Homeworld 2 Fiction: The Winter Legacy

The Winter Legacy

##A Homeworld 2 Fanfiction##

A story of humanity and sacrifices, the Winter Legacy follows the career of Captain Renithor Tairidu as he is thrust from being a captain in the vast interstellar Vaygr armada into a position of responsibility he never fathomed he could have- or want.

The Board is Set, the Pieces are in Play.

Hey everyone. This is my first fanfiction for the Homeworld series. I am basing it on Homeworld 2 and Chrome’s splendid work with Homeworld Legacies, another fanfiction. It takes place from several weeks before the Siege of Hiigara by the Vaygr through several years after the Return of Sajuuk. I am doing my best to be faithful to both the setting itself and to Chrome’s work. Many of the characters on the Vaygr side of things from Legacies will be featured in The Winter Legacy.

All criticism is welcome and I will correct mistakes and possibly rewrite chapters if there is room for improvement. I have a couple of chapters already written, and I will do my best to maintain a rate of one post per week, though this may not always be possible. I am a college student and also have a part time job and a girlfriend, so I have priorities that take precedence over this fiction. I will mostly be able to keep up, but if I ever fall behind, that would be why.

This work will have some humor but I am also striving to make it as deep as possible, especially in the later “books” once the main characters have been developed. I have the storyline roughly charted and although these first few chapters may be a little boring, I promise the story will pick up fast.

#Book One: Prologue#
##Life on Thaddis Sabbah##

Frustrated, Renithor ran the silver hairbrush through his short dark blonde hair, hoping to at last suppress the annoying patch of hair standing up on the right side of his head. When he ran it through several more times, he placed it on the granite countertop of the bathroom and stared in the mirror. The hair was standing up and out of place just as much as ever. Finally giving up on neatness, he opened the faucet and waited until the water heated up slightly. He then put his right hand under the stream, accumulating a small pond of water in the palm of his hand. With a swift motion, he slapped this little pond right onto the offending patch of hair and kept his hand there like an iron.

He took his hand away, and was satisfied to see most of the hair had learned its place. It was not the day to appear sloppy. He was meeting with Admiral Vrad for… something. In truth, he had little idea what the meeting was about, though he suspected it was highly important for its content to be kept so secrete.

Wonder what Vrad has planned this time. Hopefully another expedition to the Hethlim ice fields.

Ren splashed hot water on his face to wake himself up. The water cooled almost instantly and with great haste, he grabbed a towel from his towel rack and buried his face in it before the water could freeze. The Vaygr, as he found, liked to keep things unbelievably cold on their space stations. The station he was on, Thaddis Sabbah, was at least warmer than most. When he joined the ranks of the Vaygr, he found this to be the most shocking thing- even over the long ponytails streaked with red, white, and black or the Vaygr obsession with trying to “hold” food he considered fairly mild in their mouths as a competition, or even the occasional sight of aliens the Vaygr had assimilated. He had even installed a portable heating unit above his bed, though it could only raise the temperature in the room slightly beyond the freezing point of water.

Having come from the mostly tropical world of Taiidan, Renithor was not accustomed to these temperatures. All the Taiidani vessels he had been on were well heated, to the point where he could walk around in an undershirt rather than a thick Vaygr style trench coat. Oddly, the Vaygr never wore these either. His Vaygr fiancé, Lyra, was perfectly content to wear a closely fitting synthetic t-shirt and some shorts despite the below freezing temperature on the rest of this ship. To Ren, how she did that without even noticing the cold was a complete mystery.

If he were pure Taiidani, Ren would have guessed that the Vaygr had something biologically different that allowed them a certain tolerance to low temperatures. However, Ren was about one fourth Vaygr (His grandfather on his mother’s side was a Vaygr crusade lord) and found that he had it no easier than his pure Taiidani friends when it came to Vaygr ships.

“Flak, My hair!” Renithor exclaimed loudly when he ran his hand over the spot where he had tried to iron the annoying patch of hair back onto his head. No wonder it had stayed- the hair had frozen to the point when running his hand over it would break off little frozen pieces of it. In a panicked state, Ren bolted over to his bead. Careful not to wake his fiancé, he stood up and brought his head close to the heating unit, hoping to thaw the frozen hair. Then, he cranked the heat level to the maximum. It took a while, but drops slowly started to form and finally flow down from his face.

“Babe, what the Kadesh are you doing?” Asked a grumpy female voice from below. Startled, Ren looked down at Lyra, finding her staring up at him angrily with frozen drops of water on her forehead. His legs were on either side of her shoulders and a couple drops of melted water had fallen on her face. Awkwardly, the two stared at each other for half a minute. Ren was dressed in his officer uniform while standing right above his fiance’s face, dripping water from his thawing hair onto her.

Embarrassed, Ren turned red and suddenly started feeling hot in his thin uniform despite the freezing cold. “I uh… I… Froze my hair again…” He turned even redder and quickly stepped to one side of her to spare Lyra the awkward view of him. “Never mind how.” Lyra jokingly murmured a string of swear words involving Kadesh in Vaygr and proceeded to turn on her side and seek the sleep their awkward episode had disturbed. Ren meagerly whispered an apology and returned to the mirror in the bathroom.

He finished buttoning his uniform and adjusting his collar, then moved to the door. The uniform top was white and red. A large streak of red ran from the middle bottom of the white shirt up to his left shoulder on both front and back, before making a sharp turn and heading up to his collar. Red stripes ran from the wrists to the shoulders. In older days, the uniform was mostly black with white stripes and the collar would be a turtle-neck with a dark red Vaygr emblem on the font. Much to Ren’s preference, however, the newer style uniform was open in the front instead of being a turtleneck, and there were was a smaller Vaygr emblem on either side of the divide in the middle collar. The uniform’s bottom curved down in the middle at the front and back, but was higher and slightly flared out on the sides. This replaced the old style of uniform where the top had somewhat of a skirt on the back side. The uniform’s pants were grey and on Ren’s feet were finely polished black boots. It fit him well- better, even, than it fit most Vaygr men, with their long, nearly white, hair. An energy saber- a sword capable of generating a destructive energy field around the blade, now hung by his hip. Finally, he placed a small eagle badge with three stars atop it on both shoulders to indicate his rank and a finely crafted family emblem on his chest. The Tairidu emblem was a polished gold carving of a Carivu bird, a ferocious owl like creature the size of a human. In Taiidani culture, this replaced the eagle of many other races and was often used by warrior families as their symbol. The bird was indigenous to Taiidan and had been a symbol of the family Tairidu for over a dozen generations.

Before leaving the room, he paused by a mirror. His skin was very light, though still not as pale as most Vaygr. He had a fairly broad face and frame and a good sized nose. It was a little curved, which annoyed him, but he was unwilling to go through surgery to remedy this. His dark blonde hair looked brown in the extremely dim room. In more light, it would retain its brown base but was reflective enough that he was very often called blonde. His hair was mostly pressed down but still resembled frozen dew where he’d splashed water on it. He groaned mentally.

Damn. Not the best time for this sort of thing… Someone in brass is going to have fun with this. Sajuukdammit. Well, at least I can eat spicy food without going red in the face. Maybe I can persuade someone from brass to eat Harella Pepper sometime… That’d sure be a good laugh.

Finally, he walked back over to his fiancé and gave her a kiss. She was little more than a bunch of flowing blond hair sticking out of a blanket. She didn’t want to be disturbed, but decided that she had to be civil. She cautiously stuck her head out from under the blanket and looked over towards Ren. “Bye honey, I love you. Use the auto-landing systems. Don’t let Taryr land the corvette this time.”

Hurriedly, Renithor hugged Lyra while chuckling about her comment regarding Taryr. “It’s a matter of pride for him.”

“Not the word I would use… I’d rather be the type that can’t hold their Battle Chili than the type who can’t land a command corvette in an outpost hangar.”

“Haha alright, alright. I’ll do the landing… But got to make something up so Taryr’s ego isn’t too badly harmed. I’ll say I want to land it myself as a matter of ceremony or some such.” Lyra was about to speak up but Ren interjected. “I don’t trust those computer systems. They ripped them from a Turanic Raider fighter, and you know what I think of their technology. Utter flak.”

“Oh they can’t be that bad.”

“Last time I tried to use a Turanic system was when I was captain of an assault frigate protecting resourcing operations in asteroid fields. It took over navigation and fire control and started maneuvering us like a scout wing while blasting asteroids. We were pulling four Gs and the majority of the crew were not seated or strapped in. We actually had nineteen injuries- thank Sajuuk nobody died. Nasty things. Worse still, the computer auto-targeted one of the mobile refineries with the frigate’s missile launcher. Sent it colliding with FleetCom’s carrier. Needless to say, that put quite a dent in my reputation. Oh, and before that, I once tried to install a Hiigaran tracking system. On the first day, it mal”

“All right, all right! I get it,” Lyra cut in. “You always make your stories so long!” Renithor frowned in Lyra’s general direction, somewhat disappointed that she interrupted his story. Seeing this, she sighed and reached for his hand apologetically. “I’m sorry. It’s 0339. I need my sleep for medical bay work tomorrow and you have a meeting with FleetCom in several hours.”

“Eh, fine… Can’t wait to see what Admiral Vrad has planned this time. I was getting really tired of escort duties. Goodnight, and sleep well.”

Lyra smiled and returned the ‘goodnight’ as Ren walked across the room to his door. He snapped his fingers towards a sensor above the door and it slid open with only a smooth buzzing sound. He smiled back at her and went through the door into a dimly lit corridor.

Flak. I keep forgetting they like dim lighting so much on this station. I need to remember to take a flashlight with me.

He laughed at his predicament and started wandering down the corridor towards the hangar deck.

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Book One: Chapter One

Harella Peppers

The flagship was massive. Its hull, three kilometers long, was lined with depleted Uranium armor combined with honeycombed synthetic materials and ceramic plating to make it penetrable only by the most powerful of weapons. If this armor alone were not enough to blunt all but the heaviest of the enemy’s firepower, the hull was also lined with rotating pads capable of generating directed repulsive waves of energy. These were far from an energy shield and were of little use against explosions or lasers but they could significantly slow down kinetic weapons like railguns or diffuse ion streams to a point that would allow the thick armor of the ship to absorb the incoming attack.

Battle, however, was not the intended use of this ship. It was heavily armored only to survive the firepower the enemy may direct at it- it had little in the way of weaponry itself. It was a shipyard and command center above all. Several hanger bays lined the hull and the massive vessel was capable of producing everything from squadrons of assault craft to frigates and even carriers, which themselves were over a kilometer in length. In fact, the only ship its manufacturing bays could not produce was the dreaded Vaygr battlecruiser. The flagship dwarfed most ships one could likely encounter in the galaxy, and the imposing presence of its black and white striped hull would sway the balance of power in any battle as reliably as gravity shifts the tides.

The real strength of this ship lay not in its size, armor, or weaponry, but in its phased disassembler array and its phased reassembly manufacturing bay. The phased disassembler was a large grid which received solid matter (usually gathered by resource mining ships) it would then tear apart into its constituent atoms or molecules. These would be stored in huge rooms. When the construction of a new ship was ordered, atoms or molecules would be sent from this room to the phased reassembly manufacturing bay. The phased reassembly array was a genius piece of engineering, capable of assembling separate atoms into whatever shape needed. Ships which would take years to be built by hand could be churned out in just minutes. Only the most complex parts, such as quantum computers, had to be manually constructed instead of simply generated. This meant that the Vaygr flagship, and most of their other manufacturing ships, could build even battleships at astonishing speeds.

