The White Beast – Chapter 3

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The White Beast

A Homeworld Fanfiction

by Crobato

Originally posted April 26, 2001

Chapter 3

Seejuk returned to the makeshift laboratory inside the Mule, one of the sole places of refuge he had in the ship from the constant bickering of the two Kiithsa scions. The lab was used to keep specimens and relics for analysis.

Something caught his attention. He almost forgot about this experiment. It was shortly before the Kadeshi began their crusade, and the Naabal engaged a Generation 7 fragment of the Beast. The Mule came to the battlesite and retrieved nanotech samples from debris in the battlespace. They found the G7 fragments but the discovery of the Kadeshi ships in the area overshadowed that event.

The G7 fragments were kept in a quarantine chamber. He had placed plants and animal samples inside the chamber to observe and document Beast nanotech infection. Predictably enough the sample plants and animals turned fiery red, with the characteristic red moldy patches all over. Instruments documented the events, and the data was stored in the banks. It can be useful in developing a new anti Beast vaccine, or even—perish the thought—a controllable Beast virus that can be used as a weapon. No, no, the Imperials tried that, and the experiment blew in their faces. The released Beast mutation ravaged both Imperialist and Turanic homespaces. One of the victims was Zha Khor herself. She was orphaned, her home outpost destroyed, when a mutated Beast fragment attacked the Khor base.

Since the experiment was over, he should consider disposing the fragments. Not one single nanobyte virus should be left alive. G7 was one of the fragments released from the mad Imperialist experiments, and it had every sign that it would become a more virulent and powerful Beast than the Naggarok source. Fortunately, that Beast was nipped in the bud thanks to the Naabal efforts. Beast reports from the known civilizations, or “knownspace” as it was collectively called had become less frequent. The Daiamid report on the Beast coincided with the Taiidani Republican report, declaring that the Beast threat was truly over, and that fragments, if they still exist, would not even pose a threat to the outlying regions. His experiments to create a new Beast vaccine and to domesticate the nanotech virus had become moot. The Beast technology was defeated. The Beast was truly no more.

There was a glow in the quarantine chambers. “What the?” Seejuk exclaimed.

The test plants and animals were all alive. The automatic feeders faithfully kept the creatures fed. The plants were growing, blooming flowers, and the animals scurried happily about, like they were never infected at all. Seejuk had the temptation to just get in and grab a sample with his bare hands, but in the back of his mind, that would not be the wise thing to do.

“Computer, lower the scanners,” Seejuk uttered distinct voice commands. A mechanical arm lowered an apparatus that he had brought in from Hiigara to this ship. So much of the equipment here were imported from Hiigara, as Zha and the survivors in the Mule were not very scientifically competent. “Scan all Samples”.

Under an ultraviolet let, the skins of the samples glowed. What was once red patches had turned to white and crystalline. Are the fragments dead? No, analysis of the patches showed that it was still active. “Magnify a single Beast virus.”

Under extreme magnification, a Beast virus appeared like a monstrous robot worthy of its name. Small as it was, the nanotech virus was a masterpiece of engineering, unmatched by any civilization in knownspace. Each was a self contained unit, with its central processing module, memory banks, mechanical arms and a tiny power source whose energy was derived originally from breaking down carbohydrates. The CPUs were linked through a subspace network that communicated through mesonic fields, and the collective CPUs would become a massive parallel computing unit that would evolve house a “Self”—-a sentient entity. Each Self was networked with each other, creating a larger collective mind that would ultimately be known as the Beast. Energy was transmitted throughout the network in the same fashion. The nanotech would not only infect living flesh, but also computer systems, regardless whether it is silicon, germanium or bionic based. The Beast nanotech would even harness the energy in a ship’s engine to power all its Selves, and their nanotech components. As he had observed, the nanotech viruses would evolve into more specialized forms. Some types are optimized into infecting organic matter, some types are optimized into infecting circuitry. But regardless of specialization, their CPUs were always linked to form a Self, creating a unity between flesh and metal.

