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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Prologue - The birth of the Traders Emergency Coalition

The small vessel emerged from phase space, leaving anti-matter dust in its wake. Its ion engines flared and it banked towards the planet of Koronis. Fires could be seen even from here, thousands of kilometres above in orbit, as hundreds of buildings were burning from orbital bombardment. The Providence banked sharply to avoid a huge lump of wreckage. As they passed by it, the pilot could see that it was a piece of a refinery ship, outfitted with several laser cannons. They were cold now, more powerful weapons having torn the ship asunder. More such wrecks came in sight, cold and lifeless as the rag-tag warship they saw earlier. Denaros sighed, deep cirles seemingly engraved under his eyes. His quarters were bright and cosy, unlike his mood. The Vasari had sacked another planet, Kron, stripping it bare of any resources. The Kronian defence fleet was swept aside by an armoured wall of Kortuls and Antoraks, supported by endless torpedoes fired by Kanraks. They had barely managed to evacuate half the Kron's population when Vasari started slagging it from orbit with Karrastras. Millions of civilians died. The rest got on the over-cramped trade ships and small fighters. The 'evacuation' was a complete chaos. Many ships were shot down by Vasari fighters and bombers before they could enter phase space and escape to other planets.
His thoughts were interrupted by the comm-device's crackle "My Lord we're docking with Nevarios in a minute. The rest of the council are here already."

Nevarios was a giant of a space station, there were few of these left in Trader space. These stations served as refill and trade points, and were crucial to the infrastructure, so they were outfitted with the heaviest weapons Traders used. Lasers, missiles, autocannons and the like. The shields were immensely powerful, and as such, they could hold their own against marauding pirates with ease. These stations also served as refineries, repair stations, and also were able constructing space-faring vessels. At these times, these stations were the safest places in the gravity well. Thousands had fled to the stations, forcing them to 'grow' biodomes, and now they were truly self-sufficient cities in space, thanks to the vast hydroponics decks that supplied these stations with food. Vasari dared not to attack these vast stations, for the cost would be too great. The exploding reactors would obliterate their fleet easily. He heard a soft 'clang' as they docked with Nevarios. He stood up and tidied his robes.
The door opened with a hiss and he saw the station's commander "Great to see you, Lord Denaros. The council is impatient to see you."
He nodded. They walked over to the elevator and stepped inside. As they zoomed upwards, Denaros could see hundreds of people in space suits, flying around and collecting wreckage to be remelted and reused. A couple of them recognised Denaros for who he was and saluted him. The elevator slowed to a halt and the door slid open. Denaros was momentarily deafened by the overwhelming noise. Dozens of men and women were arguing heatedly, their voices a incoherent gaggle.
"SILENCE! SILENCE, YOU FOOLS! YOU CALL YOURSELVES DIPLOMATS?" he roared. The huge hall fell quiet instantly. He used the moment of silence to cross the hall and stepped on the podium.
"I am bearing grave news. The last of the Alexi Dinasty have died, leaving me and the Order's council to lead the Traders. I say that we need an efficient fleet of warships." Cries of protest went up from the crowd, but he continued "Would you rather watch our worlds burn, poorly equipped ships and men die for nothing? They are traders, not soldiers! This millenia of peace has made us soft! And whatever I say, goes! We need to suspend our agenda for the time being, and reorganize ourselves into a fighting force. I have a name for this alliance against Vasari." He slotted a memory chip in the computer. After a few seconds, three letters appeared on the screen, mounted in the wall.

TEC

"TEC, what does that mean, Lord Denaros?" a woman stood up, whom Denaros recognized as Waleriona, the leader of Tondam Corporation.

He smiled "Simple enough. Traders Emergency Coalition."

Waleriona quietly mouthed the words. Then she stood up and cheered "My worlds, resources and workforce are at your disposal! Long live the TEC!"

Gerron, leader of Nitheim Rebels joined her, cheering "I join the Coalition as well! All I own is Lord Denaros' now!"

More people joined in, cheering and pledging their allegiance to the newly founded alliance. He unfurled a banner. They cheered again, shaking hands with each other.


(This is Denaros, when he took command of TEC. The logo can be seen on his hat.)

The mankind finally had a hope.

The entirety of Trader leaders had joined the TEC, and were now milling over the crucial questions but one thing was sure: they had to increase the military production - on a massive scale. They also needed the crucial warships. For that they had brought the sharpest and brightest minds from all over the galaxy. They were working restlessly for days now, on new and improved warship designs, borrowing details from millenia old designs, which were used before the Golden Age, or thinking up new, innovative designs. Rumours were going about that they were already building a prototype warship already. They would not let everyone inside, telling that 'it's a surprise'. The door slid apart, and a whitecoat stumbled inside, dataslate in his hands.
Waleriona stood up, hope filling her voice "Is it done?"
Without a word, the scientist walked over to the holoprojector and plugged the dataslate in it. A rotating 3D render flickered, and the mighty warship was visible to all. Denaros gasped, taken aback by what he saw. The utilitarian desing was simple, rugged, but also fluid-like.
"What are its specifications?" The leader of Provians asked.
"Well, it's exactly 10000 metres long, has armour plating straight from Eija Foundries" this caused a murmur of impressment. Eija Atio was the founder of these massive, spacefaring foundries. The armour plating provided by them was as close to invincibility one could get. But the scientist continued "As you all may know, the Vasari use a strange missile system. It penetrates the shields of our vessels, tearing in the hull. This new warship has a special shield configuration that will negate their ability to bypass the shields. I remind you, this configuration is a PROTOTYPE, so all kinks are not worked out yet. The shields themselves are powerful enough to shrug off most space battles. Combined with the brand-new design Vernos 344-BGD Ion drive engines, it is amazingly fast. A plethora of smaller drives are placed all over the ship, making it amazingly agile for its size. A Stage-7 Grinox phase drive ensures quick, safe, efficient FTL travel. It certainly does not lack in firepower, either. We made sure of that. On the front are four linked beam cannons, and a experimental railgun. Three autocannons and two inter-linked pulse laser batteries complement them. On the starboard side there are three autocannon batteries, on the port side are another two. Even the rear section is covered by two more autocannons. It can support two squadrons of strike craft if needed. To end, this behemoth is crewed by a crew of 2500..." His monologue was interrupted by a shadow that was covering the hall. Waleriona cautiously walked over the curved windows. A massive gun slided past her, followed by three more. There was a massive warship outside. It moved upwards, and she was in level with the command bridge of this ship. Inside she saw dozens of people, crewing their stations. A faint shimmering gave away the presence of shielding. The captain greeted her and the rest of the leaders who had gone mute, completely dumbstruck.
The scientist wiped tears from his eyes "Behold the first of Kol class, The Newborn Hope."

Denaros immediately had thrown the scientists a load of work. They were now to design more ships, a task they happily accepted. Having received so much praise for the Kol, they were more than lucky to get on with this task.
"Now then, what did they ask? A basic frigate, a orbital bombardment design and more, but I think that we will need to convert some civvie designs. Erso, hand me that blueprint, please? Thank you. Now then, this one I like. A Hoshiko. Now see, this one is able to launch drones. We will replace them with repair and demolition bots. See these niches, they offer a near 360 degree launch. Just remember to give it a heavy laser. Now what's this? What do you call this? Hmm, Cobalt? I see, great job! Now this one will be great in basic combat. I have designed this one, you see. Two pods of long-range missiles to support them. I named it Javelis LRM frigate. LRM stands for 'long range missiles'. Because of the job we have to do, I haven't been able to give it what it really needs - Cyclotaurite payloads, for improved range and damage. It also could use improved ACM." The scientists' job had no visible end to it.

The room was full of celebrating people, the leaders were feeling as hopeful as never before the war with Vasari. They now had the weapon with which to retake their worlds. The news had spread throughout the Nevarios, the civilians gaping at the mighty warship moored at the station. The ship was bustling with people, everyone wanting to see it for themselves. The news had also spread to nearby planets. Reports were coming in that new fleets were being built, the scientists on Koronis having sent out copies of the brand-new warships. Now the main scientists were presenting these blueprints. Strike craft carrier, bombardment frigate, a flak frigate, a long range missile frigate, a combat frigate, you name it, they got it. Everything to make a diverse fleet. But that wasn't all. The scientists had brought up a plethora of orbital defences. Dual-cannon gauss turrets, hangars, planetary shields, repair stations, the lot. Denaros and the rest of Coalition's council listened intently, when a message came "Lord Denaros, the Vasari are massing for another attack against Koronis. They will be here in 41 minutes!"
He responded instantly "How big is the fleet?"
"The phase space probes came back several minutes. A Jarrasul, three Skarovas, supported by a pair of Junsuraks. They got a dozen of Ravastras as well."
Denaros sighed "Alert the fleet! And tell them that we're bringing The Newborn Hope along as well."
Waleriona smiled a predatory smile.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Chapter One - The tables are turned

Hundreds of boots thudded on the floor as the civilians left The Newborn Hope. The hatches slid shut with a hiss. The walkways retracted, freeing the hulking warship. Its maneuvering engines flared, slowly spinning it a 100 degrees to the left. The entirety of Coalition's council were onboard, save for Waleriona who had taken off in her private starfighter. She was just outside the bridge, flying alongside them, six wingmen accompanying her. Everyone was wound up. The Vasari fleet was going to arrive any moment now. Gerron had been counting the seconds all the time. He reached zero. And the Vasari arrived.
Their fleet opened instantly on The Newborn Hope, but uselessly. The shields held out, plasma fire and missiles splashing against them. In return, the Kol spat a hail of shells from its autocannons. The destructive barrage tore five Ravastras apart, their wrecks becoming miniature solar systems, complete with orbiting debris as planets. The outfitted merchant ships managed to slag one of the Skarovas, before needing to hide behind the Kol. Pulse laser barrages took out the Junsuraks. Waleriona was having the time of her life. A Lasurak transport was also present and she and her wingmen were chasing the hapless Vasari bombers. The Newborn Hope's four axial beam cannons lit up, slicing through a Skarova and three Ravastras as their shields flickered and died, unable to withstand the powerful weapons. The separated halves of four warships floated apart. The Vasari fleet was down to only four Ravastras, a single Skarova and the Jarrasul flagship. The Newborn Hope surged forward, weapons blazing.

Waleriona cackled wildly as she bore down against the Vasari bomber. The twin gatling cannons spun, sending hundreds of tungsten-tipped slugs flying. They drilled through the alien metal composing the bomber's hull. It spun out of control, impacting the last remaining Skarova. Its payload of unfired phase missiles exploded, ripping a big chunk of metal from the massive cruiser. A barrage of pulse lasers from the merchant ships delivered the killing blow to the wounded Skarova. She zoomed past The Newborn Hope, her wingmen scattered around, harassing the remaining Ravastras. Suddenly she felt her fighter being attracted by the great warship. Something was wreaking havoc on her computer systems! Then she understood what was happening. The Newborn Hope was charging its railgun. It was aligning its flight path towards the Jarrasul. The electromagnetic field was intensifying, making Waleriona's maneuvering systems go haywire. The Newborn Hope shuddered and the 1000 kilogram-weighting depleted uranium, tungsten-encased slug shot forward at 100,000 kilometres per second.

Xarineq of Li Sector Remnants sat in the caverous hall, one of the many aboard the Ulstor. He was the commander of this particular Jarrasul. They had raided this planet Koronis. But now this secondary raid had gone awry. The humans had a destructive warship, the likes of which he had never seen before. He had to turn tail and run. 19,000 Vasari lives were at stake. Suddenly, the whole ship listed to the right side. The shrieking clamour of torn metal echoed throughout the whole structure. A screen lit up. Whan he saw stopped his heart for a second. A gargantuan hole had been torn in the ship, uncountable hapless Vasari flailing about, their life draining away in the cold nothinghess of space. On the other side of Ulstor, another hole had been torn by the railgun. They were venting atmosphere. Xarineq stod up to speak, but was cut short by a merciless barrage of pulse lasers, autocannons, every Trader ship was opening up all crates of FUCK YOU they had on the grievously damaged Jarrasul. He screamed in the ship-wide speakers "Everyone to escape pods! E-" He was cut short as a hail of bullets pierced the already wrecked hull and tore into his body. Green, glowing blood spattered across the screens and the console. With his last dying breaths he realized he'd failed the Exodus Fleet. As his vision and hearing faded out, the Ulstor slowly split apart, the ravaged superstructure no longer able to hold together. With an almighty shriek, the hull split apart, vacuum sucking Xarineq's lifeless body out. Last thing he saw was his blood, forming magnificent arcs of crystals, frozen in the cold expanse of space.

The whole council were silent as they watched the Jarrasul split in two. Suddely, it exploded, a nova shockwave slagging the four remaining Ravastras. Seven merchant vessels lay ruined, but even now escape pods popped clean of them and made planetfall. The comand bridge was filled with cheering, everyone having been impressed greatly by the power this new battleship wields. No Vasari had escaped - they hadn't spared any Traders, and they returned the favour now. The remaining Vasari escape pods were picked off by Waleriona's fighters. This day would live on forever in Trader's memory as the first decisive victory over the enemy. To Vasari, however, the loss of one of the oldest ships of Exodus Fleet was a heavy blow, along the other vessels lost, for Ulstor was one of the few ships left from Dark Fleet Veerr, more than ten millennia years of spacefaring on it. The main screen flickered and showed the Nevarios's commander. His uniform had gone, replaced by simple clothes "Oh, that was great! Magnificent! The people here are celebrating like crazy! This victory has really lifted their spirits!" He was pulled off-screen briefly. A struggle could be heard. He returned, a smudge of lipstick on his cheek "Oh, I'm sorry, but I have matters to attend to." A hand appeared, snatching him away again. The comm-link was terminated. Waleriona walked in, her flightsuit still on "I heard that transmission. The whole ship did." Her voice had a slight hint of amusement to it "Shall we join the celebration?" The Newborn Hope docked again with Nevarios. The Coalition's council saw behind the airlock's viewport, that dozens of people were standing there, cheering. The door slip apart with a hiss and they were overwhelmed by the cheering. Everyone wished to shake their hands. They tried to get through the croud, but uselessly. Denaros saw several hover cameras gliding about, looking at him. He stood up on a box "Everyone! May I have your attention?" The cheering fell silent, replaced by muttering and he could speak undisturbed. "This has been a grand victory! Spread the news to other Trader worlds! Tell them that Vasari will pay for what they've done! We will push them back!" After these words, the cheering grew even louder, but they parted and let the Council through. Countless handshakes and pats on backs followed. Needless to mention, the partying continued throughout the night.

The news had spread lightning-fast. Several worlds had halted the Vasari advance, others were rebelling. The Vasari had initiated lockdown on every Trader world they captured. Now they were slipping from their grasp. The tide of war was slowly turning. The warship data had been sent out, and a efficient fleet was slowly coming together. Thousands, if not millions, had volunteered to service in TDN. Countless factories were churning out munitions and weaponry. Also, a special shock force unit was developed, but it was cloudy whether it was true or just a rumour. Denaros had decided to go on a crusade of sorts to take all their worlds back and free the enslaved Traders. After weeks of relentless construction, a grand fleet was was finished and assembled, 260 frigates and cruisers, along with 20 capital ships. And to supplement it all, it turned out that the special troopers' rumour was true and they also were present. 150 battle-hardened soldiers, equipped with re-entry capable exoskeleton armour and high-end weapons, stood in neat rows. They also joined 1st Liberation Fleet. This was the day they left for war. The fleet had yet to leave the planetside of Gethesmane. Every single ship in the fleet had been built there, thousands of men and women were streaming to their designated ships, almost like a river. Denaros was waiting for Waleriona to arrive. She had also volunteered to join him, pointing out that 'no-one knows how to pilot a fighter or a bomber'. She insisted on teaching the greenhorns with the help of Crimson Teeth pilots. He heard someome running behind. He turned round and saw a breathless man run towards him. When he reached Denaros, he bent over, working his lungs like bellows.
After a minute, he stood up "We... we just intercepted a message... from Vasari. They have assaulted a world. It's off our charts, but we... we have a pinpoint location of the transmission's origin." Denaros snatched the dataslate out of the man's hand "We shall go there now. If there are any people who fight against the Vasari, we must help them. Not to mention, they may be potential trading partners."

A couple of hours later, the fleet was ready, giant booster rockets attached to them. They slowly tilted backwards, until they all pointed skywards. Swirls of nitrogen and cyclotaurite hissed from the booster rockets. The command center was filled with chatter as they cheched and re-checked the systems of the entire fleet. Denaros was strapped in the captain's seat of The Newborn Hope, the giant warship besting every other ship in height, except for the other three Kols, who stood tall, proud, magnificent and every bit uncompromising as The Newborn Hope. The grand vessels almost reached the troposhpere, even though there were hundreds of kilometres to go until they were free of Gethesmane's gravity. They were ready to launch. This was the biggest warfleet ever to leave a planet. The countdown reached zero. Hundreds of solid fuel rockets lit up, spewing out expanding clouds of smoke. Dull roaring penetrated everything. The cloud expanded, swallowing everything, even the Kols. The command center was silent, waiting for any vessels to show up. Suddenly, a couple of frigates and cruisers popped clean of the smoke, their booster rockets spewing twin stacks of flame as they burned upwards. A couple of shadows loomed within the cloud. Then the distinctive beam cannons of four Kols shot upwards, followed by the rest of the ships as they roared upwards, leaving a massive plume of smoke in their wake. The Marzas were last to leave, their massive weight weighing them down. The command center exploded in cheering, the noise almost overwhelming the leaving fleet.

Inside The Newborn Hope, it was a different story. The inertial dampeners were useless against such acceleration. The whole ship was shaking, various dials beeping, blinking and spinning. The sky slowly darkened. A vague sound reached his ears. The boosters were to be discarded. Series of explosions resonated within the hull of every warship of the 1st Fleet as explosive bolts removed the now useless boosters. And the main engines kicked in. The speed increased, sky was pitch black now. And suddenly, the shaking stopped. The Newborn Hope fell silent. The vast expanse of universe lay ahead of them. But there was no time. The coordinates given to Denaros by were quickly distributed through the fleet. The coordinated phase jump would surprise the Vasari for sure. For many, it was the first time in space and the fleet-wide channel was filled with chatter.They all watched as the crackling white lighting tore into the different space, pulling it wide enough for the whole fleet to be pulled inside. In a flash, they were gone, speeding of to an unexplored location, leaving only antimatter dust where they were only seconds ago.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Chapter 2 - Meet the Asli

Naela Was'Sholas shuddered as she pulled the blanket tighter around her. The small campfire in front of her offered little refuge from the cold wind. Her fellow Asli were sleeping. It was her turn to guard the position. Her Lance rifle lay besides her, ready to be fired. A small glinting caught her eye. She snatched the rifle and fired a single shot. A moment later, a screeching scream reached her ears. She had hit the alien soldier in the leg. He was going to be out of comission for quite a while. She smiled for a second. But then the reality of the situation pressed down on her again. These 'Vasari' had taken most of the Hilaera, one of the few places they hadn't yet broken was this very line her outpost was a part of. The Asli were a peaceful kind, more inclined to talk their differences out than unnecessarily spill blood. But now they were pressed to fight. And even now they shot to incapacitate, not kill. Their adversaries didn't agree to such ways, indiscriminately slaying everyone in their path. The situation was grim. With no ways to run or hide, they just held the line and hoped for the best. The line stretched around their capital, the Visxora. It was one of the few places that still hadn't been overrun, so more defense lines were placed en route to the city. The one she was at, was roughly three neroks(about 500 km) away from Visxora.

