The White Beast – Chapter 21

Chapter 20 | Landing Page | Chapter 22

The White Beast

A Homeworld Fanfiction

by Crobato

Originally posted April 26, 2001

Chapter 21

The Corsair frigate moved slowly past the open port. Soon the frigate was free into open space. Seejuk watched the windows behind, as the Corsair left the Turan planetoid. The Corsair was chosen because of its cloaking and mimic abilities, a hunting vessel that could stalk convoys under extended lengths of time and pick off helpless victims. There was no chance they could fight the Nemesis openly; stealth and deception was the only way they could get to the White Beast mother vessel. But the Corsair wasn’t there to hunt; it was only there to deliver.

To recruit his special team, Seejuk encountered both the polar ends of reaction. There was both reluctance and gung ho enthusiasm. He invited them all, Zhoan, Mushak, Giirsa, Maalasi and Zhura to the laboratory inside the Mule. It was time to be straight with them.

They were all seated around the conference table. They were wondering what he called them for, yet they perceived that it had the utmost importance, and one surely dealing with the crisis. He brought something with him, and it was covered with a cloth. They all didn’t have much time, so he went straight to the point.

So how do you plan to convince people you’re going to a near suicide mission? Seejuk thought. The last time he went off to play hero, he was alone, facing the Kadeshi armada, Zha both a guest and a prisoner of the Priestess G’yela. This time, he needed a team, given the data the Fly self had presented about the nodes, people that knew more about the Raider technology than he did. But half of the technology was quite unknown, and it must have been the Nemesis contribution to those nodes.

This time, this rescue effort, it’s not just picking up Zha, but to save a mammoth creature, a creature in its previous incarnation, had killed millions. Now, on the word of an glassy insect like creature, this same creature holds the secret to stopping a conflict that can burn the entire galaxy, a potential conflict that could kill far more than the wars with the Beast had done.

This was utter insanity. But to do nothing was to invite only inevitable disaster. When you’re desperate, you have to try everything, even the far shot. He was powerless to stop the inevitable ride of events, the new war between the Nemesis and the Unbound. No one could stop them. At least one that was bound to the flesh. The White Beast has the potential power. It was the one wild card left to play. That was what he told them. It helped knowing that the White Beast helped them save people from the Nemesis slave ship, and diverted the Annihilator from destroying the Planetoid. The Old Beast had killed millions, but the past was past. If the New Beast could save millions, they must use it. The future of millions dying in an upcoming war was a more terrifying reality to deal with.

Then he took off the cloth that hid his exhibit. Underneath was the Fly self, a winged crystalline anthropoid that holds a link to the collective matrix of the White Beast. Its glorious crystalline wings staggered the small audience, and what little fear was there, turned to awe.

Asked what it was specifically to the White Beast hierarchy of Selves, the Fly replied, “I’m a Scout/Probe/Messenger.” There were others, and the Fly self revealed to them. The Selves hierarchy included maintenance and repair bots shaped like arachnids and scorpions. The arachnids would lay a protective web that would conceal an injury or opening. The scorpions do the intricate repair work using the claws. There were larger variants of both designs intended for defense; the defensive arachnids and scorpions using multiple arrays of mass drivers and energy cannons to take down enemy fighters and capital ships. There were new kinds of flying anthropoids as well, which the Fly was a living example. While the Fly was a scout and a probe, the rounded Bee was a resource gatherer, and the Wasp, a swarm drone intended to protect the gatherers. They all have shiny lace like wings that shimmered like rainbows and extend far greater than their bodies, as if sweeping into space. It was as if the wings could touch and hold the fabric of space itself, and use it to propel the creature across space.

Away from the animal like anthropoid designs, there was plant like designs, such as the massive orbiting collectors that gather sunlight and other energies with immense collector panels that spread out thinly across space. There was another design, like an anemone, a powerful gravwell generator that draws stray matter into its mouth through a funnel of controlled gravity, the sweeping panels like hungry tentacles drawing prey. The animals were beautiful in their careful intricacy and design, the huge plants were wonderful to behold in their immense grandeur.