A sense of evolutionary imperative, the need for propagation and survival above all else dominate the Beast sentient programming. For all its capabilities and nature, it was basically an animal.

Once, there was a veteran scientist and engineer named Kaleeth Somtaaw. He was in the Kuun-Laan when they destroyed the Beast. After that, he wrote a paper suggesting that the Beast fragments can evolve, not just in power, but in intelligence. With intelligence, comes wisdom and benevolence, and finally the appreciation of life itself. He was laughed at, to even suggest some good will come out of the Beast creature. But he held to his theory. Given the rate the Beast nanotech evolves, a new Beast species will arise.

The plants seemed normal. The animals looked happy. Yet they still have the Beast virus in them. He studied earlier scans made, like the ones taken when the fragments shortly arrived to the ship. It’s not the same anymore. The Beast nanotech has evolved several generations, quietly here in the lab for all the time they were preoccupied with the Kadeshi Crusade. And it continues to evolve, but the question is, what?

“Seejuk, come to the bridge, please.” It was Zha’s voice in the comlink.

This was all fascinating, Seejuk thought. He wished he had time more to study this. There was so much to learn, yet so little time. The lab space was also filled with Kadeshi and other ancient relics, each holding as much interest as the contained Beast virus. Each relic was a window to new past that yearns to be discovered, each with an exciting story to tell. To think of it, he was born as a Kharakian Desert redneck; now he was in the threshold of discovering the hidden past of an entire galaxy.

He returned to the bridge. Zha, Kuo’ran, and Giirsa were all there. “This is momentous” Zha said. “For the first time since my Outpost was destroyed, we finally have some kind of a base in the Khor homespace.”

Zha pointed to the screens. The Somtaaw Tug frigates were finally putting the old Taiidani base in its final location. “You should have been, Seejuk. What were you doing?”

“Sorry, Zha, I should not miss this for anything. But I was really distracted with some research.” Seejuk replied. He clapped his hands as the Tugs released their hold on the base.

“It’s official, we got a base!” Zha shouted, her arms in the air.

“It’s a start I guess, I won’t be so excited about an old creeky Taiidani base,” Kuo’ran said snobbishly.

“Give the girl a break,” Giirsa said to Kuo’ran. “This is not about the base. This is about opportunity. Yes, I heard about your agreements with the Somtaaw to mine and use the Khor homespace. The commissions were lucrative, but why didn’t you mine it yourself, Miss Zha?”

“As a warrior and mercenary race, we don’t have miners as efficient as the Somtaaaw. Nor do we have miners with the agility to take on the risky asteroid belts,” Zha answered. “Not even the House of Res’coom, which had the best Raider miners, could match the Somtaaw. They got sensors that can spot oxides and crystals our sensors could not find in a thousand years. They have a higher success rate of yield and extraction per ton than Raiders’. Their efficiency surpasses even the best Taidani mining operations. They can mine and process exotic materials my own resourcers could not. It would be better for them to make money for me. I don’t even the resources to buy or make factory or processing ships. I do have my own resourcers, and manage to license crystal processing technology from the Somtaaw as part of the bargain, although I understand I can obtain crystal processing technology elsewhere.”

“I understand Miss Zha,” Giirsa said. “But one of these days, the Somtaaaw will drain you dry. But then, of course, you may be an old rich lady by then.”

“And one of these days, I will have my own top class mining fleet, Mister Giirsa,” Zha said. “But one cannot learn without a master. The Somtaaw are masters. One day I will learn how they do it, and it’s best I learn it watching them right from my own homespace. The Somtaaw is using me, but I am using them too. We all know that.”

“Bravo, my dear lady,” Giirsa said. “Spoken like a wise and old Kaalel, even if you are a Raider.”

As they talked, the Mule settled into a parking orbit near the base. “Zha, you do the honor. Take a shuttle, and dock with the base.”

