The Kadeshi Crusade
A Homeworld Fanfiction
Originally posted May 15, 2001
Chapter 14 – The Pool of Dreams
The battle raged for hours, but it had degenerated into dogfights with strike forces. Large ship capital forces in both sides were heavily damaged, and avoided another toe to toe fight. Then the Kadeshi battlegroup faded out of the battle and hyperspaced. It was hard to tell who won or lost, but the best he can say it was a draw that heavily bloodied both sides.
Casualties were heavy. But there was one casualty Seejuk could never take off his mind. He thought he was battle hardened enough to shrug off all thought of death of his comrades. He stared at the empty captain’s chair. He thought he would see her there, smile, chuckle, and even tease once in a while. But the chair remained empty. The bridge crew were mournfully quiet.
Damn, she said she promised she will come back. He sighed. Casualty reports were flowing in. Salvagers were out doing their thing, trying to recover anything that has value. Resourcers were out trying mine stellar material that they may use for repairs.
He can overhear one officer whisper. “Will the Captain come back?”
“Let’s face it, she probably won’t,” replied another.
“She’s still so young!” said another.
“Too young to captain, too young to die either,” replied another.
“What will happen to us?” asked one officer.
“I think after we return, they will send this ship back to Turan. The Inner Council of Lords will determine the ownership of the vessel. Unless the Kushans will buy this ship from them,” replied another.
“It’s going to cost plenty to fix this ship. There is so much damage here it’s ready for the scrapyard.”
“You can say that again, but I hope the Kushans will help fix this ship. I don’t want to leave this ship, and the Kushan engineers fix this ship pretty good the last time. Our own Turan engineers are so incompetent. Hold on, I think I got a message coming in.”
Her voice turned loud enough for Seejuk to hear. “Commander Seejuk, it is for you. It is from the Kushan fleet.”
“This is Fleet Admiral Ne’jar Sjet with Star Captain Sa’raak Somtaaw of the Kuun-laan. We would like to talk to the captain of the Turanic Raider carrier. We would like to send our eternal gratitude for the assistance you have given in this battle. Your diversionary attack against the Crusade flagship and its siege cannon helped save the Kuun-laan. The Somtaaw Beastslayer is grateful…the Kushan Kiithid is grateful…all of Hiigara is grateful.”
“This is Black Star Commander Seejuk Liirhra speaking in behalf of the captain, Her Highness Segura Zha Khor of the Raider Lord class carrier, Arak-Na, also known as the Mule. We are honored with your gratitude. But we have lost our Captain in battle. The honor must go to her, and to the officers and pilots of her brave fleet. We would like to request the use of the nearest Allied facilities for the repair and resupply of the carrier task force.”
The Fleet Admiral replied. “But of course. We will compensate handsomely for your services. Liirhra? Are you Kushan? A Kushan onboard a Turanic Raider ship?”
“Yes I am, and I have a few select personnel with me. We are from the Black Star wing of Hiigaran Fleet Intelligence. I am formally operating as an adviser, first officer and liason to Her Highness Segura Zha of the Raider Inner House of Khor. We are in a mission of reconnaissance against the Crusade Armada…”
The Admiral said, “…and that’s when we popped up. Well, I do not know the strange workings of Fleet Intelligence, but I do know that your timely actions saved us. You, your Black Star people, your Raider and Taiidan crewmates all deserve a medal when we all see you back in base. I will give you the coordinates and the pass.” He saluted.
Seejuk saluted back. “Sir,” one of the officers said. “We have the data.”
“Good,” Seejuk said. “Set navigation to the coordinates given and prepare to hyperspace once the Resourcers and Salvagers are finished.” He leaned back on his chair, wiped a tear in his eye, and sighed. Is Zha finally dead? He could not believe it. She was so young so vital in life. She could not go just like that. But if she did, she died like a true honorable Raider warrior. He will see to it that all the Raider Houses should honor her for her sacrifice. He will see to it that all the Kiithid should honor even a Raider for saving the Kuun-Laan.
He watched the damage reports on his screen and prepared a schedule of repairs for the damage. He thought, this might be his last duties on this ship. Like one of the officers said, this ship may be headed back for Turan, its ultimate fate to be determined by the Inner House. But the ship will be rightfully repaired first, her dignity restored. That’s how Zha would have wanted it. Then he thought he would give a call to Fleet Admiral G’aas Paktu and take him up on the Liirhra assault carrier offer.
“We have a hyperspace signature coming in, Sir….” the ensign warned.
“Hostile? Kadeshi?,” Seejuk asked.
“No sir,” the ensign replied.
Seejuk did not need to ask for the identity of the ship that jumped in. It’s enormous U-shape, glittering lights and sheer sense of awe, it can only be the ship of the Unbound.
“We are the Unbound,” said the Bentusi.