Wow, the orbital facilities must have worked overtime to build that behemoth.

Renithor stood at the bridge of his command corvette, a ship only 69 meters long as he gazed somewhat awed upon this display of raw Vaygr strength. He had seen large Vaygr shipyards and the outpost Thaddis Sabbah was still larger than this flagship, but this vessel was clearly something worthy of a great warrior lord. Snapping back to reality, Renithor began initiating the docking procedure.

“Lieutenant Taryr, please notify the flagship that we intend to land in their portside hangar bay… How many levels are in that hangar?”

Lieutenant Taryr was a typical Vaygr junior officer. Proud and tall with bright blue eyes and hair so blonde it was nearly white, cut to shoulder length and tied in a ponytail. He was still inflicted with the dreams of war and conquest and with the fierce pride that so easily took over young Vaygr men. He was not the brightest man on the ship, but Renithor considered his intelligence sufficient and admired his loyalty enough to make him the second in charge.

Taryr shuffled over to a communications terminal and sent a request for ship schematics. “Ten levels, each can hold up to eight fighter class vessels,” he relayed to Renithor as soon as he received the information. “Level ten appears to have only a scout squadron docked. That should leave us enough room at platform L10P5.”

“Good. Please reserve our location. I’ll dock the ship manually, myself.”

“Sir? I am the pilot. Shouldn’t I be landing the ship?”

No. No you should not. Ever. Renithor had to almost force himself from blurting his thoughts out. After his promotion to first an assault frigate and then command corvette captain from a lance fighter pilot, Renithor learned the hard way that it was better to not speak his mind too bluntly. Instead, he formed his face into a light smile and pleasantly responded with a bit of a white lie. “Yes, Taryr. But I haven’t flown anything in a month. I would like to do this.”

“But I am the pilot, and it’s my responsibility.”

Renithor sighed, seeing that Taryr would not let this go easily. “Taryr, I’m due for a promotion soon. The next post I’ll be placed in is the second in command of a destroyer. Sajuuk knows, I won’t be able to fly anything for years.”

“Is this about my landing on that carrier at the Hethlim Ice Fields?”

Yes! What the Kadesh do you think it’s about? Again, Renithor barely caught himself from losing his pleasantness. “No, Lieutenant. I have already explained the reason.”

“Captain, I’ve known you long enough to know what you’re thinking. But let me have this chance to show you I can land this ship.”

“You’re not letting this go are you?”

Taryr continued to plead. “Please, sir?”

“Lieutenant, I don’t want to risk blowing up the hangar bay of Admiral Vrad’s new flagship.”

“I won’t blow anything up!” Yelled a frustrated and slightly embarrassed Taryr, reddening in the face. “It’ll be a smooth landing.”

“Taryr…”

“Just let me make up for the Hethlim incident.”

“Lieutenant…”

“Captain, I’m the pilot!”

He really just won’t let it go! Now Renithor was angry, but decided that it was pointless arguing with someone as stubborn as Taryr was. Renithor’s largest fault in command was that he hated pulling rank on his subordinates. He conceded to the lieutenant’s demands. “Fine, Lieutenant. But if you crash the corvette again, then Sajuuk help me I may airlock you.”

“Thank you, captain!” Taryr exclaimed with excitement and ran to the pilot seat, bringing the corvette to face the hangar bay and slamming the thrusters into full gear. Renithor only had half a second to yell “No!” upon seeing Taryr’s eagerness. It was a little too late.

Those standing, including Renithor, flew off their feet from the rapid acceleration. Renithor started cursing in Taiidani and then Vaygr. “Taryr, you son of a Majura. Qwaar-dammit, this is the fourth time.” He maliciously eyed Taryr and then the corridor leading back to the airlock.

A terribly embarrassed and nervous Taryr managed to whisper and apology. He turned on the inertial dampeners (devices which greatly reduce inertia within the ship’s hull) to avoid a repeat of the situation. Luckily nobody was injured and since he received nothing more than a searing glare from Renithor, Taryr went ahead with the landing.

Renithor’s eyes continued to drill into the back of Taryr’s head like ion beams, hunting for any further signs of incompetence. The command corvette steadily flew through space towards the hangar bay without further incident. Taryr was determined not to make another mistake, knowing that Captain Renithor would not finally lose his temper the second time around.

Once Renithor was sure that Taryr had things under control, he walked to the command bridge window and watched as they entered the hangar. They passed through a thin, nearly invisible, energy shield designed to contain air within the ship but allow solid matter to pass through. Now, they could see the internal workings of the hangar bay. It was a massive oval cylinder. On both sides of the oval were four platforms to dock with. Each was just large enough for an assault craft fighter, or a corvette could be docked to two. Robotic arms and small versions of phased assembler arrays were positioned above and below the platforms, ready to almost instantly repair any docked strike craft. At full capacity, this hangar bay would accommodate up to seventy fighters or thirty corvettes. Several platforms would always be left open for emergency use.

The docks were very well lit. Massive floodlights filled the hangar and the illumination was so strong that Renithor found himself incessantly squinting and having difficulty making out clear objects beyond the floodlights which lined each platform. It was literally a black and white difference compared to the lighting Renithor had experienced on Thaddis Sabbah for several weeks. The corvette continued its slow ascent; Taryr was white as a ghost with fear of Renithor, who now stood right behind him.

“Easy does it, Lieutenant. There’s L10P5. Dock our starboard ports with platforms five and six… Good. Give us half a meter per second starboard… Fire the breaking thrusters and slow us to just a tenth… Good.”

With a loud clunk, the corvette’s side connected with the platform walkways. The walkways locked onto the corvette’s side with a pressure seal and retracted from the impact, gently cushioning the corvette into place.

“That will do.” Renithor said calmly. He then turned around briskly and walked towards the forward starboard disembarkation door. Taryr followed him, with some color finally returning to his face. As they reached the door, Renithor motioned for Taryr to wait on the ship.

“Captain, do you know anything about the meeting?” Taryr called to Renithor, ever curious and eager for some kind of action.

“No, and it’s likely classified.” Renithor responded with a bit of annoyance evident in his voice. He’d had enough of Taryr.

“Will you tell us after the mission?”

Renithor spun to face Taryr, again glaring at the young Vaygr with his ion beam like eyes. Then, he remembered his thoughts in the morning about Harella peppers. His expression softened and he even smirked a little, seeing an opportunity for a laugh. “I’ll tell you what Taryr: If you can hold a Harella pepper in your mouth for two minutes, you’ll earn my respect and I will tell you anything you want to know. Kadesh, I might even recommend you for a promotion to captain of an infiltration frigate.”

Taryr’s expression turned into a confused frown. Surely it could not be that easy? The Vaygr had a hazing tradition much like a drinking competition. It was called battle chili and involved participants consuming extremely spicy food and testing to see how long they could hold it in their mouths. Taryr, like a true Vaygr, held it in his mouth for the required 30 seconds, and was proud of it.

Renithor, being from the world of Taiidan, had been eating spicy food since his earliest day and could eat battle chili as if it were mild soup. The foods he considered spicy, especially the infamous Harella Pepper, were more than strong enough to make any non-Taiidani man cry, to speak nothing of the Vaygr- who rarely had access to spicy foods at all.

Seeing his lieutenant’s suspicious frown, Renithor took a step towards him as his smirk widened. “It’s a pepper that grows on Taiidan. We Taiidani eat it all the time, but it’s very spicy. Probably too spicy for a Vaygr to handle.”

“There’s no spicy food a Vaygr can’t handle, sir!”

Renithor smiled at this. Lieutenant Taryr had taken the bait. Renithor had brought along some Harella Peppers in case some of the Vaygr brass tried to insult his Taiidani heritage, but Taryr had sufficiently annoyed him with his carelessness and Ren figured that he was less likely to get airlocked by his subordinate than a senior staff member on the Vaygr flagship. “Well I like to keep some Harella Peppers on hand. Try one.” With that, Renithor tossed Taryr a small golden colored metal ball which was clipped to his belt.

Taryr opened the ball silently to find a few peppers, surprisingly fresh looking. The peppers’ base color was red but orange specs formed something of a gradient from the stem of the pepper, giving it an appearance reminiscent of fire. This appearance was insufficient to describe the taste- which was more reminiscent of a fusion missile. Taryr naively nodded in acceptance of the challenge and swiftly disappeared towards the rear of the ship where he could publicly demonstrate his ability to eat spicy foods as a symbol of his manliness.

Captain Renithor chuckled smugly to himself knowing what would become of Lieutenant Taryr’s Vaygr pride. He made sure one last time that his hair had thawed all the way through. It had, and now only a small moist patch remained. He had run the heating system of the corvette on the highest setting throughout the several hour long journey to make sure of it.

Finally satisfied with his appearance for the upcoming meeting, Renithor waved his hand over a sensor pad and the door hissed open as the pressure between the corvette and hangar bay equalized. He was met by an unexpected site.

Book One: Chapter Two

The Hethlim Core

Hundreds of Vaygr soldiers, mostly pilots and corridor commandos stood at the entrance to the corvette, their black and white uniforms blending into a disorienting pattern of moving stripes. The ones who were closer began to clap and some even went as far as to cheer. Confused, Captain Renithor first nearly hid behind the corvette door, but soon decided to sheepishly venture out onto the landing platform. He looked around at the large crowd, trying to track down any detail that might reveal its purpose for welcoming him. Finally, his eyes stopped on an officer’s white and red uniform among the black and white ones of the lower ranking soldiers.

This man was very short for a Vaygr, almost the same height as Renithor. Although he was only in the later stages of his midlife, the man’s hairline was quickly receding and what little hair he had left was gray, holding on to his scalp with desperation. Wrinkles caused by stress lined every curve of his face, giving him the appearance of being fifteen years older than he really was. He was strong in stature and had once probably been a great warrior before his stamina was claimed by the premature aging he had experienced, possibly due to imperfect Vaygr treatment of past battle wounds. Perhaps as a testament to his former glory and to remind his crew who he was, he still carried a two handed energy sword on his left side. His eyes were even more imposing than his sword. They were a fierce and cold deep blue and many among his crew knew that an intense enough glare from him could burn through a moon.

Noticing that Renithor had finally spotted him, the man stepped out from the crowd. “Welcome to the Might of the Vay, Captain Renithor, it’s been too long.” He spoke very deliberately and precisely, his voice carrying over perfectly and clearly despite the wild cheering around him. His blue eyes focused on Renithor. However, his voice hid a hint of friendliness. It was faint enough to be heard, but seemed so fragile and rare that it could shatter or flee at the slightest attempt to listen for it. He was not a man to so easily disclose his softer side.

“My lord!” Renithor exclaimed, bowing at the waist briefly. Then he began a quick approach to this officer. “In what honor am I welcomed so generously?”

“Ah, I have just told my crew here of your actions during our first Hethlim Ice Fields expedition. Now that I mention it, I believe I have not yet had the chance to congratulate you for your leadership during the last foray. Captain Razam has a high opinion of your skill.” The corners of the man’s mouth just barely moved upwards, but this grin was even more fragile than the friendliness in his voice. As memories of the incidents at the Hethlim Ice Fields naturally floated through his memory, this grin wavered, fighting for a chance at surviving the onslaught of memories, and finally faded altogether. He frowned and became much more serious in his appearance, sinking back into the cold character his crew knew him to be.