Seejuk right there began to see the pattern of evolution the Beast was undertaking. No longer content to assimilate existing designs, it was starting to make designs of its own, designs that were much more efficient than. The silicon-germanium genetics of the nanobots were experimenting with new designs, and they were doing it much faster than carbon based life forms. What may take thousands of years to evolve was only taking a day in the life of the White Beast. Not just content with evolving new forms, the White Beast was evolving into an entire ecosystem of its own, a new kind of stellar ecology that could live on the matter and the light of stars.

But there was however, no new designs that could undertake an offensive war. The White Beast had no intention to evolve in that direction any further. The defensive wasps and arachnids were there only to protect, not attack. The armadas of cloned ships, that was the legacy of the old Beast, the Beast that was dying silently, to be inevitably replaced by the Selves-Ecosystem, itself searching to evolve into the perfect life form.

Zhura wanted to go, if there was still a chance to save her father. He needed her; she had knowledge of Raider computer systems. Maalasi had to go. He was the reluctant one, but it was important for him to bring back Zha Khor alive to fulfill that lucrative Outpost contract. This stupid war will kill his business, he said. So he would take any chance to stop it. Maalasi had the skill to run the special cloak vessel, but most specially, he had the best insight of the most hidden aspects of Raider technology. Yes, he had to go. Seejuk suspected that Maalasi ultimately changed his mind for the opportunity to study Beast biotechnology. As for Zhoan, he wanted to bring the rest of the neutral Raiders to launch attacks against the Nemesis and the Tiamat as a lesson for attacking the planetoid. It wasn’t a sensible idea, given the power of the Nemesis and the Tiamat along with their allies. But Seejuk needed Zhoan to get the Mule out as a backup to secure a retrieval plan. Girrsa just wanted to go, owing some guilt to what happened to Kuo’ran but maybe he just wanted to be next to Zhura. Being a Kaalel, he had computer expertise, and he could work well with Zhura as they hack the nodes. Mushak gave the permission to obtain the equipment they would need for this mission.

As the Corsair moved further away from the planetoid, they could see the blackened burned spots on the planetoid’s surface, caused by the recent attacks. Like a fairy, the Fly self fluttered inside the cabin, played with Zhura for some time, then finally perched on Seejuk’s shoulder. Seejuk wondered if the creature could feel. It’s going home now, its purpose nearly fulfilled.

***

They gathered around the ring table. Zuhal was the only one that was flesh and bone. The rest were wraiths.

“Was there any profit in our retreat?” One voice said. “We have suffered too much of our forces.”

“We have finally checked the advances of the Condemned.” said another voice. “They have overrun several sectors around the Outer Rim. But they too had suffered greatly. Their offense had run out of momentum. Soon it will be time to deliver the war directly against their core populations, to exterminate the heathen once and for all.”

“I’m afraid the Nemesis is only our secondary problem,” a voice spoke, in a manner above all. “The Plague should be our primary concern. If it is allowed to live, it will be a greater force than the Nemesis, a greater force than even the Unbound. I can feel its physical energies, and they have evolved their power generation technologies to a scale and efficiency even greater than ours. I can feel its psionic energies, and they have exceeded what the Nemesis was capable of, as an entire race.”

“I support that,” said another voice in the darkness. “I can feel the presence of the new Plague. It becomes greater and more powerful by the minute. We may not have enough time to stop it from being stronger. Stronger than even the Unbound.”

“We cannot be inferior to any species,” one voice decreed. “We are the Tiamat, we are the Wheel of Fate. All life follows the plans set by the Wheel. It is not acceptable. The Plague must be destroyed, before it becomes greater than us. Before it destroys us.”

“The Plague ship destroyed the Annihilator. That is a testimony of the Plague’s power. It must be destroyed before it destroys more of our Annihilators.”

“How many of these Annihilators do you have?” Zuhal asked.

“That is not for you to know,” said a voice. “You only need to know we have many. They are coming from all directions, from the places we have hidden them for eons. They have been awakened to redo the purpose they were born for, to cleanse the galaxy from the undesirables, the heathen, the condemned.”