The night came and went. The dawn broke. And so did the defense line.

A massive plasma artillery barrage pummeled the confused militia, sowing death everywhere, followed by thousands of Vasari shocktroopers. The untrained people fled, except for few brave souls who sacrificed themselves to save others.

Naela had relegated herself to this duty as well, to buy others time to escape. Her fear had been replaced by cold, rigid determinaton.

She raised the rifle's sights to her eye.

She aimed at an ornately dressed alien, probably an officer of sorts.

A chilling rush crept under her skin.

She pressed the trigger.

The quiet border of Hilaera's gravity well was disturbed by a single fizzle of a small lightning. Several more appeared, and they danced around, spawning more of the phenomenal lights, pulling a bright tear into space. With a crack, a warship appeared. And another. And another. On and on they came, every single one of them bearing three letters.

TEC

The 1st Liberation Fleet had arrived, and hadn't even been noticed. Unluckily, they were some distance off their target. Nevertheless, they barreled on to their target, the Vasari fleet. Aboard all the carriers, hundreds of fighters and bombers were fueled up and filled to the brim with ammo. The entire fleet vibrated with energy. Aboard The Newborn Hope, the tactical grid of the planet's gravity well was slowly rotating from the holoprojector. A swarm of green figures representated their own fleet, while another swarm of red figures sat besides the planet. The Vasari fleet. Fires were rising from the planet, every major city was laying in ruins. Suddenly, a small vessel popped out besides Silverblaze, one of the Sova carriers serving in the fleet. The newly arrived vessel wasn't theirs. It was one of Vasari. It noticed the massive fleet besides it and tried to flee. The retreat was cut short by a single missile from Ravager, a Marza dreadnought. It slammed against the small Jikara, blowing a chunk out of it. Out of control, it spiralled until it hit an asteroid, exploding spectacularly, alerting the Vasari fleet at the same time. They would have rushed to the location, if it weren't for the waiting Trader fleet. Now they were milling about, uncertain of what to do. The 'arrogance' of the Traders angered them and yet they feared to make the first move. And that helped the Traders to seize initiative. Marzas opened up with long-range missiles, followed by Javelis's. A hail of missiles smacked against the shields of 150 Vasari ships. The 1st Liberation Fleet surged forward, all guns blazing. Plasma fire and missiles slammed against their shields. Another barrage of missiles flew from the TEC vessels, extinguishing shields of several enemy vessels. A burning Stilakus scraped down the side of a Kortul and burned downwards, to the planet.

The hell went loose.

Fighters and bombers were flying everywhere, narrowly avoiding crashes. The lighter missile and torpedo frigates held back, while the heavier ships were in the thick of it. Capital ships and heavy cruisers took the brunt of the assault, but only few ships could withstand the onslaught of Kols' beam cannons and Marzas' relentless missile barrages. The combined firepower of The Newborn Hope, Old Sun, Marauder and Defiant sliced a crowded group of Skarovas apart. Packs of Cobalts were darting around, hunting the smaller ships and drawing fire away from damaged friendlies. The battle was decidedly turning awry for the Vasari. Hundreds of Vasari perished as Hoshikoes' demolition bots tore gaping holes in the hulls of Vasari capital ships. Although the small Cobalts, Javelis's and Gardas were swatted aside by bigger cruisers, the distraction proved useful as bombers rained their payload upon the hapless Vasari. The Vasari fleet was in total disarray. Many of their ships had crashed with each other.But, even though they were in chaos, the Vasari fought back, heavily damaging many ships.

Denaros saw Krosov TDN-083 get skewered by a plasma lance. A minute later, escape pods launched from them. And the frigate exploded. The numerous pods buzzed over to other ships. Denaros felt something slam against the side of The Newborn Hope. He looked at the camera and winced. The Vasari had sent a boarding party. Even now, hundreds of elitary shocktroopers poured inside the Kol. Denaros grabed the ship-wide speaker "Exo companies 1,2,4 and 5, prepare to repel boarders! Company 3, make planetfall!" A chorused roar of 150 soldiers filled the ship. The four companies spread out in the connecting halls, the ones that lead to the boarding craft, while the 3rd took a different path. They were to jump out of the hangar bay.

Among them was Lieia Grisova, a native of Linv. Linv was the first planet to fall to Vasari. She was one of the few to escape. She was only 17 then. Now, she had been given a chance to exact revenge on the aliens who had slain her family. The hangar door before her slid apart. And the sight took her breath out of her. Countless fighters and bombers zoomed around, while frigates, cruisers and capital ships slugged it out between themselves. The space was filled with all kinds of munitions shooting from ship to ship. She looked at the breathtaking sight. Her HUD just couldn't register all the explosions. She strapped her NX-61 to her back. The rest of her company had already jumped out. After re-checking her planetfall shields, she jumped out gracefully. Her exoskeleton armour provided her with amazing strength, agility and speed. The shielding would ensure she didn't burn to a crisp. The armour was also outfitted with several miniature boosters, to help maneuvre while burning in. She quickly closed up to her lieutenant. Others were spread out, their nav-systems guiding them to the designated drop zone. Suddenly, a missile struck her. Her shields held out, but the explosion pushed her off trajectory. The maneuvering boosters were all but useless. All she could do was try and counter the wild spin. She noticed a Cobalt in her path and did her best to aim for it. The highly encripted code allowed her to pass through the shielding unscathed. Unluckily, she had no way of slowing down and slammed face-first into the armoured hull. Dazed, she stood up and made her way towards the lower part of the ship. Suddenly, a plasma lance struck the Cobalt amidships. Lieia jumped off and glided past the ship. She was way off the charted course. The best she could do was try to get to the planet unharmed. She pushed of the wrecked vessel, saw it trying to ignite its engines again, but it was useless, and it was burning into the atmosphere as well. She fell head-first through the exosphere. After mere minutes, she felt the heat of thermosphere grazing against her shielding. Upon reaching the lower level of troposphere, the armour's automated systems kicked in, flipping her round. After a couple of seconds, she smashed into the ground, feeling something squishy go bust beneath her.

Oops.

Naela watched in horror as the wrecked Vasari ship plummeted from the space and smashed into the ground. Apparently, they had found an adversary. Were they friendly, or hostile as well? Her attention was drawn by a low booming. A swarm of objects were burning their way down to the surface. Suddenly, a roaring voice alerted her. One of Vasari halberders was charging at her. She raised her rifle and fired, but the alien simply shrugged the shot off. Naela almost paid the ultimate price. The tip of the halberd slashed across her stomach, digging through her skin. She fell on her back, her rifle out of the reach. The halberder raised his weapon but was interrupted by an object which landed on top of him, smashing the unfortunate bugger to pulp. Once the dust settled, Naela's mouth opened in a wide O of surprise. A silently humming figure stood before her, half-crouching. It stood up, seemingly oblivious of the Vasari fire that plinked off it. Naela watched it remove a big rifle from it's back. It unhurriedly aimed it at a group of huddled Vasari and fired the gun.

Brrrt! Brrrt! Brrrt! Brrrt! Brrrt! Brrrrrrrrt!

The unlucky shocktroopers exploded in a fine mist of blood and gore.

Naela watched silenty, both appalled and amazed by the raw firepower the weapon posessed. A jolt of pain reminded her of her undesirable condition. The glittering blood was flowing from the open wound and she gasped. The involuntary gasp drew the warrior's attention. It bent down to her, any expression hidden behind the helmet. It reached towards her wound, as if examining it. After few seconds it stood up "Hmm, looks like you got lucky. I've seen those halberds slice through tougher things." Those words were completely incomprehensable to Naela, who looked at Lieia non-plussed. What was this 'person' saying? Lieia sighed and pulled out a medicinical plaster. Then she gave it to Naela, indicating that she should apply it to her wound. She suspiciously placed the plaster across her wound and it settled there. The sharp pain dissapeared instantly. She looked up at the immobile figure and spoke.

"Kashel."Thanks.

This in turn confused her saviour, who scratched her helmet "Ok, so we can't understand each other. Huh. Go figure." A plasma mortar shell landed nearby, and Lieia sighed irritatedly. She turned round and marched casually off towards the Vasari lines. The screaming erupted several seconds later as she picked them off one by one with single precision shots. Naela got up, and clutched her rifle. She'd make use of herself today. She knelt down and brought her weapon to bear. The scaly face of a Vasari soldier appeared in the telescopic sights of her rifle. She pulled the trigger and a lance of pure energy blew the Vasari's face to bits. She aimed at another one. Seconds later he too was dead. She stayed close to Lieia for cover, who was a favourable target, despite her ship-grade shielding not even faltering under all the firepower that was directed at her. If anyone was so much as to look weirdly at Naela, Lieia put him down for good, while Naela was popping them at distance, if anyone was carrying anything heavier than a missile launcher. Together they made it over to the wrecked Vasari ship. It was completely wrecked, not a single Vasari had survived. With the extra cover it provided, they both could hold the attacking horde off. Dozens of dead Vasaris piled up in front of them. A shadow suddenly loomed overhead, prompting Lieia to look up.

"Oh..."

The Cobalt she had kicked off from before was now burning down to the planet as well.

Naela was also watching in numb horror, before she was unceremoniously slung on Lieia's shoulder and she was legging it at nearly 150 km/h. Lieia watched the ruined warship list, and several escape pods were launched from them. Seconds later the Cobalt slammed into the ground, the escape pods having settled nearby. With a single, powerful jump, Lieia had landed besides them. She saw the crowd of seventy or so slightly dazed crew mill about the pods and waved at them "Hey, get over here! We got a battle to win!" Most of the crewmen were toting pulse carbines, while others had simple handguns. Suddenly, several big expolsions ripped through the Vasari lines. Many of their hovertanks lay ruined. Lieia squinted and saw the rest of the 3rd Exos cutting their way towards them. They had been tasked with eliminating the Vasari command structure, a task they found to be a child's play. In their arrogance, Vasari hadn't even placed sentries around their commanders. Now, the crazed Vasari elite were on their heels, followed by the rest of the Vasari troops. The jetpack-boasting Exos were first to get on the crashed Cobalt, their weapons and armour slick with blood of countless Vasari. They had slaughtered their way through the hapless Vasari. Others followed seconds later, the powerful hydraulics allowing to make the jump. The big hole in TDN-019's hull provided them with protection. The ground shook as hundreds of Vasari shocktroopers charged at the entrenched Trader soldiers. Disintegrator fire fizzled across their heads. The snipers opened up on the charging mass. They still kept running, oblivious of the fact that there was no cover at all. The rest of the Exos started firing, snapping off single, precision shots with deadly accuracy, supported by the carbines of Navy cadets. But still the Vasari kept running at them. Missiles streaked from the Exos' GN-38 missile launchers, blowing dozens of them to kibble. The superior firepower whittled their numbers away in minutes. The wind howled across the desert, the blood soaking into the sand. No Vasaris had survived their suicidal charge. Lieia ejected the spent clip and loaded a fresh one. With mechanical precision, she pulled the loading lever back and forth, chambering a round. The weight of the clip balanced the weapon perfectly. A strange whining sound erupted, and Lieia spun round, just to see her fellow soldiers vanish.

Teleportation. Damn.

They had been teleported back aboard The Newborn Hope, except Lieia and her Asli companion.

"Ni'lye, har! Diswel'o na Visxora!" Follow, friend! Let's go to Pearldome!
Naela was waving at Lieia, indicating that she should follow. Shrugging, she slotted her weapon on her back and followed Naela, towards the slightly burning city. The surrounding landscape was littered with wrecks and also was rocky, making quick travel impossible. By nightfall, they had only gone 48 km towards Visxora and even Lieia was exhausted. They both were now walking besides a forest, when Naela suddenly ran forwards one of the trees and started plucking something from it. When she returned, in her hands were several strange, purple fruits. She handed a couple to Lieia, who inspected the fruit suspiciously. Naela chuckled and took a bite from her own. Seeing this, Lieia felt her hunger rise. She keyed her helmet, making it slide back. She raised the fruit to her mouth and took a small bite. The fruit was surprisingly sweet and she devoured it instantly. Rapidly, she ate the rest. Despite their size, they were surprisingly nutritious, making her feel sated. Naela sat down and watched the orbital 'fireworks' as the two fleets kept fighting. The night surrounded them, and she slowly fell asleep. She felt exhausted, a mite hungry, but the presence of the silently humming soldier was a reassuring thing.
 

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Ah, a story of one of my favorit games of all times.
 

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Its good. I'm going to keep reading this. The story line is good and I want to see how this turns out for the characters. The TEC start to fight well untill the advent show up if memory serves me right.
I now NEED to go and find that disk and play now after this. =)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Yah, Advent DO show up after a while. And I also have written a bit of background on a couple of characters and TEC ships. I will also write a bit of information on the Asli biology and the like.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Chapter 3 - A new alliance is forged

The sparking cable slowly swinged around as the grumbling technician floated past it. He keyed his retroboosters for a few seconds and floated past a big hole in TDN-231's hull. This Garda had taken several phase missiles amidships, dealing devastating damage to its life support systems. He passed by a ringlock that connected the Garda to TDN-106, a Kodiak cruiser. The whole fleet except capital ships, had joined together, helping each other with repairs. The Dunovs were the only capitals designed for fleet support, and so they darted around, from ship to ship, helping to replenish shielding and antimatter reserves. Most of the 1st had taken a nasty beating. The Vasari had called for reinforcements and a sizeable fleet had responded. But now those ships too drifted cold and lifeless. The gears of war were turning in Traders' favour now.

Denaros observed the orbital imagery. The natives on the planet had put up a stiff resistance, that was for sure. A great black smudge represented the Vasari ground forces, blips and spots of brighter blue represented the defenders and the cities and settlements they defended, and a orange dot showed the current position of the stranded Exo trooper. She was moving towards the biggest city on the planetside. It was almost surrounded by Vasari forces. To defeat them, they would need more than the Exos. They'd have to deploy en masse.

The fleet had been stationary above the city, for days now. Dozens of retrofitted merchant ships had jumped to the planet, each of them carrying soldiers, tanks and supplies. They now eagerly waited aboard the biggest capital ships, namely Marzas and Dunovs. The Newborn Hope would also join them, since it carried the Exoskeleton troops. At exactly 1400, ship-time, the nine grand warships started the descent.

Naela sat atop Lieia's armour, clinging to her grimly as they both zoomed across the plain at 150 km/h. At this speed, they arrived at Visxora in mere minutes. The massive gates swung open, letting a small group of militia through. They all had their rifles trained on Lieia. She sighed and unslung her own weapon. In a display of power, she leisurely removed the full clip and slotted it back in, slowly pulling the charging lever back and forth. The militia winced wisibly at the loud, dry click-clack. Upon noticing Naela sitting on her back, they happily holstered their rifles. She jumped down and started hurriedly speaking to the militia soldiers. While Naela was talking to them, Lieia took the time to observe the Visxora. A giant dome covered the entire city, a pearlish glow to it. A thick, black shadow descended upon it. Instantly, she looked up. More shadows appeared through the thick clouds, slowly encircling the city. A panicked screaming erupted from the citizens, who stared at the descending masses. Lieia removed her helmet and watched one of the ships descend in front of her. The thick, stubby landing legs settled firmly in the ground, sending a cloud of dust racing from it. A slight tremor ran through the ground. Others settled around the city, in the way of Vasari army. Lieia set off calmly towards the ship.

The Warmaster Deqcoz stared open-mouthed at the grand machines of war descending from the sky. A simple relevation struck him.

We will all die.

The giant, oiled pistons hissed and the rods slid from them, lowering the massive ramp to the ground. Hundreds of armed figures marched downwards, greeted by a tall, heavily armed figure and a crowd of natives. Denaros was at the head of his troops.

"Took your sweet time, didn't ya?"

He looked at Lieia, who seemed somewhat irritated "I am sorry for that. We had enough trouble with Vasari in the space. Besides, it was only a week. But never mind that. We got a war to win, right?"

"Sure thing. What are we up against?"

"From orbital imagery, I'd say three divisions. Nothing we can't handle. Besides, we got the fleet ready to shell them."
He noticed the inquiring looks from the bystanding Asli. Clearing his throat, he strode forward to greet them "Greetings. My name is Denaros." Long silence, just the slightly unnerving eyes looking at him. Uncertainly, one of the Asli extended her hand and shook Denaros's.

"Kylieh'e na Visxora, aqelu sa Hilaera. Le'vi he Gyliel."Welcome to Pearldome, capital of Brighthaven. My name is Gyliel.

Puzzled, Denaros looked at her with an expression that could only be described as o_O. He turned to Lieia, who just shrugged. He turned back to the supposed leader and scratched his head. Neither of them understood each other. The Asli seemed a bit distressed by this turn of events, but then her face lit up as she laughed and pulled out two small earpieces from a fold in her robes. She handed one to Denaros and put her own on her ear. She spoke again.

"Does your earpiece work, friend?"

He smiled "It does indeed. This is a marvellous piece of technology."

"Not as marvellous as your warships. For long we have strived to expand into universe. But then these Vasari attacked." A twinge of bitterness slipped into her voice.

"If you wish to join us, we will help and give support to your people. But that is your decision to make."

Gyliel paused momentarily. Her eyes were gazing across the assembling army, the majestic, unforgiving warships surrounding her city. She turned around and looked at the planetary Council, who had listened to their conversation. They all nodded.
She turned back to Denaros "If I am to join, I will need to know your name."

He smiled "Denaros Wersian is the name. And yours?"

Gyliel's eyes shone brightly "Gyliel the Farsighted is my name."

"Welcome to Traders Emergency Coalition, Gyliel."
A great cheer rose from the city gates, as hundreds of citizens had assembled there, each one of them listening to what was happening.

"You should come into our city. The Pearldome has long been appraised as a marvel of construction. We also have constructed dozens of guard towers on the walls, but we lack both the materiel and soldiers to defend them properly."

"Do not worry. I have placed the ships around the city. They form an impenetrable wall. And the orbital bombardment should be arriving any minute."

"What is orb-" she asked, but was interrupted by a howling noise. From the sky, dozens of bullet-shaped objects were falling unto Vasari encampment. As soon as they hit the ground, they exploded, vast plumes of smoke rising from them. "Oh. Such destruction and power. Tell me, how long have your kind been fighting the Vasari?"

"It has been months since they attacked. We didn't stand a chance at the beginning. But now the tables are turned. But we will talk later about that. We have a battle to win."

"And we will stand by your side. To war, Asli!" Her words were responded by cheering as the joint army surged forward, to eliminate the Vasari threat. The tanks swarmed across the craterside, firing at their Vasari counterparts. The figthing went sporadic, weapons fire taking down every soldier that wasn't in cover. Exos were scattered everywhere, their shielding and armour allowing to take on Vasari heavies.

Naela was flung across the air as an shell landed behind her. Hitting the ground, she scrambled to cover behind a burning tank as another shell landed nearby. Disintegrator fire flew over her head. One of the Trader tanks rumbled past, it's smoothbore cannon barking as it ripped the Vasari squad apart. She pulled herself to feet and jumped on the tank. It rumbled again, rolling forwards, deeper in the crater. The turret swung to left, and another shell flew from the barrel, this time ripping a Vasari hovertank a new one. Spotting a group of Exos in the distance, Naela jumped off. The distinctive ringing of NX-61's was audible in the distance. She slung her rifle over her back and ran towards the embattled soldiers. She saw Lieia slam the stock of her gun in the face of a Vasari halberder, sending him sprawled on the ground. She riddled him with bullets afterwards.

