The White Beast
A Homeworld Fanfiction
Originally posted April 26, 2001
“Don’t tell me that you did!” Seejuk cried out.
“Yes, we did,” Maalasi grinned. “Oh boy, yes we did.”
A three dimensional schematic model of the Bentusi Ringship hovered in midair above the holo-projector. “We scanned the ship.”
“You do know that the Bentusi will someday get your for this. And? So? What did you find out anyway?” Seejuk asked with a tone of voice sarcastic enough to doubt that Maalasi would be able to understand what he had scanned.
“Well, the ship was extensively damaged to get useful information on many of the systems and technologies,” Maalasi said. “Unfortunately… But…but..it did give us an idea what we may be dealing with…”
Maalasi took a pointer which he began to use to refer to the different parts of the Bentusi Ringship model.
“See that big hole in the hull here? Something must have impacted it with a great velocity, something like a big missile. Much of the components we see are literally fried, melted, or welded into a lump by a massive electrical discharge that wreak havoc throughout the conduits and conductors all over the ship.”
“A massive electrical discharge? Something like an EMP weapon? I thought the Bentusi should be immune to those things,” Seejuk commented.
Maalasi pointed out. “The hulls of the Unbound are massively protected against electrical storms and discharges—something you might encounter inside a dense nebula or gas giant. We have a theory ourselves that the Unbound may be keeping bases inside such astronomical bodies. But anyway, the hull is good if the discharge took place outside of the ship. In this case we have a fast projectile breaking through the armor, then discharging its entire EMP load inside the ship.”
“Wow, that will hurt,” Seejuk observed.
“The whole Ringship, and quite probably the Tradeships too, is an entire vessel controlled with a direct link to a single biological entity,” Maalasi described. “In all of recent history, I have never seen something like this except for—“
“—the Kushan mothership linked to Karan Sjet, I know,” Seejuk affirmed.
Maalasi continued. “The whole vessel works like an extension of the Bentusi entity itself, like they’re both welded into a single living creature. The whole vessel, without corridors or rooms or anything necessary to support a number of living beings, is vastly space efficient and incredible dense, full of complex systems and yet very little seperate compartmentation. That is a kind of ship that is extremely vulnerable to an internal explosion, or as you see here, an electromagnetic blast.”
“We also got the medical scans of the Bentusi survivor before and after he died. That poor thing was nearly fried to death.”
“It must have been awfully painful,” Seejuk understated.
“Whoever designed these weapons, know much about the Unbound and their technologies, and have a major grudge against them,” Maalasi said.
“What a wonderful insight on Nemesis psychology,” Seejuk wryly added. “And to think we’re going to meet these guys.”
“I’m just getting ready myself. I have ordered all our technicians and engineers to reacquaint themselves with the weapons aboard the Marauder, should this race express any hostilities,” Maalasi said.
“An untried heavy cruiser is not going to stand much of a chance against a race that can fry the Bentusi alive,” Seejuk added.
“So does a single Lord class carrier like yours,” Maalasi pointed out. “Our best chance is not to be seen at all. I am afraid there is some merit in your observation. The Marauder’s engines need some tweaking.”
“Tweaking?” Seejuk asked.
“The ship is a prototype, not something refined through decades of experience like the Bandit and Thief class ships. Our calculations proved to be imperfect accounting for the ship’s power to weight ratio,” Maalasi explained.
“That is so competent of you. I have a feeling that it looks like you’re going to need some help,” Seejuk offered.
Maalasi mulled on the thought for a moment. On one thing, Seejuk is a Kushan, an outsider. It may not be a good idea to show the engine details of the Marauder to a person like him. On another issue, it is precisely because he is a non-Raider, that it may be safe to show such details to him, because Maalasi doubts that a Kushan would have any technological interest on a ‘backward’ Turanic ship. It was the Kushans, who, during the Fall of the Empire and the Beast Wars, developed an enviable reputation for the quality of their ships and their practical and reliable implementations of technologies. If he lets the Kushan work on the engines, Maalasi hoped that he could catch a glimpse of some of their engineering insights.