Zha raised her arms and gave a victory sign with her two fingers, as she danced and hopped down the corridors to the docking bays. “It is good that I have some supposed Kushan big wigs to share the dignity of the occasion,” Zha said.

The shuttle left the Mule and made the first ever succesful dock in the newest base in Khor homespace since the destruction of the last outpost. Zha greeted her first ever step on the base with a large stomp. “So there!”

“So this is how a Taiidan base looks like from the inside,” Kuo’ran said. “Are we going to stay here? My belongings are still back in the ship.”

“I bet this is the first time you have ever been inside any base outside of the Mothership,” Giirsa said to Kuo’ran. “Don’t worry. This is also the first time for me, or to be this distant from Hiigara. We may only stop over here, but we’re not going to stay here long. “

There were some technicians and engineers around the hanger. “Mostly Taiidani recruits,” Seejuk said. “Hired by the Somtaaw to maintain the base, on Somtaaw payroll.”

“That’s quite generous of them, Seejuk,” Zha said. “To maintain this base would sure cost a lot of money.”

An officer welcomed in the dock. “Commander Seejuk, the Princess Segura Zha Khor, we welcome you to your new base. I am Lt. Majur, formerly of the Taiidani Republican 6th Engineering Corps. While I did not participate in the building of this base, as I was too young then, it was our Corps who built this place and maintained it ever since. I suggest that you come to the command center of the base. We have another Turanic fleet coming our way.”

“Raider ships?” Seejuk asked as they were being led to the command center. Kuo’ran and Giirsa followed. “You know anything about this, Zha?” Seejuk asked.

“Not anything I am aware of,” Zha replied.

Inside the control center, the staff greeted with them with a bow. Seejuk looked around and noticed the below average number of staff needed to adequetely run a command center. Many of the terminals were not functional as well. “There is a lot of work here to do,” Seejuk observed.

“Segura,” the officer said to Zha. “We have an incoming Raider fleet!”

“Hostile?” Zha asked.

“Parade formation. No weapons charged,” the officer said.

“Sounds more like someone is coming for a courtesy call,” Zha observed. “It’s looks like another Lord class carrier. Ship identification codes match that of the Raider carrier Soran.”

Just then the comlink screens become active. There was a vaguely humanoid face, covered by an insectoid exoskeleton. The exoskeleton appeared to be like a battle armor, and the transparent glaze that covered the head was submerged with liquid. The being was apparently breathing through the liquid membrane module attached to his battlesuit.

“Lower down your weapons and surrender y’ur asses, ‘cuz we’re going to board you!” said the creature.

“HA HA JUST KIDDING!” the creature said next. “Is the Segura Zha Khor there? Tell her it’s her uncle, Zhoan! I have not seen the little insect for a while.”

“Who is he?” Seejuk asked of Zha. “He kind of looks like a Skaar in that suit.”

“He’s not really a blood relative of mine, but he was a close friend of my father. He is Zhoan of the House of Du’ran. I have not seen him for years. The last time I saw him we were still in the Outpost shortly after the Beast ran amok,” Zha answered. “The Du’ran are the best armed soldiers of the Raiders, and the exoskeletons are their trademark. They are often used as boarding parties aboard Thief corvettes. You won’t want these guys boarding your ship.”

Zha moved up to a comlink screen. “Hey, Uncle Zhoan. It’s me, Zha! Long time no see!”

“Damn you, Zha! You grew up to become a pretty little thing without me!” Zherak said. “I am damn sorry to hear about Zerun, your father. He is a damn noble warrior and he will always be in my songs. But we heard about the base and your adventures with those Kadeshi freaks. I’m glad you’re still alive and was able to kick some of their butts.”

“I know you’re going to ask me what I’m doing here, Zha,” Zhoan explained. “I got multiple reasons. I heard that you’re going to have a new but temporary base in the Khor sector, so I came to look. Actually, I got business to transact with the Somtaaw ships here.”

“The Somtaaw?” Zha wondered.