Renithor missed a step as the same memories flooded his memory as well. He shook his head to dispel them and continued walking across the platform. “I was only doing my duty, my Lord… but I am honored.”

A smile now erupted on the other man’s face, though it was not the same genuine happiness that appeared in his attempted grin earlier. This smile was somewhat fake but also hinted that he found humor in what Renithor said. “Please, Captain, stop calling me that. I am not so old fashioned that I style myself a crusader lord. I am an admiral of a Vaygr fleet, and the only Lord we have is Makaan.” With the mention of this name, the crowd fell silent.

Renithor nodded. He was now just a meter away from the man, who had extended his arm for a handshake. Renithor met this gesture and moved his arm forward. He gripped the other man’s forearm near the elbow and the man did the same. Renithor again gave a short nod. “It’s nice to see you, Admiral Vrad. It has been four years, hasn’t it? I see you have certainly recovered. What of High-Lord Makaan’s injuries?”

Vrad adjusted his collar with his unoccupied hand and his grip slightly tightened. Renithor picked up on the admiral’s slight nervous gestures.

The admiral is nervous? I’ll avoid that topic in future discussion…

“High-Lord Makaan recovered from his injuries completely.” Vrad stated with much higher volume, making Renithor wonder if he was only addressing him individually with this response. “Though he now spends little time outside of his life support tank, plugged into the ship’s systems through his neural network. It’s a great sacrifice, but he has allowed our fleet to grow and improve greatly.”

Interesting. I did not think High-Lord Makaan was the type to give up use of his body. I would have thought he’d get a subordinate to plug into the ship’s mainframe instead.

“I see, sir. How is the Sajuuk-Khar these days?”

“He has been busy and… difficult… to approach ever since our original Hethlim Expedition.” Vrad spoke with a certain softness to his voice and betrayed a melancholy nature to his thoughts about Makaan.

Renithor had seen Makaan just once before, four years earlier- at the first expedition the Vaygr undertook into the hostile region of space known as Hethlim. The Warlord was tall and powerful looking. His hair was long and blonde, though starting to gray, and his eyes were even more powerful than Vrad’s. To complement his appearance, his voice was unnaturally smooth and silky, yet deep. His imposing appearance coupled with such a welcoming voice created an unnerving combination and allowed him to be unusually persuasive.

The last time Renithor had seen Makaan, however, the warlord was in a critical condition on a medical gurney, shortly after the end of the battle that took place at Hethlim. An entire Vaygr fleet had perished at the hands of ancient AI controlled Progenitor guardian vessels as it attempted the recovery of the Great Hyperspace Core from that region of space. Renithor was lucky enough to survive the ordeal as the leader of a plasma lance fighter squadron, despite incredible casualties among the Vaygr strike craft. The last capital vessel that survived the battle and escaped was the Imperial Combat Vessel Winter, an older style Vaygr carrier that Makaan had used as his flagship for the expedition. Renithor’s fighter squadron, among many others, had shielded the carrier and covered its escape from the battle after the Great Hyperspace Core was retrieved. Just as the carrier was initiating a hyperspace short jump, Renithor managed a rough landing in the hangar and ran up to the bridge of the ship to check on the damage and offer any help he could.

Most of the bridge crew had perished and both Makaan and Vrad were heavily wounded. Makaan’s limbs looked burnt and were bloody from numerous shrapnel wounds. One of his legs was equally damaged while the other looked broken. Renithor, though not knowing much of medical procedures, had believed that the warlord would lose several limbs for sure. Receiving news of Makaan’s recovery seemed miraculous to Renithor.

Renithor willed his thoughts back to the matter at hand. “That is unfortunate, but I cannot imagine it being easy to have your mind bound to a ship.”

Admiral Vrad nodded in agreement and took Renithor by the shoulder, leading him off the platform. “We have much to discuss. Walk with me…” The two men walked side by side out of the hangar bay and into the flagship’s interior. To Renithor’s delight, corridors here were also far better lit than the ones on Thaddis Sabbah. They had a hexagonal cross-section. Every few meters or so hexagonal support beams lined the wall and ceiling. The walls were painted red and an off white color, giving the ship a warm appearance, if not temperature.

“Captain, four years ago I chose you as a plasma lance fighter pilot to accompany our expedition to Hethlim. The recovery of the Hethlim Hyperspace Core was a top priority for our Crusade and we picked every man in that fleet with extreme care. I’m glad I was not wrong about you. Your skills as a pilot and squadron leader proved instrumental to our survival and the recovery of the Hyperspace Core.”

“Well thank you, admiral. Always glad to do my duty.”

“The original Hethlim expedition’s events prove that you are more than competent as a leader, but you have continued being useful ever since. This is why I ordered several other ventures to Hethlim with you as an advisor. Luckily most of the progenitor AI were knocked out in the first battle, but I have been receiving a steady stream of reports detailing various victories in small skirmishes. You participated in most of these. You’ve proven your abilities and it’s time you moved up from being a command corvette captain to something… better.”

“I am honored that you think so highly of me, sir. You intend for me to command an expedition due to my experience with the region?” Renithor betrayed some excitement in his voice, but the slow shaking of Vrad’s head quickly dispelled this excitement.

“No. Though you’ve been very helpful and we have found useful artifacts of the Progenitor race since the first expedition, it seems our intended archeological targets are not there as we previously believed them to be.”

The intended targets? I wish everyone would stop being so vague about the Hethlim expeditions. I’ve been to four, and still don’t know what we are looking for over there.

Guessing what Renithor was thinking, Vrad stopped and pulled out a holopad. A projection of a screen appeared and the admiral quickly found what he was looking for. The screen was replaced by a holographical image of an object Renithor recalled seeing.

“This is what we were looking for. This is one of the three Great Hyperspace Cores that Sajuuk, the Great Maker, created. You should remember this as the target of the first Hethlim Expedition.” The object was large, at least several of Renithor’s corvettes could fit inside. A large circular section was flanked on either side by two arms designed for the core to be mounted on.

“I remember that. It’s the Hyperspace Core that we recovered. Our attempts to recover it activated the AI vessels lying dormant at the Ice Field. I’ve only heard rumors of the other cores though… I did not know they were our targets during the later expeditions. But you believe that the other two are not in Hethlim?”

“We not only believe, but we know.” Vrad sighed and began walking again before continuing. “The Bentusi, the most advanced race in our galaxy, have one of these cores. It is on their great mother ship, the Bentus. Over the years, we have begun sending fleets to dispatch their ships one by one in an attempt to draw Bentus to a fight… but we are just unable to catch their flagship.”

“Our hyperspace core cannot keep up with them?”

“No. Though the cores themselves are identical, the mounting system for the core on Bentus is far more efficient and advanced than ours. They are able to jump farther and faster.”

“But if we cannot catch them with our current core, perhaps we can look for the third core? We will be able to hyperspace faster than them!”

Vrad nodded smugly. “Now you are thinking, Captain. Where might we get another?”

Renithor narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth as a powerful rage came over him. He stopped and icily spoke a single word: “Hiigara.”

Book One: Chapter Three

The Dream of a Warlord

The two came to a large white wall with a black and red checkered door at the end of a corridor. Vrad entered a code into a pad next to the door and it slid open quickly, revealing a circular room with black walls and a metallic floor. The only lighting in it came from a dim red stripe that ran along the circumference. Some kind of polished black countertop also ran around the room. A thick robotic arm with a camera, a large crystal ball resembling an eye with a red iris, was attached magnetically to the ceiling. As Renithor and Vrad entered the room, it turned to face them and the iris narrowed slightly as if an eye attempting to focus on the new guests.

Vrad motioned for Renithor to stand in the middle of the room and the camera arm slid backwards to make space for him, though not far. Renithor scanned the room cautiously before stepping in and slowly walking into the center. As soon as he took his last step, another red ring lit up around him. He looked at the camera and then at Admiral Vrad, hoping for an explanation. Then, he heard that voice.

It was smoother than silk and yet packed the power of a tidal wave. It was deep and every word was spoken deliberately and precisely. “Do you know who I am, Renithor Tairidu?” it originated from the ceiling and spoke nearly flawless Taiidani.

“High Lord Makaan, I am honored,” said Renithor as he dropped to one knee. The camera’s eye narrowed further and the camera slowly slid along the ceiling to his right, then focused on Vrad.

“Admiral, this is the man you had in mind?”

“Yes, M’Lord. Renithor would make an excellent candidate for the ICV Winter’s next assignment.”

Makaan’s camera slid towards Vrad and kept focusing on him for several seconds, before sliding to his left, behind Renithor, and then sliding to Renithor’s front and facing him again.

“Renithor, I have read your file, and Admiral Vrad holds you in high regards. I know you were instrumental in our carrier’s survival at the Hethlim Ice Fields. I am grateful… and I award competence well. Loyalty, I reward even better.”

“I am loyal to the end, M’Lord.”

“Are you, Captain? You are Taiidani and from what I hear, you have little love for our culture.”

Oh ■■■■, what does he think I did?
“I, uh… have certain issues with some aspects of the Vaygr culture, but I would never betray you or the crusades!”

“But I am Vaygr, Tairidu. If we fought the Taiidani Republic, would you be loyal so readily?”

Renithor paused and blinked for a moment, his mind struggling for a response. “I… am a soldier of the Vaygr, and there are things I do not like in my own culture. I will not lie: I would not be satisfied fighting my own people, but I believe that your empire is the way forward. If the rise of the Vaygr Empire means assimilation of the Republic, so be it.”

“You speak of loyalty, but why do you betray your own people so hastily?”

I am not a traitor! The Republic is corrupt and needs to be brought to justice.

“I see, and what is it that sets the Vaygr apart from your Republic, then?”

Renithor’s eyes widened. Had Makaan just read his mind? He looked with alarm at Vrad who knowingly nodded.

Well they’re totally different!

Again, Makaan seemed to intercept Renithor’s thoughts. “How, Captain?”

“The Republic’s leaders have become corrupt and the society is devolving into decadence. My parents were killed by power hungry officials. I am with the Vaygr in part because…” Renithor paused for a moment to come up with a satisfactory conclusion. “Your empire promises the galaxy a new beginning. As the Sajuuk Khar, I believe only you can restore prosperity and peace.”

Makaan’s camera seemed to pierce Renithor’s soul as it sit still, staring at him for what seemed like forever. Finally, Makaan’s voice again came through the speakers. “You believe that is what we are fighting for, Captain?”

“Yes, M’Lord, I do.”

Vrad decided to interject. “Our enemies would have you believe otherwise. They say we only seek to conquer for our own benefit. The Republic you came from says so as well,”

Renithor nodded thoughtfully, but his response was swift. “The Republic’s leaders show it as a beacon of civilization, a model. But they are wrong. Their society is just as troubled as any. They only hide it better. I think that what they say of Lord Makaan’s crusade is just another case of their lies. I believe that we fight for more than conquest. I may not have been in the Vaygr fleet for long, and you were probably admirals before I was born, but I’ve seen a definite change. The crusades are united. Lord Makaan has brought peace to the crusades- something no warlord has achieved in thousands of years. We fight and live under a single banner. I am here because I believe in this unity, and I believe that the Vaygr can bring it to all the galaxy.”

Makaan’s camera slid between Renithor and Vrad, facing Ren. “I see you do believe in our cause. I hope you prove as competent as you are loyal.” The camera moved away, leaving Vrad and Renithor again facing one another.