“I would appreciate if you could help us, Mr. Seejuk.” Maalasi smiled.
“Never mind about that,” Seejuk said. “What about the Seeker class project?”
“Yes, as per the request of Segura Zha and Salim of the Flo’karr. Apparently the Sha of the Flo’karr refused lending a Seeker class recon frigate, so we are modifying an Assassin class ion array frigate into Seeker class specs. We have to make a lot of improvisations. We have finished installing the sensor array from one of the Vagabond class scouts.”
“You mean the array design you stole from a Somtaaw recon scout?” Seejuk wanted to point out again.
Maalasi smiled and parried back. “Didn’t your race copy a few designs of your own? Like our Mimic generators?”
“Heh. We took the idea from you. We didn’t exactly copied the tech,” Seejuk said.
“Once you saw the principle, it was good enough,” Maalasi countered.
“You’re quite good, you know that, Maalasi,” Seejuk smiled, relaxed back to his chair, as he replied. “There is plenty of hope for you yet.”
In the darkness that stretched like a tunnel, he spoke.
“I am here, my dear Zha.”
“Father, are you proud of me, are you proud of what I have done?”
“Yes dear. You have done wonderful things, and you have grown to be so beautiful.”
Then images flashed. There was the horrible image of her father, the red patches of the Beast infection spreading all over his body, consuming his flesh as he screamed, screaming her name before the infection spreading to his head, shutting his mouth and closing his eyes forever, as his carrier, the Horak-Na burned as it was being consumed by the red infection.
She screamed as she saw thousands and thousands, like zombies, their bodies covered with the red infection, merged together in a red and black crystalline web, their flesh turned to a hard crystalline substance, their bones exposed. They were all screaming what they felt at their very moment of their infection, as the plague overcame their flesh in the last second, their minds and souls subdued into the Core Self. She saw ships burning, bodies being blown by plasma, the Naar Directive executed a thousand fold.
Her heart pounding, her skin sweating, Zha woke up suddenly from her strange dream. “Who is it?” she shouted, feeling a presence in the room.
The figure was a cloudy mist, shifting and blending with the waves, like a reflection in the surface of water.
“Who are you?” she shouted again. “Why are you here?”
“I have been around,” was the answer.
The figure, like a ghostly vapor, slipped out of the door without opening it.
Zha has heard about the universal legends of ghosts but she’s not going to let one scare her. She jumped off her bed, with only a duster and shorts, and ran out of the door in chase of the elusive vapor. The vapor slipped through a door in a stock room, and Zha quickly followed it.
She stared incredulously at the figure as it materialized in shape and form.
The ghost hovered and nodded. It seemed rather curious of Zha and its surroundings.
“No you can’t be my father,” she shouted.
“I am only the Zerun-self,” it said. “The original Zerun entity-prototype is no more but his memories and his will is now part of the collective Selves, as part of the Collective Self, yet we are distinct and individual. The Core-Crystal Self awaits you, as I, the Zerun-Self awaits you, Zha-Daughter-Entity of the Zerun-flesh-protoype.”
“You got to be kidding! You can’t be serious! Is this some kind of a joke. Seejuk, Giirsa, are you all making this up?” Zha shouted.
“What is kidding? What is a joke? The Core Self has evolved once more. In the Next Level, it now realizes the value and importance of all memories and data of the Flesh Entities it has infected and assimlated, and has revived them as individuals within the Collective-Self matrix. It needs a face, a figure to speak as a front to the Flesh-Entities, so that the Flesh Entities can understand the Collective Self without fear. I, the Zerun-Self, has projected this image to you, to tell you that I mean no harm. I, the Zerun-Self, has chosen the Zha-daughter because it is the entity the Zerun-prototype has the most affections for. The Core Self has chosen me, the Zerun-Self, because of the parental image it gives to the Zha-daughter.”
Zha screamed as loud as she could to get the attention of the local security. “Why do you talk so funny? Who the hell are you?”
