The White Beast
A Homeworld Fanfiction
Originally posted April 26, 2001
Zha was asleep, when the door suddenly opened, linkages delivering a series of strong metallic clinks. She pranced up, eager and alert to any threat, despite being sleeping moments eariler.
The robed caretakers came in, holding a silvery one piece suit.
“You are ordered to change into this,” he bluntly said.
“What is that?” she blurtly asked.
“That is not for you to question. Take off your clothes now.”
Zha held the thin silvery suit, which seemed to be made of an elastic membrane that conducts electricity. The suit will only cover her body, but not the length of her arms and legs, as well as much of her back. It seemed far from modest.
“Are you serious? This thing could hardly cover anything…” Zha objected.
“Take off your clothes or we will take it off for you,” the caretaker warned, showing a growing impatience.
“Would you mind then, to turn around so I can change?” Zha said with equal agitation.
The caretakers just stood there. “You are ordered to change. We are ordered to keep a constant eye on you. You do not order us.”
“Okay, then… Just do me the favor and wipe your memories out later,” Zha rolled her eyes and proceeded to strip naked in front of the caretakers. She slipped into the thin elastic silvery suit, the suit tightly hugging her nubile figure like a second skin. The suit was so sensitive and light, it felt like she was still nude. She wondered if someone had less than savory intentions on her. The air felt a bit cold. She huddled her arms around her chest to warm herself and in a futile act of modesty.
“Now you must follow us…” the caretaker said without any emotion or care.
She followed them with her bare feet as they led her to the hanger.
There were rows of people like her, both men and women, wearing the same metallic elastic tight suit. They stood in attention, right next to rows of sleek, dark fighters. She could feel their presence, their Starfarer senses extending like flaming auras beyond their bodies.
A girl stepped out of the formation, escorted by two others like her. They were all wearing the same silvery tight suit. The center girl had long auburn hair, a thin graceful figure. Her steely eyes were blank and empty behind the eyeballs, like a soul that seemed to have been stolen. She had an aura that was both familiar for some reason and yet strange and alien.
Zha did not recognize her at first, not without her long modest robes, her thick corrective lenses, her bundled hair. Before her aura was weak, much like a regular person and nothing worth mentioning or noticing. Now her aura was much stronger, several times over, burning and consuming, like fuel that suddenly ignited into a raging fire.
“Kuo’ran!” Zha shouted. But the girl remained steely and passive, maintaining an impassioned stare at the eyes of Zha. It was as if Kuo’ran no longer recognized her, her mind and personality changed, maybe erased by some reason, with some device. Her aura was not steady; there was anger, sadness, bewilderment, like traces of the Kuo’ran that used to be, struggling with a new powerful entity that had taken over her.
Zha shouted to everyone. “What did you do to her?” she demanded. She shouted the same question again and again.
Then she remembered she’s wearing the same suit as all these other people, all of whom had auras that were so dominating, all of them impassioned. Kuo’ran was just one of many, one in an entire army. Zha watched the same people in those suits going into and leaving the fighters. They must be pilots.
No, no. Zha’s head shook, her eyes gripped in fear. No, she will not become one of them, one of those mindless robots piloting these fighters. For some reason, those ships have some process that must have turned people into robots yet keeping and enhancing their starfaring senses.
She tried to run away, but the caretakers had mentally anticipated her, strong hands grasping her arms. For people living in space, they had a grip extraordinarily strong. She screamed, struggled and kicked, then one of the caretakers hit her across the face, again and again, then one to the belly. She screamed in pain, the fist was like a hammer mashing her tender insides. She hung limply as they held her tightly by her arms, with a little blood at the corner of her mouth.
“We do not want resort to such crude actions, but your behavior has made it necessary. Maintain your respect in the presence of the Overlord and the pride of his Fleet,” the caretaker said.
What used to be Kuo’ran stood over her, eyes never recognizing her, just a cold focused stare. Kuo’ran grabbed one arms, and the escorts the other. The caretakers followed, just to make sure she won’t make a disturbance again. Zha did not make an effort to move however, so they dragged her.
Dazed, Zha watched everything around her, fearing this may be her last conscious act. She could see that rodent, Mahar, standing with the imperious but bizarre X’on. Both nutcases she thought, and one day she will get even.