(Exoskeleton troops at the battle of Pearldome. Leia is on the right side.)
Lieia was about to get another soldier, when a shout got her attention. It was her companion, the one she saved at TDN-019's crash site. She stood up from the bleeding corpse and retracted her visor. Naela stopped in front of her and handed her an earpiece, not dissimilar to the one Denaros and Gyliel was wearing and put her own on. She tapped it slightly and spoke "Can you hear me? Can you understand me?"

Lieia chuckled "I can hear you alright. But why are you givin' this thing to me now? Forgot it or something?"

"Something like that. We had no idea that you speak in a different language-okay, that sounded stupid. But anyways, we hadn't predicted this!"

*boom*

A tank shell had caught Lieia unaware and now she was sprawled on the ground. The Vasari tank crew jeered, but their joy was short-lived. A tankbuster squad was setting up nearby. Their plasma missile launchers flashed and three shrieking missiles boiled the tank apart. Naela rushed over to Lieia who was trying to get up. Lieia only managed to lift her hand before it fell back to the ground. Another Exo joined them, and took a quick scan of the armour "The shield generator is busted, but the motory fuctions have rebooted. I'll need a moment to upload the configuration." He plugged a small wire in a socket on her arm, and pressed a few keys on his own arm. In a couple of seconds, Lieia moved again, this time standing up. She jumped up and down a couple of times to test the balance.
"It's working alright, but the absence of shielding will prohibit you from fighting."
"All right, but at least let me snipe them." A fellow soldier exchanged weapons with her, taking her NX-61 and handing her his monstrous LRS-27 bolt-action rifle. Naela's jaw dropped as she observed the weapon. It was more of a hand cannon than a sniper rifle! Lieia hastily took cover behind a boulder as stray plasma fire hit the ground around her. She laid her gun down on the rock and took aim. The deafening shot ripped through a Vasari tank hunter a kilometre away. She pulled the lever bolt back and up, letting the red-hot casing out and chambering a new one. The next slug tore through the servo joint of a Vasari walker, sending it to the ground. A ragged band of Asli and Trader light infantry appeared, firing their weapons at a line of Vasari heavy troopers. They had retreated in the face of superior numbers. A crack was appearing in their lines. A pair of tanks rumbled behind them, thus widening the crack. Naela felt a wind rush and saw the Exos jump and land heavily on the tanks. They started punching and ripping the heavy armour. Three of them ripped the barrel off. One of them grabbed it and and started using it as a club, tearing into Vasari ranks with terrifying efficiency. Blood was flying everywhere. A low booming heralded the approach of Trader bombers and fighters. But they met resistance. Dozens of Vasari strike craft rose to fight. Hundreds of the small craft now thundered above the ground troops, chasing after each other, trying to get behind each other and deliver the killing blow. Bombers struck at the Vasari fortifications. All manners of anti-air artillery filled the skies. Armour squadrons clashed, their powerful guns shaking the ground itself. The heavy howitzers exchanged fire with their Vasari counterparts. Yet, despite the fierce defence Vasari put up, the outcome of the battle was already foretold. When the last Vasari flier had crashed in the ground, every single Trader bomber delivered a deadly payload of cluster bombs upon the Vasari army's rear lines, effectively silencing their artillery. Every single tank now was covered in troops, slowly rumbling towards the Vasari HQ. Asli and Trader sharpshooters took potshots at the fortified trenches, while Exos jumped their way across the desolate battlefield. High-explosive shells impacted Vasari fortifications. Suddenly, every tank stopped, turned about and left, Exos following suit. Lieia landed besides Naela with a thump "We're pulling out. The brass decided they're just gonna nuke them. Says that we've lost too much ground personnel." Her words weren't far from truth. Dead humans, Asli and considerably more Vasari littered the plain, complemented by a wide array of burning tanks. Naela's stomach bucked at the sight. It was a terrible sight to behold. Truth be told, Naela felt relieved that they weren't assaulting the fortress. But then a thought struck her "Lieia, what about the dead?" Her human friend suddenly froze and sighed "You're right. We can't just leave them here.You hear that Denaros? Delay the strike so that we may retrieve the good dead guys." Apparently she was speaking on main channel, for most of the tanks stopped and the troops cheered at Lieia. Five seconds passed and she received an answer "Couldn't agree more with you. You got one hour. I'll send in the dropships."
For the next hour every single healthy ground troop toiled and loaded the hundreds of their dead and injured on the dropships, while the fallen Asli were taken back inside Pearldome. The whine of thrusthers filled the air as the heavily laden transports lifted off, but they couldn't go too high. Their engines were already straining with the weight and were also directed towards Pearldome. A single bomber descended from the skies. Underside it was the nuclear bomb. A chaos erupted within the joint army as everyone tried to get inside the ships. Hundreds rushed inside the awaiting bays of the warships and even more flowed through the gigantic gate of Pearldome. The small, but devastating weapon tumbled through the air and everyone heard the ultra-sonic whine of the bomber that delivered it as it climbed higher and higher. The bomb hit the ground and exploded. The massive plume of light filled the skies. The last few soldiers and tanks rumbled on the platforms of the ships and with a judder, they slowly shut. The gigantic shockwave shook the mighty vessels to every joint and rivet. It lasted for several minutes. Everyone inside the city watched in awe and fear as hazy clouds encircled their stronghold.

The droning ramp hit the ground and several technicians stepped forward with radiation seekers. The low, almost lazy ticking showed that the radiation was well within the acceptable boundaries. The material used had an exceptionally short half-life, leaving almost no radiation. But the crater would remain. The Asli and Traders built a memorial later there, to honor the brave warriors who fought and died there. Various regiments and battalions had landed all across the planet. In joint operations, they managed to rid the planet free of any Vasari presence in mere weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Chapter Four - Let the celebration begin

"The recipe is very simple, really. Just cut the meat like so. Then, dip it in the dough. For added taste, just add some spices. Then, throw it in the oil and roast it for several minutes. Then pick it out with a skewer. Wait for it to cool down and ta-dah, you've got a quick and tasty meal ready. Fills a hole, that." the mess seargeant of Defiant explained to the awaiting crowd of Asli surrounding him. A sizeable mountain of chopped meat covered most of the large table, while another spot was occupied by a giant bowl of dough. A big pot of oil bubbled lazily besides him. He picked up a skewer and pulled the sizzling piece of meat out. He set it down on a nearby plate that was snatched quickly away by an eager Asli kid. He chuckled "Okay, who wants to have a go?" A dozen voices erupted around him. Lieia stepped in "Looks like you're gonna need more pots than that. Requisition some from the ships."
"Aye, girl, I'll do just that."

Nalea sat down by one of the many campfires besides Lieia. She'd brought some of that spicy meat that cook was roasting and handed it to her. Her eyes gazed across the breath-taking view before her. The monumental valley was filled with people, Traders and Asli alike, chatting the night away. Many were exchanging foods, trinkets, the like. Thousands occupied the plains, more were floating on rafts in the lake. The celebration had spread all across the planet. Lieia bit off a big chunk of her food, eliciting a fit of laughter from Naela "Don't bite more than chew, you can, Lieia." The young alien had been hard at learning human language, but it was still choppy. With some difficulties, she managed to swallow it "Euurgh. Hand me some of that drink, will ya?" Naela passed her a big jug containing a Kall fruit juice. Lieia poured herself some and drank it. Naela lay down on the soft grass "Things have really changed. Your scientists have given us plans and blueprints for those, how do you say it? Ah, yes, spacesheeps. No, wait, spessshipz. Teelah! A little help here?"
"Spaceships." Lieia responded.
"Thanks. But anyways, our people were very excited by the fact that we can join your kind. Sambe-Ar in particular is going to make a wow to stand by your side."
"Wait, what is Sambe-Ar?"
"I do not have an explanation for this word as such. But it roughly translates as, uh 'The Bright One, the Light that leads The Kin.' You know her as Gyliel. She is the Seventh Sambe-Ar. She has control across all of the planet."
"Oh, so she's like Denaros. Thanks for clearing that up."
"Denaros, he is the man who greeted her first, isn't he? He seems like a someone whom you can rely in trouble."
"Yeaah. He even held the Trade Order together through the Glass Ore crisis. It was very bad. The metal ore was meddled with by pirates before it was released on the market. It couldn't take much stress and broke easily. Hundreds of people died because of that." Naela nodded understandingly, even though she was burning to ask more questions. But those would have to wait, because Gyliel had appeared. Instead of the simple robe she was always wearing, she'd donned a grand dress that seemed to change colours. By her side walked Denaros, also donning a fresh uniform. Several hovercams orbited them, broadcasting all over the planet. The whole valley slipped into silence. Gyliel spoke in the microphone "This is a great day for the Asli. The human friends of the Trader Emergency Coalition ask us to join them. What did I answer? I said 'I agree.' With their help, our kind has been truly brought in the galaxy. The universe has opened its gates for us - we just have to make the first step. And now I publicly shall make an oath: We stand by their side! Never we leave them! Our first warships are under construction already and this is the day our enemies will forever remember!" She gained momentum with each second "With us fighting alongside them, our alliance shall bring peace and prosperity to everyone!" The valley exploded into cheering and clapping. And an real explosion. A single fighter plummeted from the sky, trailing fire and smoke, thousands of eyes following it. It crashed in the lake, luckily not hurting anyone. Lieia jumped up, Naela following her "Where are you going?" Lieia rushed over to an equipment pile, swiftly finding her Exo armour. Naela regarded it sceptically. The powerful piece of armour had collapsed into a square-ish shape, only its leg parts were sticking out. Lieia stepped in them and pressed several keys on her wrist computer. The armour twitched slightly, and, to Naela's amazement, it climbed on Lieia, wrapping around her and locking together. Lieia looked at the dumbstruck alien and bowed to her "Ta." Without a second thought, she jumped, landing close to the lake. The next jump took her in the clean waters and she dove down. Several seconds later Naela followed her.

Lieia observed the strange creatures swimming around. They hadn't ever seen the likes of her and vice versa. The HUD blinked, and she changed course, following the rapidly sinking fighter. She was past 300m depth. She could see the bottom when her armour cracked. One of the chest seals had burst and now water was pouring in. The armour was built to withstand the absolute nothing of vacuum, but not 400m of water pressing down on it. She tried desperately to surface, but to no avail. The water was weighing her down. She heard a loud sparkling and smoke filled her helmet. The reactor had gone. She heard a thud as she hit the bottom, more than 400m deep. Her armour had locked up. She fealt the water splash around her face as it filled the helmet. She drew the last desperate breath as the last air escaped from the armour. A dozen seconds passed and she had to breathe. Out of pure instinct, her brain ordered her to open mouth and the last bubbles floated away. She gagged as the water filled her lungs. Her head swam as her body tried to retch up the fluid. Suddenly, everything calmed down. She felt dizzy, but ok. She looked around in confusion when it dawned upon her.

She was breathing water.

How was this possible? She exhaled and drew another breath, feeling the water tickle her throat, filled her lungs and clearing her head a bit more. She managed to headbutt the emergency release button, popping the explosive bolts. She pushed the four front panels aside, and floated outside. She felt a low, rumbling moan and saw a monumental shadow loom nearby. It rumbled again and after a minute she saw a gigantic animal swim past her. She managed to notice three small, pin-like eyes that regarded her for a few seconds, before the massive creature swam away. Oh, how every Trader biologist and scientist would envy her about what she saw! She swam around, regarding the alien fauna. There certainly was a wide variety of creatures here. She kept swimming around, until, by pure luck, she found the wrecked fighter. Thinking she'd see the pilot freaking out in there, she was surprised to see the wreck empty. She heard a faint chattering above her and to her surprise, saw a big, four legged beast swimming to her. Her heart sunk as it closed the distance and circled around her. She noticed something detach from it and cursed mutely. As it swam closer, she noticed that it wasn't an beast that wanted to eat her. It wasn't the pilot either. It was Naela. The Asli smiled at her and gestured at the beast, showing the distressed pilot clinging to it. They both joined him, and Naela 'whispered' to it. The beast moved at once, but he ascended slowly, to avoid any complications for its human passengers. They observed the wildlife around them. It seemed that the abundance of oxygen in the water allowed the creatures and plants to grow really big. Even the smallest ones were the size of a heavy tank. The whole food chain was at the work here. Plants and animals fought, hunted, died, were hunted, Lieia even saw one of those big animals she encountered previously swarmed by a horde of small, thick worms. No matter how much it rolled around, slammed against rocks, it couldn't shake them off and was devoured in a matter of seconds. They hadn't even moved when another of the colossal beasts came out of nowhere and swallowed them whole. Just before it shut its yawning maw, she saw the unlucky worms get shredded by rows of sharp teeth. She swallowed, knowing she got lucky before. The light above her slowly got brighter, and after half an hour, they surfaced by the coast. The two humans slumped in the grass. Lieia put two fingers down her throat and retched up the water occupying her lungs. A few awkward moments and two more litres of water out from her lungs, she stood up. The breathable water was good, yes, but there was nothing better than taking a big, deep breath of fresh, clean air. She coughed up the few last drops of water and walked over to the pilot "Hey, you alright, man?" He stood up, watter dripping from him "Yeah, I think so. How'd you get down there?" "I'am an Exo. I dived for a while, but then my armour put out. To be honest, I really thought I was gonna drown there." "Yeah, me too. But let's leave that behind us. The celebration's not over yet." A few minutes later and Lieia, Naela and the flyboy each had been awarded with a medal. And the partying continued. Someone had the bright idea to bust out the liquors and spirits. Three hours later Naela giggled goofily at seeing everything melt before her, with Lieia being very excited by seeing her hands move until she passed out. An hour later the drowsy chatter had been replace by a quiet snoring.

84571 B.W.(Before war).

Millions of small and huge droids swarmed around the gigantic stellar object. Each of them carried materials for the construction, several ore-rich planets and asteroids drifted around, cracked open for their valuable riches. Nell-Tiray gazed around her. This was going good. The Nexus was nearly complete. She knew what was going to happen to the rest of her kind. There were only a few of the god-like beings still alive. They all were here, with her. Yet they knew that their enemy would find them.

The Doom Harvesters.

The Asahi cherished all life, but the Doom Harvesters seemed intent on eradicating it all. Like a great plague they rolled through the galaxy, taking life from everything. At first, they didn't even expect the Asahi striking back. But now, all but a handful of them had survived. For thousands of years they had battled and lost. Even now, as the great construct was being built, the uncountable hordes of Doom Harvesters poured forth, ever hungry. She stood upon the Core, the great sphere that kept the surface of Nexus swarming with life. Millions of alarm reports filled the air and they all could see the limitless horde pour in through the wormhole, despite the distance. A massive, black smudge filled the space. Nell-Tiray clenched her teeth. This was it. The whole Nexus shook as the Core overloaded, sending the last of Asahi to unknown locations. The massive sphere of energy grew in size, swallowing the Nexus and the construction drones, but leaving them intact as they continued on with their work. The complete silence of space was cut short momentarily as the angry and despairing screech of trillions of Doom Harvesters was overwhelmed by the soul-shattering energy surge that obliterated them. The foe of all life was annihilated, but at a cost. The Asahi were scattered throughout the universe. With no way to find their way home, they sought out whatever intelligent life was present on their planets and guided them, protected them, educated them. In time, they too had spread to other planets and later, galaxies. But the universe stretches far and wide and only three Asahi had found each other. Together they forged a mighty empire, spanning dozens of galaxies and still kept searching for the rest of their kind, and more importantly, Nell-Tiray. They searched her for ages. Unbeknownst to them, she was carrying a piece of the Core, allowing her to travel the Universe on her own accord. She kept travelling until she found a planet and she settled down. Ever now and then she scoured the planet for any intelligent beings, until she found the race she later named Asli.

9527 B.W.

The small group of the foragers dropped their gatherings and dispersed quickly at the sight of a one of the Kar. The massive beast roared and took to pursuit, brandishing its massive tusks. Though unable to choose which one to catch at first, it chose to lumber after one of them, unaware of the winged being watching from atop a tree.

Nell-Tiray watched the bloodthirsty animal chase after the helpless being. Her blood boiled in anger. The big beasts had been one of her possible choices, but now this particular one had crushed all hopes on it. Her eyes focused on the would-be meal. She'd observed these people for a long time. They were peaceful, united, strongly resembling the Asahi. Her six wings fluttered and she jumped off the branch and soared after it.

Kel'Ahar ground to a halt when she saw the dead end she had run into. Cursing her luck, she wheeled around, but saw the Kar lumbering at her. She shrunk and closed here eyes, waiting for the razor-sharp tusks to dig into her. Instead, she heard the strong flutter of wings, then the unmistakable squelch as a blade entered the beast. She opened her eyes and saw a terrifying sight. The Kar was roaring and thrashing about, gouging the ground with its tusks, blood spilling from its back. She saw a winged being clinging to its back, slashing away with a sword. Nell-Tiray leapt off and landed in front of it. The Kar shook and charged at her, but she easily swatted the beast aside. It smashed in the cliff wall, dislodging several large rocks that crashed on top of it, killing the Kar instantly. Kel'Ahar looked at the awe-inspiring figure standing there. It turned to face her and she saw the bright light shining through its eyes. Kel'Ahar heard it speak, but she didn't understand a word, so she had a go at communicating "Toro'qae he ta'hi? Wol xa ta?"What is your name? Who are you? At this, Nell-Tiray came close to her and placed a hand on Kel'Ahar's forehead. The young alien winced slightly before she was dragged into her mind. In reality, it lasted only a couple of seconds, but to her, it seemed like a thousand years had passed. When Nell-Tiray freed her from the 'mind chains', she felt the newly discovered knowledge fill her mind. Kel'Ahar heard her saviour speak again, but now she understood her clearly "Le tor wunax tel."I'm sorry about that.
Kel'Ahar shrugged "Tal qonaz. Tal qol kan. Wil diswel'o na ru doqeh?"It's fine. It's been worse. Want to come to my village?
The Asahi nodded "Kir, har. Tallah gur wal qaz."Yes, friend. Better than stay here.
Nell-Tiray followed her to the village of Ahar tribe, where Kel retold their meeting. From this moment, the Asli experienced a new age of advances in technology. With Nell-Tiray's help, they brought the various tribes under a united rule. Using her powers, she crafted monumental statues of her, in hopes of guiding the rest of her kind to this planet. The Asli prospered under her guidance. For thousands of years they lived peacefully, and not a single conflict had erupted. The piece of Core she carried brought a whole new meaning to life. Small as it was, it still held monumental power and transformed the planet into a lush paradise, a rich utopia of peace. That is, until the Vasari arrived. Nell-Tiray disappeared in the mountains. Powerful as she was, she couldn't cough up spaceships. But occasional Vasari reports told of a migty being slaying platoons of their soldiers, lifting tanks up in air and crushing them with bare hands. With these ambushes, she bought her people enough time to prepare for the coming war. Unfortunately, she couldn't help them any other way. She retreated to the highest mountain and waited for the prophecy to come true.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Chapter Five - Finding the Nexus

Three days after Battle for Visxora. Grinlen.

Naela knocked on the wooden door and three seconds later it burst open and several younger Asli tackled her to the ground. Lieia just watched in surprise. Her attention was attracted by another, older looking Asli in the doorway, who was smiling benevolently. Naela managed to shake the kids off and stood up "These are my sisters, Lieia. They always do this. You should try it sometime. And this is my mother, Kala'Sholas." The elder alien greeted her "Welcome, friend. Come, and break bread with us. The dinner is amost ready." Gladly, Lieia accepted the invitation.