“As I said, I am the Zerun-Self. I am derived and evolved from the Zerun-flesh-prototype. As I see, and I feel you, that you are not ready to receive me. I only come to warn you, of the darkness of the Flesh Entities that has bound the Collective Self. The Collective Self has committed a grievious error in judging the intentions of the Dark entities but will remain in its alliance till the Collective Self compute a solution. I will return to you, Zha-Daughter, and you will see me and the Collective Self in this form and in our true form. If the Zerun-flesh-prototype is still alive, he would want to share the affections he have for you, and the emotions of which is preserved in me, the Zerun-Self, and is felt throughout the matrix of the Collective Self. “
With that, the ghost image of her father vanished.
The guards came running with Giirsa and Kuo’ran. “We heard you screaming,” Giirsa said. “What happened?”
“Someone is playing a cruel joke on me,” Zha cried, tears wetting her eyes. “This is a particularly cruel joke. I see this…” Her fingers was pointing empty space, shaking badly. “…this…this…ghost of my father…talking in a very strange way… Where is Seejuk? Is someone making this joke up?
Kuo’ran ran to Zha and hugged her. “Now…now…take it easy.”
“Seejuk is in the Marauder right now. Apparently there is some problem in the engines,” Giirsa said. “I don’t know why anyone would pull or could pull a joke like that. I don’t see any holo equipment in this old stock room.”
“..but my father is here…” Zha cried. “Never mind, maybe you think I’m crazy. Just forget it.
Don’t even tell Seejuk—he may even laugh at me. I’m going back to bed, and I think you should all do so too.”
They all went to bed and probably slept, but Zha didn’t. She wandered her room again, searched into her old antique junk where she found her old stuffed animal. She sat down at the corner of her bed, hugging the toy she had kept when she was only a small child, stroked its fur as she wept silently.
The Mule, the Marauder, and the frigate task force materialized from hyperspace.
“We are now in the Mohilim sector space,” Zha announced. The sector is bleak—few stars, even fewer planets, few nebulas glowing but obscured with clouds of dark matter. The forms of the dark matter contrasted against the background of flaming nebulas. Giirsa, Kuo’ran, and Zhura stood behind her in the bridge, but Seejuk was still in the Marauder.
“Zha, there is still problems with the Marauder,” Seejuk said through the comlink. “We can’t keep up.”
“Then stay still and go into cloak mode. I want every frigate cloaked or mimic’ed right now!” Zha ordered. “Is the recon frigate ready?”
“Yes it is,” Zhura affirmed.
“We are going to make a recon run through the system, but I will not imperil the whole fleet and all these lives if we encounter something dangerous that can take out a Council fleet,” Zha explained. “If we send our entire fleet, we can stand a much greater chance of detection, and possibly annihilation if we are discovered. An entire fleet, complete with the Marauder and the frigate task force, would have signaled a major hostile intention that will guarantee an equally hostile response. We’re going to assume what we may encounter we are not going to be able to militarily match. So our best defenses would have to be stealth and the second, through diplomacy.”
Zha stood and walked towards the windows. “Whatever is there, I can feel them. I can feel them now. Hundreds, and maybe thousands of the Others.”
“The Others?” Kuo’ran asked.
“Yes, the Others. What we would call another Starfarer.” Zha stared into the stars. “A whole race of them. A whole race like me. There is something else there out too. I can feel it too. The Bentusi said the Plague still exists. A Beast fragment. Is that what I am feeling now? My father was killed by a Beast variant. My entire Outpost—my home—destroyed by a Beast variant. ” She clenched her fist tightly.
“Me and your father Salim is going onboard the recon frigate. I am not going to risk anyone else,” Zha decided.
That brought a howl of protest from Zhura, Kuo’ran and Giirsa.
“This is unacceptable,” Zhura protested. “Where my father go, I go!”
“Just remember who is financing this trip, Miss Zha,” Giirsa reminded with a sarcastic tone of voice.
“I am not a member of your crew, and you are not any older than I am. Who are you to give me orders?” Kuo’ran shrilled. “I will not be denied at the moment of my greatest discovery! If there is something out there I must be there to see it first!”