Vrad was the first to speak. “Captain, you’ve been due for a promotion to executive officer of a destroyer… but Lord Makaan and I have a better use for loyal followers. You have seen the crusades unite, but I am sure you also see the underlying tensions. Plenty of our admirals are corrupt or disloyal to our united crusade. Divides in our people still run deep, and we are in short supply of men we can trust.”

“You can trust me, Admiral.”

“I believe I can, and that is why you are here. You believe in the same dream that Lord Makaan and I have been fighting towards for decades. The idea of a galaxy united under a single peace. A peace that can be only be brought by the Sajuuk Khar.”

Makaan’s camera again pivoted to face the two. “The recovery of the Great Hyperspace Core from the Hethlim Ice Fields was the greatest achievement of our people to date, but it is not enough. The Hiigarans and Bentusi still possess the other two cores. My destiny is to become the Sajuuk Khar and awaken Sajuuk, but first I must claim what is mine. The two other cores must be brought to me.”

Yes, the ancient prophecy of the Gods’ return.

“Those who now hold the cores will never surrender them willingly. I have no desire to spill blood needlessly, but for enduring peace to come, Sajuuk must return.”

I wonder what he’s getting at. What part am I to play in this?

“I am glad you asked, Captain… The Bentusi have proven too difficult to track down, but the Hiigaran core is not far, and it is not moving. I cannot discern its exact location, but it must be in one of three places. The old Kushan Mothership still orbits Hiigara. Perhaps the Hiigarans keep their core on this relic. Or, perhaps, they have moved it to a museum on the surface of their homeworld. One more location is left: The great derelicts at Tanis house a Hiigaran construction scaffold beginning a new mothership. We do not know for certain where the core is, so I am sending a fleet to search each mothership. If we have not found it by then, we will siege Hiigara and take it from their surface.”

“We are going to war against Hiigara?”

“Yes, Captain. We have come so far, and we are so close. The Hiigarans believe they are the chosen people, and hail their Kushan savior, Karan S’Jet, as the chosen one… but there can only be one Sajuuk Khar. Only with the defeat of Hiigara will the Vaygr rise up to our destiny.”

Vrad decided to ask Renithor the obvious question: “Do you believe that we must defeat Hiigara?”

Renithor thought it over. “Yes. The destruction of the Taiidani Empire left a trail of civil war and destruction so great that my people have not recovered a century later. The Hiigarans now celebrate the destruction they wrought upon my people and rewrite history to fit their needs. They support any means that prevent the Taiidani from regaining any power or influence. The Taiidani rebels fought side by side with the Kushan, and it was my people that fought the majority of the battles against Imperial forces and later against the Beast and Turanic raiders. Yet, the Hiigarans have painted all of these things as their own victories, and seek to rewrite history to their own benefits. They make no mention of the damage they inflicted upon the Taiidani of Hiigara, or their later conquests of Taiidani space. They wish to keep us poor and weak. I am no Taiidani Imperial, but I believe that the Hiigaran people are an obstacle to justice in the galaxy. Their defeat would write a historic wrong.”

Makaan’s camera panned around Renithor for several seconds and then turned to Vrad. “Good. Admiral, I believe he is ready.”

Book One: Chapter Four

Off the Record

Admiral Vrad and Captain Renithor walked through the halls once again, this time back in the direction of Ren’s corvette.

“I understand your concerns Captain, but Lord Makaan would not give you this assignment if he had any doubts.”

“But admiral, I have doubts. What in the world convinced Makaan that I am qualified to be second in command of a carrier group?”

“It’s not so much a matter of qualifications as it is of loyalty… There are few whom Makaan can trust. You’ve been far from Vaygr politics, especially at Thaddis Sabbah… but you must understand that a man as revolutionary as Makaan can split loyalties. I believe it’s a miracle only Sajuuk could pull off that the crusades have stayed together this long. Many of our admirals are corrupt. The recovery of the Hiigaran core from the Kushan Mothership is a mission the success of failure of which will determine the survival of our race, and the fate of the galaxy.”

“I think I understand.”

“I am leading the mission to take the core from the Pride of Hiigara in Tanis, and Lord Makaan himself will lead the siege of Hiigara. Our next most skilled admiral is Varas Rataan, but he is in no way trustworthy. No other admiral is. I recommended you to be the second in charge on this mission to Lord Makaan because I believe your loyalty to our cause in uninterruptable. You may not be qualified to be an admiral, but you do not need to be. You have experience as a captain of fighter squadrons, frigates, and even command corvettes. You only need to have enough experience for Admiral Varas to avoid dismissing you as a spy. Make no mistake- he will not take kindly to us appointing you to that position, but he cannot get rid of you so easily.”

Renithor frowned at this explanation. “So… you’re saying that you want me present on the ICV Winter carrier group to ensure Admiral Varas doesn’t decide to go Skaar-■■■■ insane and decide to put himself up as the Sajuuk Khar in the middle of our war against Hiigara?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“With all due respect sir, am I supposed to persuade him to play nice with brownies? I’ve heard his crew has little respect for outsiders, even Vaygr ones… much less Taiidani. If he decides to rebel, what is to stop him declaring me as an annoyance and air-locking me for his entertainment?”

The two stopped walking as they came to an elevator. Vrad pressed a few buttons and a green progress bar appeared on a nearby monitor to indicate the time remaining until the elevator arrived.

“I can’t tell you now, Captain, but have some faith. Lord Makaan and I would not be where we are now without some ways to make ends meet.”

Right, why is everyone always so vague? Well, I just really hope they know what they’re doing…

The elevator arrived and the two stepped in. It began its ascent. After briefly looking through a small handheld tablet, Vrad decided to continue the conversation.

“I must soon return to my duties as admiral, Renithor. From this point on, you are to report to Admiral Varas Rataan. He will be waiting for you on the ICV Winter at staging point P47 in four days. In the meantime, there are some individuals you should meet. Wander around if you wish, but be in the pre-boarding area to your corvette in thirty minutes. I will see you then.” A silence ensued, before Vrad decided to add one more comment. “This should go without saying, Captain, but I hope you understand that this is all strictly off the record.”

“Yessir.” Renithor nodded.

The elevator reached its destination and the doors slid open with a hiss. The two men stepped out and Vrad quickly moved off towards a pair of Vaygr officers while Renithor moved off in the opposite direction.

How long can they possibly make these corridors?

It was slightly over a kilometer from Makaan’s chamber back to the corvette. The halls were full of Vaygr in black and white uniforms hustling along or chatting in large groups. Seeing a mess hall, Renithor changed his path- he could use a dose of caffeine and food.

The room was louder than what he was used to. The crew were energetic, yelling and doing everything from drinking to gambling and even armwrestling. With a deep breath, Renithor strode into the chaos, heading towards the food bar. He took a look at the menu, but only found some annoyingly unappealing choices. He looked around the room until his eyes stopped on a pair of vending machines.

He made his way over, careful to avoid some rather violent areas of the mess hall. A barely conscious drunk Vaygr was leaning against one of the machines while singing something about female fighter pilots.

“You’re blocking the vending machine. Could you move?”

The man barely acknowledged Renithor, only giving him a blank looking nod.

“I said, you’re in my way. Move.”

The man nodded again, failing to remotely comprehend what Renithor was asking him to do. His patience dwindling, Renithor shoved the man aside. The drunk then staggered over to a table and fell on it, knocking the food on it to the ground. The angry Vaygr occupants of that table rose and dragged the man to a bathroom. They then left and closed the door behind them, propping a chair below the doorknob to lock the drunk in.

Renithor watched the scene quietly with a little amusement. A growl from his stomach returned his attention to the two vending machines. He deposited some coins into a vending machine’s coin slot and selected a meal. The machine rumbled and spat out a fist sized cylinder of chili and a red can. Renithor picked these up and looked over the red can with curiosity. It was labelled “Exotic Fusion” in blocky Vaygr letters. Raising an eyebrow, he turned the can over and read the backside.

The backside revealed that the contents were a spicy tea with 8% alcohol, and was based on a formula originally found on the planet Adary somewhere on the eastern fringe of the galaxy. The Vaygr liked to include a label detailing the level of spiciness the beverage contained. This one’s spiciness level was Atmosphere Depravation Weapon- which was above nuclear warhead and fusion missile, and several steps above plasma rifle round.

Well the Vaygr certainly love naming things after weapons. Hey- this has Harella Peppers in it. I thought those were indigenous to Taiidan.

He looked over the ingredients section, and finally read the bottom of the can, which said the contents were made from reassembled atoms acquired from asteroids.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over drinking asteroid dust…

He didn’t look for a table. Instead, he made his way out of the mess hall, barely avoiding a small fight that had broken out.

If this were going on my ship, I’d airlock all of them. They’re like angry adolescents…

Hiding his disgust, he left the chaos behind him and continued towards his corvette. As he neared one of the main elevators which would take him to the top floor of the hangar bay, he again noticed Admiral Vrad. The admiral was conversing with a young male in a black spacesuit Renithor had never seen before, Turanic by the looks of him, and a female Vaygr lieutenant dressed in the gray and white uniform worn by intelligence officers. Renithor approached the trio and the intelligence officer moved about a meter so he had room to join in.

Vrad nodded to acknowledge Renithor’s presence, but continued the conversation with the other two. “So you are sure we can count on your raiders to properly harass Hiigaran outposts? Neither I nor High-Lord Makaan have much patience for failure- even less for failure to carry out promises.”

The man nodded eagerly and spoke in the Galactic Standard Language with a very thick Turanic accent. Renithor found it peculiar but quit unpleasant to the ear. “Yeah, Admiral. Ain’t better raiders nowhere in the galaxy. We’ll do it better ‘an our God Qwaar-Jet ever could.”

Interesting, I wonder what they are planning.

“Good. We can’t have those outpost fleets returning to Hiigara, especially in the early stages of our attack. Also…” Vrad reached into his pocket and took out a card sized metallic pad and handed it to the man. “These are coordinates to a Hiigaran shipping route used by one of their clans, called Kiith S’Jet. This data pad contains the shipping schedule. We need you to send your most elite… most elite… raiders to the specified coordinates at the specified time. There and then you will find an unarmed cargo barge with an escort of several torpedo and flak frigates.”

“Ya want us to wipe em outta the galaxy?”

“No. In fact, all of them need to be intact. We’re interested in their hyperdrives.”

“Ain’t Vaygr fast-space drives as fast as the Hiigie ones? Why the Kadesh do’ya need Hiigie drives?”

“That is classified and none of your concern. We’re paying you to board and capture the ships and extract their hyperdrives. You can then do what you want with their crews and ships. Shortly after you gain possession of the hyperdrives, you’ll send a secure encryption towards Vaygr territory. The encryption is also included on the data pad. A Vaygr carrier group will arrive to collect the hyperdrives and will pay you our agreed on sum. Our carrier will be named the ICV Winter and the admiral is Varas Rataan.”

“Yeah, I gotchya. Anything more?”

“No, you may go.”

The Turanic turned around and walked off in the direction of the elevators. Vrad then turned to Renithor. “Glad to see you are in one piece, Captain. Makaan is not as hard on discipline on his flagship as I like to be.”

“I’ll need some Qwaar-damn painkillers to get over their stupidity, but I think I’ll be fine,” Renithor joked unsuccessfully.