In the kitchen she was greeted by a chaos. Kala was waving around with a heavy wooden ladle to free up some space around her while her kids tried snatching bits of food from the table. After a short while she handed Lieia and Naela their bowls of freshly cooked food. Lieia couldn't even distinguish what it was, but it tasted good enough. Even though Naela's sisters had gotten the lion's share, they finished their portions twice as fast as Lieia, and when they'd finished fighting over the scraps, they tried fighting on the table. In came the cavalry, in the shape of Kala waving a knife. The startled kids leaped out through the window and had another go at each other in the grass. Kala apologized to Lieia "Sorry, they sometimes go over the top. But they're all healthy and have a good appetite. It takes forever to feed this horde, though." She smiled at Naela who fell in with her sisters. After several minutes they dispersed and Naela dragged Lieia away to see one of the gigantic statues, talking excitedly "Our guardian crafted many of these, all across the world. She did not even use any tools, just 'grew' them. I haven't seen it happen though. It was thousands of years ago, before the Age of Peace." They got on one of those weird skyboats. Naela skillfully guided it to the sky and seconds later she banked sharply to avoid one of the Trader shuttles that was bringing equipment to the planet. An hour passed while flying and Lieia could only wonder about the unity the Asli were working with to achieve a target. Vast plains of grain fell under the scythes of hundreds of Asli. Others tied the harvest up and loaded it on huge carts that were pulled away to the distant windmills. Everyone worked together in harmony. Minutes later they landed nearby the statue Naela had mentioned. The sight was truly magnificent. A six-winged being pointed a sword to the sky, dressed in long robes. The statue was intricately detailed, even portraying long, flowing hair. Naela knelt down in front of it and uttered something like a prayer of sorts. Lieia heard a distant voice and saw another skyboat land nearby. A group of Asli disembarked. All but one went to pray. The other one went up to greet Lieia "Greetings, human. I am Tolax of the Kazor tribe. I came here to apologize for almost killing you when you came to liberate our stronghold just as we were about to mount an attack. Here, accept this gift." She drew a long, ornate dagger from one of her sleeves. Its handle was finely detailed with intricate patterns and the long, curved blade shone brightly. Tolax stepped back, a look of concern in her eyes. In return, Lieia bowed "Tolax'Kazor faces her enemies with great bravery, and her allies with great wisdom." Tolax's stance visibly relaxed as she joined the prayers. A short while later Naela rejoined Lieia "Let's go." They flew back to the Grinlen when Lieia suddenly spoke "Back at the statue you told of the guardian your kind had. Can you tell me more?"
Naela beamed happily "Of course! The oldest scrolls hold the knowledge, but it's largely restricted. They tell that she came from a different place. She is old beyond years. She is the one who helped us to get to where we are now. I think I saw her once, just before the war. She despises war, cherishes peace and life. Some tell that she hides in the Kalgorn, The Sword That Pierces The Sky. It's there." She pointed behind her and Lieia only gazed silently at the monumental mountain that stretched far and high into the sky "She left an immensely powerful artifact behind. It changed Hilaera in what it is now. It's in Visxora now. Would you like to see it?" "Would I? Lead the way!" They boarded the skyboat once again and set course for the capital. Lieia still marvelled at the giant dome covering the city. Naela guided the skyboat towards the docking cradles. Lieia saw many soldiers still roam the streets, even though the joint Trader-Asli fleet was due to leave tomorrow. After taking a transport to the spire, Lieia And Naela boarded the elevator and it rapidly shot upwards. After two minutes, they arrived at the very top. Several flags fluttered wildly in the wind. In the middle, Lieia saw the artifact. A small shard of 'something' hovered in an energy field. Burning with impatience, she ran forward to touch it. An alarmed Naela shouted "No! Don't! No one knows what can might happen!" but to no avail. Lieia's fingers brushed across the shard and she was taken on a crazy trip she'd never experienced before.

Far away, at the Kalgorn, Nell-Tiray smiled. The prophecy had come true.

Back at Visxora, Naela freaked out upon seeing a hole open in the sky. A superportal of enormous size, as the scientists later called it, had opened up above the city. The few scout probes that were sent inside it soon disappeared from the radar. The last the cameras captured was a giant construct in space. After a quick decision, the freshly-baked Asli fleet joined with the newly reinforced Trader fleet and they together entered the superportal.

Naela was really on the edge, fidgeting and walking about. Lieia also was nervous, but tried to calm down by spacewalking in her refurbished armour. Leisurely, she travelled over the hull of Vanguard, one of the Dunov-class capital ships. After twenty minutes of roaming, she reached the window of Naela's bunk and knocked on it. Naela nervously waved back. Lieia suddenly saw a bright flash as they emerged from the shadow of a destroyed planet. How it had gotten here was beyond her. And then she saw the sight she'd always remember.


The Nexus.

The sight was just mind-numbing. Nothing measured up to it. The fleet-wide channel was immediately flooded with chatter. Prayers, curses, exclamations, you name it, they said it. Even as they approached it, it still grew in size. The fleet of 3854 ships was split up and each group headed for a single ward to try exploring the construct and see if there's any sentient life on it.

Naela slipped her helmet on her head. The joint effort of Asli and Trader scientists had procured a vast equipment available for everyone willing to take up a gun. She was now kitted out with light power armour, not unlike that used by Trader commandos, a brand-new sidearm, an assault rifle, but she still kept her Lance rifle. She got out of her drop pod and checked on her squad. A mix of humans and Asli, they lay inside their drop pods. She slapped one's window "You ready? The drop's in four minutes!" In response, the trooper slapped the side of her helmet and gave Naela a thumbs-up. Hastily, she checked on the other nine members of her squad. With seconds to go, she leapt in her pod. The lid slammed shut and hermetised. She felt the pod lurch as it was wheeled down the launch tube and clanging as the rest of the pods stacked up. Below her spread the construct. Even though she could distinguish seas and ground masses, she still understood that it was a long way down. The countdown ended and the heavy cruiser Xal'Heera launched the drop pods in coordinated valleys, followed by every other ship as they too launched their payload of troopers. Naela pressed a few buttons and ten vid-links popped up in front of her. Her squadmates were all present and well, as they checked in. Ten boring minutes passed before they hit the atmosphere, but the pod's systems were telling that they'd already done 2081 kilometres already, a testimony to the construct's size. A dull orange flame engulfed the pods as they thundered through the air. Naela clamped her hands around the guard rails and waited for the retroboosters to kick in and slow them down. She saw her squadmates' pods activate their boosters and they jumped away from her eyesight. A second later she felt the bone-jarring kick as her own pod slowed down and smashed in the ground. Blearily, she shook the eyes from her stars-hang on. Play that last bit again.

She shook the eyes from her stars.That landing-no, crash, was nasty. Giddily, she stood up and retrieved her weapons from the pod as the rest of her squad landed nearby. They disembarked and waited for their transport to drop. In mere minutes, a truck was dropped nearby. They boarded it and left to explore. Hundreds of thousands of troops now scoured the surface of the alien construct.

The big tyres ploughed through the soft sand as they sped by the beach. The artificial sun glowed a soft, warm light. Naela just gazed ahead of her, hoping to meet some other dropped units. A hand gently shook her "Hey, boss, what's that?" It was Skitch, the squad's comms officer. She was pointing at the sky, where a single 'something' plummeted downwards. Naela brought their ride to a stop. Skitch's radio crackled and she heard a familiar voice "Hey, you there Naela? I'm coming to visit you." Skitch opened a radio link to Naela's helmet and she quickly responded "Roger that, Lieia. Don't be a stranger."
The Exo trooper slammed in the ocean, splashing water everywhere. To the rest of Naela's squad it must have been something awe-inspiring to see; the mighty armour-clad trooper rising from the shallow water, the hot armour steaming as she strode towards the coast. Naela unmounted from her seat and stepped forwards to shake her hand "Good to see you, friend. What's the, uh, SITREP?"
Lieia gripped the Asli's hand, careful to only use a fraction of her armour's strength "The scuttlebutt's that I noticed three other squads when I was burning in. Wanna go and rendezvous with them?"
"Uh, boss, it's getting kinda dark. Methinks we should find somewhere to camp." Skitch piped up.
"Who's that?"
"That's my comms officer, Talares Korden, but everyone calls her Skitch."
"Yessir-ma'am, that's right. You need an uplink to the fleet, just tell me." the sprightly girl gave a quick salute.
"She tries to impress everyone, Lieia. But she is good, I'll give her that." Naela smiled.
"So, what's the next step?" Lieia's helmet retracted, showing her suppresing a yawn.
Naela barely managed to keep herself from snickering "Let's just camp for tonight. I don't have anywhere to put two tons of an Exo in my truck. Come on, Skid's going to cook something up."
Skid, the tech specialist of the group, was getting busy over the army-issue cooker and some military rations. Lieia knew that the rations were made in nutrition-over-taste way, so the taste was kind of... meh. But Skid had 'golden hands', so to speak. Even the suspicious Lieia devoured three portions. The warm campfire and the sating meal did its job. One by one, they fell asleep. Many a curious animal came to their campsite and sniffed around, but seeing that the strange beings were not a threat, they moved on.

Thousand of kilometres above, the fleet was ever in motion, scanning and mapping the surface. Those groundside troopers that weren't sleeping saw the intermittent flashing of their lights.

Hilaera, Kalgorn

Nell-Tiray knew that salvation was at hand. She'd rejoin the rest of her race. The rising threat that pursued the Vasari would be ground to halt and eradicated. Hope filled her heart. She exited the small home she'd built. Snow, fog and clouds whipped around her. She edged her way towards the the cliffside. Taking a deep breath, she leapt off and flew downwards. Her wings caught the air currents and she soared on them. She'd forgotten how good this felt. She closed them and shut her eyes, going into freefall. For a while she just let the gravity do its job. When she was at roughly three kilometres' she once again spread her wings, caught the wind, and thundered across the snowy plains. She hollered at the top of her lungs, and for the first time in a long while, she felt alive.

Everything's going to be okay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Chapter Six - An unsuspected discovery

Linv.

A single ship appeared out of nowhere. It wasn't a Trader vessel, nor was it a Vasari ship. The giant ship launched a swarm of probes at the planet, then dissappeared. It all happened so fast that the occupying Vasari fleet didn't notice anything. The cloaked probes slipped past the defences and made planetfall.

Cara Grisova cried out in pain as the lash gouged a deep cut across her back. Hurriedly, she picked up the canister she'd dropped and moved on, lest the Vasari slaver hit her again. The disgusting alien screeched something in his language. She hauled the canister further until she got to one of the fuel valves. There she filled the metal container with fuel and trudged on, hauling the heavy canister away to the storage. There she piled them along with the rest of the barrels and waited for the signal to come. A shrill howling echoed across the compound, signalling the end of the the twenty hour work day. Slavers herded the enslaved humans back in their bunkers. Tired, with a bleeding back, Cara mixed in with the rest of her group. The steel door slid shut and she slumped to the ground. A friend of hers rushed over with a wet cloth and started wiping at the cut on her back. She gritted her teeth but said nothing. After several minutes he'd finished and she stood up wearily. Another slave brought her a bowl of stale soup and moulding bread. She didn't even pause to inspect what was in there, just emptied the bowl in mere seconds. With a sigh, she lay down on her matress. She mulled over the miserable conditions the Vasari invasion had brought upon them. A sad smile tugged at the corners of her lips knowing that at least her little sister escaped. She probably thought she was dead now. Her reverie was shaken by a low booming and seconds later something crashed through the roof. Luckily, no one came to inspect, for the Vasari were celebrating something. From the rubble a strange robot rose, various cameras exploring its surroundings. Cara carefully, albeit curiously, took a step closer to it and she found herself surrounded by the cameras that took in every inch of her body, as if analising. A few seconds later a screen popped up and she saw an alien looking at her inquiringly. Then he spoke, but he might've just spoken gibberish. Confusedly, she responded "Uh, sorry, I can't understand you." At this, he too, frowned, but his face cleared and he pressed a few buttons on his side. "-should do it. Now, who are you? Do you know where Nell-Tiray is?"
She shook her head "Nope, never heard of anyone named like that. But there are some Vasari here."
"Vasari? Never heard of them. Who are they? And why are you in such horrid state?"
"The Vasari, uh, enslaved us. They've been at this for months. Last thing we heard they were about to mount an offensive on the Core Worlds."
The alien, probably an officer of sorts seemed to have an fit of anger "We abhor slavery of any kind. Tell you what. A battleship dropped many more of these probes on your planet. I'll call it back to liberate your kind, but you must help. Can you do that?"
Cara vaguely remembered the many shipbreaking yards across Linv, where many warships from Age of Turmoil still resided. They were ancient, but untouched due to the invasion interrupting the plans for scuttling them. Then she nodded "Aye, I think we can do that."
The alien responded "Now, cover your eyes. I'll set this probe to overload, it'll knock out all the security systems your enslavers may have set." The probe started shaking violently, and Cara and the rest of the slaves in the bunker barely managed to turn away or slap their palms across their eyes as the alien machinery created an all-swallowing energy surge.

The entire compound went dark and Cara held her breath as the door creaked and a single Vasari guard entered. At first he thought that all the slaves were sleeping, but that thought quickly vanished as a single slave tackled him to the ground. In anger he hissed, trying to shake the human off him.

Bah, let go, you... you disgusting filth! NOW!

Cara grunted as she punched the guard in stomach. Another slave picked up a glowstick and in the flickering light, she saw it was him. The bastard who lashed her back then.
*slam*
The one who'd killed those two boys when they fell unconscious due to starvation!
*slam*
The one who'd left that poor old man unable to STAND UNAIDED!
*slam*
She wrapped a loose piece of chain around her fingers and brought the coiled fist hard down on the alien's face. Something cracked. She raised her fist again and slammed it in his face again. This time she heard the jaw give in and break. The Vasari guard tried wriggling out of her grasp. She delivered a blow to his ribs, breaking several. He coughed up blood. Around her, a crowd of other slaves stood. She knew that they also wanted a piece of him. Panting heavily, she stood up and let them have a go and heard the alien utter something.

N-no, leave! Leave now or I'll report you to the lords! What do you think you're doing? Noooo, don't! Aaaaargh! Eaaaaargh! Noooo! Stooo-! His voice was silenced when they smashed him with pieces of the ceiling.

"Die, you bastard, die!"
"We'll bury you for ever!"
An endless torrent of hissed threats and curses reached Cara's ears as the slaves piled rock upon rock of the dead Vasari. Experimentally, she tugged at the explosive collar and it fell off. The energy surge must've knocked those out too. The rest of her fellow slaves had finished and also ripped their collars off. A distant fighting erupted, singifying the end of the imposed slavery on the humans of Linv. Whooping, Cara grabbed a metal pole and lead the rebellion. The crowd followed her, growing in size as she went further. Everyone was armed with heavy poles, chains, all kinds of sharp and heavy impromptu weapons.

The overseer's blood froze upon seeing what happened down there. He'd sent a security team down and they just got massacred in the compound. Their disintegrator rifles were all but useless as the slaves clubbed them to death in close quarter combat. Angrily, he tried to come up with a strategy. By now the slaves had freed everyone and had full control over the compound. Unexpectedly, they had found several working trucks and were loading fuel on them. He sneered at the idea. The station was high up in the air, unreachable unless you have any dropships! Even if they had any, they'd be gunned down by the AA batteries! Confused, he watched as every single slave left the compound with all the fuel. He didn't understand why'd they do that. He sighed in frustation. Atleast it'd be easier to secure the compound.

The fuel convoy sped across the desert. Cara wished she'd taken more trucks. The fuel they carried was essential to restart the old warships, to heat up the reactors. After seventeen minutes they reached the first shipyard. Together, they pushed the giant doors open and feasted their eyes on the old warships. Ancient as they were, they were still usable. There were seven of them here. After dispatching the trucks to fill up the starter generators, she sought out the biggest one. Yeah, she'd read about this one. Several of the 'Nova' class magma guns were mounted on it. They were renowned for their destructiveness. Hastily, she plugged the truck up to it and pumped the highly volatile fuel inside the tanks. When they were empty, she ordered the rest of the trucks to be stored inside the loading bays of the ships.

The quiet surroundings of the Shipbreaking yard #41 were shaken by a dull rumbling as the seven ancient warships rose from their mountings and exited the underground facility one by one. They set course for several more yards, got more ships up and running, liberating hundreds more from nearby compounds.

The overseer's face burned red with anger when he saw the rag-tag fleet of ninety-three ships advancing towards the station. The AA batteries were useless, since they were designed to combat strike craft. Hundreds of small missiles smashed against the shields of the Trader ships, but to no avail. Old as their shield technology was, they were strong enough to withstand the barrages. Seven projectiles from their flagship impacted the station, ripping massive craters in it. The rest of the ships joined in, bombarding the flying city which hung several kilometres above the ground. A pair of frigates flew in low, targeting the engines that maintained the altitude. Their side-slung cannons thundered as they ripped the engines apart. Slowly, reluctantly, the station listed to one side. Then it broke in two pieces. The flaming object fell, crashing in the soil and exploded spectacularly. The whole fleet cheered, knowing that from now on, they would liberate their homeworld.

593 km above Linv

The alien ship appeared again, and it banked towards the planet. Several Vasari ships registered its power levels rising before it unleashed twin beams of pure energy, leaving a heap of slag where a Kortul once was. The rest of the Vasari fleet reacted at once and rushed towards the intruder, though quite a few of them got slagged before they got anywhere near their weapons range. Those that were lucky enough to get close, took advantage of the fact that the terrifying weapons were all but useless at close range. The alien ship might have been destroyed had it not been for Cara's fleet that hit the unsuspecting Vasari hard and fast. The battle was over quickly. Dozens of Vasari ships floated dead. Cara eyed the alien ship. She'd never seen anything like it. Despite the damage it had sustained, it still inspired awe into the humans. It dwarfed every single vessel under Cara's command. Proudly, they watched as the Vasari wrecks burned up in the atmosphere. She saw the screen blink and realised that the aliens were hailing their ship. She pressed a couple of buttons and saw the holoscreen flash and she now was looking at the same alien that helped her instigate the revolution on Linv. She bowed "I am eternally grateful for your assistance. My name is Cara Grisova. What is your name?"
The alien returned her greeting "It is always an honour to help anyone. I am Taz'Kel, the Third Marshal of the 827th Fleet. I lead my ships in the search of Nell-Tiray, one of the few Asahi we haven't found. Do you wish to join us? We always welcome new allies."
Cara shook her head "I don't know. We need to contact the Order about it."
Taz'Kel frowned "What can you tell me about this 'Order?'"
Cara set to work at a nearby console "I think that I can get a television link. Let's hope these ancient chariots have communications frequency required."
After several minutes, a nearby screen flashed into life. A neatly dressed reporter was speaking into a microphone "-morale has really risen to new heights as Rear Admiral Brosilov has pushed the Vasari fleet back from several planets, in what some already have dubbed the 'Brosilov Maneuver'." A shaky camera recording followed, a live battle footage. Dozens of Trader capital ships and hundreds of frigates and cruisers were split up in seven separate fleets. One by one, they jumped to their coordinates. "The Admiral divided his fleet in seven separate battlegroups. Once they had reached their destination, the scout frigates scanned the gravity wells of the planets, singling out the planet with least defences. In this case, it was the ice planet of Trodan V. At this, Commodore Weaver and Commodore Seern brought their own fleets to Trodan V. While the other six battlegroups kept the Vasari occupiers busy, the other one was able to annihilate the meagre defences of Vasari, along with their small fleet. After that, they moved on to cut of the Vasari supply and reinforcement routes. The initial battlegroup left the Commodores as a rear guard while they left to aid the rest of Rear Admiral's fleet. Although several Kol and Marza class battleships were lost, along with nearly a hundred of cruisers and frigates, the offensive was called a success and no Vasari ships escaped. I'm sure that we all mourn the brave men and women that died during the attack.
On the other news, The joint Trader-Asli fleet has made it through the superportal unharmed. We have just established contact with Denaros Wersian, our leader and the commander of the 1st Liberation Fleet. Denaros?"
The picture changed, showing a weathered man in blue uniform. Taz'Kel watched silently.
"Yes, we are as of now mapping the surface of the construct we recently found." A video feed displayed an object that reminded Cara of a tar squid. "It's several hundred thousand kilometres in diameter, and is habitable. Initial scans indicate a lush plant life, and we have deployed a considerable number of troops un it's surface. We can't be too careful. One of my Exos almost had a run-in with one of the indigenous animals." A second, smaller image popped up, displaying a heavily armed soldier "-t's right, that thing was huge! Luckily for me, it was peaceful. This place still hides many surprises."

Wait a minute, I know that voice! It's Lieia! What's she doing there? What is she wearing? Thoughts ran through Cara's mind as she watched her sister speak. Suddenly, Taz'Kel blurted out "It's the Nexus! The legacy of our Lords! Your kind has just found the most significant discovery ever! Quick, tell me how did they found it?" This sudden outburst earned him a hard stare from Cara.
He winced "Ah, yes, sorry. But the Nexus is a good thing to start with. I am currently patching Korgal through. He is one of our Lords. He and the rest of the Asahi will be pleased to see this. The link will be complete any moment now." After several seconds, the screen flickered and Cara saw something she never forgot. The being's eyes seemed to bore into her soul itself, immediately knowing everything about her. Korgal bowed "Greetings. What is your name?"
Cara stuttered "C-Cara Gris-sova. I'm a h-human."
Korgal smiled warmly "Do not be afraid, human, we bear no ill will against your kind. But those that have brought misery upon you will pay dearly. Now, back to business. Taz'Kel informed me that your ships have discovered the Nexus. This is one of the most important findings! We may be one step closer to finding Nell-Tiray. I will discuss these news with the rest of my kind, but rest assured, we will help you. Oh, one more thing. Since your spatial regions are completely alien to us, I require that you join the meeting, Cara." The screen went black for a second and Taz'Kel reappeared. He seemed damn well excited "You have been granted an audience with the Lords! Such an honour! The meeting will take place after a few hours, so get ready."

For the next five hours the mothball fleet was cleaned, bringing the millenia-old warships up to full readiness. Cara swapped her slave rags for an old, but clean navy uniform. She regarded the slim woman in the mirror. The months of slavery and pain had taken their toll on her. Suddenly, she heard the intercom beep, alerting her of the meeting. Checking her appearance one last time, she headed towards the bridge. There, five more screens had been set up, displaying Taz'Kel "I took the liberty of delivering a holoprojector to your ship. Just step on it and you'll be displayed among the Lords and you'll see them on the screens. Let me activate the projector." The alien device hummed to life "There, now step on. We have connection. The link is stable, you are free to speak."

Countless lightyears away, the five Asahi sat at the grand table. A certain degree of excitement and impatience filled the air. A few seconds later, a slightly shaky hologram appeared and they saw the human. She looked around and bowed to the onlooking Asahi "I bring greetings from my fellow humans. What can we do for you?"
One of the Asahi, Korgal, she recognized, stood up "Even though our military might is unmatched, we are running blind, in a manner of speaking. The cruiser that you encountered seems to have a malfunctioning rift drive. Taz'Kel met you purely by chance. But it was a stroke of luck. From what he told us, your kind has found the Nexus. We all have immediately agreed to aid you."
Another Asahi spoke up "Thankfully, the battleship is outfitted with a brand new teleportation device. With it's help, we can deliver one of the Armageddon portal linkers to your position. We will open a superportal to our location and deploy our fleets."
"How much ships are we talking about here?" Cara piped up.
"Five battle groups, numbering three thousand ships each. We would send more if we could, but we have come across some deadly enemies."
"Wow, fifteen thousand ships? I think that we'll make do with them just fine. So, when's that superportal thing coming?"
"Preparations are underway as we speak. Is there anything else worth noting? As we said, your region is completely alien to us, so we'll accept any kind of help you can offer."
"No, nothing that I can think of. Right then, we'll wait here and you guys get that portal here. Human out." She bowed to the alien congregation, which elicited a murmur of amusement.
She stepped off the platform "Okay then, people. Let's get this show on the road."
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Chapter Seven - Thousands of ships

Cara fidgeted in the captain's seat, counting the passing seconds. The superportal device had arrived and was ready. A portal of mind-numbingly massive size was opening several hundred kilometres ahead. The sphere of energy glowed red, a green halo surrounding it. After several nerve-wrecking minutes, this HUGE spaceship emerged, overshadowing EVERYTHING. Followed by hundreds of smaller ones.



Thousands of ships poured through. Thousands of alien vessels came forth, ready to aid their allies. Cara's jaw dropped as she saw the gargantuan fleet form up. A chorused 'Uhhhhhh' came from the crew. Even Taz'Kel was taken aback by what he saw. The lights on the old cruiser flickered and Cara simply vanished. Commotion erupted on the bridge, but calmed down quickly when the crew heard Cara greeting them from the giant vessel "They teleported me aboard, I'm here now. No need to worry. Hell, I bet you bastards are jealous of me right now." She turned the screen off.

Alikera got the human's attention first "Your warships seem capable, but they also seem ancient. I could grant you the command of a splinter of our fleet."
"Thanks, but no thanks. I'm no navy officer. This has been my first time commandeering a warship. So, I guess you want to talk to me in person."
Alikera inclined her head, her bright eyes shining "Indeed. We have never seen anyone like you. You are interesting."
"Thanks, I guess. Anything else?"
She frowned "Hmm, yes. As I am the Minister of War, I am responsible for the coordination of the attacks and the star charts. Can you help me with that?"
Cara thought a bit "Well, I think that we'd better get to Trader space. I traveled around a couple of years ago. I can get us to Koronis. The last we heard was that the Council was holed up there. I do NOT look forward seeing that planet burnt. But, if the television isn't lying, it should be pretty mellow there. So, yeah, if we can get there, we should be able to download those star charts. When we're ready to go?"
"Hmm. Mellow." Alikera thoughtfully repeated the new word. "Oh, forgive me. The fleet is ready to move out. May I board your warship?"
"Sure. You showed me your ship, and now I return the favour." Following these words, the disorientation took hold of her again and she was back on her ship, with Alikera accompanying her. As soon as they materialised, the entire bridge crew fell silent as the god-like being greeted them. Seeing her from a screen was one thing, but seeing her in person was a completely different. Power radiated from her, making everyone feel rather intimidated, but those doubts were brushed aside as she smiled benevolently. Cara walked up to the navigator and gave him the coordinates to Koronis. A minute later they were distributed throughout the alien fleet. Cara watched as the phase space opened up in front of her ship, but suddenly the tear dissappeared. One of the crew cursed "Damn it! The Heybenbauser forks wound out again! Engineering, get to it!" Several quiet minutes passed, and the phase jump was reinitiated without any further problems. One by one, the ships jumped to Koronis, as below them, Linv broke free of the slavery imposed upon it.

Nexus

Lieia gingerly stepped on the truck, and cringed at the sound of the chassis protesting. Naela stepped down on the pedal, sending Skitch and a few other troops sprawled on the floor as she grimly tried to drive in straight line. An unsuspecting Lieia was launched out the back. Gathering herself from the ground, she took to chase the transport. Naela heard protesting cries from two of her Asli squadmates. With some effort, she straightened the truck out and slowed down. Lieia got back in the truck, much to the chagrin of others as the axles creaked ominously. They rumbled through the thick grass, in a race to reach the dropship first. Everyone was now competing, to get to the middle of the construct first. Whoever got to their dropships last would have to wait a long time, since the artificial oceans were huge. How and why this place was built was beyond anyone's understanding. Feverishly, thousands of troops swarmed through the construct.

Koronis

Hangar 6


Wing Leader Dal Bowe idly hummed with the song, slotting the fresh crate of ammo in the Flash fighter. She fed the tip of the ammo belt in the gun's receiver, pulling the bolt twice to ensure it wouldn't slip. She slammed the cover shut, secured the screws, and got to refill the other gun. She steered the trolley in place and lowered a new crate on top. She was halfway back to her fighter when the alarms started blaring. Immediately, she tensed. The alarms meant that the Vasari were attacking again. Hurriedly, she rammed the crate home and loaded it. She leapt in her fighter, sticking her helmet on. The canopy lowered as the engines warmed up. Around her, the wingmen also were readying up. She strapped in and flung the fighter out of the safety of the hangar, her wingmen following suit. The attackers would be here any second now. The HUD informed her that the rest of Koronis 2nd Defense fleet were also inbound, using the planet's gravity to slingshot themselves around the orbit. She observed the space.

Empty-OHSHITIT'SNOT!

A human ship, by the looks of it, had appeared in front of her. Yelling incomprehensibly, Dal veered off course. Her wingmen scattered as more ships finished their phase jump. A quick count of 93 ships was quickly overshadowed by another phase reading. Something MUCH bigger was approaching. Her mouth felt dry, her palms clammy. A trio of Kodiaks thundered past, afterburner granting them extra speed. A flash drew her attention. A strange ship had appeared. It didn't match any known Vasari or Trader signatures.

Great. More aliens. What the hell's happening?

More and more of the alien forces appeared, quickly turning her dismay into complete panic. Her HUD just beeped like crazy, the fighter's onboard military AI compiling the data it received from the satellites. The counter went past ten thousand energy signatures. It stopped at 15000. The 2nd was here and was readying up, even though they stood no chance. They would delay the attackers as long as possible.

Alikera observed the planet a ways off enveloped in a shimmering shield "What's happening? Why are they-OOF!" she was interrupted as a Gauss turret's payload slammed in the shields, making the ship list sideways.

"Shields at thirty-seven percent, overall integrity five percent! The harmonizer routines are way old! Rerouting non-critical power!" One of the crew shouted.

Cara got up from the floor and turned to Alikera "D'you think we could be teleported on the space station? Then we can stop the from trying to blast us to bits."
She smiled "Good idea. I'll have the Crimson Thunder come out of rift."

Dal nearly passed out upon seeing the indescribably gigantic ship show up. Even the 2nd quickly backpedaled. The panicking crewmen kept flooding the comms channels with screams, curses, prayers, and the like. The defending ships now converged around the Nevarios. She banked sharply and zoomed off.

The pair of guards nervously rechecked their weapons and kept eyeing the airlock. A fleet of that size must have thousand of soldiers onboard. Strangely though, nothing had happened. The alien ships didn't move, no fighters were launched. But the Trader forces wouldn't let their guard down, not after that massive ship appeared. One of the guards suddenly saw a bright lightning flash that leaped off it and shot towards the airlock they were guarding. Immediately, they both turned around and bore their shotguns to bear. Slowly, unwillingly, the airlock opened. They both immediately lowered their weapons at the sight of Cara and Alikera. One of them let the shotgun slip out of his grasp "What the...h-how?"
Cara stepped forward "Dude, get a grip. We're not enemies. Can you take us to the command room? We've met some allies, so I'll need a secure channel with Lord Denaros. Can you do that?"
The guard straightened out a bit "S-sure, can do. Just follow me."
They arrived at one of the elevators. After a minute of flying upwards, they entered the CIC room, where dozens of crewmen and radio operators feverishly worked at their consoles. As soon as the elevator's doors closed with a ping, the station's commander instinctively turned to see who had arrived, but froze in place upon seeing Cara and Alikera. One by one, the operators also noticed them. The commander opened his mouth several times, but no words came out. Cara interrupted the silence. It creeped the hell out of her.
"Can you tell your fleet and defenses to stop trying to blow those ships up, man? They're friends, not Vasari."
Finally, he managed to muster up a few words that limped out weakly "Yes, I'll give the order to stop." With a slight unsteadiness in his voice, he ordered the ceasefire across the fleet-wide channel. In seconds, the firing stopped. Cara stepped forward "Can you get us a communications link with Denaros? The alien ambassador would like to talk to him." He nodded mutely and pressed several keys on the keyboard. The main screen hissed to life. After several seconds, Denaros appeared "Ah, hello there, how may I help?"
"Sir, this may sound crazy, but we have met more aliens. I've got their ambassador and the human who met them first right here. They need to talk to you."
"I take it they're friendly?"
"From what I gather, yes." He beckoned to Cara and Alikera and they stepped in front of the screen. Denaros was immediately taken aback by the power radiating from the alien "Y-yes, how can I s-serve?"
Alikera spoke first "Is it true that you have found the Nexus? The legacy of our past?"
"You mean this?" He procured a hologram of the alien construct "We discovered it by accident. If we may meet, I'd be glad to explain everything. And who's your companion?"
Cara spoke up "Cara Grisova. I came from Lin-"
"Hang on. I know that name. Lieia Grisova, 3rd Exo company, currently ashore on the Nexus. How are you two related?
"I'm her sister. As far as I know, the rest of my family is dead." She felt a tear roll down her cheek. Without a second thought, she wiped it off "Can I meet her?"
"You'll need the new, updated star charts, because the Asli homeworld has been now added to the list, along with several other planets we've helped them to colonise. I'm looking forward to meeting you both." The screen went black. Cara was already sorting out the downloading of the star charts, distributing them throughout the alien fleet. Despite the computers being top-grade, the sheer amount of copies to be made bogged the process down severely. In the meanwhile, the mothball Trader vessels were refitted and brought up to date. Cara decided to hand them over to the Koronis' defenders and was drafted into one of the regiments that joined Alikera's forces. In an hour, they left for Hilaera.

Cara turned her visor on, rechecking the armour's parameters. She flexed her fingers and the two machine guns clacked as the covers slid open, revealing the tungsten-spitting weaponry. She aimed at the crude target a ways off and thumbed the buttons. The target was quickly reduced to a pile of scrap. She chuckled, and retracted the weapons. The whole transport ship suddenly started droning as the phase drive was charged up and she saw the phase space open and pull the ship in. The trip would take only a few hours, thanks to the new algorythms. She decided to head to the canteen.

Damn, she was hungry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Chapter Eight - Lost and found

Naela opened the cabin doors "Hey, get up! We're nearing the drop zone!" Her words were met with sleepy mumbling as the various humans and Asli slumped in the chairs. Fuming silently, she dragged their sleepy asses out and piled them in their truck. After a few minutes of suiting up, she keyed the truck's engine. The spacious cargo hold was filled with the throaty roar of the engines of other squads' trucks. She shot a quick look back and shook her head in disbelief upon seeing her squadmates still sleeping. Only Lieia was doing something crazy - for reasons only known to herself, she decided to sit outside, on top of the hull. She tapped a few keys on her wrist computer "Lieia, how are you up there? We're disembarking in a couple of minutes."
The small screen showed her smiling "Don't worry about me, kiddo. Hyup!" the camera changed, showing her falling past the dropship. Naela shook her head in disbelief, when the signal came. They'd arrived. A slight tremor ran through the hull as the dropship straightened out. A minute or two passed until they touched the ground. Skitch moved around a bit "Gnaaaaaarghhhh..." and kept sleeping. Naela sighed. The door in front of her shuddered and slowly opened. After several nerve-wracking seconds, it hit the ground, and she floored it. She weaved through the jungle, avoiding trees, boulders, trying to find a clearer spot. She turned her head at the sound of cracking branches and saw Lieia cling to a tree, then jump to a new one, following her. The thick undergrowth slowly gave way to vast fields of green, lush grass. She saw Lieia zoom above her, the improved suit of armor enabling her to fly. Naela gathered up speed, keeping the truck heading for the 'Spire', as some had called it. The long ride was occacsionally livened up by strange creatures that skittered about in the distance or flapped their wings in the sky. A sleapy Skitch slipped in the passenger seat "Ahhh, whattimeisit?"
"I have no idea, Talares. All I know is that we should really hurry up." Her words were followed by the roaring of other trucks as a myriad of allied personnel also showed up, trying to reach the riverside first. The competitive spirit in her took over as she mashed down on the pedal, shaking her squadmates awake. She was the first to reach the riv-CLIFFSIDE!
She almost flipped the truck as she stopped inches away from the sheer drop. Others piled up behind her, and she leapt out and surveyed the scene before her. A faint mist rolled in the abyss, easily mistakable for a river at distance. She saw a tall pillar in the distance, and saw another one on her side. After a quick trip to there, she noticed several shining signs on it. Experimentally, she dragged her fingers along the glowing lines. The pillars suddenly started splitting apart, and a row of strange spheres lined up between the two sides. They sparked and suddenly, a beam of light connected the two sides. Everyone had gone silent. Naela rolled up the truck.

"Tal'darie kiraz..." Nothing ventured...

She put the truck in first gear.

"Tal'darie nalix." Nothing gained.

The heavy vehicle moved forwards, the tyres crackled where they met the light, but remained intact. The two Asli twins, Tiirah and Eyala from Telarii tribe, clung to each other, scared out of their minds. Everyone else onboard just glanced around tensely, as if a single word could shatter the bridge. The truck got over without any complications, and soon, the rest of the squads also rolled over. When they got over, Naela was already far away, her truck kicking up a cloud of dust in the distance. A few seconds later she dissappeared behind a hill, the distant roar of the engine echoing in the valley.

Hilaera

The small pack of Asli frigates dispersed, letting a group of Trader Kodiaks through. The defense fleet had grown to several hundred ships, which were bolstered by freshly developed Asli particle cannons and strike craft, but a small support force of Trader vessels was present, since the Asli fleet had yet to be taught in the ways of war, and the Vasari were sure to strike back, since the superportal radiated a lot of subspace energy, easily detected even on Trader planets that were light-years away. But no one was prepared to see the gigantic alien fleet arrived. The only thing that prevented a short but brutal fight was the immediate intervention of Cara and Alikera. Together, they departed to the surface of the planet.

"Hey, look at that statue! It looks just like you!" Cara pointed at the monumental figure in the distance as they descended in the shuttle. Confused, Alikera looked out the window and her heart missed a few beats when she saw that Cara was telling the truth. A six-winged being held up a sword, pointing it to the sky. For several gruelling seconds, a terribly unbearable silence filled the shuttle. Finally, Alikera spoke "So... so she is here. Or at least has been. This... this is certainly unexpected." Cara scratched her head "Who was here? Can you explain?"
Alikera turned to her "I'm sorry that I haven't told you anything. The story of our kind is... a terrible one" she beckoned Cara to sit down "Long before other races had even begun developing, we already traveled the stars. We spread to thousands, if not millions of worlds. We built artificial worlds, moons, even created artificial stars and laughed at what we created, so proud at our own knowledge and mastery. Our mighty fleets stood ever vigilant. Vast amounts of resources, accumulated from thousands of planets and asteroids, lay at our disposal. Our power was unmatched. Until the Doom Harvesters came."
"Our pride drove us to expand our territories. We tried to open a path to a new universe. We were such fools. As soon we had done so, they swarmed the explorer fleets. Trillions of Doom Harvesters poured forth, draining hundreds of worlds of life at a glance. Even though the passageway to the other universe had collapsed, the Doom Harvesters spread like a plague. And we struck back with all of our military might. Thousands of our mightiest ships clashed with the strange, flitting shadows that filled the space, burned the infested planets below them until nothing remained. Millions of our soldiers tried their best to stall the unwavering enemies. Yet, every battle was in vain. Billions dead, our fleets burned, our every last defense annihilated. It wasn't that we couldn't fight them. There simply were too many of them. Cut one down, and a hundred stood in its place. In the end, after thousands of years of bitter fighting, only a meagre six of us had escaped. Nell-Tiray, our leader, used the Nexus to eradicate the threat the Doom Harvesters presented. But the war had left countless worlds dead, cold, lifeless. We were scattered throughout the universe, our race on the brink of extinction. Many years passed before we were reunited." The shuttle landed in the grass outside the gates of Visxora, where a small congregation of Asli waited, with Gyliel at head. Upon seeing Alikera, her eyes widened in shock "Y-you are a-"
"Yes, an Asahi. I saw the statue. Do you know where is it's creator, Nell-Tiray?" she was burning with impatience uncommon to her.
Gyliel shook her head "Some think that she's gone, but rumours are that she is living at the top of Kal'Gorn." The small valley sunk into silence. A single shadow passed over. Instantly, everyone looked upwards, but couldn't see anything due to the sun shining brightly. Cara blinked and her helmet's visor flashed, zooming in on the flier. She blinked again, polarising the visor and saw the flying being clearly. The most prominent thing about it were six... six wings.

