Soul of the Progenitors – Act 8

Act 7 | Landing Page | Act 9

Soul of the Progenitors

A Homeworld Fanfiction

by Crobato

Originally posted September 22, 2004 – 9:51AM

Act 8

Noor-Shakh System, Aboard the Naasha

“Both carries are launching proximity probes,” Gursal reported. “We need to improve our stealth profile or we’ll be detected.”

“Increase magnification scans on the Vaygr Command Carrier. Maintain passive modes. Minimal power except for mimic image generators.” Radal ordered. Under minimal power, the Naasha maintains the lowest power emission profile, reducing her vulnerability to detection.

“There!” Gursal pointed to the screen as the camera magnified on the emblem on the deck. The Vaygr command carrier carried the half moon symbol of the Vaygr Crescent Crusade, who long claimed sovereignty over the Noor-Shakh system.

Iisha began to pat her chest. “Are you alright?” Radal asked.

“I..I.. never seen or been in a battle before…”

Radal laughed. “Sorry if I don’t sound sensitive. But the first time around you will always get bubbles in your stomach, even if you’re just watching them from afar. If they’re really attacking you, it gets very exciting quickly. Get used to it. When you’re under fire you need to be calm and collected, as everyone will depend on you. Right to the very end.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine…” Iisha insisted. “This is all new to me. I’m just a scholar, I’m not trained as a soldier.”

“Pay attention to the scans, and keep cool, Iisha..” Radal reminded her. “There are no second chances in combat.”

Radal looked at the screen. “The Raider designs are old designs—they have been using the same basic designs for a hundred years or two. But they were excellent designs and upgraded, they could still challenge anything in space.”

“Seems like you have a soft heart for them,” Iisha added.

“No, these pirates do not need our sympathy. But they deserve our respect. Raider factions faced the brunt of early Vaygr attack, and miraculously many of these factions survived even as the Taiidan Imperialist factions were destroyed or captured by the Vaygr. Those Raiders who did not survive, were converted to the Vaygr faith,” Radal explained.

“Right now the Raiders are throwing everything they got at the Vaygr, hoping for a quick knockout.” Gursal observed. “There are massive fighter battles all over derelict areas one, two and three here.” With his finger in the air, he pointed to the three conflict areas. “I don’t think the Raiders have the numbers and the interceptors up to the task. Their upgraded Bandits are not going to last long against Vaygr AC’s.”

“It’s because the Raiders are setting up a distraction,” Radal explained. “I could read these people like a book. My next guess is that they will hyperspace near the Command Carrier.”

“Hyperspace signatures detected!” Gursal shouted.

“Here you go, just as predicted.” Radal shuffled his thumbs. Iisha studied the coolness of her father. He did earn his steely reputation as a Task Group commander in Fleet Somtaaw.

Gursal stared at the screens and punched key commands onto his console. “The Raider carrier, Ion and Missile frigates are spacing near the Command Carrier. They are in engagement with Vaygr frigates escorting the carrier.”

Lances of white ion light surged from the Ion Array Frigates, and the Vaygr Heavy Missile and Assault frigates succumbed from the attack. Raider missile frigates covering the ion frigates, fired volleys against Vaygr strike craft desperately defending the Command Carrier. There was not much of the Vaygr force that could defend the Command Carrier, with most of their strike craft occupied with a large Raider Bandit interceptor force.

The Raider Lord Class carrier materialized behind the Command Carrier. While much smaller, it was also much heavier armed and two ion beams shot straight out of the hull, torching the hull of the Command Carrier with a burning cloud. Brigand Missile Corvettes came swarming out of the Lord carrier, and began joining their volleys with the ion beams. The Command Carrier’s point defenses flared sending streams of tracers, and explosions marked where a former Raider corvette met its fate.

Iisha stood up. “A large carrier like that should have more escorts! Where are the destroyers and battle cruisers?”