The admiral let out a chuckle. “Yes, I probably could have warned you. You’ve never been out of the officer quarters before, even in your pilot days, have you?” Renithor shook his head, so Vrad continued, “Yes, our lower ranks are not the greatest civilization has to offer. Must be quite a culture shock. I’ve heard from a couple of other Taiidani captains that it helps to drink it off. But I see you’re ahead of the game already.”

Renithor looked at the admiral, trying to understand what he was talking about. A few seconds later, he realized Vrad had been talking about the “Exotic Fusion” drink Renithor was still holding unopened in his right hand. “Oh yeah, that. I could certainly use a good drink.”

“I’d recommend some hard liquor over that. You’re not going to get much out of that except a burnt mouth,” interjected the female officer pointing to the can. “You can ask any of your crew. They probably have a few Fire Dragon bottles stashed away, against regulation.”

The admiral’s eyes widened and he stared at the woman. “What, they still do that?” She nodded and he gawked even more. “Unbelievable. How long has this been going on this ship and who is responsible?”

“Well… everyone, really. Sorry, sir, I thought you knew.”

“Damn, people never tell me these things.” The admiral sighed. “Alright, we’ll figure that out later. Captain, this is Lieutenant Vayra. She’s the intelligence officer assigned to help plan your mission.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Renithor while looking over the woman. She had dark red hair and a skinny, attractive, face with two sharp green eyes. Her uniform closely fit her body, letting her retain a degree of sexiness despite the bland style of the uniform. She was slightly shorter than him but stood quite proudly with a pleasant smile aimed in his direction.

“Likewise, Captain Renithor Tairidu,” she replied. Her gaze was also traveling up and down as she took in his appearance as well.

Renithor smiled with slight confusion. “I don’t believe I told you my name yet.”

“Ren, please, I’m from intelligence. I know just about everything there is to you.”

Admiral Vrad smirked. “She scares me sometimes.”

The smirk that had slowly formed on Vayra’s face suggested that she knew far more about him than she was letting on, even after her rather broad comment. “Oh come on, Captain, it’s not like your file is top secret.” Renithor would not put it past Vayra to have studied his file obsessively for a week.

Ren chuckled in response. “Well, nice to meet you, Lieutenant. Will you be joining the mission?”

Vrad beat Vayra to the response. “No, she is only in charge of gathering intelligence and helping plan. She will not accompany the ICV Winter.”

“Alright.”

“Well, I will leave the two of you here. Vayra will brief you on the mission details over the next two days, Captain. Next time I see you, I hope it will be with Sajuuk himself present.” With that, Vrad and Renithor saluted one another and Vrad walked off.

“So, Captain, I heard that one of your crew ended up in sickbay.” Vayra said with a brief chuckle. “Harella peppers, right?”

Chapter Five
Spies and Booze

Renithor’s skin turned several shades lighter. “What? Lieutenant Taryr is in the sickbay?” He asked with significant alarm. He had never meant for the prank to escalate that far. He began to perspire, suddenly feeling extremely hot.

“Yeah, he’s fine though. No injuries. He just thought his tongue fell out and it took the ChiefMed down there ten minutes to convince him that his mouth was intact.”

“Oh, Qwaar-dammit. You had me thinking it suffocated him or something,” he replied with relief. “How do you know about that?”

“Well what can I say, I must be Sajuuk incarnate.”

“Come on, Lieutenant, I’m serious.”

“Sickbay sent me a message the moment he arrived. I set the ship’s main AI to notify me of anything regarding you or your crew.”

“Well isn’t that a little excessive? Whatever happened to privacy?”

“I like to keep an eye on mission critical assets.”

“Right. I’m honored,” replied Renithor sarcastically. “By the way, I think I’ll host a welcome back party for Taryr on the corvette. Since you know all about what kind of drinks my crew is stashing, maybe you can help.”

Vayra smiled mischievously at the suggestion. “Sir, you’re not thinking of sending him to the sickbay again?”

“No, just his pride. We can have a large banner hailing the return of the brave Lieutenant Taryr,” Renithor remarked with some heavy sarcasm in his voice. The intelligence officer giggled at the suggestion.

“Pleased to actually meet you, Captain Ren,” Vayra said with a grin.

“What, after studying my file for the past year, Lieutenant?” Renithor cracked another sarcastic remark.

“No, Captain, I’m not that obsessive.”

Despite her creepy knowledge of everything about him, possibly down to the amount of hairs on his head, Renithor quickly found himself becoming good friends with Vayra. He had invited her to part-take in his sarcastic “welcome back” party for Lieutenant Taryr to get to know her better as someone who he would be working closely with, but he found himself getting to know her before they even got to the corvette.

Lieutenant Vayra was a lot like him. She was fairly bold and intelligent and didn’t like formality much. While some Vaygr officers might have taken this to be a lack of respect, Renithor welcomed it. He felt too young to be in such a high command position, to speak nothing of his promotion, and it was refreshing to have someone who talked to him openly around. He also figured that her great liberty around him was carefully considered. Having as much knowledge of him as she did, she could probably sum his personality up before even meeting him. Vaguely, Renithor’s subconscious recalled the stern at-attention stance she stood at in the presence of Admiral Vrad and then the loose, relaxed, stature she had adopted as soon as the Admiral left. They shared a sense of humor and it was easy to make her laugh without any effort. He found himself laughing as well, much more often than he remembered doing around most Vaygr since the academy years.

As they approached his command corvette, Renithor took a small pad out of his pocket and after a few swipes on the touch screen, he found the controls to the corvette’s door mechanism and remotely opened it.

“Welcome, Lieutenant, to my humble ship.”

“Looks nice. A little small though, isn’t it, Captain?”

“Well, I used to have a bigger one. An old fire-clad class assault frigate named the ICV Rapier, though we had some interesting nicknames for it. I recall one was the smokestack. The vessel was old and one of the engine rings was loose, and the plasma would travel around it in a rather odd way making it look like the rear of the ship was on fire and letting off a ton of smog. We also called it the interceptor due to an incident when a Turanic combat subroutine took control of the ship…”

“I read about that, sir.”

“Yup, I was telling my fiancé about it earlier.”

“How is Lyra?”

Renithor paused- he had not yet told Vayra his fiance’s name, so having Vayra mention it so casually put him on guard. “She’s fine. Not that it’s your concern,” he replied coldly while giving her an unwelcoming look.

“I’m sorry, Captain, I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“No, it’s fine, Vayra. I’m just not used to people peering into my life. I find it… odd.”

They had now walked onto the corvette and the door closed behind them, revealing a long hallway which branched off in several directions. Renithor led the way and they walked through the second door on the left and walked for another thirty seconds before coming to a small mess hall. The room had one long table and a kitchen. There were some chairs scattered around and one of the corners had a large circular table for playing cards on and a sofa. A few crewmembers were in the room and they yelled “welcome, sir” to the captain as he walked in.

“I’ll just have to have you promise not to count the hairs on my hear or watch over me while I sleep… but we can talk about that later. Wait a second,” Renithor told Vayra and set his Exotic Fusion can, still unopened, on the table. He then walked to a small dial-pad on the wall and pressed 1, patching his voice throughout the corvette. “Alright, listen up. This is the Captain. I want all crewmembers at the kitchen within 5 minutes. Anybody not here by then is going to be either airlocked, or reassigned to work at a rehab center on the flagship- in which case your alcoholic ass will wish it were airlocked.”

Renithor had a way of being easily approachable and very informal around his crew, and his jokes about various invented punishments made him more likeable. This came at the price of being taken less seriously, but it had been months since they had seen combat and day to day Renithor did not mind them slacking on carrying out his orders. He had nothing better to do that to chase them around for it anyways.

Five minutes passed rather quickly and almost the entire crew had gathered. Renithor had everyone sit at the table while he stood at the head. “So… everyone except Taryr is here… good. How was the show he gave?”

“Awesome, sir!”
“You should have seen his face after just two seconds!”
“He thought his tongue fell out!”
A chorus of excited voices exclaimed various things about Lieutenant Taryr’s encounter with the Harella Peppers.

“Glad you guys enjoyed the fireworks. Now, he’ll be back from the infirmary soon and I want to throw him a return party for his great endurance and bravery.” Ren paused while a laugh rose from his crew members in response to his sarcasm. “This here,” he gestured towards Vayra, “is Lieutenant Vayra. She works in intelligence and apparently knows every Qwaar-damn detail about every one of us. Probably knows how many hairs each of you has on your head… She told me that all of you have secret stashes of alcohol…” He joking expression turned into a frown and he glared at his crew. “You all know that is against regulation.” A sudden silence swept through the crew while they eyed him attentively, anticipating his next actions, fearful for their alcohol stashes.

“So, all of you have to cough up a couple bottles each, and I’ll overlook the rest.” A relieved sigh went up from everyone at the table. “I expect a nice row of bottles on the table in two minutes. Do it now, make it so!”

Vayra nodded approvingly as the crew scurried off to the bunks to bring their alcohol. She brushed her hand through her wavy red hair and fixed her eyes on Renithor, deep in thought. Noticing her look, Ren raised his left eyebrow quizzically. “What is it, Lieutenant?”

“Nothing, really. Just wondering why you were Admiral Vrad’s first choice for this mission.”

“You don’t think I am qualified, Vayra?”

“I think you’re qualified and loyal… but… never mind.” Vayra’s voice trailed off and she looked away as if something were on her mind. “Vrad, he has an interesting way of going about some things.”

“What are you talking about?” Renithor asked, his suspicions rising.

“Nothing,” she replied with a warm smile. “Just fleet intel stuff. Just curious that he chose a Taiidani for this mission. It just adds a new dimension of relations between you and Admiral Varas.” She shrugged.

Ren nodded and decided to drop the topic, but his suspicion persisted. “Yeah, I know. It’s hard sometimes to be accepted by your people. Makaan has been getting rid of those clan sentiments from the crusade days, but I still see them going strong sometimes. Anyways, let’s have some drinks.”

He picked up a bottle of Fire Dragon that a young female crew member in charge of fire coordination for the command corvette had just placed on the table. He uncorked it and poured Vayra a shot into a stainless steel cup nearby.

She picked up the shot and sloshed it around for several seconds. Then, a wide grin spread across her face as if he had just told her something amusing. She took the Fire Dragon bottle from Ren’s grip and handed him the shot he had just poured for her. Ren’s eyebrows shot up as she started chugging straight from the bottle. He blinked several times to wear off the shock and swallowed the shot.

Wow, I did not expect that.

When Vayra set the bottle down again, a third of it was missing. “There, that’ll give a slight buzz.”

Oh please, Ms. I’m-Vaygr-So-I-Can-Drink-A-Lot, you’re not the only one with a high tolerance here…

Ren took a swig from the same bottle, but proceeded to instead pour several shots after that first swig.

Qwaar-Damn, this tastes like straight up rubbing alcohol. I hate this stuff.

Vayra looked on unimpressed as Renithor took a few shots in rapid succession. He had a high tolerance, but he doubted he could outdrink her. He turned to the young woman who had brought the bottle a minute earlier. “Cathy, please bring me some battle chili and while you’re at it, use the matter fabricator to print a sign, welcoming the brave Taryr back.”

“Yes sir!” Answered the young woman eagerly. She ran off and soon returned with a can of chili.

Vayra looked questioningly at Renithor.