Could it really be...?

Upon hearing Cara's report, Alikera's wings fluttered impatiently "We still do not know if it's the real Nell-Tiray. It might be a trick of the enemy."
Cara looked at her in confusion "So how are you going to clear our doubts?"
"That's simple. If she is the real Nell-Tiray, then she will easily deflect all of my attacks. She is, after all, our leader, the strongest of our kind." She gripped her staff and crouched. Before anyone had the chance to say something, she leapt in the air, flying higher and higher with each second, leaving everyone but Cara in powerful fits of cough as they tried to clear the dust from their lungs. Cara just stared at the two Asahi clashing in a monumental battle. She turned on the built-in camera and recorded the jaw-dropping duel.

Nell-Tiray circled, deeply breathing in the cold, fresh air, feeling the life return in her. Her ears caught the sound of 'whoompf' of wings below her. She looked down and barely brought her sword up to deflect Alikera's staff. An ear-shattering 'clang' shook the air. Nell-Tiray stilled the vibrating blade "I see no sense in this, Alikera the Red-Winged. You always try to find the strongest individual by a duel. Why is that?" She rushed forward, raising the Blade of Ages. Alikera spun her staff, swatting the sword aside "Because there are many forces in the universe, both evil and good!" Lightning fast, Nell-Tiray attacked again. This time she was more successful. The sword connected with the staff, the powerful blow sending Alikera plummeting from the sky, where she impacted a small hill, ploughing through several metres of soil, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake. Nell-Tiray gazed at the freshly-dug trench, unsure if-WHOA!
A slightly bruised and dirty Alikera shot upwards like a missile, twirling her staff rapidly. She channelled her power in it, deadly energy crackling in it. She swung back, and sent a devastating blade of energy roaring at Nell-Tiray. The energy projectile changed shapes; a hail of arrows, a throwing knife, or a big axe. Nell-Tiray avoided it, almost lazily as she did so "Come on, Alikera, you can do better!" and threw her sword at Alikera. It nearly hit her, distracting her, and Nell-Tiray pounced. With the raw force of the greatest gale, she disarmed her opponent, who tried to punch her. Easily, she avoided. A terrifying game of blocks, feints and counterfeints began, with both fighters almost but not quite gaining the upper hand, all the while they plummeted to the ground.

Cara watched mutely the epic battle, making sure that her camera recorded it all. As the two Asahi slammed in the ground, she could not help but cringe. Yes, they were all-powerfull and all, but it was one hell of a fall. She zoomed in on their crash site.

Alikera pulled her staff out of the ground and looked around, searching for Nell-Tiray. Her wings fluttered slightly, shaking dirt from them. A distant cry alerted her and looking up, she saw Nell-Tiray thundering through the air, skilfully spinning her sword, the unearthly energies pulsing up and down it's sharp blade. In response, she launched herself in the air, cracking the ground beneath her, flooding her staff with energy, twirling the deadly weapon. Mid-air, they released enormous bolts of lightning, and by pure chance, they connected, forming a massive sphere of unabated power. It detonated, sending the two Asahi hurtling through the air. Nell-Tiray impacted the nearby hill with little more than a 'splud'. Alikera was flung like a flea, sliding over the Visxora's dome. Many a Asli looked up, seeing the small figure squeak across. She recovered quickly and took to flight, determined to see what had become of her. She landed on the edge of the crater, her watchful eyes seeking for any sign of Nell-Tiray. And then...
"You have grown careless, Alikera the Red-Winged! Or should I say 'Dull-Witted'?" she felt the tip of something sharp touch her back, frow where her wings grew. This sharp something was Nell-Tiray's age-old Blade of Ages "Let go of your weapon. You know that I am the real Nell-Tiray. No one else would be able to defeat you in single combat." The staff now lay in the green grass, and Alikera felt the sharp sword no more "Do not be sad, you fought well. It has been years since I was presented with a real challenge." Nell-Tiray picked up the staff and gave it to Alikera, smiling reassuringly "Perhaps you can introduce me to your companion?" She pointed to Cara.
Alikera nodded "Yes, I will. After all, hadn't we found her homeworld, this would have never happened. We would have never found you."
"We shall stand by their side, for better or worse. I have observed them on battlefield. Many weeks ago, this planet was swallowed up in a bloody war. The native people struggled to hold them back. But then these other aliens showed up. They aided in the liberation of their homeworld. And I know that they have found the Nexus. Things really seem to be taking a turn for the better." They reached the gates, where a big crowd of Asli waited. Cara looked at the two Asahi striding ahead. While Alikera was immensely powerful, the might Nell-Tiray harboured surpassed Alikera's by a wide margin. Where her feet touched the ground, the grass blossomed, throbbing a lively green. It seemed like you could smash against her and shatter into million pieces, if you could muster the strength for it, because she always carried that disarmingly friendly smile. Okay, where was this headed, Cara shook her head. Am I turning into some kind of a philosopher? I'd better leave it to writers.
A great wave of cheers reached Nell-Tiray's ears, the Asli celebrating the return of their guardian. Benevolently, she greeted them "For you, it has been many years since I was among you. For me, it seems like only yesterday. But I shall hide no more. We will join our allies and banish our enemies! Together, we will bring peace to this war-torn galaxy!" Her words were echoed by the cheering Asli.
"Now then, shall we depart for the Nexus?" Cara piped up.
"By all means, yes." Nell-Tiray responded. They boarded the shuttle and the small transport took to skies, heading for the alien fleet. For the next hour, the skies above Visxora were crowded with the ships lining up and heading through the superportal.

Former Slave Kar Majistra territory.

The strange scraps of shadows flowed through space, best seen when not directly looking at them.

The universe is teeming with life. The time for harvesting was near. The near-sighted fools who used our bodies will be first. Their death will be quick, though, for had they not collected our husks, we would not be here. They spread their influence, not even knowing what terrible seeds they have sown. Now, they were running from an enemy they did not know, and they would not escape. Hunger fills us. The Old Kin defeated us once. Now, we are returned. And this time, none shall stay alive. We will consume all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Chapter Nine - They never stop, do they?

Naela raced up the curved... well, road, she couldn't find any other way to name it. The strange, sloping metal plate stretched far away, with the Spire looming above them. The whole construction was mind-bogglingly huge. She saw the great, curved archway, big enough to fit a Kodiak in it. The gaps between the pathways were far and wide, stretching in many directions, forcing the trucks to slow down. Ever now and then, others loomed up ahead or far in the back, for the pathways created a complex maze. Anyone could come out first. Somehow, the luck shone on Naela, afer she managed a jump that left her wondering of her sanity. She sped ahead, but the archway still was miles ahead. Quite a few boring minutes passed until she reached the archway. And now she could truly appreciate the size of it. It streched far above her, sparkling in the artificial light. She rolled up to the massive stairs, leaping out and sprinted upwards the slope. The rest of her squad followed, but were unable to keep up with her power-armour enchanced mobility and a minute later she could hear faint wheezes as their lungs protested. Truth be told, she was feeling quite exhausted herself. But she could see the end of the stairs and kept running determinedly. The steps ended and she stood now atop a massive platform. A faint wind tugged at her. She looked around and saw Skitch appear on the edge, followed by Elaya and Tiirah. The rest of the squad caught up, and collapsed on their sides, working their lungs as bellows. Naela managed only to suppress a smirk before she disappeared. Elaya only managed to blink once before they too, were snatched away.

The Spire

Naela lay still on the floor, trying to understand WHAT THE HECK just happened to her. She finally gathered her wits and shakily stood up. What she saw took her breath away.

She was in space.

There wasn't a dome protecting her, she was standing on a platform of sorts. Apparently, it was encircled by an energy field, keeping the area protected. Warily, she stepped closer to the edge and her heart stopped for a second. She now was atop the Spire, and she could see the arms of the station stretch far below her. Far away, the joint Trader-Asli fleet moved through space, ever vigilant. A commotion behind her caught her attention and she turned around to see Skitch, Elaya, and the rest of her squad materialise and they fell to the floor. When they stood up, they too, were taken aback by the three pillars that encircled the platform.

"Well, we got up. Now what? How do we get down?" Skitch piped up, clearly worried by the fact that they had no visible means to get anywhere else. Silently, they looked around, but saw nothing.

*zwrrrp*

Skitch wheeled around "Say what now? Oh..." she fell silent upon seeing the lumbering Vasari ship crawl out of a portal. Not the one the Trader-Asli fleet came out, but a different one. Everyone just watched silently as more of the alien ships appeared.

"WHAT THE FUCK! HOW THE HELL DID THEY DO THAT!" Everyone jumped at the loud shout, and saw a mightily pissed-off Skitch walk in circles "We need to alert the fleet!" By now, the portal was closed, and a sizeable fleet of FUCKING VASARI ships floated about. Everyone was getting desperate, for the Vasari fleet vastly outnumbered that of the Trader and Asli forces. Naela hastily set down an extraction beacon and waited for a transport to come.

Aboard Sirah'Tal sa Calia(Burning Fist of Freedom)

Dozens of officers, both human and Asli, worked away at their consoles. Suddenly, one of them cried out "They've deployed! The Vasari have deployed their dropships to the surface!" The Asli pressed a few keys, bringing up an image on the main screen, relayed from a Trader fighter. They all saw the hundreds of alien dropships disperse and head for the surface. A few seconds later the fighter was destroyed by enemy strike craft.

Aboard The Newborn Hope.

Denaros sat silently in the chair, trying to come up with a plan. The Vasari outnumbered them, ship-wise and troop-wise. Their only hope was to wait for the Asahi fleet to arrive. If they really had 15000 ships, they could really put up one hell of a fight.

Aboard Kas'Qoralan, the flagship of the Vasari Exodus Fleet. Location unknown.

The Lord sat upon his throne, feeling satisfaction filling him. The human informant had proven to be true. The gamble had paid off. With her help, he'd gained access to this Nexus, as they called it. And, most important of all things, he held a grand token, one that would prove to be immeasurable when bargaining.

Many floors down, in the Grand Hall of Submission.

Her consciousness came back to her, and her head lolled drunkenly. She felt something warm trickle from the corner of her lip. She licked it.

Oh... it's my blood.

She finally opened her eyes and was greeted by the sight of the sharp spike she was impaled upon. She looked up to her manacled hands. Countless scars covered her body. She looked at her wings. They slumped on her back in tatters, dirty and ragged. Her sight travelled further, upon the rows of slaves who had dared to rebel. They also were manacled and impaled, yet they would not die. The spikes sapped the will to do anything, turning them obedient, but kept them alive. Not a single sound was heard. Everyone was on their knees, slumping unconciously, only awake for small moments. A door that opened at the end of the Hall caught her attention, instantly darkening her mood. The "Lord", as he called himself, was striding down with his entourage to talk to his captive. The overly arrogant Vasari looked in the shining eyes of the debased Asahi "Still quiet? Oh well, you WILL speak someday." He chuckled confidently, a twisted parody of smile passing over his face. From somewhere, she found a small reserve of anger and she spat in his face. She'd seen many a doomed slave do so in a last defiant act before they were killed and now, she followed suit. Her blood and saliva spattered across the Vasari's face. Gritting her teeth, she growled "You cannot break the spirit of freedom, you... you... bastard." The Lord's lackeys gasped in shock as he slowly wiped his face clean. She was indeed a tough nut to crack. Oh, how he longed to feed this scum to the beasts. But no... that would have to wait. Instead, he slapped her hard across the face. She cried out and collapsed. Without a further word, he turned about and left, his servants talking to each other quietly.

Oh, how original... It hurt though... More scars to add to the existing ones...

She heard the doors close and sighed quietly. This intermittent torture had held her captive for many years now. Fleeing from the Doom Harvesters had brought her into the eager claws of the Vasari. Now she wished she hadn't run when her mother told her to do so,but taken up a weapon and join the battle. Her train of thoughts was interrupted by another, smaller door opening. She listened to the quiet footsteps that stopped in front of her. She wished she could see who it was, but she lacked the strength to do so. To her surprise, she felt the cold and soothing touch of water. She forced her eyes open and now was really surprised. A young Vasari girl was wiping the fresh wounds on her cheek. She reached for the pouch on her belt and pulled out some strange salve, which she smeared on the wounds. Slowly, the stinging feeling subsided. Now, the young Vasari had picked up a flask, which she placed at the Asahi's parched lips "Drink. But not too much. It's hot." After she had slaked her thirst, a piece of bread was offered to her, which she accepted gratefully. After several more chunks of bread, she felt slightly better. The Vasari girl sat down "Most of us don't agree with what he does, but it keeps us safe, so there is no opposition for him to deal with, most of the time. He has no power over you, does he? Normal slaves break after several days."
Eyeing her manacled wrists, she responed "I'd say so. If I was free, there'd be nothing stopping me from destroying this ship. Thank you for helping me, by the way. It seems you're determined to be a thorn in someone's backside."
"Never mind. I think that we should free the slaves. But there's too few of us. The Traders aren't the only ones opposing the Exodus Fleet. The Lord also has to deal with severe rebellions as well."
Now the Asahi perked up "Please, tell me about these Traders. What are they?"
"It's a long story, so listen carefully. Many years ago..." For the next hour, she explained the flight of the Vasari race, the clash with the Traders, and the seemingly endless stalemate. In return, she was told the history of the Asahi, their rise to the stars and their rapid downfall. Just as soon she'd finished talking, a shrill signal echoed throughout the ship. The Vasari girl stood up, regret clearly visible in her eyes "I'm sorry. I have to leave. But I'll be back as soon as I can." When she had nearly left, her new friend asked her a question "By the way, what is your name?" She turned around "Charra'Tiil. And yours?" The Asahi smiled "Tala'Hiri. I am Tala'Hiri the Shadowsong." Nodding, Charra left "Until the next time, friend." The small door closed and silence set in again. Tala'Hiri looked around. The Hall still loked as gloomy and depressing as ever, but now, a small fire burned within her heart.

I will not break.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Chapter Ten - Back in the fray.

Lieia pulled out the empty clip and slotted a new one in place. Squeezing the trigger, she unloaded a fresh burst of bullets at the Vasari walker. Hundreds of the fletchette rounds pierced the enemy vehicle, but it still kept coming. The clip ran dry. She pulled it out and grabbed for a new one, but found none. Cursing, she thumbed a button on the NX-61, extending the bayonet. She leapt, landing on the walker's cockpit and punched through the glass. The terrified Vasari pilot didn't even manage to draw his sidearm before Lieia slammed the rifle in his chest, piercing him with the razor-sharp bayonet. The walker stuttered and fell on its back. Lieia pulled out the rifle and gleefully observed the blood collect in the engraved words upon the bayonet.

BITE DOWN, FUCKERS

"Hahaha, BITE DOWN!" She laughed loudly, and her war cry was responded by several other Trader soldiers. She holstered the rifle and pulled out the dagger Tolax had given her back on Hilaera. She walked out of the cavern they'd retreated and was greeted by a hail of disintegrator bolts. Once the fire subsided, she raised her hand and gave the Vasari fireteam the one finger salute. The soldiers behind her jeered, following suit, and huddled behind some rocks. "You damn fuckers! Me an' my boys will give you severe poisoning! Lead poisoning! C'mon, men, attack!" They shouted 'hooah' in unison, charging across the desolate landscape. Instantly, they were met by the Vasari fire, and they dodged from cover to cover, with every step reducing the distance between them and the Vasari. Even Lieia was lying in a shallow crater, waiting for a moment to pop up again. One of the troopers brought up a flashbang grenade, which he tossed to Lieia "El-tee says you have to throw this one at those entrenched fuckers! So do us a favor!" She nodded and pulled out the pin. She stood up, and instantly, the Vasari guns raked across her shielding, but she still lobbed the grenade unfased. When she dropped down again, she heard the 'thump' of the 'nade. "Up and over, you lazy bastards! Let's screw those alien sons of bitches up!" A chorus of agreements came back in response and they scrambled over the crater and up the hill. One of the soldiers got there first and stopped, his rifle pointing downwards. The rest of the troopers reached him "What's the hold-up? Why aren't you killing them?" The young soldier shook his head "I just can't shoot them in the back." He was silenced by the loud bangs of the Lieutenant's pistol as he unloaded five bullets in one of the Vasari's back "They didn't show any mercy when they burned our planets, so I ain't gonna show 'em any! I expect the same from everyone under my command!" Lieia caught up with them and pushed past, the long dagger in her gauntlet, which she used to unceremoniously pin one of the Vasari to the ground. The alien screeched and stopped moving. The Lieutenant chuckled darkly "See? She's got the right idea!" By now, the rest of the Vasaris had gotten up and raised their hands, implying they'd surrendered, but were gunned down by the Traders. Lieia holstered the dagger "All right, nice job, but now I think we should rendezvous with the rest of the platoon. Damn it, we're scattered everywhere!" The lieutenant nodded in agreement "Damn Vasari caught us off guard. The battlenet is a mess, from what I've heard. Troops deployed in wrong el-zees(landing zones), tanks, supplies, almost everything seems to have been misplaced!" He threw his arms up in resignation "All right, enough whining. Let's go and try to sort this mess out." Murmured agreements reached his ears as they set off, in the fading day, with Lieia trudging heavily in the rear, a salvaged Vasari plasma cannon atop her shoulder.

They walked for a long time, until they came across a small Trader outpost, but in reality, it was nothing more than several dozen sandbags, a machine gun or two, some salvaged Vasari weapons and tech. A dozen or so Trader and Asli soldiers were slumping in the protective circle of the sandbags. The look of weariness was etched upon everyone's faces. Upon noticing the new arrivals, they instantly brightened up and cheered tiredly. One of the Asli stood up "Glad to see a friendly face. We've been holding out for hours here. Our company was scattered after one of those Vasari death squads ambushed us. As for the situation at large, I have no idea. My comms officer has been working hard on our radio, but so far, it's been fruitless." The Asli captain directed them over to the communications device "It's shot up real bad. We can't find the necessary parts, so we're grounded out here." She sighed and rubbed her eyes "I-I don't know what I can do. If only we could get our hands on a new radio set, or even some spare parts, the we-Wait a minute. You're one of those Exos, aren't you?" She pointed to Lieia, who nodded in return. The Asli instantly brightened up "Then you can call reinforcements in! Or contact other units!" Lieia nodded and set about bringing some reinforcements when they saw it.

