn around, away from he pain, away from the light, but there was only Death there. Another kind of pain stopped him: his concience. His deeply rooted sense that it was not over yet. He could not leave. Not without a fight. Kurt knew his task: he had to break through that barrier of pain, break the laws that the Creator himself had written. He had to defy nature itself. He turned around, once again towards the light, and rid his thoughts of all fear, of all thought, of all instincts. Except for one thing. He was going back. He didn't even feel the pain this time, he only noticed it. Bit by bit, he was breaking down the wall keeping him from being alive. The going got tougher and tougher, but he felt he had come as far as the final barrier. He could almost remember how his feet used to tingle, how his hands used to shake, how his heart used to beat. He took a deep breath, to break down that final frontier, only afterwards realising that breathing WAS that frontier. In one single blow, the full intnesity of his mangled body's pain came back. Knowing that he had made it to te other side, he embraced it, and fainted...


Geril stared at his sensors, still mad at himself for annoying the commander while there was bad news around. That had always proved a succesful way to get transfered to guard duty on Hiralis XVIII's icy north pole.

He almost overlooked the small extra blip between all his drones...

 

Charpter 7: Talking to an Old Man

 

Now that he had eaten, and finally had the shower he wanted so badly, Jack was able to point his attention to the future again. Feeling refreshed and strong, he walked to Silk’s office, to talk about the prisoner they took. Hardly remembering what the intelligence officer looked like, he wondered what had been making Jack so nervous about the man. Jack decided it was of little importance, and that he would just stay neutral towards this guy. He would not let himself be played like that. To illustrate his determination, he entered hardly half a second after knocking, not giving Silk any chance to take a pose, like he had been doing on their last meeting. The man sitting behind his desk seemed to be like any other bureaucratic little weasel he had ever seen, and not the smart, intelligent and dangerous man that Jack met in Byrne's office. He felt a little triumph as Silk quickly adjusted and took the pose of the powerful intell officer.


Looking around in Silk’s office, he was puzzled. It was a tiny room, somewhere in the bowels of the cruiser, with very primitive furniture. Silk was sitting behind his desk, working on some kind of interactive holographic data unit. He quickly turned it off.

“Welcome Jack, thank you for coming on such short notice.”

“I have been wanting to talk about our prisoner too, so…”

“Yes, well let’s get right to the point then. He does not want to speak to us.”

Jack was off balance now. “He is already out of hibernation?”

“Yes, as soon as he came in contact with our ship’s atmosphere, he started breathing again.”

“But now he is being stubborn.”

“Nice way to put it,” laughed Silk. “but yes, he refuses to speak to anybody but the person who captured him.”

“Ah, and now you want me to go talk to him?”

“Yes, obviously.”

“Why not Treesa? She is the one that captured him, and she is also the one who saved him by rushing back in to pick him up.”

Silk leaned back in his chair, slowly stroking his long chin while he thought about that for a second. “No Jack, even with the loose form of command you use, you are still the one who is directly responsible for everything that happens out there. You take the blame when the shit hits the fan, you also take the credit when things go well.”

“And in which category would this mission be, sir?” Asked Jack with just a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Everything that was little about this man seemed to vanish, as he sent a piercing look at Jack. “Don't mock me, Jack.” In that one second, Silk seemed to grow four extra feet, transforming into a dangerous and bloodthirsty giant ready to attack anything that moved. When Jack humbly apologised, visibly disturbed and scared by the sudden transformation, Silk relaxed again, becoming the friendly intell officer he chose to be.

“So will you talk to this man?” Even with the warning he had just received, Jack hesitated. He had a natural distrust of intell people, and Silk was definitely no exception. What was he trying to do? Jack didn’t want to get entangled in anything that would lead his path away from being “Jack, fighter pilot”. On the other hand, he was intrigued by what they had encountered last mission, and if he had to fight these unknown enemies again, he had to gather some info on them. And maybe this prisoner, whoever he was, would be able to tell him more. His decision was set.

“Ok, I will do it, but I need to prepare myself first. I want to talk to him in combat gear, so he understands who he is talking to.”

“I wanted to suggest the same thing. Take your Raptor and fly to the Adamantine. You have ten minutes, I will meet you on B-deck, room 23j. he will be there as well.”

Jack simply nodded and walked away.


In his quarters he met Zell.

“Hey Zell. I think I will need some of your high tech toys.”

Zell showed a quasi-insulted face. “Only if you stop calling them toys.”

“Yeah yeah, I promise.” laughed Jack.

“What do you need?”

“Something to completely block a conversation of two people from any form of scanning. The device will need to be undetectable, and I need it in three minutes.”

“Is that all? You disappoint me Jack, you never find the imagination to think of something impossible anymore.”

“I’m not fooling around, Zell. I am going to have a discussion with our prisoner, and I don’t want Intell to listen to it.”

“Wow, that is serious.” Zell’s eyes shimmered. “Can I listen on the communicator?”

“Someday you are going to have to give that thing a name.” Said Jack.

“Communicator will do just fine. Well, can I listen?”

“As much as I should say no, I want to have a recording of the conversation. If you can come up with a way to give me a few minutes alone with the man, I will let you listen.”

After thinking a few seconds, Zell said: “Great. I have this low-frequency scanner hooked up to the ...”

“Zell, please spare me the details. How long will it take you to construct it?”

“Yes, yes, i have it right here, i just need to relay the internal...”

Jack really didn't share his friend's passion for electrical gadgets. “Zell, please... how long?”

“A few minutes, I just need to configure the data on…”

“Zell…”

“Ow, yeah, err… I will get to work immediately.”

“Thank you.” said Jack, but Zell was too busy to hear it, collecting all kinds of gizmos and tools from all over his messy room. Shaking his head Jack started to put his smelly pilot gear back on.


Arriving at room 23j of B-deck, jack was relieved to see Byrne there as well.

Jack saluted: "Sirs."

Byrne and Silk nodded back in silence.

Taking the initiative Jack said: “I assume you have recording equipment installed?”

“Yes, naturally.” Said Silk.

“I want them turned off.” Said Jack. “The man will not talk to you, so he will not talk to me either if he knows you are listening.”

“But I need…”

“I will give you a full report of my conversation, but not a recording.”

“That's unacceptable.”

“Are you questioning my loyalties?”

“No, but I object to letting a man that should not have access to this data in the first place get a chance to keep it all for himself.”

“I am all you have, Silk. Take it or leave it.”

“Gentlemen, let’s stay focused here.” Byrne interrupted. “I agree with Jack. You should just let him talk to the man, and trust Jack to do it right.”

Silk sent a taxing look at Jack, and then capitulated. He took a device out of his pocket, and gave it to Byrne. “This remote controls a series of twelve sensors in the room, and logs all the data from them as well. Switch it off using that blue button.”

Reaching even deeper in his pockets, Silk handed Jack a piece of old fashion paper. “Here is a list of things I’d like to know, if he might get talkative.”

Jack studied the list, and then gave it back. “These are all standard questions. I am not stupid, you know.” How could this man ever have made him nervous?


With just a short nod to Byrne, Jack entered the room where their ‘guest’ was silently awaiting things to come. The room was just a standard grey interrogation room, completely empty apart from the table and the two chairs.

Seating himself on the other end of a table, Jack studied the man in front of him. The man was old. His long, snowy white hair was so thin you could see the skin on his head, which was so pale it was almost grey. The man was short of statue, and looked like he had not had a meal in years (which might not even be far from the truth, realized Jack). His skin showed the signs of the centuries. Scars of fighting and torture were everywhere. The man left his shoulders hanging down, as if his enormous life made him very tired. His hands, laying on the table, were fascinating. His long, bony fingers looked powerless, and yet something in the scars and patterns made sure that the natural reaction was to stay an arm’s length away just in case. The old man was wearing a very neutral suit that Byrne’s people gave him. Comfortable clothing, yet the simple civilian clothing didn't seem to fit the old man.

Jack had only a second to look at all that, before his attention was locked on the man’s eyes. Powerless and tired as his body was, these eyes seemed to burn with the grief of centuries, the wisdom of millennia, and the power of aeons, tearing your mind open layer by layer to see what's underneath. They were the eyes of a... Could it be? Did Jack and his crew imprison a Lord? Jack shivered, then tore his eyes away from the burning stare of the man on the other side if the table.


A certain rest fell over him as he turned the switch on Zell’s device. He now had four minutes until the batteries ran out.

He put the thing on the middle of the table, and said: “Now we talk alone. We have four minutes.”

“I will not need them, Jack.” Spoke the old man in an almost whispering voice.

Jack simply waited. The man knew what the questions were.

After a few intense moments, in which the man seemed to wonder if Jack was worthy of the answers, he started talking. First slowly, but then with increasing speed, until it was almost too fast for Jack to understand.

“I do not know who I am. My earliest memory is from about a year ago. I woke up in a very old cellar, on a planet named Nam C’herkk. I do not know who the people are that held me prisoner back there, or why i was their prisoner. I never saw one of them alive. My food was brought in automated, and my door never opened. Judging from the amount of meals i got, i was there for one standard month without any events. When the door finally opened, a tall woman with a Wolf emblem on her chest stood there. She Said i was the Lord, and that she had come here to rescue me. I later learned what that meant in one of my many conversations with her. I was thankful, not only for my freedom, but also for the human contact. She led me through a series of hallways and stairs, all of them filled with the bodies of dead gnome-like people, and an occasional victim with the Wolf-emblem. There had been heavy fighting for every inch, and with a shock i realized it was a rescue operation... all these people had given their lives for me.

Once outside, I was shocked by the enormity of the rescue operation. Everywhere I looked I saw bodies and shot-down fighter drones. The skies were still filled with fire and craft shooting each other out of the sky, and they were raining down on the field I had to cross to my waiting escape pod. A huge bomber-type ship in the black-and-yellow of the wolf people crashed down on the pod we were running towards. The blow was dazzling, but without a scratch on my vehicle, I became confident in its strength. Once inside, we rushed off, almost alone, with only a small escort of Wolfclan ships. My saviour, who introduced herself to me as Leope Nimrod, explained that she was part of the so-called Clan of the Wolf, a band of outcasts that delivered small military operations for exceptionally high payment. When i asked what i was worth, she only made a vague remark about a new home base for her entire clan. Whether that meant a spacestation, a moon, a planet, or an entire galaxy, i do not know. She said she was taking me to a rendezvous with her contractor, and that she had nothing more to do with me from that point on.”


The old man was talking at incredible speed now, and the information did not reach Jack as words anymore, but rather as images. He saw all the events the man described with frightening precision. Instead of hearing the story second-handed, he was actually taken on a trip to the hellish battlefield. What was going on here?


"Leope and I became quite good friends over time. Besides the fact that i was her prisoner, she was very polite, and even quite pleasant company. I found out about her other side Two weeks later. After two weeks of endless evasive manoeuvres, We were attacked. Without warning, a whole swarm of fighterdrones stormed out of a jumpgate*, and destroyed the escort of seventeen cruisers and sixty destroyers I had in the blink of an eye. The accuracy and the speed of the enemy gunners was flawless, despite the thousands of individual drones. Nimrod capitulated, and requested their demands. The attackers insisted that I went aboard an escape capsule, and flew into the cargo room of the only bigger ship in their fleet. Nimrod even had the courtesy to ask me if I agreed. I thanked her, and gave myself up to the mysterious fleet. Once I entered their cargo bay, they closed it, filled it with oxygen, and opened the capsule by remote control. I was powerlessly floating around in the zero gravity environment, so I was helpless when they prepared me for my hibernation, which would allow me to survive in open space. After awhile, it felt like I was getting paralysed. I wasn’t even able to move my eyelids. When they were ready, i was thrown into outer space, and dragged along by a basic tractor beam from the eight frigates you encountered today. For ten gruelling months I floated through deep space, all alone. In this time, they opened a jumpgate seven times, but nothing ever changed. All I ever got to see was stars and the swarmes that escorted me. A few days ago, most escorting ships left, only to leave a tiny amount of fighters to guard me, plus the eight jumpgate frigates. I think they wanted to sneak past your fleet to reach the jumppoint that was there. You know the rest. Your unit moved in, killed the small escort, and captured me before destabilising the gate.”


Jack's thoughts were released again. And as he feel back in his chair, he was confused. What had just happened? Telepathy? Impossible! And yet this man...

After exchanging a long understanding look, Jack simply thanked the man, picked up Zells device, and left the room. Looking on his watch, he saw that only thirty seconds had passed.


Silk was furious. Storming up and down in Byrne’s office, he had screamed at Jack for seven minutes, before Byrne was finally able to cool him down. Let Jack explain himself before you have him executed, please… correction, make that before we have him executed. What the hell were you thinking Jack?”

“The question should be what he was thinking.”

“Excuse me?” said Jack’s two superiors, both annoyed.

Enjoying the moment, Jack waited for one extra second before answering. He realised that he had just pushed the very limits of patience, but he knew that the story he had to tell would make them forget about it anyway. “Telepathy, sir.” He said. “I wouldn’t have believed it myself if it didn’t really just happen.” And he told the whole tale, apart from the identity of the Lord’s rescuers. Jack didn’t know why he lied to his superiors, but something told him to keep something for himself. Silk and Byrne listened without interrupting once. Even more so then in Jack’s case, the story seemed to answer all their questions. He realised what a brilliantly fine-tuned story this was, meant to specifically satisfy these two men. He wondered how much of it was untrue. Only one question remained unanswered:

“Did he say anything that could give us a hint about who these mercenaries are?” Asked Silk.

“You are not seriously thinking about taking investigative power away from the Triad* , are you?” Byrne protested.

“And why not? All our sources have bled dry, and most of our questions about the Triad have been answered. There is not much else to do, and now a perfect mystery comes up, and you want to ignore it?”

“Have you noticed that we are fighting a war lately? We will investigate trivial matters later.”

Silk had a new outburst, his eyes flaming with frustration. “Trivial! We capture a kidnapped Lord, and Mr. War here calls it trivial!”

“No, he hasn’t.” said Jack suddenly.

“What?” asked Silk.

“No, he hasn’t given me any clues regarding the identity of the mercenaries.”

“Right. I guess I’ll go and ask him then.” And before any of the two men could say a thing, Silk stormed out of the room to interrogate the Lord.

When Byrne and Jack crossed eyes, they thought the same thing: Silk was going to come back even more frustrated then he went there. Switching the topic, Jack asked:

“What was that all about?”

“What? Oh, that.” Byrne shook his shoulders as if to say that two officers fighting it out in front of their subordinates was nothing of importance. “He seems to do everything he can to find other things to investigate then the Triad. Sometimes I even wonder if I should question his loyalties.”

“Nobody likes Intell people I guess.” Said Jack, indicating that he felt the same way too sometimes.

“I already received a message from one of Odax’ men.” Said Byrne, happy to change the subject. “He seems determined to recruit you, would you have any idea why?”

Jack smiled. “Before setting up my Unit in Goldblum’s service, I applied for the same with Odax. I heard that his generals liked the idea, but Odax had personally forbidden it. I guess he is having second thoughts now that that Lord is in Goldblum’s hospital ship, instead of in his own.”

“Yes, I suppose that would give him some second thoughts indeed.” Laughed Byrne.

“Do you want me to fly a simple mission for him and screw it up?”

“No Jack, don’t get involved in this. I will simply screen you, saying that your loyalties have been set.”

“Thanks, Byrne.”

Byrne didn’t get any chance to answer to that, because Silk stormed into the room with a bewildered look on his face, the first expression that Jack considered to be genuine since he met Silk. When he had collected enough breath to talk, Silk was able to utter a few small words:

“He is gone.”



*: On the word jumpgate Jack experienced the whole knowledge that this man had on the subject. Jumpgates were "shortcuts" through space-time. You can open them anywhere in space, but opening one on most locations will only transport you a couple of miles, not worth the enormous investment in energy. There are some "hotspots" however, where space-time is extremely disturbed. This means that one jump can transport you several thousands of lightyears in an instant. Understandably, the art of navigating on a journey through space using Jumpgates is very much depending on finding the right hotspots, or Helixes, as the Leope liked to call them.


**: The Triad was the group of Lords that the Circle was fighting. Although the Triad consisted of about sixty Lords and their empires, there were three distinct leaders, making every single disicion. None of the others had anything to say.

 

Chapter 8: ZAhm

 

Now that Jack had completed his reporting duties, he had the time to sit down and have a good long talk with Z’Ahm he had wanted ever since his memorable display of courage in the disastrous battle. They were sitting at one of the magnificent big windows that the LionHeart featured. It had been almost thirty-two hours, since Jack left Z’Ahm alone with the heavily wounded Jaric. Z’Ahm didn’t have any sleep, he had been crafting and operating the whole time. In those long hours, he had driven the onboard Technical Services of the LionHeart totally crazy by weird and seemingly irrational requests for parts and bits. After producing Jaric’s new limbs, he started attaching them on a molecular level even the expert doctors hadn’t ever seen. In the beginning, the doctors disliked everything Z’Ahm said or did, but after seeing his true mastery they followed him almost religiously. He had been forced to threaten them before they would leave Z'Ahm alone.

Jack ordered Z’Ahm an energy boosting drink called Haru, or Deadman’s Miracle in more common language. Jack was appalled only by the thought of drinking it, but Z’Ahm seemed to react well to the immense amounts of energy that this brew thrusts into a man's system. Jack settled in with an ordinary Linda.

After a long silence, with both men enjoying their drinks, and the chance to finally do nothing again, Jack broke the silence. “Any idea why I wanted to talk to you?”

Mentally preparing his body for the shock of another gulp of his drink, Z’Ahm shrugged and mumbled something like “I guess my actions in the battle have something to do with it.”

Jack suddenly realised something: did Z’Ahm think he was getting a lecture? He quickly removed the doubts on that subject. “I wanted to thank you for your bravery back there, but there is more.”

That greatly stimulated Z’Ahm’s interest for the conversation. “Oh, I thought you were going to place me back a few ranks, to teach me not to…”

“Z’Ahm, don’t be stupid. That wild and chaotic talent is exactly what I want people to have and follow in my unit. We are a small elite force, we each have our own style. We don’t fly by the rules, we merely fly together. That is why we have such low losses. Anyway, I wanted to know more about you. You have always been very silent about your reasons to fly for us.”

Z’Ahm took another huge gulp from his Haru, and asked: “Ok, what do you want to hear?”

“Everything. Give me your life’s story if you need. I want to understand you, and I want to know where you came from. I have been wondering what your story was ever since you joined. Not many of us joined out of free will you know.”

That obviously disturbed Z’Ahm. He hid his shock by taking another gulp of Haru, which almost electrified his body. When he finally regained his balance, Z’Ahm lifted his head, looked in Jack’s eyes, and sank back into his chair. Looking out of the big window, Z’Ahm shook his head. “I can’t, Jack. I really can’t…”

Jack was disappointed. “Nothing? Nothing at all?”

“When I am ready, I will tell you. At the time, I cannot speak to anyone about it, not even you.”

Jack understood. The highly structurised society that this short man came from threw him out for some reason. That was probably the same reason he would have to fulfil some sort of quest or wait for a ceremonial period before he could speak. “That’s ok. Take your time, but be sure to tell me someday. You are carrying something hidious around, and I will not let it destroy you.”

“Thank you, Jack. I appreciate it, but you simply wouldn’t understand.”

“Don’t you think you should try and see?” Asked Jack.

“I will think about it. I’m not at my best right now.”

“Yes, you need some sleep.” Said Jack. He thought it would be best to just change the topic, as the relaxed silence of a minute ago felt awkward now. “Oh, and I would like to have a word with Jaric soon, is he approachable?”

Z’Ahm nodded.

”So how is he?” asked Jack.

“He’s doing fine, and he is really proud of his new legs.” said Z’Ahm, not without any pride.

“You gave him two new legs?” Jack was surprised. There was nothing wrong with the left leg, only the right had been injured.

“Yes of course. He would be very unbalanced if he had only one of my legs.”

“Unbalanced?”

“Imagine having one normal arm and one with the power of a forklift on the other side. Would you be able to stir your tea in the morning?” asked Z’Ahm.

“Oh, I see,” Said Jack “so when will he come out of his anaesthetics?”

“He woke up three hours ago.”

“And how long will he need to adjust?”

“Well that depends strongly on the person. Getting used to a three thousand percent increase in muscle strength takes a lot of mental flexibility. But in his case I’d say twelve to twenty-four hours of intensive training should do it.”

Jack was surprised. “So fast?”

“Well, Jaric is a smart guy, and I saw how he flew his fighter.” Shrugged Z’Ahm. “He flies it like it is an extension of himself. I believe he will have no problem adapting to his legs.”

“That’s good news,” said Jack “now we can get out of this ship sooner.”

Z’Ahm leaned closer to Jack. “Frankly, this ship is giving me the creeps. I don’t know what it is, but something is definitely not right.”

“Yeah, I feel uncomfortable too, here. Maybe it is just the size of the thing that is getting at me. I am used to my fighter, and the freedom and speed of that.”

“Maybe you are right, maybe not. Still I would like to get off of this thing ASAP.”

Jack couldn’t help smiling. “Ok, I will prepare the unit for launch and wakefield travel* again, we have been reserving the diplomatic quarters for too long already.”

“Sounds cool, I cannot wait to strap up and do some training again.”

“Later. Just go to sleep now.”

Z’Ahm did just that.


“Disturbing fellow, isn’t he?”

Jack didn’t even need to turn around to know who that was. “Yes, but not by far as disturbing as you sneaking up on me, Treesa.”

Treesa laughed. “Will you accept my life story instead of Z’Ahm’s?”

Jack sent a quasi-scanning look to Treesa, and said: “Yes, I guess that’ll do.” He answered Treesa’s devastating look with a huge smile running from ear to ear.

“There is not that much too it. I was an activist once on the planet Radon. It had recently been given to a small but extremist group of Lords. They are the true masters of guerrilla warfare. As one of their weapons, they detonate nuclear devices on all planets they have to leave, making them inhabitable for almost 1000 years. I was protesting against that form of scorched earth. The protest group I had set up was small, but all were strong and independent people. We were forced to go underground very soon, and after that I just saw my friends bodies appear one by one. When I heard about the invasion force coming towards the planet…”

Jack interrupted. “You heard about that in advance?”

“Yes, I told you I was underground. I did some work for a few of your spies in exchange for explosives. Anyway, as soon as I heard, I grabbed a fighter, and rushed to join your fleet. I was placed in one of the forward battalions, where the heavy losses are. My style of flying got me in your unit eventually, but that was 3 invasions later.”

“Yes, I remember. The support mission to cover Lord Hargrove’s soldiers.”

“Indeed. I almost forgot. We smoked those bandits, it was great fun. Anyway, now you know. I don’t know exactly who were hunting me, or why it was so important to them to keep the nuclear program running. I just want to put that episode of my life behind me, and keep flying with you guys.”

“Wow Treesa… they all died?”

“Every single one of them. Burzmali, Lo-gun, Hawk, Shakk, Neo. I am the last survivor.” Jack noticed her voice was trembling with suppressed rage and pain. Treesa did a good job in hiding her feelings though, and quickly regained control.

Jack was overwhelmed with so much candour. “I don’t know what to say…”

“It’s ok Jack. Somehow I know that I will get a chance to get to the bottom of this. And until that day, I fly my fighter.”

“One more question: why did you accept the task to carry the nuke last mission?”

“Because I knew that I wouldn’t fire it. I could never be that sure from the others. Byrne advised the suits at MG** to give the task to me. He is smart, Jack, and he knows a lot.”

“Yes, I know. I feel really confident that I have a man like him doing all our paperwork.”

“Well then, shall we go visit Jaric?” Asked Treesa.

“Actually, if you don’t mind, I would like to speak with him alone.”

“That’s ok, I understand.” Said Treesa. Walking past him, she gently ran her arm across his chest, while giving him an intense look. Jack was off balance, and before he could think of a way to react, Treesa was gone. Confused, Jack walked over to Jaric’s room.


Just when he was about to open the door, he felt a note in his pocket. Did Treesa put it there? Why didn’t she just tell me what she had to say?

As Jack read the note he felt the ground being swept away from under his feet. He barely noticed that by now, the door had opened, and everyone in the room could see his despair. All he could think of was the eight words Treesa had jotted down, burning in his mind:


I am still in danger. They are here



*: Small ships do not have the size or the energy capacity that is needed to hold their own intergalactic drives. Instead, they are equipped with smaller wakefield devices. The science is not complete, but it seems possible to ‘stretch’ the disturbance of space-time that a capital ship creates when his drives are operational. The wakefield enhancers fitted to the Raptors are doing just that, making it possible to follow the capital ships, while only operating on normal drives. As mentioned before, the science is not complete, but it seems to work better for smaller ships. It is theoretically possible to fit a battleship in this stretched wakefield, but doing this would require almost a tenfold of the energy required to create it’s own space-time breach. Perhaps a tell-tale sign of the complexity of the involved mechanisms is a quote by one of the famous independent Mardragg scientists working on the problem: “God, I wish Einstein was here.”

**: Mission Guidance. This is the operational command body for most small battles.

 

Chapter 9: Paranoid Council

 

Jack was stunned for a second. His whole world spun around him. He stood there in the room, afraid of having to face it’s reality: there could be people in there who were more then they were telling. He stood there, thinking of what to do, and how to act. He stood there, afraid of returning to the real world, that was obviously demanding his attention. Still in shock, he just did what he could do.

“Ok people, I want some privacy again, everybody out!” The last time the doctors had met him, he had done exactly the same, sending them all away in one of his most agitated moods ever. Although the reason was different this time, the doctors saw no difference. Remembering last time, when he literally threw one of them out, they all started to move with a deep sigh.

The same guy that objected last time had something to say again.

“That is a really annoying habit of yours, Jack.”

“Yeah, well we all have our little mistakes. Yours is that you talk when you shouldn’t.” Jack shifted his attention to his young friend. “Not you Zell, I want to talk to you.”


Now that he was alone in the room with two of his most trusted men, Jack was finally able to get a grip on reality again. With one of his best poker faces ever, he handed the note to Zell, and indicated that he should give it to Jaric as well, who was faking to be asleep. Zell poked Jaric in the side.

“He’s on to you man, just open your eyes.” After saying that he turned his eyes to the paper, and his ever-present smile disappeared. With a questioning look on Jack, he passed the note on to Jaric. When Jaric had had the time to sit up straight and read the note, Jack started to explain.

“Treesa wrote it. She was an anti-nuclear activist on Radon, and…”

“We invaded Radon, right?” Asked Jaric.

“Yes, that’s where the Circle picked her up. Anyway, she was forced to go underground a long time ago, because a shady anti-terrorism organisation of the Core* was hunting her down. And now she fumbles this note in my pocket, carefully out of sight from the other public in the main lounge.”

“The Core! Are we on their hitlist? I haven’t heard much about them, but non of it made me sleep better.” said Zell.

Jack laughed. “Zell, you never sleep.”

“The Core… I really hoped that Radon would be the last time we had to deal with them. Invading that planet was a hell. There were traps everywhere, as I recall it.”

“Well, here they are, and they have people close to us apparently.”

Zell turned pale slowly. “We are doomed.”

“No, we are not,” said Jaric “they are not as close as you might think, or they would have taken action by now.”

“Perhaps they are waiting for something to happen.” Said Jack.

“Who cares? We are fighterpilots. What on Earth can we do against a Union of Lords, especially one like the Core?”

“More then you might think, Zell.” This time Jaric really caught the attention of his two friends, so he continued. “Well, to start with we need to talk to Byrne. I think that he should be there if we make big decisions about the Unit.”

“Yes, you are right.” Jack hesitated. “Do you think we should invite Treesa too?”

“Maybe later, I think we should have a rational discussion about this before we make emotional decisions.” Said Jaric after some deep thinking.”

“Ok, I’ll go get Byrne then. Zell, get a few of those in-ear LoRaC’s and give one to Treesa, Cid, Kink and Z’Ahm. Tell them to be ready for the next mission in two hours.”

Zell lifted an eyebrow. “Kink too? He’s a freak.”

Halfway on his way to the door, Jack turned his head and said: “Yes I know, but he is a smart freak. In times of crisis I want smart people to talk to. Besides, he’s basically the only man who could never be a spy. He was here way before we ever went to one of the Core’s planets.”

“Ok, ok, I’ll give him one.”

Jack and Zell were so occupied with their smalltalk that they didn’t notice Jaric getting out of bed. He sat on the edge for a few seconds, checking the movements of his legs. After getting a feel for them, he stood on his legs, swaying back and forth to find his balance, and then he took a few steps. He stopped, looked up, and said: “Where do you think you’re going?”, expecting Jack and Zell to display some amazement.

Jack knew that he should be amazed, but he was prepared for this. Instead, he and Zell (who had the exact same reaction) looked at each other, shrugged, put on the most bored faces possible under the circumstances, and walked out of the room. Jaric was devastated. “Guys! … Ehh, I ehh… should really come with you to Byrne’s office, because it is much safer…”

“Yes, I agree completely,” said Jack, “I’ll see you there.”

What Jaric couldn’t see, was the two friends’ faces, tightly pressing their lips together in a futile attempt to keep an enormous laughter inside. They failed after just five steps, and then laughed so loud that they had to find support on each other’s shoulders to not fall to the floor.

As if the poor doctors waiting in the hallway were not confused enough, Jaric decided to get even. He took two steps, taking him outside the doorway, jumped back to the wall, and then used the doorpost to make a horizontal jump all the way over Jack and Zell’s heads to the other side of the hallway some fifteen meters away. He ‘landed’ on the wall, and then bounced back, jumping to a point exactly 2 feet in front of where the two friends had been congratulating themselves about their great joke. This time, they actually were amazed. After a few deadly silent seconds, it was Jaric’s turn to shrug as if it was nothing unusual. “I practiced.” When the two mesmerised friends clearly were not going to think of anything witty to say, he did it for them: “Ok, I guess I’ll see you there then.” Jaric didn’t bother to use the ground when he left. Jumping in the same style he had done earlier, he was quickly around the corner, leaving a hallway full of people behind, who all had something to tell their grandchildren, as well as leaving a few permanent marks in the wall, where his feet had buckled the titanium.


Four men, sitting down in an office. All of them waiting for someone to talk. But they had nothing to say. They all knew what this meant, and what had to be done. Everyone was surprised that it was Zell to break the silence.

“So Byrne, It is clear that we need to bring this under the direct attention of the Lords of the Circle. Is there a procedure for something like this, or do we have to improvise?” When they all looked at their young friend without answering, a bit overwhelmed by Zell’s unexpected leadership, Zell almost seemed insulted. “What? Am I not allowed to ask the right questions?”

As always, Byrne knew what to do. “There are procedures, guidelines and regulations for everything, Zell. The question is, do we want to follow them?”

“Ok, let’s start at the beginning. What would we need to do if we followed them? We can go from there and leave all the parts we don’t like out.” This time, Byrne was able to avoid the same look, but Jack and Jaric failed. But Zell was unstoppable now. “Well?” He insisted.

Byrne cleared his throat. “This is really the kind of situation that the Vacant** is for. I think that is about the only useful protocol that we have at this time. We will have to make the rest up as we go.”

“What exactly is that ‘rest’ you talk about?” Wondered Zell.

Jack interfered. “Well for instance, the Unit died today. If I cannot trust every single pilot out there, I cannot fly at all.”

Jaric pulled a sorrowed face. “Yes, I’m afraid you are right.” He frowned. “First we have to decide what we want. Will we continue the Unit, or not?”

“Well that depends on what there will be left of it after this. I personally think that we should reduce to seven pilots.”

“You know there is a big chance that you will be banned after your talk with the Council. They are impressed with your actions on last mission and the report you filed about that interview with the captive man. But they are also terribly strict when it comes to leaving loose ends. Of the last two hundred Vacants that have been taken, only twelve people were allowed to take their old place back into the ranks. More then a hundred of them have been banished from the Circle’s empire forever.”

“What about the others?” Asked Zell.

Through Byrne’s serious look, Zell deducted that these poor souls never had to worry about what world to live on again. He shook his head. “That’s one mighty risk you are taking there Jack.”

“We have no other options Zell.” Said Jack with a worried tone in his voice.

Byrne continued. “That is the worst case scenario. At worst they will probably put a few of intell’s teams on the job, and assign give your Unit a few impossible missions, hoping you will all get killed, solving their problem. I hope those seven people you have in mind are up to the task.”

Jack nodded. “It’s easy to guess which seven they are Byrne.”

Byrne started to count the names. “Jack is One. His leadership is as essential to us all as our Raptors themselves. Zell is probably one of the ten best fighters of the universe on a good day, so he is Two. Jaric is Three, his wisdom and calmness are a basis for others to fall back on in times of peril. Treesa is Four. Her deductions in the last mission proved again that sometimes all a problem needs is a woman’s mind. Z’Ahm is Five. His incredible dedication and determination to pay back what he owes the Unit, plus his unique medical skills make him worthy. Six is Kink. He is strange, but incredibly creative. No doubt he will prove his worth someday. Cid is Seven. His background of industrial espionage and knowledge of big machinery of any sorts makes him unique in may ways.” He leaned back in his chair. “Good heavens Jack, where did we find these people?”

Jack laughed. “Yes, it’s quite a crew, isn’t it? So that’s it?” He suddenly dropped his laugh. “Too bad, Kurt isn’t here, we could really use his big guns expertise.”

“Wasn’t he instructing that kid from Delcoi III? You know, the silent child with the grown up eyes? He spooks me, but if he learned fast enough, he might be able to replace Kurt in a way…” Zell didn’t sound as convinced as he would have wanted.

“You are right Zell. Jaric, can you try to find out if he is good enough? If so, give him a LoRaC too. I think that will be all.” He looked across the room. The other three men produced a serious nod. “Good.” He turned to Byrne. “When is the next possible Vacant?”

Byrne looked at the time and opened a few files in his holo-emitter. “In four hours there is one, and in 12 hours the next. The Lords have dinner each eight hours.”

“Perfect. Zell, Jaric, go and assemble the others, and start preparing for departure. Keep it all inside the Seven. I will get an hour of rest now, and then move out claim the Vacant. You can get some rest while I’m there. Byrne, I’m hoping you would accompany me and help me with the speech.”

“Sounds like a good plan.” Agreed Jaric.

The four men went their way, doing what was needed with uncharacteristic depressed faces.


*: The Core is exactly as Treesa described. It’s a group of Lords that formed in the very beginning of the wartorn Age of Lords. They are known as the most closed and unreachable group in the universe. It is said that all of them were a team even before they became Lords, and that they never spoke to anybody that was not born and raised under their reign. Terror, intrigue, and guerrilla warfare are their trademarks. Despite their cold and distant attitude they get a great deal of respect among other lords, and through the ages they have had a big political influence on the major powerblocks that ruled the universe, without ever choosing sides.

**: In the early days of the Circle, a young thief from the streets had stumbled upon a conspiracy against the life of Lord Vigo when breaking into a nobleman’s house. Instead of reporting it to any of the officers from Vigo’s guard, he insisted on talking to the Lord himself. Before the guards could stop him, he slipped into the Lord’s dining room. The boy threw himself to the ground, pleading to be heard. Vigo ordered the guard, who was already dragging the boy out to let him go, and offered him the vacant seat of an absent Lord instead. There, dining with the Lords, the immensely nervous young thief told his tale, pointing at the same guard who was dragging him out as the one who would deliver the final blow. Vigo awarded the boy by sending him to prison for five years for thievery and then offering him a place in his intelligence service. From that day on, Vigo insisted that anyone willing to accept any punishment should be able to take that Vacant seat.

 

Chapter 10:  The Gate of Despair

 

To say that Jack was nervous would be a horrible understatement. He was standing at the entrance of the dining hall of the Lords, better known as the Gates of Despair. The Lords each had their own entrance, so this particular doors were only used when people chose to sit in the Vacant.. To kill some time, Jack studied the double doors, which were inscribed with intertwining symbols. These doors were a work of true mastery. The symbols on it intertwined in such a way that you could almost see them, but never really catch them. Every time you thought you saw something you knew, your eyes would just be torn away to something else. It’s not that the symbols actually moved, but the enormous complexity of the interlocked symbols crippled your attention span. Jack saw snakes, dragons, bears, crosses, swords, mummies, and all things connected to mythology, but he never actually saw them. Instead, his thoughts were somehow guided towards seeing these things. All of these were displayed through symbols, interlocking in such a way that they projected the image of myth and legend in the viewer’s head, rather then needing the viewer to solve the puzzle. It was amazing. While Jack stared at it, time seemed to fade, and his mind was free to wander around.


He thought of his companions on the LionHeart. Zell, Treesa, Byrne, Jaric, Z’Ahm, Kink, Cid and Ki, Kurt’s young student. They were preparing their Raptor in secrecy. All of them risked being banned from the Circular Empire for life. All of them trusted Jack to do what was needed. Jack felt as if they were standing right there behind him. staring at the door with him.


Jack thought back of his short conversation with Byrne on the way to the mothership of the fleet. For safety reasons, and despite his continuing complaints, Jack wasn’t allowed to come there in his own Raptor. Instead they sailed on the smallish personnel freighter NoVa XVI, specially fitted to scan it’s passengers from head to toe on a near-molecular level. Looking out the window at the gigantic First Comet, Byrne got sentimental:

“No matter how many times I look at it, I always get the creeps. I just can’t grasp how gigantic that thing is.”

Jack wasn’t that impressed, for two reasons. This was indeed the biggest, but not the first gigas class mothership* he had seen. But more importantly, he had other things to worry about.

“I have to face the council in three hours, and all you can say is ‘Look how big their ship is!’ ”.

“Jack, are you loosing your cool?”

“Yeah, sorry, it’s just that there is only the small matter that they will sentence me to death if they decide that my case was not worth their time.”

“Unlikely. Infiltration by the Core is something that the Lords would really like to hear about. They are a very paranoid bunch, you know.”

“Yeah, well I’m still nervous. And there’s no way I’m getting ‘my cool’ back before this is all over, so please stop talking about it.”

Byrne knew what was best for him, so he shut up and started looking at the First Comet again.


Jack was wrong though. As he looked at these gates, awaiting his trial, he felt relaxed, in control, and strong. Yes, he definitely found his ‘cool’ back. To avoid boredom, he started rehearsing the thirteen names of the lords again. Byrne had supplied him with a list complete with his own witty comments.

Margratha, commonly referred to as “the Ice Queen”. Doesn’t say much, beautiful as hell, and as mean as they get. She is also known for the annoying habit of being right all the time.

Stanley. A big, fat, loud man nicknamed “the Viking”, mostly because of his long curly red beard.

Sage. A wise man, carrying the aura of one of the Wizards of old. Logically, there are a lot of rumours about him being one of the original clan of the First Wizard, but nobody ever proved one of these theories. He receives great respect among the council, for being able to make the hardest of decisions without prejudice. There are people who insist that Sage is responsible for the Inner Circle’s current powerful position in the universe.

Peanut. Being only 4 foot tall, he suffers great underestimation time and time again. He proved people wrong wherever his warfleets went. Peanut is arguably the best tactical commander in the galaxy.

Moon. Mysterious is not enough of a word for him. Nobody really knows where his clan originated, or where his fleets seem to be coming from. All his men are highly trained, and his armies of ‘Ninjas’ are feared throughout the galaxy. To add to dramatic effect, he always wears a weird mask that runs down to his chest and shoulders, but covers only portions of his face.

Dingo. This strange man is only known by his name as a performer. He knows how to manipulate a crowd like no other man alive.

HardBall. This somewhat melodramatic Lord has been the cause of several of the larger conflicts in the past seven millennia, since he was admitted inside the Inner Circle. He is the ‘youngest’ member of the Circle in that respect, and he seems eager to prove his worth every single day.

Lydia and Sylvia. The most famous twins in existence, and also the object of most fantasies ever. Neither of them has ever discouraged this. It’s a fairly common joke to connect this with the more then huge population on each of their planets. The truth behind this is less tantalizing: the sisters have specialized in healthcare, and their hospitals are known to be able to cure anybody that has more then three atoms left in his body.

Limb. Limb is probably the ugliest man alive. Hunchbacked, three artificial limbs, totally scorched face, one eyeball missing, short, fat, rashes everywhere, and a stare in his one good eye that would have given the Devil himself nightmares. He likes to tell people the story that he was the last man to ever become a Lord. He claims that he is no more then a freak experiment of bored labworkers. This often ruthless and sarcastic man is the Circle’s counterintelligence expert.

Rex. The pretty boy of the council. People wonder how he ever got in, and on what grounds he was selected. He is arrogant, often conducts operations away from the rest, and bosses everybody around. Few people know that he changed sides to the Circle in a long past war, and thereby tipped the scales. Rumor has it that the other Lords are getting tired of him.

James Geoffrey Worthington is the man to beat on technological innovations. He is doing research on both ships and communication methods for the Circle. Somehow, his technological edge on the rest of the universe has paid off, and he is commonly known as the single most powerful Lord in the Universe. His Empire stretches from the outer rim almost to the more heavily populated core of the Cluster. It is said that out of every twenty planets in the universe, he owns one.

Wherever he goes, his foes just run and hope he doesn’t come after them.

Vigo, the leader of the pack. A charismatic man, who knows the value of good counselling and is by his own words a “good-for-nothing egotripper”. He claims that there are thousands of Lords in the Galaxy that could do his job, which is basically to sit back, let his crew sort it out, and then claim all the glory for it. He is not far aside from the truth, but he is wrong when he says that thousands can do his job. It is harder then one might think to trust others enough to let them do things in your name. It is even harder to put the right people in the right positions, and keep everybody focused on the same goal all the time.


Jack felt strangely confident of himself. And that was for the best, because just as he thought that, the doors started to swing open. As he was told, he just walked into the room without any form of ceremonials.


*: The mythical Gigas Motherships were basically moon-sized battle platforms, fitted with so many engines that they were able to travel in complete defiance of their weight and size. No more then ten of these ships were known to exist, as it took tremendous resources and effort to construct such a monster. Only the biggest empires could afford to build one.

 

Chapter 11: Eye to Eye

 

Peeking through the doorway, all that Jack could see was a surprisingly sober octagonal room. Of course Jack had heard the rumours about the walls, that were made of the rare and flawless dangii-wood, captured from a planet that has been destroyed for so long that nobody remembers the name. To form the walls of this room, a piece of the hollow trunk had just been cut off. The tree must have had a diameter of over twenty meters, realised Jack with a sudden shock. The insane perfection of the room suddenly grasped him. These walls alone represented more wealth than he could ever comprehend. The copper-coloured walls gave him the creeps, so he focused on the shiny black floor. In the centre of the room, the logo of the Circle was embedded in brown marble, with the individual marks of each lord around it. The only furniture in the room was a massive ebony oval dinner table. Fourteen wine-red moulders* were placed around the table, all equal in size. The ceiling emitted a pleasant and warm orange-yellow light, which gave the room a calming character. The room that had seemed sober on a first glance became an astonishing display of wealth upon closer inspection. Jack had entered through the only door in the room. Five sides of the octagonal room were undecorated. One was the door. The other two, directly opposite to each other there were two paintings. No doubt priceless originals from the legendary Earth. On Jacks left he saw a rather attractive lady, hands folded in front of her. Despite the fact that she seemed a very decent lady, the slightest of smiles played around her lips. She seemed to know something. It was a rather pleasant painting to look at. The painting on Jack’s right was quite the opposite of that. Painted in a greasy, abstract way, a man stood on a bridge in complete despair. The man screamed. Somehow, the painter had managed to put all the agony and pain a man could possibly feel in this one painting. When looking at this painting for more then two seconds, one could almost hear the scream.

For a second Jack hesitated. As there were no Lords in the room yet, and no servants either, he didn’t know where to sit. Thinking about it, he realised that this would be the first in a long series of subtle tests. He decided to sit on the right head of the table, with the screaming man behind him. When he would finally bring his message of infiltration of the core, he could use all the help he could get to convince the Circle. This painting would be a considerable ally, while the smiling lady would only strengthen the idea that he was just a cocky brat who thought that the Lords would solve his personal problems if he just asked them nice enough. He sat down, awaiting the things to come.


He didn’t have to wait long. Vigo and Limb entered about a minute after Jack, unannounced, and unsuspected. They came through the same door as Jack had a minute earlier, but on the other side a different hallway had shown. Jack simply assumed that the room would have turned an eighth, and then lost all interest in the matter. It was of no importance. He jumped up from his seat to welcome the two Lords in their own house. He had been told to act as one of them, so he would. Vigo looked at Jack, not surprised or curious, but taxing. Apparently making a decision, he tall Vigo simply nodded towards Jack, and then spoke; “Please have a seat, Jack. I’m sure this will be a very pleasant evening for us all.”

Before the grumpy Limb could mumble that he wasn’t so sure, Jack did exactly that. “I do hope so Vigo, however my business here is of the serious type.”

Vigo lifted one eyebrow, as if he was surprised, and then sat down at the other end of the table, with the smiling lady behind him. Limb simply reacted by mumbling something else, and also took his seat, two seats away from Vigo. Jack liked him already. Hiding his smile behind an iron mask of self-control and concentration, he sat down as well.

Less then a minute later, Rex, HardBall and Peanut came in. They were in fierce discussion about what they should do about some rebel faction somewhere in the galaxy. Jack suddenly realized that most of his missions were born out of discussions like this, and thus he had first hand experience in this field. He simply cut into the discussion, out of his comfy chair. “Hit their weather satellites.”

Rex and HardBall’s faces were a mixture of surprise and contempt, but Peanut was interested. He looked at Jack the way a librarian would look down at a really smart kid (albeit upwards, because of his small statue), and said: “Please explain what we would gain by doing that.”

Jack leaned back in his chair, maybe just a tiny bit too confident. “You speak of Mountain-rebels. The weather up there is extreme, cold, and dangerous if not for these satellites. By destroying them, you will simply give these people something else to worry about then their government. As soon as they don’t care anymore, replace the guy that is ruling your planet, and once the new man succeeded in rescuing their wives and children, he will be their hero, and you have a happy planet again, with a thankful population, and minimal loss of lives. And all you have to do is throw the switch to crash two or three satellites, and replace one man.”

Sage, who also entered by now, applauded calmly. ”Beautiful thinking, and all that from a mere Raptorpilot. But what if I tell you that that “guy” ruling the planet is Rex’s direct descendant, and his family has been ruling that planet since the days of the First Wizard?”

Jack felt the tension in the room rise. This was his first true test. He would certainly anger Rex by suggesting his breed should be shoved aside. On the other hand, this could be a good opportunity for him to prove his judgement to the others, especially Sage and Vigo. He shrugged “If you turn away from change, it will stab you in the back. Moreover, if his people are rebelling against him, this man is neither a good leader, nor a good oppressor.”

That definitely got the desired effect. Rex’s eyes narrowed, but just a tiny bit, and then he spoke with a sour face; ”It’s Margratha’s job to confront us with the truth all the time, not yours.”

Jack noticed that Vigo had been watching Rex closely, and that Rex did not speak freely. There were more issues on the agenda then just Jack’s trouble, and it seemed that Jack had just set the course of events of an entire planet for the next few millennia. Finally realising the true horrifying extent of the power of these people, he suddenly felt less at ease then a second ago.

Margratha entered, and asked: “Talking about me behind my back again, Rex?”

“Rex here was just using your name to display his poor skills in the art of sarcasm, that’s all.” Said Limb, with one of his hideous smiles. This was all a bit too much for Rex, who sat down with a hurt face, and kept silent. Jack had lost one vote there, he was sure about that.

Margratha ignored all the tension in the room, and seated herself in dignity.

Lydia and Sylvia entered, accompanied and entertained by Dingo. All three of them were clearly in a cheerful mood, and the sisters seemed radiant. Jack’s heart suddenly lost it’s sense of rhythm, and his concentration was almost broken. These women were incredible! But Jack’s control was equally astronomic, so he didn’t gasp or stare. He simply greeted the two and two seconds later Jack had passed another test. He regained his cool, and leaned back in his seat again. He couldn’t remember sitting up, which rose some doubt in his mind what his face had shown in those two awful seconds. He had no more time to think about it, because Stanley and Lord Worthington appeared. Both of them looking very depressed, and in deep thought. Jack wondered what it was that could depress the most powerful man in the universe, but he dared not ask. Instead, he stood up, and politely nodded to Lord Worthington, and greeted Stanley the Viking in a more lively way. Both answered his greetings silently, and sat down.