“I’m hungry,” he shrugged as casually as if he had chips in front of him. He opened the can and stuck a fork inside. He put the first fork-full in his mouth. A hot and spicy feeling burned into his tongue, but it was nothing he could not handle. He shoveled another two forks of the extremely spicy meal into his mouth as casually as possible. Vayra’s jaw nearly dropped. Clearly, Ren’s ability to eat spicy food had not made it to his file.

Yeah, I bet you wish you could eat battle chili like this

Seeing Renithor’s smile at his little victory in their undeclared contest, Vayra formed half a smile and pretended not to notice. She took the Fire Dragon and tipped it up again, drinking the fiery alcohol as if it were nothing. Ren let out a laugh.

A large stocky Vaygr walked up to the pair. “How was your meeting with the admiral, Captain?”

“Good. I actually met more than just the admiral.”

“Who else was there?” Renithor only smiled in response. “Wait, you mean…?” The man’s eyes widened at the realization that Renithor had met with Makaan just an hour earlier. “Holy ■■■■. Everyone, the captain met with Makaan!”

The crew all dropped what they were doing and ran over, sending a flurry of questions flying at Renithor. He chuckled in response. “Yeah, yeah. Well, not him exactly. He’s plugged into the ship’s computer matrix. I only spoke with him through some speakers and a camera… And one more thing everyone. Since you’re all here, with the exception of our brave warrior, I have an announcement.”

Renithor paused for dramatic effect. “I’m being promoted to the second in command of the Winter Carrier Group.”

The men and women of his crew uttered in confusion. Some congratulated him, others stated they would miss him. Renithor stood up. “It’s been a pleasure serving with all of you. We have done fine work at Hethlim, but I think it’s time for us to part ways…” Renithor turned to Cathy, the young woman who had brought him the chili.

“Cathy, you’re the smallest of us here.” She smiled embarrassed. “But, you’re also the bravest. I remember how you overcame your fear of combat and worked to coordinate the fleet’s combat during our latest battles. Thanks to you, dozens of Vaygr lives were saved. Pursue your career, and you will make a great officer one day.”

He turned to address the muscular man who had questioned him about his meeting. “Lendil, you are a skilled warrior and a bright mind. You’ve earned your place on this crew twice over. I’ll recommend that you be posted for Corridor Commando training. I think it would suit you well.”

One by one, Renithor continued to say his goodbyes each of the crew. Finally, he came to Vayra. “Lieutenant Vayra, I understand that our paths only begin here. I look forward to working with you, and I hope that our partnership brings much success to the Vaygr.”

“Likewise, Captain Tairidu.”

“What’s all the commotion about?” Asked a familiar voice from the far doorway of the kitchen. Taryr stood at the door, straining to appear as tall and proud as he could to make up for his Harella Pepper related debacle earlier in the day.

“Welcome back, warrior!” Renithor yelled to Taryr, while simultaneously gesturing towards the sign Cathy had put up just a few minutes earlier.

Taryr read the sign once, frowned, and read it again. Then the sarcasm of the sentence hit him and he turned several shades more red. “I uh, thanks…” He muttered, and entered the kitchen, desperately looking for some alcohol to try and prove his Vaygr masculinity and redeem himself. Renithor handed him a large cup full of Fire Dragon. Taryr quickly drained the whole thing.

Vayra took a step closer. “Captain, I forgot to tell you, Taryr is being reassigned along with you. He’ll accompany you to the Winter- they need a new fire control operator.”

“What?!” Sputtered Taryr. “We’re going to the ICV Winter?”

Vayra beat Ren to reply. “Your captain is being promoted to second in command of the Winter carrier group.”

“Oh wow, that is… something,” Taryr replied, still surprised by the unexpected news. He took another glass of alcohol from the table, and drank the whole think in one swig, in true Vaygr style.

“Of course, Taryr, you’re going to have to prove that you’re worthy to come with me. Your performance as a Vaygr earlier this morning hardly gives me hope.” Renithor remarked as a joke.

“You can’t be serious, sir! I am all Vaygr!”

“Nah, I don’t see it.”

“I bet I can outdrink any man here!” Taryr boldly claimed. Vayra wanted to accept the challenge, but Renithor raised an arm to keep her from saying anything.

“I accept that challenge, Lieutenant,” Renithor said, surprising Taryr. Renithor was generally known to have a stick up his ass when it came to alcohol.

The rules of the contest were not defined, but they were simple: Keep drinking until someone falls over. The two each grabbed the nearest glass of alcohol, and with great speed emptied the contents. Then the next, and the next.

Taryr grabbed a glass of Fire Dragon while Renithor downed a glass of rum. The two looked at each other across the table while the crew cheered. “Feel like surrendering yet, Lieutenant?” Renithor asked, mischievously eyeing the next drink Taryr was likely to grab.

“Not far Sajuuk has to offer, sir! A Vaygr never yields!”

“Haha, alright, Taryr. Let’s see what you’re made of!” Renithor and Taryr each finished the glass they were holding, and Taryr grabbed the next drink on his side of the table: The Exotic Fusion Renithor had bought from the vending machine on the flagship. Renithor was pouring another glass of Fire Dragon for himself, so Taryr hurriedly opened the can and sent its bottom rocketing to the sky.

Renithor and Vayra fell silent and awaited Taryr’s reaction, knowing the nature of the drink he had just had. The crew kept cheering, but the pained expression spreading across Taryr’s face quickly made them fall silent. The quietly exchanged questions and intently watched his every reaction.

The lieutenant’s face was turning several shades redder every second. Maintaining the greatest clam he could, he set the Exotic Fusion back on the table and swallowed what he had been holding in his mouth. Renithor and Vayra were struggling not to laugh as Taryr began to sweat and hyperventilate. Tears formed up on his eyes and he started shaking.

Cathy was the first of the crew to catch on. She had seen his reaction to the Harella Pepper Ren gave Taryr earlier in the day. As soon as she realized what was wrong, she sprinted across the kitchen to grab the neutralizer liquid- a blue fluid which usually nullified any spicy properties of food. She poured a large glass and ran it to Taryr.

The lieutenant held out for two more seconds before lunging for the glass. Vayra piped up to stop him, but Renithor pulled her back by her shoulder. Vayra knew that while the neutralizer would help with most spicy foods, even including the famous Vaygr battle chili, it only amplified the properties of Harella Peppers.

Taryr pumped the liquid into his mouth, then stopped about half a second later and dropped the glass. He started coughing and screamed out loud, sprinting out of the room towards the medical bay of the flagship.

A minute passed while everyone digested what had just happened in silence. Then, Vayra started to laugh. “Captain, I definitely underestimated you. Maybe Vrad picked the perfect man after all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so diabolical. Qwaar-Jet would be proud.”

Renithor smiled, then began to laugh. First it was just a slow chuckle, then picked up to a hearty laugh, and finally turned for the hysterical. The crew began to laugh, and finally joined Vayra and Ren in guffawing at what had just happened.

“Aw, ■■■■, Vayra. I haven’t had a laugh like that in ages,” Renithor finally managed to say after about two minutes of laughing as he wiped tears from his eyes. He took the rest of the Exotic Fusion and chugged it in several seconds, then threw it back on the table. The crew fell silent and watched his reaction, expecting the same fiery pain that had made Taryr rush to the medbay. Renithor simply stood up, nodded to his crew, and walked away. They stared stunned at his bad-assery as he vanished into the corridor leading to his bunk.

I realized that I had missed Chapter 3 when I was posting the chapters, so if you didn’t read Ren’s interaction with Makaan, you should really go back and read it. Otherwise, the story will make less sense.

I added it it by editing the post containing Chapter 2 and simply posting Chapter 3 after it.

TLDR; Everything up to and including Ch 5 is now fixed and you should keep reading. :wink:

Book One: Chapter 5

An Unexpected Visitor

Renithor cursed quietly to himself at the intense vertigo he was experiencing as he laid sprawled out across his bunk’s bathroom. He had thrown up two or three times and would have done so again if his stomach were not empty. Silently, he recounted the amount of alcohol he must have consumed earlier in the evening during his drinking contest.

He had a high tolerance relative to Taiidani or Hiigarans, but he figured he must have had almost a full bottle worth of Fire Dragon- and that liquor was hardly child’s play. At least, non Vaygr children didn’t usually drink it. He might have held the alcohol down if he hadn’t tried to sleep it off. He work up fifteen minutes earlier with a strong case of sea-sickness, and it was not long before he was bent over his toilet.

“Damn, good thing none of the crew are here to see me like this…” Renithor muttered quietly.

“Yeah, it’s probably for the best.” Said a female voice from a few feet away. It startled Ren, who looked over to see Vayra leaning against a nearby wall back in his bunk room. “Are you going to be fine, Captain?”

“How’d you get in?”

“I’m from intelligence, there really aren’t any places they can keep me out of…”

“Right.” Renithor rubbed his forehead and remembered her earlier question. “I’ll be fine. Just somewhat dizzy.” He struggled to his knees and then his feet. “What happened with what’s his name?” He gestured in circles with his right hand, trying to recall the name he was searching for.

“Taryr?”

“Ah, yes. Him.”

“Oh he’ll be fine, I’m sure. His tongue will probably be numb for a day, but that’s about it.” She stood straight, walking a couple of paces towards the door. “It’s late, and we can talk again tomorrow. You won’t drink yourself to death before I see you again, I hope?”

“What? Oh, no… I really don’t like getting drunk. I don’t drink like this often.”

“I know. Here, have this.” She threw a bottle of water at Ren, who caught it, much to his own surprise. “You might want to drink that… you’re going to have a visitor tomorrow, and you won’t want to be hung over.”

Renithor nodded to Vayra as she walked out, sliding the door closed after her. In slow sips, he drained the bottle over a long period of time. When he was done with it, he threw it towards the garbage can across the room, missing by almost ten feet. He sighed, but could not be bothered to pick it up. Instead, he just crawled to his feet again and wandered over to his bed and collapsed, exhausted.

Ren’s daily alarm woke him up with its buzzing, more annoying than ever. He grudgingly gave his clock a death glare, but propped himself up, vaguely remembering Vayra’s comment about a visitor. He was not particularly hung over, but he was still dizzy and felt an overwhelming exhaustion luring him to sleep.

He stood up and got dressed. Every action felt painstakingly long. Finally dressed, he looked at himself in the mirror. He looked homeless compared to his polished appearance the previous day. His hair stood up all over and dark pouches were under his eyes. He splashed water on his face and wandered outside.

“Good morning, Captain.”

“Good morning, Cathy. Any visitors for me today?”

“Yes, actually. We just received the notification ten minutes ago. The visitor is unidentified, but will meet you in the officer morale area in two hours.”

“Thank you.”

Two hours later, Ren sat slumped into a well cushioned chair in the morale area. Dubstep like music and neon lights filled the air, doing little to help him with his dizziness. He wanted to read some news, but was far too tired. He rubbed his eyes with frustration.

Why do I always have to try so hard?

“Hello, Captain. I hope you’re feeling better.”

This time, Renithor recognized the voice, but he was getting a little irritated at Vayra’s tendency to appear behind him. “I’m fine, Lieutenant. Who is the visitor?” He asked, turning slowly to face her.

“Well, you should know, Renithor… you invited her.”

“What?” Renithor exclaimed in confusion.

Vayra winked and began to walk away.

“Lieutenant! What are you talking about?” Vayra ignored his call, prompting him to get up. “Lieutenant, stop and explain yourself, that’s an order!” Vayra stopped and turned around to face Ren. “Who is coming, and what do you mean, ‘I invited her’?”

