The Kadeshi Crusade
A Homeworld Fanfiction
Originally posted May 15, 2001
Chapter 8 – Black Star
Lt. Commander Seejuk Liirhra sat on the stool at the bar. Nothing matches the good old ale brewed from the deserts in Kharak. He rammed the drink down to his throat. Ahhh.. Kiith Manaani had been looking in all over Hiigara for a desert to match the exact conditions found in Kharak to correctly brew the ale. They are about that close but not quite.
He should be happy for the offer the Admiral offered him. To command the first of a brand new “Marshall” class of assault carriers, the Baal-Hasim, would be a great honor. If it was any other commander, the promotion would not be an option. But those who work for the Black Star wing of Hiigaran Fleet Intelligence are not answerable to the normal military rank and ladder. Only to the leader of Black Star, a secret member of the Daiamid, can they be only accountable to. The whole Daiamid deliberately denies the existence of Black Star. Both Fleet Command and Fleet Intelligence knows about them but will never formally admit their existence either. Still, if a Black Star officer was encountered, he cannot be formally questioned about his activities, or respond to the normal rank and file. Even if the activities were deemed illegal by the Daiamid.
But leaving Black Star wasn’t what’s troubling him.
Zha Khor pranced happily to the bar. “I am truly amazed by the hardware here. I wonder if by any means you can put to the Admiral’s ear, if we can purchase or trade for some of the fighters and technology I’ve seen.”
“Like what?” Seejuk asked.
“Oh like the Somtaaw sensor mining array, you know, the one they used on those Recon scouts of theirs. Maybe an Acolyte or two, and the dreaded Kushan Spectre Cloaked fighter. How about a Mimic?”
Seejuk looked at her with some amazement. “For what, for your joyride? Your personal collection of fighter toys? We have to take care of the essentials first. We would be considered export market, and there are Hiigaran trade restrictions. Mimics and Spectres would fall into that category but not Acolytes. They still view you as a pirate and they would be out of their mind if they would sell anything with mimic or light folding technology. “
“The Fireblade Mk 2s are also out of the question because the Republicans don’t like Turanics that still aid the Imperialists. But in view of thawing out relations between Turan and Hiigara, they may consider selling you or the rest of Turan, the older Blade Mk 6s but they’re going to gouge you for it because the Kiith are also hungry for cash. Besides, they’re not much better from what you already have and what you’re going to get are downgraded, export versions. Stick to the original game plan, and see if we can get surplus light corvettes, Cavaliers and Raachoks at bargain prices, like 30 to 40 RU’s, and Fiirkan and Arrow scouts for a fraction of the price. If you don’t believe me, I’m going to give you all the current journals of Hiigaran Ship Illustrated to read.”
“What’s with you?” Zha asked, surprised at his reaction. “You don’t have to be snippy about it.”
“Nothing, just nothing,” Seejuk mumbled. “The Admiral asked me to show you your quarters in the base, and teach you some of the features. Just follow me.”
They left the bar and Zha followed him. After a long walk, they came to her designated quarters. The sheer size and the luxury amazed her. Quarters in the Mule and Raider Outposts tend to be so spartan.
“This is better than the quarters of the Taiidan Emperor himself!” Zha exclaimed.
“I won’t stretch it that far, but this is about the best quarters in the house. The base has special rooms for visiting dignitaries and politicians,” Seejuk said. “…and I qualify?” Zha humbly asked.
“You most certainly do, at least in their eyes,” Seejuk said. “The Admiral told me that you need to wash up and be presentable. You are going to have a visitor coming. Hey look at this, back issues of Hiigaran Ship Illustrated!” Seejuk waved at a pile of data tablets.
“Who’s the visitor?” Zha asked.
“I don’t know,” Seejuk said. “He just said to get ready. Here I will show you something.”
Seejuk showed a large tub. He opened a faucet and water poured out of it.
“Don’t waste that!” Zha screamed.
Seejuk laughed. “You have been living in a carrier too long. Water supply in a carrier is limited. But in a big base like this, we got plenty of recyclable water.” Seejuk let the water flow and build up to an acceptable level.
“Now go in there and wash yourself thoroughly until not a trace of your smells are left. You badly need it. You’re not going to get this opportunity for a long time,” Seejuk said. He turned away, walked and sat on the sofa some distance away. He took one of the ship journals, turned it on and started to read it on the low light.
Zha closed the curtains. She stripped off her dirty clothes, and cautiously slipped into the water and testing the temperature with her toes. She lay in the tub as the running water reached her neck and tickled her body with its clean warmth.
“Oh its so good!…” she said. “You Kushans truly live like kings.”
“Not us Kushans,” Seejuk replied. “We’re still basically Kharakian desert rednecks. Give that credit to the Taiidani. They designed and built the base while the Emperor was still alive, and this room may have been built for him and his inner court in mind if they stayed on base. So what you said may be true. You may be taking a bath in the very same tub the Emperor himself may have used.”
“Yuck!” Zha said. “I heard the Emperor was like a walking mummy before he died. Don’t spoil the effect, please!”
