The White Beast
A Homeworld Fanfiction
Originally posted April 26, 2001
It was supposed to be an unevent day for the life of Sha Zural of Harkk’hah, as his Qwaar-jet heavy cruiser cruised back to their planetoid base. The last Festivities didn’t go well for the Harkk’hah as they had hoped, but it’s just festivities nothing more. But he has his share of delightfully memorable scandals. The best of the Harrk’hah pilots lost to a girl, who just happens to be the Segura of Khor. To make matters worst, the girl attacked the pilots with a wrench after the competition, and in the ensuing scuffle, injured his pilots and herself. Zural smiled. The young Segura upstart had a lot of pep and attitude. One day if she’s older, and when the House of Khor has recovered some of its former power, he might consider doing a political alliance against the other conspirational factions in the Council. At least he was content that the Harkk’hah pilots finished ahead of their old time rivals, the For’lym.
Zural watched the stars. He can see his fleet, mostly frigates and transports led by a Lord class carrier. The beautiful Qwaar-jet was his special prize, a Taiidani Imperial Heavy Cruiser he unceremoniously took over from its former owners when they stopped being useful for him. He also took over a Saarkin-Cho carrier and a number of Skaar-Tel and Skaar-Fa destroyers, boosting his total firepower beyond those allowed by Treaty of House. For a bonus, he shipped his former Imperialist allies to the Republican war criminal hunters in a classic backstabbing move that net him a large monetary bonus. The double cross also puts him way ahead in asking political favors from nearby Republican planetary governors. He thought about that scandal with the Flo’karr scribe right in the oath taking. He wasn’t sure about that Nemesis thing the scribe was babbling about, but the scribe was certainly right about the Houses bypassing the ship tonnage Treaty.
Ah yes, the For’lym. The old rivals to the Harkk’hah. The Flo’karr scribe said they too flaunted the Treaty, but every insider already knew about this but did not want to admit. The real question was not when, where and why they did it, but how many illegal ships they already have.
There was an alert in the comlink, and an officer came to his door. “Your Highness, your presence is requested on the bridge immediately. There is an anonymous ship sighting.”
The Sha Zural looked to his bed, where two of his sex slaves slithered their bodies in the satin sheets. “I will be back, my precious ones.”
He put on his robes, but as he suddenly was about to step out of the door, everything went black. The officer was shocked, looking for the man he was supposed to escort and who vanished right under his eyes. The sex slaves screamed, and the alarms soon ran throughout the ship.
In the darkness, lights shone upon him. The lights were blinding, and Zural squinted at their oppressive glare.
A voice in the darkness welcomed him. “Welcome, Prince of Those who drift in the Winds. Welcome my friend.”
“Who are you?” Zural asked. “I ask that you return me immediately to my ship! Or face the wrath of the Raiders!”
There was high pitched giggling and laugher among the many voices that were hidden in the darkness.
A voice boomed, “This Prince amuses us with his precarious attitude. Does he truly know where he is now?
“The man is clueless, like many of those who are Bound,” said another voice.
Zural turned and turned to every voice he heard and a panic began to set upon him. Any race who could teleport him at the speed of thought must surely be one of great power.
“I see, I think he is beginning to get a clue,” laughed a voice.
“Little man,” cried a voice addressing him directly. “Do you know who we are?”
“No,” Zural cried out. “But please let me go…. I beg of you…”
“My, my, little Bound man, we still have some business with you,” said another voice in the darkness.
“We are the Forbidden ones. We are the Wheel of Fate. We are the Tiamat.”
“And we have a business proposition for you that you cannot refuse. As you will see, it will benefit both our parties immensely…” laughed the voice.
The laughter echoed across a giant spidership that hovered over the Raider fleet.
Zha tried to look responsible and in command, posing as she poured her attention to the inventory logs. Kuo’ran watched alarmingly as a slow procession of new crew, carrying their bags, walked to the shuttle that will carry them to the Mule.
“You just hired these people?” Kuo’ran asked. “These are the mercenary vagabonds that littered the sidewalks of this planetoid.”
“They were looking for work and we needed the extra hands,” Zha said. “It’s called Employment Opportunities. Now you must excuse me, I got a lot of work for this journey.”
“Well I know when I’m not needed,” Kuo’ran said. “But I do wish I can help somewhat.”
“Okay, well then, maybe you can help me with this inventory count,” Zha said. “Remember Maalasi?”
“Yes, that salesman?” Kuo’ran affirmed.