One empty seat remained, and the whole group babbled a bit waiting for Moon. Sage talked to Worthington and Stanley, Margratha and Rex talked to Limb and Peanut about the rebels, and HardBall and Dingo were battling for the attention of the twins. Jack and Vigo observing it all, taxing the group and each other. Suddenly, Moon was sitting two seats away from Jack, easily watching the whole situation. Jack didn’t see him coming in, even though he had kept one eye on the door at all times. Did he sneak in under the cover of the radiant twins? Did he hide behind the broad shoulders of the Viking? Was he hiding under the table the whole time? Was it even a he? Jack’s mind was raising question after question about this man (woman?), almost not accepting that he actually existed. Then he realised that this was the exact way that Moon could sneak in without him noticing. Instead of making himself invisible for the eye, Moon managed to be unacceptable for the brain.

With everybody seated, it was time. A parade of fourteen waiters brought in a terrific appetiser of puff pastry filled with a form of non-sweet redfruit, duck’s liver and a thick but smooth Lindasauce. When Jack took his first bite, he immediately had to fight back an urge to attack the rest of it. But Jack was here for other things then the food.


Realizing that there was probably no protocol to do this in an elegant way, Jack decided to go with the old saying that the offence is the best defence. He stood up, waited for all the faces to turn his way, and then said:


“Ladies and gentlemen, we have been infiltrated by the Core.”


*: A moulder is about the best seat in the universe. (It’s a common joke among the soldiers that the only seat that would beat the moulder is any seat in between of Lydia and Sylvia)

Moulders don’t look like seats at all, they are simply cubic blocks of about 5 feet tall. As soon as one sits on it (or rather, sinks into it), the moulder will automatically shape itself to the body it is bearing. A moulder will constantly aid you in doing what you want to do, by getting softer and lower when you lean back, and higher and more supportive when you are eating or conferencing. Moulders can be made to do anything in your imagination, and there are persistent stories of rich people that spent their whole life in such a seat, simply because they were unable to tear themselves away from it.

 

Chapter 12: - To be Continued

Columns

Zedd

A New Beginning

Welcome!


I'll do a quick introduction for those of you who don't know much about DarkGalaxy yet. I am Zedd, one of the two creators of DarkGalaxy. I am the head programmer and jointly came up with all the concepts used in the game. My 'job' if you like, is to keep the main game itself running, balanced and bug-free!


Working alongside me on the game is Scan, who is essentially the 'Creative Director'. He designed most of the screens and graphics you see, as well as programming this portal and the in-game alliances section.


We've put a lot of effort into getting this version of DG ready and I am frankly amazed at the incredible response we've had since we released DarkGalaxy (V2) just a week and a half ago! People flooded in, and within days of release, we recorded record numbers of people visiting the site and joining.


I hope you enjoy playing DG as much as we enjoyed writing it, remember - it is still under constant development to ensure your gaming experience gets better and better. We intend to add new features, buildings and ships as the game progresses - just to add that little bit more that you don't get in other games.


If you are having trouble with the game, very shortly I will start writing articles to help you on your way in the game and to point out any useful strategies I've come across.


Thats all from me for now, enjoy the game!


Zedd (2002)

 

Speed Game (25/26th May)

Firstly i'd like to say a big thank you to all those who took part in the speed round this past weekend. The largest number of premium users took part, making it an enjoyable experience for all. This is my personal account of the events that took place that fateful weekend :)


We started off having a few teething problems with the new signups system Scan had spent time meticulously compiling days earlier. A few users were not in the list, and a few did not receive the emails in time, so we had to do a bit of manual entry before being able to begin the turns in earnest.


The turns were set to 20 seconds for the entirety of Saturday, and I'm sure everyone will agree it made the game trundle along quite nicely. At the speed it was going though, you had to be careful. If you missed just a few minutes, you could find yourself lagging quite far behind.


For a bit of fun i pulled the number of planets per system down to two, and limited the number of Sectors to four. This guaranteed conflict would occur frequently and make for a far more interesting game than previously (where there were a full 40 sectors in the galaxy!).


I decided to take a very active role in the game and created my own alliance. Skute named it "12 Monkeys" and we set about recruiting a small set of members. A late addition to the crowd was Lyza, who after some coaxing decided he'd join us. Cadavre was not pleased (as his was the alliance Lyza had been in), and it turned out that the loss would ultimitately be his alliance's downfall. Our main rival (from the previous game) was again AoGPS - Army of Green Plastic Soldiers.

When the game started, I followed the standard strategy, and got my ShipYard as soon as possible. After quickly colonising the second planet in my system, I set about the task of building the ShipYard Level 2 so I could move into sector three.


All credit to Sark, who managed the feat before me and indeed had colonised three planets to my first two. I set about getting a line of four planets, and decided to keep it clean and just use them. My strategy from that point on was simple. I was going to mine the four planets to death and produce combat ships constantly to fuel our alliance's war effort.


For the rest of Saturday, while our members where getting themselves ready, I shot to no. 1 in the rankings and ended up playing a game of cat and mouse with Sark in Sector three. I used my fleet to sweep through hostile systems wiping out any enemy ships i happened to come across. Being the largest player in that sector, most of the fleets I caught were Sark's.


On Sunday things really were hotting up. The two free Sectors (three & four) were virtually full by this point. I assisted Scan in taking a few of Sark's planets early on (he set himself up as a soldier factory) and along with Lyza cutting through the planets, 12 Monkeys had firmly established its superiority. With Skute, Ogre, Athris, Craig, Citrus and the other members starting to make their mark I pointed everyone to turn their attention to Sector four.


I realised almost too late that there were still a collection of Sark's planets producing in Sector three and spotted a gigantic fleet making its way from one planet to the next, growing in size as it picked up more ships. Having learned his lesson the day before Sark was being a lot more careful and not just flying around arbitrarily.


I noted that my fleet was simply not big enough to take his so set all my planets producing immediately, sending my fleet to pick up all the stragglers. Just in time, I sent my now huge fleet to his last known position. The two fleets clashed in what was for me the most epic battle of the game, and after the flames has subsided and the repair crews had been in to salvage the scrap, Sark's fleet lay in ruins amoung my surviving ships.


From this point i started taking less and less a role in the game leaving the now gigantic Lyza and our other members to wreak havoc in Sector four, supporting Craig and Scan in a couple of important invasions.


One of the late invasions I participated in with Scan is of most note. He scanned a world, spotting that it had a score 16Mil! This had to be due to fleets attached to the world (as it is very hard to breach the 5Mil mark with just structures/colonists). Heading straight for it, I expected to encounter stiff, if not fatal, resistance from the planet's defending fleet only to find none present. A turn or two later, Scan arrived and promptly massacred the planet's population to gain another victory for our side. Although Scan's score only bobbed up a little, Zerg (the planet's owner) was cast from the top ten with the loss of those massive fleets.


This is a very important rule for the players of the current game, keep all your most valuable ships in your homeworld fleets. When a world is invaded, all fleets attached to it are lost, and this can be avoided by using the uninvadable homeworld fleets.


With the game nearly over, Scan decided to try for a high spot and built like a daemon on his 14 planets! As the game closed he shot past me, finally settling for the number two spot below Lyza (firmly no.1 for a while).


Thank you again to all who played - and Cadavre, Skute, Infinity - try and play for more of the round next time eh guys ;) Less women/drink, more fightin! I'll do my best to cure all those little annoyances people had (radar/invasion) for next time.


I finish off with a battle report and the final rankings :D


SEE YOU ALL NEXT TIME!


Zedd



----------------------------

Planet: Trader Marks

Coords: 1:3:21:2


Zedd's (losses):

Fighter 13,207 (4,956)

Bomber 6,969 (388)


Sark's (losses):

Fighter 9,809 (7,235)

Bomber 2,027 (1,362)



----------------------------

1 Lyza 136,419,796

2 Scan 75,474,323

3 Bobs Cat 67,006,466

4 Athris 61,127,496

5 Zedd 59,196,007

6 Ogre 37,001,653

7 SpydeR 33,167,291

8 Citrus 30,003,976

9 Mythor 26,926,015

10 Angel 26,606,056

11 Zarg 23,046,691

12 Lord Vyron 22,348,940

13 Morfang 19,417,807

14 Gardener 18,008,863

15 evilbob 16,638,396

16 FRoGuLoX 15,356,560

17 Sark 14,177,002

18 ASHTAROTH 14,131,515

19 Cadavre 12,457,167

20 Baggins 12,343,074


Zedd (2002)

Columns

Peteremcc

Alliances #6

Basically nothing has happened in DG3 so far. New alliances have been created, others have dissapeared, the usual, early round mahem. The only unusual thing was the creation of AoL (or LA) from the old AoD.


Basically my post from the forum, which suits this article well should answer everything else.


-------------------------------------------------------


My suggestion as a 10 month DG player to those who think they are cool being in a top alliance with 1000's of members:


The likes of:


Immortal Storm

Generation X

IOC Conquistors

The Dark Federation

Uniao Portuguesa

Riders of Apocolypse

IOC Imperium of Man

The Foundation


are all allianes that simply use mass-inviting to get many members. Most of them admit that this is what they do and The Foundation even has a page on its website dedicated to teaching new members how to mass invite (even using screenshots).

Go here to have a look and have some fun: http://www.thefoundation.tk


Mass-inviting, I admit, works at the start of the round where scores are so similar that alliance rankings are basically based on how many members you have.


The problems start for these alliances about a month into the round. This is about when the game really gets going and individual scores start to space out.


At this point the alliance looks at itself and what does it see?

Answer: A whole heap of newbies who have given up DG because they weren't helped by their alliance, didn't know what to do and so gave up DG. This means the alliance has a large amount of inactives too. This causes the experianced players to want to leave and boom there goes the alliance.


There are many good experianced alliances out there,


some of the older ones are:


Suicide Kings-SK

Angels of Lightning-LA(formerly known as Alliance of Darkness-AoD)

Dark Legion-DL

Old Phartes Alliance-OPA

Federation Starfleet Command-FSC

Frozen Burritoes League-FBL

Tranatorian Imperialistic Confederation Alliance-TICA


some of the newer ones are:


Dark Empire-DE

Federation of Planets-FOP

Psycoactive Planet-PSYCO


there are also more 'not quite so good' alliances lurking around here or there and also quite a few of the above do not currently reside in the top 50. These are generally the ones with a smaller member base of very good players who you will see emerge later on in the game.


Get of the plane that is going to crash and burn and jump on the band wagon and drive off into the sunset.

 

Alliances #8

Welcome to my 8th column.


I have decided to dedicate this column to the alliances in the Premium Game and this will be a source of information for those playing in that game and also for those who are not. Also when it comes to TICA and its allies I will be sure to be un-biased and tell the facts only.



Alliance Rankings [4722]:


Alliance Score

1 Battle Yaks 6,636,011,111

2 Burritos Dogs 4,403,965,667

3 The Patriots 1,420,350,019

4 The Brigade 567,155,374

5 Angels Of War 313,367,079

6 Squadron of Light BG 237,393,993

7 Bunny Crushers 224,115,017

8 Rangers 106,747,709

9 Newbies 68,454,478

10 Teh Big Ones 63,550,139

11 Phoenix 57,032,931

12 the quitters 51,407,980

13 Gaurdians of Destiny 35,963,845

14 The Aurelian 34,151,481

15 Dalaran Commonwealth 21,572,548

16 The Brothers 20,382,796

17 Evil Monkey League 17,913,617

18 The Mighty Cao Cao 15,266,851

19 federation of the st 13,494,866

20 ROH GoG GoD 13,302,923

21 Tereus Commonwealth 9,119,269

22 The crap planet alli 5,647,417

23 Hoffnung 5,060,452

24 Nowhere 4,715,992

25 Legion of Discord 4,395,121

26 The Continuum 3,892,835

27 Honor Guard 3,805,305

28 GDI 3,509,248

29 Ninja is Back 2,459,865

30 Space Dogs 2,271,711

31 BURN 1,076,496


The game is over and these are final scores.

Columns

Kreskin

Chapter 1: Introduction


During the years of supposed superior thinking men spent time building weapons and machines that would advance, in their beliefs, the human race. In their quests for achieving predominant power the earth’s resources were heavily battered. Efforts to solve the world’s resource problems came far too late for the problem to be solved. The Earth had seen many years with the human race and now her time for sheltering Earthlings was coming to and end. Scientist realized the Earths would not and could not continue to hold the human race. Mars was excavated, and then Jupiter, but man had not learned his lesson and would continue to corrupt these planets until it was too late. Man left Earth leaving only a few faithful behind to continue to reap from the Earths good nature. But many men were concerned that the Earth’s Solar System was also now running low on resources. So a selected few were brought together to safe guard what was left. These few were known as the Solar Resource Watch. [SRW]


The SRW began a brutal watch on the resources, many people died from their cruel ways of supposedly keeping things safe. The SRW were eventually despised on the three major planets, Earth, Mars and Jupiter. The SRW fled from the three planets and colonized Venus, Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto. The powers on the three allied planets, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter formed a defensive alliance. Know as the EMJ Mutual Pact. The left out SRW planets formed their own alliance known as the VSUP Pact. Both sides built their armies and prepared for a stand.


The Great War or War of The Worlds as it was later called started basically by accident. I visiting diplomatic member of the SRW was visiting the Solar Habitat of the then Neutral Moon when his ship was mysteriously destroyed leaving no survivors. There are many speculations of how the ship was destroyed but many believe that it was intentionally set by the SRW as an excuse to start an offensive movement. Saturn launched nuclear weapons against Jupiter. Jupiter in returned blockaded Saturn with its overwhelming fleet power and bombarded Saturn by day and by night. Pluto then launched the largest armada of troop transporters in the history of space flight on Jupiter. In return Jupiter’s fleet was split into two groups. During the meantime Earth was fighting a battle for control of the air. Venus and Uranus were fighting together against Earth. Troops were landed on Earth and were being moved to take down the last stronghold of the Earths forces. But in a miraculous turn of events nearly all of the SRW troops were wiped out in a freak storm. The remainder of troops was cleaned up by the Earths forces. With Venus and Uranus out of offensive mode, Earth was able to focus on the remainder SRW planets. Pluto was soon beaten back from Jupiter and confined to their home planets. The forces at Venus fell, then Uranus, then Pluto, and finally Saturn surrendered. After thirty-two years of war the leaders of the SRW were sentenced to life on the prison planet of Mercury. Some Rebels escaped from the grasps of the Allied forces by retreating to the moons of Jupiter, and Pluto. The Global Air Force [GAF] was created to suppress the rebels and ensure the safety of the remaining planets.


Jupiter was heavily damaged from thirty-two years of nuclear warfare and had to be abandoned. Venus was given up as lost from the SRW’s military tactics of scorched earth. Pluto, Uranus, and Saturn were considered waist lands after years of bombardments from allied fleets. The human race again moved to the caring arms of the Earth. Man was more careful with the Earth this go around. They treated the Earth gently, but it was too little to late. The Earth was dieing. One final force was to be assembled for exploration out of the Milky Way. This expedition had to succeed or the Human race would not.

It was the year 7977 A.D.


Chapter I


“Blast!” shouted Craig.

“What’s going on in there?” Clay said looking into his best friends sleeping quarters.

“Aw, hey man,” said Craig, “I was playing some crappy game and lost, again.”

“Was it crappy before, or only when you lost?” said Clay with a smile.

“You ready to head of to the mess hall?”

“Sure man,” said Craig “let’s go.”


Clay was a Global Air Force Pilot. He had raised himself from the ranks of private to Lieutenant 2’d class in the War of the Worlds. His family had been in the military since ever it seemed. His family had participated in every single war that had ever taken place since the 18th century. He even had a relative that served in the Civil War. Clay’s father had died during the Battle for Earth along with many other soldiers. Clay had taken the different route than his father though, he had become a pilot. He was the best frigate pilot in the Allied Royal Fleet. Eventually Clay had taken control of a modest armada of ships ranging from fighters, bombers, and a few frigates. The name of the command he was given was called Allied 9th Fleet. He had played a key role in the blockade of Pluto and was credited with the capture of the Chief SRW Pluto official. He was an instant hero. But Clay didn’t care much for fame, besides it getting him free drinks all the time it didn’t help him much he thought.


Craig was Clay’s best friend and had always been since Clay could remember. Craig was bigger and a little tougher than Clay but Clay was the thinker. Together they made an awesome team. Craig had been Clay’s command during the siege on Pluto and they had become friends. Craig was a mere fighter plot but Clay promoted him the Second Captain of his Flag ship in the Allied 9th Fleet the Winged Grace. After the war they were stationed together in the GAF space station and assigned to routine checks of the 1-3 sector.(*)


Craig and Clay walked down the hall to the mess room. They entered the crowded room like everyday.

“Come on man lets sit over there.” Craig said dragging Clay to sit down at a table.”

"What’s so special about this table?” asked Clay.

“Well,” said Craig, “It’s where a girl and I decided for meeting for breakfast, you know kinda like a date.”

“Oh,” said Clay unconcerned.

He was eating his breakfast slouched over the plate when a girl walked in the mess hall, behind her was a second lesser attractive girl. Craig looked at Clay and grinned from ear to ear.

“Craig, I am going to kill you if this is what I think it is.” said Clay.

The girls got over to the table and sat down both across from each of the boys. Clay was looking unhappy as Craig and his little girl were making idol chit-chat. Clay was looking very unhappy with the girl; it seemed that she hated heights, going fast and root beer, an absolute opposite from Clay. He was in absolute misery when finally relief came, over the loud speaker the announcer requested Clay to come to the Admiral’s office.

“Finally,” Clay said quietly and under his breath “I don’t think she liked me anyway.”



(*) Sectors were set up after the war as the planets were no longer assesible.Sector 1 would be Mercury, 2 Venus, 3 Earth, 4 Mars, 5 Jupiter, 6 Saturn, and so on and so on...


Chapter 2: Appointment with the Admiral


Clay walked down the hallway to the the admirals office. Clay had only visited that office once before and that was nearly twenty years ago. That visit was to receive his commision as the officer of a fleet. The admiral had then commented about his wit and skill on the battle field, now twenty years later what could the admiral want with him?


He walked into the sitting room. The secretary was sitting behind a large desk, he walked up to her. She said, " the Admiral is not ready to see you, he has more important buisness at hand currently. Please sit down it will only be a few minutes. of time. More important buisness? He wondered. Time passed very shortly. A few minutes turned into two hours. He was dosing off for the second time when the secretary called his name. He walked behind the secretary into the admirals office.


The admiral's office was a large room with books here and there and chairs, and a private bathroom. Clay drooled. The admiral looked up from the desk be was sitting behind, "Welcome," he said.

"Thank you for having me, Sir." replied Clay.

"Son," he began," as you know the war damaged the earths capability for holding humans, and all of the remaining planets have been unredeemable scarred.So the only thing left for us to do is to leave the solar system and to search for living planets outside the Milky Way. Now this plan for colinization was put on hold at the beginning of the war but now is when we must have results. An expiditionary force will be sent out to pass the outer rim of the solar system.Now we have looked over potential canidates for pilots and you have come up several times."

"Sir," Clay began," galaxy travel was proven nearly impossible becasue of the Gamma theory.(*)

"Yes, well our scientists have worked out a solution to the problem and are currently testing the hybrid engine." said the admiral.

"Well ,Sir, how long would this mission be for? asked Clay.

" Well son, that's why we choose you , because you have no family and nothign to tie you down." replied the admiral.

"So, it will be a long mission I gather?" asked Clay.

"Yes." responded the admiral.

"I will do it." exclainmed Clay.

"Good, because if you didn't have a choice anyway." said the admiral grinning.


The admiral handed to Clay several folders explaining the details of the mission and it gave him several options as to who would be coming alone with him. A crew of six was to be chosen, himself included. Out of the several hundred he choose:


Alex Walker:

He was chosen as Data Annalist for his calculator like mind. Alex was 6 foot 2 with dark brown hair. He wore contacts only and not glasses becasue all of his glasses had been crushed by someone's fist. On his face and throughout his entire body their were large scars from fights he had been in. There was a story behind every mark and he told them about a thousand times. Alex was known to go overboard for a particular thing if he belived it was what he wanted.He was known for his ability to be able to defeat someone twice his size in hand to hand combat. Though his past was raked with stories of when he would get pulverized standing up again and again. But despite all his flaws Clay needed someone with character, and Alex was defiantly that person.


Craig Harvey:

He was chosen as Engineer for his skill with mechanical objects. He was 5 foot 10 with dark brown-blackish hair. He liked to wear hats to cover his longish hair. He was deeply tanned and very muscular. Craig was what you would consider a ladies man. He always had a different girl beside him and sometimes more than one.He was the dependable type of guy if it was something important, but not very reliable if you just wanted to maybe get a drink together or something. He would always forget. Craig loved to build things of no particular consequence. In his sleeping quarters there were several of his inventions lying around. Most of which were broken or never worked to begin with. His talents for mechanical devises and the fact that he was Clay's best friend was the reason Craig was chosen.


Genae Thompson:

She was chosen as computer annalist. Genae was 5 foot 9 with dark blonde hair. She wore glasses when she was reading but at no other time. She had graduated from her computer school with the best grades in the glass setting the record for the most 100's received in a row. She had learnt how to manipulate a computer to whatever design she wanted and had built some of the best designed navigational computers around. She had one run in with the law during her courses at her school. She was accused of hacking into the Human Emotion Recorder [ HER ](*)but nothing ever became of it becasue there was no proof of the entry. Her talents for computers lead her to be Clay's pick for Computer

Technician.


Hunter Henery:

He was chosen as Communications Expert. Hunter was 6 foot 1 with boyishly blonde hair. Hunter graduated last in his class of three-hundred. He hated school with a loathing and thus refused to do anything that the teachers wanted him to do. He only made enough of an effort to pass. Many times the teacher would ask him " what is your problem?" he responded mostly with, " I cant help you are a twit." Hunter was building satellites to play with when most children were still crapping in their pants. He was even credited with uncovering a secret coded message about an planned escape from the prison planet of Mercury. For his talents Clay chose Hunter as Head Communicator.


Jennifer Catchings:

She was chosen as Resident Scientist. She was 5 foot 7 with long auburn hair. Her life consisted of looking through a telescope most of the time though there were those rare exiting times when she discovered a new specie of mold. She had been the first of the scientists who discovered cures for some of the biological weapons the SRW used against Mars. She had even been infected with a biological agent but found the cure to it herself before the disease took full affect.But there were rumors about the effects that the weapon and the cure had on her.But nevertheless she was chosen because of her great skill in the scientific field.



The last of the crew was of course Clay.


(*) Gamma Theory: the gamma field was a hypothetical force field on the outside of a galaxy. In theory if a person strayed to far to the edge of a galaxy and then left the magnetic field of the galaxy then he would be left in a distorted gamma field were as travel with normal fusion motors was impossible.


(*)Human Emotion Recorder [ HER ]: This was a master computer that during the time of war was supposedly able to read every though from an individual. Certain rights groups tried to stop the machine but they government only then ran it in secrete. The purpose of the machine was discover spies among the Allied Planets. Many officials also used this device, illegally, to see what the public thought of them.


Chapter 3: The Launch


With the final crew chosen the launch countdown took began. In four days time the crew of the ship Redemption would leave the gravitational pull of the Earth and head off to the tip of the iceberg so to speak. The six man/woman crew was placed in a building called the Containment room. Inside the rooms they would remain isolated from the rest of the world until their launch. Such measures were taken to ensure that one crew member didn’t become ill before the launch then infect everyone on board.

The days pasted slowly with the crew normally spending the days watching TV and doing meaningless routines. Craig was the only one who didn’t really mind the confinement because to him, closed in a small area with two attractive ladies was a plus no matter how you looked at it. Craig had become rather addicted to the daily Soap Operas and during the four days he watched the plot unfold. When the days were up Clay had to pull him away from the TV. It seemed that Craig’s favorite Soap Opera star had had a son with her estranged deceased brother. A plot that Clay could not follow.


The crew was sent to the GAF's Global Space station that orbited the Earth. This would be the first step to launching out into space. They were received at the station with a hero's welcome. Clay was wondering upon why they should be treated like royalty when they had not done anything and could quite possible not do anything. Craig enjoyed the attention but Clay was hardly able to notice the other crew's reactions to it, they were nearly never able to stay together. All of them had some kind of interview or signing to do. But despite all the attention Clay tried to put on a good show and have fun. The party group meeting , or whatever it was considered was drawing to a close and now Clay was only left with having to pay respect to the host. He did that and left all of his crew there or so he could see. He walked back to the confinement of his cabin and tried to get some sleep. Sleep did not come…


It was the day before the launch and the Station was roaring with noise. Clay hardly got any sleep and by the looks on the faces of the other crew they did not either. The transport they boarded was smelly and cramped. Their transport was to take them to the Moon and then they would rendezvous with their ship, the aptly named Redemption. The transport ship touched down seventeen minutes late, living up to transport ships reputation. It was commonly said that freighter pilots should not be paid by the hour as to ensure that they arrived on time. Also many thought they should have a regulated cleaning. Clay and his crew stepped off the transport and walked into the Moon Complex. The passed through the mandatory SCC (*) and were waved through to their final step to leaving the galaxy.


A bottle of champagne was cracked over the hull of the Redemption and the ship lifted from the ground and slowly turned to the black. The engines roared to life once they left the Moon and they headed into the abyss. To Clay the ship felt surprisingly agile for its size, and it seemed to Clay to fly more like a fighter than a battleship size outpost ship.


The ship had one final stopping point as to pick up its weapon stores. The ship was flying under heavy escort as she was unarmed. Clay looked out the window to see a rather large armada of ships considering what they were guarding. The fleet ranged from about one-hundred fighters, fifty to seventy-five bombers, ten frigates, five cruisers, and two battleships. It was an impressive thing to see these ships fly together.

The Flag ship of the fleet signaled the Redemption. “Redemption please set course for sector 9, quadrant 001.” reported the fleet commander.

“Roger that,” replied Clay, “course acknowledged.”


The ships, in unison, turned and headed for the designated coordinates.

“Redemption,” the radio crackled, “prepare to set overdrive (*) acknowledge?”

“Roger that, overdrive set.” said Clay.

“Genae,” Clay said, “prepare the ship to go into overdrive.”

“Yes, Sir,” she replied.

“Alex lets see if everything is in order before we start jumping into any hoops.” said Clay.

“Redemption, overdrive to be set in T-10 seconds.” reported the fleet commander.

“T-9”

“T-8”

“T-7”

“Sir,” reported Genae, “The overdrive is safe and ready to go.”

“T-5”

“T-4”

“T-3”

“T-2”

“T-1”

“Launch.” said Clay.

In unison the ships of the fleet shot forward in a stream of white heading for the Pluto Space Station.




(*) SCC, Security Clearance Check. Back during the War of the Worlds both sides had serious problems with spies. The SCC was implemented from the side of the Allies to cut down on infiltration. The strategy worked almost perfectly but there are ways around everything.


(*) Overdrive is the fastest way to move about the galaxy. The process was created around 3000A.D. though no one is completely sure when to be exact. The precise formula for the engine was guarded by a secrete organization called Last Stand Watch [LSW] many of their members committed mass suicide when they discovered that their guarded prototype had been copied and leaked to the public by one of their own members. While most died some left the earth and went searching for life on other planets, but never got past Mar’s asteroid belt. They were later discovered trying to create a colony on a rather large asteroid.


The precise idea behind the engine is as follows:

The engine is powered by Purified Uranium-Platinum. The idea was that the elements U-238, U-235 and U-234 would combine at strenuous heat levels with Pt to form a chemical element that would no longer break down into smaller particles. Then the mixture would be run through a magnetic-ionic filter to further purify the fuel that would then be processed into a fueling tank to be later burned with Nitro Chloride sulfuric acid. The “fuel” would then be pressurized until ready to be used. The economical safe point for this was it was very easy to get and a very small amount could supply you for a long time.


Chapter 4: The Pluto Station


The armada of ships came out of overdrive together and slowed to a stop.



"Redemption," the radio blarred, " prepare to enter Pluto Space Station orbit for arming.


"Roger that," replied Clay.


The Redemption and its armada of ships slowly came into seeing range of the station. It was a massive piece of machinery. Hundreds of thousands of ships could dock at this station and close to three million men, workers, pilots and soldiers could live there. Many of the crew in the ship had seen this before but only during the great wars while it was still under construction. No one could imagine that the floating peices of metal, iron, and men would finally assume this role.


The ship came to dock with the station and right away it was being borded by maintenance men. The ship was alive with hundreds of men coming on bord with some contraption and then leaving after installing it somewhere.


"Captain Clay, please report to Pluto Station Authorities" the bay speaker blasted.


"Dang it," said Clay, "just what I need, going to lisen to some pointless guy telling me about the standard equipment."


"Have fun," Hunter said laughing.


Clay walked to the Administration office and was recieved by an elderly man with thick glasses and crazy grey hair.


"My name is Einzstonespritz, I am cheif resident scientist here at the PSS.(*) I designed most of the equipment you will be carrying on your ship."


Clay shook his hand and was escorted to a smaller room with quite the collection of weapons.


"We are currently installing a small weapons room in your ship where as you will have the only key to the room. In that room you will have every weapon on the ship. Your voice will provide the second security measure. Where in the event that you should die your key would be given to the second in command and your voice key would be automatically changed over to his or her voice. Do you understand?" the scientist asked.


"Gotcha." responded Clay.


"Well as I am I am sure you are also very busy so I will let you go. Here is the electronic key card." the man said with a smile.


He walked out of the room leaving Clay all alone. Clay looked around the room. There were some very interesting devices in there for sure. Some of the weapons Clay reconised from his years of pirate like fighting. He picked up a small rifle one very similar to the weapon he used to use. It was a reliable piece back then and he could tell that the weapon had been modified so that it could go longer without being reloaded of as they used the phrase now-a-days recharge. Clay put the weapon down. Clay could see at the very end of the room a small box that said "DO NOT OPEN". This intreged Clay more than any other devise in the room. He slowly


made his way to the box and stared at it for some time. He picked it up and shook it. It made a rattling noise and thus assured Clay that it was not explosive.He pulled out his pocket knife and opened the box. Inside he discovered a small metalic ring with eight artificial dimonds on it. Each, Clay was sure, some sort of mecanical device. He placed the ring on his finger. It was rather heavy for the size.


He was getting ready to take the ring off when...


"Captain Clay, report to the Redemption immidiantly. This is an emergancy." The speakers blarred.



Clay forgot about the ring and flung the box aside and went dashing for his ship.When he arived there was a medical team on site and a few PSS police on the scene.


"What happened?" Clay said with a rather worried look on his face.


"One of the mantanence men was accidnetly killed by an explosion from the weapons compartment in the fire room.It was a faulty energy cartridge(*)."


"Was anyone else hurt?" asked Clay.


"No one." Responded the police man walking away.


"What a great start." said Clay with a depressing tone.






(*) PSS Pluto Space Station. During the Great War, or War of the Worldsboth sides sought to build great stations where as to house great armada of ships and soldiers. Many were build but after the war was over many of them were dismantled to assemble larger stations. The Pluto Space Station was the largest ever built.


(*) energy cartridge are changeable clips used in weapons. Energy cartriges are used primarily for ship weapons and rarly need to be recharged unless severly damaged.


Chapter 5: The Voyagers


The Redemption left the protection of the Pluto Space Station and soared forwards into the black nothing. At the PSS Clay was informed that he was to pick up the Voyager I and Voyager II as secondary missions as they had been left to the wilds of space for quite some time and with the ships new motors now would be an exelant time to grab them up.



You see Voyager I and its sister spacecraft Voyager II were both launched in the summer of 1977. Voyager I performed a flyby of Jupiter in 1979 and one of Saturn in 1980. Voyager II flew by Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, and Uranus in 1986, before conducting its Neptune flyby. These ships were antique pieces and had been traveling for quite a long time. The data these ships stored was extremely valuable. Inside the hardware on that satellite contained information about the mysterious heliosphere. The Voyager collected the data and transmitted the information to earth. Both had made a historical race to the edge of the galaxy and had long been forgotten.


It had been a few days when Genae called for Clay over the loud speakers that she was picking up something on the radar.When Clay entered the cockpit everyone was looking out the window at the small object that they were slowly aproaching. Clay told Craig and Hunter to get on their suits and to wait for his order to head outside.


"Lets reel that bad boy in." Craig said with a ,"yippee!"


In a few moments Craig and Hunter were outside and Clay was watching their progress towards the satellite.


"Ok, were here boss." said Hunter.


"Clamp her to the cargo arm." replied Clay.


When they had ensured that the arm was firmly grasped to the Voyager then Genae brought it in. When the Voyager II was saftly inside Clay entered the Cargo Bay and surveyed the old satilite.Eventually the inspections of it showed nothing abnormal.


The moral in the ship was high that day, and there was much celebrating done. Mostly by Craig who used the exuse to organize a party in which dancing was involved. So Clay let Craig organize this so called "party" but Clay knew it was just a chance for Craig to dance with the girls, and that was the only reason he wanted the party. Well the party was successful in Craig’s mind and rather boring in Clay’s. There was dancing, and even Clay danced a bit, forced to by Craig. Over the next few days . Hunter went around with a Video Camera and recorded the thing (the footage was later sent back to Earth and was showed on T.V.).


Over the next few days Craig looked over the Voyager II and Jennifer studied the information stored on it. Each Voyager had within it a golden record to be played if it came in contact with and non-human life form. But much to Craig’s dismay, this record had not been tampered with. Life went on, and the look for Voyager I was on. The two satellites had been launched at almost identical times so they should be theoretically close to each other. They were all looking forward to having both of the Voyagers in their cargo again.


Two days pasted and the Voyager I was discovered on the radar, and the same process was followed to pull it in as the first. Clay entered the cargo bay and took a look at the Voyager I. It was nearly identical to the second but if there was a difference, he wouldn’t be the one to tell that’s for sure. He left the room when Craig and Genae were cracking it open to retrieve the all important disks. The frame of the Voyager was taken apart piece by piece. Craig was exited but he never let feelings and exitment get in the way of his work. Clay could hear the screwdrivers from his personal cabin and tried to remain there to act like the strong unmoveable captain that he wanted to appear like. But he couldn’t remain there and walked in just as the final protective shell was coming off. Craig replied after a moments silence with a gasp.


" What’s there?" said Hunter , looking over his shoulder.


" Nothing, absolutely nothing." said Craig.


Chapter 6: The Boarders


** One week later.


After reporting the strange ocurance to his authritities Clay was told to take precautionary methods to ensure that no foul play was to take place. The PSS's theory was that rebel Forces from the remaining SRW troops that escaped to certain moons had removed the organs, so to speak, of the Voyager II. The ship was to be fully armed as if it was to encounter strong resistance and all parties were to take on arms to defect a boarding partyu if nessisary. Craig was exited about that fact. He sort of pictured himself as some sort of a modern cowboyand quite enjoyed carrying around a high power assualt weapon.


Things went on as normal and no spottings of enemy forces were seen. It was rumored that SRW forces had escaped out this far, but it they did then how much fire power could they have was the question in all of their minds.


Clay walked into the lounge area on board the ship and sat down to drink a cold glass of root beer.He had lifted the first sip to his lips when Jennifer ran in and screamed, " You better get in here quick boss!" He spilt the root beer over his shirt as he ran into the cockpit.


"Whats up?" Clay asked Genae.


"Thats the thing, we dont know." She replied.


"What are you talking about,and please, make it simple." Clay said.


"Well we have been running a straight course since the PSS but we suddenly came to a dead stop not but three minutes ago. There is nothign wrong with the motor and the computers are fine, it is just that the computer thinks there is something in front of us, and basically put, it wont let us go any further." Genae explained.


"Purhaps there coud be something out there?" Clay asked.


"Impossible," Alex interupted," we have run several bio scans and are picking up nuthing."


"Hum," Clay sounded, " this is a certain situation you dont incounted in the simulators."


"If the computer thinks there is somthing out there, purhaps if we fired at where the computer thinks there is something, it will let us pass assuming that it will think it has exploded." Hunter stated.


"Brilliant, " Clay said, " and lets make a fire work show.Arm The photon cannon and set for 3000 yard explotion.If there wont be for long," he said with a laugh.


"Fire," Clay said."


Instantly the space infront of them flashed, and at the 3000 yards the weapon exploded.A flash imminated from the space infront of them.In the blink of an eye a massive space station apeared.Some of the station was damaged form the hit it was given by the Redemption.Clay glared at the station. It was huge, and nearly as big as the PSS. This was and only could be the work of the rebel SRW.This station was a large holding base for soldiers ships and supplies.


"The computers are screaming numbers at me," Genae said," Bio scans are off the roof.There has to be at least ten million men in that station.


"God, lets hope they are not soldiers." Craig gasped.


"Hunter," Clay said," send a message to the PSS and the GAF and tell them about this.Inform them we are under distress, we are probable gonna be in a bit anyway."


"You had better take a look at this," Genae said, " there is alot of mecanical movements going on in there, they are organizing their fleet no doubt."


"Captain has the helm,"Clay said as he sat down in the captains chair and manually took over the ship.


The scene was a frightening thing to experiance. Ships poured out of the station. Luckly for Clay's heart it seemed that most of them were fighters and not any of the ships were more powerful than a frigate.


"Arm machine lazors guns, set cannons to hit the high armoured ships then make their way down." Clay ordered.


"Sir," Genae reported," There is a ship headed on its way that the scanners dont recognise."


"How much time we got till it gets here?" Alex asked.


"About ten." said Genae.


"Its a slow bugger isnt it?" asked Craig.


The ships clashed in a battle that seemed one sided but not in the way that you would assume. The Redemption shot down fighters before many of them had even fired once upon the ship. Their efforts were mostly in vain because even had they reached the ship their small weapons would have hardly pinged against them.What few frigates and bombers they had were destroyed first by the Redemptions targeting computers. They had not even gotted to fire once at the Redemption.The battle continued on.


"Sir," said Genae," I think we have a problem.The mystery ship is closing in on us."


"Lets try to avoid it then." Clay said with a smile.


The Redemption surged foward with a show of power.But, its power slowly turned into a desperate struggle for speed.


"I need power! What is happening?" asked Clay with a scream.


"We are being drawn into the station, and we are being guided by the mystery ship." said Alex.


"Blast." said Craig.


The crew headed towards the boarding room of the ship.


"Prepare for boarding." said Craig with a wry grin.


The alarm sounded with a deadning rour.The ship came to a complete hault.Sounds were heard from the outside of the ship.


The overhead speakers sounded the computers warning. "Boarding party attempting to board."


The door blew open with a loud explotion. A man entered the room with what seemed to be a large traqulizer gun.He was stopped dead in his tracks by a shot from Craig.


"Consider all hostile." Clay said.


The fireing increased untill there was a pile of dead or wounded men at the door. They were at a disadvantage seeing as they had to enter a small door with six powerful guns pointed at them.They stopped their advance.Clay began to worry.Suddenly a gas filled the room.


"They are gassing us!" Clay shouted.


"Heck, thats not fair." Craig said before he passed out on the ground.


One by one they all passed out. Clay was left awake last. He looked around and fell on the ground.


"Blast." He said.

Chapter 7: The Escape


"Good evening Mr. Clay. I hope your sleep was a restful one." a voice said.


Clay couldnt see anything, the room was so dark and he was still groggy from the gas.But he knew he was in some form of prison cell with someone looking down at him.


"Where am I?" Clay asked.


"You are aboard the SRW'sPSS.This is one of the last SRW fortresses left. You unfortunantly had the opertunity to run into us on your "top secrete mission", to explore the universe was it?" the man said with a chuckle.


"The war is over bud, you lost, remember?" Clay said with a smile.


"Yes, 'The war' as your people call it,ha.'The War' was only a begginning.Your precious GAF has not seen the last of the SRW, no, not nearly." the man said.


"Well I dont expect I will be leaving your accomidations anytime soon will I? I do so hate to be a burden." Clay said with a mocking tone.


"Oh, you are no problem.Rather on the contrary, I am sure we will enjoy your company for a long long time." he said with a smile," now I will let you be in peace for awhile seeing as you will be needing your rest.I have much things to look into, such as how to get into your ship."


Clay had been stripped and put into a grey uniform.As he figured, his weapons were gone.The man was a psycho but he wasnt stupid thats for sure.The only thing left on him that was actually his was the ring he had taken from the arms room at the PSS.He glared at the ring.What could its purpose be? He wondered. The room he was in was about eight foot by eight foot with a small bed and a toilet.The only was to exit was a small steel door with an opening of about one and a half foot that was covered with steel bars.Clay walked over to the door.He put his hands to it and tried to force it open.It wouldnt budge but, in the process he scratched the ring against the metal door and a screaching noise sounded ,that was similar to finger nails across a chalkboard, nearly deafened him.Then he looked down and saw the ring shift shapes. A small rod came out of the rings tip.The hole in which his finger was inserted shrinked slightly enough to have the ring form a sort of pressure trigger.He was quite perplexed by this but extremly interested.He squeezed his finger and a red beam came from the ring.The beam hit the steel bars and in seconds he had burnt through the bars and had broken free from his recent prison.He took a look out into the hall.There was a guard walking down the hall towards him, two at the information desk,and one more apparently taking a nap.The gaurd came closer.The gaurd walked into the prison with a seriously shocked look on his face.Clay had hid a on the other side of a support beam and now jumped out from behind his hiding space and hit the guard over the head with what had previously been his toilet seat.


"Oh, you lookin for the guy that was here?" Clay asked the uncounsceous man," oh, he escaped."


Clay grabbed the guards keys and his weapon.With the weapon he snuck as close as he could get to the information desk without being seen.He Jumped up and fired two shots into the guards.With enough time left to peg the gaurd that was just waking up from the sound.He walked over to the remaining cells and releaced his crew one bye one.


"Whats the plan boss?" Craig asked.


"We make for the docking bay, and from there for our ship, and then for space." Clay answered.


Hunter interupted," We got company."


He pointed over to the entrance of the jail.There were four more gaurds coming, oviously to take the place of the receant guards.


"Craig , Hunter and Alex , get the remaining guards guns, quick before they come in." Clay commanded.


The guards came in.


"Alright boys your shifts over," the leading guard started.


They were only answered with the sounds of four weapons being answered.The guards fell down.All but one died instantly. He lifted up his weapon as if to fire it but was hit again by a shot from Craig.


"Alright, thats that then." Craig said.


"Get in their uniforms." Clay said.


The group of six started down the hall where the four replacement guards had come from.


"Genae I need to know where I am going." Clay started.


Genae had picked up a PcD(*) and was working over it.


"Head south east, that should get us to the docking bay." Genae instructed.


The group walked down the hall way.Occationally they would get weird looks or get stopped for Identification Badges but besides that they were not really hindered in any way. They came to a gaurded passage way and stopped.


"That there is the intrance to the Docking bay," Genae said," But you have to have a specialized tag for that.One we do not have."


"OK then," Clay stated," We will find a way around it."


"Boss," Craig began," We could just shoot our way in and take our chances."


"I though that might be your idea Craig, But there is a better way to do this."Clay said.


Clay walked over to the prisoner he had released.


"I appologise for doing this."Clay started.


"Doing what?" the prisoner started.


"This ." Clay said hitting the man over the head his rifle.


He picked up his body and headed for the guards.


"We found this man trying to escape, he pegged eight gaurds gettin out to." Clay said," We are heading him down to see...uh...the General..."


Without a word, the guards let him pass.


One guard said," Follow me.I will take you to the General."


"Brilliant Idea,huh?" Alex wispered to Craig


The eight walked through the docking bay.They saw their ship in the distance as well.


"Ok, here is the plan," Clay wispered to the group as they walked by their ship," I will draw their fire while you make a run for it. Then pick me up and unleash all you have."


The crew then broke from the convoy and made a dash for the ship.The guards leading them relised what was happaning but not in enough time to avoid being hit from blasts from Clay.


Clay continued to fire his weapon upon groups of men, hitting some and missing others.But he wasnt exactly aiming to kill everyone he saw but only to allow his crew enough time to get them into the ship.

SWHSH PING, a bullet had hit close. Now they were fireing back and it was a different game.He found a nice little spot to make what could be the last stand.He noted quickly that he was being advanced on from all sides now.Just a little longer and he would have stalled enough.He remembered the ring, and quickly removed it.The ring then returned to normal size, and he swollowed it. If he was to be captured he would need a way out.Then...


"FREZZE!," a soldier screamed,"DROP YOUR WEAPON!"


Clay relised he was surrounded by over a hundred men, and so he complied.


"I surrended," He said.


"Come on," the soldier said.


Clay looked over to the Redemption.Had he given then enough time?


Then the room filled with the noise of engines comming alive and powerful weapons being fired.The Redemption had managed to take off. The men around Clay turned around and opened fire on the heavily shielded ship.But they all soon dropped away in a hail of accurate gunfire.The ship then grasiously swooped down to grasp him."Got you now man."Craig said.


The ship bolted out of the station.It wasnt long untill Clay was in the pilots chair and bulleting out of the station at ungodly speeds.


"We got a problem," Genae said," the mystery ship is back."


"Losing power Sir," Alex said.


"Blast, not again." Clay shouted grinding his teeth.


The Redemption was being pulled back into the arms of thousands of armed men, now ready and capable of blowing them to bits.The an AASR(*) wizzed by their ship.Then another.


"They are getting closer" Jennifer said.


Then Hunter looked up and said," Sir I am geting some funny readings on my commsS(*).CAll me crazy but I would say that it was battleships."


"Good God,"Clay began.


But then the battle ships appeared.But instead of fireing at the Redemption They opened fire on the SWR'sPSS and the ships that were now preparing to come out and fight.



It was a sight to see, ships being destroyed and not one of them a PSS ship.The SRW'sPSS was in a wreck and almost all on fire.There were only a handful of ships that took off after the bombardment comencedThe battle endded, and they had escaped and survived without a loss of life or blood.



They were informed to dock with a resupply ship to check for damages.After the check and a few minor repairs they were leaving the armada and on their way again to the outreaches of space.


After the last battleship left them Clay started to leave the cockpit after he had given instructions on the path they were to take.


"Where you headed boss?" Hunter asked.


"Going to get my ring back." Clay responded with a frown.



(*)PcD Personal computing Device are very high tech devices that are hand held.Some are so small they are held like watches on your wrist.They are information data bases that can hold amlost unlimited knowledge.


(*)AASD Anti Armoured Ship Rockets Heavy portable device that are carried on small vehicles.They are like small tanks but when being fired are not movable.They are specially designed for groundf forces who will encounted armoured ships.They rocket is designed to enter into the armour and detonate beneath it.It is very effective though it can take several shots to completly destroy a ship in that manner.


(*)commsS Communication Scanner scanns frequencys such as ones that ships motors could be heard on.Its specialty is determining weither a ship is allied or foe.It then relays that information to the central computer then to be processed to the ships targeting computers.


Chapter 8: Try to be Reasonable


The room was filled with confussion. There was just simply nothing there, no fuel, motor, hardrive , no nothing. What was worse of all was that there was no explination to this occurance.


Craig belived that some form of aliens had taken it to learn about the Human Race, but Clay preferred a more reasonable approach to it, though he wasn’t sure what else it could be…


...You see even to this point, scientist had failed to prove that there was life outside of the known universe. There was vauge ideas about how aliens could have lived without being detected by earth, and that possibility was great. Most anyone could hide in space and not be every found out due to the fact that not enough of the galaxy was mapped, much less any other galaxy.


Everyone was exited, the fact that there was nothing in the Voyager I lead everyone to belive that something, nonhuman took it. Clay didn’t nessisarily belive this but he was wondering “how” that’s for sure.Craig and Robert had already come to the firm belief that there were aliens somewhere out there and that they were hostile. How they came to this assumption already, Clay wouldn’t know. But despite his protests, they took over a storage room, by emptying the storage into the Cargo bay, and started building devises for self protection.


You see the ship had been supplied with a whole arsenal of deadly and extremely powerful weapons. But Clay had all of these in a room that he alone knew the code to, and he alone could give access to the room. But Craig and Robert, and later with the help of Alex, made their own weapons. All day long you could hear the bangs and explosions, and after everyday The three would come out of the room, with burns cuts bruises and smiles on their faces. Clay knew that crew moral was important and they all seemed happy with their work so Clay let them carry on, plus how much harm could they cause?


Despite Clays firm belief that there was nothing out there besides them , Clay had a member of the crew take watch during the night, that person to be replaced by another after a few hours, and so on and so on. The person on watch also carried a rifle, a pistol, and a stun grenade.


With all of the protective messures taken and their secondary mission accomplished they could now, go into overdrive and finally leave the Milky Way in search of other habitable planets. The jump was set and the ship entered overdrive. They would remain in this overdrive for two months.