Seejuk smiled, but her words were not able to stop a teardrop in his eye. Neither did the journals provided sufficient distraction from his troubled thoughts.
The girl was having a great time on the tub. She chatted nonstop. Her enthusiasm about ships and fighters were as unbound as the Bentusi. Seeing all the hardware in this great base flamed that fire. But Seejuk could no longer follow her words, which mumbled everything about trying to clone the latest Taiidan Interceptor to cloning a Swarmer and what to do with the Kadeshi next. He methodically replied “Uh-uh…yes…” once in a while at timed pauses in her speech.
But being once again in the crossroads of life makes one think deeply of nothing else.
“You seemed strangely quiet,” Zha asked. Her statement broke an enthralling spell his concerns had cast over him.
“What?….” he replied. “…its nothing…”
“Is something bother you?” she asked again.
“No no,” he replied.
So she chatted and chatted. He could hear her splashing water, but he could hear his own thoughts much louder.
At the very least, he decided, he owed her his honesty this time.
“Zha,” he said.
“Yes,” she said, still splashing and playing in the water.
“You know, the Admiral offered me a new position,” Seejuk said in a calm and easy manner.
“What?” she replied, and her splashing stopped.
“A new position, as captain of a new Kushan assault carrier. It’s called the Baal-Hasim, and it may probably come out in the next latest issues of the Hiigaran Ship Illustrated.” He was amazed at himself for saying out so casually.
There was a deathly pause, and then a reply through the curtains. “I..I will be proud of you. Go take it, you deserve it,” she uttered. “I will be okay. The Mule will be okay.”
Seejuk could not stand the tension of the silence. He placed the journal back to the pile, stood up and said, “I need to do some preparations. I will see you later.”
Zha could hear the door opened and then closed. She waded her hands in the water, and then just sat there soaking in the tub. Hours of silence went by and at the end of it, a teardrop fell from her eye.
The Admiral provided her with new clothes. This wasn’t the first time she wore the khaki uniforms of the Kharakian desert armies of the pre-Homeworld eras. They provided her with the same clothes they first arrived to an Allied base after the Beast destroyed her outpost. After the Homeworld arrival, the Kiith reverted to their traditional uniforms. She did find them comfortable, although quite utilitarian, in contrast to the lavish robes and body paint favored by the Turanic nobility.
The Admiral called her to his private office. Seejuk was also there, but the third visitor was a surprise. Zha has not seen a fellow member of the Turanic Inner House of Lords since the death of her father. He was an older man, somewhat like the Kushan Admiral or Seejuk. He wore the loud metallic glittering robes of a Sha, a Prince of Turan, with metal shiny bracelets and rings in his arms and fingers, golden ear rings, multicolored hair and facial war paint. His loud extravagance contrasted sharply to the dull utilitarian colors and look of the uniforms worn by the Admiral and Seejuk. “Where is the Segura I heard so much about?” he bellowed.
The Admiral introduced her to the Sha, and likewise he to her, as the Sha of the Turanic Inner House of Sirak. A disappointed frown appeared on the Sha’s face.
“Somehow, I expected an older woman of great beauty and figure for one worthy of defeating the Protectors of Kadesh, and of the name and House of Khor, to be not a mere child,” he said.
“What?” Zha exclaimed.
Seejuk was sure that the alliance between Imperialists and the Turanics were purely of convenience. The highly cultured and formalistic Taiidani had often criticized the Kushans for their drabness and lack of style. The touchy Taiidani would have positively hated the Turanics for their body odors, poor taste and etiquette.
“And to think that you dishonor yourself, your house and your race by wearing the uniform of a foreign power…” the Sha said.
“You know what? I don’t give a stick up a Skaar’s ass what you think!” Zha exclaimed.
“Skaar’s ass?” Gaas asked.
“Something she picked up from,” Seejuk confessed. “Old Kharak redneck expressions.”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” the Admiral said, trying to calm and assure the Sha. For Fleet Admiral Gaas Paktu, it would be a major feather in his cap to bag the first formal relations between Hiigara and an Inner House of Turan. The political benefits were obvious. If one House started relations with Hiigara, the other Houses will follow. It would bring an end to the piracy, open up the Turanics as economic and military allies, open up the outer lying sectors of the Galaxy for trade and exploration, and even gain the Turanics as an arms market.
For the Turanics, it would mean reducing their dependence on the Imperialists, legitimizing their bandit kingdoms to the other races of the Galaxy and to the face of the Galactic Council. It means opening up trade as their primary economic means instead of piracy, and access of what was perceivably, the arguably superior technology of the Kushans over the Taiidani. The jewel in the crown was the superior mining technology of the Somtaaw, which would have greatly enriched the Turanic Sultanates if they mined the rich resources of the Outer areas, but that was still subject to discussion. The Somtaaw has reiterated they’re not interested to share their mining technology to anyone, but would prefer to pay a healthy commission for the resources they mined on someone else’s backyard. Gaas Paktu did expect eventually that some concessions will be made and a new mining treaty will be forged. Finally of course, the fact that the Turanics were dead broke both economically and militarily from having to deal first with the Beast, and now the Kadeshi, was what ultimately brought them to the bargaining table.
