The White Beast – Chapter 5

Chapter 4 | Landing Page | Chapter 6

The White Beast

A Homeworld Fanfiction

by Crobato

Originally posted April 26, 2001

Chapter 5

“This is the big event!” said Zhoan, as the party embarked on a frigate docked on the planetoid. Zhoan could see the questions in the faces of his three Kushan guests. The frigate was large, bulky, with squarish, angular lines, lacking the clean look of an Assassin class Ion Array Frigate, and bristling with turrets.

“This ship is a Cutlass Salvage Frigate, one of the ships unique to the House of Du’ran, and a great source of pride to our fleet. As the name suggests, we use it to salvage, board and capture large ships. A single one of this can take out a Resourcer or Tradeship; two of these an entire Destroyer. The compartments here are used to hold an entire company of marines. It will clamp on a vessel, cut through the hull, and the party will invade the enemy ship.”

“But for this occasion, we’re fitting this Cutlass with extra scanning equipment and terminal screens. We are going to use the ship, pick up Zha’s racer, and head for the asteroids where we will deploy her ship in the starting position. Then relax and watch the Belt Race from here. So enjoy a relax.”

“What exactly goes on in a Belt Race?” Kuo’ran asked.

Zhoan explained. “Its a race across an asteroid belt using modded fighter ships. Some of the asteroids even move. With all those big rocks ahead of you, this is going to be a true test of skill.”

“Isn’t that awfully dangerous?” Kuo’ran asked.

Zhoan laughed hard. “That’s the fun of it, haha. Of course people get killed. But that’s not going to stop the races! Skill in handling and navigating through a rock belt is the very heart of the skill of a Raider pilot. It is for this reason other races call us Belters. Now see those ships there…” Zhoan pointed to tug veseels along side of them. To Seejuk, they resemble the Somtaaw tugs with the large bumper in front of their ship, with smooth lines broken by curved bumps that could contain either scanner or communications equipment, or perhaps, defensive armamant.

Zhoan explained. “Those ships are Soo’nani tugs, Bludgeon class. They’re so strong they could tow an Outport or planetoid base. Don’t get them mad, or they will ram you to the next galaxy! Haha! Right now they’re towing those large beacons that will be used to set up nav points for the race. The contestants will have to race through each beacon in a number of laps.”

“See that ship there?” Zhoan pointed. It appeared to be a large freighter, it’s potentially clean lines marred with angular and circular bulges that were probably filled with scanning, deception and defensive equipment. Four large engine nozzles completed its rear end.

“That is a Convict class transport ship, a ship unique to the House of Hu’ran. The Hu’rans are the best smugglers of all the Houses. You want something delivered, they will deliver. Those things got mimic, cloaking, mass drivers, all to hide and protect itself. It’s fairly fast too, faster than most capital ships, and it will run away from a patrolling vessel just like that.” He snapped his fingers.

“For this race, the Convict will be used as a refueling ship.”

Zhoan sat on a communications console and turned on the link. “Zha, are you ready?”

“Just about,” Zha replied. She was aboard the launch bay of the Mule, doing last minute inspections on a custom Fiirkan. The sleek scout had its mass drivers removed, then modified by extending the leading along the sides. The extensiions added more space for fuel, gave the fighter a more imposing look, and served to counterbalance the shift of a center of gravity brought by the removal of all the weapons. Replacing the nose of mass drivers was a beak, which also housed extra fuel needed by the voracious modified engines. The extended nose gave the ship the silhouette of a predatory raptor.

She had prepared for this moment throughout the years. The first time she saw her father did a Belt race, she was so deeply impressed, and dreamed to do the same. Her father had died, but the dream became stronger in the few years. She would do this, win this for her father. As she snuggled into the tight cockpit, she felt closer to him, in following the trails he blazed.