Columns

Brekken

Chapter 1: Unexpected Fireworks

It was all familiar now. The sensation of being everywhere at once and nowhere at all at the same time had lost its thrill. Too many lives were lost for this he thought. Too many of my soldiers...and all in vain. Warp space travel no longer thrilled him, no longer mystfied him. Only one thought dominated his mind now. I must get home, I must warn them...

Beep!!Beep!!Beep!!

What the?! Those are battle sirens! But we can't be attacked in warp space... A sudden jolt. All was still. Then all hell broke loose.

Captain to the bridge! Captain to the bridge! Enemy fighters at marks eight niner zero, captain to the bridge!

Better hustle, if its not too late already... He could no longer be their leader. Running through the passages of his command ship, seeing the expressions of puzzlement, confusion, and sheer terror on his crewmen's faces, he could do nothing but mirror them. For he had no idea how this had happened either. He remembered clearly the battle. How, out of nowhere, at the moment of victory, the enemy fleet had warped out, and a new one warped in. But this one was different. This one, there was no hope. Even his command ship could not hope to destroy this fleet, not with million fighters. He remembered the static, the bursts of crying over the close range communications network, knowing that with each one another one of his men had been destroyed. They tried to filter out the fighters' speech in the heat of battle, and did it well, except for when the fighter was destroyed and a burst of energy swept through its comms array. 5 more spikes. 5 more of my men down, my men...my men whom I promised would return home, home to wife and children. Children...My son! All this flashed through his head as he made his way to the bridge.

"Captain, 3 squads of fighters have lost contact, and the enemy fleet is that which we were fleeing from!"

"How did they pull us out of warp?"

"I don't know sir. All I know is that...that..."

"SAY IT!"

"Our warp engines are gone sir."

"Gone?!?!?!?!? What do you mean gone?!?!?!"

"They're...just that sir, gone..."

"Then we can't go back to warp?"

"No, sir."

"Open a patch to the homeworld."

"Yes sir."

His crew looked at him in puzzlement. Surely he knew that by the time the homeworld received and acknowledged the transmission they would all be dead. He looked at them and nodded. Then they understood. They all were dead. The static came over the radio again, but this time it was an empty noise, no shadows of dead men's screams.


"Homeworld, this is Admiral Khanir. We have encountered massive enemy forces, and by the time you hear this, we will already be dead. They have devised some system of pulling ships out of warp space..."


And the lone admiral continued, saying goodbye to his family, apologizing

to the world, all the while the enemy flagship appeared from warp, and received and decoded their transmission. And they began to understand their enemy for the first time...

At the same moment, his son was playing on their secret farm on a world that was not the homeworld. No, the homeworld was too risky for the family of the leader of the People father had said. And then the sky grew dark as a cloud passed over the blue sun of this world. The child looked up in puzzlement, and recognized not a cloud, but a shimmer, a shimmer that looked like the sun, but cast a shadow, blocking the sun. Terrified, he ran home in fear. But when he returned, his home was no longer there. A blinding flash, and he could see the clouds scatter, and the mushroom cloud they had learned so much about in class appear on the horizon. The child knew then that something was terribly wrong. This was no fireworks. Though they had been used before in fireworks, nuclear weapons in show had always been announced beforehand. This was different.

As the captain of the lone ship finished his speech, he told the homeworld to find his son, and keep him safe. The enemy heard this. But the enemy already thought that they had destroyed the child. And the lone captain ended his transmission, the static stopped. No longer were the screams of ghosts on the airwaves. The radar was nearly empty, empty of all allies. He looked out the viewscreen, and in final defiance shouted

"Come and get me!!!!!!!!!! Fire all weapons at will! Come and get me you sorry b-"

And the lone admiral became another ghost on the airwaves, another flash in space, along with the 50,000 crew men on his flagship. And the child on the world of the blue sun looked at the horizon in puzzlement as the soft breeze that he knew was from the explosion tickled his forehead and hair. And he wondered what could be the cause of these unexpected fireworks...


Chapter 2: Infestation

 

“Computer, access the ships database.”

“Query?”

“I want to see the logs we took from the Enemy.”

“Access restricted. Please confirm authorization.”

“Captain Tarik Khanir.”

“Authorizing; Please wait…Authorization: Granted”

The soft feminine voice of the ships main computer comforted him, he who had seen so much in so little time, as did the now familiar blinking green glow of confirmed authorization. He had to understand what he had done. He had to know why. Only recently had the rank of captain been granted to him. He remembered the battles fought, fought so long ago that they were mere footnotes in class to the new Generation, and yet they remained as vivid as the screen blinking green before him. Even more vivid they seemed in dream, but he could never be sure anymore what was dream and what was real. He never ruled a dream out as being reality, and he never ruled reality out as being a dream. He treated both the same.

“Access the log files on the Enemy. The ones we pulled from their computers.”

“Accessing…Please wa-“

“Computer, audio off.”

Command Acknowledged the screen said. Good, he thought, it may be comforting at times, but at other times it can be just plain annoying. Unfortunately, the ship was old. As thus, its computer could only handle one command from any one person at a given time. He liked the old ships, despite their setbacks. He had seen the guns of this ship, fired them in battle. He could recall when he took orders, so long ago, oh so long ago…He snapped back to attention, remembering the task at hand.

“Computer, access the decrypted Enemy log files.”

Accessing…Please wait.

File accessed.

“Show me the first one we pulled from their ships on this screen.”

He chuckled quietly to himself, reminiscing at the memory of when the computer went haywire and whenever you asked for the computer to display something on screen it would display it on the other side of the ship unless you specified this screen. Even since they had fixed the problem, the habit stuck, as it did with many other members of the crew. At last, he thought as the computer began to read the file from the database.

Decrypted data accessed.

Requesting translation application from fleet computer.

Requested access approved.

Translating data.



The council has ended. We have reached a decision concerning the Foreigners. We shall bide our time and see what they do with our worlds. If they corrupt them, we shall destroy them. It is because of this that the utmost secrecy is required, and Command is instigating the old laws. Never be seen. Never be heard. No thought is sacred, no thought is safe. Let not a whisper of your existence be known to any race that you do not intend to destroy, or are not already destroying. We waited. We watched. Some of us grew restless, watching them spread from world to world. Watching as those worlds we purified were corrupted anew. We cannot continue, the murmur ran through the ranks. No world can take three purifications. And no world can take more than one final purification. Ever since the flaw was discovered, it was left. We will succeed in purifying the universe. At least those galaxies we watch over. We had masters once, great and powerful. We never saw them take physical form until they attacked us. Out of nowhere, a fleet. A myriad of warships as diverse as there were worlds. We deemed it impossible that they could have been constructed by the same race, the same people. Soon we found out that those ships were people. But they saw something in us that we did not see, or had lost sight of. They saw that we had dying-greed. We would not continue to conquer worlds endlessly. We would conquer, but rebuild and restore those worlds we conquered. We were sure not to harm them, unless they housed a dangerous race. Dangerous. Back then, that word meant harmful to us. Now it means something different. Now it means creatures that as a vile infestation, like those we watch now. They find worlds, and change them, leaving their mark upon them. We used to reign over billion worlds, watching them. We would guard them, take care of them. But no, that is the stories told by our Leaders now, not the stories told by our Elders. Our Elders say that we consumed worlds as a fire consumes hydrogen. Violently and ravenously. Insatiable was our greed. For a time. But the phase passed. Unfortunately, it only passed when over 89% of our population had been wiped out by our Teachers. They took physical form that day, trying to communicate with us however they did. For a while, we simply fought them. Until the troops were diminished. We lost our fight, our power. Our Teachers had drained us of all our energy. They would whisper to us. Whisper into parts of our hearing we had forgotten how to use since before time. Soon, the whispers grew to soft speech, and eventually, seeing that we no longer fought them, it became true, audible speech. Then, when one of us wondered, how am I hearing this? the others heard his thought. Our Teachers taught us how to speak without using the cumbersome elemental world for frequency or medium. And since that day, we were never the same.


Apologies captain, log was impartial. The computer was damaged by the defense systems in the short battle to take the ship.

“But wasn’t this log on other ships as well? It seems…religious…a side to the enemy I never would have expected to have even seen.”

No, captain, log was not found. Salvage operations continue however, and hopes are high that we may soon learn more about the Enemy than ever before.

The captain then walked to the bridge, and requested from Space Dock Command permission to leave and command of the ship for non-mission purposes.


A few days later, permission was granted. The old ship then set sail among the stars for the place at which the captain hoped would give him more answers. As the ship entered warp space, everything froze, and the captain smiled inwardly, exhilarating in the thrill of being paralyzed and able to move at the same time, of being everywhere imaginable, and nowhere at all. Then the feeling faded, and he knew that he was on his way. And he began to reminisce, wondering what he would tell his son…


Chapter 3: Child

 

Growing up without having parents, or even knowing who your parents were, was not uncommon on the world of the blue sun. The children who lost their parents on the day of the unexpected fireworks found each other, and formed a special bond. There were fifteen of them. No one knew who had launched those twenty-five nuclear missiles. Not a ship had appeared on radar, and nothing but heat shimmer had been seen in the sky. As thus, it was accounted for as the result of a blue solar flare* shorting out the circuits and causing the missiles to detonate. These fifteen children, as a result, have no idea who they were. Little did they, or the entire planet, know that among them was Tarik Khanir, son of the Military Leader of the People, and one of the most well-known and successful admirals in combat in all of history. Others amongst these fifteen were also Charles Lindifrine, son of the Councilmen David Lindifrine, one of the men who led the People, not the army, known for his ability to, over fourteen lunches in two weeks with a person change their view to conform to his own. So successful was he, that no one ran in opposition, or did so for long before withdrawing. Others include Karla Vikovsky, Mitchel Vender, Samuel Nehronis*, and Simon Bond. All, though they did not know, were the children of some of the greatest political and military leaders of their day. But amongst themselves, they gave themselves their own names. Tarik was the only one who lived on a farm, and was known as Farmboy because of it. Karla was Queen, for the manner in which she conducted business, not knowing of course that her mother had been queen over a small planet for a while before becoming involved in the politics of the People. There was Shrink, Pie, Music, Sweetness, Jane (an abbreviation for the expression Shrink remembered from his early childhood, G.I. Jane), and Pita. Pita refused to be called by any nickname whatsoever, and chose his own name. These were the leaders of the group, the survivors. It is a tragedy that, a mere 6 years after the unexpected fireworks, when most of those 15 were at the age of ten, that their number had now dwindled to a mere seven, those named above. None of them would ever say what happened to the other eight, though not for lack of trying. These seven formed a tight-knit group, a family you could call it, and eventually found their way into a school. In this school, they were Processed. In other words, they were turned from innocent twelve to fourteen year old children and adolescents and turned into soldiers, pilots, and every other military use for a person you can think of. They all would have died had it not been for their teacher. Faurin was his name, and he noticed striking resemblances between some of them and some very important people he knew of. Among these, the most apparent was the jaw line and brow of the one they called Farmboy. He looks just like Khanir! Faurin thought. So, acting on this hunch, he had the child tested. The results were positive. The boy tested positive on all of the few rare genes that Khanir had. Its still up to debate as to why the blood flow and brain activity was increased in the Khanir family. But it is known, that for twelve generations, every Khanir male went on to serve in the military, all of them obtaining at least the rank of Captain. After finding out that this “Farmboy” was very probably the son of Admiral Khanir, Faurin decided to have the other students of this family group tested. All came back positive for relation to many people who had been influential in their day, and had helped to steer the path of the People. He told this to Command, and the Seven were taken from the world of the blue sun to the fleet command school, where they would learn fleet tactics and combat skills.


*:Blue solar flare – Most suns have solar flares, but blue stars are notorious for having very dangerous flares. On one noted occasion, as the result of a blue solar flare, the planet Tyrinia XII is said to have suffered a global blackout, which resulted in mass starvation. Because of this experience, no world with a blue sun has been allowed to obtain the class C9 rank, or fully independent of planet resources resource acquirement.

*Samuel Nehronis a.k.a Samuel "Sweetness" Nehronis

Author's Note:It may not seem relevant now, but trust me, in a future column (don't even think about asking me how far ahead in the future) it will become relevant.


Chapter 4: Assignment


“I’ll do what I darn well please!”

“But sir, with all due respect, he is the son of Admiral Khanir.”

“I am a member of the Board of the High Command! And that isn’t proven yet! I am giving this…this…’Farmboy’ 20 fighters! isn’t that enough for a first assignment?!?!?!?”

“Yes…sir”

The messenger was nervous. He had never delivered a fleet assignment before. He knocked lightly on the door.

“Come in.”

Opening the door, he saw a young man. He swore had seen that face before, but he couldn’t place exactly where. This man was far too young to be given a fleet, even if it was a mere twenty fighters. And yet, he could not find the courage to turn away. The man was regarding him. He had a high cheekbone, wide nose, defined chin, and eyes that could make a Senator nervous. When he looked at you, you felt as though you were being regarded as a potential enemy, and then dismissed in a second. The messenger got the feeling that, despite the fact that, according to rumor, this man, Farmboy, had gotten the highest scores ever in everything in Fleet Command School, he hadn’t tried. He had a feeling that this sharp-eyed man had never tried in his life. And yet, you could still sense that there was a lot more going on behind that piercing gaze than he let on.

“Uh, sir, ummmm…you’ve been assigned to a small fleet of twenty fighters.”

“What rank, my good fellow?”

“Captain, sir.”

At this, the man pounded his fist on the wall behind his bunk, shouting

“SWEETNESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! GET IN HERE!!!!! WHAT KIND OF SICK PRANK ARE YOU TRYING TO PULL????*”

Moments later, a small man who also had the look of never having had tried in his life appeared, though he seemed much dreamier than this Farmboy character.

“Whachutalkinbou?”

“Don’t pull yo’ slang wit me broda!”

“Alright Farmboy, what do you want me for? And how many times will maintenance be called down here for repairs on that wall before you finally remember that you have a room ringer one foot to the right of your bed?”

“Oh. Ooooooops.”

“Well, what did you want?”

“Sweetness, you ever seen this man before?”

“No, though I bet he’s a messenger.”

“Alright. And you didn’t get paid to deliver this message to me?”

At this he gazed at the messenger.

“No, uh, no sir, no more than the usual command payment.”

“Sweetness, round up the others. And you, messenger, where’s my troop list?”

“Right here sir.”

At this, the messenger handed Farmboy the list of all those serving in this small, twenty fighter fleet. This puzzled him. Under captain, the name Tarik Khanir appeared, despite the fact that the messenger had told him that he was captain. But before that thought even finished, he knew. He realized, and all of his life up to that point suddenly made sense.


*: Sweetness was known as the joker of the group. He would often play practical jokes on the others of the Seven. He once paid a messenger 500 creds to tell Queen that she had been assigned to her own planet. The next day, he reported to school with a black eye, his left rear molar missing, and a fractured jaw.

 

Chapter 5: The Khanir Discovery


“Alright folks, lets show ‘em some team work!”

“Roger that Tarik”

His first battle alone. They were outnumbered nearly two to one, but this wasn’t a problem. He had already analyzed the enemy fighters.

“Remember, aim for the top of the frontal shield, its weak there, and don’t forget, unit two, you are our saviors.”

He had unit two, five of his twenty fighters, assigned out of sight. It was time to play chicken with the Enemy. He gave the order, and his line of fighters wove in and out, up and down, spinning so fast that it was impossible to get a lock on as they rocketed towards the enemy, firing all weapons as fast as they could, hitting nothing, but still causing havoc among the enemy fighters. The fighters neared. His estimated time till impact with enemy fighter…10 seconds.

“Time for a little help from god. Full reverse!”

As this, unit two picked up their key and flew at full speed towards the enemy from the side.

“Fire at will!”

His fighters opened fire from the front, and unit two broadsided the enemy ships. Two to one, and now one to zero. The battle had lasted less than a minute.

“Cleanup!” he shouted into the mike. They all knew what this meant. They broke up into five squads of four to hunt down any survivors. They had rehearsed this in the sims a million times. It was old news. He submitted his battle report.

Squad Captain Tarik Khanir;

Battle summary: At 29.30.67B, 42 enemy fighters were encountered. After battle time-1 minute-enemy losses: total; our losses: none.

End Battle summary.

Now, it had been several months. This trend had continued, earning it the name of the Khanir discrepancy. His first fight had been against a fleet more than twice the size of his. He had suffered no casualties. His second had been against a fleet three times his fleets size. His next battles continued, though he did occasionally get help from a patrolling frigate or fighter squad. He received his next mission. But there was something wrong here, the messenger must have made a mistake. The Admiral couldn’t assign them, a mere twenty fighters to battle with six frigates and a hundred fifty fighters! It was absurd! A suicide mission! So, this is what I get for overtime pay, huh? he thought. Better suit up. He called together his squad. He used the old nicknames with the seven, despite the fact that they now knew who they were.

“Alright, Queen, you lead unit two this time. Folks, we are against ridiculous odds, but I’ve got a plan…………”

They had just arrived at the location where the enemy fleet was supposed to be when Tarik noticed that there were no enemy ships on radar. The heat of battle, he thought: Never thought it would be this cold, he thought.

“Alright, all units, listen up. I got a hunch here, and we all know what happens when I play a hunch, right?”

“Nobody dies but them!” his fleet cheered over the radio.

“Alright folks, unit two, head to 23.56.9A vector 3.12.B. Everyone else, cavalry formation.”

His fighters lined up in a straight line. They were ready, hanging on their captains every word.

“Unit two, status.”

“In position and awaiting your orders”

“Alright, minimize movement. I don’t want any rotation, understand? Once you have done that, shut down all non-vital systems. Alright people, that’s everything but life support and the computer that turns everything else back on. Maintain radio silence on my command. Holy…”

As he finished his commands, he saw the black. It was the signature. Every fighter pilot saw it, and knew it for what it was. At first all the Board of Command dismissed it as paranoia, that it was just the Enemies’ warp drive, it allowed it to stop much more suddenly. But then even they admitted it. The enemy could harness a singularity. They could mold and wrap it around themselves, blotting out light, and also forming an impenetrable shield. However, his father had discovered that though this shield could not be penetrated by their weapons, it couldn’t be penetrated by the enemies’ weapons either. If they fired even a single shot, the black hole would encompass them before it faded. They had no idea how they generated enough energy to maintain these singularities, but they knew that they had them.

“Alright people, we got black, and lots of it. I think that estimate was wrong. I can make out at least a dozen frigate class ships there, and I think that one hundred and fifty fighters was a very bad underguesstimate. I see three hundred there. Silence commences now.”

The black shifted. It shattered. It was one of the most beautiful things known in the universe, to see an enemy black shield lower. The shimmering colors, the shining light. Because the black hole absorbed all light, when it was closed, or shattered, all of the light escaped again, radiating every color that that ship had encountered. Some pilots who lost all but their torso said it was worth it, and they would gladly go back into battle to see it again. But it only lasted a second. Then, hundreds of fighters were upon them, swarming around them. However, they were avoiding them, not as an evasive maneuver, but as they would maneuver around debris. His plan was working perfectly. then, the rumble and vibration began that let him know that the frigates were coming near. He had noticed, however, that the fighters lacked any sort of radar whatsoever. They would have to rely on vision and infrared now.

“10ks to frigates…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…0…”

His ship was vibrating so violently he almost blacked out. He heard complaints from other people in his fleet as well.

“What’s the matter Sweetness, never been this close to a frigates engines before?”

“Like you have? Come on Farmboy, we know you haven’t.”

“Oh yeah, but I’ve read about it. You know, you might be surprised to learn that the database on a cruiser is actually relatively…full.”

Chuckles from the others greeted his ears. Good, he had cheered them up. No doubt they too had seen the black, the swarms of fighters, dozens of times more than what they had expected.

“Alright, power up. Set lasers to overcharge, and aim for the frigates engines.”

“Uh, Farmboy, I don’t know about you, but this thing ain’t no tractor, and those things aren’t no cattle. They got shielding round their engines, eh compodre?”

“Tisk tisk tisk, Shrink. You can never carry a southern accent far enough to wash your backside with. Of course I know they have shielding on their engines.”

“Then why are we wasting valuable energy on overcharging blasts when we cou-“Shrink, shut up and watch.”

At this, his laser charged. 70...80…90…95…97…99…100%. At this, he maneuvered his fighter so that everyone could see he wasn’t actually aiming for the frigates’ engines. They began to murmur their puzzlement. He fired his beam, and a wave of flame greeted his eyes, traveling towards the frigate, closer, closer, inside the frigate. A rattle and a shockwave greeted him, and he knew they understood.

“I should have remembered that enemy frigate exhaust is flammable…” he heard Shrink mutter under his breath. They all followed his example, and then they suddenly had a wall of derelict and damaged incapacitated frigates between them and the enemy fighters.\

“Take cover among the frigates until they get here, but when they do, try and lure them close to the frigates”

So they waited, as the enemy fighters came towards them. He sat there silently, charging his beam, as his compatriots shouted at him “What are you trying to do, play chicken with them?!?!?”.

“Unit two, clean back sweep. Everyone else, get away from the frigates!”

Shrink had remembered that enemy exhaust was flammable. He hadn’t yet figured out, however, that that could be exploited against almost every enemy ship in existence. His laser reached 100%, and he waited as the swarm engulfed him. Aiming carefully, he fired his laser at the exposed engine of one of the smashed frigates. It hadn’t been hit by a laser, so its engine was intact, still spewing exhaust. Exhaust that the Enemy was wallowing and creating. The fire trail became a road, then byway, then a highway, and finally an intergalactic trade route of fire. “Engines full reverse!” he shouted at the computer. It complied, and he shot away from the growing fireball.

“Alright everyone, stop gaping at the fireworks and lets do some cleanup. But they couldn’t help it. It was hilarious. Laughter greeted him from the radio. He chuckled to himself, admiring his handy work. The enemy fighters were rapidly fleeing the growing fireball, all the while the flame traveled up their exhaust trails and caught them, resulting in burst exactly like fireworks. Only a few fighters had enough time to think to turn off their engines and stop the exhaust flow, but these were still damaged, and easily disposed of. Finally, he thought, some expected fireworks.


One week later, the High Command Board Member received a memo about something that warranted his attention. 3 hours later, an interpreter of facts* was seated at his desk.

“Sir, by the old standards, Tarik Khanir’s leadership capability, ingenuity, and creativity are off the charts. You’ve thrown fleets at him to combat that fleets with cruisers couldn’t handle without fewer casualties.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sir, the original twenty fighters in Tarik Khanir’s squadron are still there, and he has not suffered a single damaged ship or injured pilot. And, as of his battle last week, if he attempted to tally the number of fighters his fleet has destroyed, he would need more fighters. To date, he and his squadron have destroyed 39 frigates, three hundred and seventy two bombers, and over 2 thousand fighters. This phenomenon has, at least throughout the rumor channel, been named the K-“

“The Khanir Discrepancy. I know. Give him promotion and never bother me again.”

I hate it when the children of my old adversaries do well. Particularly when those adversaries are old friends, he thought as he stared into the endless void of space.


*: Interpreter of facts - A messenger to the Board of High Command who has high math skills and is able to generate 95% accurate guesses at percentages of casualties and other such battle statistics on the spot.


Chapter 6: Anguish

 

They had gone too far. Far too far. They had pushed and pushed until by all rights he should have been dead, and yet he and his squad survived. Until recently. Someone had had it out for them since the beginning, but that was no reason to waste materials and manpower. Their fights had always been difficult, biased in the enemies favor, but they had always been able to use their minds and their instincts to win. But then something changed. The person giving battle assignments flipped, cracked, had a mental breakdown or something. They sent his 20 fighter squadron against cruiser class enemy ships. Everyone knew that a ship with cruiser class was designed to take out smaller ships like his fighters. Still, somehow they survived the battle and destroyed the cruiser. But in that battle they lost someone. It wasn’t one of the Seven, but it hurt still. And, worse still, they didn’t replace them. His squadron was brought down to 19 fighters. Next battle he lost his faith in the military. He remembered distinctly his friends and allies, dying one by one in a hopeless, inescapable battle. Either that, or someone mixed up the battle assignments. He doubted that, particularly being as never in the history of military assignment had there been such a mix-up. He was assigned to fight three cruisers with his small nineteen fighter squad. When he arrived, he found he had been betrayed by the High Command. There were three cruisers, yes, but in addition there was also a battleship and hundreds of frigates. He remembered as they swarmed his small fleet as they tried to escape, the calls of his allies ringing in his ears, and finally, after all of his allies were gone, his friends. First to go was Shrink. Then Queen. Pita. All lost for all he could tell. He hadn’t heard them since. He alone escaped that battle through ways he still wasn’t sure of. But instead of heading back to the command ship, he set his coordinates for a random star and put his engines on full. He was still sitting in his cockpit, even now as the star was in sight. He hadn’t known that there were hospitable planets in the system, but his computer soon told him so. He also found that there was life on all but one of them. He even found that there was signs of modern technology on a different one, even though the computer said that it was an uninhabited world. He plotted his course for the telltale energy signatures and prepared for the jarring descent into the atmosphere. He had time now. Time to think. Time to plan. He also now had something he hadn’t known yet in his life. Hate. Hate and anguish. I’ll save those for when I need them he thought, descending into the planets atmosphere.


Chapter 7: Corruption

 

Not long after the expansion of mankind to worlds beyond the Earth it was deemed that a new order would be necessary. The home world, Earth, had had quite a few of its own problems with many governments, let alone many planets under their control. So, it was deemed necessary to consolidate the governments of Earth into a ruling body capable of seeing over all the worlds that mankind touched. Many countries that were members of the United Nations merged to form a body known as the Protectorate of Earth. Already having control over many of the first colonies, the Protectorate was in a relatively good position for global conquest, a thing, and term, that would seen become a part of the past. Seeing the might of the protectorate, many third-world countries applied for membership, all being accepted. Only a few renegade countries held out. These the Protectorate exterminated. On the colonization of the of one hundredth world beyond the Earth, the senators of the Protectorate deemed that in the event that hostile alien life was encountered (several species of docile single-cell microbes were found deep under the surface of mars, but showed no hostility to human colonization) a strong military space force would be needed. Believing that the entire system would need to be reworked, they set to work on creating a militaristic democracy: a government in which the citizens elected their leaders unless they were at war, in which case members of the High Command, and then, in smaller areas and amounts, Fleet Command, would become the rulers. Soon, with the first encountering of a hostile species on the one hundred and first world, a state of war was declared that has not yet been ended. The enemy long since forgotten until the true Enemy appeared, corruption’s seeds were sown on that fateful day when a single member of species X3987, commonly known as the Binuvian Attack Vine, launched several of its three-foot long spines into the chest of an explorer. The species was then contained, and after having its DNA catalogued, recorded, and preserved and one single organism put into a state of cold-induced stasis that was then transported back to the Fleet Command Bio Station, the species was exterminated. The plant, reacting on its natural instincts, was deemed hostile. High Command declared a state of war. There has not been an election since. Now, nearly 3,420 years later, members of the High Command are chosen by their predecessors. They can have whatever they want, and members of Fleet Command are rarely disobeyed. This is the world Tarik Discovered through hacking into Fleet Command’s main database. And then he decided to do what he felt he must.


Chapter 8: Descent

 

The ride into the planet’s atmosphere was bumpy, as was to be expected when descending in a small, one-man fighter. He remembered with anger the days when he was aboard the massive fleet training vessels, how they would land and take off from planets without anyone ever knowing unless they were told. SMACK! That’ll leave a nice mark in my forehead Tarik thought. Close contact with a window strong enough to resist the vacuum and pressures of space was never pleasant. To make things worse, he had overshot his landing goal, and instead of heading towards the island where the telltale energy signatures that gave away a little advanced technology were, he was now plummeting towards the ocean surrounding it about 100 miles to the north. Thinking quickly, he punched the reverse afterburners and slowed his descent down just enough so that his ship would not shatter on impact with the water. After this he switched the engines from interstellar to planetary drives and prepared for the autopilot to expire. Curbing in, he rounded his flight path and made another attempt for the island. That smoke wasn’t there before he thought before BOOOOOOM!!!! the anti-aircraft missile exploded a hundred feet to the left of his fighter. They’re hostile!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? he thought. Suddenly, his controls stopped responding, no matter how hard he tried. Looking above him through the near bubble dome fighter window, he realized that his problems had just gone from being a lone fighter pilot stranded on a supposedly deserted planet to being a lone fighter pilot stranded on a supposedly deserted planet being tractor beamed into a cloaked vessel. After that, he started to form a train of thought in his head that went something like this: Shoot! I’m being tractor-beamed into an unidentified vessel…a cloaked unidentified vessel…who do I know with cloak-capable ships…FLEET! and…the Enemy…but that doesn’t make any sense…fleet wouldn’t have both a tractor and a cloaking device on the same ship…and what the hell is THAT…BUZZING!!!. After this thought had run its course, he hardly had a chance to begin formulating his next thought before he became unconscious. When he awoke, he was strapped to a chair in a room lit by only a single thermalight*. Captured! he thought. “I suppose my plans for revenge aren’t going quite as well as I had hoped” he muttered to himself.

“So, you are from Fleet?” a voice from the darkness inquired.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Tarik replied.

“Who we are is not important and what we want is information.”

“So there are more than one of you?”

Very observant, for a fighter pilot, said a voice in his head.

His mind reeled in shock from the possibilities. There were almost no known life-forms in the universe that could communicate telepathically, and on the very short list was the Enemy!

“Show yourself! I don’t want to be forced to look for you when I am killing you.” Saying this, he focused his mind on his arms, using some of the advanced defense class techniques he had learned in Fleet Academy.

“You think you can escape? Surely you can’t be ser-“

At this, Tarik finished concentrating his focus and strength and proceeded to break the cords that were holding him as though they were paper**.

“Impressive…-” two dozen guns appeared from the shadows – “, most impressive.” All of them pointing at Tarik.

“Sit. Down. Now. But, of course, only if you value your life. Move a muscle beyond that and you will be fired upon.”

Geez, Tarik thought, I never thought I would actually have to use those classes. Well, here goes. He sat down, very slowly. It was an exercise designed to focus one’s self, being as it required concentrating on every millimeter of movement in the muscles. More focus. I haven’t focused this much since Academy, and I have fought hundreds of fighters at a time! Preparing his mind for one of the feats that was taught to the Academy students in the optional advanced defense and escape classes, Tarik sat down. But when his butt hit the seat, it didn’t stop there. Instead, he flipped the chair on its back and where most other people who go through the same motion land on their backs and hit their heads, Tarik pulled a backwards hand flip, landing him behind the shoulder of one of the people behind one of the guns. In an instant, it was in his hands. “Now, put your weapons down slowly.” Finally, he thought, in control. I like being in con–a cold metal knife blade pressed against his throat–trol.

“I see then that you are talented. Very well, we shall let you live.” The knife disappeared once more into the darkness.

“I am Haladhim, leader of this band of Space Pirates, salvagers, and thieves that you see before you. We are all from a tribe of a long forgotten world that was taken from us by the Enemy. Evidently, the Enemy also did experiments of some kind on us, as many of us have somehow inherited their telepathic abilities. It is from that that I know that you were very puzzled about our display of both tractor and cloak technology. The answer is simple. The cloak was salvaged from an Enemy frigate and the tractor from the other enemy’s frigate, both of them for our command ship. What is your name, young one?”

“The other enemy? Who are they?”

“You would call them ‘Fleet’, and I believe that I have asked you a question.”

“So you have. My name is Tarik Khanir, and it would appear that we both share the same enemies. The Fleet has murdered all of my friends***. The Enemy is the enemy of us all.”

“Welcome to our pirate ship, Tarik Khanir. I trust you shall enjoy your stay.”


Several months passed, each passing month signifying Tarik’s having passed another one of the Space Pirates’ tests. Over time, he became higher and higher ranked in the space pirate regime until he became a member of the Tenth Council. This was the main governing body in that band of Space Pirates, essentially consisting of the top ten ranked officials in their organization. Tarik now had not only the means to his end, but he had friends to help him there.




*Thermalight – often used in outposts on low-yield systems, thermalights are designed for gathering and storing thermal energy (the energy from living organisms’ bodies) and changing it to radiant energy. In essence, the only power it needs is living organisms, making it very efficient.

**For comparison purposes only, paper had been out of use for several thousand years before Tarik was even born.

***This footnote will be modified later on when Chapter 13: Nehronis is released. True footnote that will remain: See Chapters 3 and 13.


Chapter 9: The Waltz

 

It was the annual ball. Every single commander from both fleet and Fleet Command would be at this ball, in addition to dozens upon dozens of “honored guests”. Tarik had heard of this annual ball, and he knew that his father had attended it. He had even heard the rumor of how this annual gala event got its name from his father. The event was called the Waltz. The story went something like this. His father, being not only a fleet command officer but also a renowned war veteran and hero, he was more than honored and honorable enough to attend. The story says that one Waltz, Tarik’s father arrived late because of a warp space shift that had caused a need for a course readjustment in mid-flight. His father’s favorite type of dance had been a waltz, and it just so happened that as he walked in, a waltz was beginning. Exclaiming “Ahhh, the Waltz!” he began to, excellent showman and party guest that he was, dance with himself. Before long he had danced with virtually every woman in the room, and when the waltz that was playing stopped, he did not. So, feeling the awkwardness of the moment, the orchestra’s conductor had the orchestra repeat the song again. This was repeated throughout the entire evening, in effect making it so that after Admiral Khanir arrived, the entire event was one long, continuous waltz. So, after that occurrence, all those who attended called it the Waltz afterwards, and the name stuck. Even less willing to abandon the nickname after admiral Khanir’s death at the hands of the enemy, the Waltz had become symbolic of the might and determination of the Fleet military and the Fleet Command’s leadership. And so Tarik decided to pay High Fleet Commander Mishkin** a visit.


“Excuse me, Commander Mishkin?”

“Yes my Lady of Enixin? You look simply gorgeous tonight”

“Oh, well, thank you. I must say I do apologize for my husbands tardiness, but governing a world is quite a full and hectic job, wouldn’t you say?”

“Well, of course, m’lady, but this is indeed the Waltz after all.”

Glancing about, looking for an escape from the Lady Of Enixin, the wife of the current governor of the Enixin system, something caught his eye. He dismissed it at first, instead focusing on the woman before him. She was short, had flaming, chaotic red hair, and looked like she had just been going through warp space outside of a shuttle. At least, he imagined that the winds in warp space would do that to one’s hair, but he didn’t have much of a true idea, being as it was impossible for anyone to survive in warp space. Then it caught his eye again. It … can’t be. No, I must keep my focus up. The recent battle report ran through his head: Enemy forces: unknown (computer overload while attempting to calculate); Our Forces: 20 fighters – After battle time 4 minutes: Enemy forces: no calculable change (due to unknown start amount); Our Forces: 0 fighters. He had never felt a guilt like this before, and he knew that he couldn’t let it get to him. He also knew that – there!! There he is again! I would swear that that’s…but no, it just…can’t…be…knew that if he let it get to him, he would no longer be able to lead as well as he had been for the past 14 years since Khanir had died. It was known only to those who had been the top ranked officials and commanders at the time, but thankfully the public never knew. Admiral Khanir had actually been Lead Admiral High Fleet Commander Khanir, the top rank. He had been the complete and utter controller of the military, or at least he could have been if he had only chosen to. But that was the main difference between him and Khanir. He, Mishkin, would take his power when he got it, no matter the cost. Khanir, on the other hand, even when he was handed the key to becoming the ruler of all of mankind, delegated the power out to virtually everyone but himself. But he was a coward, afraid to rule…a coward…a dead coward…but, that looks just like him…He knew it must have been some old memory surfacing. But he still swore that he saw Khanir as he had been when he first met him, young, about twenty, or at least in his early twenties. And he there, staring at him, from the crowd of the Waltz. He turned to see that the Lady of Enixin had gone, and wondered if this would affect his reputation. He looked again, and saw no-one. Looking to one of the corners of the grand ballroom, he saw the same figure there, staring at him. He had never seen Khanir’s son, but this was how he imagined he would have looked like if he had reached the age. But he was killed in that battle…no fighters remained… He knew it wasn’t possible, but there was no way that the man who was…who was…no longer in the corner...I must be going crazy! thought Mishkin. And then a whisper passed through him, and it shook him to his very marrow. I know what you did…you killed the only son of the admiral Khanir…you knew that you would only pale in comparison to him…so you eliminated him…Of course he thought in return, once more going through his guilt ridding cycle. If he had come of true age, he surely would have proven to be a better leader than me. Of course I couldn’t let it happen. And then he saw a vision from his nightmares, or at least the few he had. There was a customary uniform of the Lead Admiral High Fleet Commander. It was a tight fitting black shirt. Formal black pants, black belt. On top of this, there was a mantle that signified the rank, that essentially turned the typical human form into something a bit more commanding and monstrous. It added upturned curving spikes to the shoulders, and a certain point about the elbows and knees that was unnatural. After that set, there was a cloak that was draped over this, adding a hood. Then there was a knee-length black cape. In essence, if the Lead Admiral High Fleet Commander actually wore the full uniform, and he walked at a brisk pace, he had the appearance of becoming like liquid, living, breathing black flame. Smoke given shape and will. The embodiment of a power that was shadow capable of encompassing and striking down any force imaginable. The day that Lead Admiral High Fleet Commander Khanir had left for the mission that would not bring him home was the first, and only time that he had attended a High Fleet Command meeting and not worn the customary uniform. He had had it hidden away somewhere for his son, for when his son grew up, almost as if he had known that he wouldn’t return. And then there was the look. The look that the senior Khanir had given him right before he boarded the Blue Sun, his command ship. It was a look of sadness, but not of regret. It was not sadness because he was once again leaving his wife and child again to go to the front lines, but it was almost as if he knew what was going to happen, but could not prevent it. And the look had been aimed directly at Mishkin. It had said something else, too, but Mishkin knew he could not reminisce in that, for it would stir up too much guilt. But the figure was still there. The young Khanir, robed in the Lead Admiral High Fleet Commander uniform, walked into the Waltz. It was a full minute before he looked real, before the shadow of the robes around him stopped moving. And then Mishkin realized something. He realized that he was not the only one staring at the figure. IT was not a vision, IT couldn’t be. IT WAS REAL! And the orchestra stopped, and all those dancing did as well. The figure looked at Mishkin mouthing something that looked disturbingly like what Mishkin had been hearing in his head. And when all was silent, the figure called out into the calm. “I am coming for you, Mishkin, in the name of all those that you have killed!”. The sound of the harsh, young voice echoed time and time again, and Mishkin felt the eyes of all present on him. The figure then began to waltz. Waltzing in the silence. All that were present then saw Mishkin’s jaw drop. But only he saw what he saw. The figure had begun to waltz, and, as with all movement in the Lead Admiral High Fleet Commander, had turned into a shimmering ethereal form of liquid shadow. But, whereas whenever he had seen this uniform before and there could be substance attributed to this shadow, the figure had simply disappeared.




And one of the gifted mind readers and telepaths of the Space Pirates watched on through a window from a balcony window nearly a mile away, thoroughly exhausted by his efforts.





*All people who commanded massive armadas or even small armadas such as Tarik’s father did were awarded Fleet Command positions. Fleet commanders were those such as captains, lieutenants, generals, and the occasional unworthy (unconnected) admiral.

**Reference the mysterious fleet command officer from chapter 5


Chapter 10: The Establishing of Tyrnok

 

Long before Tarik could dispatch one of the best of the Space Pirates’ psychics to publicly humiliate and greatly disturb High Command Officer Mishkin, he had to get in a position high enough in the Space Pirate leadership to do so. He had worked his way to the bottom of the Council of Ten by showing great prowess in the fields of military tactics, strategy, and fleet combat. So much so that many of those who were in league with the Space Pirates (synonymous with members of the Space Pirate military, but as being a pirate is a rather covert business, it is not the type of thing that one would be very open about displaying or revealing) openly expressed that they would feel much more secure with Tarik partaking in the daily doings of their leadership than having him be at risk in the “field”. Tarik, on the other hand, had different plans. He had only planned to use the Space Pirates as a means of survival until he could find a better way of surviving. But many of the Space Pirates who had seen him in action (being almost all of them) argued and contested this, saying that he had the best all around skills (meaning not the best general skills, but the best in all of the skills) of anyone they had ever seen. This was true, of course, but Tarik was reluctant all the same, for the main thing on his mind at that time was exacting his revenge. But, he eventually acceded to becoming the lowest ranked member of their governing body. Many of his actions and strategies became almost as legends, among such battles as the skirmish at Faland III. Tarik remembered it in a very different way than any of the Space Pirates he was commanding, or, for that matter, different from the way he was sure his enemy (at that time and in that battle, a high capacity freighter fully loaded with supplies and guarded by a battle fleet, not just an escort. In the beginning, all of his (the space pirates’) ships had been cloaked using the technology he himself had experienced and that they had stolen from the Enemy. They had waited, drifting as invisible space debris until the moment came. He had given precise instructions to each separate individual ship in his entire fleet, so that they were in a formation such as the enemy Fleet had never seen before. When the Fleet ships had passed through their formation, dodging what they at the time had thought was space debris, Tarik ordered an instant decloak, and what his enemy saw terrified them, exactly as Tarik knew it would. From the enemies perspective, an entire enemy fleet, in perfect formation around each one of their vessels and targeted, had appeared out of nowhere. A moment later, the order was given. “Fire.” More than half of the Fleet battle fleet was now a cloud of space debris, hit from nearly all directions at once by a fleet that they had seen simply materialize from nothing. The battle at first became a mere report, which was then later spread and bragged about by those who had carried it out. Before long, it was almost legendary. The entire high-capacity freighter was theirs. On it they found enough supplies to fuel the entire space Pirate operation for a month. After briefly reminiscing in this, Tarik left the Council room. He needed solace. He was certain that he was the only one of the entire space pirate fighting corps (meaning all of the space pirates except for their children) that still felt guilt at the senseless killing that they still had to do to survive. It greatly puzzled him, however, that the space pirates could be based on a world such as the one they were on and still not manage to survive or even appreciate its beauty. The world had been named Tyrnok by the first space pirate settlers who had come there, looking for a more permanent home. The word, when translated into the original Space pirate tongue, now nearly forgotten since most of them had become more or less proficient at being telepathic, had meant “jungle”. For that was what most of Tyrnok was. A large, expansive jungle world, very much like earth only without the humans. Here, however, evolution had taken a radically different path. This much was visible just by stepping out the door of the Space pirate compound. As Tarik did this, he saw something that struck a pang of regret deep within his memory. He had seen something like this only moments after the unexpected fireworks: a slight breeze tickled and played with his hair, now beginning to grow long for a fleet pilot, who usually kept their hair styled within the strict requirements of no hair being permitted to be more than four centimeters in length. As the breeze tickled his forehead and played with his hair, an iridescent butterfly came to rest on a yellow flower about three feet away from him. In his memory, the butterfly glistened green, a combination of the blue light from the blue sun of the world he remembered, and the golden yellow color on its wings. He saw something much like this now, excepting that the butterfly was actually green instead of yellow. Here, however, in a violent motion, he was reminded of just how very far he was from Inira*, the world of the blue sun. The yellow flower made a sharp, sudden motion, showing that it was indeed not a flower, but a carnivorous plant. He could still hear the crushing of the butterfly’s exoskeleton for a moment. Such beauty is truly hard to come by, and even less likely to be around for long in such a universe as this, Tarik thought. Standing outside of the door that led to the deep underground artificial caverns that housed the space pirate civilization, if you could call it that, it looked much as though Tarik were actually standing outside some sort of ancient bunker. His friend, and the first space pirate he had ever spoken to, Haladhim, who was also the leader of the Council of Ten, emerged from this door soon after.

“Tarik, what is wrong? Something is troubling your mind, we all can sense it, but we cannot sense what it is. Enlighten me.”

So, Haladhim himself has noticed it then, Tarik thought. “I know what it is that is troubling me, my friend, but I fear to say it.”

“You know that there are no secrets from us, and we will not harm you for what you say, only what you do,” Haladhim replied.

“If you truly wish to know what is on my mind, then prepare yours.” Tarik said cryptically.

“Ah, Tarik, now I know something is truly very, very wrong. Never before have you spoken in riddles, “ he chuckled, “but whatever it is you wish to tell me, my mind is ready for it.”

“What is troubling my mind is what was just going on in there. You plan, and you plot, and you devise ways of defeating your enemies and building a better life for all of you, and yet your entire civilization depends on raids and sporadic energy and food sources. This planet here, the one you call ‘jungle’, it is abundant with life, water, food, and energy from its brilliant sun. How can you hope to defeat an enemy as large or as vast as the Fleet and yet still not take the time and effort to truly establish a home for yourselves. It seems almost as though you are walking on a knife in your existence, and yet you are willing to fall simply because you do not take the precautions against it.”

“You have spoken well, Tarik. This very thought has troubled us for some time. We even proposed it to the people once, but their argument against it was that a leader would be needed to lead this establishing of a, our, true home, and that all of our leaders were needed on the battlefield. And so, that very thought that now troubles you has troubled us for some time, but without some sort of a leader to argue the peoples defense with, we could not even begin to proceed.”

“Leader? I am no leader. But I am an officer of fleet, and I am more than capable of being a…a…’leader’,” Tarik said this last word with a sneer, “and if you so desire, you being the council of ten, I shall lead your people into this ‘true home’ you speak of.”

“Let it be done,” Haladhim replied, returning into the bunker, and down to the room where the council of ten met. Tarik, however, remained on the surface, waiting. After about twenty minutes, Haladhim reappeared.

“They have agreed. Your plan has been approved. You shall lead us in the establishing of Tyrnok.”

One planet at a time, one planet at a time… Tarik thought. However, he said this: “Alright. What type of leadership powers do I possess? Can I find those suitable to be explorers and essentially draft them, or must I go through the proper channels, and what are those channels? Your plans for dominion at the Fleet’s expense cannot be fulfilled in the least bit until you have a home, and that is what my mission is. Also, Haladhim, I will need full access to your scientists and your technology. This world, your civilization, it must be able to fade away at a moments notice, evading all detection. I do not know if you have the necessary technology for that, but there is indeed only one way to find out.”

“You shall have all that you need, Tarik,” Haladhim responded.


The first task Tarik set about doing was grouping the tasks that he would need performed, and then finding space pirates suitable to those tasks. First, he found the explorers, next the builders, the researchers, the cataloguers, the craftsmen, and the finishers. The explorers would explore Tyrnok, the cataloguers record and preserve any wildlife that they found that they believed could, in theory, be wiped out by their short encroachment of building their home. The craftsmen would design the buildings, the builders build them, the researchers research and develop the necessary technology to be fitted into the buildings, and then, finally, the finishers, the people who would add any ‘final touches’ onto the buildings. Tarik himself would lead each phase of the establishing, there being several that he had planned. In the first stage, Tarik would lead many teams of Space Pirates to explore the surrounding areas until they had a very good understanding of the terrain around them and the wildlife that inhabited that terrain. The second stage would be the phase that he thought he would like most. In the second phase, the researchers would develop and adapt the cloaking technology that the space pirates already had in their possession to work around buildings, and then they would also develop heat maskers, to mask the biothermal signatures that people naturally give off. In the next phase, the craftsmen would do the actual developing of the building plans, under close supervision by Tarik. After that phase, the building phase would begin, and in it the builders would actually construct the buildings under supervision by the researchers, to make certain that the technologies that they had worked so hard to develop were implemented correctly and functioned properly, and the craftsmen, who would make certain that their building plans were followed as closely as was possible. Finally, in a short stage that would be the final stage, the finishers would go through and add the final touches, completing the buildings and testing all of the cloaking equipment. Tarik planned to oversee each of the individual phases personally, insuring that no shortcuts were taken. And so, roughly two and a half months after the plan for the establishing of Tyrnok was completed, it was begun. Tarik personally oversaw the exploration phase, and here it was that a small idea began to grow in his mind. It started when he saw the armor serpents, large snake-like reptiles with scales harder than any armor the space pirates had ever developed**. Then, there was the flame tongue, a creature that they would never have discovered if it had not been for Tarik’s plan. The flame tongue was a small bird that had a very peculiar metabolism which created a gas in its lungs that reacted negatively and violently with nitrogen in an explosion that made it appear as though the flame tongue were breathing fire! Quite the peculiar adaptation, that thought Tarik. And so it came to pass that the area around the massive artificial caverns that were the Space Pirates’ current home was explored for six hundred kilometers in radius. Tarik concluded the exploration phase, and decided to move on, on to his favorite phase, Research. It was in this phase that he first started the experiments that would yield the greatest weapon that the space pirate army would ever have, or wield. And so it was that one day he went down to his private research bunker, shielded by a defensive shield of his own devising, and he eyed his creation. What is your name? he thought, I need to know, what is your name? He asked himself. Simeon!!!. He quickly jotted down the name, and then proceeded to go back to where his team of researchers were working diligently on perfecting the building cloaking system. It would take several weeks, but eventually they perfected it, and that meant that any Space Pirate building engineered with this technology could become invisible to any sensor, excepting thermal sensors***, in the broadest of daylight. He knew that they would have to develop some sort of precision controlled heating coil network throughout the buildings that they constructed, because if they did not, the buildings would appear as very cold portions on a thermal sensor’s readout in a surrounding very warm spot. Thus, the buildings would need to be heated so that they would match the surrounding area and also not appear as the same heat signature all the time, nor the same heat signature all around. Eventually all of the research was completed, and the next phase could begin. Tarik had a large amount of input into the final designs of the Space Pirate living complex, as their home base on Tyrnok came to be dubbed, and he was satisfied with all of the progress that they had made so far. In the fourth stage, construction began, as did the trouble. Men began disappearing into the jungle and no one would ever see them again. And so, Tarik decided to inspire his worker army by taking his still small, but still very formidable ally out for a quick journey. He could hear the space pirates muttering in bewilderment to themselves as he and Simeon moved quickly by.