Radal smiled and snickered. “Exactly. That’s an even older Vaygr trick. Watch and enjoy.” He placed his elbow on the chair and hand on his cheek. “They should come out just about now.”

“Hyperspace signatures detected!” Gursal shouted as he fumbled the dials. “Large signatures.”

“Like I told you, like clockwork,” Radal added. “It is not as if I’ve seen them pull this trick a number of times.”

A Vaygr Battlecruiser and four Destroyers materialized just behind the Lord carrier and the Raider frigates and quickly opened fire. Missiles shot from the large capital ships and headed in streams towards to the Raider ships, which were quickly engulfed in flame. The outcome was inevitable; the Raiders were snared in a trip—the hunter became the hunted. A hailstorm of missiles and Flechette cannons tore through the Raider frigates. As the last Raider frigate succumbed, the Battlecruiser turned its guns on the Carrier. Smoking, the Lord class Carrier managed to hyperspace before more damage was done, leaving its strike craft behind.

Iisha wondered about the fate of the Raider pilots left behind. “They’re either going to be converted or tossed out of the locker.” Her father replied. He added. “The Raider ship is lucky. The Command Carrier had hyperspace inhibitors on, but the Raider carrier probably threw as much power into its drives to overcome the inhibitor. These Raiders are not easy to catch and kill; they have survived for hundreds of years by being clever and lucky. That carrier managed to get away to fight another day.”

“The problem now, we can’t do anything but to hide until they leave the system,” Radal explained. “Cut power to the image generators and activate the cloak generators. We better get out of here and keep our distance. Looks like the Vaygr resourcers have begun salvage and mining operations; we don’t want them to mine us.”

“We have switched to cloaked mode, and leaving the debris belt,” Gursal reported. “Moving to coordinates Ten-Zero-Niner.”

“Maintain stealth signature,” Radal reminded. “They got patrols running around.”

Several minutes passed, and the Naasha lengthened her distance from the Command Carrier. Radal never took his eyes off the carrier in the screens, constantly wary of any sign of unusual activity. Iisha, understanding the vigilance, maintained watch over her monitors, as the Vaygr resumed their mining and salvage operations. Then something came flashing on screen.

“Looks like we got a ship,” Iisha said. “Minimal power mode. Power levels continuously flickering.”

“Don’t active scan, Iisha,” Radal warned. “We must maintain stealth at all times. Just magnify and passive scan.”

“Got it.” Iisha raised her thumbs up. “Focusing and onscreen.”

“Looks like a badly damaged Raider missile corvette,” Gursal said.

“Life signs onboard. It appears they may be heavily wounded,” Iisha said. “I suggest we rescue them.’

“That would not be wise,” Gursal warned. “It could give away our cover.”

“But we can’t leave them out there to die!” Iisha insisted.

“A few lives for the sake of many, that would be a worthy sacrifice especially if it concerns pirates lives versus ours,” Gursal said.

“Father, you can’t live them just like that!” Iisha rushed to her father’s side and pleaded.

“Gursal is right. We cannot take unnecessary chances.” Radal stood up, not minding Iisha. Then he turned around. “But we need intel also, and this can be an opportunity.”

“You’re not serious, Captain.” Gursal warned again.

“I am serious,” Radal spoke with a twinkle of his eye. “We do need intel. Float the Naasha in cloaked mode towards the corvette and put her between the corvette and the nearest Vaygr sensor probe. We can use the Naasha to hide the corvette so to speak. Then we will use a Resourcer to extract the corvette.”

“Aye sir,” Gursal acknowledged. “Putting the ship between the corvette and the sensors and begin approach.”

“Thank you father,” Iisha said.

“Don’t thank me, Iisha,” Radal said coldly. “In war, there can be no room for compassion when it comes at the risk of your own crew. I saw an opportunity here and I’m taking it. Please return to your post.” He refused to stare at Iisha’s face. Iisha felt her father’s dry response and went back to her seat.

“Are we in extraction position yet?” Radal asked.