A great horde of shambling figures were advancing on their position. After a quick glance, they saw that there were too many for them to hold off, even with reinforcements, and the captain changed her mind, ordering an evac shuttle to be directed towards their position. When the reply came that it would arrive in ten minutes, they knew that their position had to stand at least for the time being. Every weapon was reloaded and some of the troopers placed booby traps and splinter mines in the horde's path. Everything was ready. Lieia hoisted her plasma cannon, knowing it'll come handy in the ensuing fight. The sight took everyone's breath away. Thousands of the slaves came forth, groaning and moaning. The rotting remains of hundreds of alien races the Vasari had wiped out now tried to kill them. The mines went off, shredding hundreds of them, sending blood and limbs flying everywhere. Gunfire followed, ripping their deteriotated bodies apart. Lieia blasted anything that caught her eye. But, even as the dead piled up around them, they could not stall them, and were driven back with every passing second. Now they kept fighting a lost battle, driven back to back. But then, they heard the sound that gave hope to them. Lieia saw the shuttle closing in, and was instantly reinvigorated by the sight. With renewed determination, she started cleaning out a clear space for the shuttle to land, sending burning flesh and boiling blood flying everywhere. Eventually, a relatively small space was cleared out and the shuttle landed. The door opened and a pair of troopers stepped out, each of them wielding a machine gun. With some effort, they managed to keep a clear path to the shuttle, allowing the beleaguered soldiers to sprint to the shuttle. Lieia ditched the exhausted plasma cannon and boarded the transport. The Asli captain was the last to board, but at the last moment, one of the slaves grabbed her by the ankle, dragging her away.

Shilah'Qalar kicked savagely, in a desperate bid to free herself. Countless arms clung to her, trying to rip her apart. She screamed as several of them bit her thigh, drawing blood. She'd almost given up when the dragging suddenly stopped. Through the forest of cadavers she saw Lieia, dual-wielding machine guns, ripping the slaves apart, and cleared the space around Shilah. Gritting her teeth, she stood up and limped towards the shuttle. With seconds to spare, she collapsed on the cold metal floor and the shuttle took off. After she gathered enough strength, she saw that all of her troops were there. One of them, the platoon's medic, walked over "Looks like you got us out, ma'am. Now sit still and let me patch you up." Nodding silently, she closed her eyes and let the medic treat the bite wounds. Lieia exited from her armour and walked over to the pilot "Thanks for arriving so quickly. I didn't think we'd pull through." The pilot just smiled "Well that's what we're here for, to drag your lazy asses around the battlefields. We oughta get back to the HQ. We've managed to fortifiy one of the sections, and are bringing in the heavy equipment. It also seems that we've found some new allies, and they're en route with fifteen thousand ships, along with several of our own regiments. It should be one helluva fight once they get here." He went silent again and Lieia returned to the rest of the troops. Shilah had been patched up, but most of the other soldiers now were asleep, and slumped against the walls. Lieia sat down besides Shilah, who smiled at her "Thanks for saving me. I owe you one now." Lieia just shrugged "It's nothing. I'm sure you would've done the same thing for me." Shilah shook her hand "That I would, soldier. That I would." The uneventful flight took several hours, before they landed on a plateau that seemed to go on for miles. A confused Lieia stepped out "Um... where's the base you mentioned? Dude, this place is empty! What are we supposed to do here?" The pilot chuckled "Look upwards." "Is this some kind of joke? I-" She fell silent upon seeing what was descending upon the plateau.

Dozens of dark shapes were slowly landing, scattering all over the plateau. When they hit the ground, Lieia only watched silently as they unfolded into buildings, walls, turrets. Dozens of fighters, bombers, gunships and transports descended upon the freshly erected airfield. The biggest structures opened, revealing a veritable number of tanks and other assorted vehicles. Low-set barracks let out dozens of soldiers and engineers, who set about working on setting up the hyper-fusion reactors and the power grid. After a while, a myriad of lights flickered and lit up, the turrets jerked and started scanning their surroundings. Lieia just shook her head "Wow. Just wow. This... is something. Sneaky bastards. Dropping a base from sky, whaddayaknow."
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Chapter Eleven - Fun times.

Cara gave a low whistle upon seeing Nexus "Wooooooow. You built that?" She turned to face Nell-Tiray, who nodded in return "Many planets were consumed to create it. I just hope it was worth it." Cara scratched her head "It's still pretty damn impressive. How long did it take to build?" "Many years. And if you think it's impressive, you should see the artificial solar system we built." "What? You built a SOLAR SYSTEM? How in th-" "That is a joke. Nevertheless, we could not accumulate enough resources for such a feat and I doubt it'd have a purpose. But never mind. We have a war to win." The Crimson Thunder emerged from the shadow of the planet, with the rest of the fleet following the gargantuan warship. Quite a distance off, the Vasari were embattled with the outnumbered Trader and Asli fleets, duking it out in a spectacular battle royale. Flashes and explosions filled the space and Cara grimaced "Looks like we're here just in time. Now what?" "We attack." Cara chuckled "Simple 'nuff. Back on Linv I knew this one guy. Every time we went off to liberate a compound, he'd just shout "We now go into GLOOOOORIOUS BAAAATLE!!!" and charge head-first in the battle, waving a heavy lead pipe. And he needed to be patched up after every battle he joined. I still can't make up my mind if he was crazy or just stupid." Nell-Tiray chuckled softly "Probably both. Well, we're now in weapons range. Launch all strike craft! To glory!" Hundreds of the alien fighters, bombers and gunboats swarmed out of the carriers and Crimson Thunder and fell upon the Vasari ships, who seemed to slowly wither under the renewed gunfire.

Aboard The Newborn Hope.

Denaros felt like someone poured a bucketful of ice cubes behind his shirt when he saw the alien fleet move between them and the Vasari. He quickly opened a fleet-wide communications channel "All ships, do not fire on the new fleet, they are friendlies, repeat, they are friendlies!" The screens around him flashed green as the captains of the various ships acknowledged the order. He saw the human and Asli ships fan out, giving the newcomers a clear line of fire. Their ships bristled with strange guns that took his breath away. Flashes of brilliant white stood out starkly in the space as beams of energy ate away at the Vasari shields, giving the Trader-Asli ships a chance to destroy them. Trader Kodiaks and Cobalts were in the thick of the battle, while the Asli Talar-class dreadnoughts pummeled the Vasari with particle cannons. Despite the mounting losses, the Vasari put up a fierce defense, destroying many ships and strike craft. That is, until Crimson Thunder appeared. The intimidating warship plowed through the Vasari ships, its vast array of guns blazing as it hammered them with impunity. Countless ships perished onder the withering gunfire and more were simply smashed apart by the warship's prow. The Vasari ships simply dispersed upon seeing the Crimson Thunder, trying to flee back to the re-opened portal. In a mad rush, they broke through the interceptors and escaped into the portal which closed, stopping their pursuers. The fleet-wide channel erupted in cheering, and quite a few even opened drinks. After unsuccessfully trying to bring order to the fleet, Denaros gave up and prepared to meet the Asahi leader in person and ordered that at the very least, the bridge be cleaned up and headed towards the hangar.

Cara could only gape at the imposing warship as she, Nell-Tiray and Alikera approached The Newborn Hope in the shuttle. Even though it was nowhere near as big as Crimson Thunder, it still inspired awe in her. The freshly-arrived supply fleet was hard at work repairing the damaged ships. Alikera turned to Cara "I am actually feeling impatient now. It is... an odd feeling. Do you know anything about Denaros?" Cara shook her head "Nope, nothing at all. Looks like we've got some catching up to do." She looked out the window as they set down in the Kol's hangar. A wide array of damaged fighters and bombers resided there, dozens of crewmen repairing them, pushing large crates around. The pilot gently landed the shuttle and the door quietly slid open. Cara got up and trailed after Alikera and Nell-Tiray, wondering what this day would bring.

Alikera looked around, and the hangar suddenly became a lot quieter as the human and Asli crew shot fearful glances at the two Asahi, but seeing that they meant no harm, they relaxed and returned to their duties. Cara noticed Denaros striding out from an elevator that had opened nearby. He looked around for something and his eyes settled on one fighter craft in particular. He scowled and shook his head. Upon approaching Nell-Tiray and Alikera, he seemed to suddenly become small and insignificant. Slowly, he seemed to overcome his quietness and extended a hand "I am Denaros Wersian, leader of the Traders Emergency Coalition. It is an honour to meet you in person." Silence set in for a few seconds, then, uncertainly, Nell-Tiray extender her hand and shook Denaros's "Greetings, Denaors Wersian. I am Nell-Tiray, leader of the Asahi. I believe we have much to discuss, is that right?" He nodded "We do indeed. We will head to our conference room as soon as my second-in-command finds herself free." He shot another look at the fighter and Waleriona's voice floated back "Never leave a job unfinished, that's what I say!" She finished working on whatever she was working on and crawled out from below her fighter. Wiping her grimy hands in an oily rag, she stood up and greeted the Asahi leader "Good to finally meet you. I'm Waleriona Tesila, leader of Tondam Corporation." She thrust out her hand "Don't mind the grease, it's just universal lubricant." Gingerly, Nell-Tiray grasped the outstretched hand. Immediately, Waleriona's palm slipped out of her grasp. She chuckled "You won't find more slippery stuff than this." Denaros sullenly rubbed his face.

Damn it, this woman will be the death of me.

A few quiet seconds passed and Nell-Tiray laughed "Such brashness! I have not laughed in a long time! I am pleased to meet you, Waleriona." She turned her attention back to Denaros "Now then, let us discuss the situation." Denaros nodded and led the small group to the conference room.
It took roughly an hour to fill in the Trader Council on what the situation was like. Waleriona struggled to keep her eyes open. She never liked meetings, but put up with them for Denaros's sake. Drowsily, she stiffled a yawn. After a few minutes, the meeting ended.

Thank the heaven for small mercies. Waleriona stood up and after a quick farewell, she set off to finish working on her fighter.

Nexus

Naela winced as the dropship took another hit. She crawled over to the rear of the small transport and pressed a couple of buttons near the hatch. The hatch opened and she grabbed a missile launcher from one of the weapon racks. She wired it up to her hardsuit, and she saw the bright red laser that served as the target-marker dart around. After several seconds, she got lock on one of the two Vasari fighters chasing them. Without hesitation, she squeezed the trigger. A cloud of white smoke was quickly vented out of the cargo bay as the high-velocity missile shot forward, striking the designated target in the middle. The explosion split the fighter apart, one of the wings smashed in the other fighter, sending it careening downwards, leaving a trail of black smoke in its wake. Her helmet mic crackled "I owe ya one, Sholas. This bird's bent already as it is. It's a wonder it's still holding together. By the way, ETA to Alpha base is 3 minutes. Get your gear together." Naela nodded "Got that. See ya next time. Alright people, let's get moving!" She shouted and the rest of her squad stood up from their seats and grabbed their weapons. After a short while, four Trader fighters arrived and escorted the battered dropship to the base. A minute later they set down and the engines fell silent, but the small moment of silence was interrupted by the clamour of the base. Tanks and buggies moved around the perimeter, soldiers patrolled the thick walls, the occasional dropships and transports arrived with supplies and departed with wounded. As the damaged dropship behind her was wheeled off to repair depot, Naela set off toward the barracks, her squad following her. Rows of the low, squat buildings stretched off in the distance. As she walked between them, her squad went their separate ways to their designated barracks. Naela looked up and saw the arms of the Nexus loom above her, far away. It was a sight that still inspired awe and reverence in her. She walked over to her barracks and pulled the door open. a wave of heat and noise instantly hit her as dozens of soldiers walked through barracks. She joined the bustling crowd and made her way to her room, intent of getting out of her armour and sending it for repairs. After a short while, she entered the relative peace and quiet of her room and removed her armour, piece by piece, until all she was wearing was her undergarments. The quiet of the room was suddenly interrupted as the door flew open, and Lieia strode in "Hey, Naela, where've you been to? I got som-" She fell silent upon seeing the rather-naked Asli spin around in surprise and could not help but like what she saw.

Life had been good.

Quickly snapping out of her thoughts, she quickly covered her eyes "Shit! Sorry, I'm sorry Naela! I should've knocked first!" Naela suppresed a giggle "It's my fault as well. I should've locked the door when I arrived." She hastily slipped in her clothes "It's okay, you can look now." Slowly, Lieia lowered her hand and tried to start anew "Ah, I've got someone I'd like you to meet. Come on, then!" Naela nodded and set off after her human friend. Lieia continued "We're going to meet him in the mess hall, if we're lucky." Silently, she nodded and after a few seconds, entered the mess hall, where dozens of soldiers were eating and talking. Lieia looked around like a hawk, until noticed a tall, heavyset man waving to her "Come on, Grisova, vamanos, vamanos! I've been trying to keep this spot free!" Quickly, Lieia and Naela slipped in the free chairs and the man slapped her on the back "Finally then. I take it this is your friend? The one you talk about so much?" He grasped Naela's palm "I'm Miguel Vasquez, heavy weapons specialist. See? I got two guns right here!" He flexed overenthusiastically. Lieia laughed "Don't mind him, he's probably the biggest showoff you'll ever meet, but he's a swell guy. You'll be working with him on the next op. The research department have designed a new transport and we're getting the honour of partaking in its testing." She handed Naela a datapad "Here's the necessary intel, the weapons you are privileged to get. And you must hand-pick a team of five. A lot of units are taking part in this op, and it's all very hush-hush. Get ready to go tomorrow, 1300." Quietly, they resumed consuming their meals. After suspiciously eyeing her drink, Naela emptied the cup in one big swig. Feeling the fizzy fluid trickle down, she burped loudly. Her eyes clouded with tears, she gasped "What in the name of Nell-Tiray is that?" Lieia laughed "Hell if I know. Pass me that bottle, would ya?" Another small burp escaped her and Lieia almost collapsed in laughter. An un-Asli like thought enteren Naela's head and she kicked Lieia's chair from below her. The human was caught unaware and the contents of her bowl were unceremoniously discarded on her head. After several seconds of stunned silence, Miguel burst out in a roar of laughter "Oh, she's got a fighting spirit in her!" Even Skid, who always was the serious one, was snickering behind his hand. Lieia stood up, fuming "What's so fuckin' funny?" He managed to squeak a bit before rushing off. Lieia shook the now-cold foodstuffs from her hair and finished the conversation "Remember, we can't screw this op up." She stalked off, muttering about caving a certain someone's head in. Vasquez smirked quietly, before sobering up again "Well then, Naela. Got anything you wanna ask?" Naela shook her head "No, not really. I'll better go and get ready for tomorrow." Vasquez nodded and returned to annihilating the pile of food in front of him. Naela left for the armory, somewhat interested to see what the research division had come up with.

Naela eyed the two guards standing at the doors leading to the labs. One of them eyed the datapad in her hand, then nodded "You can pass. But remember, don't try anything stupid there. It might not seem like it, but the place is heavily guarded." Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she nodded and entered the strangely quiet building. Her eyes feasted on the long rows of gleaming hardsuits and weapons. She walked over the requisitions officer, who looked up from the monitor "Can I help you, ma'am?" She nodded "Yeah. I need access to the newest weaponry and hardsuits." "Show me your ID. The new weaponry's only for the tomorrow's op participants." She placed her finger on the DNA scanner, felt a small jab of pain as the needle took a sample of her skin and checked it against the one on the database. A few seconds later, the green light blinked "All right, you're clean. Take what you need." "Got it." She looked at the holographic list of weapons. Scrolling through the seemingly endless list of weapons, until one of them caught her eye. She scrolled back to it, the XMAS-31. She tapped it once, and a alarm started beeping.

In the bowels of the armoury, a robotic arm twitched and moved on its ceiling rails. The laser scanner identified the chosen weapon. The arm picked it up gently, and set it on the conveyor belt, sending the matte-black container towards its new owner.

Naela flipped the locks open and her heart stopped for a second. The rifle positively reeked of high-tech firepower. She hefted the shiny weapon, scrutinizing its every detail, until nodding satisfied. She ordered it to be sent to her quarters and went on to get a new hardsuit. She uncertainly jumped through several base shells until selecting the new Guardian shell. She worked away at the holographic image, selecting a stronger fusion reactor for quicker movement and shield recharge, improved kinetic armour plates for close-encounter protection, experimental mitigator and integrity modules for more resilience under fire. She finished designing her masterpiece and the armoury's AI announced the hardsuit would be ready in approximately six hours. Stretching slightly, she set off to finally get some sleep.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Chapter Twelve - A hero has fallen.

Aboard Kas'Qoolaran

Charra'Tiil could barely contain her horror when she heard the news. The Lord's gamble hadn't paid off. Hundreds of thousands of Vasari had perished in the hastily-planned attempt to seize control of the Nexus, along with the ships. Only a small gaggle of barely serviceable wrecks returned, but many ground troops remained stranded on Nexus, with no way out, their only options being surrendering or fighting to the last. In completely childish anger, the Lord ordered the survivors be shot down. This had sent great waves of dissent through the Fleet, and though it was subtle, the rebellion was slowly taking shape. When she delivered the news to Tala'Hiri, the Asahi smiled bitterly "So, the humans have gained new allies? It is sad that your leader can't comprehend the idea of diplomacy." Charra nodded somberly "Indeed. He isn't even realising his campaign agains the Coalition and Asli has gone awry. His pride has been dealt a terrible blow, but he refuses to admit defeat. I'm all alone now. My father perished in the battle. The Lord may not realize it yet, but he has sown the seeds for a new Vasari government. There is much talk of rebellion, quiet as it is." Tala'Hiri shook her head "Let us not dwell on this topic any longer. You wish to hear my tales?" Charra nodded eagerly. The Asahi often told stories which she proudly named Tales of the Old, when universe was young and empty, when the Asahi already travelled through space. Other slaves imprisoned there also listened to her, finding hope in what she told. She often sang when there were no Vasari around, her quiet but steady voice echoing in the cavernous hall. Other slaves would often hum along, finding solace in the strange, haunting melody, for it was all too easy to lose your sanity in their surroundings. Whenever Lord deemed it 'worthy of his time' to mock her, he left rather hastily. Truth be told, he didn't know what was worse - the gaunt, blank looks from the slaves, or the baleful glare of the demigod imprisoned among them. He dreamt up grand plans that balanced on the edge of insanity. These were dark times for the simple folk of the Fleet, for their tyrannical ruler cared little for their comfort. Charra would occasionally bringing snippets of news, big or not. She had formed a new Vasari government in great secrecy, all that had to be done was taking out the Lord and his most loyal followers. But that would be pointless to try at the moment. So they simply bade their time and waited.

Alpha base, Nexus
Local time - 1300 hours


The ground shook as the massive platform slowly rose from the ground, and Lieia's eyebrows migrated to her hairline. The transport plane simply screamed HUGE from every viewpoint. To her, it reminded of the planes when humanity still was confined to a single planet, going at each other with stones and cudgels. Big, thick wings were perched atop its hull, with twenty-four massive propellers sitting in front of the engines. Numerous, beefy wheels held the enormous weight of the plane. With a groaning judder, the ramp in the transport's side lowered and the roughly two thousand troops and assorted vehicles rumbled their way inside the transport. The sight reminded her of a native beast from Linv. It was very short, but very wide. This brought a memory to her mind.

Cara laughed "How does it chew?"
Lieia responded "Armnbrarnmbnarbm! Just throws its face on its food over and over again. It has only two teeth though. Kinda mashes it between those two."
Cara lost her self-composure, rolling around in the grass.

(With apologies to Criken.)