“Well it’s quite simple, Captain,” Vayra answered with a smile, nodding in the direction of a doorway on the other side of the large room.

There, stood two corridor commandoes accompanying Lyra, Ren’s fiancé. Ren stared at Lyra in surprise, then glared at Vayra. “What is this, Lieutenant?”

“Nothing sir, just thought you might want to see her before you went off to war…”

“Oh… is that it?”

“Sure.”

“What? What does that… never mind. I’ll talk to you later, Vayra.” Ren shook his head with frustration as she walked off. He did not like all the shady things going on, especially with the mission he was involved in, and with an intelligence officer inviting his fiancé over to the flagship. He was starting to feel more and more like he was being trapped in a conspiracy of some kind.

“Hey, babe.” Lyra said as she approached Ren. The guards kept a good distance away, giving the couple a little privacy.

“Hey, honey. How are you?” Ren and Lyra exchanged a kiss and hugged each other for several seconds, before parting and leaving only their hands in contact.

“Alright. But I wished you’d tell me we were moving to this ship earlier.”

“Wait, what?”

“Well I know we have to move sometimes for your job, but it would be much better if you gave me more than an hour to pack,” Lyra said, throwing him an annoyed expression.

“But, I never asked you to come here.”

“What do you mean? You sent me an email yesterday night that you needed me to move here immediately and would have two guards escort me to this ship.”

“I never…” Renithor’s sentence trailed off and he frowned with anger. “Oh, that bitch.”

“Who?”

“An intel officer I met yesterday. She must have faked the email to get you to come here.”

“Why? That’s just weird.”

Ren sighed and adjusted his collar. “I’m not sure,” he lied. “But I’ll get to the bottom of this.

What kind of game are you playing with me, Vayra? My fiancé is not someone to blackmail me with…

“Okay. Well, how did your meeting with the admiral go?”

Renithor changed his expression to a friendlier one. “It actually went pretty damn well. I’m being promoted to second in command of a carrier group!”

“Wow, baby, I’m so proud of you!” She squeaked with excitement.

“Haha, thanks. Well, I’ve got nowhere to be until evening. What are you going to be doing?”

“Not much, we’ll have to find my quarters before long though. The crews are transferring my luggage, so I don’t have to worry about all that. Maybe we can have some drinks until then?”

Renithor cringed in response. “I’m really a bit more in the mood for something more peaceful right now.”

“Nonsense! We have to celebrate your promotion.”

“Well I can buy you a drink, but I really am good, honestly.”

Lyra smiled and kissed Ren again. “Well maybe we should have a party some other time.”

Ren laughed nervously in response. “Yeah, but it will have to be a while. I’m shipping out soon, and I won’t be back from our next campaign for a while.”

Lyra nodded with a tinge of disappointment. “Okay.”

“I’ll tell you what, why don’t we get some food and talk about the promotion.”

Lyra shrugged agreement.

Book One: Chapter 7

##Parting Ways ##

“Well, it’s not a bad place to live… especially temporarily,” said Renithor as he looked over Lyra’s new room one last time. “Maybe they could get you a heating unit like the one we had at Thaddis Sabbah.”

Not the worst place to be a hostage, I suppose…

Lyra’s new quarters were an ambassadorial suite on the flagship. The room was spacious and luxuriously decorated, a few steps up from her previous room.

She nodded in response. “Yeah. Besides, they told me that they would shift me to a civilian ship soon.”

“Oh, really? Which one?”

“I don’t know. I’d probably have to tell you later.”

“Alright, that’s fine.”

Lyra’s expression slowly turned into a concerned frown. “Ren, how long will you be gone on crusade?”

“It shouldn’t be more than a month, dear. Hiigara’s empire is tiny compared to our own. The war will be over soon.”

“Look, I’m going to be honest… I don’t like the idea of you going off to kill people. Some of our women love men who spill blood… but I…”

“I know, you don’t have to say it. Bloodlust is not what I find attractive either. I’m not doing this for entertainment or to prove myself as some kind of warrior. I’m doing this because our destiny is so close. Sajuuk will soon return, with Makaan as the Sajuuk-Khar himself. Galactic peace is only weeks away. It’s my duty to help usher in a new era of peace.”

“You can do it,” said Lyra with a smile. “So do you think what Makaan was saying earlier is true? Will we Vaygr finally settle down and stop being nomads when he becomes the Sajuuk-Khar?”

“I think so. He is a man of his word.”

“I think I would like that. A nice house on a beautiful planet. Lots of children… Anything but these cold, dark corridors.”

Ren chuckled. “Oh believe me, you’ve got no idea how much I want to get back planetside.”

“Will you take me to Taiidan? It seems like a gorgeous place!”

“Certainly, one day. When all the evils of the old Empire and the Republic wash away. It really is a great place to live. It’s warm and sunny. Tropical. Lots of naturally grown fruits and meat. None of this asteroid mystery meat you’ve been eating your whole life. Just don’t eat anything labelled as spicy!”

“Yeah!” Lyra laughed. He’d told her what happened to Taryr the previous night.

“So, do you want to go to the morale sector again? I hear they’re planning to play some movie. I forgot the name, but it’s some fiction about people on a planet in a nearby galaxy struggling to develop the technology for space travel while their planet is locked in a geopolitical struggle between two economic ideologies. Apparently, the big achievement of the movie is landing on their planet’s moon.”

“The one about that planet that looks kind of like Hiigara?”

“Yeah, lots of oceans. Temperate looking.”

“I think it was called Race to Space… That sounds fun!”

“Great, I’ll pay. Let’s look up the…” Ren was interrupted by his hand com. He took it out and answered the call.

A young Vaygr woman appeared as a hologram projected by the small hand com Ren was holding. “Captain Tairidu, your presence is immediately requested on the command bridge.”

“I wasn’t supposed to deploy for another few days.”

“Our plans have changed, captain. This order comes from the top. Please be at the bridge ASAP.”

“I’ll be there in 4 minutes.” Ren tapped a button and the hologram disappeared. He placed the device back in his pocket. Ren turned to Lyra and hugged her tight. “Goodbye honey, I’ll miss you. Please take care.”

“Bye, baby. Promise me you’ll be safe?” Lyra asked while gazing deep into Ren’s eyes.

“I will, I promise. I’ll be fine. Honestly, I’ll be surprised it this war lasts for more than several days. From everything I’ve heard from Fleet Intel, it sounds like this will be a steamroll.”

“Still, I’m worried.”

“Come on, what are they going to do? Maybe blow up some fighters and a couple of frigates. I’m going to be sitting quite comfortably on a carrier. I’m pretty much untouchable.” Ren did his best to reassure Lyra. Something at the back of his head told him it would not be so easy.

At least, that’s the theory.

“Here, I want you to have this,” he said to her, giving her a charm he often carried with him. It looked like a coin, but stamped on one side was the image of Koshiir-Ra, the Taiidani god of protection. On the other was a short prayer. “I know you Vaygr pray to Sajuuk more than the other gods, but all the same… may Koshiir-Ra protect you.”

Lyra smiled and hugged him, tears coming to her eyes. After a few more goodbyes and a flurry of farewell kisses, Ren hugged Lyra one more time and they departed. Ren reached an elevator and selected the floor several stories up.

Alright, let’s see what is so Qwaar-damn urgent.

Book One: Chapter Seven

Change of Plans

The command bridge was bustling with hurried, almost frantic, activity. Renithor couldn’t help but wonder if the crew was preparing for battle. The command bridge was several floors tall, each layer for different departments. The command bridge typically was not used for combat- its purpose was to provide room for the officers to go about their daily jobs, more akin to an office space than to an actual center from which battle could be led. The Combat Information and Control Center was located in the heart of the ship, and was a well armored capsule isolated from the rest of the ship.

Rows of computers lined the windows facing outwards while at the center was a holo table showing all ships within 100,000 kilometers of the flagship. Several seats for the highest ranking officers were nearby. The room was well lit. Renithor summed up that this must be the fleet coordination floor of the flagship.

He saw Flag Admiral Vrad through a gap in the crowd, and quickly shoved his way through a group of fire coordination officers to reach him. “Captain Renithor Tairidu, reporting for duty!”

Vrad had just dismissed a lieutenant-commander and turned towards Ren. A stressed and almost furious expression rested on his face. “Captain, you came quickly enough. Good. We have gotten word that the Hiigarans have intercepted some of our spies and are preparing for all-out war. This may mean that they will relocate their Great Hyperspace Core to their new flagship. We are not prepared for an immediate coordinated offensive, and we are not prepared to fight an enemy that can use a far-jump core effectively.”

“You want me to join the ICV Winter immediately?”

“No. Unfortunately we cannot accelerate our timetable on that mission. If you attempt to assault the Kushan Mothership without using Hiigaran hyperspace generators, you will be immediately detected and identified by your Vaygr hyperspace signature as hostile. Their mothership lays within their orbital defense grid’s range… if you were to be compromised, you would be reduced to basic atoms within a minute.”

“So we can’t go until that S’Jet convoy in a few days?”

“Yes, captain. You’re exactly right.”

“Then what would you have me do, sir?”

“Do you remember the Turanic man I spoke to yesterday after our meeting with Makaan?”

“Yeah, the one you were talking to with Vayra present?”

“Exactly. Before our attack on the convoy, he was supposed to raid a Hiigaran intel facility built into a S’Jet deep space mining facility. I was interested in their data concerning the construction of the Hiigaran flagship at Tanis. Unfortunately, with the war accelerating, we cannot afford to wait. The Turanic Raiders were meant to launch their raid during a half hour period two days from now when the station would be undefended… but we don’t have any time to spare now. The station will be guarded by two flak frigates and possibly a fighter wing.”

“So the Winter group is going to attack this base?”

“No. We can’t spare the manpower. The Winter Carrier Group is mobilizing and preparing for combat. Moreover…” Vrad lowered his voice to a hush before continuing. “I would rather keep Admiral Varas Rataan as far as possible from any information not concerning his mission.”

Am I supposed to do this on my unarmed command corvette?
Ren frowned questioningly. “So… what forces will I be given to attack the base with?”

“I have already commissioned three frigates for you. Assault Frigate Archer, Heavy Missile Frigate Thunder, and Infiltrator Frigate Fury. The Archer has just completed construction, and Thunder and Fury are to be completed in the next few minutes if our next resource shipment arrives on time.” Vrad cast a glance at the holotable, which showed a Vaygr resource refinery nearing the flagship. “Yes, here it comes.”

“So then my mission is to travel to this station, destroy any and all forces guarding it, and have the Fury board it, taking any information it can?”

“Precisely, captain.” Vrad nodded. “This tablet contains the coordinates and some more explicit directions for your mission,” he added, handing Ren a small screen.

“Thank you sir. When do I leave for this mission?”

“Now, Captain Renithor. Now.”

Renithor and Vrad saluted one another, and Ren quickly left the bridge, in the direction of the manufacturing bay. The atmosphere throughout the ship was as frantic as it was on the bridge. Crew members darted around, some arriving from other fleets, some running in the direction of the ship’s docks to board shuttles taking them to other ships.

Ren reached the manufacturing docks just in time to see the Thunder launch. The manufacturing bay was massive in size, large enough to build kilometer long vessels. Ren was going to make his way out onto the balcony surrounding the room for boarding the newly generated ships when a crew member in the black and yellow stripes of an engineer barred his entry.