“You have the power, but you do not know where to strike,” Zuhal said. “We have our BigEye early warning frigates situated all over the outer rim sectors. You see, we found out something about the White Beast that you may have overlooked. The White Beast communicates among the Selves that travel in far space using psionic energies, but these energies have a strange format. They are not directly the thoughts or the impulses that we have known of most life, but more like a computer code. They have a source, a central point, coordinating the Selves like a hive mind. This point is like a server in a network. Destroy this central point, and you destroy the White Beast.”

“Our BigEyes have hacked into this psionic network stream in order to find out where the source is. We have come to an accurate pinpoint of its location, here at the Mohilim sector at the Outer Rim. Quite a logical place. Plenty of dark matter clouds to hide, yet there is a star and some asteroid belts to harvest resources and energy. The Deliverer class planet destroyer is far from a mothership. Something created it something bigger. That can only be the true mothership. The Mohilim system can easily both hide and sustain such a mothership. If the White Beast mothership is there, we can only bet our chances that the main Nemesis battlefleet is close by.”

“An excellent analysis, even for one bound to the flesh,” said a voice. “Once again you have vindicated our trust and confidence in you to be our ally.”

“It was like an honor from the gods to be choosen by the Wheel of Fate,” Zuhal said. “You are the hand of destiny, and I am only a tool to carry it out.”

“Then we must prepare the Annihilators,” the voice said. “Their full might will gather in the star of Mohilim. There they shall cleanse the Plague, and when that is done, they will cleanse the Condemned. We must prepare the fleets to escort and protect the Annihilators in their journey. It is time for us to leave now.”

The hooded images began to disappear from the conference room, clear of their purpose and strategy. Zuhal sighed a breath of relief. He waited for a few moments then walked out to return to the bridge of the Irkan. He often wondered if this was the right thing to do. The Tiamat gave him the creeps, but even with the evil he perceived from them, they represented a known order of things that had already existed, that needed no replacement by an unknown and potentially more terrifying order such as the Nemesis and the Beast. He justified himself as working for the status quo, the lesser of two evils.

***

Aboard the Atonement, X’on watched the feeble light of the red sun of Mohilim struggle to shine through the clouds of dark matter that tend to permeate this part of space. But even with the faint light, he could see the silhouettes of the giant flower like solar collectors and the anemone like matter collectors.

“Get me in touch with the White Beast,” X’on ordered.

Above him, the hologram screens flickered out of thin air. A crystalline face appeared, its eyes a composite mosaic.

“I see, the Self that you choose to show your face and interact with me has changed once again,” X’on observed. “At least this one appears more appealing.”

“Our change represents our continuous evolution, our search for improvement,” the diplomat self said.

“Even your speech has improved,” X’on added. “I remember the time not long ago when you stutter in your speech.”

“Improved speech synthesis is part of our evolution, part of the benefit of increased processing power,” the Self said. “We appreciate that our new form has pleased you.”

“You will please me more if you have good news,” X’on said. “Our last battle was pyrrhic victory. We had successive gains in our advances in the Outer Rim sectors. But this decisive battle has halted our momentum, causes us to temporarily retreat.”

“You may have underestimated the Unbound,” the Self said. “We have been taking them out in a wave of successive surprises. We have been overconfident trying to take out a well-concentrated concentration by sheer force alone. They will now feel they have a chance to break our strategic momentum. They will try to get momentum of their own. They will now feel that this is the time to go on to the offensive.”

“But this presents an opportunity.”

“Hmm,” X’on wondered. “I know what you are thinking, but do you have specifics.”

“It is time to lure the enemy into a trap,” the Self said. “All you have to do in your part is to spring it. I advise that you must repair your most powerful vessels and bring them to 100% efficiency and capability. We will need them for the trap.”

“A trap? hmm, who will the bait be?” X’on wondered.

“We will,” the Self said. “The Unbound are drawn to the Collective Selves. Their pride will not accept a species superior to them. They feel threatened. We have destroyed one of their Annihilators. They have reason to be alarmed. We advise that you move your population centers away from the Mohilim system as far as possible. They seek to exterminate your race at cost.”

“The last part isn’t new news,” X’on said. “Go on.”

“Pride is a great weakness. You challenged their might directly because of your pride. You think you would not lose. So you made mistakes and charged head on. The same will happen to the Unbound. Pride will lead them to their mistake. The Mohilim system provides many opportunities for a trap. The dark matter clouds make excellent hiding places. Master the environment and we will master the enemy.”