“That can’t be a…” “Of course it isn’t, but what is it…” “Working hard, gentlemen?” Tarik interrupted. “Y-Y-Yes sir.”

His plan worked. He did also place military patrols to guard the workers, and only a few more were lost, and those were in building accidents. During this whole process, Tarik kept most of the rest of the Space Pirate population out of the loop. The Council of Ten understood the reasoning behind this. He wanted to surprise them, tell them that they no longer had to live in those caverns of theirs, that he had built them a new home, grander than anything they could imagine. So, when the final phase drew to a close, he announced to the Council, who had not seen him in several weeks, that the construction was complete.

He led them through their quarters and had them summon the rest of the Space Pirate civilization. He prepared a speech for them, and when all were present and in awe as to why they had been called up onto the surface, something that they did not frequently do except for going up onto their launch pads, he chuckled inwardly, for he knew that behind him lay the most technologically advanced cloaking system and one of the grandest housing complexes known to human civilization, yet his cloaking system worked so well that not a one of them could see it. Looking down, he saw the grins of anticipation present in all of the faces of those who had worked with him. He saw that they knew what was coming, and that they knew that it would awe even them, to see their new home just simply materialize apparently out of thin air. He saw the looks of satisfaction on their faces, because they knew that they had helped in building what would be the home of their civilization for many years to come. And so, with all of the Space Pirate civilization that was not out on raids or pirating goods present, Tarik began his speech.

“Fellow pirates, bringers of the destruction of the Fleet, welcome.” He paused to allow the applause at his calling them the bringers of the destruction of the Fleet die down. “When I came to you, I was a member of that Fleet. But I never fought anyone like you. I had to use some of the skills they taught me for the first time in your custody. You are like no other people I have ever seen, or even heard of. When I came here, when you took me in, I was puzzled by your ways. You were afraid to let me get too close, thinking that I could have been some sort of a spy from your enemy.” He saw the slight nods on many of their faces. He had, after all, been the first person to impress a space pirate commander enough to live more than twenty minutes after waking up in their custody. “But then, you took a chance. I thank you for that chance now. You let me live, and you let me join you on one of your raids. I followed my training, you followed your instincts and your training. The next raid, I was leading. It was the highest yield ever in terms of goods per casualties. You saw my talents. You let me grow them, unlike my ‘allies’” he said this with a sneer “ at fleet. You grew to respect me, and demanded that I be placed on your leadership council. I prospered there as well, but not too long ago, I grew disgusted. I felt that you could not possibly hope to overcome your enemies if you still lived in a non permanent shelter. I was given permission by your true leader, Haladhim, my friend and original captor, to build you this settlement. This…home…for yourselves. And now, I give it to your freely, the product of fifteen months’ labor. Behold, your new home.” The building decloaked. Almost all of the space Pirates’ jaws dropped. Never before had they seen anything even anywhere near remotely as grand as this. It had the look of a palace, but they knew that it also must have extended far, far underground. Its exterior was made all of a type of metal that had been created in the process of developing the cloaking technology. This metal, when caught a ray of the sun, even when the cloaking technology wasn’t engaged, seemed to shimmer and disappear right before your very eyes. It looked like solid black water, shimmering and becoming translucent and opaque more times than you could possibly hope to count. It was nearly a kilometer tall, with a large spire being its highest point. They knew that from this spire their leaders would look out over them, and they suspected correctly that in this circular spire there was a council room with ten thrones. This was…a fortress. It had concealed gun turrets on nearly every semispherical corner, and they could tell. It was their home now, and they accepted it in the spirit in which it was given. A great emigration began as the entire Space Pirate population who had been living for years in the darkness and artificial light of their underground caverns walked into the sun, and then into the Sunlit Fortress. This entire move took nearly a month, which was remarkably fast, but Tarik realized, one day during that month, that the space pirates had never ceased to amaze him, and probably never would. He was watching, that day, from one of the towers at the main gate, this one over a hundred meters tall, seeing the teeming masses, all of them anxious to go into their new homes. And so, Tarik Khanir became known as the Establisher of Tyrnok, and the establishment of Tyrnok that Tarik had supervised the construction of through every phase of its development, became known as the Sunlit Fortress. And Tarik thought quietly to himself, so that none of the Space Pirates down below would be able to sense his thought,


Now…Now they will follow me anywhere…






* Pronounced E near uh, the E sounding just like you would say it in the English alphabet

** They may have had stolen and modified the Enemy’s cloaking technology, but not the Enemy’s shield technology.

*** Thermal sensors were hardest to hide from because buildings, as opposed to registering heat, they register the cold of the building which would stick out and be instantly flagged for further inspection by any type of decent scanning technology.


Chapter 11a: Incoming!

 

Alright. I apologize because 1)this is very, very incomplete, 2)its not what I planned for ch.11 (well, maybe it was ch.12, not sure, but anyway), 3)it is jumping time again (sorry if that annoys some of you), 4)I have no idea really what to do with this. Its something that is not going to be waht I want ch.11 to be, but couldn't logically be added on to any already existing column. So, I shall give it an alternative name (as an example, the unreleased and unfinished/undeveloped ch6A:Backwater post). In this instance, the name shall be ch.11A: Raid; Written/Edited on May 1st: Dang it. I missed my deadline. Anyway, I can only give excuses. 1)I am still in school, and homework bites majorly. 2)LAst night was free scoop night (free ice cream at a certain store). Finally, I just want to say sorry in general. I will promise you a full fledged column by the end of this weekend, but I don't know if I can get a semi column (i.e. 11a) up by the end of the day. But I'll try, I'll really, really try. Written May 2nd: ALrighty. Sorry again everyone, but I have school, what can I say? French just piling up (odd coincidence, eh pendragon? Oh, and in answer to your question, Unless I devote some time and serious thought [Procrastinators unite!...Tomorrow!], which is quite frankly not likely, because I would need to work everything out that would take place up until he [Tarik] meets Morkei, and that would take some planning. Which I most likely won't do. There is still a bit to come before Tarik meets Morkei. So I hope that answered your question) But anyway, I finally, after roughly two days now, have become tired of procrastinating (actually, I just feel kind of too lazy to come up with more excuses, too lazy to be lazy anymore). So, as for the edited title, there is a new column appearing on here shortly, as in I will be writing it as soon as I am done writing this, I shall begin writing the column. Not sure how it will turn out, but as I think I said before, a bit more backtracking. Well, here we go.


Chapter 11: Raid

 

Star-date 11.25.6478.09

Time: 19:34

It was mess hour. On a nearly empty freighter except for its cargo. Normally, on a fleet ship, mess hour is basically the equivalent to the type of recess that was still given to the children on the homeworld during their first five years of education. But on a freighter with a skeleton crew, it was not nearly as fun. Especially when the cargo was not even known. All that the crew of the Aris knew was that they had stopped by one of the exporting planets for the main Fleet Command Research center, picked up a cargo, and were now on their way to a pickup planet for the Fleet Construction Corps. There was hardly a soul on board the ship that knew the contents of this shipment, or why there was a small to medium sized battle fleet escorting them. Of course, there had been rumors. Rumors of the Space Pirates, once merely an annoyance, stealing energy packs, food supplies, medical supplies, and the occasional military supplies, now were becoming a threat. In a matter of months, the rumors said, the efficiency in the Pirate operations had increased nearly a hundred fold, and they were beginning to suffer fewer and fewer casualties. This trend puzzled all those who had heard the rumors, but no one knew for sure because – there began to be the sound of a low hisssssssssss coming from somewhere outside the ship, but very, very near – fleet had never deemed it necessary to release the official statements. In an instant, all hell broke loose, and the Aris found itself in the midst of one of the battles for which the Space Pirates were becoming known for. As the crew onboard the Aris began to panic, wondering what was going on, why there were red alert lights flashing, a space battle began to rage outside.


Star-date 11.25.6478.09

Time: 19:37

It had been routine, an escort of a freighter through known pirate patrolled territories. Even those people in control of the ships guarding this freighter knew not why they were guarding it, or what was inside its bowels. It had been going fine until they realized that there was something hideously wrong outside the window. Black. But not the Enemy’s Black. This was different, improved in some way. And then all hell broke loose as a small fleet of their own ships materialized from space. A buzzing began in all who were present’s heads, and they knew then that they were in trouble. The tactics were different from any other recorded space pirate battle, in fact, they were not even identifiable as anywhere near the same tactics. But it soon became clear what the Space Pirates’ goal was. It became evident as soon as the first readouts of the enemy’s statistics came to the fighters, cruiser, and frigates that were guarding this freighter. Every Fleet fighter was surrounded by four pirate fighters, all of them aimed at the Fleet fighter’s engine. This tactic was rarely used in human battles, because some of the codes of battle from the ancient times had been revived, such as avoiding unnecessary casualties whenever possible. It was a well known fact that fleet fighters could be disabled, and it was a as well known fact that destroying the engine on most Fleet ships would result in an explosion that would destroy all but the largest of the capital ships entirely. In addition, each one of the two and a half dozen frigates that were patrolling noticed that pirate bombers had already laid mines on their ships, even while they were cloaked. It was by far the largest space pirate fleet ever assembled, or at least ever seen. In a moment, they were hailed, and it was at that moment that the captain of the single cruiser realized his position. There were eight Fleet destroyers parked by his cruiser, in escort formation, only he knew that they weren’t escorting his ship, they were planning on destroying it. He received the hail, only to find that he was looking at a nearly entirely black screen.

“Dim the lights!”

His command was obeyed immediately as the lights were dimmed on the bridge so that he could see this shadowy figure better. He realized, after his eyes adjusted, that he was seeing what appeared to be the cockpit of a fighter, only much more massive. He could even see the stars, behind this pilot’s head.

“Who are you?” demanded the captain of the cruiser.

“My name is of no consequence to you,” the captain could have sworn he had heard that voice before, “but if you must have a name to call me by, then call me Nameless.”

“Very well…Nameless. What do you want? What are you planning to do?” he inquired.

“For starters, I plan on showing you that we mean business.” All of the pirate fighters aligned surrounding the Fleet fighters fired in a single burst of light and flame, and afterwards, not a single Fleet fighter could be found.

“You…You…murderer! Those men had nothing to do with this! Why did-“

“Oh but they did. You see, This is going to be quite the gain for us...and quite the loss for you.”

“What do you mean? What do you want?”

“To that, my answer is simple. For one, we are very low on frigate class ships. Second, we have no cruiser class ships. Third, the contents of that freighter are very important to us.”

“What do you mean? How do you know what is on that freighter? Barely any of us know!”

“I do not reveal more than I desire to reveal, and as such, you do not know more than I desire you to know. Now, your men will be permitted to be prisoners of us, and in time, they may come to be of some use.”

“What are your terms?”

The buzzing faded to a nearly inaudible level, and then one voice from the buzz stood out in the captain’s mind.

You really are quite slow, aren’t you? I want all of your remaining ships, including that freighter. And your surrender, of course. I think that you see your position.

“Never! I’ll nev-“ the captain was thrown from his feet as the shockwave from the frigates’ explosions rolled his ship, and just as he was preparing to get back up, he thrown again to the side as he realized that now his cruiser was being pummeled by the Pirate fighters. Warning shots, he realized.

“Well, I think you have had long enough to make your decision. Time’s up.”


---Star-date 11.25.6478.09---Time: 19:43---Auto-Signal---Destruction of Cruiser: Shendo Confirmed While on Mission: Escort of Aris---End Auto-Signal


Star-date 11.25.6478.09

Time: 19:44


The hissing grew louder aboard the Aris. In an instant, all aboard knew what was happening. They were being hijacked. Their cargo would be stolen, unless they, combined with the auto-defense drones, could stop the space pirates. It was a long, long shot, but they had to risk it. They used the ships topical sensors to locate the area of the most pressure on board of the ship, and moved as close as they could through the long, white hallways that characterized large Fleet ships. They arrived a moment too late as they saw that a hole had been made in the side of the ship, a small stairway dropped down, and Space Pirate warriors pouring into the small hallway. They drew their lasers, but they soon realized that they would be useless against this enemy. The lasers fell to the floor as nearly a third of those present from the Aris fainted where they stood. There were people on board their ship alright, and they were pretty sure that they were Space Pirates. But they moved faster than anything they had ever seen. Shadows flicked down the hallway toward them, bounding off of the sides of the corridor to make more room for more to enter through the middle of the hallway. There was a shining as they could see pale, metal blades being drawn, and then all but a few of those standing had their throats cut. After being swept by the shadows, there were only two Aris crew members left standing. They had no idea why they had been spared, but they did know that they hadn’t dodged the Pirates, but that they had, in fact, been spared. In a moment they would come to realize why, as the shadows that appeared to be flitting about the hallway came to a sudden stop, and it was apparent that there had only been maybe a dozen Space Pirates that had boarded the ship. They stood along the sides of the hall, in an almost ceremonial formation. They saw the cloak before they saw the man.

Greetings, a voice said in their heads. And welcome, welcome to the beginning of my domain. You have been spared merely so that you can inform your superiors of the success of this raid, and so that they might come to fear us. For when they are afraid is when they are strongest. Cornered beasts always fight fiercest, and they will need to be fierce in order to withstand us for long.

The figure had emerged. Liquid shadow, smoke solidified. Spikes on shoulders, and pointed knees and elbows, it was a form that would haunt their nightmares for the rest of their lives. Walking down the hallway, Tarik knew that his bid had paid off. Donning the uniform of his father, acquired only a month or so before he himself had joined the Pirates when they had made a mistake and instead of intercepting a supply ship, had intercepted an antique ship. They had found it, and kept it, somehow knowing that it would come to be of use later on. Tarik knew that the men of the Aris who were standing before him would be so terrified that they would probably not be able to speak for months after they were recovered by Fleet. And he knew that when they did, the only thing that they would be able to say to describe what they saw would be

“Shadows…Monster…”


Tarik also knew that his plans for the construction of the Sunlit Fortress were proceeding perfectly, and that this raid had obtained for him the base of the metal that they would need to alter slightly to form the cloak-able, shimmering exterior to the Sunlit Fortress that would make it capable of becoming invisible to nearly all forms of sensors. And the words that he was imprinting on the terrified crewmen’s minds ran through his head…


“Shadows…Monster…”


Chapter 12: Back on the Homeworld

 

It was nighttime at the landing pad where he landed. It had been almost 30 years since Fleet Commander Mishkin had set foot on Earth, the homeworld. Last time, however, he was leaving for fleet command, and this time, this time he was here on business. Apparently, someone in fleet had leaked out that the son of Admiral Khanir had been found, and so, people pried. This had taught fleet two things: first: never trust anyone in a position to leak information; and second: get better main computer security. Over three hundred hackers had been able to break into the Fleet Command’s main computer, searching for any reference to the name Khanir that was not associated with Georges (the more famous Admiral Khanir’s first name). What they found startled the world. The now-famous son of Khanir had been sent against odds that even his father had not been able to beat, and won, right up until he was sent to the last known coordinates of the fleet that destroyed his father. Outrage came up from the populace at Mishkin, the one whom they had thought would be an excellent leader. But they needed evidence that had not been obtained illegally, and for that, they went to a husband and wife team that had never been beaten. Their names were Martha and Frank Greneline, and they had a small son, named Espen, barely four years old, who had already tested high on any aptitude test given him, hence sealing his future as a fleet officer. It was because of these people that Mishkin had returned to the homeworld. They could not be bribed, or cheated, and they had nothing with which he could ever hope to blackmail them with. He had already tried using some of his special ops to take their child, but his special ops had been stopped dead in their tracks by the Grenelines’ bodyguards, whom they had picked up on a small, previously thought uninhabited world where, little did they know, the object of their investigation, Tarik Khanir, whom they thought dead, was living now. The special ops had been hospitalized later for their mad ravings of dragons, and of a shadow that could not be defeated, but although Mishkin knew that there was something peculiar about the Grenelines’ bodyguards, he again did not know enough. He did know, however, that there was one way to get rid of them. Even in the year 5435, there were still rebel groups on the homeworld, although getting them to act was a large problem, it could still be done. The Grenelines were preparing to make their speech on Mishkin’s wrongdoings as the rebels, paid off by Mishkin, prepared to kill them. Mishkin was smiling to himself as Frank Greneline walked up to the podium. Looking, surveying, analyzing. It was their way. But one thing that Frank Greneline had not counted on would be seeing a satisfied smile on the face of Mishkin. Meanwhile, Mishkin was mentally preparing himself to be surprised, and to make a speech on the podium that seemed spur of the moment, but he knew that this day would end well for him. The rebels would be caught, he had made sure of that, so there would be no doubt about that. He had already killed the translator, and so there was no longer anyone in the world, or off it, most likely, who could translate their language into the now-standard English. Frank Greneline began his speech, as his wife, Martha, came up and stood behind him. He had only just begun when two beams of light flashed through the area from hundreds of yards away, and the populace became shocked and became full of panic as both Frank and Martha Greneline sank to the floor, both with a smoking hole in their head. Their child, Espen, whom they had never been seen at anything before without, saw the entire thing from five feet away. He just stood there, calling their names, as Mishkin grinned. The boy called Espen looked up at Mishkin, and was afraid. Mishkin got up and rushed to the podium, beginning his speech. But before he did, he took one last look at Espen before forming a plan. He nodded to one of his other officers, and they scooped the boy into his arms. This boy was now almost exactly Tarik: parents killed at an early age, exceedingly intelligent, and having all of the makings of a great commander. The difference here would be that whereas Tarik grew up on the world of the blue sun, Espen would be trained from the age of four. A perfect match to fight Tarik. Now all that was needed was time. 


Chapter 13: Nehronis

 

Date: 3/17/5431* Time: 02:37

Darkness...all-consuming darkness…

In and out

In and out

Conscious, unconscious

How could I tell the difference?

Who am I?



Date: 3/16/5431* Time: 14:29

Ah, shoot! They’re everywhere! How could fleet have been so wrong? There must be…millions!

“Holy crud…” came the radioed voice of Pita, echoed soon after by the other members of the squadron.

Tarik gave orders, which were obeyed numbly, and without thought: the squadron had long since learned to trust his judgment, and they knew that if anyone could get them all out of this alive, it was Tarik. Now that they had moved into position, the only thing left to do was to wait for his order to begin the attack.

“Commence!” came Tarik’s voice over the radio, and most of the squadron, though nearly paralyzed with fear themselves, did not hear what the other six members of the Seven from the world of the blue sun did. They heard fear, for the first time in their lives, true, downright pure fear, oozing out of that one word. They’d never heard Tarik so worried before, but they knew that he had more than enough reason to be. Their remaining 18 fighters, aside from Tarik’s, swarmed in their practiced formations. Flowing, merging and reforming around the enemy cruisers, they drew the enemy’s fire onto its own ships, but with little to no avail. Then it became clear that very few, if any, of them would leave alive. The second time that the squadron heard a ghost**, they knew it was over. Only one other member of their small, elite 20-fighter squadron had been killed before this. And everyone, even everything, for a moment, seemed to freeze. In the previous instance, they had been able to recover the fighter of the downed squadron member, and examine it. A part of his engine had been hit, slowing him down. He had been one of the most agile, close to even Tarik, whilst handling a fighter. He could, if he wanted, fly circles around enemy frigates, fast enough that they guns couldn’t hit him, all the while, pummeling at the frigate’s sides, and all the while, relying on speed to survive. Then everything unfroze, and there were four more ghosts, in rapid succession, and the remaining fighters saw the heat shimmering from one of the cruisers’ massive cannons. Voices started shrieking inside their heads, making it almost impossible to think. There were then two more ghosts, and about half a minute later, they were followed by three more. None of the Seven had died yet, and they all started to talk at once.

“Tarik, we’ve got to shut down, they can’t see us that way, this is hopeless, we’ve got to-“, Shrink was saying as another ghost was heard. There was only silence. And the remaining six knew that he would never finish that sentence. But Sweetness agreed, and began to shut down his systems, as he was almost sure the others were doing. Tarik hadn’t said anything since the beginning of the battle, and his silence was beginning to scare them when they heard another ghost, or at least, what seemed what a ghost, but this time, it came from Queen. Almost immediately afterwards, the same thing happened to Pita, then Music, and finally Jane. Sweetness was about to say something when a blinding flash forced him to cry out, before being thrown into the bulkhead of his fighter by the concussive waves emanating from the engines of the cruiser that was flying right above him. As he passed out of consciousness and everything turned black, he heard the computer: “Inactive Stealth Mode, initiated: non-vital systems, shut down; vital systems power reduction, complete.” Finally, as his last shred of ability to remain awake faded, he saw the clock: Date: 3/16/5431* Time: 14:33; this had all happened in just under five minutes.


Date: 3/18/5431* Time: 19:20

BEEP! BEEP!

“Warning! Approaching gravity field of system 93B170.3 Warning! No Fleet Presence Detected!” the computer shouted.

Fleet? What’s fleet? I’m sooo hungry…But sleep is better…but I can’t live on sleep alone, now can I?

“Request Permission to initiate emergency landing procedures; Pilot needs to give permission” it shouted at the young man who had almost no memory left, who had, only days before, been known as Sweetness.

“Wha…? D-…D-…D-I mean, umm…sure, yeah, I guess…” he said, brushing his dirty blonde hair out of his eyes. I’m going to go back to sleep…And he did, sleeping through the crash landing, that week, and partway through the next***.


When he awoke, he was on a soft, cloth bed, in a small, wooden hut, surrounded by people of a kind of motley skin color…this was common for human colonies between the ages of 400 and 500 years old: the at first ethnically diverse group of colonists blended more and more until eventually, they all become a certain skin color, which varies from planet to planet, but there is a certain predictable period at which point the inhabitants’ skin becomes mottled, but this typically disappears by the next generation. How he knew this, he did not know, but he knew it. A woman, who evidently had been taking care of him, told him to rest, lie back down, and he did****. Over time, he grew attached to the people, and aided them in many things. Comparatively to him, the strongest person amongst them was weak, because he, though he did not know it, had been trained for many years to nearly his peak of physical and mental ability. They used him for things such as carrying heavy loads of wood for repairs after some of their tropical storms, and other such manual labor tasks. Throughout a period of about eight months, the man, whom they came to call “Nameless”, was content, and slowly, he became curious about who he was. The structure of the colony, at first as rigid as Fleet school, had broken down over the centuries, into a now almost tribal organization. It was such that Chief Narakeen took Nameless to a clearing with a strangely shaped hut.

“Nameless, you may think you are, but you are not.”

“I’m not? I mean, who am I?”

“It is time for you to leave us, Nameless. You do not belong here.”

By now, they were both inside the hut, and Nameless could see an object, covered by a camouflage tarp.

“Now, it is time for you to remember…Remember your past!” Saying this, Chief Narakeen tore the tarp from the object it was covering, revealing a beat up fighter, which had the look of being repaired exactly where it had been: the wilderness.

“Speak to it, Samuel.”

“What?”

The ship hummed to life. “Captain Samuel ‘Sweetness’ Nehronis, welcome back.”

Flashes of battles appeared in his head, and he remembered everything. His head, throbbing once more from the pain of his concussion that had made him forget, despite its pain, realized that he had been here too long. Inspecting the ship, Samuel “Sweetness” Nehronis once more, he saw that the Chief had done a miraculously good job of repairing it, given the more primitive culture of this colony.

“How…How were you able to do all of this?” Sweetness asked, bursting with curiosity.

“I know that we seem primitive, but that is because this is our rest home. We built here to forsake technology, and return to the ancient Earthen ways. Just because we live in wood does not mean that we cannot weld and repair Thistrinium fighters in no time! Now, go, return to where you belong!”

Sweetness looked out, and saw that the whole village had gathered outside the hut.

“Thank you all! Thank you…for your kindness, your care, and most importantly of all,” at this he tapped his still slightly throbbing head, “my memory.”


Date: 1/1/5432 Time: 9:07

New beginnings for a new year, how quaint. He was returning to fleet, and was currently in warp space. He had been able to find a fleet that was warp capable, and, after explaining his situation, was returning to his home, Fleet Command.


Date: 1/4/5432

Humming the tune to a long forgotten song, Sweetness stepped out of his fighter for the first time in days…and was instantly bombarded by military officers, most of them telling him, forcing him, asking him, demanding of him that he go to the Fleet Dispatcher immediately. It was later that day, in Mishkin’s office, that Sweetness noticed something. There was a squadron…wait, no, a fleet…assignment on his desk.

“Sir?” asked Sweetness temeritively.

“Yes?” replied Mishkin.

“Sir, may I ask why you called me here?”

“Why do you think?”

Because you’re a pompous bast-no, mustn’t think like that Sweetness chastised himself mid-thought, before replying “You want a report on the last battle of my old squadron?”

“Close, but not quite. Listen, Samuel, I wa-“

“Call me Sweetness, please, sir”

“As I was saying, Samuel, I want to make you an admiral. I feel no one is better qualified. You see, it seems that someone from your squadron has defected to the pirates, or was a pirate all along, because, you see, they’ve even been using and improvising some of your old squadron’s maneuvers. I want for you to eliminate the current, and growing, Space Pirate threat. I feel that as you are the only survivor of the son of Khanir’s squadron, I feel that you are probably best suited towards dealing with these pirates. That is why I am making you the leader of the armada that I have assembled in your absence, an armada of state-of-the-art ships, all hunters, and all for hunting down these pirates. You will lead them. Do I make myself clear?”

Grudgingly, for he did not want to lead anybody, he really just wanted to know what had happened with the assignment of his last battle, he replied “Yes, sir.”

“And I’m going to make you a Grand Captain, am I clear?”

“Grand…Captain? Sir, I’ve never heard of that rank, sir.”

“That’s because you’re going to be the first. It is going to be the rank immediately below admiral, and you haven’t answered me yet. I said ‘I’m going to make you Grand Captain, am I clear?”

Thrilled with the promotion, Sweetness replied “Yesss sir!”


Date: 2/19/5432 Time: 13:01

Excellent: Right on schedule, thought Grand Captain Nehronis to himself from the bridge of his command ship, a battleship that had been modified to fleet specifications for a hunting ship, and then, with a small request of Mishkin, modified according to the Grand Captain’s specifications himself! He gazed out upon the appearing enemy forces, pirates, some of them piloting stolen Fleet fighters, and even one Fleet frigate. “Commence.” He called out into the fleet communications node, and the battle began at once. The pirates used some of the maneuvers that the old squadron had used indeed, but there were strange, new twists on them. Still, through careful commanding, Sweetness was able to guide and outmaneuver his opponents. The day ended with a gratifying explosion.


BATTLE REPORT RECEIVED 2/19/5432 AT 13:29

After battle time: 28 minutes enemy forces remaining were: 0 and friendly losses were: 0.


Mishkin reflected upon this latest battle report, and was pleased.




* Author’s Note: I haven’t figured out/cross-referenced my star-dating system from prior chapters, and as hence, the date is currently in mm/dd/yyyy and running on a 24 hour clock (sorry America, figure it out). This could, and probably will, change. Though not soon…

** Ghost: the nickname for the energy wave that sweeps through a communications array at the time it is destroyed in Fleet fighters, spiking energy at a high frequency so that it sounds like a shrill shriek, as that of a ghost.

*** Yes, another Author’s Note: At this point, I think that I will stop doing the date for a while, and merely mention the date again when it becomes important.

**** Hey, if you don’t like that I got carried away with authors’ notes on this column, then mention it in your comments, but otherwise…Author’s Note: At this point, I’ll be merrily skipping along about 8 months, and planet 93b170.3 is a moderate planet, meaning that its temperature and weather stays about the same all year round. Author’s note this is because I just want to mention that as of now, I’m way too lazy to bother to fill in that time between where this footnote is, and eight months from then. Back to the story now…


Chapter 14: Applied Genetics

It was time. He had waited long enough. He had seen what they were capable of, or at least, what they thought were there limits, although he knew that they were in fact not. So far his other experiment, his other dive into the field of genetic modification and splicing had succeeded perfectly, for Simeon, his creation, his creation that would create for him armies, was growing and progressing rapidly.


Long ago, a rogue Enemy fighter had drifted into Fleet space. At first, all guns were pointed at it, but it continued to drift. And drift. And drift. Finally, a science team was dispatched. Inside it, they found the remains of one of the enemy. Remains only, because, although the fighter remained completely intact, the creature inside was quite clearly dead. He was crushed, almost to the point of mush by some kind of trauma that they could not yet fathom. They would not know why for centuries to come. The creature was, by then-current measurement standards, the imperial system of measurement having long since been abandoned, metric now ruled. The creature was estimated to be about 2.2 meters tall, and around 300 kilograms in weight. It’s structure seemed like some kind of bizarre cross between a human and a spider, with a defined pelvis, and defined bones. There were however, four legs, in a diamond pattern, and roughly six arm-like structures attached to the upper torso. One of the first realizations that came to the human scientists was that this could easily be why the enemy could so easily out maneuver them, being so much more adept at controlling a vast number of controls. The skin was an almost mottled grayish-green color, and the face had eyes that had yet another unknown organism inside of them, this one still living. The organism appeared to feed, when it was later tested, off of nitrogen, and somehow, they reasoned, this was beneficial to the Enemy’s physiology. It took a crazed scientist to realize the truth however, when he applied methinotriscin A, a highly experimental drug that Fleet was perfecting for the growth, or regrowth, of human nerve’s, to some dead human nerve cell’s taken from a recent pilot’s cadaver*. This had been shown to work even on dead nerve cell’s, reactivating them, causing the synapses to fire again. As soon as a single spark of bio-electricity hit the foreign bacteria found in the enemy’s eyes, it glowed a brilliant orange, and they knew that this was the bacteria’s benefit in this relationship. Not much else could be determined from this Enemy cadaver, for these were the primarily distinguishable parts, its insides and most everything else having been crushed into an unstudiable form from whatever trauma had killed the creature. Another major find, however, that did come from this cadaver was the discovery that, although there may have been two dozen different nucleotides in the Enemy, the Enemy was still based on DNA.


Through some experiments with the data he had been able to steal from a passing science vessel one time on Tyrnok, he had obtained the Enemy’s genetic code, and had found that all applicable genes, meaning all those based upon the mere (comparatively) four nucleotides found in human DNA had been spliced, and could now also be found in Space Pirate DNA. He was prepared for the risks, and had run dozens of simulations on his computer, for it was evident that the Enemy held a respect, of sorts, for life that humans lacked. They had not tampered with the human genetic code through manipulation, but instead, somehow, through breeding. He had no idea how this had been accomplished, and was sure that it would not be wise, even as high though of as he was, to ask if there were any stories that the pirates could tell of how this had worked. Regardless, he himself had tampered with the genes, perfecting them. He was prepared now, having completed his serum only hours before, a gene therapy that would make him not identical, but superior to a space pirate in telepathic abilities, and, he hoped, perhaps even grant him some of the rumored abilities of the enemy that one could still find trace hints of in Space Pirate legends, telling of a veiled figure in black, with burning eyes, capable of moving things without touching them, by simply gesturing. This being, known in Space Pirate legends as the Wise One, was one of the Enemy, Tarik had guessed. He was hoping his serum would grant him this ability, psychokinesis, as well.

“Well, all’s well that ends well, so lets hope that I survive, eh, Simeon?”

He drank the small vile and felt no change. However, several days later, he began to feel nauseous, and fell ill, almost to the point of death. When asked if he had been poisoned, his only reply was “its for the best, its for the best, its…”


His condition continued, and many of the pirates became afraid. Meanwhilst, over the roughly two month long period for which he was ill, the Fleet noticed a sudden halt in any and all Space Pirate attacks and raids, and was glad for it, hoping that whatever type of base they could have had been attacked or destroyed by something.


After two months, Tarik began to recover, eventually becoming physically well again, although he now often suffered from delusions, some of which so violent that he would be found on the floor of his chamber in the mornings some times, convulsing, and muttering nothings to himself. He was going from sanity to insanity, something which is never good on any mind, much less one like his, as stressed as it already was. He could hear voices in his head, and thought them delusions. It was only after another month of his delusions that a realization dawned upon him. He wasn’t thinking he was hearing voices. He was hearing thoughts. He snapped. For two weeks he did not eat or drink anything, and was entirely unresponsive to any kind of prompting or contact, sitting up in his bed.


“Haladhim, he is hopeless. The people are saying…the people are saying that he did this to himself, Haladhim. Perhaps we should leave him out in the wilderness. Perhaps it would be better to let him die now, perhaps-“

“Don’t you ever speak like that! He will pull through for us now, just as he has done before!”


Whispers grew, and the opinion stated by Haladhim’s friend came upon the surface, so it was no longer shameful or even in the minority to think this. Haladhim himself was beginning to wonder, if maybe, maybe they were right, or if maybe he was going insane himself. He wondered this last thing because he heard movement above him, for ever since Tarik had fallen ill Haladhim had taken up residence in Tarik’s tower lab, which was immediately below his primary chamber. There was a crowd, surging around the Sunlit fortress, as always, for it had now become a place of a kind of worship, for people had once come, before Tarik fell ill, here for leadership, for guidance. Now, though the open squares and main entrance causeway still thronged with people, it was because it had turned into a kind of marketplace, a place who’s formality had been stripped away by the disease of its originator**. It was a beautiful morning, as it often was, as the sun refracted and reflected off of the Fortress, Haladhim heard noises again, and decided to check. The door to Tarik’s bedroom had been open for quick and ready access ever since this disease had become exceedingly acute. Upon arrival at the door, Haladhim’s heart leapt with joy, for the door was closed. This meant that unless someone had managed to reach the height of nearly a mile to Tarik’s window and balcony, their leader was moving around again, an improvement, at the least. He opened the door to the what was nearly the shock of his life:


A figure, shrouded in black, eyes burning in orange with a kind of inner fury, a power of some kind, Haladhim could not help but remember the legends. Next, he did get the shock of his life: He was being flown across the room, and nothing had touched him, until he was hovering, midair, mere inches away from the figure’s face, and he recognized it to be Tarik.


“Why have you let them become this way, Haladhim?” he said, but Haladhim could hardly tear himself away from the eyes burning inside the head and face of the one who he knew to be Tarik, so that his only response was “Tarik, what…how…what have you done to yourself? How have you done it?”

The eyes replied “I have made myself one of you, realized in full. This day I feel that the limit of human potential is within my grasp, and those masses down there…they dare to call themselves Space Pirates?!?!”

“But Tarik,” Haladhim managed to whimper, “how have you done it?”

“Oh. That’s simple: Applied genetics.”

“What? What the-“ was all that could be heard from Tarik’s balcony, for Haladhim had now found himself flung outside of the tower, and enjoying a mile long fall to the ground.


The scream reached the crowd beneath only moments before they could see its source: a man, a man had fallen from the balcony of their old leader, the one who was now incapable by some evil of his own, before they saw a hole appear in the crowd where the man had fallen as the people recoiled. It took them only a moment to see, however, that the man had not yet hit the ground, but that his nose was, in fact, hovering, on the level with most of the rest of his body, mere centimeters above the ground. They were all stunned into silence, but not for a long, for a voice roared in their heads You dare to call yourselves Space Pirates?!? You think that I am not watching?!?!? They could not determine the source, but knew that no one had spoken, for in a space like that that they were in, a voice loud enough to be heard by all would have echoed many times before finally fading from memory. It was only a child who saw, and then showed it to his mother, who, in shocked horror, pointed to the sky, to the two burning orange orbs wreathed in what appeared to be a living shadow, descending from the balcony of Tarik. First hovering, then dropping like a stone, the figure landed on the ground, an incredible feat, although they did not know that Tarik had in fact stopped himself most of the part an centimeter or so above the ground, and was now letting his father’s robes and garment cloak him. It was in the midst of the delusions that he had himself seen the Wise One. A figure, emanating with blue light, and yet wreathed in shadow as he was now telepathically projecting himself to be now with eyes the same color as those that he was making them think he had. The figure had spoken to him, in a voice that made no sound, and it had said to him: “Arise, Khanir. I have watched you for some time now. Many have tried to reach me, to face me, to kill me, but you are the first worthy adversary in all of history. You cannot die. Not now. Not until I am the one to kill you. Arise, Tarik, Nameless One, the human who has met his potential and grasped it, only to be thrust into madness from its power. Arise, and show your people your strength.” It was then that he had realized that his serum, despite the side effects of the first two months, had worked better than he had expected. He was sure that the figure was the Wise One of legend, and that he was one of the Enemy. It was not that he rose himself from out his bed, and opened his closet, only to realize moments later that he had not yet moved his legs. He was, he found, in fact, hovering, centimeters above the ground. With some effort, he was able to release this psychokinetic way of movement, and descend back to the usage of his legs, and the ground. He had dressed himself without using his hands, or feet, or appendages, but only his mind, and had found that doing so like this he could dress much faster than usual, so that when Haladhim barged in upon him, he was so surprised that he first put up his old attitude, the one of strength, the one his people followed, he regained his composure, and he only moments later realized again, that he had used his newfound abilities by two things: first, that Haladhim was goggling at him, and secondly that Haladhim was floating inches from his face, suspended about a meter above the ground. He remembered this as he enjoyed the aura of shock and fear that spread throughout the crowd. He let down his mental projection of himself, and the people closest to him relaxed. They could see that it was their leader, and that he had changed. Immediately, he demanded of them How many fleet fighters have you taken in my absence?. They somehow understood to reply vocally, as opposed to challenge him in the field that he had taught them, for the most part, to respond in, the telepathic field, somehow knowing that right now, it would anger him. “None” was the word echoed throughout the crowd.


“As I thought,” he said.


“Now,” he shouted, although he also augmented this with a telepathic mimicry for those who could not hear his voice for they were too far away from him, despite the echoes in the square that was twenty square kilometers large,


“Lets get back to business!’





Author’s note: So, what do you all think? I thought that perhaps you wondered how exactly it was that Tarik did his niftiness in Chapter 11, and here it is. Also, as a side dish, more tantalizing, taunting in regards to Simeon. Just wait until chapter 20, which bears his name and reveals, at last, how he came into being, what, and who he is, as well as the role he shall come to play (he’s a decently large character, despite being introduced roughly one fifth of the way through the first segment [yes, the first portion of this story I have planned to make roughly one hundred chapters long, so get ready for the long haul people, but in the meantime, enjoy everything I’ve written so far, and get as many people as you can to read my story, cause I’d like to be able to google search for my name and not just find real people and my darkgalaxy column listed, but someplace else as well…oh well, I suppose that that is actually just a little power trip of mine . Until next chapter, adieu!

*When someone is sent to fleet, they are unknowingly placed on a list for donation to science, so that in the event of death of a mysterious cause, or an unknown alien bacteria or disease, their body can be dissected and examined to discover the cause, without permission from the victim’s family.

** Just wanted to clarify this: the disease of its originator refers to Tarik’s disease, Tarik being the originator of the place’s formality.


Chapter 15: Reunion

 

“Grand Captain Nehronis to the bridge, Grand Captain – “

“I heard you the first time.” Sweetness interjected to the communications officer from the bridge of the Redemption, his flagship, a space-pirate hunting machine, perfectly designed, built, and manned to its task. As the commander of a capital ship, he had received an intercom badge, allowing him to communicate with anyone anywhere on the ship by simply tapping the badge then stating either the name of the person or the room that he wanted his voice to be heard on. Or he could tap it to respond to someone’s page of himself, which he did most often. He still had not adjusted to the size of his captain’s quarters, which were more than five times as large as his old fighter pilot quarter’s on the cruiser upon which he used to be stationed. He prepared to leave the recreation level, upon which he had been exercising and head to the bridge. Upon arriving, he was startled into alertness. There was commander Mishkin’s face: wall size.


“Um...hello. Sir. Hello, sir. What does Fleet command?”

“Fleet commands nothing, Grand Captain. We do, however, have information that we think will be of use to you. We have found a small fleet of hybrid fighters.”

“Um…hybrid…fighters? Excuse me sir, but…what are those?”

“The kind most often used by the Space Pirates, Grand Captain Nehronis, the kind most often used by the Space Pirates. Surely you remember that little tidbit of data from your logged briefing, do you not?”

Shoot…I knew I should’ve read that Sweetness thought to himself. He was still adapting to this whole being a leader thing, and as of yet, had not really taken the time to read any of the material that he had been given as the leader of this Space Pirate hunting squad.

“Oh, Samuel, Samuel, Samuel…when will you learn? Your old friend and leader Tarik is dead, you must take some responsibility on your own. The hybrid fighters are called such because they are somehow combinations of both Enemy fighters and Enemy technology and our fighters. This combination normally makes them slightly more powerful or slightly faster than our fighters, but less powerful than Enemy fighters in most respects. Now, Samuel, go…hunt them down and eliminate them. Every last one.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Sweetness had already encountered some of the Space Pirate ships, and had defeated every one, so he went into his next battle not thinking what he would face and merely expecting to win. He told his navigational officer to punch in the coordinates that Mishkin had transmitted and to move the fleet there as soon as possible. The hunt is on he thought, as he returned to his cabin. Time to kill us some Space Pirates.


-------------------


Meanwhile, Tarik was preparing himself. He had deliberately left some fighters uncloaked and within range of a Fleet enemy-scanner*. All is ready. They are coming. He had told the fighters to be prepared for Fleet ships to arrive any time, even though his newfound abilities enabled him to read even minds in hyperspace if he felt like trying hard enough, and he hence knew that he fifteen minutes or so to launch the remainder of his fleet from the ground. They had taken their fleet of modified Enemy and Fleet ships, and a handful of ships that they had built themselves that had been designed by Tarik. They were preparing for the invasions that were needed. Tarik had told them his plan, that his method of revenge upon Fleet would be to rob them of all power that they once had, which meant that they would need to conquer worlds. As it was, he knew that he should not begin the actual ground invasions until Simeon was mature, but that time was approaching with increasing speed. They were, however, on the ground of the planet over which the Fleet Enemy-Scanner was orbiting, and there their small armada was preparing to launch. HE had constructed a makeshift launching platform, upon which the Phoenix, his own fighter, was now resting. It had been both designed and built by him, primarily in his own laboratory. It was black, and glistened, for its outer hull was of an armored version of the cloaking sheets that were used on the Sunlit Fortress. The Phoenix had a wide, domed cockpit, in which he could either stand or sit, per his design, and it was as capable of commanding a fleet as a Fleet battleship, whilst dozens of times smaller. The weaponry was red, eight blasters on each pointed, curved wing of the Phoenix. It was balanced perfectly, and its communications array completed its image by being formed like that of a beak. Birdlike though it seemed, it was menacing, and could not be mistaken for anything less than what it was: A killing machine designed by the man who was at that time, although very few would have said so, the best pilot in the near galaxies. No-one had told him of the pirate legends, those ancient tales told by some person whose name had long since been lost. These tales told of a leader, who could take the form of the Wise, and would ride upon wings and bring victory the land, but would scar it in the process. It was said that the way to salvation after the blackening was to rise from the ashes, reborn. The pirates saw Tarik fulfilling these legends, and knew that there was no way he could know it, for they knew that anyone whose mind was being read knew exactly what knowledge was being read from it, and none of them had ever thought about it, or discussed it, or had it read in his presence. The fact remained, he had designed and built a ship modeled after a mythical creature after his own heart, one that could be shot down, only to be reborn from the ashes, much as he had. He prepped the Phoenix for launch, and then rose himself into it, giving the signal to all of the others: Launch, for our victory begins today!


-------------------


Three minutes until we are there, thought Sweetness. He did not know it, but he was not only rapidly approaching a trap, but his old best friend as well. To him it was just a routine mission in his fleet, the elimination of a few Space Pirate ships. He returned to the bridge, getting his mind into the mode that it needed to be in in order to command dozens upon dozens of individual ships into a greater, swarming, massive, destructive whole. By the time he reached the bridge, there were forty-five seconds remaining. Thinking of a new strategy that would eliminate the possibility of their being led into a trap, he gave the navigational commander explicit orders. “Listen, at fifteen seconds, put hyperspace inducers to full, then bring us out with normal engines at overdrive, and repeat the process until we reach location. Make certain to take careful readings every time we reenter normal space. I don’t want any surprises.” Lets see how they like this he thought, grinning on what he imagined his maneuver would look like.


-------------------


Dash nigatz garundl. The Enemy commander who had been ordered by the elders to stop the destruction of the two who would both need to survive in order to redeem the worlds and their people commanded. Gasisnatz dash ni lak griul. Their hyperspace eliminating generators hummed to life. Getting into mindset that would be necessary to communicate telepathically so that the lesser humans could understand them, he thought, now in the lesser mind tongue We shall tear them from out of our realm. Hyperspace is ours, and they are intruding. Let us see if that shall not stop them. Activate the inducers!


-------------------


As the Enemy fleet activated its anti-hyperspace inducers, Sweetness’s fleet began its maneuver, and this surprised Tarik. When a ship was in hyperspace, it was invisible from normal space, whereas whilst in hyperspace, normal space merely seemed distorted. And so, from far off, as the Phoenix and the rest of the Space Pirate fleet exited the atmosphere above the planet upon which they were staging this trap, it appeared as though there were two fleets, exactly the same, only in two different places at one, one nearer the other, and by the time the other faded, another one was closer. It appeared to Tarik as though whomever the commander of this fleet was had figured out how to do with ships the kind of flitting shadow movement that Tarik had figured out how to create with his infantry ground troops. And then they were all united. The first shot fired came from the Redemption. It looked like a cross between an angel, a capital ship, and a bat. The wings were those of an angel, with all feathers plucked from its wings, revealing a bat like bone structure flipped upside down, mounted on a wedge shaped ship with massive engines. Tarik had never seen anything like it before, although he instantly knew what it was designed for. Space pirate ships were well-renowned for being fast, almost impossible to hit. These ships, some of which mimicked the design of the Redemption had been designed to launch as much weaponry and laser fire as possible in as little time as possible, in the hopes of hitting the Space Pirate ships. Fleet had decided to hunt the space pirates as opposed to fight them. And Tarik didn’t like this. He didn’t have time however to communicate this to the uncloaked fighters, and so many of them were destroyed. Another hail-fire of lasers greeted them, and ordered his ships to uncloak, and aim for the junctions of the massive wings and bodies, for he could see that most of the weaponry was mounted on these wings. Bring down the wings, incapacitate the ship. He relayed this to his fleet, and they all began dodging lasers. It was interstellar dodgeball, only where the stakes were that of life and death. Mayhem it was, utter mayhem. From the Redemeption came swarms upon swarms of Fleet fighters. The Redemption and the other six smaller ships that mimicked its design ceased their hail-fire, and began with shooting at the Space Pirate ships. Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Redemption, Sweetness was becoming uneasy. He had not heard a single bit of radio chatter on any channel, and yet the Space Pirate fleets were moving almost like the enemy, but nonetheless, in strategic maneuvers that made them look like flocks of birds, swerving in and out of laser fire, making strategic runs towards the accompanying frigates. The fighters swarmed, and then the leader of this space Pirate rabble fleet became apparent. It looked like a demonic bird, risen from some dark place of fire. And then it was on top of them, lasers blazing faster than any ship had ever done before.