From a deck over the hanger, X’on watched the Raider girl being led to the pilot formations. He just heard news about the attack of the labor ship. Apparently a Raider carrier task force had been shadowing the ship in concealment, decloaked and rushed boarding frigates on that ship. The loss of the labor meant a temporary setback that will affect the delivery of arms and ships to the front. The captive labor was intended for factory ships creating components for the warships and fighters.
But the very fact the ship was able to intrude their space territory, attacked and got away gnawed at his feelings more than the thought of losing the labor, the production delays, the loss of the For’lym and his own ships. The sheer audacity of it all. In addition they also lost one of the Kushan captives and the Raider scribe girl. It will only be a small detail. Her father will not know of her escape. The old Raider scribe will deliver his revised history text, one that will justify the genocide of the Unbound to future generations living in the galaxy. Why not ask his own historians to write it in the elegance of their written script? No, X’on, on the advice of Mahar, wanted it to be written by someone outside of their own race, one fluent with vulgar tongues and poetries of the Raiders and the Taiidans. The old Raider could even decipher some of their script, a bonus if he were to refer to their ancient texts.
X’on wanted to vent his anger of that audacious act to the young Raider girl. Those Raider forces may have came along with that ship she brought. He wondered what a recon frigate would be doing this far out and she probably had a carrier task force hidden among the ion dust clouds, the floating strata of dark matter, and the asteroid belts.
The fleet would undoubtedly be gone now. If the girl would be tortured and executed to death, her dead body would serve him no purpose. X’on did not become Overlord by being impractical. Deep in the harshness of the dark Rimspace, where stars are few and resources are scarce, one learned to be efficient and resourceful. X’on will use this Raider girl. Like the Kushan girl, she is a Starfarer, and she can make a good addition to his fleet. Wiping her mind out and turning her into one of the living robots would be both deserving punishment and poetic justice.
She saw that she was being led to one of the dark, winged fighters, the one they called a Skate. It was truly a beautiful craft, with sleek lines that end with a short tail. Thick triangular wings cleverly hid four cannon ports, two on each wing, like nostrils. Large slits were on its belly. The streamlining and total lack of angular and squarish surfaces dictate a stealth design optimized against any radiation signatures. The glazed cockpit was open, hungry for something. In other circumstances, she would be excited to death to pilot such a beautiful fighter craft. But in this situation, she was scared to death as she was being forcibly led to its cockpit. She can only percieve that the ship’s beauty hides a sinister fate on those who would ride on it.
Zha resisted one more time, shouting to Kuo’ran to wake up. But the auburn haired girl did not seem to listen or even recognized her own name. Zha’s young and nubile body was never physically strong to match her will, temper and attitude. The people, including what used to be Kuo’ran held her frail arms down as they forced her into the seat of the Skate. She panicked as they strapped her arms and legs to the body hugging seat and forced the helmet into her head. No one could hear her scream anymore as the cockpit lowered, and then closed.
She watched in horror as a silvery membrane fluid crept up the seat, then slithered around her skin and all over her body, her arms, her legs, her back right to knape of her neck and up to her cheeks. The fluid soldified into an exoskeleton. This was the reason why the suit was so bare, light and electrically conductive; to leave room for the exoskeleton to creep and cover much of her body. She breathed hard and fast as she struggled helplessly, screaming, like prey gripped in terror in the very moment as they were being devoured. Then lights in the cockpit went on.
“Do not resist,” said a voice in her head. “All interfaces are in automatic.”
There was no joystick or any manual control she could find to grasp on. No pedals where her feet could rest. No buttons she could push or switch. There were only panel lights, needed only to provide the pilot information if the link fails. Electrical signals began to seize her body through the exoskeleton interface, then like demons, they began to grip her mind, even as she continued to scream. Everything seems falling and falling into a dark pit. Hard to remember her memories, hard to remember who she was. Fading…fading.
“This is Demon Seven. Interfaces are operational. We are United. We are one.”
“No, no, no,” she screamed loudly to hold on to the last bit of her consciousness and identity. “Please stop this,” she cried. But no one could hear her screams.
Fighters were being launched from the rails and into the darkness. The Demon Seven Skate was in position, and a bar of lights have climbed up indicating the engines were ready. Then the rails blasted the ship into space, and as it spun by sheer momentum, the engines started, rocketing the craft on its own power.