“Yes, yes, we know, we can dispense of the formalities,” Seejuk said. “You have…you know…anything you can give to us to fight the Kadeshi? They have been able to kick our hinds badly ever since they left the Nebula.”
The Bentusi replied.
“We have been giving away technology that we should never have been. While our gifts solve a threat and save the Great Order, in time we see the unforseen consequences of those gifts. Despite our best efforts, as you have seen the Somtaaw, for example, were able to reverse engineer a facsimile of our Beam fighters. We see the fighter drive we have sold to the Somtaaw became to be used in all fighters of the Known Races, and in the hands of the Kadeshi, the same drive used with their Swarmers have turned over the balance of power. It is our technology, that one Hiigaran uses to kill the other Hiigaran. As brother fights brother, sister fights sister, our sin was to have given the sword for them to kill. These are steps that we cannot undo, and in the long run, bring profound effects to the Balance of the Great Order of things.”
“In millennia past, we gave the refugees of Hiigara, the ancestors of the Kushan and Kadeshi, a gift to help them defend against the Taiidan atrocity. Now that gift had become the feared weapon of the Protectors, the Crusaders, the thing you call the Swarmer. Our colleagues in the Council, the Forbidden, the Tiamat, they have given those ancestors even more technologies—the compact ion beam, the hyperspace inhibitor, and the Needleship power generator needed to run the inhibitor. We sinned to save Hiigara, and now our sins have made one Hiigaran fight another Hiigaran. We have tampered with the Balance, and Chaos has risen.”
“Your war is no longer with the Taiidan. Your war is no longer with the Beast. Your war is among yourselves, Hiigaran. The gifts of technology will not win this war, and we see no need to give you the things you do not need. You need to change the heart of the Hiigaran. Even you know of this. There is no technology that can stop the spirit of the Crusaders from Kadesh. The power of the spirit is the ultimate weapon.”
Seejuk asked, “So how will you expect us to change the minds of the Kadeshi? They are so bent in killing us, you know, the Unclean! The task of healing the mentally ill will be so much easier!”
“You have a female among you. One that is not of your race. But she holds the key to changing that heart. The one you know as the Starfarer,” the Bentusi replied.
“But she is dead,” Seejuk countered. “I warned her…now she is dead. It is all my fault.”
“She is not dead,” the Bentusi said. “That is not to be the fate of this Starfarer. She has a long destiny that she has to fulfill, and it will not end here.”
Seejuk’s heart became elated at the words of the Bentusi. Zha still alive? That was wonderful to hear. The Bentusi cannot be pulling his leg like that. There was so much gossiping in the bridge.
“But where is she?” Seejuk asked.
“She is among the ones you now call the Crusaders. You must retrieve her before she becomes corrupted by the Forbidden, corrupted like the Other, the Starfarer who leads the Crusaders,” the Bentusi replied.
“A Starfarer leading the Crusade?” Seejuk asked.
“Your Starfarer had felt the Other’s presence. The Starfarer whose name is G’yela. She is with her. To stop the Crusade, you must stop the Singer of the Stars, the Siren G’yela. You must remember, that the key to the present lies in the past. You must prepare for a new journey. The Starfarers will be in the place you call the Graveyard. You must go there. You do not have time to lose. The proper destiny and order must be restored. Remember that the answer lies in the past.”
With the last words, the Bentusi tradership turned around and jumped into hyperspace. It was not the kind of meeting Seejuk expected, but it was better. There was hope. Zha was still alive. * * *
They were all bound in the hands, just waiting for the ritual execution. The Grapplers don’t just grab ships for salvaging, they grab victims to supply their idols with a continous supply of ritual sacrifices. It’s called the Cleansing, for the Unclean are cleansed to be worth eating. After that, their bodies were thrown to the nutritional recycler where they would be processed to help create the nutritional food bricks that’s part of the Kadeshi protein supply.
G’yela watched the gruesome rituals. Is this all what we, the Protectors and Crusaders of Kadesh have degenerated into? Is that what the Mother had wished for us all? She had read the Scriptures over and over again. They depicted a novel race that did none of these things. There was nothing that the Mother said that they had to do these things.
G’yela’s senses turned to a girl, a prisoner.
She was all dirtied and beaten, her uniform all torn. She was one of those who had resigned to their fate, as each of them were dragged to the altar, then in front of screaming crowds, stabbed to death.. She could hear the screams of the sacrified, again and again. In the background, there was that song again, and it was terrifying.
The guard came into the cells, looked at her, then grabbed her by the arms. She resisted, and he hit her across the face. He hit her so hard she fell nearly unconscious, her mouth bleeding. The other prisoners tried to stop the guard, some protested verbally. They were all beaten back with a stick.