“I’m sorry, sir. We’re about to begin phased assembly of a new frigate, and we’ll need you to stay here until it is complete.”

“I am in a hurry. I am supposed to board that heavy missile frigate that just launched.”

“Like I said, sir. It’s too dangerous to go in there while ship creation is in progress. The phased assembly creates harmful radiation. Only the Vayan Reach engineers and Vaygr in hazmat suits are permitted in the assembly chamber.”

Ren peered through the doorway into the room to see several Vayan Reach engineers clambering up and down the walls. These were aliens from the Vaygr reaches- they were smaller than humans, only three to four feet tall when crouched. They had thin legs with extremely long fingers, three to each of their four limbs. These aliens wore black jumpsuits and wore some kind of tan colored respirators with large bug-like eyes. It was not Ren’s first time seeing these beings clambering up and down walls, but it still creeped him out just as much.

The Vayans were rumored to the first alien race assimilated into Vaygr ranks. From what Ren had previously heard, their small nature, ability to climb on walls, and lack of claustrophobia made them capable maintenance and repairmen. They were most often found in high radiation areas and on resource collectors. Despite their utility, they were not seen often, whether it was of their own accord or other factors. Rumors were also circulating that their population was in a steady decline for unknown reasons.

The blast doors leading into the manufacturing chamber slid shut, blocking Ren’s view of the process. What he could not see, he could hear. The manufacturing began with a steady hum, but grew louder by the second. It turned into a faint rumble, but still continued to grow. The corridor began to vibrate and finally almost rock. Ren’s hair stood up from the amount of electricity flowing through the nearby walls.

Wow, I can’t imagine the amount of energy flowing through this area right now!

Suddenly, the rumbling stopped and Ren heard a loud clank pierce the air. Suddenly, a high pitched hum once more filled the air, growing louder and louder. The corridor began to shake and Ren was slightly reminded of an approaching train. A second clank tore through the air, much louder than the first, and the corridor seemed to move as if it had just been hit by a massive object. Ren stumbled backwards, almost losing his footing. The engineer laughed, standing perfectly still, clearly used to being in this situation.

The doors leading into the manufacturing chamber slid back open. The whole process had taken about a minute from the closing of the doors to their opening. Ren pushed past the engineer into the chamber. Floating in the middle, suspended in 0g was a Vaygr infiltrator frigate. The ship was hundreds of meters in length. He could see on the left side of the chamber a group of Vaygr marines in light armor and a uniform of white, black, and gray. Some officers in their white and red attire and a few engineers in their yellow and black stood nearby, too. An engineer separate from the group activated a drawbridge, sending it sliding across the chamber to the frigate so the crew could board.

As Renithor made his way through the chamber, he watched two massive arrays, a hundred meters each, slide across the room in the direction he was walking. These must have been the objects that had slammed into the wall with the corridor he was standing in.

So, these must be the actual phased assembler arrays.

Seeing his crew begin crossing the drawbridge to the frigate caused Ren to hasten his pace. Ren reached the frigate just in time. “Commander!” He yelled at the last officer boarding the infiltration frigate.

The Vaygr woman stopped and turned to face Renithor, brushing her blonde ponytail over her shoulder. Noticing Ren’s rank, she stood at attention and saluted. “Yessir?”

Renithor, nearly out of breath, slowed down and extended his hand to the commander. “Captain Renithor Tairidu. I am leading this task force. My flagship is the ICV Thunder, which was generated just before your ship.”

“Lieutenant Commander Revkiir, sir. Pleased to meet you,” she answered as she shook his hand.

“Likewise, Revkiir. Our mission is urgent and we have no time to waste. I will require shuttle transport to the Thunder once we have launched, and I will have to brief you on our way…”

Book One: Chapter Eight
Misjump… Or Maybe Not?

Ren and Revkiir stood aboard the bridge of the Fury as she made her way out of the flagship’s manufacturing bay.

“So none of these frigates are equipped with shuttles?” Renithor asked Revkiir, making no effort to hide the tint of frustration to his voice.

She smiled as though she found something funny, a bit of inwards joy bouncing in her vibrant blue eyes. “Nope! Our newer models don’t carry shuttles anymore. This ship isn’t that old… You could probably even say it’s brand new. Only kind of shuttle we’ve got on board are our infiltration pods.

Ren cast an unamused stare in her direction. “Yeah, and just burn a hole in a friendly ship’s hull?”

Revkiir shrugged. “Probably not the best idea… and what if they decided to repel boarders?”

“Oh yeah, that will be the day heads roll.” Ren commented sarcastically, before burying his face in his hands. “This is ridiculous. We’re starting a mission with me on the wrong ship, in an extreme hurry, and without proper intel. Poor planning produces poor performance…”

The lieutenant commander nodded in agreement. “Well, hopefully we can make do with what we’ve got. What are your orders, Captain?”

“It seems I don’t really have a choice but to stay on the ICV Fury…” Ren shrugged. “We’re being sent to take a Hiigaran outpost and secure intel, which is where your ship comes in. I want your corcoms to board the station and take the bridge. Crew is expendable, but we also have no objective to hold the station. We get in, we get our intel, we get out. No sense in hunting down every Hiigaran on that rock. The station is guarded by two flak frigates, but we should be able to take it without casualties.”

“Seems easy enough.”

“I hope so… here are the coordinates.” With that, Ren handed Revkiir the datapad given to him by Vrad.

“Should I send out an order for our other two frigates to start charging their drives?”

“Send an order to charge them, but let them know to interface with the flagship’s hyperdrive core. That will give us a more accurate jump.”

“Got it, sir.”

Revkiir walked off to prepare her crew for the jump, leaving Ren to watch the rest of the Vaygr fleet from the bridge. It was truly an impressive sight- this was the spearhead to invade the Hiigaran system. Hundreds of battlecruisers and thousands of smaller capital ships and frigates floated in the area. Periodically, a hyperspace window would open to admit another ship to the fleet, or to send a group of ships off to some mission.

This fleet made the Taiidani fleet defending Hiigara against the Kushan look like a handful of rundown corvettes.

A voice cut through the com channels, startling the bridge crew. It was that same smooth yet deep voice Ren had heard only a few days earlier. “May Sajuuk bring you fortune, Captain. I don’t accept failure, and I have faith that I won’t have to. Our attack against Hiigara hinges on your success. Do not fail.”

“Activate a com channel to the flagship,” Renithor told to the man on the computer overseeing communications. “Thank you, Sajuuk Khar. We will not disappoint.”

“Sir, we are ready to jump and await your mark,” Revkiir called over to Ren.

“Engage the hyperdrive. Let’s get this over with.”

Revkiir nodded, and sent out a ping to the other two ships to follow. The ship shook for a second as its electrical conduits surged with power. A glowing green hyperspace window sprung into existence off the Fury’s bow, and flew towards the ship. The window passed through the ship, whisking away more and more of it into hyperspace, coming towards the bridge. Finally, it reached Ren.

In a flash, his vision went dark, and then reappeared again. He was now standing on the bridge once more, but the massive Vaygr armada had disappeared from view. Instead, the ship now floated through some kind of void. It seemed to be surrounded by stars, but they looked warped- stretched into elongated ovals. Colors blended in and out with one another, and shapes were fluid, constantly warping. It made for an intense disorientation.

Ren turned away from the window and to Revkiir. “Have you been in combat before, commander?”

“Yes, once. It was a year ago, at the diamond shoals. I was still working on a missile corvette at the time.”

“Oh? During our skirmish with the Turanics, I presume?”

“Yeah. Just a small firefight. They tried to make off with some resource crates we were preparing for the construction of that orbital shipyard at planet Naros. They used some kind of prototype corvettes with salvaged progenitor armor and made off with some of the crates, then tried to attack a transport. Luckily they ignored our strikecraft, focusing only on the ship. We managed to repel them successfully and with few casualties, though the transport was damaged heavily.”

“Good, I trust you know the basics of battle then. How long until we arrive at our destination?”

“Two more minutes, it wasn’t far away.”

“The sooner we get this done, the better.”

“How much time do we have to complete this mission, captain?”

Renithor laughed lightly. “You know, commander, I’m not sure. I just want to get back because I was in the middle of a date with my fiancé before they pulled me to lead this mission. I wasn’t supposed to deploy for another several days…”

“You have my sympathies, sir. I was going to go to a party one of the bomber squadron leaders was throwing. At least they told you the plan.”

“I think you and I have two different ideas of what constitutes a plan. Admiral Vrad was… incredibly vague.”

Revkiir raised an eyebrow. “Huh, that’s not really like him. I always thought he was the orderly, detailed, type.”

“He is, which makes this mission all the odder. I guess he must have his reas-“ An emergency alarm rang out as the ship lurched violently, nearly knocking the bridge crew off their feet. “Gravwell alarm! Revkiir, call battlestations!”

Revkiir nodded and grabbed the nearest lieutenant. “Lieutenant, call battlestations!” The lieutenant ran off to tell a nearby NCO to call battle stations.

A green hyperspace window materialized in front of the three frigates, and within seconds they left hyperspace. The exit was almost as violent as crashing into a brick wall on a hover car. Ren and the crew flew off their feet as the artificial gravity temporarily failed. The groaning of strained steel beams echoed through the ship.

First instinct would have told Ren that they had indeed crashed, but this was not the case. It felt different to him, as if the crash happened internally, inside his body. He quickly rose to his feet, though still winded and dazed. Revkiir had landed nearby, and was still desperately gasping for breath. Renithor yanked the commander to her feet.

“Commander, pull together! We need to find out where we are.”

“Yes, sir!” She gasped, stumbling to a nearby console. Promptly, a holographic representation of the surrounding space appeared, showing a single massive object. A few seconds later, the sensors automatically recalibrated and adjusted, bringing into focus. It was not an asteroid, but Renithor could not immediately recognize what it was, either.

The object roughly resembled half a gigantic sphere of metal, many kilometers across. As the scanners again refined the image, it became evident that this was a single hulk assembled from many salvaged ships and debris. Finally, the scanners adjusted one last time, listing energy reading of the object.

Revkiir stared in a curious mix of confusion and awe at the object. “Sir, did the admiral mention this would be here?”

“No, but we likely aren’t at the coordinates he gave us. The gravwell most likely stopped us prematurely.” Ren walked from his post over to the holo table to take a closer look. “Table, color the image.”

In a swift wave, color sprung over the hologram. The object was definitely salvaged- Ren could now see that the largest part was a single structure, much of it looking like it had suffered severe battle damage, causing it to have exploded. The hull bore low energy burns as well- not hot enough to penetrate the ship, but perfect for annihilating any bio mass that may have once been glued to it. Other parts looked attached to this hulk, including various Imperial Taiidani frigates and even a research ship. Even wreckage from a Kushan Avatar class heavy cruiser had been integrated into this object. A single Imperial Taiidani flag was painted on the behemoth.

“What… is this?” Renithor asked himself as the looked it over. Then, something clicked in his mind-

Massive, spherical object of dull gray… damaged, or… destroyed? Imperial markings… burn marks… Oh, Qwaar-Jet, we’re flaked.

The sensors pinged loudly as the holotable showed at least a dozen unidentified hyperspace windows appearing.

“Revkiir, prepare for battle,” Ren whispered in a grave tone.

I’ll post the next chapter soon-ish, but let’s see if anybody can figure out what the mystery object is. I left a few clues in the description, so if you’re a HW fanatic, it shouldn’t be difficult. :stuck_out_tongue: