The Chronicles of Z'va'Xin - issue #11 | By: Robert Moons | | Category: Short Story - Science Fiction Bookmark and Share

The Chronicles of Z'va'Xin - issue #11


Location: Planet Akoch (League of Worlds member).


Nautglum was in the central public garden with his wife and twenty-seven offspring. He and his wife had decided it was such a beautiful, sunny day that they shouldn't let it go to waste. The choaka trees were in bloom with their fragrant, white flowers, the cloudless sky was a deep cerulean blue. He sucked the crisp air into his four lungs and laid back in the shade of an old choaka tree, out of the sun's warm rays. His peach coloured skin burned easily, but he hated wearing even a stitch of clothing unless it was absolutely necessary, and it wasn't.


His wife and the older children were taking charge of the younger ones; they were all playing a game of catch with several large, multi-coloured balls. Nautglum's eyes were closed but he could hear the littlest ones with their gleeful screams and high-pitched laughs. They were having such fun, he thought, and he smiled. Too bad his brother wasn't here. He was missing some incredible weather. But it would be months before he would be back from that Mysaep's Moon pilgrimage. His younger brother believed there was a God on that dung-ball of a world - how silly. Well, his loss.


Even in the shade and with his eyes closed, Nautglum could tell it had gotten much darker and very quickly. He sat up and opened his large, almond-shaped eyes to see his entire family staring up into the sky. It was as dark as the darkest of stormy days, he thought, as his eyes focused on what his family was transfixed on. Whatever it was, it was massive and blocked out the sun like an eclipse. He needed his peripheral vision to see the whole of it.


His first thought was that it was a spacecraft from one of the League members, but he had never seen one so enormous or so unusual in form. It had a dull, slate-grey colour, and was roughly spherical in shape. It had many dozens of spine-like protrusions coming out of its central core, but they weren't all the same length. Some were only half the length of the longest, giving the thing a chaotic, disquieting look. Its core was small in comparison to the diameter of its spines, and gave off a pulsating red glow, almost heart-like in manifestation. On occasion, like lightning, long electrical sparks traveled along and between the spines to disappear at the sharper tips. It was just static electricity, but on a tremendous scale. He heard the thunder from the discharges many seconds after he saw them - the thing was that far away. They were the only sounds it made. But the strangest thing of all was that it didn't even look real. Hovering, the horror seemed to vibrate all over, and every couple of seconds, it would slightly shift from one position to another - left, right, forward, back. At first, Nautglum thought he was having problems with his eyes. He blinked, closed his eyes, rubbed them, and stared at it again, but the thing didn't look any clearer.


"What is that?" his wife said with a slight tremble in her voice.


Nautglum just shrugged. He had no idea what it was, who they were or what was going on, but he instinctively knew this wasn't good. He picked up his hand-held media-net, turned it on to nothing but static - this was getting worse. His wife and children walked over to him, surrounded him; he put his arm around his wife. She was shaking. Comforting her made him feel a little less useless.


After it hovered there in place for several long minutes, something started to happen. Thousands of small grey objects shot out of the long spines, and under their own power, fanned out in every direction above the planets surface. When they had disappeared from sight, thousands more were released, and they too disappeared over the horizon. This repeated several times.


All was quiet now; even the sound of thunder from the ship monster had stopped. Nautglum could hear only the cool breeze blowing through the choaka leaves. If he didn't look up, he would have thought there were dark clouds above, and a great storm was on its way.


The fifty thousand drones had deposited their concentrated, chemical gas into the entire atmosphere of the lush, green world. The Veiled ship rose slowly up out of the atmosphere and into a low orbit. Just under the great ship, a white ball of energy materialized, and slowly fell down toward the planet's surface, stopping at the atmosphere's midway point. It crackled with energy, as blue-white bolts randomly wrapped around its unstable surface. It hovered for a few seconds, quickly shrank into nothingness, and then exploded releasing unimaginable power. The atmosphere instantly combusted becoming waves of intense fire, which rippled out in a circular pattern that would eventually encompass the entire globe. A tsunami of extreme heat tore through the forests, boiled the oceans into steam, and incinerated every living thing on, above, and below the planet's surface. Even the topsoil was burned off, and all oxygen was consumed, turning the planet into a burned-out cinder, as dead as any dust-covered moon.


The gigantic ship left orbit and set course for its second target. All those that they even suspected of conspiring against them would be destroyed, starting with those that had contact with the Z'va probe, and ending with the complete destruction of the hidden world. The military disaster at the midway planet had so angered the Veiled they now lashed out with blind hate. A rage so intense they would personally deliver that hate in generous and deadly proportions.


Members of the Utayatuian spy-craft made Kaibiak aware of the holocaust soon after it happened, and long before the members of the League of Worlds would even hear the rumours. Utayatuians were the masters of disguise and stealth. They had turned hiding into a high-tech art form, but they were also the lords of intelligence. One of their data gathering stealth probes stationed in the League of Worlds' sector had picked up the Veiled mother ship on its long range scanner. It had followed the ship, and recorded the extermination from a distance.


Kaibiak, the elected Steward of Utayatu, sat at the huge, round table along with the twenty-four Ministers of his world. Most notable among them were the Ministers of Defense, Intelligence, and Concealment. The odd being out was Admiral Quarauq, who was in charged of the entire Utayatu fleet. All eyes were focused on the centre of the white table as the last few seconds of a dying planet played out in 3D motion imagery.

"Ministers and Admiral," Kaibiak began. "Here is further proof of the Veiled's intentions. They now know where we are. They have made an attempt at establishing a midway base of operations - an attempt that failed due to the creative tactics of the Z'va probe and the Human. Now they lash out at a helpless world for no reason that our spies can surmise. We have stayed hidden for too long. We have watched as world after world were destroyed, and we did nothing. We have been planning for this day, and that day is here, now."


"How do we know that they are aware we are here?" the Minister of Concealment asked. "Perhaps this attack on an innocent world was designed to force our move, and thus give them proof positive."


"No," Kaibiak responded. "The Z'va probe had intercepted a transmission from one of the Veiled's spies. The Veiled don't know exactly what they will find here, but they are paranoid enough to attack us blindly, and they will be coming with everything they have. But I am not asking you to wait here until they arrive. I am urging you to take aggressive action. We must send our fleet to the Human's system, and stop them THERE before they can surround us HERE. We must also send Star Hammer to their homeworld - destroy it, and we destroy their support from beneath them."


"Star Hammer!" shouted the Minister of Defense. "That is rather drastic and aggressive, isn't it?"


"These are fast becoming desperate times." The Admiral spoke up for the first time. "Drastic measures are needed - we won't get a second chance. I agree with Steward Kaibiak. We must strike now and hard, and maybe we will have a chance. If we don't, we will join the other doomed worlds, and I'd rather go down taking as many of them with me as possible."


"Admiral, please, you are becoming so aggressive and agitated," the Minister of Agriculture commented; he raised both hands as if in surrender.


"Apologies, but I have never felt so strongly about anything."


"A show of hands then." Kaibiak took this optimum opportunity. "How many in favour of sending our fleet to the Earth system?"


"20 to 6 in favour."


"How many in favour of using Star Hammer?"


"15 to 11 in favour - it is done. I will also contact the leaders of the League of Worlds. I have a feeling they might want to help now that the war has come to them. Admiral?"

Kaibiak and Admiral Quarauq got up and walked out of the white, domed conference room, leaving the planet's Ministers to further argue and discuss the ramifications of the meeting's decisions. Together they went to the centre of operations to put in their security codes to release Star Hammer.


The third planet of Utayatu's system was a gas giant, not unlike Jupiter but slightly smaller. Orbiting around it were three moons, but it was the largest of the natural satellites that was not exactly what it appeared to be. Like their homeworld, it too had its own mask. The secret codes had been given to Utayatu's central computer and Star Hammer was activated. The disguise of a barren, cratered moon faded slowly away like grey mist, revealing a shiny, black metallic globe beneath. A number of equally black, cone-shaped communication towers dotted its surface, making the thing look like the head of an ancient mace from Earth's Middle Ages. A comparison not far removed from its function. It was a doomsday device, and it had only one terrible purpose. A million years ago, the mere thought of such a device by a Utayatuian would have been considered blasphemy. Now, it had become a necessity.


Utayatu had long studied their enemy, they knew their strengths, but more importantly, they knew their few weaknesses. Starting with the natural moon, it had been twisted into this thing of destruction. The moon had been transformed into a colossal wrecking ball, designed only to make it to its target. The enormous negrav drive was deep in its core, and its thick layer of neutronium skin would protect its inner rocky mass from premature destruction. Simply, it was a missile - a monstrous, unstoppable, virtually indestructible missile.


Star Hammer left its orbit around the gas giant and headed out of Utayatu's system at a speed remarkable for its great mass. Completely automated, it had no conscious, no empathy to give it pause, and no moral centre to question its directive. Once outside the system, it would create a series of moon-size space folds that would eventually take it to the target.


Kaibiak looked at the old Admiral, his long-time friend, and began reciting a piece from something he had read as a boy. "I do what must be done, even though it pains me greatly. I do as they do, for to destroy them, I must now become them."


"So be it," confirmed the Admiral with reverence.


And so, Star Hammer, on its maiden voyage, shrank into the blackness of space, christened with a childhood poem.


Time: One Earth day later.


The leaders of the League of Worlds had been sent all the data collected on the Veiled, as well as the motion imagery of the holocaust that had eliminated one of their member planets. Kaibiak didn't know the details of their discussions in closed, emergency meetings, but when they finally contacted him, their resolve was evident. Five of the more advanced worlds would each send a small fleet to the Earth's system. The various ships would total somewhere around sixty ships. On a tactical display, this looked good, but they were mostly smaller and less advanced than the Taelrok ships. Even combined with the thirty-six highly advanced Utayatu ships, they were still outgunned two to one when the Veiled mother ship was added into the equation.


The Veiled had no fleet that he was aware of. They relied on the Taelroks, and to a far lesser degree, a few other worlds that had been "convinced" by the Taelroks to join their cause. The problem was the Veiled mother ship. It was a space fortress capable of taking on the entire Taelrok fleet if necessary, and winning. The Veiled trusted no one, not even their minions; always making sure those that served them were less powerful. This was their weakness, Kaibiak concluded. If there was only someway to destroy that one Veiled ship without losing too many of their own, the odds would be more even.


After the battle with the Taelrok fleet, Xin and Dave had decided to stay in Dave's home system. Xin was uncertain that the Taelroks had left the vicinity of the system. Perhaps they were just waiting nearby to strike as soon as the two of them left. They were both inside the Odyssey, and once again in orbit around the Moon. They knew the Earth would see them but it didn't much matter at this point. They could have just floated anywhere in the system, but Dave liked orbiting Earth's only satellite, and it gave him something interesting to look at.


Kaibiak had contacted them personally, updating them on everything that had transpired, including the launch of Star Hammer. They were now on the bridge watching the final moments of a once lush, green world turned into a lifeless ball - the same footage the Ministers of Utayatu had witnessed a day earlier.


No sentient being witnessing this couldn't have been moved in some way, but to Xin, it was like Z'va Prime being destroyed before her very sensors. It happened so long ago, but it must have looked a great deal like this. Her emotional algorithms were pushed to peak capacity - she had never felt such sadness. She recoiled from the horror, and as she shrank away from it, new connections in her artificial brain were being formed. She learned a new emotion - an emotion that was never part of her programming - an emotion that would have resulted in her immediate shut down on Z'va prime. She HATED the Veiled with every synthetic fiber of her being.


Dave was beyond comment after witnessing the horror. He knew this was the same planet that the pilgrim fleet heading for Mysaep's Moon had originated from. They could still be alive. Those ships were probably still on their way to Mysaep's Moon unaware of what had happened to their planet. Some of that race had probably survived. At least there was that.


Xin just hovered silently next to Dave, as she tried to process the new emotions that were flooding through her.


"Xin, are you OK?"


"Yes, I think so, Dave." She lied so as not to upset him. This too was something new to her.


After the 3D motion image faded, Kaibiak's form replaced it. "Now you see the powerful madness that we are dealing with. The Utayatu fleet is on its way and we will arrive at your system soon, followed by the combined League's fleets. Our spies and stealth probes have informed me that the Taelrok fleet appears to be almost ready for departure from their Home system. We also had the Veiled ship followed, but lost it just outside the League of Worlds' sector. We don't know its intent, but strongly believe it will join with the Taelroks at some point if they follow past tactics."


"Thank you, Kaibiak," Xin said, showing no sign of her internal, emotional struggle.


When Kaibiak signed off and the image of his slender form faded away, Xin rotated ninety degrees to look at Dave sitting in the 'Captain's chair', as he like to call it. "Dave?"


"Yes, Xin?"


"Is hate the opposite of love?"


"I'm not sure, sort of, I guess."


"Then perhaps it would be possible to use one to cancel out the other - like positives and negatives in an equation."


"I don't think it works like that."




Location: Just outside the Taelrok home system.


Captain Slongmar couldn't get comfortable in his command chair on the bridge of his battle cruiser. He could never relax when awaiting new orders. He thought about Admiral Kraug - he had been called for an audience with the Veiled. No one was ever called for a meeting with them. He had never seen the old Admiral so nervous as he was during their last communication. The Admiral had left him in charge of all three fleets until his return. Well, two fleets, what was left of the first one, and a dozen or so ships forced into service from various dominated worlds.


"Transmission coming in from the Veiled, Captain," said the communication's officer.

"On my personal speaker."


"Captain Slogmar," the multiple voices murmured, "you are the Admiral now. We hope you do better than your predecessor. You will take all vessels to the midway system. You will accomplish what Admiral Kraug failed to do. We will join you before your encounter with the enemy forces. That is all. Now go."


"Yes, right away." Slogmar was a bit flustered. He had never spoken with the Veiled before, and it rattled him more than he would have suspected. "What about Admiral Kraug?" His bravery felt slightly redeemed by the question.


"Yes, you are awaiting his return. He mentioned that to us," the voices in unison whispered. "We return him to you."


"Communication terminated, Captain, I mean Admiral," corrected the equally unnerved communication's officer.


"Admiral, something just materialized off our port bow!" the science officer exclaimed. "I wouldn't have noticed it if it hadn't triggered a third level proximity alert."


"Have it retrieved. Bring it to me." Slogmar had a bad feeling.


A short while later a member of his engineering crew walked onto the bridge. He was still wearing his envirosuit, and cradling a heavy, glassy horror in front of him. It was the head of Admiral Kraug incased in a clear, glass ball. His eyes and open mouth were frozen in time while in severe pain. It was a not too subtle message from the Veiled. They even used glass, a cheap silica-based material - how insulting.


"Get rid of that, that thing." He wasn't going to let this get to him, especially not in front of the bridge crew. He was the Admiral now, and he better start acting like one. "Let's get out of here."


Time: Nineteen Earth hours later.
Location: Just outside Earth's solar system


Dave was sitting on the transparent bridge of the Odyssey, and using his amazing eyesight to examine the last few ships that were arriving. For a moment they would float motionless in space, then form up, finding their place in the growing fleet. Most of the fleet was now assembled; these last few were the stragglers or last minute inductees. In a roundabout way, they were all here to defend Earth. At least that's how Dave liked to look at it. That wasn't exactly true.


The Utayatu fleet had been the first to arrive being the closest to Earth's system. Their ships were the largest and most organic looking of all, and easy to spot with their shiny, emerald green colourations. Most were battle cruiser size ships that looked almost squid-like in form, with their elongated oval shaped hulls, trailed by multiple wavy appendages. The few smaller ships were a larger version of the interceptor ships that had "greeted" Xin and Dave on Utayatu. They too were oval in shape but more beetle-like, but without any apparent attachments.


Originally, five members of the League of Worlds had contributed their small fleets for the battle, but two more worlds had sent ships at the last minute. To date, the League had contributed a total of seventy-one ships of various sizes, shapes, and colours. A few were almost as large as the Utayatu ships, but most were no larger than half that size, and some were not much larger than the Odyssey. All these ships looked more fabricated than grown, making them seem more familiar to Dave's spacecraft sense of design. Some looked like they could have been designed guided by human esthetics, but the ones that were most notable, did not. One group was constructed using the sphere and tube geometric forms in complex, asymmetrical combinations. Dave couldn't help but think of a squat molecular model when he first caught site of these.


But no matter how strange some of the ship designs were, nothing could compare to the variety of the shapes and forms of the beings that were at the controls. Earlier, he had observed a ship-wide 3D conference meeting between all the Captains. Admiral Quarauq had headed that meeting from his battle cruiser, while Xin and Dave had observed from the comfort of the Odyssey's bridge. Representatives of each world were present, and although many of the beings would be considered to be in the humanoid category, two of them were not. The lizard-like Ayaca looked more like a raptor out of Earth's Jurassic period. Dave imagined that in hand-to-hand combat, the Ayaca would be deadly, and even with his abilities, he wouldn't want to face one to find out. Then there was the even stranger looking Oxuu that were cyan coloured jellyfish-like water beings who occupied the odd looking silver, molecule-like ships.


It was only about five hours after the defending fleet had completely assembled that the enemy arrived. The Utayatuian spy intelligence was correct to within an hour of the enemy fleets arrival time, and ten million kilometres of the location. The beginnings of dozens of space folds were forming only fifty million kilometres from the fleet's present location.


"The time has arrived, Captains," Admiral Quarauq loudly announced through the ship-wide communication's system. "Stay formed up and head towards my coordinates. Fortune is on our side. Because of the individual space folds, they will exit in random sequences. We will destroy each ship as it exits their individual fold. Lock on and concentrate firepower on the first ship to exit. We may be able to destroy several this way before too many start coming through."


Shortly, when the entire defending fleet arrived at the area, something didn't look right to the Admiral. Xin realized it as well. The space folds were not growing larger, but remained at a size only suitable for smaller ships to pass through, and far too small for anything near the size of a Taelrok battle cruiser. Also, there weren't as many as there should have been.


Xin scanned the entire system, and quickly located the beginnings of new space folds more than two hundred million kilometres away. "Admiral, I believe the main enemy force is entering the system at the coordinates I am sending to you."


"Mother Utayatu!" Admiral Quarauq yelled. "It's a deception! The only things coming through these will be small support crafts if anything at all. The main force will exit and be formed up before we can reach the new location. To all Captains - break off and head to these new coordinates. Regrettably, this old practitioner of tactical deception has been deceived."


"That was brilliant, Admiral Slogmar!" exclaimed the navigation officer.


Slogmar grunted back a response. Up till now, he had been somewhat apprehensive. His predecessor's campaigns had been required reading during his military school days, and this was a trick he had learned from his mentor. The fact that Admiral Kraug had been beaten here in this very system had given him pause. Now, his confidence was boosted with this acquired tactical advantage. He turned on the ship-wide communication system. "All ships, this is Admiral Slogmar. Form up into wedge formation, set course to my numbers. We will meet the enemy in open space."


The Admiral noticed that all fifteen seated officers surrounding him were looking at him. He knew what they wanted and were waited for, so he led them with his most spirited battle cry. "WHAT ARE WE?" he roared.


"TAELROKS!" shouted the bridge crew, and then pounded on their plastisteel covered chests with both fists - BOOM, BOOM.








"DEAD!" - BOOM, BOOM....


So far, all had been going according to plan, Slogmar thought, except... Where was the Veiled mother ship? They had said they would be here. And almost as if the Veiled had heard his very thoughts, his question was answered.


"Sir, I'm getting a massive power spike coming three kilometres off our starboard bow!" exclaimed an overly excited science officer. "It's becoming visible - I think it's the Veiled ship."


"G-Gods!" the new Admiral choked out as he witnessed the monster materialize on the main screen. It was a thing right from the deepest, darkest recesses of the Nether-abyss. He had heard stories from the old, retired spacers. He assumed they had been greatly exaggerated to make them more entertaining, but they weren't exaggerations. No words could have given justice to this horror. It phased into space-time like a colossal ghost ship right from old Taelrok folklore.


Slogmar had never seen a Veiled ship. They never showed themselves, or took part in anything unless absolutely necessary. This sighting was a confirmation of the seriousness of the present situation. This was history in the making on the grandest of scales.


"What's wrong with our displays? Are we getting some interference?"


"No, Sir, all my instruments are optimal," the science officer answered. "The distortions and shifting patterns are coming from the Veiled ship itself. My instruments can't get a positive lock on it. It seems to be shifting between dimensions."


The many voices of the Veiled came through every speaker on every ship of the Taelrok fleet. The chorus of voices even came through the communication devices attached to the plastisteel helmets of the boarding troops. "Do not underestimate the larger, hidden world vessels of the enemy fleet. They are the reason we are here. They are the reason you will fail without our assistance. Now go, destroy the lesser ships, and we will deal with the larger ones that are beyond your capacity."


Slogmar's fifteen-member bridge crew had stopped what they had been doing, and all eyes were on him.


"Well, you heard them. Make the minor course corrections, and concentrate on the smaller ships of the enemy fleet." Damn, Slogmar thought, he was supposed to be the Admiral in charge of the fleet, but now he felt like he was slapped right back down to an ensign. He really started to strongly dislike the Veiled.


"Here they come!" Admiral Quarauq warned. "They are using a tight, wedge formation, and the Veiled ship is directly above their centre. Mother Utayatu, that ship is big!"


Dave thought that their translated word 'big' was an extreme understatement. "It looks like an ugly sea urchin on steroids, and what's with those badass vibrations?"


"It is in a constant phasial flux," Xin observed. "Conventional weapons would probably have little effect on it - it isn't solid. Somehow, they have achieved the ability to bridge two dimensions, and to be in both simultaneously."


As the two fleets closed on one another, both fleets released their small fighter crafts. Like hornets coming out of their nests, hundreds of ships were expelled from the fighter-carriers of both sides. The dark-blue, semicircular Taelrok fighters, and the various designs of the defending fleet led by the green, bug-like Utayatu fighters. These squadrons of fighters now moved in front of the larger ships of their fleets, creating a buffer zone, like pawns on a chessboard.


The pulsating red core of the Veiled ship glowed brighter; several of the spine-like protrusions facing the defending fleet became luminous, and a form of white energy was released from each. A pulsating, white ball of energy formed, and although basically spherical, it appeared unstable due to its constantly changing shape from sphere to ellipse and back again. As soon as the energy ball ceased growing, it slowly moved away from the great ship, and built up speed quickly, as it launched itself towards the oncoming fleet.


"Incoming missile - composition unknown!" Admiral Quarauq warned all ships of the fleet.


There was little time to react. The unstable sphere headed directly for one of the largest ships, a Utayatuian battle cruiser. The cruiser managed to hit the deadly missile with one of its larger beam cannons at less than half a kilometre away. Unfortunately, the odd missile didn't detonate in mid-space, as was hoped. A split second later it hit the cruiser head-on, but there was no explosion of orange flames or a blinding flash. Instead, the entire cruiser was consumed in a pulsating, white glow. With every pulse the large ship gradually dissolve from shiny, emerald green to dull, transparent green, and finally to grey dust. The silhouette of the cruiser could still be seen - a faint, distorted shadow of what it once was.


Admiral Quarauq instinctively knew what he had to do. "To all ships, change course to my coordinates and increase to double velocity immediately. We are going under them, putting the enemy fleet between us and that Veiled ship."


The tactic worked. The Veiled ship had been forming another pulsating sphere, but now it stopped in mid-creation. Both fleets continued closing on one another, and were almost in firing range. The hundreds of small fighters now met in a chaotic dogfight battle for space dominance. The darker Taelrok fighters mixed it up with the various shapes and colours of the defending fighters. Every few seconds a small orange explosion indicated a fighter from one side or the other that wasn't fast enough or lucky enough to avoid destruction within the mayhem.


A few seconds later, the bulk of both fleets were in range of one another, and both sides started firing various beam weapons, risking friendly fire casualties upon their own fighters.


Xin destroyed one of the Taelrok battle cruisers in her usual impressive way while Dave, at the helm of the Odyssey, piloted the tough, little ship toward another nearby Taelrok battle cruiser to try his phase and super heat trick once again.


In all the chaos, no one noticed that the Veiled ship had moved out from behind the enemy fleet. It was once again in a position to start picking off individual ships, and its nearest target was the Odyssey.


The Odyssey's AI became aware of the incoming missile, but there was no time to communicate this to Dave. The ship's self-preservation programming kicked in; the ship took back control, and tried to evade the missile at the last possible second. The energy ball exploded directly next to the Odyssey with its lethal payload. The ship tried to absorb the unknown energy in hopes of neutralizing it, but was unable to handle the incredibly high surge of power in such a brief period. Although the hull had withstood the blast, the proximity of the explosion had overloaded its systems. The interior of the small ship had become a deathtrap, as the energy storage cells exploded, releasing deadly radiations. Dave was knocked unconscious before he knew what hit him. The Odyssey and occupant drifted lifelessly in space, moving slowly in the direction the blast had pushed them. The dead ship drifted back toward the many raging fighters, as the enemy fleet continued moving forward, and toward it.