“After much ballyhooing over the details, we signed a contract. They will build my new Outpost, but with substantial discounts, licenses for new ship designs, and they are turning over their excess show inventory to us,” Zha said.
“Show inventory?” Kuo’ran asked.
“Yes. I left much of my auxiliary frigate task forces with the makeshift base back in my home sector. I only brought two Ion Array Frigates, and we’re going to need more firepower if we’re going to expect trouble in the Rim sectors.”
“Are you telling me you just bought that crap Maalasi was trying to sell you?” Kuo’ran asked again.
“Yup!” Zha replied. “We got some of those Corsair stealth frigates and Payback class plasma bomb frigates, some Outlaw attack bombers. In addition to them, we got the new Vagabond class scouts, the Buccaneer class plasma bomb corvettes, the Vigilante class Repair Corvette, and the Intruder class missile frigates. Our Demon fighters are now upgraded to the Scimitar class level, which should give us additional firepower.”
Kuo’ran saw a familiar figure about to join them. “Maalasi?”
“Yes, my Kushan friend,” Maalasi said. “I am joining in this voyage along with a few of my technicians. This is to help train your crews and acquiant them with the new equipment. We must also be here to anticipate any shakedown problems in the use of the new craft. This is all part of our standard warranty service and our aftermarket support.” He humbly bowed before Zha.
In another part of the bay, Seejuk finished inspecting a Vigilante class corvette. The Vigilante was nothing more than a Thief Corvette fitted with repair modules, another creative variation of the Raider modular corvette theme which the Thief Corvette lay as the core system. The Buccaneer was another variation, a Thief fitted with plasma bomb equipment.
The Vagabond seemed to be a Bandit variation, the spacious compartments of the Bandit fitted with sensor arrays. He went to one example, then opened the bays.
Seejuk screamed. “Maalasi! The arrays here! These are illegally copied from Somtaaw Recon designs!”
Maalasi replied from a distance. “Oh, you are correct, these were copied from a Somtaaw Recon fighter. The fighter wandered into our space and we picked it up. We assured you we returned the pilot to the nearest Republican base with no harm.”
“…and the Recon fighter?” Seejuk asked.
“Be assured, its on good care with us,” Maalasi smiled.
“That’s not the point. The point is that you copied designs right and left without asking permission or license.”
“…and what is wrong with that?” Maalasi said. “It is for the good of everyone that technology must be rightfully shared.”
“Uggh! I am not talking to you anymore…” Seejuk shouted.
In another part of the bay, Zhoan finished his transaction with Giirsa. “Credits have been successfully transferred to your hidden account in a Taiidan bank. We have confirmation,” Giirsa said.
“It is nice doing business with you, especially for something so easy and bloodless,” Zhoan said. “If you have anything else, Mr. Giirsa Kaalel, like you need to push around people, I can provide the muscle and the firepower.”
“I will keep you in mind,” Giirsa said. “One day, I believe your specific talents in warfare will come in handy in the service for the Kiithid Kaalel.”
Zhoan walked over to Zha and gave her a rich bear hug. “I’m going to miss you, you little bitch,” he said. “Keep kicking ass, and I hope that we will see each other soon.” She leaned her head on his chest and landed a fist on it. “Oh yeah, you can bet on it,” she said.
“All right men,” Zhoan said, raising his arms, “we got worlds to plunder! ha ha!” With that, he and some of his proteges boarded a Cutlass frigate.
Zha and Seejuk watched as the shuttles and the frigates were loaded with supplies and newly hired personnel. Salim and Zhura came with an armful of bags, as Giirsa and Kuo’ran supervised the loading operations pretending to be in charge.
“I still think its a bad idea to bring a lot of untested equipment and ships,” Seejuk said as the entire party boarded the Corsair frigate, which will take them to the Mule.
“Do not worry, my Kushan friend,” Maalasi replied. “We stand by our products 100% with full support. As you will see…”
As the Corsair made its way to the Mule, Maalasi pointed to a large ship. It appeared to be a large dull grey warship, either a large destroyer or a heavy cruiser, its clean lines disturbed with large angular and squarish bulges that pass as turrets. The ship had an ugly malevolent atmosphere to it.
“What’s that, a Raider Heavy Cruiser?” Seejuk asked.
“That was supposed to be the intention,” Maalasi said. “It is the prototype for the Marauder class Heavy Cruiser. You name it, the baby’s got it, starting with the four continuos fire ion beam cannons, a dozen large calibre energy cannons, two quad rapid fire plasma bomb launchers, and two quad fire long range missile racks, packed in a hull with multiple layers of easily replaced fiber reinforced reflectively coated ablative armor… Oh that baby can eat the entire Kushan exile fleet…well excuse my language… We originally designed it in case the Taiidan Emperor had any doubts about his alliance with the Raiders, and decides to throw a tantrum at us. It was designed to beat the Qwaar Jet heavy cruiser in a straight match.”
“Not too shabby. Seems to me there is a ‘but’ somewhere here…” Seejuk said.
Maalasi added. “Unfortunately due to the Treaty restrictions, our market was limited. With volume so low, it had to be custom built. Potential customers didn’t want the cost. The final blow came when many of our potential customers acquired Qwaar-jets from the Imperialists and the whole project was shelved.”
“So how much was it?” Seejuk asked.
“10,000 RU’s. Quite a bargain for what this baby can do.”
“You’re freakin’ nuts,” Seejuk retorted. “That costs almost a third more than a Somtaaw Archangel dreadnaught. No wonder no one is buying.”
“As I said, it’s creation required a lot of precision hand labor, and the volume was low. So the price is a bargain according to the circumstance,” Maalasi explained.
“That’s a waste for something that has strong potential,” Seejuk said. “Now tell me, why is it following us?”
“Not to waste the ship, we converted the Marauder into field testing support ship. Most of my technicians and engineers are in that ship, and so are their testing and repair equipment. We need the Marauder to support the new ships you just acquired from us.”
“You’re telling me, Maalasi, that thing is coming with us?” Seejuk remarked.
“Yes, Mr. Seejuk. It’s part of our after sale support. We have also heard about your journey into the Outer Rim space and about strange new fighters you have encountered. We would be most interested to see and scan these fighters for whatever new technology they may have. The Marauder is equipped for the task. We will not charge for any support the Marauder will provide.”
“Are the weapons operational?” Zha asked.
Maalasi replied. “Yes, they are, in case if some Raider wants to steal our prototypes. The Marauder will stand guard. Unfortunately, our complement is mostly engineers and technicians, not warriors, so we would not be as competent in fighting as you would expect.”
“This mission was supposed to be a simple exploration,” Zha pointed out.
“And so it is, the Marauder and the Soonani will not get into your way. We will be so inconspicious, you will not notice us in your endeavors,” Maalasi smiled.
Seejuk rolled up his eyes and sighed.
The Mule, the Marauder and the odd fleet of untested frigates jumped out of the slip gates near a system bordering the Mohilim sector. The bridge on the Mule was full, with no less than Zha, Seejuk, Kuo’ran, Giirsa, Salim, Zhura and Maalasi on board. Maalasi sat on a diagnostics console, continuing to observe the new ships. The Corsair, Intruder and Payback frigates seemed okay. Two time tested Assassin Ion Array frigates made up the rear.
“We are not far from where the sightings occurred, and I suggest that we will go into cloak mode,” Zha said.
“Maalasi, you better hope that the cloaking and mimic generators in all your ships are working,” Seejuk warned.
“No problem, my doubting Kushan friend. The first thing a Raider does when checking his ship is to check his cloak or mimic systems.”
“Then order everyone into a cloak mode,” Zha said. The Mule extended its tethered cloak generators, as the Marauder and the frigates winked out of sight.
“We’re going to try to make it across the system undetected before we make the next jump,” Zha said. “Hyperspace stability is not good in this area, which is why we need to go across until the levels go back on.”
“Father, you should be back resting,” Zhura said. But Salim seemed too excited and wanted to stay on the bridge.
“I have not left the planetoid for an exploratory journey for a long time,” he said. “I can’t rest now.”
The trip across the system was uneventful, until the scanners lit up.
“One of the Vagabond scouts has detected something. We got a ship type energy reading at six o’clock about four marks away from us,” said the sensors officer.
“Scan and magnify,” Zha ordered.
A ring shaped vessel appeared in the screens. It’s hull was cracked and blackened, fumes coming out of the cracks.
“Looks it barely survived some heavy battle,” Seejuk observed.
Zha suddenly stood up. “I can feel a presence in that ship, and whatever is on that thing, it is badly wounded and dying.”
“My scanners are only showing one life sign aboard that ship, an entire ship being controlled by a single being,” Seejuk said. “What is that thing?”
“Bentusi,” Salim said.
“But it does not look like any tradership I have seen in our records,” Giirsa remarked.