The Self seemed to be lecturing X’on on the fine points of tactical battle. He swallowed his pride for a moment, knowing with some insight that the Self may be true to what he said. Here, hidden in the Void, the Nemesis had never participated in a major battle for eons since the great War of the Heavens. Too many generations had passed, and they only had to refer to the histories and simulations. Yes, they have superior technology, but apparently technology wasn’t enough to win battles. The White Beast from its previous incarnation had seen continuous battles, and it had been re-adapting to the varied tactical scenarios since. It’s fleets had spearheaded many of the advancing attacks on the Outer Rim, with considerable success.

“I will let you call the shots this time, Beast. Do not fail me and our alliance,” X’on warned.

The Self in the screen nodded before the screen fizzled out.

X’on turned back to his tenders, a large party of robbed clergy that tended to his every whim. “Do as he says. Withdraw the Moonships from this sector, and get our fleet quickly repaired…”

***

Perched on a shard, the Zha self watched the procession of ships above. There was no sound in space, yet the vibrations and the patterns of the frequencies of the stray waves they emanate, were like a sound on their own. Only that have senses adapted to read such could perceive these waves, and they felt like sound. A low menacing rumbling was how it felt like.

The Kuo’ran self walked over and sat down next to her. What seemed like mere darkness when seen with ordinary eyes were raging auroras of color, the moods of clouds and nebulas, the erupting flares from the auroras of stars. They realized that it was not just the Starfarer senses that were reaching out, but that their eyes had changed, a crystalline mosaic type that could perceive a far greater range of wavelengths than what an ordinary eye could.

The Kuo’ran self was troubled. “Will we ever get back to our proper bodies? Will we ever get back to our homes? I want to go home now. I miss home.” She leaned on her side towards the Zha self. The Kuo’ran self had been through a lot, seeing both the dangers and the wonders of the universe in so short a time. She’s taxed emotionally, and quite tired. The Zha self felt tired too, despite the vastly improved physiology of their strange crystalline bodies. It was not physical tiredness. It was tiredness of the soul.

“We will return. Don’t worry,” Zha said. “We must focus on the next things we must do to help the White Beast, and let things unfold as they are.” She had some internal doubts about her own words, but inside, there was a shard of hope that she held on to.

The scene on the Deliverer has been one of heavy activity as arachnids and scorpions flurry about trying to repair their host as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Larger defense droids guard over them. The arachnids ate pieces of debris and junk, digest them, then spit out a crystalline web that soon harden to a tough hexagonal comblike structure, a silicate matric. The matrice not only serves as a protective fiber reinforced armor, but was conductive as well, capable of serving as redundant processors. The scorpions repair and weld broken areas of the matrices, rejoining them. On the skies, Beast fighters, corvettes and frigates soar in a guardian formation.

Far above, the aging red star shone, a red disk obscured by dark clouds, a picture of an eternal sunset. High above in orbit around the star, Zha could see with her powerful new eyes, the plant like ships the White Beast had laid. Huge flowerlike energy collectors span the space for miles with their giant lace like petals. Like feeding anemonies, matter collectors use powerful gravwells that can extend focused fields of gravity across fast distances of space, pulling rock, debris and even clouds to their feeding maw. Around their maws, focusing panels shaped like tentacles danced in a slow rhythm, their sensual movement sychronized with the pulses of gravitational fields, the panels flexing with the gravitational waves like lunar tides that occur every minute. The White Beast had been growing more and more of these plant like ships that they are beginning to cover the star itself. She wondered if the Collective Selves have some other purpose in mind with these Plant selves.

“It is time to go now,” the Zerun self said. A huge insect like creature with wings hovered then landed next to them. It was a shuttle ship, a giant version of Fly self, one of the unique adaptive designs the White Beast had been making for itself. Nearby the arachnids had encased the flesh bodies of Kuo’ran and Zha into crystalline mummies, and towed the mummies to the Fly self, where they were attached to its belly. Zha figured that must be the cargo compartment.

Kuo’ran seemed apprehensive watching her own body like a dead mummy. Zha assured her. “Our bodies are still alive, I could feel it. They’re like in a state of stassis.”