“Yes,” Iisha affirmed. The burning corvette loomed larger. It was a familiar Brigand class corvette, the same kind of corvette the Exiles first encountered during their Exodus over a hundred years ago. Since then, it remained a threat throughout the new Hiigara’s short history. The Kun-laan of her Kiith’s fabled history fought many such ships in its expedition, including the campaign against the Beast. She had never seen one herself closeup, not in space anyway, there was a captured example in the Museum of the Exodus for all new generation Hiigarans to gawk at. But here, history has come to life.

The corvette had black marks from hits on her hull. There was a series of missing panels that must have been blown away by a direct hit, and a massive crack across the ship’s length. Gases appeared leaking from the ship, and there was sparks from broken energy conduits.

“Launch one resourcer,” Radal ordered.

“Got it,” Gursal affirmed. “Resourcer launched. Locking on to the corvette.”

Iisha watched as the Resourcer grappled the corvette and dragged it towards the ship.

Radal breathed a sigh of relief as the Resourcer disappeared into the Naasha’s hold.

“Extraction is successful sir,” Gursal affirmed. “Salvage and medical teams standing by.” Gursal kept his ear in the intercoms. “The Raider crew appears to be healthy though shaken condition.”

“Give them some food and water, and half an hour of rest,” Radal said. “Convince them we’re not enemies, but don’t tell them exactly who we are. Then we’ll question them ourselves.”

“Affirmative,” Gursal said and relayed the instructions.

***

After the interrogation, Radal called the crew to meet in the conference room.

His face was sober as the crew gathered around the conference table that was the heart of the room.

“Gursal, Iisha and I interviewed the Raider crew we salvaged. Iisha here filled in with the role of linguist as my Turanic isn’t so good. We have both news good and bad. For the good news, at least the Raider crew managed to talk easy without resorting to more forceful, and likely painful means of extraction.”

“The bad news is what they told us.”

“We combined that information with we obtained through the corvette’s computers and logs. According to the Raider’s own intelligence network, recon patrols and listening posts, the Vaygr appears to be on a move. All Raider forces are in orange alert and this was in response to our own Hiigara going into orange alert. They have cited the cause of the alerts as major Vaygr Crusade fleet movements including the Crescent, Sword, Red, Silver, Iron, and Golden Crusades. They have affirmed that a new Vaygr-Khar has been chosen from the ranks of the Red Crusade. If the Vaygr are united once again under a single leader like Makaan, this equates to big trouble.”

“But the Vaygr are not launching an attack on the Inner Rim. Instead, fleets are headed towards the Tarim Sector and are seeking something the Raider do not understand themselves. The rumors among the Raiders is that the Vaygr are in search of the legendary derelicts of Taal-Shiia.”

“Is that what we’re looking for too?” Mani the chief engineer asked.

“Yes, and so it seems, the Vaygr has acquired knowledge about the existence of the derelicts,” Radal affirmed. “To say the least, that is not good to hear. We did not expect that the Vaygr would act so soon, unless something triggered them to do so. But the Vaygr has shown extraordinary access to the derelict sites, building command bases and asteroid bases in derelict areas, for example. Hiigaran Intelligence has long theorized that the Vaygr are being assisted and clued by unknown forces that led them to the discovery of the Third Hyperspace Core and various Progenitor derelicts. I cannot discount that the same forces may be guiding the Vaygr to look for the Taal-Shiia derelicts, and most ominously, for the Ark of Geddon itself. This is something we feared the most that would happen.”

“Iisha can explain more. Take the place, Iiisha.”

Iisha stood up and activated the hologram map. “Thank you.”

“What the Taiidan call Taal-Shiia—the Bowels of Hell—is what the Raiders call the Atamarak—the Abyss of No Return. They believe that many of their own ships were lost in this place, never to return. Thus, they banned a certain area which they believed comprised this area of the Abyss. That gives us a precious clue which narrows our search pattern for the supposed area of Taal-Shiia by over 100 percent.”