But talking about mining wasn’t what the Sha of House of Sirak was here about.
The Sha made his announcement. “Segura Zha of Khor. Despite our initial impressions, I come here in behalf of the Inner House of Lords, the House of Sirak, and of my son, the next Sha of Sirak and a Prince of Turan.”
“We have heard your feats, and we have also heard of your dilemna. The noble House now needs you in our defense. I have come to propose that the House of Khor with the survivors of Merak should join and unite with the House of Sirak. You and your ship the Arak-Na will now have a new home. To consummate this relationship, I have come to ask for the hand of the Segura of Khor to arrange for marriage with my son. By this marriage, I will come to unite the dispossessed House of Khor with that of the House of Sirak and preserve the integrity of the Inner House of Lords, return the legitimacy of Khor and bring a new home worthy of a Princess of Turan. “
The Sha never did once looked at Zha when he announced his proposal. He was looking at the Admiral whom he trusted would deliver Zha and the Mule to him. The announcement was never meant as an option.
Seejuk was seething at the disrespect shown to Zha. They were not interested on what she had to say or think. He knew this was going to be another typically politically advantageous move by one House of Turan over another. To gain Zha Khor and join the Sirak bloodline would have greatly enhanced the prestige of the House of Sirak, as Zha has become a celebrity from her brushes with the Kadeshi. As Seejuk found out earlier, the Sirak was one of the Houses whose task forces was severely mauled by the Kadeshi. Getting Zha would have meant getting the Mule and both her strike and task forces.
Zha frowned angrily. But all she said was “Give me time. Let me think about this.”
The Sha appeared offended, but smiled, looking at her for the first time. His tone changed, “My child, there is not much to think about. I offer you a new home, a new family, and a chance to legitimize once again your House name. My son is a good man. He would learn to love you dearly as you would learn to love him. Your name is now well known among our peoples. It is time for you to return and boost their spirit.”
Zha didn’t say a word after that as she hurriedly left. Seejuk thought he saw a tear in her eye but she had always fought from crying.
“She will come around,” Gaas Paktu said. “Do not worry. My dear Prince, we still have some other negotiations to make.”
The Sha appeared not the least bit worried and seemed accustomed to acts of rudeness. He smiled and sat down to trade stories and jokes with the Admiral.
Seejuk did some paperwork and then spent the next hour or so searching for Zha through out the base. He found her in the docking bay, looking at the fighters once again, and has even charmed the Taiidani security guards to letting her sit inside the cockpit of a Beam Acolyte, Hiigara’s most advanced fighter. She was gripping its joystick, making flying noises apparently fantasizing flying the fighter.
“This ship is beautiful,” she said. “I wonder if I will ever have the chance of flying one. State of the art instrumentation, and everything.” Seejuk sensed she was trying to hide her feelings with some artificial enthusiasms. He knew her long enough.
A bird whose wings were going to be clipped would be the saddest sight in the universe, Seejuk thought.
“Seejuk, what are you doing here?” she said. “Don’t you think you should be preparing for your new command. That was a great looking carrier according to the latest Hiigaran flight journal. As for me, don’t worry, I will soon have a new home. The Mule too.”
Seejuk was busily studying his paperwork. “I made some studies and I think we can get what we want. There were a few dozen Cavaliers and Raachoks in the base that we can obtain. These surplus ships were originally meant for the Frakkhans as an arms shipment, but they changed their mind. Both the Taiidani and the Kushans are recently building Fiirkans and Arrow scouts for export purposes. I found the branch offices of export companies representing both Taiidan and Kushan interests in this base. They were trying to outbid each other, so not to burn bridges, I’ve decided to acquire from both parties. We are able to obtain some Gravwells. The purchase orders will require your signature.” Seejuk handed the data tablets to a surprised Zha for her thumb mark signature.
“By the way,” Seejuk smiled, “I have contacted Black Star command. We have new orders. It looks like the orders for my new commission will have to be indefinitely postponed. They have made a request to you that they will require your services and the Mule for a new mission. They have already allocated volunteer pilots from Taiidan to help fly some of our fighters and frigates. It looks like your wedding plans needed to be indefinitely postponed as well. The dear Admiral Paktu will be informed of this.”
“I don’t want to get married to that creep’s son, or join his House for whatever reason, ” Zha said. “But I still thank you for pulling whatever strings you did. So what do we have to do now?”
“As soon as we obtain the equipment,” Seejuk said, “we will be on our way. We will be getting a new prototype fighter, a Mimic with a modified Heavy Neutrino Scanning probe like those used on the Somtaaw Recon scouts. The probe is optimized to scan in details the internals of subject ships. The new fighters are prototypes not intended for export, but Black Star has sent orders that these ships would be delivered to us as being necessary for our new mission.”
“This sounds like its going to be a dangerous mission, Zha. You can still back out you know and marry that Turanic prince,” Seejuk said with some sarcasm. “I would rather take my chances with the Kadeshi,” Zha replied.