The guard dragged her limp body across the screaming crowds, who pelted her with whatever they could find throwing. As she was dragged, she started crying. Inside she was not the strong woman and heroine her race wanted her to be, what her station needed her to be. Inside she was damn scared of dying like anyone else. She cried and peed uncontrollably in her thighs and legs, as the guards hanged her arms at a horizontal pole, and let her body hang upright, an easy and presentable target to the final trust of the sacrificial blade. The crowds were shouting in the rhythm, the altar acolytes were humming their prayers, asking the Great Mother to cleanse their offering, to make it worthy of consumption.
It must not end like this, she thought. She wished that she had died in battle instead, instead of being offered as a sacrifice in this sick, psychotic ceremony. She thought of her father, his death, her adventures in the Mule and with her liason, Seejuk Liirhra, who filled the vaccuum her father’s death left.
She dangled at the pole set in the altar as the executioners began to strip her clean like livestock to be slaughtered. Then the crowds hushed into silence. This did not fit the patterns she heard before. Then she felt something, someone. It could only be the Other, for the first time ever, right in the same place where she was.
The Siren was beautiful, with her tall, lithe figure, silvery long hair, and deep penetrating eyes.. There seemed to be an aura, a presence around her. Zha never saw a woman anywhere like this woman.
“This woman is a leader of the Unclean, a royalty to their society, but her rank means nothing under the Eyes of the Great Mother. But she has more value to me alive,” G’yela said. “For even if she was among the Unclean, she is sacred to the Angels from the Abyss who can only determine her final fate. Release her at once!”
The guards seemed surprised, then quickly cut off the ropes that hanged her arms on the pole. She fell to the ground, unable to lift herself up.
G’yela bent beside her. “I had expected something more from another who is also a Siren of the Stars, and foiled my plans to destroy that Minership. You would have died in that battle, or died in the altar, but the Forbidden had another destiny for you, like the one they had realized for me. But in the meantime I am glad to finally meet you, to meet another one like me. This is for us only, a momentous occasion.”
G’yela called her handmaidens. “She is a sacred one to the Angels from the Abyss. I want her cleaned and prepared for ritual in the Pool of Dreams.”
Zha could not understand and did not answer as the Handmaidens took her away. G’yela announced again that the ritual sacrifices will continue to the jubilent cries of the crowd.
The Handmaidens brought Zha to G’yela’s private chambers, stripped her torn clothing, then bathed her clean. They massaged her skin, disinfected her hair, treated her wounds and bruises, then gave her tonic to drink. Zha was tired, thirsty and hungry, and the spoiled luxuries she was being treated with was a stark contrast to her treatment as a prisoner. The luxuries she saw her was even in stark contrast to the spartan lifestyle she had in the Outpost and in the Mule, despite her social status and command position. The Handmaidens smiled and snickered at the sight of Zha’s thin nubile body. Like G’yela, they were all beautiful, handpicked from the best of the Kadeshi women, but they lacked her strange mysterious presence. Zha felt immature and inadequate compared to their fully blossomed womanhood.
They led her to the Pool of Dreams. They entered the water,which glowed with some unusual luminescent plankton in it. Every time they touched the water, the waves disturbed the plankton, causing them to light up. They held Zha’s arms so they can bind her hands to the handles in the walls of the pool. Zha resisted, rather weakly, the pleasures and the drugs taking effect in her body. They told her it is only a precaution so she could not hurt Her Holiness who would be joining them in the pool soon. The Handmaidens left her bound in the pool, as they lit the incense around the pool. The smoke in the incense were drugged, and they made Zha felt even dizzier. One of the Handmaidens took a flask with a glowing blue fluid, and poured it into the pool. There was a strange hallucegenic smell in that liquid.
Zha felt like she was sinking, her body becoming more limp. Only her bound arms kept her head above the water. She grinned, she snickered, she laughed. Everything feels so strange, so funny, so light. Whatever she was, it was all disappearing into the middle hole in the vortex. Then a new presence came into the pool. Zha looked up, and there was she again, the most beautiful woman she has ever seen. She has powers like her too, like the way she can sense the winds between the stars, hear the melodies in the tidal echoes among the stars, the moons, and the planets. The woman gracefully walked into the pool, her lithe figure gliding through the luminiscent waves.
“You look more presentable now,” G’yela said, noting that Zha seemed properly intoxicated for the occasion. She bent slightly and kissed Zha in the forehead, both hands holding each side of Zha’s head. “I can feel you have the power I have. Your aura is great. I see why the Angels want you. This is why you must meet them.” G’yela summoned her will, and both her and Zha seemed to fall into a black vortex, flying with its currents. There was no fear, only pure joy from the complete freedom of leaving their bodies, flying through the universe in pure spirit. Through the center of the vortex they went, gathering speed as they flew past the stars, whose lights streaked the blackness, through the belts of asteroids, pass the clouds of nebulas. Behold them is the giant spider ship, and into its great maw they entered. Inside, in the light and in the darkness, they could hear the thousand voices of the Forbidden.