“But right now, we have a more pressing problem.”

“The Vaygr have sealed off this system by placing Hyperspace Inhibitors at strategic areas—here, here and here. This means we cannot jump. We are effectively sealed off.”

“Over one hour ago, we detected the Command Carrier making a hyperspace jump out of the system. This was followed by the Battlecruiser. However, a Vaygr carrier is left on standby patrol, with refineries and resourcers. An unknown number of Destroyers and frigates are still within the system and patrolling the inhibitors.”

“We can’t jump out of the system except for this.” Iisha raised a new hologram that showed a five spoked object. “I’m sure you are all familiar with this. It’s a Vaygr Hyperspace Gate. But this one appears powerful enough to send a capital ship out of the system into the next one.”

“But we don’t know where this gate leads.” Banaan asked.

“Which is why we have this plan,” Iisha said. “Father, please take over.”

Radal stood up and took the center again. “Luckily we still have blue prints for the old Leech micropod. We can build one as soon as possible and reprogram it with a Beast like nano-virus to subvert the gate into our command. In order to make sure we will not land right into the middle of a waiting Vaygr fleet, we can use the Leech to reprogram by remote the receiving gate to land the ship a significant distance from the gate, at least around 10 light minutes. From there we must conceal ourselves in stealth mode.”

“As for the sentries, we will attempt to take them out via Leeches. But we must also consider use of our own armaments including cruise missile, flak and EMP batteries. As for the basic Vaygr carrier and its strike forces, we have another plan.”

***

The Hiigaran Minelayer Corvette laid a field of mines in the first Derelict field. Radal noted high EM interference coming from the derelicts, which consisted mainly of Vaygr, Raider, and Taiidan wrecks. The interference appeared to come from the radiation emanating from the not so dead power cores of the ships and the release of radioactive isotopes. This could help mask the Minelayer from the Vaygr probes and Scouts. Radal, in anticipation of derelict salvage work, had long modified the Minelayer with reinforced anti-radiation shielding. “Dock the Minelayer,” he ordered.

Radal thought that this expedition would require every known Somtaaw trick and then some. He had included Mimics in the bag of tricks. “Launch Mimics,” he ordered. These ones have a variation over the old Mimics—they were completely automated. He studied the diagrams displayed in one of the flat panel screens. The Mimics were loaded with explosives and a remote control detonation fuse.

As soon as the Mimics were deployed, Radal sent his second order. “Disguise as asteroids and sent them to these coordinates.” The coordinates are within the recently laid minefield.

“Launch the first wave of Leeches.” Rahal waved down his hand.

The Leeches disembarked from the Naasha and formed a line. Then with streaks from their exhausts, they set out towards their respective targets.

“Cloak!” Radal ordered, and the Leeches disappeared.

Gursal watched from the monitors. The Leeches were sending the images from their optical sensors to the Naasha via datalink. “We have sight of the sentry ships.”

“Yes I could see,” Radal affirmed. “One Destroyer, two Heavy Missile Frigates and two Assault Frigates. Set the Leeches on them, and begin override of their systems. I want a nice power overload.”

“Affirmative.” Gursal smiled.

“Launch our special Leech. Target, the Hyperspace Gate.” Radal motioned with his hand.

“Yes sir,” Gursal said. “Leech launched…Cloak activated. Course set…and she’s on her way.”

“Good.” Radal sat on his chair and watched the screens. One monitor displayed the optical images from the special Leech. “Now we have to wait.”

The Gate appeared bigger in the screen as the Leech approached it. “Target acquired and locked,” Gursal said. “Attachment in five seconds…four…three…two…one….attachment successful.”

Radal stood up. “Mani, take over.”

“Aye, sir.” Mani saluted. With nimble fingers, his hand danced on top of the keys of the terminal. “Nano-virus activated and has infiltrated the Gate command system. This is easy. The Gate software appears to have weak defenses. We will have control of the gate within twenty seconds.”

“Control achieved.” Mani announced. “We got access to the receiving gate. Reprogramming exit coordinates now.”

Radal placed his hand on a steeple. Iisha watched his steely expression; his eyes however, could not hide his concern and a twinge of nervousness. He had seen too much to know the best laid plans can fail.

“Twenty seconds for the destroyer to self destruct,” Gursal warned.

“Activate Mimics and switch disguise to Hiigaran capital ships.” Radal leaned forward from his chair and stood up. He pointed to the screen. “Mimic power levels up, and switch them to active scans. I want them to be seen by the Vaygr!” He slammed his fist on the panel.

“Vaygr carrier detected!” Iisha shouted. “It’s launching strike craft.”

“Good!” Radal sighed at the sight of the Vaygr strike ships heading to attack the illusionary Hiigaran fleet.

“Vaygr strike craft will reach the minefield in ten seconds,” Gursal reported. “Destroyer self destruct in eight seconds.”

“Prepare to hyperspace on my mark,” Radal ordered.

From the monitors, the Destroyer appeared to be on flames. “Destroyer is sending out emergency signals. So are the other four frigates. Self destruction imminent.” Gursal reported.

With blinding flashes, fire engulfed the Vaygr Destroyer end to end. Then one massive flash and debris flying out in all directions was all what was left of the Destroyer. Soon afterwards, the other five Frigates shared the same fiery fate.

“Yes!!” Gursal shouted in joy. But Iisha wondered about the lives of those in the ships her father helped destroy. This was a war, and it was a kill or be killed situation. They were justified, but she can’t help thinking about it.

“Vaygr strike craft has reached the minefield,” Gursal reported. The monitors displayed Vaygr strike craft swinging to attack the phony Hiigaran capital ship fleet. They quickly learned a surprise as they hit the minefield. In one formation, the Vaygr strike leader blew up with his wingman on one proximity fuse mine. There were shouts and cries in the comlinks, cries of confusion and death. Explosion after explosion rocked the Vaygr strike force fleet. But the survivors, flying through the path cleared by their dead brethren, managed to reach the ‘core’ Hiigaran fleet where another surprise awaited.

The Mimics exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions into space all at once, shredding the surviving Vaygr strike craft.

“Hyperspace jump now!” Radal ordered.

***

The Naasha materialized out of thin space.

“Where are we? Are we supposed to jump next to the Hyperspace Gate?” Radal asked. His face was nervous.

“Something pulled us out of the jump!” Gursal frantically checked the screens.

Iisha’s heart sank but she could not let her feelings get in the way of her duty. She took a deep breath and scanned. “We got the Vaygr carrier. It hyperspaced a second before we did and appeared right out of the Gate. That must have affected our own jump.”

“The enemy carrier must have caught on to us!” Radal quickly took his seat, staring at the enemy carrier. The carrier began to deploy missile and gun platforms.

“By the grace of Sajuuk, the carrier is laying platforms across our path. Battle stations, prepare for engagement. Gursal, I think it’s time to test all the toys we installed on this ship.”

“Aye sir, I sure like to find out,” Gursal replied as he keyed his panels.

Defence Field generators, Hive Swarms, Cruise Missile Launchers, Flak turrets, EMP generators… These names lined the top of the screens in the bridge. Radal had been careful to include the best Hiigaran and Somtaaw technology defenses on this ship, plus some more. “Activate Defense Field and launch Sentinel Pods. I want shields up soon.”

“Yes sir, Sentinels launched,” Gursal reported. Another old trick from the Somtaaw bag, the Sentinels launched and began formation around the Naasha. The difference once again, the Sentinels were unarmed and was fitted with an AI system instead. “Activate shield.” Radal ordered, and the force field formed around the Naasha, creating a two layered defense along with the Defense Field.

“Arm Cruise Missile Launchers and lock on to the platforms!” Radal ordered. “Get the Flak turrets ready.”