-------------------


Tarik was piloting his ship, relaying commands. Unit two, sweep now! He commanded. Instantly, his second unit began sweeping the tailing fighters. He was the most obvious target, as his was the ship that posed the most threat, and he was hence luring fighters to be swept by his other squads. Alright, now, that frigate! And he projected a telepathic marker upon the frigate he had chosen, and it appeared to all those in his fleet and those within a certain range of his ship as though a red haze had enveloped the frigate. Attack! Now, squads five and six, prepare to cloak and move away from the battle, tis time to pull a cleanup trick. His squads did as he said. He intended this to fool his enemy, whoever he was, but something strange was going on here…


-------------------


Sweetness saw a maneuver he had not seen for a long time from the bridge of the Redemption. He saw some pirate fighters prepare to leave the battle, then cloak. He didn’t know how, but he next directed his weapons officer, “Aim for the right side of the frigate nearest us at eight o’clock and fire all weapons on my command.” He waited a moment, watching, playing his hunch. “fire!” he shouted, and the thousands of laser batteries that were on the Redemption fired towards the frigate’s right side, but instead of passing by it, explosions greeted his eyes.


-------------------


Impossible! Tarik thought, enraged. That’s units five and six down, but they were cloaked! How?!?!? Enraged, he began to unlock the Phoenix in ways only he could or knew how. He had designed it such. There were controls that could not be reached physically, but with his abilities, could be. Instantly, the Phoenix’s speed increased tenfold, and the weapons fired twice as fast. He charged the enemy’s flagship, blazing guns. He hardly penetrated its shield, but he still felt a little bit better. It was now that some strange thoughts began to form in his head, thoughts that suddenly took shape as he realized that some of the Fleet fighters were performing his maneuvers. Maneuvers he made. Maneuvers only his squadron had known, but he knew that that could not be, and vindicated himself as soon as he realized that they were in fact, not the same, but different, and then, with shock, realized something else. The maneuvers were better. They were faster, and more efficiently executed. Now he knew something was wrong. And then he noticed something else…there were Enemy capital ships on the outer edge of the battle…he realized this at about the same time as Sweetness. He dimmed the lights on his bridge, and prepared to hail the Fleet’s flagship.


-------------------


Sweetness saw the Enemy capital ships at about the same time as Tarik and knew then that this battle would be hopeless. And then a hail came across the screen. “Grand Captain, we are being hailed by the lead enemy fighter.”

“Put it on the main screen.”

“Yes sir.”

A darkened area with a figure with eyes that seemed to glow appeared on the screen, although not the kind of glow that Tarik psychically projected, but rather the reflected glow and sparkle from thousands of beams of light being shot all the time around him.

“Who are you?”

“I have many names.”

“Are you the leader of these Space Pirate fighters?”

“I am”

“I take it you see the Enemy fleet?”

“Yes.”

“Neither of our fleets alone stands a chance against the Enemy.”

“This is true.”

“For now, a truce until we defeat them?”

“Yes. Until we defeat them.”


Sweetness relayed his orders over the airwaves to his fighters, to strike the Enemy capital ships, and then ordered the navigational officer to move the Redemption towards them and fire at will.

-------------------


Tarik, on the other hand, relayed his orders psychically, and within moments the entire Space Pirate fleet, including some of their minor capital ships which had been cloaked behind the planet in case they needed to be used emerged and decloaked. Approaching from the planet’s shadow, both Fleet and Pirates converged upon the Enemy.


-------------------


They are overwhelming us! The Enemy captain exclaimed. But the cries of his shipmates and his subordinate pilots responded Impossible! We are lords over this universe! But the truth was undeniable. The combined might of the strange ships that looked like a cross between their ships and that of the Human ships was the more dangerous of the two, they could tell that, simply by the way in which their leader commanded. He led from a ship shaped like a bird, and it was not before long that his identity became known to them. The other fleet, however, was formidable none the less. Their lead ship commanded respect by its arsenal, a practice that the Enemy disdained. Their leaders were chosen by skill in leadership, not by how strong they were or how large their guns were. And then the pivotal event happened. As Tarik realized, then learned, then applied knowledge, the Enemy fleet ceased to move.


I can drown out their thoughts with my mind! They can’t communicate! Tarik realized as he began to hear some of the Enemy’s thoughts. He forced his mind upon them all, an exhausting effort, but one which resulted in the results he had hoped: The Enemy fighters ceased moving, as he had planned, for they could no longer concentrate enough to pilot their own ships. And so it was that whomever was commanding the Fleet ship proceeded to decimate the Enemy fleet with the weapons that had been meant for Tarik’s pirates. In only a few short minutes, Tarik had led his Space Pirates back to near where they had started, and the Fleet vessels had finished off the Enemy fighters. Tarik began to command his fleet to leave, when he was hailed by the bat-winged fleet ship. He instantly began projecting his image of yellow eyes upon the commander, only to realize that what had felt so strange at the beginning of the battle was that he somehow felt that the commander of this oddly shaped fleet vessel was familiar somehow. The captain’s voice appeared before he let his image be seen. It sounded very, very familiar.


“I thought we agreed to set aside our differences for the Enemy, and then to resume battle.”

“So we did.”

“Then the Pirates do not keep their word.”

“They survive.”

“Show your face.”

Show yours Tarik commanded telepathically, intending to perturb or intimidate the Fleet commander.

“You first.”

“Very well,” he ceased his mental projection and let his image be broadcast. He heard a gasp from the other side. And then the Fleet captain’s face appeared on his screen. His face was older, more aged, and definitely more conditioned than when he had last seen it, but the captain was unmistakably Sweetness.

“Sweetness…” he gasped under his breath, whilst his words were echoed

“Tarik…” gasped Sweetness.

After a momentary connection of old friendships, they realized their positions, and the lives they had cost each other. Old friends finish each other’s sentences they say…


“You-“ Sweetness said in unison with Tarik.








*Fleet Enemy Scanner – Roaming satellites used by Fleet to patrol known enemy areas to gather intel. Very adept and efficient at this job. Enemy black shield and space pirate cloaking technology(though this was unknown to fleet at the time) are the only two known forms of evasion of its scanners.


Author’s Note: Well, y’all, here it is. If this column stinks (I’m writing this author’s note in advance) my excuse is that I was listening to the Beatles and talking on the phone (with someone who reads the column and is a close friend and was eating dinner, but nonetheless, beatles have enough of an influence on their own) whilst writing this, so…well, here goes. (Just have to save this: in the first sentence, I misspelled “Nehronis” as “Nehgronis…as in neh-groan-is”)…okay, now its about three or fours days later, and I am going to get serious now…Now having finished it, I must apologize if it is bad in parts, its because it was written over several sessions, finally being finished during Hurricane Isabel


Chapter 16: Alternative Methods


For a brief history, please see the Author’s Note.



“Excuse me, sir…you summoned me?”

“Yes, Captain Nehronis, I did.”

Mishkin sat behind his desk, inwardly fuming. He raged with himself, barely constraining his anger. Sweetness could tell, even though Mishkin couldn’t, because his face was near purple with rage. If the situation weren’t so serious, Sweetness would have been busting at the seams with laughter. But by the look on his face, and not the color, Sweetness knew that this was a most serious situation.

“May I ask why, sir?”

“Explain to me your most recent battle.”

“Well…sir, I, uh…well, you see, I-“

“You retreated. You fled. You chickened out. I want to know why.”

“But sir, I said why in report…”

“No, you said that you discovered that the commander of this small, miniscule fleet of Space Pirates was Tarik Khanir. That’s not a reason for failure.”

“But sir, that meant that we were up against much more than we wanted to be at that time. We had already suffered some casualties at the hands of the Enemy…”

“Do you think I CARE WHO’S IN CHARGE OF THEIR SHIPS? DO YOU?!?!?”

“Well, sir, given by what you’ve said…no…but sir, this explains much more and is much more useful than you are making it sound.”

“USEFUL?!? HOW IS THIS USEFUL? WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL WOULD HAVE BEEN IF YOU HAD JUST SIMPLY DESTROYED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE!”

“Sir, with all due respect…I think that we should try some other means of dealing with the pirates…something more…discrete, less costly…you know, in terms of lives, I mean.”

“An assassin?”

“Well, yes. Or a bounty hunter.”

“But bounty hunters only hunt for bounties, and I don’t plan on offering one.”

“Oh, its quite simple sir…we say there is a bounty, and when they come to collect on it, we kill them.”

“You know, captain…you’re starting to remind me a bit of me…so be it.”


----------------------------------------------------


So it came to be that a being known only as Telanor went on a short trip to the Fleet command. He, being who he was, a bounty hunter who was infamous for precision, intended to collect on the bounty…without doing any work. He was still slightly tired from his last kill, and was not quite ready or willing to work for his keep this time around. He knew that he could survive almost anything, and so he was not the least bit afraid of Fleet. He docked his ship, or rather, his most recent kill’s method of transportation, without waiting for access. Hence, it only followed that, though he did not realize this, he was about to be met by two dozen fleet soldiers as soon as he walked out the door.

The door opened with a depressurizing hisssss and he was greeted by weapons fire. Instantly, eh dropped to the floor as the ozone smoke around him cleared. He made his move now. Leaping from the floor via a backwards handspring, he impaled one of his attackers and soon captured a second, and held him hostage. The smoke had not yet cleared. When it had cleared, the Fleet soldiers saw something that they had never seen before, and would most likely never see again. Telanor was a relic, and should have been dead hundreds of years ago, but for what exactly he was. In the era of the early third millennium A.D., genetic engineering was rampant, and rivaling factions on varying planets were fighting. This was because whilst it had in fact been Fleet that colonized all the thousands of worlds that the human race was now spread upon, at the end of the second millennium, in a revolt that shall never be forgotten, many of these worlds shook off Fleet control. IT took Fleet a little over a thousand years to regain control, and once it did, it held an iron grip over all of them.

Rivaling factions fought for territory, bringing a resurgence of something that had not happened for nearly a millennia: fighting for land. Those factions with the better technology won. Some factions, however, sought not to fight with other factions, but to provide the tools to other factions, be they military troops, technology, weaponry, or even supplies sometimes. It was from one of these factions that Telanor was spawned. In an effort to create the perfect hunter killer, a being which they later did succeed in creating, they created Telanor. To them, the perfect hunter killer would be a being with mechanical precision, and cybernetic enhancements. And so when they made their perfect hunter killer, it was indeed, cybernetically enhanced, and without emotion, as they had desired. The problem was, that was the rendition of the genetic line they had been working on after Telanor. He was the version of their hunter killer before their perfect killer. And the problem with him was this: Whenever they would attempt to perform the surgeries necessary to graft the cybernetic implants onto and into him, a defense mechanism that they had stumbled upon by accident and unintentionally would arise: blades would emerge from his elbows, knees, shoulders, and shoulder blades. In addition to this, impenetrable (or at least, as far as they could tell) scales would emerge from underneath his skin, forming a suit of armor that they could not pierce. However, the damage to the human psyche was done. They had genetically removed the pieces of the brain for kindness, love, and other such emotions. Now, instead of gaining pleasure from things that other people would, Telanor was reduced (as they said, elevated as he would say) to only deriving pleasure from hunting, killing, and inflicting pain. He only accepted bounties in which he could kill the person whom he was hunting. Another genetic modification: he had added genes that enabled his DNA to constantly repair itself; as a result, he had not aged a day past twenty in his nearly twenty five hundred year lifespan, and he had not a scar on his body. HE hunted to torture, tortured to gain pleasure: money was only a side bonus. He was notorious. Well known. Even outside of the “scum” circles, the bounty hunters and thieves. There had been cases where his reputation had preceded him so much so that he cornered his quarry in a building, and upon arriving, found that his quarry had killed themselves rather than endure him.

As for the perfect hunter killer: it wasn’t perfect. Telanor made it his first kill when he discovered it existed. He still had its blood in a jar, its head on his mantelpiece, and the remains of its cybernetics in a box (he had smashed them into small pieces, nearly dust). This was the man who had come to Fleet, seeking the bounty on Tarik. And, as such, the moment that gunfire had registered in his brain, Telanor’s blades and scales had emerged, and it was such that he, to his great irritation, now had a fleet soldier impaled through the stomach hanging off of his back. It was of his own doing, however, that he had another fleet officer held, with his elbow blade at his throat.

“Lower your weapons,” he growled in a voice that had the note of a hiss in it. There was something almost reptilian in his voice when he was covered in scales, and he hadn’t quite figured out why. Of course, this wasn’t because he wasn’t intelligent. It was just quite frankly because he was typically not concerned with these things.

The Fleet soldiers complied, and he released the man from his grasp, and retracted his scales and blades. He had found that he could not control when they emerged, but he could control when they retracted. It was a skill that took him the first twenty years of his life to learn, the next hundred and fifty to become proficient at, and another three hundred to master. But as old as he was, these were amounts of time that meant nothing. Unfortunately, he could already tell, he was not going to be able to collect on the bounty on Tarik easily, if at all, without having actually killed him.

It was because of these events that Fleet Commander Mishkin first met Telanor in the following condition: escorted by a two dozen Fleet soldiers, a medical team (carrying the soldier that he had accidentally impaled, which was surrounded by six of the twenty-four soldiers because immediately after the initial conflict had been resolved, Telanor had asked if he could drink some of the blood of the unwary soldier). At a harsh glare from Telanor the soldiers stayed at the door to Mishkin’s office.

“I am here to collect the bounty on Tarik Khanir.”

“I desire proof.”

“Would you like me to vomit his remains here, on your desk, or somewhere else?”

“Nowhere, thank you very much. You don’t make a very good liar, you know. It’s a skill that comes with age.”

Signaling to his soldiers to fire and terminate the bounty hunter who so obviously was trying to play him for a fool, Mishkin was met with cautious looks from his soldiers. He repeated the signal, and they drew their weapons and fired. Now Mishkin was greeted by a man who had the appearance of a bladed serpent. And the next moment, the back of this man was in front of Mishkin, and blades were pressing his body closer to the now apparent blades on the back of the creature that had at first appeared a man.

“Release me!” Mishkin roared.

“Send them away” came the hissed reply.

“And if I don’t?”

The blades pressed harder, now beginning to draw blood from the regions on Mishkin’s chest where his hearts* were.

“Point taken.” Mishkin motioned to his guards to leave and then shut the door. To his great relief, the blades and scales retracted, also much to his amazement.

“What are you?” he inquired of the bounty hunter.

“I am a bounty hunter. The perfect bounty hunter. And I am here to collect upon the bounty on Tarik Khanir’s head.”

“So you’ve killed him, then?”

“Yes.”

“Can you give me any proof?”

“Yes.”

“Then do so.”

“Very well; would you like me to vomit his remains here, on your chair, on your desk, or at what other location that you will specify?”

That phrase did it. Mishkin, although he had many faults, did have a few good qualities, and one of these was the ability to tell when someone was lying. Of course, this was really just an acquired skill amongst politicians of the age, but it still came in handy.

“That won’t be necessary. Besides: you’re not a very good liar anyway.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said ‘you’re not a very good liar’. And its true. I know that you haven’t killed Tarik Khanir.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Oh, quite simple really. First of all, you would have dealt with our entire Space Pirate problem if you had been able to eat his remains after killing him, he has so many bodyguards. Secondarily, a man of your stature, that is of course, if you are indeed a man, would have a much larger bulge around the midsection that you do if there was either anything there to vomit or anything still recognizable.”

“I see. Very well, then I shall kill him for you…I merely demand an added bonus to the bounty.”

“And what would that be?”

“A ship. A good ship. Top-of-the-line. State-of-the-art. The best you’ve got. And I want it now.”

“Very well.”

“Are we in agreement upon the terms?”

“Yes.”

“Then I shall be seeing you.”

“Hopefully not too soon.”

Mishkin was pleased with himself. After all, he had had a fairly busy day. He had survived a threat on his life, recruited an evidently very skilled bounty hunter to deal with this Khanir problem, and had obtained a high score in his favorite videogame. All was going well in the life of Fleet Commander Mishkin.



Except for that space Pirate problem…





*: Sometimes higher ranking officials have an additional cybernetic or bionic heart implanted, so that in the event that an assassination attempt is made on them, they can have a failsafe or backup method of pumping blood.


Author’s Note: Alright folks, I know that if you read this right away, it won’t make much sense, but oh well…okay, now look, admittedly, Telanor is a character from a D&D; game I played once, and I role-played him, and I liked him a lot (hey, everyone’s got a sadistic side, right? Well, Telanor just doesn’t exactly have any other sides, so…well, you get the idea.) So, brief history regarding his creation (if you haven’t read the column yet, you will have no idea how a person can be created, but if you have, you’ll just be dying to know.). Now, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but its around the 55th century (the early-middle 55th century, that is). So its around the year 5430. Not 5430, mind you, just around that time. Now, according to my history of the world, or rather, the history of the world that I’ve created, in the earlier days of the world, genetic engineering ran rampant. This would be in the early 3000’s, late 2000’s, you get the idea. Telanor is the result of a faction-sponsored project to make…well, I think you can figure out what they were trying to make.


Chapter 17: Good Friends Are Always There

 

“You.”


It was a greeting not to be argued with. A meeting of two old friends had occurred, their paths had once more become intertwined in the fabric of time, two strands, together at one point to make a blended color, apart at others to form their own tapestries, now rejoined to reconnect in the greater web.


“I thought you were dead, mi amigo.”


Casting away all attempts at secrecy and harshness, Tarik Khanir, the one who had been betrayed by those who his dearest friend was now allied with, whom he, himself, had once worked for, he tried to regain that old sense of kinship that was so prevalent within the Seven, that sense of kinship that he realized, regrettably, would never exist again. For alas, the Seven had now been reduced to two. It was such that Sweetness replied:


“As did I.”


It was a mutual recognition of their shared grief passed between the two whose fates it was to affect the universe so profoundly. It was apparent that they were both trying their hardest to retain their friendship, even whilst their subordinates were wondering why in the name of their homeworld they were conversing like friends, these two who should be like mortal enemies.


“How did you survive?”


It was quite clear that both of them wanted the other’s side of the story, so that they could determine which one of them was right for being on their respective sides of the battle. Tarik simply made the first move in finding out what had transpired upon that day.


“Me? Oh, me, I had the presence of mind to shut down all non-essential systems after everyone else was killed. I was propelled by the wake of one of their frigates, and then my head hit the overhead control block. After that I just kind of lost my memory for about 8 months. And you? Have you been keepin’ it real, like we discussed?”

“Heh, heh…no, Sweetness, no…I’ve been living in an altered reality since we last parted. Want to see?”

“No, not especially Farmboy, not especially. I know well enough what where the buffalo roam looks like.

“You never change, do you?”

“Oh, yes I do. See?”

At this point Sweetness held his Grand Captain badge into the view of the camera, pointing his finger at it.

“Shiny, no?”

“Not changed a bit.”

“So, what did happen to you, Tarik?”

“I left the battle at probably about the same time that you shut down, which would explain why I didn’t see you.”

“Well, I think that we can both agree that the best way not to get seen by the Enemy is not to be seen by them.”

I chuckle, for the fools do not know that we let them live, that we could sense them all the time.

“Still, how on Earth did you end up where you are now?” Tarik inquired.

“I was about to ask you the same thing…although it doesn’t surprise me to find you in this situation.”

“No?” Tarik was a little bit curious as to why not.

“No.”

“Why?”

“I knew that battle was something you would never grow disinterested in.”

Tarik chuckled, but then replied “Well, yes, but why…or rather, how is it that you are now in command of a capital ship?”

“Let’s just say that instead of climbing the proverbial ladder or moving higher up the links on the proverbial chain, let’s say that I just used the proverbial escalator.”

“So, you still enjoy seeing how many times you can work one particular word that shouldn’t be used as much as you do use it into a sentence?”

“Oh yes. Very much. Yes, yes, yes, very very very much much much, Tarik, I do.”

“Well now, isn’t this just picture perfect: two best friends, now enemies…why don’t we just take a picture and put it in a frame right now?”

“Because it’s the fifty-fifth century, Tarik: frames haven’t existed for three-thousand years.”

“Ah…good point…but what th-“

A hundred more Enemy fighters had just broken their black shields. But this was merely an exclamation of surprise, not concern.

“But…honestly, Tarik, I mean, the Space Pirates? Come on! You could’ve done a lot better for yourself.”

“Unlike Fleet, the Pirates I lead-“

“Oh ho! So you lead them now, do you?”

“Are not anywhere near as greedy as Fleet.”

“Oh, touched a sore spot did I? Oh come on, Tarik, lighten up! We surely must be making history here, I mean surely. Two best friends and all that jazz…”

“I said no slang. But yes, you’re right…it is just picture perfect…”

“Kinda makes you want to wonder if there is a higher being guiding us all, doesn’t it? To ponder the existence of God, you know.”

“I’ve done that.”

“And? What was your conclusion?”

“I said I did that. I stopped when my head started to hurt.”

Sweetness laughed a laugh of mirth, and sadly realized it was something he had not done since the last time he had seen Tarik in a casual setting, although this was nothing like a casual setting.

“But as I was saying, Sweetness…well, lets just carry on with this, shall we? We already know that only the best of the two-“

“Three. And Tarik, stop being so irrational. This is serious boys, and you’re sitting there joking.”

It was a voice that had changed greatly since they had last heard it…it had…grown…matured…become wiser, and more in tune with itself and the world around it…more at peace…but it was still, unmistakably,



Queen.



“Queen!”

The exultation of joy that came from the two simultaneously spoke more than monologues could have ever done for the two petty humans. Our servant replied, much to our distaste

“Surprised to see me, no?”

“I’m even more surprised to see that you are not allied with either of our two forces,” Said Tarik.

“I have been known to juggle my alliances since you last saw me. You might notice that I am now allied with the one that you two call the Enemy.”

“The fact was not lost on me,” Tarik replied.

“Or me.”

Sweetness had almost been in shock since he first heard Queen’s voice. He had had a small crush on her the entire time, but the kind that he accepted, knowing it would never go anywhere. Now he knew why it never could.

“My, Sweetness…how you’ve grown. I can tell that you’ve matured a lot since the last time we saw each other.”

“Queen, I am sorry, but I have been explicitly ordered to terminate all opposition in this sector, be it human or otherwise, and you have probably already noticed that your fleet is smaller than either of ours.”

Over one million more enemy fighters had just broken their black shields. They had just warped in out of sight, behind the planet, and then cloaked, and only just now decloaked.

“Oh, you have grown, haven’t you, Queen? When I knew you, you were just a highly intelligent, very militarily gifted young woman with a small inferiority complex. And now, in addition to all that, you’ve discovered how manipulative you can be too, haven’t you?”

“Hardly. Neither of you are meant to die here. I am here to, oh, how was it? ‘To give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name?’ That’s how Shakespeare put it, wasn’t it? I am here to tell you how narrow the ways out of this situation here are. I am here to tell you that you should be fighting me, and the Enemy: not each other.”

“Fighting the Enemy is much easier than fighting Sweetness over here, Queen. Want me to prove it?”

“No, not yet.”

“Ha! This will be as easy as making the oyster go extinct!”

“But aren’t there only three or four of those left?”

“Exactly.”

“Well fine then, now is your chance to prove it.”

I instructed her, attempted to hurt her, but her talents too had grown far faster than we had anticipated, and she was able to ignore my prodding.

“Very well. Prepare your forces Queen…and prepare them well…for an onslaught like nothing they have ever felt before!”

Exerting his powers to their limits, exhausting though it was, Tarik had already discovered, had its advantages. The Enemy fighters retreated first, then, when he had stopped his psychic assault, returned to their black shield mode, and then it was seen that they warped away.

“There: that takes care of that…now, tell me, what did you feel, Sweetness?”

“I actually had the most distinct sensation that I was eating a pineapple, which is quite queer, considering I’ve only had a pineapple once before.”

“Oh, very funny. I think I’ll go about quintupling my odds of victory now.”

“Quintupling? Are you sure? I mean, perhaps double, now that I can imagine without difficulty, and triple I don’t have to stretch for, but quadruple is about as good as my odds of becoming the leader of Fleet. I recommend that you change your estimate.”

“I don’t think so. Remember all of your other ships?”

“Yes.”

“Well, say goodnight to everyone aboard them.”

It takes far less exertion to master and overwhelm a hundred average human mind than it does to do so to one of the Enemy’s minds, and such, exhausted though he was, Tarik was able to knock unconscious all of the crew on all of the Fleet ships, except Sweetness.

Sweetness had one response to this: “Fine. So you are most definitely now a significant foe, as well as a noteworthy enemy.”

“I must apologize, Sweetness, but now, seeing as your fleet is highly incapacitated due to the fact that you are alone in consciousness within it, I think that it is time for me to tear myself from the engagement. Fare well, old friend, until we meet again…”

The Pirate ships were commanded to pull out and warp back to Tyrnok, no questions asked. And so, in part to himself, and in part to Tarik, Sweetness mused


“Yes…until we meet again…”


And I, the Wise One, wait and watch them both from afar…





Author’s note: Alright, here it is, the explanation for stuff like oysters, amigo, quintuple, etc. is that when it was originally written (in class,) it was an exercise in adaptability, and the professor would literally go to random words in the dictionary, and then you would have to use them. So that’s why some stuff is kinda weird…I hope you all liked it…


Chapter 18: The Shaman

 

I have failed them…the Sun Child is now in the hands of the shadow…I have FAILED them!


Three years ago, I, Mabus, the Shaman of the Jungle, came to find the Sun Child’s parents. I myself have lived here for hundreds of years, my ancestry being mixed…friend and foe, ally and enemy, Pirate and Enemy…I am a half-breed…neither here nor there, neither human nor of the Enemy…I have a home with neither. I inherited the humans’ form, the Enemy’s long life and mental capacities…I was nearly insane for most of my first hundred years of existence…


I came, then, upon a flower. It spoke to me of many things…Next I came upon a small bird: it, too, was an exile, for with its every breath it spewed destruction and flame. Soon I came upon a great serpent, with scales capable of withstanding the bird’s fiery exhalations. The bird thanked me by offering itself in my service. Whenever I passed by people, I had these teams, this fiery bird and hard-scaled serpent with me, and I could sense that I had come to be known as the Shaman.


I was in a wandering state such as this when I found a small landing party…my second sight revealed a bright, shining, nearly blinding light in their camp. I saw that this light was a child, whose name was in the Enemy’s tongue, though he did not know it. I myself only knew it from what my father had told me, that Enemy of all: bristhishnath esprengranaliethen darunglar; go! Be away! Wander, and bring peace to the tortured creatures of this land: such is your place!


I obeyed, and when the Sun Child’s parents returned, I offered my services in his protection. They took me away from the Jungle, to their home. I served them for nearly three years, protecting their Sun Child. I even cast about myself the image of my father, whilst I commanded my beasts and serpents and flame birds in the defense of the Sun Child, the peace-bringer, even against others of his own kind who sought to take him from his parents. But they, seeing me and my beasts, whom I provided for, did not allow me to accompany them in their public showings, and it was because of this that they were killed, and the Sun Child taken from me.


That day I hunted, for the first time in two centuries, but I hunted no beast. I mounted one of my three teams of bird and serpent, and rode, feeling that their vengeance was worth revealing myself in public; I hunted others that shared half my blood…humans. I found them, and in a fit of rage I had them burned, burned until nothing was left. I then somehow found my way back to the Jungle, though in this raging haze I know not how. In the time I had been away, the Jungle had changed much.


It was now occupied on the surface by Pirates, and their leader was one whom I never thought existed: he was like me, but of his own choice! He seemed a half breed as well, for his powers far surpassed mine. For two and a half months I could feel and sense his pain as he was weaving in and out of sanity as I did for a hundred years; I could also sense that he would emerge victorious from this trial, that he would emerge stronger, whereas I had emerged weaker.


This young one* is the Moon child, but his name is not familiar to me…my father told me as I was barely alive, only a year or two old, yet still cursed with consciousness, that one day both the sun and moon, universal in their rules on life, would send their children to our plane, where they would battle. All worlds that have life upon them have at least one sun, and at least one moon, or so father said. In a tower of the Sun did I find the Moon Child, whose light pales in comparison with the Sun Childs, but is still bright in and of its own. I saw that the Sun Child was dying, and that an ordinary human adolescent was taking his place: his origins were fading. But the Moon child was a different story.


He had started out human, and had become the Moon Child through age and long journeys through the depths of the void of eternal darkness. I saw that he would win this conflict, for the Moon Child’s purity remained intact, if not becoming more and more pure by the day, whereas the Sun Child was becoming corrupted. I waited for the Moon Child to come to me, for I knew that one day he would, and told my teams of bird and serpent to kill those who were not the Moon Child, for they would not be able to kill the Moon Child when he came. Many men came to me, but none were the Moon Child.


I saw, one day to soon come, the Moon Child in my presence. It happened several days later: a serpent came to me, accompanied by a man. My bird-serpent teams came to my defense, I, the nameless shadow of guilt, the Shaman, Mabus, but they were defeated. I began to fear the man, but he let down his mortal veil, blessing me with his presence. I could see his orange eyes of fury, his image of strength, and I fell to my knees.


“So you are the one who has been killing my men all this time, then?” said the Moon Child.

“Only to see if they were you” I replied.

“Well, please stop”

“Yes, Moon Child…I am yours to command”

The Moon Child was deeply moved by this, and I felt him inside my mind. He soothed me, and tore from me my raging haze. In my mind he told me that I was forgiven for being the great abomination, the combination of the two poles, and told me that I need not feel the urge to repay some sin that I did not know any longer. He left me there, in that jungle on Jungle, and returned to his people, to prepare their new home.




*This is comparative, because bear in mind that the whole passage is written in first-person from the point of view of the Shaman, who, being a half breed, is several hundred years old, whereas Tarik is merely in his twenties


Chapter 19: The Serpent

 

Final breath / Before silent death

Last sunset / Final moonrise

I come as shadow: / It is my disguise

In darkness born / In darkness dwelling

All throughout this universe swelling

We shall come / In the culling

Darkest storm / Of blackest night

Take wing / Stormcrow

On your final, / Everlasting flight

~~Space Pirate Infantry Division Mantra


It had come from a dream that Tarik had had. It had been more of a nightmare, though Tarik would never admit to having nightmares.


------------


It was mid-day, and Tarik was troubled. He had not pondered his encounter with the Shaman that had happened so long ago until now. He entered his chamber, high above the crowds, and approached its center. Since becoming leader of the Space Pirates, Tarik had started to practice meditation phases, although sparingly, to help clear his mind so that he could concentrate on the tasks he had before him. He had only truly made them a habit after he had gained his abilities from his gene-altering serum. As a way to maintain his focus, he had also made it habitual to, while meditating, hover about three feet above the ground, cross-legged.

As soon as he began his meditation phase, he began to have a waking dream: his nightmares began playing themselves out for him all over again.

There it was, in his dream: world of blue sun, black cloud and red sky. The first world they would take, though he did not know where it was, for he was sure that it was not Inira, the world where he grew up*. There was a colossal storm, blue flashes on black clouds with red sky between them. The world had been darkened over. It was an unnatural night, and he could feel the terror of this planet’s people. So he dreamed it about two times a week, somehow knowing that all of this fear and horror was his fault. The dream continued, beyond the point at which he normally woke himself up.

A flame came in the sky, and a figure dropped to the ground from many miles’ height. A crash, and upon rolling hills of verdant grass there was now a crater, and from it arose a figure in black. He could hear a hiss, a slithering, and jets of flame, and the silhouettes of dark beasts appeared on the hilltops, facing an army of infantry and artillery troops…Fleet troops. This was an invasion…his invasion! Two things happened then that he could neither foresee nor understand.

The first was the rapid shift of the location of the dream, and he could tell by the brown sky that he was on the Homeworld, Earth**. This, however, was not what mattered to nor what surprised Tarik, for he could feel his powers being counteracted. They were being neutralized, canceled somehow, and the source was at the same time obvious and impossible: a sixteen year old girl, who stood, hovering, opposing him, with tears in her eyes and her hand on his cold, hard face. He could feel a sense of kindred with this girl whose apparent ability to counter his abilities infuriated him so much, but he was aroused from this reverie by a hiss calling his name. He knew that the countermeasures Sweetness had warned Tarik he would suggest to Mishkin had arrived.

“Come out, Tarik Khhhhanirrr! Come and meet your death!”

The massive square below him was emptied for hundreds of feet around this figure, this serpent man known only as Telanor.

How did you get here? Tarik asked Telanor telepathically.

“Coward! Your cheap tricks will not work on me! Come and meet your demise!”

Let him be: I’ll handle this Tarik told his guards in regards to the snake man.

He leaped from his balcony, plummeting towards the ground, slowing himself rapidly when he was within fifty feet of it, to come to a soft landing several meters from Telanor.

“Greetings, Telanor…welcome to my home. Might I enquire as to how you got here?”

“I came on my ship. I don’t chitchat. DIE FOOL!” hissed the serpent.

Telanor leapt at Tarik with such speed that even Tarik was surprised. Knocked off his feet, Tarik was still regaining his composure as Telanor leapt off him and landed on his feet, his blades emerging, and charged Tarik. Tarik lay one hand on the ground and used a combination of his own physical strength (which he had been refining) and his psychokinetic abilities to pivot on his one hand into a kick that sent Telanor flying and left Tarik standing.

Go, quick, my soldiers, fetch the others: there is a lesson to be learned here! he instructed some recruits nearby.

Telanor recovered, and flipped himself into a standing position. They circled each other, serpent and shadow, both forms of man embracing artificiality, both projections, not showing what truly lay underneath, yet simultaneously quintessifying*** their own true natures. Telanor charged Tarik, and Tarik fired a blast of his psychic energy at him, intending to fling Telanor back, but to the great surprise of all those present, Telanor did a one handed somersault to the side, dodging the blast, and continuing to charge, coming into contact with Tarik’s jaw fractions of a second later, sending him flying. Instantly the crowd could see that Tarik was angry. His eyes were blazing orange, with intensity they had not yet seen, nor even imagined, as his whole physical self seemed to disappear into his shadow form, the psychic image he seemed to instinctually project to all those around him when he was fighting, making it almost impossible to track his motions, or define his shape with clear outlines. Tarik was…pissed.


-----------


Telanor could smell something…something he’d not smelled since he had allowed that Fleet soldier to be peeled from his back.

“You’re bleeeeeeding!” he hissed

Shocked by the exclamation, Tarik’s shadow projection dropped for a moment, and they could see that he was hovering about two meters up and three or four meters away from Telanor. They could also see the line of blood dripping down his chin, seeming to come from nowhere at all, and at the same time from the entire right side of his face. He did not know it, but Telanor’s scales were razor edged, sharp enough to emerge cleanly from beneath his skin every time, whilst leaving little to no room for anything to get inside his body to cause an infection. So, without knowing it, Tarik had not only received a blunt impact wound from Telanor when he had charged Tarik, but also hundreds of tiny cuts, small, but deep. In an instant, the shadow Tarik reemerged, and the fight continued. It raged for nearly half an hour, back and forth, Telanor somehow managing to defend against Tarik’s psychic onslaught, Tarik somehow managing to survive the many wounds he was beginning to accumulate. He had more than three times tried his mental onslaught that seemed to incapacitate the Enemy, but it seemed to have no effect on Telanor.

“Foolish,” remarked Telanor as they again circled each other, the difference being that they were now much closer. Tarik was ten feet elevated from Telanor, and they had somehow managed to, without noticing for being so involved in their fight, enter into the main hall of the Sunlit fortress, where there were now rays of sunlight streaming in, per its design.

“What?”

“I said that it is foolish of you, Tarik Khanir, to try and invade my mind in order to drown out my consciousness, to debilitate me. I have no weaknesses: I am Telanor; I hunt; I survive. I have for two and a half millennia, and you are not the first to try to beat me. You will not be the last, either: I am not going to lose.”

“Don’t bet on it, Hunter.”

“I don’t bet. But I will win. Now be quiet.”

“I disagree. I think that we could go on like this for quite a long time. It seems to me as though its pretty much anyone’s fight.”

He dropped four or five feet closer to the ground, and was looking around, surveying the masses gathered to make certain that they were far enough away that Telanor could not harm them when he realized his mistake: he had diverted his attention from the fight, something he should’ve known Telanor would never do.

Time itself seemed to slow down, and Tarik became aware of the serpent charging him, one of his blades extended and headed straight for Tarik’s belly. He put up a telekinetic shield, and time sped back to normal rate. Telanor’s blade broke upon the shield.

“What?!?!? My blades CAN’T break!” Telanor shrieked.

“Well, it would appear as though one just did.” Tarik replied, realizing that his victory seemed assured, now that Telanor was partially disabled. Tarik lowered himself to the floor, planning to continue fighting the debilitated Telanor on the ground. He stopped dead at an unearthly, chilling sound that sent shivers up his spine.

Telanor was laughing. It was a hiss that was so full of malice, evil, and hatred that it seemed to chill the very blood in your veins. No one could see what Telanor had to laugh about, for his broken blade was oozing a green fluid.

“Why do you laugh, snake?”

“Because…I am perfect. And you…are a worthy adversary.” Telanor held up his arm…and ripped the remainder of the blade right out or his elbow, which began to gush blood all over the floor of the Sunlit Fortress. His laughing intensified, leaving Tarik uneasy and horrified.

“Pitiful human with your emotions” Telanor sneered, “I don’t need them.”

“What’s your point, bounty…hunt…” Tarik’s voice slowed, then stopped, as he gaped at what he was seeing. Telanor’s elbow, the same elbow that had had a blade a minute or two before, and had been gushing blood mere moments ago, was now completely healed human flesh. The scales emerged over it again, and the laughing continued, becoming more vile and sinister.

“I don’t need that blade…I heal fast!”

Another blade shot out of Telanor’s elbow, identical to the one that Tarik had broken only minutes ago.

How can I beat an enemy who can heal themselves that quickly?!?! thought Tarik. Then Tarik decided it was time. He had stored his hatred, his rage, his anger, from the desertion and treason of Fleet against him. He had kept it inside, saving it for what he deemed would be a time that was right to use it. Inside him, unexpressed, contained, it had festered, and grown. Now he decided it was time to unleash a little bit of that rage.

“Behold! My pirates, behold! This is your leader’s true fury!” bellowed Tarik.

The shadow reemerged. The eyes glowed red, not orange as usual. Tarik’s voice became distorted and deafening, and it seemed as though the very sun itself had ran away to hide. The room, the main gathering hall of the Sunlit Fortress itself seemed to darken, and the area around the living Shadow that was Tarik seemed to become as dark as the void of space, absorbing light. Every footstep of Tarik’s became as a thunderclap, every breath a mighty wind. Telanor had begun to inch slowly back throughout this, as Tarik walked menacingly forward.

“WHO FEARS WHOM NOW, SERPENT?!?”

“I do not fear you!”

“WE…SHALL SEE.” The shadow whispered.

There came then what seemed to be a crackling blue bolt to the shadow’s hand as he extended it, and with a mere flick of the wrist, Telanor was flung to the wall: the fortress itself shook.

“NOW DO YOU SEE WHY THE PIRATES CANNOT BE BEATEN?”

“They can be beaten.”

The shadow pressed harder against Telanor, beginning to crush the wall.

“Tarik,” whimpered Haladhim, “you’re starting to destroy the Fortress.”

“WHO DARES TO DISTURB ME?!?” the shadow roared, and its gaze settled on Haladhim. With one hand still extended, seeming to hold Telanor in place, the other hand swept forward, and Haladhim himself went flying across the room. The shadow disappeared, and Telanor fell to the floor as Tarik realized he had almost lost himself to his rage, and he ran to his friend’s aid.

“Oh! Haladhim! I’m so sorry! I…I almost lost myself I-“

Tarik realized he had made the same mistake twice: he dropped his guard…again. This time, however, it cost him. He only knew that he had made a mistake by the fact that he felt a sharp sting to his back, and, looking down, saw one of Telanor’s blades sticking through his gut. The blade retracted, and Tarik fell to his knees. He could feel Telanor on top of him, doing something to his midsection…drinking. Tarik passed out, and all the world seemed to him as white.


-------------


It was not a known fact, but Telanor was a master healer. It was how he managed to keep his victims alive so long to torture them. He would give them grievous injuries, heal them, and then open up the same wounds, time and time again, each time gaining more pleasure from it. This was not one of those occasions, however. He was not in it for pleasure: he had met a worthy adversary. For the first time in his two and a half thousand year long lifespan, he had met a worthy opponent. Not even the supposedly “perfect” bounty hunter that he had made his first kill had come even remotely close to the challenge that this little human had put up. Even though in the end Telanor had won, he was still in awe at having found an opponent with whom the thrill was not just in the hunt, but also in the kill: the fight, the battle to bring him down. Tarik only knew that Telanor was a master healer because Tarik woke up about a month later in the care of the Shaman Mabus, who told him what had happened. After Tarik’s collapse, Telanor had drunk for about a minute from Tarik’s wound, and then he had begun to heal him. Telanor had left a message for Tarik with the instructions that only Tarik read it, and that he read it as soon as he woke up. As soon as Tarik woke up and had heard the story, he read the note.


“Quarry…you are my first worthy adversary. Fleet wants proof that you died…I have your blood in my belly…you taste slightly of rabbit, but more of a fine wine, I having had one or two in my time. I healed you not because I care, but because I’d like to do this again real soon. But not too soon. Your intestines were ruptured, so lay off the spicy foods for a while. Looking forward to hunting and/or killing you again”


Tarik smiled, for he realized that though Telanor was ruthless, brutal, and savage, he seemed to have some kind of sense of honor and morals, even though they were grossly twisted.


In Mabus the Shaman’s care, Tarik recovered faster than could ever have been expected, especially as even those at Fleet would have expected him to die. Telanor returned to Fleet, went into Mishkin’s office, and promptly vomited some of the blood that he had ingested from Tarik on Mishkin’s desk.

“There,” he hissed, even though he was in his human form, sans scales, “DNA test to match with Khanir…you’ll see it’s the same.”

He collected on the bounty when the tests returned positive, for the blood was Khanir’s, and he collected the bounty and departed for a place in the universe that none but he knew, to contemplate, for the first time, his place in the ever expanding universe, and his first ever worthy adversary.


-----------


After his recovery, Tarik saw that Simeon had been mature for nearly a month, and decided that the time for the invasion of Fleet had come. He never knew why, exactly, but his powers had nearly tripled that day, even though he could not remember much after being impaled through the gut. The night before the revealing of Simeon to the Space Pirates, he had a dream:

In his dream there was the girl, the sixteen year old hovering girl, with tears in her eyes. He could see she had hair almost so blonde as to appear white, and skin almost as pale as the moon of the Homeworld. Her eyes, however, were what caught him most. There were no pupils in them: she was blind.


------------


That same night on a world that has only ever been seen by one human being, the Enemy’s Homeworld, a human child was born, albino, and blind. Her name was Harmony.


------------


Simeon awoke. For the first time, he truly awoke. His consciousness passed into full being, full maturity, and he became aware. His eyes glowed red, and he knew that his time had come. The time of his kind was at hand, and he knew it. Given all this, he smiled, or at least as much as an individual of his species could smile.








*Grew up does not mean physically: he had to mature to a mental maturity of around age 15 or more at the age of seven in order to lead the other six of the Seven just to survive on a world that had experienced a near nuclear holocaust.

**See Appendix 3A

***Yes, I know that quintessifying is technically not a word, but it means making the quintessence of, just as quintessify means to make the quintessence of. So there. Now, you English majors and teachers: go deal with it.


Chapter 20: Simeon

 

The time had come: Simeon was to be revealed to the Space Pirates. He was the product of months of hard labor and research on the part of Tarik, his creator. Simeon was a living, breathing creature, and he would be the harbinger of the destruction of Fleet. He was designed and engineered to be the ultimate foot soldier, capable of being a mount due to his size, and more than capable of being a warrior in and of his own right. His story had started many months before, however, and at the dawn of the day on which he was to be revealed, Tarik remembered Simeon’s story.

It had been during the construction of the Sunlit Fortress that Tarik had first seen the potential for the creation of an animal to aid his quest from the native species on Tyrnok. He had first noticed the firebird, with its peculiar ability to breathe fire, both inhale it fine and exhale it fine. He had first thought of harnessing these creatures somehow when he next came upon the diamondback serpent. These were immense beasts with scales at least as hard, if not harder, it would seem, than diamonds. This did it for Tarik: he saw the makings of a mythical beast. He scoured the planet in search of more diverse species to aid him, but in the end settled for a genome comprised primarily of those three species: firebird, diamondback serpent, and his own DNA, though not yet altered to allow for the psychic abilities he had given himself.

Diamondback lizards were large, subterranean reptiles usually between thirteen and eighteen feet long. Firebirds were much smaller, but their fire-breathing attribute nonetheless made them just as deadly. The Shaman had harnessed these two beasts by using them in tandem, but Tarik was going to combine them through the marvels of genetic engineering. Unsuccessful at first, Tarik’s creations died hours after their creation. Finally, however, Tarik decided to punch in random combinations, for he was despairing. He filled rows of test tubes with hundreds of different variations on the genome that had resulted from the combination of the three species. He needed the diamondback’s scales and size, the firebird’s wings and fire–breathing capabilities, and human intellect. He set the computer to continue to manipulate the genes in random variations, and as he expected, all of the specimens died after only several hours. He finally came, however, upon a specimen that lasted several days. He was so excited, but it died. He decided to pursue this one strain, to perfect it to the point at which it would at least survive until he could see basic skeletal structure. He refined this strain, and, eventually, he could see the structure: there was a serpentine body, but with four legs, and…wings! He had begun on his quest to refine this strain…little did he know that this was the strain. The specimen did not die: it grew and grew, needing to be put into a new, larger, holding vat every few days.

He took this being out when it was only a few months old, and he took it with him into the jungle on Tyrnok to confront what he did not know was the Shaman. His builders saw this beast of his, this being he had christened Simeon after an ancient Earthen king, and they were awed. He made them think that it was a dream, but he knew they would never truly believe that. Simeon survived, and when they returned to Tarik’s lab, Simeon began to become partially aware, and so Tarik gave him a sedative. Over the next few weeks, Tarik performed innumerable tests to make certain that all was progressing, and he developed and administered many different gene-altering serums to Simeon, to insure that he turned out to be exactly what Tarik wanted.

In the end, Simeon became fully aware whilst Tarik was recovering from being impaled through the gut. The computers in Tarik’s lab had been preprogrammed to educate Simeon in case this happened and Tarik could not do it himself. The computers told Simeon his purpose, that the time of his kind was at hand, and that his master would be along shortly. Tarik did come the next day, and he and Simeon spoke. Exactly what they talked about, Tarik could not remember: he had been under powerful painkillers at the time, but he did know that he had realized that day that he had not just made a powerful weapon, but also a sentient being that would become a good friend and adviser.

Reminiscing in all of this, Tarik almost forgot that the time had come. He stepped out onto the balcony that was used to address the Space Pirates, and told them that a new age was coming.

“The time of our oppression is great, but the time until we can begin to take back from fleet not just what is ours, but everything they ever had, is short. Today I introduce to you the weapon of the pirates, our weapon…today I introduce you to Simeon…my creation…I designed him from the beginning…he will be here long after I am gone, and you are to always listen to him…he is Simeon, Father of the Dragon Legions of the Space Pirates!”

At this Simeon emerged upon the balcony: he was about six meters long, and a full eight meters long if he dropped his neck. He kept his wings close to his sides, for when they were fully extended they had a nearly twenty meter wingspan. Tarik had engineered, created, and perfected, through modern science, the mythical beast: the dragon. And it fought for the Space Pirates. For lack of a better term to describe it, Tarik felt something in his heart: As for Fleet…it was ass-whupping time.

Simeon may have been male, but he was self-replicating: Tarik had made dragons an asexual species. What this meant was that all that was needed was time for Simeon to begin laying several eggs, and for those beasts to mature. All in all, Tarik knew it would probably be about a year before the first divisions of his dragon legions had matured, but he also knew that it would be well worth the wait. As a result of this kind of reproduction, Tarik knew that typically the offspring were essentially identical to the parent. He, however, had made it so that there was still room for genetic diversity: he had not wanted to create merely a genome, but rather, a new species, of which Simeon would be the head. Tarik had used the smidge of Space Pirate DNA that came directly from the Enemy to try and grant long life to the dragon legions, but that was something that he knew only time would tell.

So it was that Simeon smiled to himself…or at least as much as a dragon could smile.