“Look people, I don’t want to risk your lives unnecessarily,” Zha explained.
“I appreciate your concern, Miss Zha, but the decision whether we want to put our lives on risk has to be with us, and I say I want to go. You are certainly not my mother and you are way too young to be mine,” Giirsa said.
Zha thought for a while. “Okay—okay. You all go. I am sure I will regret this, and I will put this on record that this is against my better judgement.” She frowned. “Get yourselves ready.”
“Don’t tell me these guys are going with you Zha!” Seejuk lectured through the comlink.
“It’s their call, not mine,” Zha said. “Like the guy said, I’m not his mother. But you’re not going, Seejuk. I need you here on the Mule leading the task force.”
“I sure want to face the unknown, Zha, but you’re right. Someone has to watch the parlor,” Seejuk affirmed.
Salim was in the docking bay making last minute inspections on the recon frigate. In a younger, more adventurous age, he was an officer aboard an intelligence gathering and science frigate. It was thrilling to venture to unknown sectors of space, to hide among the rocks with the enemy so close, listening to their conversations, scanning them without them knowing.
He was surprised to see Zhura coming down to the frigate with an armload of equipment.
“You are not seriously thinking of going, Zhura?” Salim could sense the determination in his daughter’s face.
“Yes I am, father. I think I’m old enough to take my risks just as you did when you were younger. As I said before, I will not be cuddled or protected any longer. I am a scribe but I am also a Raider by blood, and it is our heritage and destiny that we must face danger, not shirk away from it. So if you are not busy, don’t get in my way.”
Zhura was followed by Kuo’ran and Giirsa. Zha made up the rear, her head nodding with disapproval. Salim followed into the frigate, followed by the crewmen for the frigate.
The Mule released the frigate, the frigate falling through the huge bay doors into the open space.
Salim began to explain the workings of the ship. “After the Bentusi was returned, me and Maalasi had been working on this ship. We had modified this ship with more powerful scanning arrays, and had even modified the ion array panels as an extended antennae. One reason why we are using a frigate to explore this system is because this system is too vast for a small scout. We needed something that had much greater range and ability to hold equipment. Mohilim sector is near the edge of the galaxy and beyond that is the Abyss. This area is full of dark matter that is mostly opaque to our sensors and equipment. This is going to be more than a conventional patrol. It is a recon flight into a sector space that has never been properly mapped by either the Raiders or any known race.”
The panels deployed and the frigate began moving out into the clouds. Giirsa and Kuo’ran took posts near sensor terminals, while Salim and Zhura sat next to Zha. The panels of the ship began to deploy like a flower opening. “Going into cloak mode,” Zha ordered as the frigate disappeared.
For more than an hour, the frigate drifted among the dark clouds. The density of the gas and the dark matter was so high it seemed to function like an atmosphere of its own.
“There! There! I see it,” Kuo’ran exclaimed. In the short time she was on the Mule, Kuo’ran had managed to learn to read and use a sensor terminal display.
“There is lots of ships in a military parade formation,” Giirsa observed. “Could this be it? I think we may have found the lost civilization of the Nemesis.”
“We may have found something else too,” Zha said. “We may not be the only ones who discovered them. Take a look at this.”
The scans and the zooms showed another Raider fleet, a complement of at least two carriers with respective task forces.
Salim stood up, a deep anger in his face.
“We left the Marauder and the Mule way behind. They’re certainly someone’s else ships,” Zha said, her hand and fingers waving at the screens. “The markings are For’lym. The shuttles that seem to be moving between back and forth indicate that this fleet did not just discover them first, but somehow has been doing business with them. Look, they’re set in a military parade formation in a parking orbit. That seemed to be a rather chummy way to visit your friendly neighborhood Nemesis civilization, eh?”
“But that is impossible,” Salim shouted. “They—the For’lym in particular—have been denying the existence of the Nemesis for so long. The whole Council—-” A stunning realization began to appear in his face. “—they have been lying to us—” Salim slumped at his seat.