“No, it’s not a trader U-ship. It’s a new kind of Bentusi vessel that we have documented recently and one that started to appear after the Beast war. The Bentusi Ringship and a new Tiamat Crabship,” Salim explained.
“You know a lot do you,” Seejuk commented.
“The Flo’karr knows a lot. We may be the best intelligence gathering organization in the galaxy. We’re not just scribes. Or we will not have enough money to eat—we also spy, and often for a price,” Salim explained. “The Ringship you see here is a smaller, more agile type of Bentusi vessel, and one that is strictly designed for war and self defense—a type of vessel that the Bentusi has not made for ages. “
“It could probably kick a lot of ass too,” Seejuk said. “Then why is it that ship looked it got its ass badly kicked instead.”
“I wonder who would be capable of doing such a thing,” Zha asked. “I sense that the life sign aboard the ship is very weak. It is badly wounded and I can sense deep pain.”
“There is only one way to found out and help whoever is onboard. Salvage the ship,” Maalasi suggested.
“But no one has ever seen a Bentusi on the flesh before,” Kuo’ran said.
“There is a first time for everything,” Seejuk answered.
A pack of four Thief corvettes ventured out, and hovered around the stricken ringship. “We have found the salvage points on the ship. We’re ready to bring it back.”
Zha gave the signal, and the corvettes began to tow back the wounded Bentusi ship. Nearby, a wing of Bandits began protective patrols around the salvettes. A fifth Thief salvette hovered near the Bentusi ringship in an attempt to extract the pilot.
“Negative. Extraction is unsuccessful. We have no way of extracting the Bentusi life form from the rest of the ship,” the fifth salvette’s pilot reported.
Maalasi addressed the issue to Zha. “If I may, your highness, let me suggest the salvettes tow the Bentusi ship towards the Marauder. We have technicians on space suits and repair bots onboard that ship that can perform much more precise extraction procedures. I would also suggest that we send the Vigilante class repair corvettes to put temporary welds on the ship to keep it from falling apart during the movement phase.”
Zha nodded in agreement and the orders were given.
The Vigilante class corvettes welded and partly repaired the ship to a more robust state. The Bentusi ship settled to a side near the Marauder, as technicians in space suits departed with a space bubble canopy. Robots opened up a hole in the ship which the technicians sealed with the bubble as they entered the ship.
“We got a green signal. They got the Bentusi,” Maalasi said.
“This is remarkable,” Kuo’ran commented. “For the first time, we will actually get to see a live Bentusi.”
“Tell your men to bring the Bentusi life form into the Mule,” Zha ordered. The bubble canopy was brought into a Thief Corvette, which docked to the Mule. “Bring it to the medical room immediately. I can sense the Bentusi is gravely wounded.”
There was a major commotion in the docks as the Bentusi’s body was rushed to the medical rooms. Zha and the entire party quickly left the bridge to witness the Bentusi.
What they found was a shriveled humanoid body with a large head and pale skin. Its limbs and legs were weak and frail from ages of evolutionary disuse. The head had many metallic interfaces on.
“When we found him, he was deeply interfaced with his ship. Extraction was difficult,” one of the Soonani technicians from the Marauder said. “We had to cut the interfaces to break him loose.”
“Oh by the god Sajuuk’s name,” Seejuk uttered as he stared at the shriveled body. Both the mouths of Giirsa and Kuo’ran were wide open, as if their jaws had fallen to the floor.
“You look so small…” Zha uttered.
“I…I thank you…” said a voice that rang throughout their heads.
“He isn’t talking, and yet we can all hear him inside our heads,” said the medical attendant.
“The Bentusi is telepathic,” Seejuk remarked.
“He is weak. He is dying,” Zha said. “I can feel it.”
“…I…did not want to die alone…A Child of the Unbound, a Starfarer…I can sense you…” said the voice of the Bentusi. “You…you have a heart of light. You are not like the Dark Ones, the Condemned, the Starfers whose hearts are filled with blackness…”
“Who did this to you?” Zha asked.
“Beware, Raider. Beware, O the people who once drifted the winds,” the voice of the Bentusi rang out. “The one great enemy you call the Nemesis has returned. They have allied with a piece of the Plague you call the Beast.”
“The Beast? Is that supposed to be behold, dead and gone?” Giirsa asked.
“Unless there are still evolved fragments,” Seejuk answered.
“How can we be more certain?” Kuo’ran asked.
“I take it that the word of the Bentusi should be more than enough,” Zha answered. “Why are you in this sector?”