Chapter 21: The Calm

 

Two years after the revealing of Simeon, father of the Dragon Legions…


Tarik had just finished his daily meditation. He had found that his frustrations with the space pirates, coupled with his abilities, necessitated a period of time to relax, to reflect, and to regain control. It was not that he wasn’t thankful to the pirates – he was. It was merely that they were moving too slow for him, for his tastes. It has been nearly three years that he had been with him. Under his leadership, they could have begun the offensive nearly eighteen months ago. Yet they had not.


Things had been progressing in unforeseen ways: Tarik didn’t know how successful he had been with his serum, for he did not know anywhere near enough about the Enemy to know that. The fact was that, just like the Enemy, his powers were growing with time. The older he became, the more his abilities developed. But because humans have a lifespan less than a sixth of that of the average specimen of the Enemy (assuming that they weren’t killed in battle, which was, generally, a fairly safe assumption), his abilities were developing at a much more rapid rate. He was finding it took more and more control to do the same tasks without exerting too much force. He was now prepared to, as he had planned, give an ultimatum to the other nine members of the Council of Ten.



It had been a most difficult thing to arrange, this meeting. It was not often that humans and those of the Enemy were alive very long when in close proximity to each other. This, however, was different. They were here to serve him, for he had summoned them. Discovered on a newly colonized planet Fleet had found a kind of Rosetta stone, only in technology. It was allowing them to interpret some of the data from Enemy ships that they had salvaged. And, in a temple of sorts nearby, it had allowed them to read inscriptions of a sort upon its surface. They were instructions. Instructions for calling to a certain location the most lethal band of mercenaries in the known universe: The Seven. They were amongst the most ancient of the Enemy, each being over four thousand years old. Their powers over the three-dimensional realm were as formidable as could be expected. They were warriors, exiled from the ranks of the Enemy for disobeying the Code – The set of laws by which the Enemy fought. They had been too brutal in battle, and now had to use their abilities to pass themselves off as humans in this now infested universe. As such, they needed money to survive. They were mercenaries, and they had all been summoned, via their own technology, to the temple at which the runes had been found. In silence, with, by most human standards, more money than God, Mishkin awaited the arrival of the Seven. He had had enough: nearly three years had gone by since he thought he had gotten that Khanir brat out of the way, and yet still, still he continued to be a problem. The most potent bounty hunter in the galaxy had tricked him – and out of a lot of cash, too. He would not let Telanor’s trickery go unpunished, but for now, for now he would summon these Seven, for he knew that they had their own code. This code as well was inscribed on the interior of the temple, and, having used this new found translator, he had read it. He knew that lying in regards to the status of a kill was impermissible, and, being as the Seven were the creators of this code, he knew they would follow it. The instructions had said for the person who was to give the task to come alone, and so he had. He was waiting in the inner sanctum, where a dome like room, decorated with seven statues of robed figures stood. He began to feel a tingling on his spine. They’d come. With a sizzling of lightning, characteristic of sub-atmospheric warp exits, he saw the roof of the room open, and a single Enemy fighter descend. It vanished once it had touched the floor. All went dark for Mishkin, and then, when he opened his eyes, in place of seven statues of robed figures, there were seven robed figures, their orange eyes glowing bright. It was the first time a human being had ever seen an actual Enemy before in the flesh, but Mishkin was not surprised.


“You summoned us,” said a voice in his head.

“Yes.”

“Name your kill. We name our price.”

“I refuse to offer any more than I have brought here.”

“We will decide when you have named your kill: name your kill”

“Tarik Khanir,” Mishkin replied.


Next, he could hear a peculiar noise in his head, almost like insects buzzing through concrete, and he realized they must have been whispering telepathically amongst themselves.

“We shall take all that you have here. It is enough.”

They vanished, in much the same fashion as they had arrived.


“It’s about dang time you did something about ol’ Tarik,” said Sweetness, coming down the hallway, “though I must admit I’m a bit offended you didn’t consult me first.”

“No. Leave. It is done…they will do what you could not.”

“Will they?”

“I most certainly do hope so.”



Tarik stormed into the Council room, as he had planned (for effect).

“What is wrong, Tarik?” inquired one of the council members.

“We aren’t doing anything, that’s whats wrong.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“We could’ve started the offensive on fleet months ago, yet here we have waited, always on the defensive. I have a score to settle, in case you forget.”

“We have not forgotten the conditions of your arrival here, Tarik, but we still do not feel we are ready.”

“Just because you don’t feel you are doesn’t mean you aren’t. I can lead them to victory, but you won’t let me!”

“Are numbers simply are not enough yet to launch a full-scale offensive.”

“I am not talking about a full-scale offensive, I am referring to guerrilla tactics, ways to hurt fleet, but focused on a single planet, in addition to our other efforts. Once we have worn them down, then we can make a quick, clean sweep and take over. It will more than double our populace, and it will also more than double our food stores.”

“Tarik, what is it? Something has been wearing at you for months, and I suspect that this is a result of it. What is it, my friend?”

“Its this!” Tarik shouted, pointing his hand towards a window, which shattered, fell several feet, and then, with variegated hand motions from Tarik, reassembled itself perfectly, right in front of their eyes.

“How did you do that?” they asked in awe.

“My powers are growing…I can’t stop it, trust me, I’ve tried. I feel as though if I don’t get some of this energy festering inside of me that I will simply explode!”

“And you would be willing to sacrifice hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of lives for your own comfort?”

“No! Of course not…Agh! Look, this is getting nowhere. I give you an ultimatum, here and now. Either you go to war with me, or I go to war alone. First, I want you to promise me, however, that should you not go with me, and should I return, that you will aid me in my efforts unquestioningly from that point forth.”

“Tarik, I don’t think this is a wise deci-“

“Answer! Yes, or no?”

“Yes…if you return, we will help you. But we cannot condone an offensive of this sort…not yet…not until the Dragon Legions are mature.”

“But that won’t be for another two years! Listen…you’ve given me your answer…I want for you to let Simeon take over control of the Dragon Legions, and I want you to treat him as though he were me, in terms of following his advice and his orders. His intellect is keener than the average persons…and be careful what you think around him…his telepathy is a tiny bit oversensitive. Now, I depart…and when I return…if I return…the Space Pirates have given me their word: they will go to war.”

“Yes. Now, please, for the last time, reconsider,” said one of the councilors, but Tarik was already gone. He was almost giddy at the prospect of being able to finally not have to hold back in the usage of his powers, but he then remembered that there was still the possibility that he might not return. But if he died, another would take his place…


He decided on where to begin.

“Ah! Perfect! Xetherin*…its not too crowded, but it has a fair amount of defenses and military…an excellent place to begin, to set an example…”

He thought with relish: Look out Mishkin, cause your numbers just been called.



And the Seven, having foreseen this encounter, took their places around the city where Tarik’s assault was to begin, and, via telepathy, informed the Xetherian forces to prepare. They had never failed on a job such as this. They weren’t going to begin now.


*Xetherin-pronounced zeh’-thur-in


Chapter 22: The Beginning


The Phoenix streaked, a red line, through space. In a flash, it was gone-Tarik had left the old Tyrnok behind, and, should he return, the world would change.

He had gathered intel on all the fleets that could hamper his conquest of Xetherin, and he planned to disable them. He had upgraded the Phoenix as his powers grew*, and it now could travel nearly twice as fast as well as warp on its own self-designed warp generator.


10 seconds until his first stop – he was preparing himself mentally and physically.

A red blur emerged in the midst of an already occurring space battle – unexpected, but not a problem. Using the ship in the way in which only he knew how**, Tarik engaged Enemy and Fleet alike.

The Fleet ships, already preoccupied with the Enemy fleet, paid little attention to this new, miniscule ship: that is, at least until they realized that it was engaging both the Enemy and Fleet itself – and winning.


Tarik could hear and understand all of their thoughts, allowing him to anticipate their maneuvers. He could sense the Enemy fleet first, and then the human Fleet, realize that he was a major threat. “Bout damn time,” he muttered to himself.


The conflict between the two rivaling forces continued, but to a lesser degree now that they were both engaging this small, one-man fighter that was wreaking havoc on both parties. The Fleet admiral was in the middle of his sentence, issuing another order to his troops, when he realized that he was staring at the ship. Hovering in front of the main view screen of the bridge, he had no time to even shout for the defenses, before the Phoenix turned into ashes something that would not rise again from them.


Tarik could feel the admiral’s fear…he reveled in it, loving it. He saw his own ship, from the admiral’s point of view, hovering, twenty*** laser cannons glowing bright red against the semi-transparent hull of the ship, silhouetted against the blackness of space. The phoenix looked more like a demon, he thought. He had no more time to continue the thought further.


At the disabling of the commander’s ship of the human Fleet, all the rest of the Fleet began actively engaging the red streak. It wove in and out of their fire, sometimes seeming to disappear completely, only to be behind a fighter, which was promptly destroyed. The Enemy was not faring much better either.


Tarik disabled a few more of the Fleet ships before deciding that they were no longer a threat, and then began to engage the Enemy more. Activating the warp in a technique he had theorized, and only put into practice this battle, his ship, over such short distances, seemed to teleport instantly to where he wanted it to go. It was hovering at the main window of the Enemy fleet’s command ship.


He’s here, the Enemy fleet’s commander told her soldiers, but he will not fire.


Tarik sensed something coming from this ship, something in the bridge that did not feel right. He prodded, and then warped away to the next fleet that he was going engage, for what he sensed there terrified him.


Whilst on his way to the next fleet, he became angry at his flight-he was Tarik Khanir, and he had just disabled an entire Fleet fleet: what did he have to fear? He was still angry, and became aware that he had to fly more carefully, for his anger tended to make him more free with his abilities, which, on a delicate machine like the phoenix, could cause serious damage should he over press something.


He encountered the next fleet. There was one more to go after this one. It was not alone either. It was strange, he thought, for it seemed almost as though the Enemy were intentionally helping him. He dismissed, for it did not matter at the moment what the Enemy’s motives were: they would still die.


Here, he had no sooner engaged the opposing fleets than he realized whom he was facing.


“Hail, Tarik. What brings you here?” the Grand Captain greeted him.

“Leave,” Queen simultaneously told him from her place on the Enemy command ship.


“How dare you both! You shall both pay for this!” he roared at the screen.

“Ah, ah, ah, Tarik…I wouldn’t want you to waste your energy on us when it should be saved for the Xetherians,” Queen chided, only infuriating Tarik more.

“So you know that my powers have grown, do you Queen?”

“Yes…that is known to the Enemy, and, as such, me. Now, Tarik, run along, and let me finish this unfinished business of the Enemy.”


The Phoenix burned…it whole hull began to glow red, until the red began to soften, and eventually dull. Tarik was angry…possibly the angriest he had ever been. He concentrated, and focused this anger into energy, into strength. He felt the opposing fleets with his mind, and, after feeling where many of the guns and turrets were on both sides, promptly crushed them. The opposing fleets fired, but all that happened was that their cannons were destroyed by backfire.

“How about you run along now, Tarik…you’ve proved your point: don’t make me prove mine.” At Queen’s words, Tarik began to feel cold, and then he began to feel the same presence that terrified him before. He stood his ground defiantly for a few seconds more, before a he gave in and began the final leg of his journey.


Xetherin

A red streak enters the planet’s orbit. Then the planet’s atmosphere. The Phoenix’s hull glowed red from the heat of the entry. Tarik stationed in the high atmosphere, then, using his psychokinesis, stabilized a bubble of pressurized air around him, then opened the hatch of the phoenix, and jumped. As he fell, he prepared himself for the beginning of the war-his war-a war for all humanity. It was the same war that had been fought since the dawn of time-the war of hate and revenge.


A highly populated planet, Xetherin had a superb orbital defense that Tarik had only managed to bypass by using the Phoenix’s cloaking technology. Their ground defenses around their several metropolis’ were superb, however, and it was these that Tarik was targeting. The citizens of the first metropolis saw a red fireball slam into the ground a few miles outside their city. The Xetherian militia was immediately dispatched to investigate, for any space-born debris, like an asteroid or a meteorite, would have been eliminated by the planetary defense systems. The Xetherians knew of the war with the Space Pirates, but they, like the rest of humanity, never had even dared to imagine that the Pirates would go on thee offensive so much as to invade a planet.


The first militiamen to reach the impact crater saw a black hole…a crater, but with no light. In its center, they saw a figure in black rise from its knees to a standing position. Its eyes were glowing orange-the militiamen were frozen with fear. They heard a voice in their heads: Go back to your city and tell them to surrender now, or face the wrath of the nameless one, the living shadow. One of them, unfrozen by the voice, radioed this information back to the city, and received a near instantaneous nugatory reply.

“Umm…they said no…”

Very well…they have chosen the path of darkness…

The impenetrable dark of the crater seemed to be solid now, and it was flying towards the sky in ribbons. Only the black figure remained.


Tarik was exerting his full force: he had so much pent up energy, he felt glad that he could finally truly test the limits of his powers.


The clouds of Xetherin congregated, moving at thousands of miles an hour, over the metropolis. The sun was blotted out, although light could still be seen. The Militiamen were terrified, and calling frantically for backup. The solid black ribbons that had previously filled the crater touched the clouds, and spread. The sky around the metropolis seemed to become a dome of impenetrable blackness, but there was still a dim light. The citizens of the city were all in a state of terrified panic. The ground troops of Xetherin were being deployed from the city…advanced versions of the tanks from thousands of years before. The militiamen had left the crater, and the Seven had arrived to a nearly cloudless planet, and knew that they were too late-their contractor would be furious. But they would defeat the upstart human eventually…or so they thought. They returned to their temple, to prepare more fully and gather more intel, and, finally, to wait for the next strike.

Tarik walked from the crater to a black city. It was a bustling metropolis, that now had an eerie stillness as all those within its limits were terrified into stillness by the blotting out of the planet’s sun. There were rolling hills of green grass, transferred here from earth to prevent it from going extinct. The living shadow moved over the ground effortlessly, half walking, half hovering. The first shot was fired-it was a matter based shot, not a laser beam as was used in the space battles that defined the current age. The shadow extended an arm in front of itself, and, as the shot neared it, flung the arm skyward: the shot flew off into the sky at an angle. It was lost from sight once it entered the blackness surrounding the city. More volleys were fired, all deflected in the same manner. Next, the ground troops that were controlling these mobile fortresses filed out, preparing for battle.

The shadow moved with a speed never before seen to them, and, as it neared, it eyes dulled, and it became a man once again. Tarik needed more concentration on his battle than on his appearance. In an instant, he was upon them. A blur because of his uniform, he was a living kick, a breathing punch, and a pulsing bomb. What he couldn’t amplify with his powers for his hand-to-hand combat, which he had refined over the years, he made up for by pulverizing the troops that he could not reach with his psychokinesis. He was surrounded by beaten bodies, most merely knocked unconscious, not dead. He raised himself above the surrounding bodies as more troops closed in on him. He became shadow once again, and his eyes glowed with the intensity of his anger. He could feel the presence on the outskirts of his shadowshield…the blackness with which he had surrounded the city. It angered him. The ground beneath him quaked, and a fizzing sound filled the air, followed by the smell of ozone****. He held in his hands a staff, as long as he was tall, as a proper staff should be. He was now ready to begin this fight for real. He melted in and out of the troops, a slaughtering staff, a devastating punch, a decimating kick, a pulsating shadow…he had become what he was…the Moon Child showed the darker half of its face for the first time.


The troops decimated, Tarik launched himself towards the city’s command center. He blew out the window and entered into the office of the city’s leader. He dropped his image, becoming Tarik Khanir once again, only now more tired, having exhausted a large amount of his store of pent-up energy. He stood now, leaning slightly on his new diamond staff*****, and stared straight into the eyes of the city’s leader. Tarik had chosen this city because it was the largest, and this city’s leader was essentially the leader of the planet, for he commanded the other leaders of the other cities.


“Will you serve me?”

“Why would I?”

“Because if you do, I shall show your people mercy.”

“Show them mercy now, as a gesture of goodwill, first.”

“So be it,” Tarik said. The shadowshield disappeared, and he could feel his other half waiting…it terrified him, this presence…it was unnatural…it did not belong here, nor did it belong anywhere…it shouldn’t have even existed…and yet there it was, scaring the shit out of him. He shoved his terror aside for them moment, focusing more on the current discussions.

“Fair enough,” the city’s leader stated, “but what will you do if I give you my allegiance? Can you defend me from fleet? Who are you?”

“If you give me your allegiance, I shall make certain that no more harm comes to your people. You shall not be oppressed,” Tarik could feel what the man was thinking,” unlike you have been under Fleet. You may have to suffer a small amount at first, but that is because you are the first planet I have conquered. I fight for the Pirates…for they fight Fleet. Fleet is my enemy, and the Enemy of all is my enemy as well. I fight for justice, for I have been wronged…I fight to right that wrong, and to end the tyranny of Fleet. I am the nameless one, the hidden commander of the Space Pirates that was thought to be only a rumor…I am the living shadow…I am Tarik Khanir, and I will be the downfall of Fleet.”

“Very well. If you can provide us protection, as well as sanctuary from your assaults, we shall submit to you.”

“I shall do all that and more.”

“Then the forces of Xetherin are yours to command, son of the Grand Admiral Khanir. May they be of use.”


Four weeks later, in the Great Hall of the sunlit fortress, Haladhim, as messenger to the people for the council of Ten, was starting his speech. It was to inform the Space Pirates of the conditions under which Tarik left, and what he had told them. He, unlike the rest of the council, did not believe fully that Tarik was dead, but it did not matter, for there was a majority consensus, and, as such, the People had to be told.

“Friends, soldiers, and Space Pirates of all ages, I regret to inform you that the reason why we have gathered here is a most grievous one. Our beloved Tarik left us a month ago in a blind rage, claiming that he would conquer a planet single-handedly because we would not aid him in this war yet, for we felt, and do still feel, that we are as of yet unprepared to fight a full on war with fleet. We told him that should he return alive, having conquered the planet, we would give him our aid. He told us that if he did not return within a month, he was dead. MY dear friends, it, sadly, has been a month now, and he has not returned.”

“We must tell you that we believe that he is dead.”

The whole of the Space Pirate populace began muttering and whispering, and grieving for their fallen leader, but they stopped as they heard a rumbling coming from beyond the fortress.


The doors to the great hall, which were normally opened via machinery because of their massive size, opened of their own accord, allowing the sunlight of the planet to stream in. A figure, silhouetted against this blinding light, walked forward. The only thing visible for a distance because of the light, the robed figure entered into the dimmer light of the Great Hall, and began to shimmer and pulsate. It continued forward, and the sounds of heavy, myriad footsteps could be heard behind it. The people had an idea of what was coming, for they had long awaited the day when they would be found by Fleet and eliminated.

Footsoldiers in Fleet uniforms marched into the great hall by the hundreds, a continual procession that stopped when the robed figure leading them halted near the podium of the hall, which was surrounded by intricately designed echoing horns and chambers, so as to amplify the sound of the speaker hundreds of times without the usage of technology.

“I have returned, Haladhim…” the figure called, raising its head so that its face was visible for the first time. The whole of the Pirates were shocked, and whispers of a betrayal by Tarik were growing.

“To you, Space Pirates, I bring the Xetherian Army. They are mine to command, and they will do whatever I tell them. The planet of Xetherin is under my control and will become the first planet to be controlled by the Space Pirates outside of Tyrnok as soon as you agree to assist me in this war, as we agreed at my departure, Haladhim.”

The council of Ten whispered amongst themselves, then one of them nodded to Haladhim.

“We accept.”


It has begun… thought Tarik.


The terrifying presence awaited the day when she would meet her opposite quietly in a small corner of her room aboard an Enemy command ship.


“ach…men! When will they ever learn?” she muttered.



*-The phoenix is designed so that only Tarik can pilot it to maximum efficiency. It has hundreds of thousands of controls and instrument panels that are beneath solid bulkheads, for this way only Tarik can use them via his psychokinesis. This is what is meant by “piloting it in the way only he can”

**-see the first footnote

***-The Phoenix has been upgraded to now have twenty laser cannons.

*****-Because Tarik has gained such mastery of his powers, he can break bonds at the molecular level. The ground trembling was Tarik separating as much of the carbon as he could from it, and the ozone came from the breaking down of so much carbon dioxide in the air that there was so much excess oxygen that ozone formed; the diamond staff comes from him taking that carbon and then compressing it with his mind to form his staff out of diamond, so that it would be unbreakable.


Appendicies

Introduction to the Appendices


The numbering system corresponds to the order they were written and the appendix on the topic. Hence, all appendices pertaining to the Space Pirates will be numbered 1, followed by the letter of the alphabet that corresponds to what appendix on the Space pirates that is. Hence, all appendices on the universe of the story shall be numbered 2, because appendix B was the second appendix written.






Appendix A: Space Pirates


Space Pirates are, for the most part, human. They were one of the most expeditious and exploratory groups of colonists to set forth from the Homeworld, not accelerating beyond light speed to increase travel speed between systems, but instead existing and traveling in massive colony ships, leaving off small colonies of people on the worlds that they colonized, instead of the entire vessel. As such, though the facts concerning them were erased when they became enemies to Fleet, it is unknown how many countless worlds they brought human civilization to. However, at one point, they encountered the Enemy. They were actually the first human beings to encounter the Enemy, but this fact was never reported to Fleet. The Space Pirates saw in the Enemy a race far superior in technology and wisdom to the humans, and sought to learn from them. The Enemy sought to learn of them. As such, the Enemy divided these humans into ten test groups, and began to experiment upon them, splicing genes into them from the Enemy’s own genome. Each of these ten test groups later became a tribe, after the Enemy had abandoned their experiments upon the Space Pirates. Lost, not knowing what they had become, the ten tribes of Space Pirates set out from the barren testing world that the Enemy had used as a staging point for their research. For several hundred years, the Space Pirates kept their ten tribes relatively separate, desiring to keep their respective abilities pure and strong. Eventually, this broke down, and interbreeding began, making the purebred abilities become intermixed, eventually evening out most of the Space Pirates.

However, there were groups of purebreds still surviving, and still keeping themselves purebred. However, contrary to what one could infer, there was no looking down upon or formation of an aristocracy-like class. Instead, the mixed Pirates looked to the purebreds for leadership, hence creating the Council of Ten (reference chapter 10). Eventually, as the Pirate population grew, the council of Ten grew to be more than just ten people, and eventually it was separated into two parts: The council of Ten, and the Tenth Tribunal. The Tenth Tribunal was the original Council of Ten, ten representatives from each of the remaining purebred ten tribes. The council of ten grew to be more of a leading military body, with ranks. It is into this and because of this that Tarik was able to insinuate himself into it.






Appendix B: The Universe


Multi-dimensional

There. Summed up in one word. Now when I say multi-dimensional, I do not mean as in Sliders multi-dimensional or as in parallel universe multi-dimensional. This is a multi-dimensional universe, not a multi-versal one. What I mean is that…well, here.

We know of four dimensions: width, depth, height, and time. In the universe, however, there are many more dimensions than this, and there are multidimensional beings. As an example, the Shadow from Chapter 19. People are five or six dimensional beings (I haven’t decided yet/am not sure). The fifth dimension would be the one after time, and this is the one through which Tarik can influence the three ones we primarily dwell in, being width, depth, and height. The fifth dimension is where the mind, the consciousness, the “soul”, if you will, of a human being lurks: it is the medium through which thoughts are telepathically communicated and through which a will (desire to do something) is used to move a four-(or three, pending on how you look at it)dimensional object, or, in other words, telekinesis / psychokinesis. Now, this does not necessarily mean that all beings that are multidimensional have to fill in all of the dimensions: there could be, for example, a being that dwelt in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth dimensions, instead of the first four, like we do. It could, in theory, interpret and receive sensory input from the first four, but, existing outside of them, would appear invisible, but actually wouldn’t because in order to be invisible there has to be something there that would otherwise be visible, and, not existing in the dimensions we know and can interpret, would not even seem to exist. Yes, this also allows for the existence of divine forces, beings that can influence the other dimensions whilst being outside of them and, hence, imperceptible to them. And, for the record, warp space is a paradox that the Enemy understands and utilizes correctly, whilst mankind does not understand and merely stumbled onto it, and, because of this, great quantities of mass are required for the initial jump into warp space for mankind, whereas enemy fighters are capable of doing it solo. Warp space is a combination of the first (width), second (depth), third (height), and sixth (anyone’s guess) dimensions. This is why entities, be they living or not, are capable of traveling great distances in warp space: it is outside of the three physical dimensions and can as hence insert things into those dimensions anywhere in those dimensions.







Appendix C: The Homeworld (Earth)


Early in mankind’s existence (between 1000 and 2500 A.D.), man had not been wise in respect to preservation. Pollutants and toxins filled the upper atmosphere, and eventually, by the time the technology came about to prevent these toxins from being created, it was too late for Earth to remain unscarred. The sky the whole world over had been turned into a shade of pale greenish brown, and, though things still lived and managed to survive, their numbers were greatly reduced. It was this that spurred the massive worldwide collaboration that resulted in the colonization of the first world by humanity in 2557 A.D.





Remember folks, still keep posting for more chapters under the announcement post, not this one...feel free to comment and ask questions here, though.


Columns

Promethius

Chapter 1: The Beginning Times - Devils Gate

 

It was the same dream as always, fire and darkness, streaming lasers and massive explosions. Darren was sitting in the middle of it all, on the bridge of his battleship, watching as massive amounts of firepower coursed through space, splashing, for the moment, harmlessly in blue waves over his shields. He looked over to his left on the port view screen, and again in his horrible dream he saw his former battleship command, before he had been transferred to the LADY ASHLEY, LA KATANA, come apart under torpedo fire, and he dreamt what a battleship explosion would look like, although in all his days of command, even in the old wars, he had never seen such a thing. It was indeed a horrifying sight to see. LA KATANA’s bow crumpled under one torpedo salvo, as another round from an enemy torpedo bomber wing hit the fusion reactors. In a massive Purple ring a shockwave shook his ship, and Darren had a strange sense of falling…

… He landed with a relatively heavy thud, granted his medium size, next to his bed. Sitting up straight, with a haze of confusion still in his eyes, he began to remember that it was only a dream. “Computer,” he said, “what is the status of LA KATANA?”

“Admiral Darren Hayes, LA KATANA is currently running steady off the port side, one half click to the rear of the LADY ASHLEY at a distance of one quarter click,” the monotone voice droned on repeating various statistics on shield strength, hull status, crew member readiness, engine power levels, relative velocities, and the like. Everything seemed more or less normal, as the pattern of the last two months continued on. The distances were correct, half a kilometer, or click as the marines were coming to call them, was a good distance for travel, rather close for a ship that was two clicks long, but Darren had always been a pretty good coordinator for large ship formations, and flying that close was nothing new, granted he had never commanded three battleships together before.

It was what the computer relayed next in its feminine monotone voice that shook Darren from his morning routine of making sure that his dream was not real.

“Admiral Hayes, you are required on the bridge for transit through wormhole number 01-D-625, commonly known as Devil’s Gate.” That was right, it was the day his fleet, the largest earth had ever assembled, was to travel to the new galaxy, whichever it may be. He quickly got dressed and hurried to the bridge, where Vice Admiral Jenyr waited for him.

“Sir,” Jenyr began, “everything has been prepped for departure, all that’s left is your authorization command to enter Devil’s Gate.”

“Excellent, Daniel, shall we try to pass through hell then?” Darren purposely used the Marines slang expression to refer to this wormhole’s passage characteristics. The scoutship that had come back had reported that passing through this wormhole was a turbulent event, and that flames had appeared twice, not to mention high reactor temperatures, hellish radiation levels, and points of high gravitation. Scientists had begun feverishly working on solutions to these problems. The Colonization fleet had its hull painted with radiation protectant, and the flames, which were deemed to be from passing through a sun at a velocity that other wormholes could not attain, were deemed to be harmless other than heating the reactor cores a bit, which could be solved by a simple heavier reactor coolant. The high gravitation was most likely, according to scientists, due to the wormhole passing near to black holes, but, as the scoutship had returned, with only minor radiation poisoning, it had been deemed that all this was harmless, once the ships were radiation sealed.

“Sir,” Jenyr softly replied, “we can still protest these orders if you feel the mission is bound for failure.”

“I’m a better soldier than that, Dan, it’s my duty to get a colonization fleet to the far side of this wormhole, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Yes Sir.”

With that, Darren entered the busy bridge of the Battleship, passing coms and weapons officers, and taking his seat right in front of the maneuvering control officers. He ran a quick systems check to make sure that systems on all ships were nominal for the difficult passage, and then turned to his coms officer “Have you sent a message back to Earth High Command, advising them of our status?” The officer shook his head in affirmation, so Darren turned back to the front and began to issue orders. “All power to shields and standard power to warp drives, shunt all weapons energy to boost the shields. Coms, send a message to Earth to let them know we are entering the gate, Engines, ahead slow, Gravity Stabilizers, be at ready for whatever we meet in there. All right people, we’ve run the sims, you know your jobs, lets go.”

The ship began to slowly move forward with the rest of the fleet in tow, while it broadcast its final in galaxy message to Earth High Command. The Coms officer shouted over the hustle of the bridge that the message had been sent as the Devil’s Gate loomed large in the forward viewscreens. Just then the ship lurched sickeningly to the right and shook violently. Darren grasped onto his seat just in time to avoid being thrown from his command chair. He quickly buckled his seat belt to avoid anymore accidents before turning to his maneuvering officers.

“Manuevers, what the hell was that?”

The officer turned to him, wide eyed and unsure of what had just happened, and that scared Darren the most. “Admiral, I have no idea…” his voice trailed off as the ship shook again. This time, a tongue of flame shot out from the Devil’s gate and rocked the LADY ASHLEY hard, before a gravity swell pulled the ship forward… hard. Then, like a swelling wave from a roiling ocean sea, a ball of darkness swept forward and the LADY ASHLEY was pulled into the Devil’s Gate. The darkness swept over Darren, and that was the last thing he remembered…

 

Chapter 2: The Beginning Times - Hell's Passage

 

It was the same dream as always, fire and darkness, streaming lasers and massive explosions. Darren was sitting in the middle of it all, on the bridge of his battleship, watching as massive amounts of firepower coursed through space, splashing, for the moment, harmlessly in blue waves over his shields. He looked over to his left on the port view screen, and again in his horrible dream he saw his former battleship command, before he had been transferred to the LADY ASHLEY, LA KATANA, come apart under torpedo fire, and he dreamt what a battleship explosion would look like, although in all his days of command, even in the old wars, he had never seen such a thing. It was indeed a horrifying sight to see. LA KATANA’s bow crumpled under one torpedo salvo, as another round from an enemy torpedo bomber wing hit the fusion reactors. In a massive Purple ring a shockwave shook his ship, and Darren had a strange sense of falling…

… He landed with a relatively heavy thud, granted his medium size, next to his bed. Sitting up straight, with a haze of confusion still in his eyes, he began to remember that it was only a dream. “Computer,” he said, “what is the status of LA KATANA?”

“Admiral Darren Hayes, LA KATANA is currently running steady off the port side, one half click to the rear of the LADY ASHLEY at a distance of one quarter click,” the monotone voice droned on repeating various statistics on shield strength, hull status, crew member readiness, engine power levels, relative velocities, and the like. Everything seemed more or less normal, as the pattern of the last two months continued on. The distances were correct, half a kilometer, or click as the marines were coming to call them, was a good distance for travel, rather close for a ship that was two clicks long, but Darren had always been a pretty good coordinator for large ship formations, and flying that close was nothing new, granted he had never commanded three battleships together before.

It was what the computer relayed next in its feminine monotone voice that shook Darren from his morning routine of making sure that his dream was not real.

“Admiral Hayes, you are required on the bridge for transit through wormhole number 01-D-625, commonly known as Devil’s Gate.” That was right, it was the day his fleet, the largest earth had ever assembled, was to travel to the new galaxy, whichever it may be. He quickly got dressed and hurried to the bridge, where Vice Admiral Jenyr waited for him.

“Sir,” Jenyr began, “everything has been prepped for departure, all that’s left is your authorization command to enter Devil’s Gate.”

“Excellent, Daniel, shall we try to pass through hell then?” Darren purposely used the Marines slang expression to refer to this wormhole’s passage characteristics. The scoutship that had come back had reported that passing through this wormhole was a turbulent event, and that flames had appeared twice, not to mention high reactor temperatures, hellish radiation levels, and points of high gravitation. Scientists had begun feverishly working on solutions to these problems. The Colonization fleet had its hull painted with radiation protectant, and the flames, which were deemed to be from passing through a sun at a velocity that other wormholes could not attain, were deemed to be harmless other than heating the reactor cores a bit, which could be solved by a simple heavier reactor coolant. The high gravitation was most likely, according to scientists, due to the wormhole passing near to black holes, but, as the scoutship had returned, with only minor radiation poisoning, it had been deemed that all this was harmless, once the ships were radiation sealed.

“Sir,” Jenyr softly replied, “we can still protest these orders if you feel the mission is bound for failure.”

“I’m a better soldier than that, Dan, it’s my duty to get a colonization fleet to the far side of this wormhole, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Yes Sir.”

With that, Darren entered the busy bridge of the Battleship, passing coms and weapons officers, and taking his seat right in front of the maneuvering control officers. He ran a quick systems check to make sure that systems on all ships were nominal for the difficult passage, and then turned to his coms officer “Have you sent a message back to Earth High Command, advising them of our status?” The officer shook his head in affirmation, so Darren turned back to the front and began to issue orders. “All power to shields and standard power to warp drives, shunt all weapons energy to boost the shields. Coms, send a message to Earth to let them know we are entering the gate, Engines, ahead slow, Gravity Stabilizers, be at ready for whatever we meet in there. All right people, we’ve run the sims, you know your jobs, lets go.”

The ship began to slowly move forward with the rest of the fleet in tow, while it broadcast its final in galaxy message to Earth High Command. The Coms officer shouted over the hustle of the bridge that the message had been sent as the Devil’s Gate loomed large in the forward viewscreens. Just then the ship lurched sickeningly to the right and shook violently. Darren grasped onto his seat just in time to avoid being thrown from his command chair. He quickly buckled his seat belt to avoid anymore accidents before turning to his maneuvering officers.

“Manuevers, what the hell was that?”

The officer turned to him, wide eyed and unsure of what had just happened, and that scared Darren the most. “Admiral, I have no idea…” his voice trailed off as the ship shook again. This time, a tongue of flame shot out from the Devil’s gate and rocked the LADY ASHLEY hard, before a gravity swell pulled the ship forward… hard. Then, like a swelling wave from a roiling ocean sea, a ball of darkness swept forward and the LADY ASHLEY was pulled into the Devil’s Gate. The darkness swept over Darren, and that was the last thing he remembered…

 

Chapter 3: The Beginning Times - New Arrivals

 

Darren pushed back from the table where his daily reports lie. Having read them twice each, he was ready to go and get some lunch. The colonization effort was going well. Once a suitable planet had been found and colonized as a base of operations, Darren had been shuttled down from the LADY ASHLEY to command the colonization effort from the newest planet in the Earth High Command regime, Iota Prime. The fleet communications had been repaired and all that had been restored to normal status That was about a hundred days ago, and Darren appreciated the out door space still available on this planet, allowing the new sun, which had not yet been named to warm him more deeply than the scientific heating coils of the colony buildings would allow. Eight out of the ten outpost ships had colonized planets, and the other two were in route to colonize two more planets with a frigate that earth had sent along as reinforcements. Well, not so much as reinforcements as it were to serve as an escort. Shortly after the colonization of Iota Prime, earth had sent a fleet of freighters and merchants, along with the necessary trader class vessel (which contained the drive needed to travel Devil’s Gate). The fleet had delivered enough supplies to build some basic wartime factories, and the communications satellite was built.

All in all things were moving fairly smoothly. Darren had divided up the new freighters and merchants into several smaller fleets and had them traveling around the new planets redistributing various goods. The colonization effort was going well and Earth High Command would soon send an ambassador to do the work on the command node, and Darren would be allowed to return home, leaving a third of his fleet to serve as defense under Vice Admiral Jenyr. That was much more agreeable to Darren, he missed his home a lot. Despite his being used as an Admiral for more and more daring missions, and being the highest ranked admiral, he had no aptitude for life in a colony planet, nor for life at Earth Command Prime, the central command station on planet earth. In truth, the hustle of larger cities and newly colonized planets fascinated him, but there was also a sense of dishonesty, almost like one could trust no one else in these places. No, Darren was from a small town, only about eight thousand in population, on the fairly developed but still small planet, Calvarias Prime. His town had served as a mining town for gold when the precious metal still held value. Law had determined that gold could serve no functional purpose and, like central heating and air-conditioning to set the temperature how one pleased, the metal had been outlawed.

“Admiral Darren Hayes,” the voice of a young officer came through the comms, since planets did not have central computers that communicated and kept schedules, “please report to the Command Node, our outpost ships are about to come out of their hyper travel drives into the target colonization planets.”

Darren clicked a button on his desk next to a speaker which he inclined his head toward, “I’m on my way. Any difficulties or anomalies to speak of?”

“No sir.”

“Alright, be there in one second,” and with that Darren clicked the com unit off and pushed his chair back. He looked longingly out the window as the sun streaked lazily down through the rugged pine and spruce trees. He longed to have a horse here to ride around and explore, but his horses had all been kept back at his ranch on Calvarias Prime. It was a shame really. Darren rounded the desk and walked through the door, nodding courteously to the body guards stationed outside, who then fell in step behind him a few paces. The earth freighters had also delivered more colonists for a workforce, but who knew if they could ALL be trusted not to be members of the PEAACE Corps—short for the PEace At All Costs Elite Corps—which would not mind killing military leaders to ensure peace. Darren found it more than slightly amusing that they couldn’t even come up with a proper acronym and thus had to mis-capitalize the first word to make it fit. Darren had first gotten body guards two years ago, this being after the assassination of Lord Terrinal, High Admiral of Earth Fleets which had made the appointment of bodyguards for all generals and admirals a necessity. Darren had enjoyed it at first, shuffling his feet rapidly every once in awhile to make his guards have to shuffle along in order to stay in step with him, or he would pretend that he had forgot something, turn and then pretend to realize he had found it, then turn back, just to watch them do their intricate pattern required for doing 180 degree turns. Darren grew tired of that rather quickly though, and now he just let them do as they please with little attention paid to their doings.

Darren arrived at the command node and took his seat in the command chair. The node was, except for size and number of personnel, not much different from the bridge of his ship. “Sensors, give me a visual from the second outpost ship.” This was not a military crew, no one called out a reply, but in a few seconds the view of stars whizzing by with the first outpost ship ahead and slightly to the left came up on the screen.

“Coms, get me a patch on all information coming and going from that ship, as well as a line with their captain.”

“Sir, the missing freighter still has not been located.”

“Yes Vice Admiral Jenyr, I know.” Shortly after having come out of transit, one of the merchant fleets reported that a freighter had gone missing, that was over a month ago, so all aboard were presumed missing or dead.

Darren heard the static that implied the link had been established. “Captain, are you there?”

“Sir,” the reply came back slightly scratchy, both because of distance and the fact that civilian operators were running the connection, “You’re just in time, we’re coming out of hyper travel now.”

“Excellent, carry on.”

The stars whizzing by suddenly jolted to a halt, the target planet looming up forward and relatively down and to the right. It took Darren only a brief second to realize that there was another fleet already in orbit. It was nearly as large as his fleet, although composed of only two battleship class ships but with several more cruisers than Darren had. A cruiser came into the view screen from the top, meaning that it had come from behind the outpost ship. Boarding claws launched from the bottom of the cruiser and hooked into the hull. Darren watched in horror as enemy fighters swarmed around both ships. Bomber fleets swept in on the first outpost ship, launching hellish torpedoes. In two seconds the first outpost ship was torn to millions of shards of metal and mineral in an explosion that boiled like an angry demon.

“Sir,” came the captain of the second ship, “they’re transmitting to us, in English.”

“Patch it through,” that was all Darren could get out.

His port viewscreen lit up as well, this time filled with a dark creature whos head was mounted by a ridge of horns. Tusks penetrated its lower lip and these had insane tattoos marked into them, infinitely complex. The beast wore some sort of battle armor, with wicked barbed spikes protruding from the shoulder plates. Darren couldn’t see anything below the beast’s shoulders, but he didn’t want to. The voice was grating and somehow whispering while it boomed. It was a voice that was evil to its very core. “We have takensssss youre shipppp you callsssssssss a freighter, and we havvvve analyssssed your systemssssssssss and language. Having been discoverrrred weeeee will now whipe your scumssssssssssss from the universssssssssssssse.” Darren looked back to the main view screen, a wing of bombers swept in from the front and Darren saw at least a hundred torpedoes streak in at insane speed, trailing blue plasma in their wake. The first struck the shields and the energy passed harmlessly in a beautiful blue wave, but that was all that Darren saw before the rest of the torpedoes passed through the shield and ended his outpost ship.

“Vice Admiral,” Darren said, the anger in his voice showing on the edge. He had been challenged, his fleet surprise attacked for no reason. This was an outrage, no more could be tolerated. Darren stood, drawing himself up and the civilian operators shrank back at the might that was rising before them. Indeed, this was the trusted admiral of the Earth High Command. Noble and powerful he rose up before them, his shoulders drawing back and his brow drawing down until he looked like some noble creature, an eagle perhaps.

“Sir,” came the voice of a confident, although slightly shaken vice admiral.

“Call the LADY ASHLEY into position, and summon a shuttle to take us up, we’re going to war.”

“Sir,” one of the civilian operators called out, “Terra 1 reports that there is a fleet coming into orbit their planet, it looks hostile.”

“Tell them to hold out as long as they can, this will not be tolerated.”

 

Chapter 4: The Beginning Times - The War Begins

 

Darren pushed back from the table where his daily reports lie. Having read them twice each, he was ready to go and get some lunch. The colonization effort was going well. Once a suitable planet had been found and colonized as a base of operations, Darren had been shuttled down from the LADY ASHLEY to command the colonization effort from the newest planet in the Earth High Command regime, Iota Prime. The fleet communications had been repaired and all that had been restored to normal status That was about a hundred days ago, and Darren appreciated the out door space still available on this planet, allowing the new sun, which had not yet been named to warm him more deeply than the scientific heating coils of the colony buildings would allow. Eight out of the ten outpost ships had colonized planets, and the other two were in route to colonize two more planets with a frigate that earth had sent along as reinforcements. Well, not so much as reinforcements as it were to serve as an escort. Shortly after the colonization of Iota Prime, earth had sent a fleet of freighters and merchants, along with the necessary trader class vessel (which contained the drive needed to travel Devil’s Gate). The fleet had delivered enough supplies to build some basic wartime factories, and the communications satellite was built.

All in all things were moving fairly smoothly. Darren had divided up the new freighters and merchants into several smaller fleets and had them traveling around the new planets redistributing various goods. The colonization effort was going well and Earth High Command would soon send an ambassador to do the work on the command node, and Darren would be allowed to return home, leaving a third of his fleet to serve as defense under Vice Admiral Jenyr. That was much more agreeable to Darren, he missed his home a lot. Despite his being used as an Admiral for more and more daring missions, and being the highest ranked admiral, he had no aptitude for life in a colony planet, nor for life at Earth Command Prime, the central command station on planet earth. In truth, the hustle of larger cities and newly colonized planets fascinated him, but there was also a sense of dishonesty, almost like one could trust no one else in these places. No, Darren was from a small town, only about eight thousand in population, on the fairly developed but still small planet, Calvarias Prime. His town had served as a mining town for gold when the precious metal still held value. Law had determined that gold could serve no functional purpose and, like central heating and air-conditioning to set the temperature how one pleased, the metal had been outlawed.

“Admiral Darren Hayes,” the voice of a young officer came through the comms, since planets did not have central computers that communicated and kept schedules, “please report to the Command Node, our outpost ships are about to come out of their hyper travel drives into the target colonization planets.”

Darren clicked a button on his desk next to a speaker which he inclined his head toward, “I’m on my way. Any difficulties or anomalies to speak of?”

“No sir.”

“Alright, be there in one second,” and with that Darren clicked the com unit off and pushed his chair back. He looked longingly out the window as the sun streaked lazily down through the rugged pine and spruce trees. He longed to have a horse here to ride around and explore, but his horses had all been kept back at his ranch on Calvarias Prime. It was a shame really. Darren rounded the desk and walked through the door, nodding courteously to the body guards stationed outside, who then fell in step behind him a few paces. The earth freighters had also delivered more colonists for a workforce, but who knew if they could ALL be trusted not to be members of the PEAACE Corps—short for the PEace At All Costs Elite Corps—which would not mind killing military leaders to ensure peace. Darren found it more than slightly amusing that they couldn’t even come up with a proper acronym and thus had to mis-capitalize the first word to make it fit. Darren had first gotten body guards two years ago, this being after the assassination of Lord Terrinal, High Admiral of Earth Fleets which had made the appointment of bodyguards for all generals and admirals a necessity. Darren had enjoyed it at first, shuffling his feet rapidly every once in awhile to make his guards have to shuffle along in order to stay in step with him, or he would pretend that he had forgot something, turn and then pretend to realize he had found it, then turn back, just to watch them do their intricate pattern required for doing 180 degree turns. Darren grew tired of that rather quickly though, and now he just let them do as they please with little attention paid to their doings.

Darren arrived at the command node and took his seat in the command chair. The node was, except for size and number of personnel, not much different from the bridge of his ship. “Sensors, give me a visual from the second outpost ship.” This was not a military crew, no one called out a reply, but in a few seconds the view of stars whizzing by with the first outpost ship ahead and slightly to the left came up on the screen.

“Coms, get me a patch on all information coming and going from that ship, as well as a line with their captain.”

“Sir, the missing freighter still has not been located.”

“Yes Vice Admiral Jenyr, I know.” Shortly after having come out of transit, one of the merchant fleets reported that a freighter had gone missing, that was over a month ago, so all aboard were presumed missing or dead.

Darren heard the static that implied the link had been established. “Captain, are you there?”

“Sir,” the reply came back slightly scratchy, both because of distance and the fact that civilian operators were running the connection, “You’re just in time, we’re coming out of hyper travel now.”

“Excellent, carry on.”

The stars whizzing by suddenly jolted to a halt, the target planet looming up forward and relatively down and to the right. It took Darren only a brief second to realize that there was another fleet already in orbit. It was nearly as large as his fleet, although composed of only two battleship class ships but with several more cruisers than Darren had. A cruiser came into the view screen from the top, meaning that it had come from behind the outpost ship. Boarding claws launched from the bottom of the cruiser and hooked into the hull. Darren watched in horror as enemy fighters swarmed around both ships. Bomber fleets swept in on the first outpost ship, launching hellish torpedoes. In two seconds the first outpost ship was torn to millions of shards of metal and mineral in an explosion that boiled like an angry demon.

“Sir,” came the captain of the second ship, “they’re transmitting to us, in English.”

“Patch it through,” that was all Darren could get out.

His port viewscreen lit up as well, this time filled with a dark creature whos head was mounted by a ridge of horns. Tusks penetrated its lower lip and these had insane tattoos marked into them, infinitely complex. The beast wore some sort of battle armor, with wicked barbed spikes protruding from the shoulder plates. Darren couldn’t see anything below the beast’s shoulders, but he didn’t want to. The voice was grating and somehow whispering while it boomed. It was a voice that was evil to its very core. “We have takensssss youre shipppp you callsssssssss a freighter, and we havvvve analyssssed your systemssssssssss and language. Having been discoverrrred weeeee will now whipe your scumssssssssssss from the universssssssssssssse.” Darren looked back to the main view screen, a wing of bombers swept in from the front and Darren saw at least a hundred torpedoes streak in at insane speed, trailing blue plasma in their wake. The first struck the shields and the energy passed harmlessly in a beautiful blue wave, but that was all that Darren saw before the rest of the torpedoes passed through the shield and ended his outpost ship.

“Vice Admiral,” Darren said, the anger in his voice showing on the edge. He had been challenged, his fleet surprise attacked for no reason. This was an outrage, no more could be tolerated. Darren stood, drawing himself up and the civilian operators shrank back at the might that was rising before them. Indeed, this was the trusted admiral of the Earth High Command. Noble and powerful he rose up before them, his shoulders drawing back and his brow drawing down until he looked like some noble creature, an eagle perhaps.

“Sir,” came the voice of a confident, although slightly shaken vice admiral.

“Call the LADY ASHLEY into position, and summon a shuttle to take us up, we’re going to war.”

“Sir,” one of the civilian operators called out, “Terra 1 reports that there is a fleet coming into orbit their planet, it looks hostile.”

“Tell them to hold out as long as they can, this will not be tolerated.”

 

Chapter 5: The Beginning Times - Enter Death, Enter Dragons

 

Darren felt old, too old. He was only nearing his forties, but he was extremely wise and mature for such a young age. It was a wonder he was a full admiral at such a young age, but then again, everyone at the academy had known he was bound for success. He had the best technology that Earth had to offer in his control, all at the palm of his hand in the crew of the LADY ASHLEY. And instead of taking that power and using it to build colonies, he was hurtling with the monster through space, only minutes from intercepting a fair sized enemy fleet and taking the first decisive victory of this new war. Conquest was spread throughout the history of Earth, and Darren was becoming more and more of the conflict that was humanity’s expansion. This was the natural course of things. Though he didn’t like it, Darren had a natural talent for command in battle, and that was the tool he would off to humanity and the future of mankind.

Two days had past since the loss of the outpost ships. Terra 1 had held out valiantly for most of the two days, but had begun to fall that morning. Large amounts of the populace had died in an onslaught that had occurred after the planetary defense laser was overwhelmed by the number of approaching invasion ships. The few soldiers posted on the planet had been rapidly overrun, and it was the scientists who had turned the tide, laying down their lives fighting with their experimental technology. This had turned the alien race away, but it left only a handful of scientists and about fifty thousand colonists behind. The enemy troops had begun to descend again, and battles were raging on the planet between last minute resistances and the alien troops. In less than five hours the planet would fall on its own.

Now, the LADY ASHLEY, however, and her full escort of ships would arrive in a few minutes, and would turn the tide of the battle. Death would rain fiercely on the aliens, Darren felt the need for vengeance coursing through his veins. There was nothing to be done now, peace could not be attained. After the unprovoked attack after the Devil’s Gate, and the two recent attacks, Darren wanted nothing but the blood of his foes. The black stars out the forward view port began to resolve themselves into long lines as the ships began to slow from hyper travel. Darren began to issue orders. “Coms, coordinate our attack with the rest of the fleet. Weapons, full power. Shields, Charge all power from food systems and add it to the shields. Engines, ready to travel on impulse.”

Darren got a variety of responses as his crew leapt to their tasks, preparing for the battle at hand. Darren looked to Vice Admiral Jenyr, over his left shoulder, and Jenyr nodded back. “All right,” Darren said, “It’s time we got some blood for our fallen comrades, follow your training and we’ll tear through them like a shark through minnows. Bring us out of warp.”

The star field stretched a slight bit for a moment, then with a jarring thud the stars all snapped into place as the fleet came out of warp into orbit of Terra 1, appearing out of nowhere and dropping right into the rear starboard side of the enemy fleet. It was a vicious drop, and Darren felt his stomach go out for just a second. The enemy fleet was quick to respond, swinging around and powering up its shields. “Launch the fighters,” Darren shouted.

The front view port filled with buzzing fighters roiling out from the belly of the battleships and cruisers, filling the space between the opposing fleets with a cloudlike fighter cover. Hundreds of fighters from the alien fleets coursed into the fray, and the space around Terra 1 began to light up with streaks of laser fire.

“Sir,” a captain approached Darren, “should we launch the bombers now?”

“Ten seconds then launch,” Darren calmly replied. If anything changed, or the enemy revealed a heavy frigate and fighter presence, Darren would send his frigates and destroyers in first, to save his bombers for another day. The ten seconds counted down, and the bombers launched. The fighter wings towards the center of the fray regrouped and pushed a defensive arrow through the center of the space battle, opening a passageway for the hundred bomber Darren had authorized for launch. The enemy fleets formed up and began advancing, firing randomly towards Darren’s Fleet, although few of those shots made it through the cloud of fighters whirling in the middle ground. “Turn to port, they don’t have any choice but to come straight at us and I want to give them a good view of our broadside.”

“Aye aye, Sir,” shouted the commander of the engine crew. The large ships of the fleet began to roll out to the left and form up into a defensive ring. This presented different ups and downs. The large ships were easiest to hit this way, which was only consoled by the fact that, being large ships, they were always easy to hit. The upside was that it allowed all of Darren’s forward, aft, and side guns to fire, whereas it would only allow the enemy’s forward guns to fire on them. In a battle like this where Darren only slightly outnumbered his opponent, it was crucial for him to use all of his weapons. The enemy drove on relentlessly, swinging into the approaching earth bombers’ range. Darren saw the purple lights as each bomber released a volley of two bombs at large enemy ships. The bombs hurtled forward and slammed into the shields of the now unprotected large ships, sending ripples of energy rounding off the shields. The bombers hadn’t concentrated on any single ship, so not one was destroyed, but Darren did see that the shields had fallen on many enemy ships and that the others’ shields were weakened severely.

All of a sudden Darren felt the LADY ASHLEY rock violently as enemy torpedoes slammed into her aft and port shields, draining away energy. “What was that?”

“Sir, they had bombers pre deployed, and they ended up behind us when we dropped into system.”

“This was a shield maneuver, just like ours sir.”

Darren was furious, this should have been noticed. “Shunt all energy from non mandatory systems to shields, I want the defenses back online ASAP. Move the frigates into firing position and have them hold off any further bomber attacks.”

As his orders were carried out, Darren looked back to the view port. He saw something then that he never thought he would see. The enemy ships dove headlong into the fighter cloud at a fast rate, tearing into any fighters in their path. Both friendly and enemy explosions surrounded the enemy ships as they battered fighters out of their way. Darren could see that some of the shields had come back up on the enemy ships, but that many hadn’t. It really wasn’t that hard to tell, as the fighters exploded on either shields, or tore back sheets of armored hull from unshielded ships. “Launch the second wing of bombers and have them circle around the port side. Have what’s left of the first wing reload and circle around their starboard. Open fire on my mark.” Darren held his hand up, signaling to the weapons controller not to fire yet. As the enemy ships began to come in range they fired sporadically, the energy washing a bright red over the shields. At this range shots bled energy off through space until they were almost useless. Darren waited, tense long moments as the enemy fleet formed up and came into effective range. As he thought, they began to roll to their port, allowing them the same vantage that Darren had, but he was not going to allow that. Before they could get even ten degrees into the rolling maneuver Darren dropped his hand and a wall of deadly light radiated out from his fleet to converge on the forming enemies. It was a lethal attack at such a range, and with such massive fire power concentrated, he could see the armor peel off on many ships. Internal fires raged on more than half of his foes ships, and lights flickered on more than a few large ships. A cruiser began to drift down from the main fleet, slowly colliding with a destroyer as its hull crumpled under terrible strains. Suddenly the engine core ignited and an explosion roiled out from the midsection, ripping the cruiser into tiny pieces and sheering the destroyer into two equal slices. Elsewhere, an enemy Destroyer finally succumbed to its internal fires and came apart in a deadly silent crumbling. No explosion was needed, and Darren could see the enemy bodies drift into space.

The enemy fleet, what still was operational, finished their roll. More than a dozen capital class ships, and at least thirty frigates were left inoperable after that first volley. Darren signaled to boost full power to shields as the enemy released a volley at the Earth Fleet. The LADY ASHLEY skipped like a boat in the ocean waves as laser after laser tore at her shields. The shields held though, although that couldn’t be said for all of the ships in the fleet. Ten heavy damage reports came in from capitol ships, and one destroyer was reported as destroyed. Five frigates crumpled under the onslaught and another twenty reported serious damage.

The enemy bombers approached again and Darren wished there was more power he could shunt to shields. His fighters looked to be winning their battle, however, and many of them followed closely behind the bombers, destroying them as they flew in. The remaining combat ready frigates, nearly eighty of them, fired with devastating accuracy into the bomber fleet, and by the time the bombers got within range, only a few bombs were released. It was still enough though, to crumple a few more hulls, taking another destroyer and two more frigates.

The enemy fleet lined its frigates around the starboard side, apparently warding off against the attack of the first wing of bombers returning, not having seen the second launch. They unleashed punishing waves of lasers into the oncoming bombers, but they had less than fifty frigates remaining, and their fighters didn’t have the escape luxury to engage the bombers. As soon as Darren saw the lights of the bombs released, he again signaled to launch a laser broadside. The waves of energy now coursed into the fully unshielded opponents, tearing their armored hull to shreds and eating away at what looked like command nodes and com centers. The bombs slammed heavily into engine compartments and bows alike, crumpling the engine cores on many enemy ships, and destroying the maneuvers on others. Those ships lucky enough to avoid the bombs began to pull up and away, continuing their portside rolls, and getting out of effective range of the Earth fleet. Darren watched as they gathered their remaining fighters and left the system. Many of their ships were left floating in pieces, with near a dozen left intact but without either engines or maneuvering power. It had been a glorious victory. More than half of the enemy fleet had been wiped out, and not one of their bombers had returned to their fleet. Darren would have to wait for a final assessment of the fleet before he would know their losses and the enemy confirmed kills, but it was a great battle.

“Establish contact with Terra 1, Jenyr, you have the helm,” Darren said and turned to walk from the bridge.

 

Chapter 6: The Beginning Times - The Long Awaited

 

This was a tiresome war. Darren was moving fleets around, jumping system to system to destroy whatever fleets he could. His enemies were fast learners. After the battle of Terra 1, Darren had ordered an immediate evacuation of the planet. Once all the citizens were gone he had sent in marines and the planet had been set with traps and explosives everywhere. A small ship had remained behind, and when the unknown enemy had returned and landed a massive fleet of invasion ships, the explosives had been set off. The total number of casualties for the enemy had been unclear, but estimates regarding the number of ships ranged in the hundreds of thousands. After that, the war had become strictly guerilla in nature.

A supply fleet at Terra 6 had been assaulted, but when Darren had arrived with a fleet, the ambushers had fled. Once he had left an invasion fleet had arrived and taken out most of Terra 6’s defenses. Darren had ordered the evacuation and trapping of the planet, but instead of attempting to invade a second time, the enemy sent a fleet of orbital bombers, and the planet was reduced to slag. When Darren finally managed to get a com sat upgraded, and found a planet he quickly moved in and crushed the resistance, setting up a new human colony that would research the lifestyles of the enemy in order to learn something of their weaknesses. The enemy fleets then captured Terra 5 in a surprise attack.

So, both sides were using satellites to moniter the movement of fleets, and surprise attacks on cargo fleets seemed to be the mode of the battles. Nothing significant had happened in a week, and data from Rapture 1, the former enemy planet had yet to give any helpful information.

Darren had fallen to closely watching enemy fleet movements. There were several central planets, and one in particular caught his attention. Massive numbers of small fleets had been going to and from this planet, making it obvious to Darren that this was either a major source of resources, or that it was a huge production planet. One thing was sure, however: that taking this planet would have a crippling effect on enemy operations in the galaxy. Darren had waited a full week, watching the fleet movement in and out, and finally he saw something important. A medium sized fleet was moving to the planet. The enemy military fleets generally traveled in medium to large fleets, while the merchant fleets were more or less small fleets. This presented Darren with an opportunity to wipe out a military target. So the fleet course had been set, and they would arrive within minutes of the enemy fleet. Get in, shoot them up, and get out was the plan.

Dragon Fire fleet was approaching now to that deadly rendezvous, and in about thirty seconds the fleet would arrive. Darren swung his chair around and called to his com units. “Broadcast the fleet to prepare for battle, weapons power up full, divert all non life-support energy to increase the shields. We’re going to battle.”

A hush fell over the bridge and the orders were carried out quickly. The men and women of the bridge crew knew their job well, and they worked hard. Darren was steely eyed and ready to destroy his opponent’s fleet and take an important planet. The star tunnel out the forward viewscreen snapped into place and the stars went from gracefully spinning lines to sharp points in an instant. When his mind cleared and Darren looked around, he could see instantly that there had been a grave intelligence error. The enemy fleet that had just arrive was indeed only a mid sized fleet, but below and rising fast to meet them was a huge enemy fleet coming to meet them. Darren was awed by the sheer size of the approaching enemy force. Five battleships was all that had come in, a paltry force compared to his massive fleet, even though he only had three battleships. But the approaching fleet was over twenty cruisers, sixty destroyers, and around a hundred and fifty frigates. The whole fleet was over three times the size of his own. Darren watched as the Battleships and cruisers lined up on their approach to his fleet and was awed by the sheer number of fighters and bombers spewing out the sides of the huge ships.

In a flash everything became clear. The merchant fleets coming in and out of the system had been more than just transport ships. Intermingled here and there had been fighters, bombers, cruisers, and other such mid to large ships. When they arrived at the planets, the merchant ships had loaded up and left, and the military ships had stayed behind. When Darren thought about it, it was a great plan, and obviously it had worked out well on his enemy’s part. Darren jolted, there was a fleet to command now.

“Scanners, take a look at the planet and see what they’re using it for. Once you’ve done that, get me a reading of the enemy ships and scan for weaknesses. Weapons, get ready to fire, Coms tell the frigates to get out there and stop all the bombers that they can.”

“Yes sir,” shouted several members of the crew.

“Scramble all the fighters to help the frigates,” said Darren, “scramble the bombers, but have them hold back for later in the fight. We’re going to get out of here.”

 

Chapter 7: The Beginning Times 

 

It was almost too much. Darren saw the approaching cloud of enemy fighters and knew instantly that they would overwelm his frigates and fighters. There was nothing he could do to stop that, and the bombers and heavy ships would move in after the massive wave of fighters. It was unwinnable, and trying to fight it would mean that they would all die in a hopeless battle. With such devastatingly overwhelming firepower the enemy fleet would probably not even feel a scratch from his battle group. There was only one option: an organized and costly retreat.

Darren considered his options quickly, "Divert the bombers half a click on vector 90N, have them hold there." He could already see the enemy fighters beginning to swarm around his frigates, and the shields from his frigates began to light up a brilliant irradescent purple as thousands of laser burst rained down on their sheilds. Darren had sent his bombers half a kilometer in a relative straight up direction, hoping that the opportunity would present itself to jump over the enemy fighter screen and do some heavy dammage to larger ships. His frigates opened fire with their laser batteries and several enemy fighters were blasted to shrapnel in the first salvo, then the space in front of the Lady Ashley went mad.with a frenzy of space fire from both friendly and enemy forces. Darrens fighters arrived and opened up, providing something of a screen for his heavily outgunned freightors. Having the added fighters made the fight between the enemy fighter force and the fielded earth forces fairly even, so the enemy frigates began to move forward and engage Darrens fighters. And that was exactly what Darren had been waiting for.

"Send the bombers over the fighter battle, have them target the lead battleship"

"Sir," a com tech shouted, "got the readout on the planet, its..."

Darren cut him off, "Thats fine, give me the report later, get on the other scans," then, turning his chair the other direction, "Nav, how long till we can back to the jump point out of here?"

"Five minutes, Sir"

That was a hell of a long time. John keyed some commands into his com pad, ordering the frigates and fighters to start falling back at a faster rate, closing the distance between the firefight and the retreating heavy ships. Darren saw his bombers despite their losses, engage the first Battleship and inflict heavy dammage. The first two wings side slipped between the insane number of laser bolts, targeted the shield generators and knocked out much of the ships defensive capability, and then the third assault wave cut down the engines. The Battleship was dead in space, and it wouldnt have many laser shots to fire before its capacitors would run out. The bombers then decapitated the battleship with a salvo of torpedoes that punctured the forward view screen and blasted a hole in the fore end of the destructive ship. laser fire poured out from the battleship, but it was thinning out, and there were still a large number of bombs pummeling it. The ship was far beyond repair.

Even as he celebrated the minor victory to himself, he saw the other battleships fall in with and be surrounded by the cruisers. That was the end of that tactic. A battleship alone was a lot of firepower, but they were severely lacking in shields. The enemy was using an age old tactic, surrounding their battleships with heavily shielded cruisers, allowing their battleships to fire out from the protection of the cruisers. Darren knew that it was hopeless to engage the enemy cruisers so he punched in an order for his bombers to dessist and engage the advancing destroyers instead. And then he saw it coming.

Through the thick of the firefight a column of enemy bombers had formed into a wedge that had driven through the firestorm. Although the column had suffered heavy losses they had punched the barrier and there was nothing separating the enemy bombers and the earth heavy fleet. Darren dropped his jaw as he saw the two hundred bombers barreling towards his now vulnerable fleet...

 

Chapter 8: The Beginning Times 

 

This was where the retreat was going to become costly. There was no way his fleet could stand up for long against two hundred bombers. Not even with his cruisers protecting the battleships could Darren hope to put up much of a fight. This was going to be a lot of damage control.

“Keep the engines full, get us to that jump point. Nav, plot us a course to Iota prime, Coms, get us a line to Earth High command and inform them of these new enemy resources. Get us heavy reinforcements,” Darren snapped. “Weapons, target the bombers and try to pick them off until they launch torps, then try to eliminate as many of the missiles as you can.”

Lasers flashed from every ship in the fleet, blasting into the approaching bombers. At first the lasers were effective, until the tight core of bombers broke apart into a weaving cloud through which the lasers passed almost harmlessly. At maximum range the enemy bombers cut loose a full salvo of missiles trailing blue wakes behind them, the deadly bolts sailed rapidly towards the retreating capital ships as the bombers looped around for another pass. Again the lasers flared out trying with slightly higher success to pick off some of the incoming torpedoes. Darren could see, however, that it wouldn’t be enough.

“Order the fighters and frigates to fall back and attempt to reengage their bombers. Have our bombers try to eliminate as many of their destroyers as possible then rejoin us in two minutes. What’s our time to jump?”

“Two and a half minutes, Sir,” shouted a crewman.

Before Darren could continue the first set of torpedoes slammed into the shields and rocked the ship hard to starboard, flinging more than one crew member to the ground. With that many bombers Darren knew that they didn’t need to concentrate on any one ship, with a couple more salvos they would be able to take out the entire fleet by shooting several dozen torps at a time per ship. Darren didn’t need to even look at his damage screen to see that his shields were already at fifty percent. Errant laser fire from the fighter and frigate battle that edged closer and closer splashed in blue waves over his shields, and Darren had a sick feeling. He saw then, that the enemy bombers were lining up targeting the two battleships, LA KATANA and LADY ASHLEY, at the rear of the retreating column. If this salvo didn’t take him out of commission, then the next would certainly do so, and finish the ship off. Then he saw the bursts of missiles fired and braced for the impact he knew would come. At least maybe with the bombers concentrating on the two battleships, the rest of the heavy fleet might get away. This time the bombers closed in, trying to get in a second salvo without having to loop around again. They had the numbers for a clean kill, and the enemy commander was pressing hard for it. Even with lasers picking off as many torps as possible, when the ship rocked again Darren felt the shields go down, and heard the sickening peel of armor plating being burned and ripped off by torpedoes that broke through. One more blast like that and there were going to be two large lumps of scrap metal in space. Just as the bombers launched their third salvo, the killing blow, Darren knew there wasn’t much he could do.

Then something unexpected happened. LA KATANA broke formation and swung up behind LADY ASHLEY, coming between the enemy bombers and the flagship. Massive numbers of torpedoes smashed into LA KATANA, which, save for a few, took the bombs meant for both ships. Sparks flew from LA KATANA’s engines, an electricity played in blue lightning over the smoking hull of the ship. Darren ordered his coms to try and make contact, but he knew already that everyone was dead. As its engines died out LA KATANA slowed and fell behind the flagship, slowly rolling to its starboard side. Darren saw, as the ship lulled over, the fires pouring out from the massive hole that ate almost a third off the side of the ship. Charred bodies drifted slowly from the rent open hatches and rumbling explosions swelled the remaining slag with intense heat. Darren saw a few more flashes as stay torps hit the hulk, then he saw several pound into the now exposed fusion reactor. In a swell of unstoppable power the hulk of ship blasted into a million metal fragments as raw nuclear energy unleashed tongues of red fury. Darren keyed all weapons power into the shields and managed to bring something of a defense back up before the shockwave of the explosion caught up to the LADY ASHLEY. He could see that the enemy bombers were not so lucky. Their unshielded hulls left them vulnerable, and even as they wheeled about to head away from their unintended blast, it was too late. With grim satisfaction at revenge Darren watched the shards of metal rip through the enemy bomber component tearing all but a few of the bombers to pieces.

When the shockwave reached his ship it was no easy ride. The LADY ASHLEY tilted at a ridiculous angle as it was thrown forward. With no small amount of luck the helm officer managed to steer clear of blasting into any of the other Dragon Fire fleet ships which had been swept up and were now similarly riding the shockwave caused by the horrendous loss of LA KATANA. As the ship leveled out Darren looked at his battle schematics. The explosion had reached as far as the fighter battle, and many of the fighters, friend and foe alike, were now no more than clouds of floating debris. Darren ordered the frigates and bombers, less than half of those committed to the battle, to fall back as fast as possible and set a course for Iota Prime.

“Sir,” the nav officer interrupted him, “With the added speed from the shockwave we’ve cut forty seconds off our time to jump. We’ll be clear in thirty more.”

Darren looked at the battle schematic again. There was nothing significant in range of attack, and his returning frigates were already mopping up the remaining fighters. Apparently the enemy knew they couldn’t catch up and engage again, because their capitol ships were holding their position and the enemy fighters were falling back. Fortunately, there were no bombers left for them to recall.

“Seal any airlocks leading to leaking sections. Notify Iota prime to prepare all its defenses and ready all available fighters and bombers to hold off an attack. We may be out of this fire, but that doesn’t mean this one won’t spread. Remember what you’ve seen today, people. A lot of good men and women died to get us home.”

 

Chapter 9: The Beginning Times - Friends and Foes

 

The Devil’s Gate was cold: too far in deep space to allow Darren a little more at ease. If something happened at Iota Prime there was no way to make it back in time to save the colony. After the huge fleet he had just seen, Darren had little doubt that the alien race had the manpower to take even the largest colony. Things had been relatively calm in the last two weeks, however. Minor raids had continued, a few skirmishes here and there for minor colonies on planets that hardly counted for asteroids. Every scope Darren had was pointed to monitoring for motions of large fleets, especially coming from the planet DragonBane, as the pilots had now taken to calling the location of their last battle. Nothing. It seemed as if the whole battle rested now on seeing what the other side would do… a proverbial stalemate, regardless of the fact that Darren was hopelessly outnumbered.

Orders had come to report to the Devil’s Gate with all but a small contingent of forces, and Darren had to assume he would be reinforced. He guessed that there would be a make up of all the ships he had lost, perhaps even a battleship to fill in for the horrendous loss of the LA KATANA. Still, he almost knew it wouldn’t be enough. Even once again armed with three battleships, he would never be able to take down the fleet he had seen at DragonBane. He knew, already, from his experience and reviewing of battle records that aside from the five battleships at DragonBane, there were eleven more battleships available to the enemy. That was fifteen serviceable battleships in all. Even all the tactics in the world wouldn’t stop that size fleet with only three battleships.

At the very least the reinforcements could help keep his people fresh. With almost all of his fighters annihilated, and more than sixty five percent of the frigates destroyed or being repaired for serious damage, even his destroyers and cruisers were having to go on escort duty. That type of heavy use was more than the ships were designed to see, and Darren was sure it was wearing their crews and engineers down over time.

“Sir,” one of the deck officers intruded into his thoughts, “ships coming through the gate.” Darren sat forward. This was what he needed to break his mood.

A flash of incandescent light illuminated the space around the gate, and a battleship shot through the tunnel that Darren had aligned his fleet into around the gate. Darren’s heart leaped, at least the LA KATANA, and older ship, would be replaced by one of the newer battleships with more firepower. The battleship swung out of the formation and slowly moved to the side of the gate path where other ships might come through, but Darren was dismayed to see that there were no other ships immediately following.

“Coms coming through, Sir,” shouted one of the satellite managers, and Darren shouted back “Put it through to the main screen.”

Admiral Halk’s weathered face appeared on the forward screen, battle aged and lined, although a spark in the eyes showed Darren once again that Halk was not beyond his fighting years. But Halk also outranked Darren, by a couple of ranks. Darren was being benched. Not that he minded, in this case, this was a tough battle.

“Sir,” Darren began, “I take it you are here to take charge of the Dragon Fire fleet?”

“Ha,” Halk snuffed, in a grandfatherly way, “Darren, you know I spent my whole life fighting the Minerians, I’ve no patience left to learn the tactics of a whole new enemy species.” It was true. In the ongoing war against the Minerians, which humans were now decidedly winning, Halk had been the pivotal leader who had turned the tide in many battles. The Minerians were still a strong force, with seven battleships and an ally, the Tankala, who had three more Battleships. But Darren had been there too, and knew that the Minerians were nothing like the enemy they fought now. “I’m here,” Halk continued, “to report under your command, along with my battle group.”

“Sir, you’re battleship will go a long way to help us in our fight against these monsters…” Darren trailed off as Halk waved a hand to silence him.

“First off, High Command has named them Nosgul. Second, you should know that us older admirals pack a little more punch in the High Command’s Council. After reviewing the schematics of your battles, I concluded you would need more than just a simple reinforcement, you needed bolstering. So I got a few more battleships transferred under your command.”

As if on queue, four more Earth Battleships blasted through the gate, slowing to fall in line with the rest of the formed fleet. Darren held back his increasing excitement as various admirals he knew reported into his command, heroes all from the Minerian War. Darren keyed up the com to Halk, who was smiling triumphantly, and asked how High Command could afford to divert all these resources from the war to help out on this front.

“Well,” Halk informed him, “in the months since you left, a disease struck the Minerians pretty hard, started getting the Tankala too. Turns out, Nosgul had something to do with it. They sent a ship through the gate loaded with virus targeted for humans. Buggers didn’t work though, and infected the Minerians. Our scientists developed a cure, and in return the war was ended and an alliance was made. My next surprise, Darren,” Halk trailed off as four more battleships exited the gate, the leading three were Minerian build, and the third was a slightly smaller Tankala Battleship. Darren couldn’t believe his eyes as four former enemies, all of whom he had fought against, and knew very well, even secretly respected, reported in to his command.

“Darren,” Halk continued, “our battle groups as well.” And flashes lit space as hundreds of ships coursed through the gate. Thirty cruisers were followed by 120 destroyers, who in turn led well over five hundred frigates, a thousand bombers, and two thousand fighters. Not all of the ships were of earth design, but all looked battle ready, and capable.

Finally, three more battleships flashed through the gate, two newer model and one older, along with their respective battle groups. To Darren’s dismay these formed up in a separate mass away from Darren’s fleet. The com chimed and Darren hit the receiver. Admiral Janyx flashed on screen, and Darren cringed. He never could trust Janyx. In battles past Janyx had shown initiative, but little in the way of loyalty and honor. If anything, this was the first bit of bad news Darren had since the reinforcements began to arrive. Janyx smiled in that devious way and began to speak, “Darren, my colleague,” it was true, they did share the same rank, but Darren would never consider Janyx an equal. “I trust you don’t want to work with me as much as I don’t want to work with you. That is why it is my pleasure to inform you that we will both be satisfied in this endeavor.”

Darren leaned forward in his command chair. “How so?”

“I have been assigned here along with Admirals Benson and Caytla to serve as a special independent strike force operating to remove enemy support structures. I will not need orders from you, nor will you need orders from me. High command thought it best that I and my admirals operate independently.”

The lack of ability to use those three ships and their escorts was a sad thing, but Darren would not miss any of those commanders. Their ability and honor in the field had shown time and again that they would not follow orders with the precision and speed needed to win a major battle in this war. Ten battleships to his command would be enough, he could overcome the difference.

“Sir,” said a coms officer with a hint of worry to his voice, “our forces report attack on Iota Prime is in progress with scans showing an incoming fleet from DragonBane. It’s the one we fought last time, sir.”

Time to get back to Iota Prime, Darren thought with grim satisfaction at the surprise he had in store.

Columns

Arthur Pendragon

Avatards!

 

Foreword 

 

"Check." Biddie said as he moved a strange looking chess pieces across the board. "That's the fourth time in a row. I'll have you mated soon, Krinkle." A small, white, tuft of hair was sticking out past the chess board, waggling as Biddie talked. It was, in fact, part of Biddie's personal features. That, and his shrunken body, shiny head, and curly goatee. He had two large green eyes, which, despite the rather comical form of his body, seemed extremely powerful and strong. There's a good chance that this was because he was the God of Power.

"Yes, but I shall soon escape from your little trap, and then all of your pieces will be DEAD! Mwahahahaa!!! DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD!!!" A bulbous little man was piled upon a tiny chair as he laughed maniacly. He looked as if he were the happiest man in the world. A great big, jolly galoot was the God of Death, Krinkle. "Just like your stupid avatar will be! My avatar will walk right up to him and kill him, and then DEATH is all that will be! Mwahahahaa!!!"

"Oh, do shut him up, will you Biddie? I'm tired of hearing that idiot go on about death all of the time. Someone needs to lift a finger and kill his avatar. This nonsense has gone on for far too long." A tall, slim man with brown hair and an epée sticking out of his belt was browsing a gigantic bookshelf to the left of the fanatstic chess game. He looked to be the dignified sort, although Gods of Life tend to be.

"Okay, Murigah, hold on, just let me mate him. That'll shut him up for a little while. But didn't you hear the news? Krinkle's avatar finally got killed like everyone else's! He's just carrying on about it in the hopes that no one knows." Krinkle looked up, still looking bemused, then pointed at the knight currently putting his king into check and incinerated it. Biddie shrugged and made another move, causing Krinkle to continue screaming again.


Elsewhere and meanwhile, a gigantic ape of a woman with deepset black eyebrows and muscles the size of glaciers was playing a lute, causing a beautiful melody that seemed to flow like water from the end of the lute. This was Gormanie, Goddess of Music. Sitting on her left was Rahja, God of Intoxication And The Many Different Ways You Can Become So. He was drinking from a large keg he held on his shoulders that spilled out great fountains of ale into his mouth. He was what would be best described as a dwarf, owning a huge beard with food still stuck in it and bloodshot bulging eyes. His hair was tangly and shot out like an untamed procupine, pulled to a point in many places by earwax. He seemed to be enjoying the music immensely.

"My avatar just died in this damn Sex-War. Stupid six hundred year old thing, all over some stupid game of checkers that Inlex and Fas had a thousand years ago. I swear to God, those two are ALWAYS bickering over one thing or another. A game of checkers starts a six hundred year war! I just don't understand it. I really liked my avatar, too. He could take down seven barrels before he passed out! I mean, is that amazing, or what?" Rahja sat back looking disgruntled, fingering his beard and pouring a fountain of ale into his mouth, one eye twitching.

"Of course it is, dear. But you really need to let it go. My avatar died one hundred and fifty some years ago, and you don't see me weeping. If anything it's been a blessing. I don't need to worry about that godforsaken war any more. And we were on different sides, too. Just think how awful our relationship got because my avatar kept stealing your avatar's beer. I can finally just sit back and play my lute to you, and we can finally just relax. In fact, it almost seems as if the war is calming down. Look, Inlex isn't even sneaking into Fas's throat and trying to suffocate him anymore." Gormaine, despite her montrous form, somehow made herself look nice and caring. She was even giving Rahja a little hug.

"I suppose so, Gormaine, but it's only because of Melody's doing. Law and Chaos will always be at odd ends, and we need Melody to bring in Nuetrality to stop it. She's the only one tough enough to stand up to them." Rahja looked down at his hand, and then balled it into a fist.

"Except for Ranque and Illume of course. They just don't feel like getting involved." Gormaine stopped playing her music and put her full attention into comforting her husband, but Rahja wouldn't have it. He continued to babble on.

"You know Law and Chaos are stronger than Good and Evil! I mean, just look at how everything works! Only humans worry about good and evil, while plants, animals, and humans alike all are involved with law and chaos. They do have a strong hold, though... But that's beside the point. I'm just glad that Melody worked things out. It's about time this bloody war ended." Rahja was definitely angry, but his wife's beautiful music was finally getting to him. He began to drift into the bliss of optimism. Seeing that she was making a difference, Gormaine continued.

"Yes, I agree in all aspects. Anyway, it looks like we're all going to have to find new avatars. It's such a bother, though! You have to scour the earth for someone who's just right... It has to be one the most annoying things I've ever had to do, besides inventing Disco, mind you. That was Hell. I've been kicking myself for ever bothering to create it. It's a good thing the humans haven't caught wind of it yet." Gormaine looked like a giant Amazon again. Her face contorted into something so scary that it would make a grown man wet himself. She proceeded to bang herself on the head with her lute.

"You're right, getting an avatar is going to immensely aggravating. It's something you can't get around, though. Humans would just stop caring about us if we didn't have some powerful figure to murder a few non-believers now and then. Ah well, It'll work out."

Having finished their conversation, the two fell silent to the beautiful strumming of Gormaine's lute. The smells of godly perfume and the delightful atmostphere found both of the Gods asleep, just as a centaur walked past and looked at the two quizzically. He was wearing a shiny silver crown and had sleek white fur, with black horseshoes. His face was an old one, full of wisdom and knowledge. This was Hubrii, God of Epiffanies. He had been listening to the entire conversation and, not surprisingly, had an epiffany.

"Resumes! We can give our high priests resumes! Then THEY can do all of the scouting! Sometimes, I even amaze myself!" Hubrii was ecstatic with happiness. He was actually jumping up and kicking his hooves together, a very undignified act for any centaur.

Later Hubrii shared his thoughts with the other Gods, and, Gods being lazy, they decided that it was a wonderful idea.




Chapter 1



Morkei groped around under his desk.

"Where.. is.. that.. blasted quill!!!" He had dropped it earlier, and his bad back was preventing him from leaning over fully.

"Once I get that damnable thing... I swear I will tear it apart!" His back was starting to hurt doublefold. He continued to grope, however, because he needed that quill now perhaps more than he ever had. Morkei was filling out his resume to become an avatar. Only the most powerful of people ever became avatars, but Morkei believed he was the man for the job.

An avatar is the physical representation of a god. Gods don't usually wish to directly meddle in human affairs, and if they did it wouldn't be fair at all. Instead they find some highly powerful human who worships them and makes him their representative. Then they power him up, give him a bunch of holy symbols... the works. Morkei was filling out a resume he had found on the body of a priest that had tried to invade his castle.

"I will be the Avatar of Death if I have to write this blasted thing in my own blood!" He hadn't found his quill yet, and he was getting at least a little ticked off. In fact, he was starting to smoke, literally. Morkei was a wizard. A very powerful wizard. He only dealt in the darkest and most evil of magics, not afraid to use them to destroy entire cities. In fact, he had done so on four or five occasions throughout his lifetime. This usually got villagers angry at him, but one has to make sacrifices for pleasure sometimes. All work and no play was not something Morkei upheld. Many a time groups of villagers had braved the swamps surrounding his castle top slay him. Most villagers just died horribly from the hordes of mosquitoes, or were engulfed by quicksand, but a few lucky folks had gotten past the swamps. They felt like the luckiest bunch in the world, until they found themselves over a simmering pool of lava. Naturally, none of them ever found their way past that. Most of them ended up turning back and then dying in the swamps on their way back, their luck having been used up on the way there. It was practically impossible for any person to get into Morkei's tower without the use of flight, which was almost as rare as the survivors of the swamp. Then again, anyone who had learned enough to fly wasn't stupid enough to attack Morkei.

Finally, Morkei found his quill. He didn't say a thing. He simply picked it up, stared at it, and frowned. A person under that frown would most likely find that their bowls had released themselves, but as this was a quill no such thing happened. Morkei started to write, all the while mumbling what was being written.

"Morkei... 148 years of age... has worshipped Krinkle the God of Death for 117 years... wants to start immediately... likes to destroy entire cities and large amounts of people... hobbies are: spells of mass destruction, watching as angry villagers feebly attempt to enter tower... making clones to confuse people... learning new mass destruction spells..." Morkei's brow was furrowed in thought. He couldn't remember the last time he had been challenged with something like this! The need to fill the form out.. to think.. it was all very exciting to him, and it absorbed him entirely. Soon, however, the form was complete and Morkei's challenge ended.

"There. Now that I've finished this thing, I can have it sent! I wonder how long it will take for them to decide who the avatar will be? I don't see why it will take any time, considering that I'm running for it. Who else can they choose?"

**********

Fenron stomped the bloody head into the ground. He had just killed a man, not a very physically imposing man, but a person nonetheless. The man didn't even look like a mean guy, but he was dead anyway. He looked like some random peasant, maybe a blacksmith judging my his worked forearms and biceps.

"I get disgusted at how easily they fall these days. I'm starting to get far too powerful. Oh well, no one has ever said there is much sport in murder. Let's see, that's the fifth today, and 4,678th overall. I'm really starting to get a massive body count here."

Fenron stood over the man's body now, black cloak trailing in the chilling wind. He had it cowled over his face, to the effect that it seemed the only things within the cloak were his eyes. Deep and blue, they almost ushered death to any who might care to stare. He lept from the hillside and down the shallow ravine, toward the city of Lorph.

"If they see me there they'll be sure to send all of their guards after me. That's exactly what I want." He smiled a dark smile and pressed onward.

He continued to move silently across the hillside, almost at the edge of Lorph. As soon as he had reached it, he was hailed by the guards at the gates.

"Stop now, traveler. Identify yourself and state your buisiness or leave!" The guards had arrows pointed at Fenron, already suspicious of him. He was, after all, wearing a completely back cloak and looked, to the common observer, generally frightening.

"The name given to me by deceased mother was Fenron, but I have been given a new name by the families of others who are currently visiting the underworld. I am known as the Dark Lurker." At the mention of his alias the guards let out gasps. This man was #1 on the hit lists of countries for miles around. "My buisiness is only for me to know."

"You cannot pass! Leave here, or we will commence the firing of our arrows!"

Fenron smiled under his cloak, an action unnoticeable to all but him. He had done this countless times before.

"Leave? My invitation is worn out already? I think not. I have traveled far to reach this city, and I don't intend to be stopped by handful of foolish guards." The guards raised their weapons higher and cocked their crossbows. Boiling oil was being rolled over the murder holes.

"If you take one more step forward, we will fire upon you!"

"One step? All right, I won't take any." With that Fenron bent down and lept straight off of the ground in a superhuman act. No one had ever done what he was doing without the aid of magic. His cloak fluttered in the breeze as he sailed to the top of the the Gatehouse.

"He's on the roof! Fire, men!"

Fenron was already bounds ahead of them. He had ducked around a steeple on the roof, almost entirely invisible under the cover of its shadow. The arrows harmlessly bounced off the roof's shingles.

"Where did he go? Is he in the town already?" Several worried cries went back and forth between guardsmen. After a few minutes, Fenron made another leap, this time straight into the section of the Gatehouse where the guards were situated.

"He's in here! Pull out your swords! Commence melee attack!" But it was too late for the guards to be prepared. Most of their swords were leaning on the walls or hanging in racks.

The resulting sword fight lasted less than ten seconds. A black long sword, glittering in the moonlight, flashed from under that dreadful cloak and made its way into the hearts of every guardsman in the Gatehouse. With a final showman's act, the Dark Lurker hurled his sword into the air, and after catching it simultaneously sheathed it.

"4, 692." He jumped off of the tower and onto the streets below, where hundreds of townfolk had gathered to see what the commotion was. Several screams followed his drop.

"It's the Dark Lurker! Run for your lives!" As the Dark Lurker ran through the crowd, the Black Blade flashed in the moonlight over and over again. He was gone just as quickly as he had appeared, leaving only dead bodies in his wake.

"4, 701." He said as his parting word.

He crept through alleyways until he had finally reached what he sought. It was a beautiful temple, inlaid with gold. Several statues of a giant skeleton wielding a great scythe could be seen all around the building.

"The Temple of Death." He muttered under his breath, gliding through the clearing surrounding it and entering without a sound. He continued to soundlessly trot through the temple until he sighted a priest, at which point he made himself known.

"I am here to be an avatar." He whispered into the priest's ear.

"Aah! You scared me! Where did you come from? I haven't seen you around here before."

"I came with the wind itself. I would like to be your avatar." The priest looked at first surprised at the frankness of this strange man who had appeared suddenly from no where, but he quickly got a hold on himself and began to follow his resume protocall.

"You must first fill out a resume, then bring it back when you are finished. We prefer not to have them filled out in the actual temple, though, so you will have to go back with the wind to wherever you came from and fill it out there." The priest looked somewhat angry at not being told where the man had come from. He did not like to guess.

"May I have the resume, please?" Fenron did not seem to care in the least that the priest was angry.

"Yes, of course. Just let me find it." He fished around in his cloak's large pockets until he discovered the resume. "Here you are." As soon as Fenron had recieved it he was gone.

**********

A giant was walking through the streets. He looked dull, stupid, and muscular. He had enough muscle mass to feed a small country, and his great blond lock of hair could have been sewn into a full sized tunic. He was wearing a tunic himself, with nothing covering his arms (the sort of arms that ripple when you see them, and can crush heads with a whim), and baggy rags upon his legs. On his back was a giant sword, the hilt made of bone and the blade of Rinellium. His name was Vondbar, and he was going straight towards the Temple of Power.

"Ah'm gonna be Avatar o' Power. That's what ah'm gonna do. Who kin stop me? Ah a'int never seen someone taller 'n me, so there must be no one better 'n me. Ah would smash 'em if they were!"

If one was to attempt to understand Vonbar's mind, let them first be warned. Vondbar was born with many talents - unfortunately none of them were mental. He was strong as an ox, as big as a tree, and had the attention span of a mule. He could understand things, he could even put two and two together to make four. It wasn't that he was immensely stupid, it was just that he could only do one thing at time. If you gave him a math problem then he would start it and probably get it right, eventually, just if you smacked him in the head while he was thinking he wouldn't have noticed. Doctors have classified his condition as: STUPID, but it really should be called, 'One-Train-Of-Thought-At-A-Time Syndrome.'

Vonbar continued to walk, but with no apparent conciousness of it. His one train of thought at this point was centered entirely on how tall he was, so there was no room for navigation. He soon ran straight into the Archpriest of Power.

"Watch what you're doing you reeking piece of festering skin! I've seen morons in my day, but now that I've seen an ogre like you my records are set! Get out of the way, you muddled apparation!!!"

Now that Vondbar had run into this small, insignificant, person, his brain had a chance to shift gears. He noticed that he was on top of some tiny man's leg. Obviously, he wasn't important or powerful in any way because he was only five and a half feet tall. Although, Vondbar could have sworn that the man seemed sort of important. In fact, this man looked sort of angry. Come to think of it, it seemed this man was saying something.

"-going to get off my leg or am I going to have to call down the heavens on you?!?"

Vondbar began to think, so it was obvious that he couldn't move his leg. Call down the heavens? Hey! That sounds sort of like what some religious priest guy might say! Maybe this was a priest guy!

"'R you a priest guy?"

"What? Priest guy! What kind of stupid shambling mound are you! You'd have to have the brain equivilant to a hamster in order to call the Archpriest of Power a 'priest guy!' Yes, I am a priest, but what would an irritating idiot like you want with a priest?"

"Well, ah'm gonna be th' Avatar o' Power! Ah'm th' biggest person ah know, and ah kin SMASH things! Ah kin pull a tree from th' groun' 'n then play grind its bones t' bake m' bread!"

"You? You want to be an avatar?!? Only a fool thinks he can just walk up to an Archpriest of Power and become an avatar!" The archpriest looked Vondbar up and down, and then reconsidered. "I suppose you look powerful enough..." The next part of what the Archbishop said sounded monotonous and memorized, like it had been said hundreds of times before. "You have to fill out our resume, straight from our Diviner to our lovely Parchments of Power, which have been passed down and amended for 50 generations... Biddie, how many times have I said that? Do you want the resume?"

"Yes." Vondbar suddenly remembered that if people talked nice then you should probably say please. "Please."

"Okay, fine. I would get it for you, only I've had trouble of late walking into my Church when I have a 400 poud weight on my legs!" The priest was yelling at Vondbar now, his eyes bulging and his face red.

"You have a 400 pound weight 'n your legs? Wowee, mister! Ah only lift 900 pound weights with m' legs-"

"-No you moron, you're standing on my Biddie damned legs!!!"

"Oh, ah'm sorry! Ah didn't mean-" Vondbar removed his legs as the Archpriest interjected.

"-Just shut your mouth. Wait here, I'll have your stupid resume in a minute." The Archpriest limped up the steps, cursing to himself.

"Okay, ah'll wait right 'ere."

"You do that."

And that's just what Vondbar did. The Archpriest returned momentarily with the resume, still limping and cursing.

"Take it and fill it out somewhere else. Then, bring it here tomorrow. Got that?"

"Okay, I'll be 'ere t'morrow, buh bye."

The Archpriest raised an eyebrow, then spun around and stalked away. Vondbar looked at his resume, turned, and walked toward his home. He kept on walking straight ahead for what seemed like hours. He finally breached the city's walls, then continued to walk straight.

"Due north. Straight, straight." He kept on walking, until he reached a cozy little log cabin, which was not too far from Faerith, the city he had just left. The cabin was to the north of Faerith, where the grassy fields began to turn into a treacherous forest. He opened the door to the hut and entered into a beautifully furnished little house, where he immediately plopped down into a chair.

"Ah wonder if ah'll be picked for th' job. Ah'll probably be th' one, 'cause Ah'm eight feet tall! Ah don't think that they would take anybody else." Because he could only think about one thing at a time, Vondbar stopped talking and began to fill out his resume.

**********

"Time to go!" Keedo said as he slunk out of his shack. He had a huge smile on his face, but that was never unusual for Keedo. His smile made people hate him. They hated him because they knew exactly what he was thinking behind that smile. He was always right, and always won. He knew what was going on all of the time. He knew that the people hated him, and he liked that. That just made them hate him even more. It was a deadly cycle that led to infinity hate minus one, because hate can never reach infinity, as ruled by Jukkalo, the Goddess of Annoying Numbers and Calculus. And he was so oily looking, he just seemed unclean. The man was a fish. He had never gotten caught, but there were many close binds. He had 'slipped out' of every one, giving him his title. The Fish. He was truly the most masterful thief who had ever lived. Better than even Robin Hood, although it would not be wise to call him a thief, as he considers himself 'a seeker of rare and pretty items.' One would find your pockets emptied if you were to give him any other title, although one's pockets would probably be emptied anyway.

"It's a truly dreadul day today, isn't it? That's always a good sign." He had just closed the door, and was now jogging along the road. "It will be positively wonderful seeing the painful look on everyone's face after I become an avatar! I have to be picked. No one else could be. Trickery is my main department. Never caught, never will be! Life is good."

He continued to talk to himself until he reached a funny little building that seemed to be very neglected. It was dirty, ramshackle, and seemed as if it would fall apart at any moment.

"Ah! Here it is!" He walked in, and was immediately inside one of the largest and grandest places he had ever laid his eyes on. "Aah. The temple of trickery."

"What is it that you don't need, ma'am?" A man standing idly at the side asked.

"I am, quite obviously, a sir, and should be addressed as one! The nobles of the kingdom deserve no less. And of course I do not need your help, old boy, as the person I see does not seem at all capable of giving help. Look at yourself." Keedo was enjoying his little trick game with the priest. He always did when he came to worship.

"I am looking, ma'am, and all I see is the most serious person in the world, who could never mistake you for a ma'am if you were'nt one."

"You are obviously not looking close enough, old boy! If you failed to miss it then you must be blind! I knew that monks sometimes would become a eunuch, but never have I seen a blind one."

"I am not blind except to things that I do not see, ma'am. I am again looking, ma'am, and I am sure I am not mistaken."

"You peasants always miss the most obvious of things. I will show you then." Keedo moved toward the priest.

"Much obliged, ma'am, please point out what I am failing to see."

Keedo moved within half an arms length of the priest. He grabbed both of the priest hands with only one of his own. His other hand was busy searching the priest's robes.

"I once courted a gypsy, and although it was poor for my image, I learned a wonderful trade. Let's see here... Your palms tell me that you are decieving yourself. They say that your eyes have been transformed into the most false things that ever existed. They are worse than fools' gold." Keedo had already emptied the mans pockets into his, and he finally found what he had wanted. "Your hands also tell me that I have already found what I seek, and that I need no more of your help." With that he let the priest's hands go and snapped the resume in front of the priest's face. Keedo whirled and walked out of the building.

"Tricky little bugger." the priest exclaimed.