Lieia smiled sadly at the years-old memory. She saw Naela jog up to her, and examined the bulky suit of armour she was donning. It complimented her body shape nicely, but the additional armouring clearly showed that it wasn't just for looks. Several shiny guns were mag-locked to her back. Lieia shouted over the din "Lookin' good, girl! You look like you could go and wage a private war of your own! Come on, let's get on board." They leapt on top of a tank that rumbled past, hitching a ride in the cavernous transport, just as the loading had been finished. The door behind them swung shut just as the tanks cut their engines. Naela jumped off, and after joining up with her own squad, the massive engines in the plane's wings coughed to life, and the muffled drone resonated through the hull. A gentle lurch indicated that the massive transport gained speed as it took off, its bulk cutting through air, and the troops it carried slowly climbed in their racks, for the drift through space would take a long while. After a while, the transport's AI indicated they were entering vacuum. The engines cut out, and with a series of course corrections, they drifted towards a new ward of the Nexus.

Many, many hours later
Approaching drop zone


A couple of GI troopers almost fell over as an explosion nearby rocked the planes, causing the superstructure to groan. A gigantic ramp was opening at the rear, and the tanks had already lined up for their drop. A weathered old man was shouting in a microphone, his voice nearly drowning out the other noises, but the words were still lost to the troops as they already knew what to do - lock on your grav-chute, punch in your LZ co-ords, and gittcher fat ass outta the transport! Simple and short. The tanks rolled out, a number of troops were clinging to them, hollering wildly:

"'Ere we go, 'ere we go, when we'll get there, no-one knows!"

(Sorry Geimz Werkshoop)

The few EXOs that were present lumbered out of the plane, and the transport veered off, back towards the base, as the Vasari anti-air batteries kept firing, trying to reach the plane before it got out of their range. Lieia fell downwards, spread-eagling herself to keep stable. A tank fell past her, and she heard another bit of the mad shouting "-get there, no-one knows!" The voice was quickly drowned out as the tank disappeared in a cloud, just as its grav-chutes kicked in, then shot past her upwards.

"-we go, when-"

She saw the ground below approach her rapidly and she hit the dirt like a boss. Not a second had passed when troops landed around her, with one of the tanks landing meters away from her, engine roaring already as it sent a pair of 125 mm HEIAP(High-explosive, Incendiary, Armor-Piercing) shells towards one of the Vasari bunkers. A pair of M62 Coyotes shot past, their turrets spewing DU rounds at a Vasari Howler gunship. They managed to clip one of its turbofans sending it to ground in a ball of fire, but a heavy disintegrator cannon managed to melt a hole in one of the jeeps, sending them in a tumble. Before the dazed troops could get out, the cannon fired again, swiftly ending their lives. A second later, three missiles slammed in the gun emplacement, wrecking the wall, courtesy of a missile team. The plane had landed them just outside the Vasari entrenchments. Everyone knew the objective: Vasari had somehow taken control of Nexus's ground turrets, shredding several dozen ships before they got out of range, effectively denying the ground troops any support. Also, several Severun cruisers had jammed the long-range comms, rendering the Asli and TEC forces on ground unable to communicate with their ships in orbit. Orders were to destroy all Vasari forces and equipment in the immediate vicinity.
Lieia unslung her rifle and charged forward, leading the troops into the breach, where they were met by withering gunfire. A dozen troops went down, while the others huddled behind EXOs, whose armoured and shielded bulk offered some protection. Seventy meters away, a section of the wall caved in, and one of the TEC's super-heavy tanks surged forward, the T-192 XBT. The rocket pods on its turrets screamed, sending a deadly flurry of missiles towards the gun nests, eliminating some of the anti-infantry threats. Its arrival helped embolden the soldiers, and with a roar, they rushed forwards, despite the Vasari fighting tooth and nail to defend their base. The T-192's own machine guns spoke, sending hails of incendiary ordnance forwards. A SAM turret on it dealt with what few aircraft the Vasari had stationed there, while it's armour and shields soaked up the damage directed towards it. A group of Asli Alkor light tanks were engaged with their Vasari counterparts, giving tankbuster teams help in eradicating the enemy anti-armour capability. The battle was proceeding well, but the casualties were still mounting. A makeshift field hospital was constructed. While small, it had everything needed, including organ cloners and blood farms. Despite, the fierce resistance, the battle continued. A mortar team lobbed bunker-buster shells relentlessly somewhere nearby, while the pained moans of the injured permeated the air.

Naela ducked under the wicked-looking sword, letting Skitch tackle the Vasari officer to ground, and as soon as she stood up, Naela gunned the alien down. Skid, Elaya and Tiirah jogged up to her, with Lieia and the rest of Naela's squad in tow "We're doing good, but we should find the command center here. I don't think the Vasari are just going to give up." As if reinforce the point, another of the Asli tanks went up in flames, the noise of the explosion quickly drowned out in the fierce battle. Naela grimaced; even after months of warfare, seeing her kin fall in battle was like another dagger in her heart. Her fellow Asli fought selflessly, valiantly and tirelessly, despite their peaceful nature. They were patient folk, but even their patience had its limits, and woe to the ingorant fools who would try to impose their will upon them. And said ignorant fools were on their last leg here, some had even surrendered, realising at last that there was no way out. In the fading light of the sunset, the gunfire gradually stopped as the Vasari fortifications were taken after seventeen hours of fierce fighting. They'd won, but at a terrible cost. More than a third of the troops were dead, even more were heavily injured, leaving only 481 soldiers fit for combat. Their motor pool had also taken a beating, with half of the tanks out of commission. Even the mighty T-192 was labouring, its engines damaged, turrets barely operational, most of the ammo spent. Everyone was impatient, waiting for the dropships to arrive. As they could hear the distant hum of the transports gradually grow louder, they cheered, knowing they'd get a well-deserved R&R back at Alpha base.

Naela helped Skid get in the dropship, setting the wounded man down on one of the cots, letting the medics plug him up to the life support equipment. She turned around and saw Skitch wave to her frantically from atop a ruined gunship, beckoning her to come over. Wondering briefly what was going on, she jogged over to her subordinate "What have you got for me, Skitch? I though we were in the clear." Skitch frowned "I really don't know, ma'am. Maybe I'm just seeing things. But we should check it out, just in case. Woudn't want to have any stragglers trying to kill us. It'd kinda suck." Nodding mutely, Naela radioed for some support and minutes later, they set off to find out the source of Skitch's unease.

Skitch looked around, feeling invisible eyes glaring down on her from all around and rechecked her rifle. Around her, others were similarly creeped out, their eyes darting from one tree to other, inspecting any possible ambush positions. Sensors brought up nothing, but that didn't ease the tension. Naela scanned her surroundings, but found nothing. Sighing relievedly, she holstered her rifle and sounded the all-clear signal and contacted the HQ "We have finished our scan and it's all clear here. No Vasari or anyone else hiding in the bushes for that matter. Sholas out." As soon as she'd said the last words, a shrill howl rose around them and a dozen Vasari kamikazes rushed them. The next few seconds were filled with terrified screams and explosions, then it became silent once more. Naela stood up unsteadily and looked around distractedly. No Vasaris remained alive, their bodies shredded to bits by high-power explosives. The remains of seven TEC and Asli soldiers lay around. Her eyes glanced over them distractedly, until she saw one of them and for a moment, she thought she was actually knocked out.

No. No, this cannot be!

She rushed over to the motionless body of Skitch, kneeling down by her dead friend and grabbing her shoulders, taking note of the several shards of shrapnel that were stuck in her chest. She felt for a pulse, but knew it was pointless, yet she refused to believe it. Sobbing uncontrollably, she cradled the lifeless woman in her arms, heedless of anything around her.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Chapter 13 - Rest and reprieve

Lieia knocked on the door for the seventh time, but Naela didn't respond. Two weeks had passed since Skitch's death and Naela had gone downhill ever since and was demoted to a private. Denaros had received a message from Nell-Tiray, who warned him that the Asli has a bigger part to play in the war and he must shake her out of her reverie. So he obliged by sending Lieia in to see if anything can be done to help her.

Two weeks earlier

The empty cargo bay was slowly being filled up by the grey non-descript coffins. Naela walked over to one, silently staring at the black, bold letters painted on it.

Talares Korden
TECMCSN:9209-243-431-675
KIA


She touched the edge of the container, then, in a sudden surge of anger and regret, she slammed her fist on it, cursing herself from dropping her guard when she obviously shouldn't have. And so started her descent in constant drunkenness, writhing in constant self-pity.

Present

Lieia put several bullets in the door lock and finally opened it. She immediately wished she had a gas mask with her. The stench of dozens of different alcoholic substances assaulted her. An uncharacteristically angry Naela assaulted her "The hell do you need? Leave me alone!" Lieia managed to grab the alien by her wrists "Calm the fuck down already! You have to stop drinking! Get a hold of yourself!" Naela shook her friend off, then wandered back in her room, grabbing a bottle that still had some booze left and emptying it in a second "Whaddaya need anyways?" Lieia scowled "I need to get you out of this place. Denaros is giving us some time to get you back in the game. We're going to Linv. Trust me, you won't regret it. And forgive me." Naela turned around unsteadily "Fer what?" A tranquillizer dart hit her in the shoulder and she collapsed in deep sleep. Lieia lowered the gun "For this." She set to carrying the snoring Asli to an arranged dropship that'd take them to a civilian transport shuttle due for Trader space. It was all already arranged; boarding passes, clothes, money, the lot. All that she had to do was get Naela to there before the tranquillizer wore off. That too, had been taken care of. Cara showed up, helping her out "Damn, she's heavy for someone like her. Let's hope no-one sees us. We're looking kinda dodgy here, aren't we?" Lieia had to agree with that. Two women carrying another one that's sedated, trying to be stealthy. Not a good combination. Cursing herself for not bringing a trolley, they finally reached the dropship that'd take them to the spaceport where'd they board the outbound shuttle. Casting an apologetic glance towards the pilot, she laid Naela down in one of the chairs. After the pre-start check had been finished, the small craft took off. As they ascended, she reflected a bit on the last month; how she'd met Cara.

One week earlier
Nexus


Lieia shoulder-rammed the Vasari soldier in the boulder, swiftly ending his life and turned her attention to the rest of his squad, who were madly firing their weapons at her. She noted, with a sort of grim satisfaction, that her shields had dropped only by two percent. She laughed when they unhooked their close-quarters weapons and charged at her. She took a step back, pulled out her dagger and started systematically slaughtering them. She bisected one, impaled another two and backhanded the others across the battlefield. Lost in the haze of close combat induced frenzy, she looked around, finding one left alive. She advanced on him, raising her left hand and curling it in a fist. The terrified alien didn't even manage to say something before a hail of bullets ripped his body apart. With a sigh, he fell forward, landing face-first in a pool of his own blood. Alerted, she looked around, until found the culprit - a white-armoured woman with compact, wrist-mounted machine guns. She took off her helmet and Lieia's heart stopped for a moment.

It was Cara.

Several seconds later she enveloped her sister in a crushing hug.
"Hey, hey, hey! AaaaAAAARK! Stop that! You're breaking my back!"

Lieia finally stopped crushing her sister and lowered her back on ground "I thought you were dead! I mean, I saw you get shot!"
Cara shrugged "I did. Turned out, it was some kind of a stun charge. Look, I don't want to talk about it. It was bad enough already. For now, let's just be happy that we're both alive and kicking ass."
"I hear that! Let's go!" Together, they charged off towards the enemy line, more and more troops following in their wake as the final Vasari stronghold fell under assault.

Present

The dropship shot upwards, leaving the atmosphere of Nexus, arriving several minutes later at the recently-established spaceport, where she dragged her still-sleeping friend in the waiting shuttle. As the shuttle started charging its phase drive, Lieia ran a last-minute check on everything she had - plenty of credits, some clothes, and a weapon. The last was a revolver that was out of production for seventy-three years. She picked it up, spinning its cylinder, and slid it in the holster around her waist, checking her bandolier as an afterthought. Satisfied that everything was in order, she sat down besides Naela, just as the sonorous thrum of phase drive reached her ears.

Several hours later
In orbit above Linv


Naela felt like her head was stuffed full with wool. In a bad way. The last thing she remembered was Lieia raising a gun at her.

Wait. Where the hell was she? Blearily, she opened her eyes, seeing that she was in a seat, aboard a spacecraft, apparently.

"Did you sleep well? You were snoring like you'd just finished twenty litres of booze." She turned to face Lieia who was sitting just besides her, looking at her concernedly.
"Why'd you do that? The drinking, I mean. I've seen many good men and women die, hell, I even saw my mother die, but I never went as far as you to drown my feelings."
Naela rubbed her forehead. Everything was still slightly blurry.
"I watched my friend die that day, Lieia. It isn't something you forget."
"I know. But if you keep drowning yourself in booze, it's not going to get any better. You've gotta let go of your past and move on, or you'll end up nowhere. Can you do that?"
"I... Yes, Lieia. I can. I promise. If you ever catch me drinking again, feel free to shoot me again."
They shared an uneasy laugh.
"I still feel bad for drugging you, girl. But you left me no choice, being half-drunk all the time." The shuttle tilted noticeably, before the artificial gravity compensated. Lieia stood up "Looks like we've arrived. Come on. We'll be landing soon." The windows were soon covered in flames as they dropped from orbit, shaking them mercilessly and they both kept their mouth shut, lest they bit their own tongues off. After a while, the violent rumble ceased and the shuttle levelled out and Naela could finally see the ground. Though it still bore the scars of Vasari bombardment, grass was already covering the wounds of war. Lieia stood up, picking up a dark grey package in her hands.
"What's that?"
"You'll see." Naela noticed that her friend had suddenly turned grim for some reason. She guessed all would be explained in due time. In the meanwhile, the shuttle had landed outside a ruined household, its walls nothing but empty carcasses.
"Naela, be a dear and grab that suitcase, will ya?"
The door opened with a hiss and Lieia motioned Naela to follow her, who towed the small luggage with her. Behind them, the small craft took off, ascending towards orbit, stirring up a powerful wind. Lieia wandered inside the burnt ruins, still clutching that strange slate in her hands. She stopped in the middle of a room without a roof, where she set the slate down and tore the packaging off. As Naela observed it silently, something clicked in her mind, bringing about a much needed understanding.
This was where Lieia's home once stood, where her family had died. And the grey slate was a small gravestone. Naela stood uncertainly as Lieia knelt down silently.
"I... I'd like to be alone for a moment. I won't be long."
Naela wandered back outside, deciding to take a look around. She knelt down at one moment to inspect a piece of debris when she heard a low voice.

"Oooh, my dog."
Eh?
"Oh, Long John."
What.
"Oh, Long Johnson."
Naela stood up, now certainly unnerved by the strange words.
"Oh, Don Piaaaanooo!"
She shivered at the last word being drawn out like that.
"Why I eyes ya..."
What is going on here?
"...all the live long day."

Now she saw the cause of the strange words and her unease. A small furry beast was hidden among a pile of boards, its yellow eyes glaring at her. As she stood up and took a step closer, it let loose another noise.

Errrrooowwwwwww...

"Ah. Don't be afraid of me. Come here, little fella." She stretched out a hand, but quickly pulled it back as the beast hissed angrily.

What could she do to show she wasn't going to hurt the beast?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Chapter 14 - No place like Corner Stone Outlaw

Lieia stood up, wiping the tears from her eyes, just as she heard Naela mutter something snarkily. Her interest piqued, she went outside, to see Naela facing off against a very familiar cat.
"Calypso!"
Naela nearly flinched as she heard Lieia's joyful voice. Immediately, the cat stopped threatening Naela and took off, jumping straight in Lieia's open arms, who stroked its fur fondly. Naela eyed the cat suspiciously. Lieia laughed "She doesn't really trust strangers. And apparently, aliens as well." Her eyes focused on the single building that wasn't destroyed and she beckoned for Naela to follow her.
As Lieia forced the rusty doors open, Naela could not help but wonder what was inside. Her curiosity was finally sated when Lieia finished the opening the doors.
A vehicle of some sort was parked inside and Lieia wasted no time to act like a dictionary "Like it? It's the Selvar Thundercharge. One of the most famous racing cars there was. Runs on cyclotaurite, albeit diluted. One litre of cyclotaurite per ten litres of water. Still wears the gaskets out, though. Selvar Industries took this model out of production ages ago. Thundercharge was their bestseller in the whole history."
"How'd you get it?"
"Stole my dad's tow truck when I was twelve. I found this baby rusting away in a ditch and dragged it back." She patted the bonnet fondly.
"How'd he react?"
"He said he'd help me with this car."
"Did he now?"
"Well, he was pretty angry that I didn't ask permission. Then he said I could keep the car if I helped him out in work. I worked on the car a lot. Sometimes I didn't go to school or do chores. Meh."
"So, why'd it take so long to finish this?"
"Cyclotaurite's a pain in the ass to acquire, because it's only used as fighter fuel and for explosives. Also, it's the one of the most explosive substances ever. That's why. This baby doesn't use some sort of fancy power core and anti-grav engines to run. Fuel and rubber on this one, like in the old times. Come on, let's go. We got places to visit." She put Calypso in the back seat, where the cat lay down comfortably. She stuck a key in besides the steering wheel and turned it. A strained 'kaff kaff kaff' was all that escaped the engine. Naela clicked her tongue twice. Grumbling, Lieia got out of the car, popping the bonnet open as she did so "Naela, can you start the engine when I tell you so? I gotta juice the carb." She returned her attention to the GMX-371 quad carburettors, whose valves had again stuck shut. She knew that Daisy had smuggled her a half-assed lube. Tight-fisted little bitch.
Twisting the valve a couple times to let a bit of fuel flow in, she called to Naela "'Kay, try it now." The engine weakly sputtered for a few seconds before stabilizing, and the rumbling from the exhaust pipes turned in a well-toned roar, singing along with the jet turbine sitting atop the engine. A wide smile spread across Lieia's face "She lives! My baby liveth!" She closed the bonnet, practically leaping back in her seat and keying the auto-clutch. After a gentle press of throttle, the car rolled out of the garage and Lieia rode down the dirt road, which was surprisingly smooth. Lieia slipped a small data-disk in a slot in the middle of the dashboard. After a few seconds of silence, music started pouring out of the speakers and Lieia smiled again "That's the stuff." Naela, however didn't understand anything "What does 'I can't drive 55' mean?"
"Hell if I know! Don't really care anyways." She slowed down as they joined a highway and mashed down on the gas pedal harder. The engine roared, small flames leaping out of the exhaust pipes as the passengers were forced in their seats. Lieia skilfully avoided what few cars were on the road, still mashing down on the gas. The hellish turbo-chargers howled, feeding cold air in the engine, where it was mixed with the cyclotaurite and combusted. Lieia cackled wildly, while Naela was at her wits' end. A quick glance at the instrument panel told her they were travelling at nearly 300 km/h.
"LIEIA!"
"Eh?"
"COULD YOU SLOW DOWN?" Lieia cast a quick glance at her friend and saw her eyes were filled with terror. A pang of guilt in her heart later and she eased off the gas. Naela calmed down visibly "Thanks. I've never been in a vehicle that goes this fast."
"It's my fault. I like speed too much, and this car as well." She slowed down some more, turning away from the highway and down a much more occupied road, and she stopped besides a small shop claiming to sell bakery goods. Lieia leapt out and returned several minutes later with a sizeable bag in her hands.
"You must be hungry by now." Naela opened the bag and plucked one of the items out.
"What are these?"
"Doughnuts! There's jam, custard and chocolate ones in there. Don't worry, they're not poisonous." Unhesitating, Lieia also grabbed one and stuffed it in her mouth, prompting Naela to do the same.
"Aphhhmmmmg." Naela mumbled out, eyes closed as she relished the strange taste.
"Delishus." Lieia responded, starting the engine again and rejoining the traffic as Naela set about thinning the doughnut population.

After half an hour, Naela finally felt sated.
 
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