She slipped on the glazed helmet. Seejuk had warned her about the dangers of addiction in using the liquid environment, but she needed to do this one more time. The rich oxygenated liquid would keep her from blacking out in high G maneuvers, and it is spiced with the Pilot’s Drug that elevated her awareness. The oxygenated liquid membrane module itself was a masterpiece of simple engineering—the entire module weighing much less than a typical atmospheric oxygen supply equipment, consumes less power and much less space. These are all factors that would prove crucial in a Belt race. She pressed a button on the suit, and the glazing began to be filled with a clear fluid. She gasped and bubbled as she first swallowed, then let the liquid fill her lungs. As the liquid submerged her entire head, the rich oxygen gave her a temporary high. She laughed and bubbled. Then she began to hum and sing.

“…Should I believe my heart…Will all be true for me?…”

The cockpit lowered and sealed. She clicked on four switches one by one, and each of the ion turbines ignited. The lights in the panel came to life. Four bars flickered, each indicating the revolution of each turbine. There was a dull vibration throughout the scout’s frame that came from the engines, the vibration rising in note as she reved up the turbines. She loved the way the ship communicates to her with its mechanical soul.

The Fiirkan was perhaps the one ship she considered to have the best handling of any fighter in the galaxy. It’s controls were smooth and responsive, and remains right so to the very edge of the performance envelope, with the joystick gradually feeling heavier with the speed. It’s a bit heavy on the tail, and removing the guns would worsen the situation. Extending the leading edges along the side of the ship, adding the beak and the fuel capacity remedied that. If the guns are stripped, the Triikor’s power to weight ratio could match a Fiirkan’s. But the Triikor does not have good lateral or roll balance; it rolls faster in one direction, something the Fiirkan avoids. The Kushan Arrow scout which they have a few aboard the Mule, also tends to roll faster in one direction than the other, due to asymetrical placement of the cockpit and its guns. The Bandit interceptor, a common ship used in the Belt races, feels ragged in the edge of its performance envelope, but it had a capacity for larger powerful engines. The standard Bandit was a heavy ship compared to other fighters, but Bandits modded for Belt races have their armor removed to greatly lighten the ship.

She had looked at other designs too. The Acolyte had good potential and balance, but its tight design left little room for modifications and its innards too complicated for your typical Raider maintenance crew to work on. Besides the regulations have not approved any of the Kushan ships, and they won’t be for some time. Despite having captured samples of the Kadeshi Swarmer, the fighter would also fall into the unapproved category, which is a waste, because the ship is very easy to fly despite having a crazy power to weight ratio once the guns—which contributes more of the weight of the fighter than any other component—are removed.

The lights on the launch rails turned green, and she pulled a lever. The rails catapaulted the fighter into space.

She coasted the fighter into an idle position, trying to save as much fuel. That was why she needed the Cutlass to grab the fighter and bring it to the starting positions in the Belt race.

“I got you in my scanners, Zha.” Zhoan’s voice was in the comlink. “The Cutlass is approaching salvage position.”

“I got your ship too in my sensors,” Zha said. “I am ready to be picked up.”

The Cutlass slowed and stopped right on top of the Fiirkan. The holding fields extended, trapped the Fiirkan, and pulled it to its underbelly.

“Are you alright, Zha?” Zhoan asked.

“Everything is fine. Let’s go to the rock belt now,” Zha said.

The Cutlass with the Fiirkan on its belly, cruised to the Belt. Once it was a rich and prosperous asteroid belt. But everything worth mining hand long been mined out of the Belt, except for rocks that had no ore or value. Now all sorts of ship debris and junk had replaced the mined rocks, and the Belt was more treacherous than ever.

There were other Cutlasses there, each holding a contestant fighter. Zha looked at the fleet and wondered if participation was at an all time high. She flicked the screen in the fighter, taking a view of each of the contestant. Most of the field brought in Bandits, but some had Triikors and Fiirkans. Compared to the subdued pale grey colors of her Fiirkan, most of the racers were brightly painted, full of decals and other unabashed decorations. Scenes depicting carnage, fire, battle, and sex were often painted on the sides of the ships.

The Bandits were stripped of their armor for weight and had large modded engines, which give them tremendous top speed and acceleration. The smaller more nimble Fiirkan could not load with such big engines, but its superior handling should eat up the Bandits where the debris fields are densest.

The comlinks were live with chatter. Some pilots boasted openly, taunting the others. “I am the best ever, I am god of the Belt! You suck. Go home. Revel in my superior skill…”

“What are my chances,” Zha asked.

Zhoan replied. “Flo’karr accountants have been going around, taking bets. According to them, the Harrk’hah is favored to win the event; they fielded five of their best pilots, all in racer Bandits. Next on the betting list are the For’lym pilots, also all in racer Bandits. Sorry, Zha, you’re a friend, but I placed bets on the Harrk’hah. I do expect you to gain a notable finish. You’re taking quite a risk using the Taiidan scout here.”

“I know, but I worked out strategies for this,” Zha said. Back when Seejuk was new on the Mule, he brought in a flight simulator. She complained of the machine’s cost, but he said they’re going to need the machine to continually train my pilots and hone their skills. The machine would become her favorite. One of the things she did wa to program the Turan Belt course, and played games racing the Belt. She used simulations of different fighters. The simulator made her well acquianted of the course, and the characteristics of the fighters in how they react to the course. Using that knowledge, she fine tuned the fighter behavior and came out with a strategy to beat the Belt.

The traditional Raider response was to use sheer power and skill to overpower the course. However, if a ship can handle well enough, instead of decelerating and bleeding off too much speed, it can enter the thicker debris fields at a higher speed, negotiate it faster, and leave the debris fields into the more open spaces at a higher initial speed, which means a higher top end in the open.

The well balanced Fiirkan would be perfect for this. But there was a major catch in the strategy. Flying extremely fast through a debris field would also make the fighter prone crash into an asteroid. She had bet that her skills as a Starfarer can be relied to this little flaw in her plan.

The screens flickered, and there was the face of another pilot, immersed in the liquid in his glazed helmet. “I am Razir, Ace of the Harrk’hah. I heard that the Segura of Khor is participating of this event. You look like but a child. This is not a place for spoiled royalty and princesses. Go home. Save whatever little respect we have for you. Have a rich prince spank and hump your little cute rump and breed your little spoiled babies. That is only what you are good for! Muhaha!”

Zha grimaced at the face in her comlink screen. She stared at him intensely, then raised a finger, slowly placed it at her neck, and made a long cutting motion across the neck. Then she pointed the finger at him.

“I will remember you Razir, when you will eat my exhaust.”

She turned off the screen, unwilling to get any more distractions, taunts and other forms of psychological warfare the pilots were engaging as a pre race ritual.

Zhoan’s Cutlass had disengaged the Fiirkan, and the racer drifted towards its starting position. The other Cutlasses have also dropped the other races, and all the racers have begun creeping into the first beacon. “When the light turns green, the race will begin,” said the race moderator.

“Oh father”, she thought, “I will win this for you.” “Please watch over me” she said in a small prayer. With that prayer, she felt that he was close by, alive. It was a thought she wanted to keep to inspire her.

“Good luck, good luck, win this one, I got confidence in you…” It was Seejuk’s, Kuo’ran’s and Giirsa’s voices, sending their last minute hopes.

She revved up the turbines without letting the ion fuel burn through it. 12,000 RPM now for engine one…engine two…engine three…and finally engine four.

The beacon light turned green. She flicked a switch and the ions poured into the turbines.

It was like an explosion as the Fiirkan rocketed forward, throwing her small body hard against the chair. But the Bandits blew faster, and the first wave of Bandits reached the first debris formation ahead. The Fiirkan fell behind, along with a small group of other pilots who choose to use a Taiidani ship.

But she hardly decelerated as she entered the first debris formation. She rocketed past a few Bandits that slowed down to turn.

“She’s absolutely crazy!” Zhoan screamed as he watched from the monitors aboard the Cutlass frigate. His jaws dropped as he watched the Fiirkan plunged headlong into an asteroid, then banked at the last moment, do a 360 degree slide, the engines burning and scraping the surface of the asteroid to break its velocity, then rocket into a new direction.

“You seemed calm about this, Seejuk,” Giirsa observed his companion.

Seejuk crossed his arms. “You don’t really know Zha. She does this all the time. If I had to worry about her flying techniques all the time, I would be dead long ago.”

The Bandits behind her did their slides, turning completely around to let their engines break their speed, then flick to the fighter to a new direction.

The Bandits ahead of her, banked and wove with the oncoming debris and loose asteroids. There was an explosion as a Bandit smashed into a debris, than a chatter in the comlink that the pilot ejected safely. She banked, rolled and weave as the debris shot past underneath her. For every turn, the G-forces were tremendous, threatening to crush her little body. Her mind boggled with the forces, and if she blacked out, her fighter would smash into anything. But the rich liquid environment kept her awake, the oxygen and juice keeping her blood going, her mind conscious against the tremendous forces that gripped and threatened to block every blood vessel in her brain.

She banked, turning inside a Bandit and overtaking it. Another Bandit slowed and slid, jetting past a small passage between two asteroids. On his tail was the Fiirkan, matching every move, inching close with every roll and turn. There was clear space ahead, and the Fiirkan entered the turn earlier, and screamed past the Bandit with a higher initial speed.

The Bandit went full trust, its sheer speed eating away the lead that the Fiirkan gained from it during the last turn. But it was not enough as another debris field loomed. The Bandit had to do a 360 degree slide and brake its speed, before flicking to a new direction. The Fiirkan headed to the debris field, hardly braking, then did a full slide that ended with the nose pointed at the correct direction, bleeding off little speed. She banked, weaved and turned inside more Bandits, then slingshot ahead when the debris becomes clear.

It was a pattern well rehearsed, a pattern she continued to do, and her Fiirkan crept up the ladder, taking a place higher one by one. Her senses could feel the asteroids and the debris, feeling her way through the field like instinct. Her responses and reflexes coordinated with those senses. For moments it was not like she was a creature of flesh and blood, but a mind linked to a figher, fusing into a new creature that would think and act like one.

The fleet of racers became incresingly dispersed, as they pass by each beacon, each lap. A fleet of Convict transports waited in one of the beacons, each transport capable of refueling a dozen fighters simulatneously. The racers swarmed at the Convicts, hungry for fuel. Their thirst satisfied, they would rocket back into the debris fields. Zha could not take the chance of running out of fuel. Her Fiirkan slowed, then dived into one of the refueling ships. Already there were racers who burned their fuel out too soon, or wasn’t wise enough to refuel when they had the opportunity. A fleet of Thief Corvettes waited among the debris fields, salvaging the fighters that carelessly ran out of fuel, or fighters that simply went broke out of mechanical failure.

As laps goes by, it becomes more difficult to visually see who is the leader. But the beacons have sensors that tag each racer as they flash by, cameras that watch each ship and broadcasted the scene to the fleet of spectator ships. The commentators rattled on their comlinks, keeping the audience informed and tight on their seats.

“This is so exciting!” Kuo’ran jumped up and down, then paced back and forth, unable to stay sitting down from all the tension.

Ahead of the rest of the pack, the For’lym Bandits traded places with the leading pack of Harrk’hah Bandits. At times it seemed they were dogfighting, but what they were doing is to use teammates to block the other team from passing by.

“They’re all dirty pilots,” said Seejuk.

“Haha, what do you expect from a Raider!” Zhoan answered back.

“Look at the rankings, Zha is just behind them!” Kuo’ran pointed out.

“My dear Kushan, it looks like you’re right. I should have given the girl more credit,” Zhoan said. He laughed again. “She has excellent sliding technique. Her well controlled slides are putting her ahead. But going through these bastards are another thing.”

The racing Bandits were just ahead of her, and they seemed to have more power than the rest. When the space is clear, their sheer power was overwhelming, and the Bandits literally pull ahead from hers even with the Fiirkhan’s higher initial speed coming out from the debris fields. But as the For’lym and the Harrk’hah bandits tussled, they do so at the sacrifice of handling speeds through the debris fields, and the Fiirkan eventually caught up with them.

One of the For’lyms tried a blocking move, and missed, sending the fighter nearly careening out of control. The Fiirkan held to its arching trajectory, G-forces squeezing her tight in her seat. She was already going full speed within the debris field as it cleared to another clear wide space. The Fiirkan overtook another For’lym Bandit.

In the next debris field, she nipped past the last two For’lyms, and as the space cleared, she was between the For’lyrm and the Harrk’hah.

“The Kadeshi killer is upon us,” said one of the Harrk’hah pilots as Zha overhead from the open comlinks.

“Block her!” Razir said. “Stop that whore!”

“I’m not that easy,” Zha thought, as the Bandit slipped in front of her trajectory. Without even braking, the Fiirkan slipped past the Bandit by a few scary inches.

“You boys playing rough? You could get me killed!” she shouted in the comlink.

“If you can’t stand how we the real Raiders play, get out, whore!” Razir said.

“That’s how you want to play, okay!” Zha said. The fighters screamed out of the debris field into clear space. One of the Harrk’hah Bandits closed in on her position, it’s boosters more powerful than the Firrkan’s. As the Bandit was about to overtake the Fiirkan., the pilot found himself staring right into the Fiirkan’s exhausts, as the scout slipped right in front of him.

“AAAH!” the pilot screamed, as the exhausts knocked his fighter off course, sending it spinning.

“You’re next!” Zha shouted, as her fighter closed in on the lead Bandit, an asteroid field coming ahead.

“Segura of Khor! You dare challenge the Ace of Harrk’hah?

“I have beaten better, Ass of Harrk’hah.”

“You will pay for your insolence,” Razir said, his Bandit rushing into the dense asteroid field. He swung his fighter into a wild but controlled slide, engines breaking his trajectory, then slip jetting him into a new course.

He’s really good, Zha thought, but not good enough. Her Fiirkan dived into the asteroid field at an even greater velocity. She flipped the fighter into a slide, engines nearly opposite where the fighter’s momentum was going. The engines bleeded the fighter’s inertia, then toss it into another direction, Zha quickly flipping back the fighter to its original head first tail last position.

They tussled back and forth among the asteroids and stellar debris. His Bandit had extremely powerful engines, but sacrificed for that with weight and imbalance. The more agile Firrkan banked, rolled and slid more precision and speed.

A large asteroid loomed ahead. The Bandit slid and braked, but its tail was a bit off from a proper braking position. The pressure was making him his flight style ragged, and Zha saw her opportunity. The Firrkan banked, slid then braked, then jetted again, her whole flight arc turning inside the Bandit’s.

“Whoo-hoh!” she shouted as the Fiirkan took the lead. There was clear space right ahead, and she ran her engines right to the max.

But the Bandit was right behind her, its enormous power eating her short lead. Zha watched her screen, where the back camera view showed the Bandit closing in. She waited for the last second, waiting to time it right…

She flipped her fighter right in front of the Bandit. All of a sudden Razir found himself staring point blank at the Fiirkan’s exhausts.

The blast took the Bandit off course, careening and spinning out of control, Razir temporarily blinded.

“I said you’re going to eat my exhausts,” Zha said, her fighter taking a clear lead.

She remained unchallenged until the final beacon went on. The Fiirkhan passed the finish line first, and she jubilantly shouted through the comlinks. She felt proud, proud to do to this for her father, if he was here right now. Somehow, she always felt he was close to her.

The Fiirkan settled into a parking orbit, and Zhoan’s Cutlass floated over the Fiirkan. The captive fields went on, and the Fiirkan was drawn to the Cutlass’s underbelly.

“Congratulations, Zha, I never thought you could pull it,” Seejuk said.

“You won! You won!” It was Kuo’ran’s voice. “I wish I can handle a fighter like that.”

“Excellent maneuver, Miss Zha, a fine finish and a great win,” said Giirsa. “You would be a match to the best pilots of the Kaalel fleet.”

“Boo-hoo,” said Zhoan. “I lost an entire fortune on the bet. But you won a great victory, Zha. A stunning upset and one of the most suspenseful Belt races I have ever seen.”

“Thank you, thank you everyone,” said Zha, still in the Fiirkan underneath the Cutlass’ belly.

“But we’re going to have some trouble, Zha,” Zhoan said. “The Harrk’hah and the For’lym have filed a protest with the racing board for life threatening maneuvers and they claim your fighter is illegal and that you cheated. The Soo’nan demanded an examination of your fighter.”

“Let them eat my exhausts again,” Zha responded. “They lost, and they can cry over it. The Soo’nan owe me a discount on whatever I want to contract with them next, including an Outpost, and I bet they will go to every means to squirm out of it. Tell them to go kiss my butt.”

The Cutlass cruised to the Planetoid, where it released the Fiirkan. The Cutlass settled into the docking bay while the Fiirkan docked in the hanger.

A large crowd awaited Zha, who had carried a previous reputation as the “Kadeshi Killer”, and was now, winner of the Belt Race. The liquid environment drained back to the module, and she lifted off her glazed helmet. Her face was soaked with the liquid, her hair wet. But there was nothing happy or jubilent on her face this time. She had an angry frown on her face, and her hand was clenched tightly, carrying a big wrench.

“I nearly got killed over there by those asses. Where are they?” Zha demanded. “I know the salvage frigs brought them here too.”

“Don’t do it, Zha,” Seejuk said. “I know what you’re thinking. Watch your temper. I don’t know what the rules here on this planetoid regarding assault…”

His words was unheeded as she spotted the Harrk’hah group. She grit her teeth, blood in her eyes. She ran towards them, wrench raised to strike..

***

Mohilim Darkspace Sector..

The silhouette of the Atonement emerged from the clouds of dark matter. A long neck extended from its main body, ending with a small head that housed the sensors. Protruding from the main body are three massive arms, extending equilaterally from each other, each arm ending with a pod.

Three more dreadnaughts emerged from the dark matter clouds, the Forsaken, the Retribution, and the Penance. They were followed by a vast armada of frigates, corvettes, and fighters. Legions of Mantas, Skates and Bats darkened an already dark space.

“Overlord, was it wise to allow the Beast to feed?” a disciple asked. “It had grown, it had gained back its strength. If we engage it now, we may never defeat the Beast should it turn on us.”

“We have worked so long on this. Only with the White Beast, do we have the power to seek vengeance against the Unbound,” X’on said.

“‘We have signs that there is a new life within the Beast planetoid The planetoid is pregnant, for the lack of a better word for it, and about to give birth,” said the disciple.

“Excellent, let us be witness to this momentous occasion,” X’on said.

Screens focused on the crystalline planetoid, surrounded by a portable atmosphere and huge flowerlike energy collectors that orbit around it.

A huge crater opened in the planetoid’s surface, and lights burst from it. The clouds over the planetoid burned red and orange; auras danced over the magnetic fields that surrounded the planetoid.

“We have a massive energy reading,” said the disciple in his dark monkish robes. “The child is about to emerge.”

A huge ship slowly emerged from the crater opening, its surface marred by white crystalline patches. The main body was shaped like a bulbous abdomen, with a huge gaping round mouth, where light emerged. Around the mouth radiated five massive tentacle like arms, each ending with a glowing tip.

“Behold, the new Beast mothership, and it shall be called, the Deliverer, for it shall deliver us from the curse of the Unbound,” said X’on. “Watch its power.”

Tugs have tractored another planetoid. The Beast ship slowly turned towards it. Light glowed from the ends of the arms, and the lights grew stronger. Lightning fields emerged from each of the arms, leaping and joining to the center.

“The energy readings are getting stronger, rising…”

The arms glowed, and energy connected from each of the arms, and into the center mouth. There was a massive flash of light, and a ball of energy as big as the planetoid itself bursted out from the mouth of the Beast ship.

The planetoid evaporated in a flash of light like a small nova, rings of shockwaves extending from the epicenter. “…the power…” X’on said.

Chapter 4 | Landing Page | Chapter 6

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