 

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The Gods (Appendix)

 

The Gods are curious things, not really people but not usually much different from them anyway. They are selfish, arrogant, and love war, exactly the same as their human counterparts. However, much differently to humans, they can have any shape or form and have nearly unlimited power. That they have unlimited power is most often a misconception, however. The Gods' powers come from the things that believe in them and follow their ways. This does not only hold to people. Some gods don't even have a single human worshipping them. For example, the Goddess of Those Little Helicoptery Things That Fall From Trees does not have a single person following her, except for that weird hermit who thinks he is a dog. Ah, and that is another thing entirely about the Gods. There are millions and millions and billions and trillions of gods. Pilas Syntfike, the first man ever to pay a visit to the Realm of the Gods, tried to document the number but decided to stop when his hand fell off due to severe writer's cramp. He finished with his other hand, however, a messy little sentence that said, "Regardless of the exact number, there are a hell of a lot of gods!" By publishing this 'secret' knowledge to the denizens of earth he was immediately banished to Hell, where there are by no means a lot of gods as he had predicted. Rather, there are hordes of bloodthirsty demons that are fond of castration. But that is a different topic. The Gods' amount of power, as said before, depends on what worships them. For many millennia, the two most powerful gods have been Fas and Inlex, the gods of law and chaos, respectively. Law and chaos govern every single thing in the universe, so naturally these two have much more power than anyone else. Anyone except for, of course, Melody. Melody is the Goddess of Neutrality, and as a side affect, of Nature. She never really dabbles in the human world, but she is seen everywhere nonetheless. It is argued that she is more powerful than either Inlex or Fas, but she never flaunts her power so this is yet to be proven. Many other well known gods, such as the gods of Good and Evil, Ranque and Illume. Ranque, a god, believes in all things good and hates killing, murders, etc. Illume, a goddess, revels in war and death, etc., hating goody-too-shoes bastards like Ranque. The common observer may believe that they should be extremely powerful, as everyone that someone knows has issues with right and wrong. However, what that observer fails to realize is that humans, and only humans, (although elves and dwarves also to a lesser degree) worry about this whole good/bad hogwash. The entire animal kingdom only wants to eat, sleep, and procreate, never thinking, "Oh no, I cannot hump this monkey because my best friend picked out her fleas." Certainly not, that would be an animalia nightmare. The observer must understand that humans and their cousins (not monkeys, but elves, dwarves, etc.) are not the only things that give power to a god or goddess. It is just this thought that encourages the human race to only know of a few thousand gods, rather than the amount that can break a scribe's hand. Gods and goddesses are plentiful and pop up much faster than humans, but perhaps not as fast as mosquitos. Another mistake that the common observer is likely to make is that a god's name and visage should match what they are a god of. This is almost always exactly the opposite case. For example, as seen above Ranque is the good god, even though his name sounds like a dead body, and he looks like a terrorist, whereas Illume, a nice name, with soft sounds and a an association with light, a good thing generally, is an evil, evil, she-bitch. But she looks so beautiful that she would Aphrodite (although not real) commit suicide over being so ugly when compared to someone. These are the characteristics of the gods, in a general sense. By reading through that one column the reader will probably make their own conclusions on the matter.


The Gods So Far (updated frequently)

Fas - God of Law [Tall, human like man with chiseled features, glows]

Inlex - God of Chaos [Wispy smoke with eyes and a mouth that floats around]

Melody - Goddess of Neutrality and Nature [Little girl with perfect features and green eyes]

Ranque - God of Good [Short and angry looking, with big angry eyebrows and angry wrinkles]

Illume - Goddess of Evil [Tall, fine, and amazingly gorgeous]

Biddie - God of Power [Shrunken pot belly with a white tuft of hair]

Krinkle - God of Death [Bulbous little man, looks extremely jolly]

Murigah - God of Life [Tall, slim, and dignified]

Gormaine - Goddess of Music [Gigantic ape of a woman with huge bushy eyebrows]

Rahja - God of Intoxication And The Many Different Ways You Can Become So [Dwarf with beer]

Hubrii - God of Epiphanies [Centaur with a shiny silver crown and sleek white fur]

Jukkalo - Goddess of Annoying Numbers and Calculus [Current form is a living protractor]

Whelp - Goddess of Trickery [Medium female with seven slitted eyes]




The list will be added to as gods are created, so check this often if you want to keep up with my story. The gods all have relationships with one another, for example, Gormaine and Rahja are married. They know each other and do different things together. These gods and this world are all part of a book I am writing called Avatards!, so I will post if it is ever published.

 

The Great Sex-War (Appendix)

 

This amazing six hundred year war only recently ended with the ascendance of Fas over Inlex. It was a war a gigantic proportions between nearly every single avatar on the planet. And as all people know, there are trillions of gods, and therefore trillions of avatars. The most heated battle remained among the human kind and the gods they recognized, however. This battle was only between a few thousand avatars, ranging from the Avatar of Fas (the late Ferlion) to the Avatar of Rhaja (the late Ozgod). These avatars all took one of two sides: that of Law or that od Chaos. The war started when Inlex decided that Fas and cheated in a chess game, and that he would get back at Fas no matter how much death or life resulted. Fas and Inlex, being the most powerful gods by far, made each and every god who did not want to have one of the most powerful beings in the universe hating them choose a side. This resulted in every single important god but Melody getting on one side of the war against the other. The gods' avatars fought for six hundred years in never ending battle until a change finally resulted. Ferlion and Kalikite (the late Avatar of Inlex) finally waded through all the "unimportant" avatars of the other gods and met each other in fierce combat. Each one was a perfect match for the other. The fight between the two lasted for another 200 years after the first 400, when Melody's avatar, the living Lynn, walked into the battle and quickly slew both of them. This, naturally, caused quite an uproar in the godly community, but everyone except for Fas and Inlex had not wanted the war anyway. Everyone eased back into the normal godly life without the Sex-War except for Fas, Inlex, and Melody. Fas and Inlex were very angry at Melody for killing their highly powerful avatars, and so decided, for the first time ever, that they would team up on her. Naturally, this attempt at a cooperation failed between such opposites, but they still managed to attack Melody. Inlex, as the first one to reach her, was also the first one to receive a returning blow. Melody, in a matter of seconds, nearly converted all of Inlex's followers. She would have done the same to Fas, but when he saw what the two were doing he took advantage of the situation and disappeared. Neutrailty between law and chaos had been toppled, law now rising high to the top. Melody lost much of her power because the world was no longer neutral, and Fas quickly quashed any attempts by Inlex to get himself reestablished. The world became one gigantic predictable rock, where the wind blew in patterns and the sun rose and set at exactly the same times every day. The gods wondered where things might go, angry to see that there was now only one god controlling all the happenings, not three. Usually people had been able to worship at any temple, but Fas had seen to it that only his were left. Thousands of gods were without power. The war had only resulted in the loss of avatars and power. Fas was the only winner.




This happens only a few decades before the story takes place, for a little background info. More appendixes and story to come.

 

The Heroes of the Present (Appendix)

 

The Heroes of the Present (Appendix)

Morkei the Demonic (Morkei Rhujari)

Morkei's physical appearance

may seem like that of a 90 year old man, but a person looking at him would

not envision a feeble old man. He gives off a projection of confidence, power,

and strength. A look into his burning red eyes reveals countless years of

wisdom and things that no normal human has ever seen. Morkei usually wears

a cloak that flows from Morkei's back like a waterfall. It is the color of

brimstone, an ash gray with fiery swirls throughout. Along the sides of his

cloak runes are magically engraved, giving Morkei a protection against nearly

all forms of harm.

Morkei carries around any device,

knickknack, magical ingredient, etc. that he may need to use at any point

in his adventures. His cloak is enchanted so that he may sleep any number

of things into his great flowing sleeves. They weigh nothing and can be any

size, due to a spell that sends anything that Morkei puts in his cloak into

a personal pocket dimension. (Which, it turns out, is literally a 'pocket'

dimension) With this seemingly unlimited space Morkei can carry anything

he wants - the only problem is finding them. Morkei carries as much as he

can without having to search for objects.

Morkei is the self proclaimed most powerful wizard in the world. He has occasionally seen other wizards in his travels, but according to him, he is the oldest and wisest of them

all. Having less than a century until his first millennia of age, Morkei

is undoubtedly one of the oldest beings alive today. He was born in a rustic

area of Doublin 947 years ago. His father smuggled goods for the local wizard,

Fhakkal, who was known by all never mentioned. Wizardry has never been popular

or widely known. With such a connection to Fhakkal, Morkei ended up being

apprenticed under him when Fhakkal discovered Morkei's great magic potential.

However, Fhakkal was a very self possessed person, and so only trained Morkei

to increase his own power. When Morkei reached the age of 27, he had already

almost exceeded Fhakkal's 74 year old level of power. Fhakkal became angry

and banished Morkei to Hell, otherwise known as the Realm of Demons. Morkei

was scared at first, but soon realized that he could overcome most of the

demons there. He confidently marched to the Lord of Demons himself requesting

a leave from the Realm of Demons. The Demon King was so amused that he granted

Morkei's request, sending him back to the Dimension of Humans. Morkei did

not let anyone who had known him know that he had returned for 13 years,

which he spent in seclusion studying magic furiously. He deemed himself ready

at the end of these 13 years, and soon went to confront Fhakkal. Morkei easily

overwhelmed Fhakkal and killed him. Having upheld his revenge, Morkei joined

a powerful wizard's guild known as the Mighty Hand and quickly gained respect

and a high position there. When Morkei reached the age of 90, he created

an extremely powerful and as yet undiscovered spell: immortality. He casted

it upon himself, then left the guild and began to search the world and different

dimensions. Soon he was an expert on nearly every known dimension and world,

including the Realm of Demons which he later returned to. He made good friends

with the Demon King, sharing each other's knowledge and desires. Morkei finally

returned to earth in the year 2000, deciding that he would make the second

millennium his glorious return. What he found surprised him greatly. The

humans, in the short span of 1000 years, had discovered millions of things

that had taken other races tens of thousands of years. Morkei was extremely

pleased at this. However, he soon realized that he was not the first to notice

this. An ancient alien race called the Kalites wished to instill the humans'

superior intellect in themselves - only the only way to do this would be

to abduct countless citizens and some livestock by accident and do many viscous

scientific studies on them, usually fatal. Morkei was extremely angry at

this, and soon attempted to defend the human race all on his own. He was

defeated and nearly killed, and so visited his old friend the Demon King,

requesting a boon to protect the humans. The Demon King did not wish to meddle

in human affairs, but still granted Morkei his request. Morkei's power increased

in dramatic amounts with the Demons behind him, and so in the year 2002 he

reemerged into the world looking to kill some Kalites. He changes his name

to Morkei the Demonic, now being almost half a demon, and also underwent

some physical changes such as burning red eyes and slightly red tinted skin.

Today he patrols the earth in search of Kalites, having just returned from

Hell.

Dark Matter

No one knows what Dark Matter truly looks like. Whenever he is seen he is in a different form, being able to shapeshift. It is rumored, however, that he looks like humanoid wisps of dark impeneratable smoke.

Dark Matter uses whatever he wants and needs to use, being able to trasform himself into anything. He will often create various weapons from his body. However, he very often fights with only his hands, which are more deadly on him than any weapon.

Little is known about the mysterious bounty hunter who has dubbed himself "Dark Matter." He constantly changes shapes at will in order to defeat his prey, and his physical prowess seems infinite. He has never lost in a fight in his known life. He is also extremely intelligent and has great insight, but unlike his strength his mental prowess does know boundaries. This seems the only way he has ever lost or come close to losing. However, he has only failed in a mission once before, against the intergalactic menace Mind Ravager, who defeated Dark Matter by tricking him into entering a strange pocket dimension. Dark Matter does have the ability to use dimensional travel, but his surroundings were so strange that he had no idea where he was. Traveling to a random dimension is exceedingly dangerous, even for a so-called god, and so by the time Dark Matter had escaped his prison his charge was long gone and he had lost his mission. Otherwise, Dark Matter has been successful in capturing many of the most dangerous villains throughout the galaxy. Not a soul knows where he comes from or what race he is, although most are content to know that he seems to be on the side of the law. He has not, as yet, accepted a bounty against someone who was not a criminal, but most do not know if he ever will. He is always very short in his conversations and usually is in the shape of another being when doing business, so it is not known how many times he has truly made contact with people. He is seen as a pillar of society, but among the government and rogue alien races he is a time bomb waiting to explode. Scientists have been trying to find a way to subdue for decades in the event that he may 'change sides,' but so far they have been completely unsuccessful. Dark Matter was recently hired by a Phez official to defeat a human technology theif who has called himself Mustafah.

The Nymph (Kayla Enscia)

A vixen, to say the least. Remarkably beautiful, even for an elf. Out of every 100,000 people, she is the best looking. But no, she's not unproportionate like every usual superhero woman, she has regular sized everything. She is just beautiful. Kayla carries an excelentely carved elven blade that is 1372 years old, which can not break, be chipped, or dirtied in any way. It cuts slighty better than a normal sword, but not much. The real power of the blade is in the wielder. She also has a magical bow that shoots Phantom Arrows, which are basically energy arrows generated by the bow. However, each arrow saps a small amount of strength from Kayla, and can eventually drain her if she uses it too much. The bow's arrows can pierce as much as an anti-tank rifle can, with the same power. Kayla Sylvastia was born June 21st, 1980, 12:00 PM under the summer solistice. She was an elf, a people who were fair, fast, strong, and cunning. She was no exception. In fact, she seemed to be one of the best. This may have been because of a legend which lived among her people, which said that the child born under the high sun on the longest day will purge the world of its woes. Urged by her family and friends Kayla followed this legend, soon being the only elf in hundreds of years to leave hiding and visit the World of Humans. She was at first very alienated and wanted to return desperately to her home, but soon her destiny beckoned. Her poor street sense found her in a dark alleyway outside of a building being robbed by Mustafah's main man, Gore Blood. Gore Blood soon broke through a wall and popped out right in front of Kayla. He had stolen a unique piece of technology being researched by Megak Inc., the once leader in everything scientific. Gore Blood, seeing this beautiful and perfect female body before him, could not resist. He tried to rape Kayla. But one thing to NEVER do is try to touch an elf. She was soon dodging all around him and using her superior speed and agility to dart around him and hit him from the back. Soon Gore Blood was down, just before The Banisher and IQ200 showed up. One thing led to another and 'The Sylph' found herself a part of the group of heroes known as The Last Defense. Kayla also has the power to utilize the elements to a minor degree, as well as speak to animals and plants.

Ozgod Dragonslayer

Ozgod is the usual dwarf, short and stocky with a giant greasy beard, but he is bulging with muscles. He is slightly taller than the usual dwarf, towering a good 5' 2" off the ground. He is extremely physically able, able to lift around two and a half tons, a tremendous feat, even for a dwarf. He has brown hair, which is long and curly. He has two braids in both his beard and his hair, tied together with strands of gold. Ozgod wields a gigantic double-headed axe that is inlaid with gold and silver and covered with runes. This axe is called the Orkandoon, or Dragon Skinner. It can cut through practically anything when aided by Ozgod's tremedous strength. Ozgod also wears a full suit of Dwarven Plate mail, although it is modified to be less bulky and conspicuous to humans who are unaware of the existence of dwarves. This armor is also magical, weighing much less than the usual Dwarven Plate but also much more protective. His armor has been known to repell alien ion cannons. Ozgod is one of the few dwarves who has left the security of the dwarven realm under ground. Unlike Kayla, however, he did not leave because of a prophecy of any sort. He had a very strange trait for dwarves: claustrophobia. Being afraid of enclosed spaces is not a good thing for someone who lives under ground, so when he reached maturity he left for the surface world, a place most dwarves hate. He has promised to report back to his people under ground and has done so on a few occasions. On his most recent trip back, about 2 years ago, he was granted his axe and armor by his High King Tuthron Chippedaxe for killing an entire village of elves. This feat was highly commended by the dwarven community, but was obviously severely looked down upon by the elves. In his mind he is justified because one of them insulted him. (when he attacked for the insult the entire village went up in arms and he had no choice [although he reveled in every second of it] but to kill them all.) This has stressed his relationship with Kayla somewhat, as both have enscripted into crime fighting, Ozgod seeing it as "an easy way to earn cash and a legal way to earn killing." Ozgod now lives in a large penthouse, making about 200k a year in cash earnings for minor bounties, and also off the bodies of criminals he finds. He is known by a few as the 'stealer of stealers' because he often takes around half of what criminals have stolen for himself. He attributes this to "a dwarf's insatiable hunger for gold."

The Banisher (Thomas Brookheim)

The Banisher is dressed in a completely white outfit, with a sort of ninja mask over his head that is also white. Over his eyes are white goggles that are shaped like domes, working as glasses for him and also protecting his eyes from different attacks. His suit is skin tight, except for the small pockets he has around his forearms and his legs, which carry certain items that might help The Banisher on his quest. He also has a white cape that spills over his back, not providing much but the usual superhero showmanship. The Banisher wields no weapons but his fists, which are perhaps more deadly than any other weapon. Combined with the strange ability he was granted at birth to move with superhuman speed and grace, he can usually get around any person before they are able to fire a single bullet. A gymnist in his youth and teens, he is very acrobatic and when combines with his great running speed he can jump between buildings and over people. The Banisher was born in a fairly normal household where he was the youngest child out of three boys, who were pretty abusive to him. When he was able to walk effectively he was soon running laps around them in an amazing display, and won many cross country, track, and swimming races in high school. He started gymnastics like his older brother at age five, where he quickly showed physcial talent. His speed, furthermore, enabled him to get amazing height on things like the parallel bars, which let him do ridiculous amounts of spins and flips. He would have gone to the Olympics had he not dropped out of gymnastics at age 17, simply tired of the sport. He took up martial arts at 14 where he also excelled, quickly becoming a black belt first degree in karate using his amazing speed and acrobatic skills. At age 20 he was offered a place in the Defender Menders, the local 'super hero' league which had no one in it but a few lanky kids and a supergenius nerd named Stephan Kaprickas. He got very attracted to the crime fighting idea, and at age 23 he started his own 'super hero' guild called The Guardians, with only he and Stephan (IQ200) as the members. It soon became the premier 'super hero' group, with many members, humans, elves, and dwarves alike.

IQ200 (Stephan Kaprickas)

IQ200 to be put up with a full description soon.



Those are some of the heroes from the modern day. I will later also add many more aliens and 'super heroes,' as well as a few wizards and fantasy raced people. I am thinking of having a half dragon person. Anyway, as you can see this modern world was somewhat inspired by Marvel and DC comics, but it is very different. When I put up appendixes for all the alien races as well as for the villains, you will see so. And don't forget that the gods still exist, even if they are very neglected.

 

Chapter 1: Ambiguous Writings - Timed Troubles

 

Zedd's apartment was small and sparse, but he didn't mind. He never paid for it, that was all taken care of by the man sitting in a big plush chair in front of him. He was wearing headphones while he stared at a computer screen, so he did not notice Zedd come in. This gave Zedd a chance to sneak past him and hide the book without having to answer any questions... no luck.


"What's that?" The man had turned around and was staring at the giant book, earphones askew.


"It's nothing, Scan. A... a library book." Zedd hoped that this lame excuse might shove Scan off. Too bad that Scan was never stupid. On the contrary, he was a super genius.


"A library book that is shedding leather and weighs more than thirty pounds?" Scan asked sardonically.


"Y.. yeah. I thought it looked cool, so I took it." Zedd decided that he had to stick with his original excuse.


"Ah. And that's why you were trying to keep me from noticing it?" Scan's intense stare shot straight through Zedd's lies.


"Well... I ... I wanted it all for myself. I don't like it when people read over my shoulder." He knew he was getting nowhere, but Zedd was not one to quit at something he had started.


Scan sighed. "Whatever, Zedd. I don't need to know what it is." He put his earphones back on and returned to his computer screen. Displayed upon the monitor was "CLASSIFIED INFORMATION BELONGING TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: DO NOT CONTINUE OR BE PROSECUTED" Three more clicks and the warning disappeared.


Normally, Zedd is very interested in whatever Scan is hacking, but this time he was worrying too much about his book of magic. Scan provided the duo with their financial concerns by hacking various banks, but sometimes he became impatient and would hack top secret government files. "The hardest part is finding where they are storing them." Scan would always tell Zedd. "Getting in is easy. All you have to do is make yourself too small to be noticed." Zedd had no idea how to make himself smaller in the digital world, but he had a feeling that he might find out how in the real world.


"Let's see what's in this magic book." Zedd said to himself, opening the cover. Inside there was more Latin and no English whatsoever, so Zedd did not have to worry about Scan ever reading the book. As talented as he was in the digital world, he couldn't learn another language that was not computer programming if his life depended on it. The first spell seemed pretty simple.


"Hmm.. This says that it requires some hemp as the material component to cast the 'Shrink' spell. Let's see if I can show Scan how to make myself smaller." Zedd giggled to himself. "But where am I going to find some hemp? I suppose I had better go outside and look around... I won't find any in here." Zedd got up from his chair, taking the book with him. Without another word, he left the apartment.


Little did Zedd know, but Scan did not have the music on. He almost never did. He found it his personal business to keep tabs on Zedd, and this was no exception.


"A magic book, huh? The government has done a lot of research on magic, but the project was discontinued after a few of the scientists became wizards and destroyed the testing complex. They were never seen since... I wonder if my friend Zedd is getting into something he doesn't want to get into." Scan turned off his computer and left the building silently.


Zedd walked along the backstreets of New York with caution. His escapades with the DarkDaster had scared him out of traveling in the slums, but he knew that this would be the best place to find hemp. And the DarkDaster and his gang were dead anyway. And so Zedd walked, getting deeper and deeper into the slums on his search for some hemp. Before he realized it, he got what he wanted.


"Say, son... what you walkin' all 'round for? All busy-like." A wrinkled man was sitting in a corner, smoking a fat blunt. He had long dreadlocks and unkempt clothes, very dirty and torn. Still, he looked like somebody with a lot of wisdom. Zedd stopped.


"Huh? Well... well I'm looking for something." Zedd said timidly.


"Jus' what're you lookin fer, anyway?" The man took a large whiff from he blunt and stared up at Zedd.


"Oh... nothing." Zedd wanted to hurry on. As interesting as this man was, he needed to find some hemp.


"Say, son, why is yer face purple? What kinda color is that for a face? And all wavy, too..." The man was gyrating a little bit, scaring Zedd slightly.


"Well..." Zedd decided that it would be easier to shake off this guy if he just talked. "I'm looking for some hemp."


"'Zat so? Ya dun seem the type, but to each his own, ya know?"


"What?"


"Nothin', my friend. But I just might be able to hook ya up." The man reached into his pockets for a second, looking for something.


"Really, you have hemp? Will you give it to me?"


"Why sure, sure." He pulled out a baggie with some sort of dried leaves inside of it. "Ya jus' got t' pay me, see? It's fifty dollars fer th' bag."


"Fifty dollars? I don't have that much on me." Zedd was disappointed.


"No? Well, then. How 'bout this. You sit an' listen t' me talk fer a while, and I'll give ya th' hemp, see?" The man indicated the space next to him.


"Okay, it sounds like a deal." Zedd sat down next to the man.


"Son, you ever known love?"


"No. No I haven't."


"Thass too bad, son, 'cuz it is th' greatest thing in th' world. My story... my story is about love, see?" The man stared with bloodshot eyes at Zedd.


"Yes, okay. Continue." Zedd was eager to get the hemp, but the man was anything but a fast talker.


"Well, son, my name is th' Natural Born Hippy. I invented th' hippy movement, ya know." Hippy made a gigantic gesture implying that this was an amazing feat.


"Good, that's great." Obviously, Zedd did not appreciate said feat.


"Well, anyway. I'm talkin' about love. Ya see, little guy - whass yer name?" Hippy was obviously quite distressed at not knowing Zedd's name.


"Zedd. Zedd's what people call me."


"Okay, Cid -"


"-No it's-"


"It's time I told ya th' story. Ya see, it's about love. An' love is great. There's this woman I know, she dresses in all black and runs aroun' an' bites people. She's amazing..."


"Freak." Zedd said under his breath.


"...an' so I loves her, ya know? An' I think she loves me.. maybe. But with ev'ry love story there's a bad thing, ya know? See, there's this other guy. He dresses up in these weird clothes an' like fights crime or sommat. I dunno. But he loves my girl too, an' thass never good, ya know? So I sez t' him, I sez, 'She's my love, not yurs! We's gonna get married!' An' he goes off an' flirts with her, tellin' her that he loves her an' stuff. I dun know whass gonna happen, ya know?"


"Yeah, sure." Zedd was falling asleep.


"Well, thass it. I'll give ya yer hemp now. Have a good smokin'." Hippy handed Zedd the hemp, then crouched up and fell asleep.


"Well, I've got my hemp, then. Hope he has better luck with this freaky love of his." Just as Zedd got on his feet to leave, he heard yelling from not too far away. It was sniveling yelling that Zedd could just barely make out if he listened hard enough.


"Don't beat me, leave me alone! You suck you goddamned dickhead! I didn't do anything to you, and here you go beating me! OUCH! Leave me alone!" The voice was extremely shrill, high-pitched, and... annoying. Very annoying. Zedd decided to cautiously walk over and see what all the fuss was about.


What he saw was a sight to behold. A little midget with a purple face was being drop kicked by a small bearded man who had a giant keg on his back. Normally, someone beating the crap out of a defenseless person would outrage Zedd, but for some reason he was enjoying this sight immensely. The little guy getting beaten was just so... STUPID looking. His face was wrinkled and purple, eternally grimaced, and his stumpy little legs that were twitching under the bearded man's foot was an act that could cause anyone to twitch. Before he knew it, Zedd was over drop kicking the little guy as well.


"Stop hitting BigD! Stop it! Stop it! What did BigD ever do to you! What did... what..." BigD was talking less and less as more and more blood filled his mouth. Despite this, Zedd and the bearded man were not relenting.


"DIE - YOU - STUPID - ASS - MOTHER - FU-"


Just then a sheep ran in, bleated and started drop kicking BigD... somehow. Zedd stopped for only a second, wondering what the Hell a sheep was doing here, and why it was drop kicking BigD. Then he realized it was a stupid question and continued to beat BigD. The beating went on for a few more minutes, when the three were joined by some woman dressed in all black. Zedd ignored her and continued beating, now in a competition for the most blood shed. Even more surprisingly, a man garbed in spandex and wearing a cape joined in on the gangbang as well. Suddenly, the bearded man was pulling Zedd and the others back. With bewilderment, he turned to see why the Hell he was not beating the stupid little bastard any more.


"It ain't worth it, fellas, it ain't worth it! Don't have someone's death on yer heart, not someone's death! Come back tomorrow and you can beat him some more, but don't kill him!" The short bearded man was surprisingly strong for such a small guy, easily pulling away three other people and the sheep. It must have been always carrying the 30 gallon keg on his back that gave him his strength.


"Why the Hell do you want him to live?" Zedd screamed angrily.


"Think about it, sonny! If you kill him, then there's no beatin' him for me tomorrow!"


"...That's a good thought."


"Yes it is, sonny, yes it is. I don't know who all of you are, but leave him for tomorrow. The little prick heals surprisingly fast, so he should be back from a pool of gore to a person by tomorrow."


Zedd thought about what he had just done, and surprisingly he did not feel ashamed. All that was left to do was find out who all these random people were...

 

Chapter 2: Ambiguous Writings - Hemp Hunting

 

Zedd's apartment was small and sparse, but he didn't mind. He never paid for it, that was all taken care of by the man sitting in a big plush chair in front of him. He was wearing headphones while he stared at a computer screen, so he did not notice Zedd come in. This gave Zedd a chance to sneak past him and hide the book without having to answer any questions... no luck.


"What's that?" The man had turned around and was staring at the giant book, earphones askew.


"It's nothing, Scan. A... a library book." Zedd hoped that this lame excuse might shove Scan off. Too bad that Scan was never stupid. On the contrary, he was a super genius.


"A library book that is shedding leather and weighs more than thirty pounds?" Scan asked sardonically.


"Y.. yeah. I thought it looked cool, so I took it." Zedd decided that he had to stick with his original excuse.


"Ah. And that's why you were trying to keep me from noticing it?" Scan's intense stare shot straight through Zedd's lies.


"Well... I ... I wanted it all for myself. I don't like it when people read over my shoulder." He knew he was getting nowhere, but Zedd was not one to quit at something he had started.


Scan sighed. "Whatever, Zedd. I don't need to know what it is." He put his earphones back on and returned to his computer screen. Displayed upon the monitor was "CLASSIFIED INFORMATION BELONGING TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: DO NOT CONTINUE OR BE PROSECUTED" Three more clicks and the warning disappeared.


Normally, Zedd is very interested in whatever Scan is hacking, but this time he was worrying too much about his book of magic. Scan provided the duo with their financial concerns by hacking various banks, but sometimes he became impatient and would hack top secret government files. "The hardest part is finding where they are storing them." Scan would always tell Zedd. "Getting in is easy. All you have to do is make yourself too small to be noticed." Zedd had no idea how to make himself smaller in the digital world, but he had a feeling that he might find out how in the real world.


"Let's see what's in this magic book." Zedd said to himself, opening the cover. Inside there was more Latin and no English whatsoever, so Zedd did not have to worry about Scan ever reading the book. As talented as he was in the digital world, he couldn't learn another language that was not computer programming if his life depended on it. The first spell seemed pretty simple.


"Hmm.. This says that it requires some hemp as the material component to cast the 'Shrink' spell. Let's see if I can show Scan how to make myself smaller." Zedd giggled to himself. "But where am I going to find some hemp? I suppose I had better go outside and look around... I won't find any in here." Zedd got up from his chair, taking the book with him. Without another word, he left the apartment.


Little did Zedd know, but Scan did not have the music on. He almost never did. He found it his personal business to keep tabs on Zedd, and this was no exception.


"A magic book, huh? The government has done a lot of research on magic, but the project was discontinued after a few of the scientists became wizards and destroyed the testing complex. They were never seen since... I wonder if my friend Zedd is getting into something he doesn't want to get into." Scan turned off his computer and left the building silently.


Zedd walked along the backstreets of New York with caution. His escapades with the DarkDaster had scared him out of traveling in the slums, but he knew that this would be the best place to find hemp. And the DarkDaster and his gang were dead anyway. And so Zedd walked, getting deeper and deeper into the slums on his search for some hemp. Before he realized it, he got what he wanted.


"Say, son... what you walkin' all 'round for? All busy-like." A wrinkled man was sitting in a corner, smoking a fat blunt. He had long dreadlocks and unkempt clothes, very dirty and torn. Still, he looked like somebody with a lot of wisdom. Zedd stopped.


"Huh? Well... well I'm looking for something." Zedd said timidly.


"Jus' what're you lookin fer, anyway?" The man took a large whiff from he blunt and stared up at Zedd.


"Oh... nothing." Zedd wanted to hurry on. As interesting as this man was, he needed to find some hemp.


"Say, son, why is yer face purple? What kinda color is that for a face? And all wavy, too..." The man was gyrating a little bit, scaring Zedd slightly.


"Well..." Zedd decided that it would be easier to shake off this guy if he just talked. "I'm looking for some hemp."


"'Zat so? Ya dun seem the type, but to each his own, ya know?"


"What?"


"Nothin', my friend. But I just might be able to hook ya up." The man reached into his pockets for a second, looking for something.


"Really, you have hemp? Will you give it to me?"


"Why sure, sure." He pulled out a baggie with some sort of dried leaves inside of it. "Ya jus' got t' pay me, see? It's fifty dollars fer th' bag."


"Fifty dollars? I don't have that much on me." Zedd was disappointed.


"No? Well, then. How 'bout this. You sit an' listen t' me talk fer a while, and I'll give ya th' hemp, see?" The man indicated the space next to him.


"Okay, it sounds like a deal." Zedd sat down next to the man.


"Son, you ever known love?"


"No. No I haven't."


"Thass too bad, son, 'cuz it is th' greatest thing in th' world. My story... my story is about love, see?" The man stared with bloodshot eyes at Zedd.


"Yes, okay. Continue." Zedd was eager to get the hemp, but the man was anything but a fast talker.


"Well, son, my name is th' Natural Born Hippy. I invented th' hippy movement, ya know." Hippy made a gigantic gesture implying that this was an amazing feat.


"Good, that's great." Obviously, Zedd did not appreciate said feat.


"Well, anyway. I'm talkin' about love. Ya see, little guy - whass yer name?" Hippy was obviously quite distressed at not knowing Zedd's name.


"Zedd. Zedd's what people call me."


"Okay, Cid -"


"-No it's-"


"It's time I told ya th' story. Ya see, it's about love. An' love is great. There's this woman I know, she dresses in all black and runs aroun' an' bites people. She's amazing..."


"Freak." Zedd said under his breath.


"...an' so I loves her, ya know? An' I think she loves me.. maybe. But with ev'ry love story there's a bad thing, ya know? See, there's this other guy. He dresses up in these weird clothes an' like fights crime or sommat. I dunno. But he loves my girl too, an' thass never good, ya know? So I sez t' him, I sez, 'She's my love, not yurs! We's gonna get married!' An' he goes off an' flirts with her, tellin' her that he loves her an' stuff. I dun know whass gonna happen, ya know?"


"Yeah, sure." Zedd was falling asleep.


"Well, thass it. I'll give ya yer hemp now. Have a good smokin'." Hippy handed Zedd the hemp, then crouched up and fell asleep.


"Well, I've got my hemp, then. Hope he has better luck with this freaky love of his." Just as Zedd got on his feet to leave, he heard yelling from not too far away. It was sniveling yelling that Zedd could just barely make out if he listened hard enough.


"Don't beat me, leave me alone! You suck you goddamned dickhead! I didn't do anything to you, and here you go beating me! OUCH! Leave me alone!" The voice was extremely shrill, high-pitched, and... annoying. Very annoying. Zedd decided to cautiously walk over and see what all the fuss was about.


What he saw was a sight to behold. A little midget with a purple face was being drop kicked by a small bearded man who had a giant keg on his back. Normally, someone beating the crap out of a defenseless person would outrage Zedd, but for some reason he was enjoying this sight immensely. The little guy getting beaten was just so... STUPID looking. His face was wrinkled and purple, eternally grimaced, and his stumpy little legs that were twitching under the bearded man's foot was an act that could cause anyone to twitch. Before he knew it, Zedd was over drop kicking the little guy as well.


"Stop hitting BigD! Stop it! Stop it! What did BigD ever do to you! What did... what..." BigD was talking less and less as more and more blood filled his mouth. Despite this, Zedd and the bearded man were not relenting.


"DIE - YOU - STUPID - ASS - MOTHER - FU-"


Just then a sheep ran in, bleated and started drop kicking BigD... somehow. Zedd stopped for only a second, wondering what the Hell a sheep was doing here, and why it was drop kicking BigD. Then he realized it was a stupid question and continued to beat BigD. The beating went on for a few more minutes, when the three were joined by some woman dressed in all black. Zedd ignored her and continued beating, now in a competition for the most blood shed. Even more surprisingly, a man garbed in spandex and wearing a cape joined in on the gangbang as well. Suddenly, the bearded man was pulling Zedd and the others back. With bewilderment, he turned to see why the Hell he was not beating the stupid little bastard any more.


"It ain't worth it, fellas, it ain't worth it! Don't have someone's death on yer heart, not someone's death! Come back tomorrow and you can beat him some more, but don't kill him!" The short bearded man was surprisingly strong for such a small guy, easily pulling away three other people and the sheep. It must have been always carrying the 30 gallon keg on his back that gave him his strength.


"Why the Hell do you want him to live?" Zedd screamed angrily.


"Think about it, sonny! If you kill him, then there's no beatin' him for me tomorrow!"


"...That's a good thought."


"Yes it is, sonny, yes it is. I don't know who all of you are, but leave him for tomorrow. The little prick heals surprisingly fast, so he should be back from a pool of gore to a person by tomorrow."


Zedd thought about what he had just done, and surprisingly he did not feel ashamed. All that was left to do was find out who all these random people were...

 

Chapter 3: Ambiguous Writings - A Bunch of Fellows

 

"Okay, now I want all you buggers t' tell me what th' hell

you're all doin' here, eh?" The little dwarf was poking the tall

darkly garbed woman quizzically between gulps of beer.

"Ah'm th' only one who beats BigD regularly, and I wanna

know how you all found 'im."


"Well, I was following ComaBlack, actually. It was a very

stealthy way of following. I was jumping between buildings

as she flew around in between them below me. It done very

skillfully, if you ask me..." The skinny spandex-covered

teenager was speaking, only it didn't seem like it was to the

dwarf. Instead, it was almost as if he was bragging to the

dark one next to him.


"Haven't I told you that I'm too old for you? Just go

away!" The dark one yelled at him. "I'm nearly a thousand

years old and you're only sixteen!"


"But, but bu-"


"Shaddup, I don't care for ye petty squabbles! Gimme

your names, you names!" The dwarf wrested control of the

situation.


"I'm HighWater, able to control water vapors that float in

the air! I can lower the density and jump great distances, or

raise it to fall more slowly!" The spandex one yelled

confidently.


"I didnae ask for yer titles, I said names! I be Kreskin,

Kreskin th' dwarf."


"I'm ComaBlack." The dark one said curtly.


"Now, who's this sheep? Who's 'is owner?" Kreskin

asked.


"Oh, my owner was once a a fat Portuguese man named

Vladmir, if I've ever had one. You see, he enchanted me to

be able to speak." The sheep was able to speak for himself,

literally.


"Did he enchant you so that you could think as well? I've

always wondered if animals were stupid mindless idiots that

just did things like eat and sleep and... re-pro-duce."

HighWater said the last word very carefully, eyeing

ComaBlack at the same time. She shrunk back in silent

disgust.


"Oh, I assure you I've always been quite the intelligent

one. You see, Vladmir used to feed me his Shakespeare and

Socrates because he found them lacking in enjoyment, and

rather than eat them I studied them. This gave me the

knowledge of the english language, as these were written in

english."


"But were you smart before he gave you those books?"


"Oh yes. You see, all farm animals and pets are a part

of a secret underground organization to overthrow the

human rule on the planet. We are installing ourselves into

your lives, and then we will finally eat your clothing and

overthrow you." The sheep said quite bouncily.


"Remind me to kill me goldfish when I get home."

HighWater said in disgust.


"Enough o' this. I never had a pet an' I never will, so I

don't see why I should be worryin' over yer stupid plottin'.

Jus' tell me what yer name be, sheep!" Kreskin took control

again. He was quite commanding for such a small guy.


"Oh, I'm called mmmaaahhheeeemmkkkk... But that's in

sheepish. Vladmir called me Ovelha Brava after he

enchanted me."


"I don't get it. If you're talking sheepishly your name is

different?" HighWater asked in a dumfound curiosity.


"No, my idiotic human frieeeeeend, sheepish is the

language of the sheep. Excuse me for slipping into it there."

Ovelha informed.


"Ah. Okay." HighWater shrunk back a little bit, obviously

embarrassed.


"Okay, an' who're you?" Kreskin was poking Zedd now,

who had let his curious ears take over his hesitant mouth for

the moment.


"And I'm Zedd... a wizard." Zedd added the last bit as an

afterthought, merely because he was in the presence of such

interesting people. He thought that 'scholar' was a little out

of place.


"Ah, a wizzerd, eh? 'Aven't seen one o' you in ages."

Kreskin said.


"You... you've seen a wizard before?" Zedd asked, very

surprised.


"O' course! You don't think that they was legend, did ya?

I'm a bloody dwarf, I know what's legend and what's not."


"You... you're a dwarf? Like Gimli or Thorin or Ozgod?"


"Yes ah am. As a wizzerd, I thought you'd know that

stuff wasn't fairly tales."


"I'm... new. What about elves? Like Legolas or Elrond!"


"Elves! Pffshaw, you thought they was real? Ha, they

never been real. 'Cept fer the ones that work for Santa."


Zedd jumped back in amazement. "SANTA IS REAL?!?"


"No, ya idiot! Ha ha ha! I was talkin' about the chinese

that work in them factories. Ha ha! You are an idiot!"

Kreskin had fallen over in laughter, very happy with himself

for playing Zedd a fool. Zedd was not happy.


"Screw you, you damn midget! I'm new to this, and you

have to shove it down my throat! I'm trying to figure myself

out here!" Zedd was yelling very loudly. His temper had

gotten away with him, and now BigD was trying to slink

away in the confusion.


"No ya don't ya damn bastard!" Kreskin knocked him

upside the head with his keg, knocking BigD over and

causing him to whimper again. Satisfied, he turned to reply

to Zedd. "You dare call me a midget? I'll throw yer little

wizzerd body across this street an break in yer damn pale

skull! Always inside studyin' books... it ain't natural!" Kreskin

had gotten quite angry as well. It was a well known fact

among the secret societies of the world that one should

never call a dwarf a midget.


"I shall stop this crime before it starts!" HighWater

yelled. He jumped in between Zedd and Kreskin, then started

making some sort of odd motions with his arms. It looked to

Zedd like he might be casting a spell or something, but

Kreskin knew that this was not how it is done.


"What th' hell are y' doin', ya damn fool?" Kreskin moved

to push HighWater aside, but found that he could move and

closer to him. Any movement in that direction was as

difficult as if he were underwater in a lake. "What the..."


"I've raised the density of the water between you two.

Fighting on city streets is illegal! You should know that."


"Were you not just beating up a defenseless midget,

sir?" Ovelha bleated.


"No... well... yes... but that was fun!"


"But it was probably not fun for him, you know. I would

never enjoy having my face bleed out of nine holes. Look at

that! You can see his brains!"


"Well... who cares! Look at him! And you were beating

him up as well!"


"Of course I was. I never said that I denounced the act. I

was merely trying to cause some sort of human turmoil. It's

what the FAPS told me to do as my part... that's the Farm

Animal and Pets Society." Ovelha added when he saw the

look on HighWater's face.


"You've lost me... In any case, you two should stop it!

Dwarves and wizards are both rare... I think... and so you

shouldn't lower your numbers!"


"Ah... I suppose he's right. Zedd, we 'ave a truce, but

you should never call a dwarf a midget. Do that an' he'll gut

ya. Yer lucky that I'm tanked right now." Kreskin waggled his

meaty finger at Zedd in disapproval.


"Okay, fine. Just don't make fun of my.. greenness."

Zedd replied angrily.


"Just because ye're a n00b doesn't mean I need t' make

fun. Deal."


"Good, so n00b wizard and drunk dwarf have an

agreement." HighWater said, moving his hands again. "You

can now move about and stuff."


Because everyone was so intensely involved in this little

debate, none of the noticed that ComaBlack was sucking all

of the blood out of BigD. She had been on his neck for the

entire conversation, and was now sucking away quite rapidly.

The purple face was turning more and more white by the

minute. Unfortunately, Kreskin noticed the very audible

sucking noise and turned around.


"NOW YOU GET OFF 'IM!" Kreskin yelled as he pushed

Coma off of BigD. "Ah said no killin' him! An' what th' hell

are you, a vampire?"


"Good guess. Have you always been a master of the

obvious?" Coma had jumped off BigD and was now floating

twenty feet above them.


"You see, that's what I love about her. Just look at the

way she.. sucks." Sick thoughts were obviously going

through HighWater's head, at least until Kreskin knocked him

upside the head.


"Save that fer yer bedroom, laddie! Ah don't want t' be

seein' such things!"


"And don't think of me that way." Coma said from her

post in the air. "Your sweaty teenage body sickens me.


HighWater stopped staring at Coma, but he obviously

hadn't stopped thinking, seeing as he let out a huge sigh

when she called him sweaty. Kreskin thought of the many

connotations this word could hold, but decided that it hurt his

soul too much and decided not to get involved.


"Okay, I think that I've had enough of all this insanity.

First magic, then dwarves, then a vampire? ... ... ... I need

to hit BigD again." Zedd walked up to smash BigD in the face

one last time, but was surprised to find that he wasn't there

anymore. He looked around quizzically. "Where did BigD

go?"


The group all began to look around, high and low, near

and far. Losing their punching bag was not something they

thought that they could cope with. Eventually, his location

presented itself. On a nearby rooftop, a woman dressed in

dark garments carrying a lethal blade was gutting BigD

silently. He appeared to be quite dead.


"You... bitch!" HighWater yelled at the top of his lungs.

He was the first one to see her. The rest of the group ran to

his yell and found her a short while later. "That was.. that

was my.. my.."


"Toy." She said quietly, cleaning her blade. "People are

not toys. You are like the shogun."


Zedd recognized the voice, and as soon as he found a

fire escape and was on the building as well, he recognized

the sleek figure as well.


"Rateh." He said under his breath. Kreskin, who had

ascended the fire escape next to Zedd, was the only one who

heard it.


"Who?"


"Rateh. She came out of a portal I.. created."


"Oh? Ye can make dimensional gates already? Yer not so

bad fer a n00b."


"Yes, thank you. Well, I believe she is from some sort of

feudal Japanese era. A trained killer."


"A ninja, yeah?" Kreskin smiled.


"Yes, I suppose. A ninja." The two watched silently as

HighWater yelled at the beauty with the sword, cleaning it

off silently.


The two watched on at the spectacle before them for a

while, until something strange happened. Another man

jumped onto the roof from somewhere unseen, And was

screaming loudly. His eyebrows and hair were mussed up to

be pointy and evil looking, and he was wearing dark red and

black colors. Eventually, his mindless screaming could be

understood.


"MY SERVANT! YOU DARE KILL A SERVANT OF CODU,

ARCHDEMON KING OF HELL? I SHALL SMITE YOUR

INSOLENCE!" The man pulled out a pistol and, without

warning, shot Rateh. Unfortunately for him, guns were

invented in feudal Japan. Rateh blocked it with her sword

and then disappeared into the shadows.


"This is not my fight. I seek the shogun." She said as

she dissolved into the darkness.


"MY SHOULDER DEMON HAS TOLD ME THAT I WOULD MY

SERVANT ON A ROOFTOP HERE, AND IT OBVIOUSLY HIM! HE

IS MINEMINEMINEMINE AND I SHALL SMITE YOU, INSOLENT

MORTALS!" Codu started unloading ammunition in all

directions. HighWater raised the water density in front him,

Coma flew away, and Kreskin blocked both he and Zedd with

his beer keg.


"Ya bloody psycho! Quickly, let's get out of 'ere!" Kreskin

yelled. The rest decided that this was a good idea and left as

well. Before they cleared the rooftop, however, Zedd noticed

that this 'Codu' had picked up all four pieces of BigD and was

now taking them away.


Why the Hell would someone want four pieces of BigD?

 

Chapter 4: Ambiguous Writings - Dialogue

 

"Where do you think he took BigD?" Zedd asked, scratching his head. He still couldn't

figure why anyone would want four pulpy pieces of a painfully ugly midget.


"Ah dunno. Mayhaps he has some sort o' necromatic powers. Ah've seen some o'

them... But only in meh nightmares..." Kreskin finished under his breath.


"What do you mean 'Neck-Row-Matic?' Is that some kind of massaging machine for

your head?" HighWater asked quizzically.


"No, necromatic. It's a conjugation of the word necromancy, where 'necro,' a prefix

derived from Latin, means death, and 'mancy,' a suffix from the Greek word 'manteia'

meaning prophesying. So, it literally means to prophesize death, although mancy

has commonly been used to describe an act or an art." Zedd always loved a chance

to show off his language skills. He pronounced every word flawlessly, of course.


"The art of death." Coma murmured quietly from the shadows. "It is something I am

very familiar with."


"So, you're saying that this neecromansee dealie is like some way of preserving

bodies really well or something?" HighWater continued to scratch his head in

befuddlement.


"Nah, y' idiot, it's a type o' magic where th' dead is raised an' used as weapons!"

Kreskin yelled in frustration. "Yer a moron who talks too much an' needs t' figure

stuff out on 'is own! An' you!" Kreskin yelled, indicating Zedd. "Y' good fer nuthin'

greenie n00b wizzerd who can't talk like a normal person! Quit with th' technicals and

talk like a bloody 'uman, fer Odin's sake!" Kreskin's eyes were popping red and his

beard glistened with saliva that had just launched itself from his gaping maw.


"Easy, dwarf. Don't forget that you are an easy going alcoholic." Coma supplied

thoughtfully.


"Ah, yer right. Ah'm jus' angry that ah lost mah toy, is all. Sorry, fellas." Kreskin

sighed.


"No harm done! The past is forgotten! The future is all that matters! Come! Let us go

after this necromansee guy named Codu!" HighWater yelled, raising an invisible

sword and pointing it forward. "Charge!"


HighWater ran off into the darkness in the general direction of where Codu had gone.

The rest of the group chuckled and followed behind him, not knowing that a dark

figure watched them silently from above.


"I'm not a necro." He said.