The three of them walked to the giant Fly self. The Zerun self directed them to ride on the back of the Fly, holding on to shards shaped like handles. As they did so, the matrices in the shards joined to their matrices in their hands, creating a welded solid link. They essentially became part of the Fly, at least from their bodies, but their innate Selves remained separate. The Zerun-self could link to the central systems of the Fly self. Essentially he became interfaced to fly the creature.

It would be strange flying through vaccum again. Before, she had flown through space like a dream in an ethereal body. That experience had a hallucinating effect to it. This time, she remembered, these crystalline bodies were resistant to vaccum, and they had been living on a tiny weak atmosphere that surrounded the layer of the Deliverer like a coating, yet never dense enough to support life directly. While experience through an ethereal body was like a dream, the experience of space through the crystalline bodies was much more intense. There was a sense of genuine physicality these bodies have that a spirit traveling through space will never have. It’s sensual organs were much powerful and sensitive.

The Fly lifted out of the Deliverer. For Zha and Kuo’ran, the experience was just pure fun, like a ride in an amusement park. Maybe they can enjoy this moment for a while before they settle into more serious matters.

They passed by the jungle of the flower and anemone collectors. Finally Zha saw the creature, the main mother vessel of the White Beast. It’s size was too huge to be called a mothership, many times larger than the Deliverer. It was more like a planetoid, a living moon that kept building itself as it fed. Zha could imagine from its immense size that the living moon could give birth to more Deliverer class vessels, creating the backbone of an unstoppable fleet. But she perceived the White Beast no longer had that intention, given that there was still only one Deliverer. Zha could see more plantlike ships attached to its surface, like embroyos growing. When they’re ready, these plant like ships would leave the nest and join the others in orbit. Around the living moon were armadas of Beast vessels, ships of all types orbiting in vigil. The Fly headed to the living moon.

***

“We got multiple ship readings!” Maalasi shouted. “The ship is going into cloak!”

The Corsair frigate disappeared like a ghost, as it waded to a nearby rock belt. They were still quite some distance from the Mohilim star system, and already something was afoot.

Everyone stared at the screens, mouths agape at both the horror and awe of the image it presents.

A vast fleet of ships, an armada of Tiamat spiderships, Tiamat crabships and Sekmet battlespheres. Vast swarming clouds of Black and Fire Acolytes swirled around the larger ships, like flies tending to fresh carcass. Here was the full might of the Unbound, at least from the two most warlike factions of the Unbound. Among the more peaceful races, the Bentusi and the Naga had long since the Galaxy once again, both confirmed by Mushak and the Fly self, leaving only the smaller Ringships and Needleships to guard precious assets that could not leave the galaxy. The more pacificist races of the Unbound were all in a defensive mode, staying in their home sectors where ever they were. Only the aggressive Tiamat and Sekmet were in a warlike offensive mode. The Tiamat and the Sekmet were friendly rivals in their quest for power, trying to upstage each other through achievement but never in direct confrontation. Now it’s a race to see who would catch the greater glory in vanquishing the White Beast and the Nemesis.

“Look, look!” Giirsa shouted. “I can’t believe it!”

Seejuk could not believe his eyes. He could see large ships, the form, the silhouette of an Annihilator. One of these ships were already grave trouble. And here’s a second. No wait! There’s a third, and now a fourth!

Seejuk tore at his hair. There were more Annihilators, a fleet of black moons silhouetted against the raging nebulas and aging stars, silently cruising to their destinations. In the final count there seemed to be more than a few dozen of them, all guarded by a vast fleet of Unbound ships and fighters that surrounded the Annihilators like a giant cloud.

They all stared at the screens speechless. Finally, Maalasi uttered. “Looks like the White Beastie is going to get it now. Anyone having a change of heart?” Grinning, Maalasi raised his hand, but no one else did. They just stared at him like crazy.

Maalasi lowered his hand and sighed. “Oh my. Looks like we’re a bunch of dumb ass heroes.” The Fly self said, “Trust me. We are aware of the power of the Unbound. Release us, and you shall see a power even greater than what you are seeing now.”

Chapter 20 | Landing Page | Chapter 22

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