“Missiles from the Platforms launched,” Gursal reported. “Heading straight for us. Our Defense Field won’t stop it and neither will the shields.”

“Launch Swarmers and put into defensive formation,” Radal ordered. “Target the missiles.”

“Aye sir!”

The Swarmers, made from antique Hive production lines salvaged from Somtaaw Hive frigates, opened fire at the incoming volley of missiles. There were explosions as some missiles were hit. But some went through, exploding against the tough hull of the ships.

The ship shook from the volley of explosions against the hull. “Damage status!” Radal ordered.

“Our armor is holding tough,” Gursal reported.

“Fire the Cruise Missiles onto the Platforms.” Radal ordered.

“Aye sir! Lock, load and fire!”

From the screens, the Cruise Missiles fired out and headed towards the platforms. Radal ordered arming the launchers again. “Fire!”

The first Cruise missile hit a Missile platform, and the second hit another likewise. The platforms exploded in one blow.

“Enemy carrier launching strike craft!” Iisha shouted at the sight of lines forming near the enemy carrier. “They’re heading straight for us.”

“They still have reserves. Flak Turrets, fire at will,” Gursal ordered. Flashes light up the sky as the flak cannons engaged at the incoming strike formations, punching gaps among them.

“Full speed on the engines, let’s blow through the gate now!” Radal ordered.

“Oh no! The carrier is starting to move!” Iisha shouted, noting the change in the carrier’s position. She stared at her father’s concerned face, her mouth a grimace. “I think it is in a collision course with us.”

“By the Grace of Sajuuk, they are determined to stop us at any cost,” Radal said. “Mani, give me full speed on the engines, we got to avoid the carrier.”

“We’re receiving damage from the strike formations. They’re hitting the sentinel pods with Lance Fighters, Missile and Laser Corvettes. Our Defense Field cannot stop missile and laser weapons.”

“Shut the Defense Field generators,” Radal ordered. “And put more power on engines.”

“But the Gun platforms!” Gursal warned. “We may be vulnerable to them.”

“Target them with cruise missiles,” Radal said.

“Aye sir!”

Iisha stared at her screens at the sight of the rushing carrier. “We got ten seconds to possible impact.”

Radal shouted to Mani. “Reroute everything to engines! Now! Turn 90 degrees to starboard!”

“Right away,” Mani replied. “Hang on tight!”

The turn forced members of the bridge to grab some railing or handle bar or they would fall from the centrifugal forces.

“Five seconds to impact,” Iisha warned as she clutched on to her chair tightly. The new route of the Naasha puts the ship in a perpendicular course with the enemy carrier.

“Four…three…two…one…” Iisha gulped at the last word.

The enemy carrier just slipped by behind the Naasha.

“Yes!!” Radal shouted with clenched fists. “90 degrees to port now! Hang on!”

The bridge crew fastened themselves by holding on to the nearest convenient anchor. The ship turned, and centrifugal forces caused the hulk to creak.

Iisha breathed a sign of relief. “The enemy carrier is behind us now.”

“Full speed ahead!” Radal ordered. “To the Gate!”

“We just lost our last Sentinel pod!” Gursal reported. “Our hull is taking direct damage.”

“Just hang on…” Radal said.

“We’re reaching the gate. Ten seconds,” Iisha informed. “Five…four…”

The gate appeared larger and larger as the ship rocked as missiles from missile corvettes smashed against its hull. The Bombers, Lance Fighters and Laser Corvettes made firing passes against the Naasha, their sizzling fire vaporing the ablative armor coating, but not without pain from the Flak turrets which continue to shred their formations.

“We have lost the last of our Swarmers,” Gursal reported.

“We have lost forty percent armor structure…” Mani reported.

“Keep it steady, Mani!” Radal ordered.

Iisha kept her countdown. “…three…two…one….”

The Gate hummed, as the Naasha disappeared right through it.

Act 7 | Landing Page | Act 9

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