“Yes, I got the Imperials ‘war criminals’ they placed a big bounty on their heads for,” Zhoan replied. “The Somtaaw had requested that we rendezvous in their new base at the Khor sector. Hey! I was surprised they are putting a base here. You probably worked out some contract with them. It would be a good opportunity to meet you again…”

They were interrupted with communications from one of the Somtaaw tug frigates. “This is Captain M’aanar Somtaaw of the Tug frigate, Jakuul-to, addressed to the Raider captain of the Turanic carrier Soran.”

“Somtaaw, this is Zhoan, captain of the Soran. We have the persons you placed a price for. Do you have our money?”

“Do you prefer a deposit in a Taiidani bank? Or do you prefer raw ingots of Mirandium?” the Somtaaw captain asked.

“I prefer the raw ingots,” Zhoan answered. “We shall complete our transaction in the Khor base.” He turned to Zha. “Bring out your welcoming party, Zha! I am going in.”

Moments later, a train of chained Imperialist criminals, badly beaten and tortured, were led to the cargo hold of a Somtaaw Heavy Tug. A worker pushed out dolly after dolly of raw Mirandium ingots and placed them in the cargo hold of a Turanic Ion Array Frigate. Zhoan inspected the ingots. He no longer had the glass bowl helmet that covered his head. Instead, he had a big black visor across his eyes.

“It is damn good to see again, Zha!” Zhoan’s body and battlesuit was humongous compared to Zha’s, whose diminutive body looks crushed from the hug of his giant arms. “Damn you look good yourself, and I see that you got a mighty damn fine carrier out there backed with a good task force.” He laid her gently on the floor.

“So Uncle Zhoan, when did you become a bounty hunter for the Somtaaw?” Zha asked.

“And when did you started trading with the Somtaaw? Them greedy bastards!” Zhoan replied. “We go where the money flows. Them Imperialists are so bankrupt and unpopular now with our people, and it costs more to house them for what they gave us. These Imperialists were responsible for a dozen attacks on Somtaaw mining convoys. When the Somtaaw laid a generous price on their heads, I saw a natural business opportunity.”

The Somtaaw captain saluted Zhoan, his face with a slight disdain to the Raider captain. “I appreciate doing business with you, Captain Zhoan.”

“Don’t forget, Somtaaw, bring more ingots because we’re going to deliver more heads soon,” Zhoan said. “Put a price on anyone’s head, and Zhoan and Company will deliver.” He turned back to Zha. “You have not introduced me to your new friends.”

“Forgive me, Uncle Zhoan. These three are Kushans. He is Seejuk of the Kiith Liirhra, Kuo’ran of the Kiith Sjet, and Giirsa of the Kiithid Kaalel. Seejuk is my second in command and my business manager. I owe a lot to him.”

‘You seem to be a fine healthy piece, Kushan!” Zhoan made a resounding pat on Seejuk’s shoulder. “I am glad to meet your acquaintance.” Seejuk gulped at the sight of Zhoan’s intimidating exoskeleton.

Zhoan grabbed Kuo’ran’s frail body and lifted it, letting her screaming and struggling. “Damn, this Kushan feels light and weak. Men should want some more meat around in their women’s bones. But she is loud, and she’s got spunk!”

“I should let you know that my relatives are important figures in Hiigara!” Kuo’ran threatened.

“Na-na-na! And spoiled too!” Zhoan noted as he dropped her.

He turned his next attention, Giirsa. “You look like a Taiidani banker,” Zhoan said. “I hate bankers.” Zhoan displayed a long sharp blade in front of Giirsa. “The last one who tried to trick me, got it long right in the neck,” Zhoan said as he made a cutting impression on his neck.

“I assure you sir,” Giirsa replied, a bit shaking. “I am not a banker.”

“So don’t act like one,” Zhoan said, flashing his knife. He turned to ask Zha. “By any chance, Zha, would you be heading back to Turan?”

“Yes, I would like to meet the Inner House council to make a request for a formal Outpost. This base is just temporary until I get things going.” Zha said.

“Do you know the Festivities for the Oath of Baruk are coming up?” Zhoan asked.

Zha looked at him and smiled. “I have not gone since my father died. The last time I went was with him. Somehow after he died, I drifted away about being a Raider. No one really came to help me, except for some Kushans, like my partner here, Mr. Seejuk Liirhra.”

“Regretfully no one could help you,” Zhoan explained. “The Khor sector was remote, and everyone had a major problem dealing with the Beast at that time. Everyone was concerned about their very survival. When the Beast variant ravaged through the Raider sectors we lost a number of outposts. You were lucky, some of the Outposts never had survivors. The bitterness still lingers. I am more than happy to send the Imperialist criminals behind the Beast experimentation to the Kushans and Republicans. I enjoy the bounty on their heads, yes, but inside, I take an even deeper satisfaction. Enough! The Festivities are coming! It is a time of great joy. During the Oath, you can bring your request to rebuild your Outpost in front of the Council of the Inner House.”

“Festivities?” Seejuk asked.

“Yes, festivities,” Zhoan explained. “This is where we honor the Raider spirit. This is what binds us as a nation. We do not know where we truly came from, only that our legends say we were once slaves. We do not know if we all belong to one race. We are spread throughout the galaxy. Our warrior, nomadic and mercenary natures bring us to contact with many races, many of whom have people that joined the Raider cause. We Raiders are practical people. We do not see the inherent value of a person’s race. We only see their competency. Anyone who is competent, who has the heart and courage, who yearns to be free, can be a Raider by swearing the Oath in front of the Council. We in our history, has adopted so many of the best throughout the galaxy. So we are many people under a single warrior ideal. The Oath brings us to our beginnings to the original slaves, who may in fact range a gamut of different races. Against tyranny, we made the Oath of Baruk, the Oath of Unity as we also call it, and with this unity, we brought down the tyrants that enslave us. It is the Oath that binds us, and we celebrate the Oath that is the key to our freedom and unity.”

“Our Intelligence branches taught that the Raiders were a single race,” Seejuk said.

Zhoan elaborated. “Kushan, any race as old as ours, as spread out as ours, as open and practical as ours, are bound to pick up a few things along the way. I heard your history. Other than your ancient heritage in Hiigara, you Kushans and the Kadeshi are like babies. We have existed long before the Taiidans ‘discovered’ us. We have seen much of the galaxy, and struggled with the events. We are not the most powerful or the most technologically advanced, but we survived. We survived with our freedom. We are most proud of that. This is all recorded in the ancient journals kept by the Inner House of Flo’karr.”

“The Flo’karr?” Giirsa and Kuo’ran asked simultaneously and looked at each other.

“Yes, the Flo’karr. If you want to know about the ancients, you need to go to the Flo’karr,” said Zhoan.

“This is most interesting,” Giirsa said. “Then it is the Flo’karr we seek. Can you take us to the Festivities and let us meet these Flo’karr?”

“Yes, I need to meet them too,” Kuo’ran said.

“Ah, I am not sure if I should bring outsiders to the Festivities. Only few outsiders have ever been invited to the Festivals,” Zhoan said. “I would think that Zha here would cover that for Mr. Seejuk Liirhra here, but you two?”

Giirsa placed his arm around Zhoan’s huge shoulders. “Think of it this way, Mr. Zhoan, Kiith Kaalel pays handsomely. Our Kithiid has more money and influence than the Kiithid you just did business with, the Somtaaw. There is no risk, since all you need to do is take me to the Festivities and set me up to meet with the Flo’karr. I want you to be my personal tour guide. I think Zha here has been a bit out of touch, and you will probably do a lot better for an inside track with the Inner Houses.”

“Hmm, this seems to be an easy job,” Zhoan said. “No risk. Easy money. We Raiders always have a price—it’s meeting that price.”

“It is always like you, Giirsa, to bribe your way into everything. I wonder how you will succeed without your father’s money!” Kuo’ran argued.

“You realize that the price is double because I have to bring two people, you and that pretty lady here,” Zhoan said.

“You don’t have to bring Kuo’ran Sjet here,” Giirsa said. “She’s a pain in the neck that plagiarize my work.”

“How dare you call me a cheater! You are the one who copied my work!” Kuo’ran shouted. She turned to Zhoan. “I insist you that you bring me along to meet the Flo’karr.”

“Nothing is done without a price, Miss,” Zhoan explained.

“The Sjet will meet the Kaalel’s price. Favors for the Sjet means favors for Hiigara. There are a lot of intangible favors we can do for you,” Kuo’ran said.

“Such as?” Zhoan asked.

“Her family is big time with Hiigaran politics,” Seejuk explained. “It can mean they will owe you some favors that may come handy in the future.”

“That’s right, that’s right!” Kuo’ran said.

Zha interrupted. “Just bring them both along and let them see the Flo’karr. They’re paying me too to bring them to the Turan planetoid, and I’m getting tired of their bickering.”

“Ha ha ha,” Zhoan laughed. “The boy and the girl are both determined. I can sense that. I like that. You will all enjoy the festivities. There will be sports events, like fighter racing, hand to hand combat, singing, and all sorts of dancing. It is a time of great merriment.”

“I’m going to join the fighter races. I got three fighters being modded,” Zha said.

“I will be joining the hand to hand combat contests,” Zhoan said. “Test my skills and strength against the very best!” He raised his armored, mechanical arm and shook his fist. “Aaarggh!” he shouted.

“Zha, there will be a convoy from the outer Raider sectors heading to the Turan planetoid. We will take both our carriers and rendezvous with the convoy. You all get some rest first, it’s going to be a long journey.” Zhoan said.

***

“This is Angel Leader to Angel Wing, we got enemies ahead.” Inside the Manta, instrumentation was basic, but Angel Leader could sense the stellar space—every cosmic ebb, every asteroid, every solar flare and wind—better than any instrument. Each was born to sense the stars beyond their physical senses, and each was born to control a fighter that is linked directly to their minds. Their prey hid inside a nebula, whose disturbances and clouds obscure the best instruments. But not to the senses of the ‘Farers themselves.

“I could sense them…this is Angel Leader to the Atonement. Is the Enemy also part of the Others? Confirm our target. Our target was supposed to be a Beast fragment.”

“This is X’on aboard the Atonement. Yes, the target is a Beast.”

“I sense the power of the Others in it, why?” Angel Leader asked.

“This is something new. If the Beast has evolved, this one has acquired the power of the Others, our power,” said X’on. “Our objectives remain the same. You will only readjust your tactics. Our enemy will be more powerful than we thought. Beware of the Selves that can sense you and the Others.”

“This is Angel Leader to Angel Wing. The Selves can hear us, the Selves can hear us. Cover us Demon wing!”

The Mantas banked, as the pilots sense the enemy formation ahead hidden in the nebula clouds. The Heavy Interceptor class Skates of Demon Wing loosened their formation, overtook the Mantas of Angel Wing as they headed where they perceived the enemy formation was.

“This is Thunder Leader to Angel Leader, we’re joining the party,” The Bat light fighters jockeyed their wings to signal each other. Then each fighter banked out of their formation, and dived into the enemy formations.

“Our Selves need Peace. Leave us. Leave us be. Or we shall destroy you… “

Beast Super Acolytes, infected from past encounters with the Bentusi, emerged from the sensor fog. But instead of the red patches that infect a typical Beast craft, the patches in the Super Acolyte were white and crystalline.

“The Sirens have been warned. So you shall be destroyed…”

Inside the Skate, a pilot twitched, the only muscle movement he could do. His fighter was linked to his mind, and with a quick thought, it rolled just as an ion beam burned precariously close to its belly. But the enemy Beast Acolyte moved just as quickly, averting a collision in fractions of a second.

“You all have the Presence. Why do you attack the Selves? We hold nothing against you…we did nothing against you…”

Another Skate quickly flicked away, but the beam from an equally quick Beast fighter connected, and fragments of the Skate hurled in all directions. Pain! The Self in the Beast Acolyte felt great pain in the final moments of the Skate pilot.

“Stop this insanity. Stop the madness against the Selvess”.

The Bats’ looping maneuvers found them in the rear of the Beast Super Acolytes. A Bat sensed the direction of an Acolyte, and multiple pulse ion beams quickly cut an Acolyte into a ball of fire. The pilot sensed a deep anguish in the final second of the Self. But he gathered his discipline. Everyone, both the pilots of their side, the Others, and the Selves from the Beast entity, could sense the throes and pains of death of each other.

“This is X’on aboard the Atonement. Do not be distracted by the pain you feel with each other. This is what you expect from the cycle of Death. Keep with your vision. We must capture the Beast.”

“This is Demon Leader, we got more Beast boogies headed our way.” As Angel, Demon, and Thunder wings dogfight deeper through the Beast defenses, Beast Triikor interceptors and Taiidan based Heavy Corvettes formed a second zone of defense, ready in wait to ambush the wave of attackers. Flashes and explosions color the clouds of the nebula where the Beast was hiding. The guns of a Beast corvette ripped apart two Bats, before a third Bat emptied a full load of pulsing ions into its nozzles of its rear engine. The corvette spiraled before it disintegrated. .

“This is Angel Leader, we have visual contact of the target, we have visual contact of the target.” Looming ahead of the Manta was a dark planetoid, covered with white crystalline patches. Some of the patches rise steeply like giant crystals, taller perhaps than some mountains in a planet.

“Be-ware, you are in the abode of the core Self.” The voice cracked all over the squadron’s comlinks. “You dare…dare…violate my sacred abode… I only want peace….”

“This is Angel Leader, beginning attack run…” The formation of Mantas disbanded, then barrel rolled to begin a diving run. From the surface of the planetoid, huge plasma balls were thrown at their direction, exploding and sending shockwaves. The Manta was buffeted from the explosions but kept its course.

Angel Leader felt a sharp pain as a piece of a Manta’s wing blew by. A Beast Triikor rolled by, the wing fragment coming from the blown Manta of Angel Leader’s wingman. Angel Leader felt the exhilaration of the Beast Self in the Triikor, and its instinct to kill as it settles its nose direction on the Manta. The Triikor blew into fragments as a Skate raked it with multiple pulse ion beams.

The surface of the planetoid loomed ahead, all encrusted by a white crystal, like dried salt on a rock. The red lights flashed and the guiding tone has begun.

“Launching Torpedo 1.” A bay door opened and a large cruise missile slipped out. Its engines ignited and its tail become a comet of fire.

“Launching Torpedo 2.” As a second torpedo was launched, the first torpedo joined a wave of torpedoes launched from the surviving members of Angel Wing. Their white ghostly trails headed to the planetoid’s surface. Four torpedoes completed the Manta’s payload.

“Nooo…”, a horrified voice crackled and howled through all the comlinks. “The pain! The pain!.”

Angel Leader pulled his nose up about the same time as the other Mantas did, a wave of ships committing a U-turn then headed straight back out to space. Wave after wave of torps smashed the planetoid’s surfaces, sending massive explosions and shockwaves that broke the crystalline surface. Angel Leader felt a wave of sharp pain from the Core Self as the torps tore the surface.

“Nooo…”

Then there was silence. As the Mantas blew past layers of the nebula cloud around the planetoid, the dogfights were no longer there. The surviving Skates and Bats joined with the Mantas in formation.

“What happened?” asked Thunder Leader.

“I don’t truly know,” said Angel Leader. “My orders were only to deliver the torpedoes.” The nebula cloudspace was littered with fragments of dead fighters and bombers. Angel Leader counted the ships in formation. There was only less than half of the original complement. The Beast defenses and its fighters were terrifying. They could fly as fast and anticipate as well as any ‘Farer pilot could. But that’s because this Beast selves were capable of seeing deepspace and hearing the winds as well as they could. It is no wonder why the Overlord, X’on, wanted its capture or termination. The White Beast if left unchecked, can become an enemy to the Nemesis.

A voice cracked in the comlinks. “This is X’on, your great leader. I have great news to all the brave pilots. The White Beast has succumbed. It has surrendered its will to us. It has agreed to our unconditional terms of surrender. It is now in our control.”

Angel leader felt a great wave of emotion rise from his heart, and felt it with all the other wingmates and the other wings. It was a wave of exhilaration and truimph, of great joy and excitement. But that wave was short lived, for another wave of emotion rose. It came from the core of the planetoid, the core Self of the White Beast. It was one of great sadness and pain. When Angel Leader felt the wave of remorse, tears quickly filled his eyes and ran down from his visor.

***

Kuo’ran watched from the windows of the dining hall. It was an awesome sight—a sight never seen by any living Kushan.

The starspace was lined start to end with a living row of ships. There can be hundreds of them, ships of all persuasion, a great convoy of hosts. Along the sides, Lord class carriers protected the convoy. There were rows of the magnificent Ion Array Frigates. The frigates would normally close their panels, but for the occasion, they were unfolded in their full glory like a parade. Rows of Bandits interceptors, Brigand, and Thief corvettes escorted the other transports in parade formations. There were new fighters, corvettes and frigates that Kuo’ran could not identify; they could probably be new ship types that were seen by Kushan eyes for the very first time.

Kuo’ran smiled. This was all magnificent. There was a sense of history being made here. Kuo’ran felt a tap on her shoulder and she turned around.

It was Zha, holding a rolled blanket and smiling. “Beautiful isn’t it?” she said. “When I first saw this when I was much younger, I could not remove the image off my mind for days.”

Kuo’ran shook her head. “This is truly a great sight. I never knew or see the Raiders in a light like this. Back in the Academy, we were all thought that the Raiders were all sickos—no offense. But that was our perception of your people. But all this, this was so beautiful.”

Zha smiled and giggled. “Seejuk taught once we were all weirdos too. He changed his mind quickly. But I do sense that you are sad, frustrated and angry. I have never seen anyone as angry as you are. Is it because of Giirsa? Do you really hate him?”

“It’s not him personally. I just don’t like what he stands for,” Kuo’ran said. “I hate what everyone stands for. Do you know what it feels like to be born in a famous family, one that has a strong social responsibility? You have to live up with that, living under other people’s shadow?” Kuo’ran sobbed a bit, her eyes slightly wet. “It’s been difficult. Very difficult to live up to the Sjet name and the shadow of being part of the Sjetsa family and a famous relative. Somehow I think I envy you, you being so free to roam around the stars like that.” Kuo’ran’s hands were shaking.

Zha placed one of her hand on Kuo’ran’s hear and took Kuo’ran’s shaking hands with the other. “I cannot understand what you feel, but I do know that you are in great pain. Things will unfold for you, some unexpected and in ways you didn’t wish, but it will all turn out right in the end. Just hang on, things are going to be fun.” She folded Kuo’ran’s hands.

Just before she left the room, Zha asked, “Are you going to be all right?”

“I guess I will be,” Kuo’ran answered. “I will go to bed later.” Kuo’ran turned her eyes again at the view of the Raider convoy, the starspace lined from start to end, of hundreds of ships, carriers, transports, fighters and frigates, their ionic trails leaving long glowing lines in the darkspace. The sight of an all powerful Raider armada would have terrified other races, but she smiled. They’re all going home, she thought, and they’re going to have a wonderful celebration. She will be there to watch it all.

Chapter 2 | Landing Page | Chapter 4

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