Upon seeing this, Admiral Quarauq change tactics. "All cruisers and frigates, target the Veiled mother ship. It appears to become solid for a brief period during and after its attacks. Concentrate all your firepower on that ship."


Admiral Quarauq would not get a chance to test his theory. Shortly after his ship-wide command, a great distortion of space occurred. Wave upon wave of an unknown, powerful force buffeted all the ships taking part in the battle. The Veiled mother ship seemed to be in trouble for a brief moment, but then phased away into invisibility. The defending fleet came through the cosmic cyclone with only minor damaged. However, the Taelrok ships didn't fare near as well, and it was most obvious on the larger ships of the fleet. Their sizeable dual engines, multiple deck lights, and external lighting systems were all instantly snuffed out, as if someone had pulled their plug. All the Taelrok ships from the large cruisers to the small fighters continued heading in their last programmed directions. It was as if all the navigators and pilots had just walked away from their control panels. One fighter that had been traveling close toward its fleet, now crashed skimming along a Taelrok cruiser's side, breaking into hundreds of pieces, and leaving in its wake an orange trail of flame. Inertia kept the blacked-out Taelrok fleet moving as a group toward the area the fighters had been dogfighting. Many Taelrok fighters continued traveling dark and powerless in every direction away from the battle. Unfortunately (for them), one of those directions was directly toward their own fleet. Several other crashes occurred when about twenty fighters met the bigger ships. Many of them narrowly missed, some didn't. If anyone in the defending fleet needed further proof that the enemy was out of the fight, this was it.


With the Veiled ship gone and the Taelrok fleet neutralized, the few remaining non-Taelrok enemy ships quickly and gladly retreated from the battle space.


Xin scanned the lightless ships and soon realized there was no one on board any of them. The entire enemy fleet was no longer a threat except for more possible collisions from the out of control ships. The Veiled mother ship was out of scanning range, and probably heading back to its homeworld.


"Be not fearful," said the low, strange voice in every language on every ship near every individual being. "Moving atmosphere to speech often frightens those unsuspecting. This one communicates now with all fleeting, sentient beings on all vessels. Sygoss did not wish to interfere with your private struggles. Intervention is distasteful. But it is done, and cannot be undone."


Earlier, the Veiled mother ship and several Taelrok battle cruisers had visited Mysaep's Moon. The surface of the small world had been destroyed, and the atmosphere burned off in a horrific display of destruction equal only to the destruction of Akoch.


Upon viewing this atrocity, Sygoss had reached out with his mind in a blind rage. How dare they destroy his children! The stone instruments he had shaped so lovingly over these millions of years. Each one was unique. Each one shaped to perfection. The exquisite sounds they had made together. The serenity they had given him. All were now dust. For a brief moment he had sent out a thought, a terrible thought, and in so doing had committed a crime beyond penalty. Every Taelrok male, female and child no matter where they were in the galaxy had vanished as if they had never existed. After he realized what he had done, he stopped himself just short of destroying the Veiled with a second deadly thought. Their phasing ability had saved them the first time, but there was no dimension that Sygoss couldn't go, no place they would be safe had he decided to pursue them.


"This one will leave you now. Sygoss will go far away from any sentient beings. This can not happen again."


"Sygoss, wait!" Xin, now on board the Odyssey had quickly made repairs to contain the radiation leakage. She hovered over Dave's unconscious body frantically trying to stabilize his condition. He had third degree burns to ninety percent of his body. Only his superhuman body and the five trillion MBRUs were keeping him from dying, but the damage was too extensive, and time was not on his side. "Sygoss, please, can you help my friend?"


Meanwhile, just outside the Veiled's homeworld system, Star Hammer came through its final, enormous space fold and headed straight for its target. The doomsday moon's computers calculated its trajectory through the system for optimum impact to ground zero. There was no emotion, no sentience, no AI, just a machine programmed to reach its objective at any cost. The world destroyer would gradually build up speed until it reached its quarter of light speed maximum (or about 50,000 times faster than a bullet) and nothing short of a supernova was going to stop it.

(To be continued) 


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