She screamed and screamed until she forgot what she was screaming about. With the merciful wave of forgetfulness, she also lost who she was. The engines fired with every twitch of her mind. The wings were like her arms. She twisted a muscle and the entire fighter rolled.
As tears ran down her face, as she began to laugh hoarsely. Nothing was so clear now, seeing through the eyes of the ships. The few stars had auras that raged with stormy flares many times their size. Space wasn’t black; it was a spectrum of color, shifting with the moods of the stars and tides of the cosmic winds. Only the murky clouds of dark matter disturbed the cosmic opera of light, color and the vibrant energy that isn’t sound and yet can be heard.
She laughed again, twitching her arms, and the fighter rolled, banked, then looped. Free…free…free…. Nothing can be more free than this. Whee…whee…her mind shifting from fear to exalted joy in seconds, an overwhelming rush of emotions drowning her soul. She thought, I am the spirit of the stars, and I dare touch the face of the Universe.
Like mad, she laughed, and laughed again. Other fighters have joined her in her celebration of ultimate freedom.
“This is Wraith One,” said a Bat that buzzed by, then banked to make another pass.
“This is Demon Seven, acknowledging Wraith One,” said the artificial soul of the machine.
The Skate looped, and the Bat followed. The background of the stars rushed beneath their bellies, as they danced among the cosmic winds. The clouds of dark matter whispered past their wings, sending waves that rippled across the larger clouds. Like angels they belong to the heavens, wings outstretched to soar.
This was freedom ultimate. This was a dream she could never wake up from.
Beneath them, another creature loomed, like a predator waiting to catch its prey. Five arms extended from its hungry maw, the giant white mottled hulk of the Deliverer ship waited patiently among the clouds of dark matter, the entire ship made from the matrix-flesh of a single creature called the White Beast. Aboard, his white glowing skin like the mesh of crystalline hexagons, the ghostly figure that was the Zerun-Self stood amidst the giant crystalline spires and shards that mark the crusty surface of the ship. The Zerun-Self stared at the sky, watching what had become of his daughter, bidding his time to unfold a secret plan that will bring peace to this war of eternal grievance.
Aboard the Atonement—
“We have confirmation, we have confirmation…” said one of the deacons. “Our spy ships have captured a signal from a Hiigaran miner near the Karos Graveyard. We are also having simultaneous sightings throughout the galaxy.”
“Bring it to the screen,” X’on commanded. A 3d hologram appeared right in the middle of the air. What seemed like hundreds of Tiamat Spiderships and Crabships, along with Sekmet Battlespheres had hyperspaced within a stone’s throw of the Graveyard and heading into it en masse.
“A fleet of Tiamat and Sekmet ships have entered the Graveyard proper. They have assumed a massive circular formation. All the Junkyward ships are giving them wide berth,” the deacon said.
“Yes, its coming now…” X’on said. “Like the way it was long before.”
“A massive hyperspace signature detected in the middle of the ring formation,” cried out the deacon.
“Yes, yes…” X’on said. “Finally… the true face of the Unbound revealed.”
There was a massive urge spike. A gate appeared, and something huge starting slipping out of it. It was a huge sphere, like a planetoid with rings around the equator, with the rings held by eight arms. One pole of the sphere was a giant maw, from the other pole, extended like a long stalk.
“…the planet destroyers…” X’on said. “The very weapon that nearly annihilated our race. It was clever, keeping one of them in the cover of the Graveyard, among other derelicts, hidden in a different plane of existence that can be accessed only through a hyperspace gate.”
“We got more reports of sightings of such ships…” the deacon said.
“Yes they all over in the secret, most sacred places in the Galaxy,” X’on said. “With their forces in retreat, they now fear the combined power of the new Beast and the Nemesis,” X’on said, his eyes transfixed on the hologram. “They will use the weapon to annihilate the White Beast and everyone of the Nemesis and everyone that carried the Starfarer blood in their veins. We have indeed earned the right to be an abomination in their eyes.”
“In the time of darkness and tribulation, the Tiamat declared to among those who are bound to the flesh—Let those who stand against the Gods be Judged…” “I say instead, let the Gods be judged…” X’on decreed.