“…The new White Plague… We of the Council and of the Unbound, we fear its power….This creature far surpasses the power of the Plague first brought from the Outside… We have observed the coming of the Nemesis beyond the Outside…when the Condemned allied with the new Plague, we have much to fear, for combined, we will not have the power to stop them. Not the Traders, not the Forbidden ones who are the Tiamat in your name, not the Keepers who are the Naga, and not the Insane ones who are the Sekmet. Lo, fear…fear…there is much to fear for the fate of the known space…it shall be the end of all we know…not even the best of our fighters cannot stop the new Plague…”
“Not even the Super Acolytes!” Seejuk uttered.
The voice continued. “…The Council sent a force to stop the White Plague…I am part of that force…We are all destroyed from the combined power of the Condemned and the Plague…all of us, the Bentusi, the Tiamat, the Naga, and the Sekmet, under the Nemesis and the White Beast… I am the only survivor. The Unbound voices died either from the fierce pain of the weapons from the Condemned, or becoming bound with the flesh of the White Plague. I am fortunate and thankful to escape this fate…”
“To the gods of the stars,” Salim shouted. “It is the prophecy…”
“—the Feared Enemy, the Nemesis
will tame the Beast—“
“It is being fulfilled. The true time of Tribulation has come for the People who wander, the Drifters by our ancient name…:” Zhura cried. “Truly it is the prophecies…”
The voice of the Bentusi continued. “The great War of the Heavens against the Condemned, the Dark Ones, brought much grief to the Unbound. So much that we, the Bentusi, renounced war for all time, until the Somtaaw showed us once again, that we must defend ourselves. The same grief and shame brought condemnation to the Tiamat, and insanity to the Sekmet. The Condemned have returned and we may not have the power to stop them Woe, woe, woe to any being that is alive for the end has come…”
“It is with the last spark of my life that I must warn you,” said the fading voice. “At this moment my Unbound brethren will come to claim my mortal remains. I’m ready to surrender my spirit to the Void.”
At the very moment, the comlink to the Bridge spoke out. “Captain, we got three vessels suddenly appearing out of nowhere. M’am, I think they’re Bentusi tradeships.”
“Leave them be,” Zha ordered. “I know what they have come for.”
Three holographic images covered in thick glittering robes suddenly appeared in the medical room.
“My brethren have come. It is time for me to return,” said the fading voice.
“I can sense the pain of your dying, Bentusi,” Zha said, as tears began to ran down her cheeks. “I do not know you well, but your pain overcomes me.”
The three robed figures began to chant and sing.
“It is the Song of Death,” said the voice. “It shall be the last Song I will hear. I only ask now that you sing it with my brethren. We live to hear the songs of a million worlds. Now I must hear the last one from you.”
“I do not know how to sing it,” Zha said.
“Just follow them,” the voice said, and Zha began a tune following the chant of the three figures.
“Look, look!” Kuo’ran cried.
The body of the Bentusi settled into an eerie calm as his life signs flat lined across all the instruments attached to it. Then the body began to glow, and a white cloud rose from it, filling the room. As suddenly as it appeared, the white wisp disappeared.
The three figures howled with a deep moaning sound.
“He has returned to the Void,” one of the figures lamented. “Now you must return his body and his ship to us.”
“Maalasi? The Bentusi ship, please,” Zha ordered.
“Aya-ya…it would have been a heaven sent opportunity to study the Bentusi technologies,” Maalasi said. “I am ordering the salvettes to disengage the Ringship.”
The three figures nodded to each other and bowed to Zha. “You have comforted our brethren at the moment of his passing. The Bentusi shall always remember that favor forever.” They began to fade.
Seejuk, Giirsa and Kuo’ran added their own prayer to honor the dead Bentusi, an ancient prayer from the sands of Kharak.
The body was wrapped and placed in a small coffin. A Thief corvette carried the body to the three Tradeships in waiting, where it was discharged in space. A corvette like utility ship came and retracted the body through a holding field, and the ship returned into one of the Tradeships. More corvette utility ships came out from the Tradeships, which Salim described as Bentusi salvagers, and which reminded Seejuk of the Junkyard Salvagers of Karos. The salvagers claimed the dead Ringship and towed it to the middles of the Tradeship formation. This was the first time they ever saw Bentusi salvage corvettes.
As suddenly as they appeared, the Bentusi was gone, all three Tradeships, the body, the salvagers and the Ringship.
For Salim, the chant and the crying of the Bentusi fulfilled yet another passage of the prophecy—
“…the Stars will weep,
the winds will carry their sad song…”