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I'm going to fight. I'm going to kill. Because I'm Iron Fist.
When I was a child, my father died. He was hit in the head by a rock that had spewed forth from a volcano. Steel Breaker, one of the greatest hero's in Mananin history, founder of the Solar Navy, gone in an instant, along with so many others. He left behind three children. A daughter and two sons, one of whom was me. My brother, Quaw'Ruth, he was already of age, and he joined the navy. My sister got married and went away somewhere. I was just a baby at the time, and I didn't even notice they were gone. I didn’t even know they existed until many years later.
I was adopted. A rich Mananin, an nobleman and elder, took me into his home, and raised me as his son. Winter Tempest he was called. When I was older, he wanted me to be a politician. I wanted to be a soldier, like my real father. We argued. He threw me out. I killed him. He was the first person I killed. Not my any means the last, but certainly the first. They said it was a Riv Kill-Team. It wasn't. It was me with a laser beam. It was me, but they thought it was a Riv Kill-Team. Says a lot for the Mananin police force.
I'm old. Not in body, this one is only about forty years old, but in mind. I, my mind, have lived for almost five hundred years, and spent four hundred of those years killing. To say that there's blood on my hands is like saying Ale-Turans make a bit of money now and again.
I seized control of the Mananin Republic, and it became the Mananin Empire. I killed members of the council, my own generals, exiled Mananins, Ale-Turans… When I think back, it's just a blur of death and murder and slaughter. I know I loved. I know I had a wife, but I can't remember her. I know I had a son, but I can't remember his birth. They're both dead now anyway, so it doesn't matter. I know I had friends as well, and I can remember them. San'Ruth was my cousin and my friend. A high up in the navy. Wasn't a great general, but he was ruthless, which was what I cared about back then. I don't know what happened to him. Probably dead. There was Fire Storm. He was a monster. I didn't recognise it back then. He killed scum, who deserved to die anyway, didn't he?
He's still alive, Fire Storm. Still a monster, but a more refined one now. He's at my side, always at my side, and I detest him. But you can't let him know that, can you? You need loyalty. I know that. I've always known that, even back then, when I was young.
I don't know why I do it anymore. I fight and kill, but I don't have a reason. I say that I want to restore the glory of the Mananian empire. But that's not really true. The Mananian empire is finished. I didn't realise that before, but being cloned has given me a new perspective. The Mananian empire is finished. I only fight , I only kill, because I don't know how to do anything else anymore. My wife is dead. My son is dead. My brother is dead. My sister is dead. My father is dead. The only people I have left are monsters. And I'm surrounded by them.
Even when the war was over, it didn't stop. I went to Zion, a land I had never heard of, and became the leader of their navy. And there was another war. I actually didn’t fight in this one; at least, not as much as I have in the others. I killed a couple of Riv, I think, and that's about it. I was wounded. Crippled. Zion threw me out, and fought the war without me. Forgot about me. Maybe it would have been better if I had just given up and died. But I didn't. I was still young, and I wanted to live. I still thought there was a purpose. I still thought there was a design. I still thought there were things I had to do.
As I'm writing this, in my new body, I sit upon the deck of my ship. It's an Ale-Turan ship, but it's so much different from the Ale-Turan ships I used to know. Everything's changed. There a new races, new races I never used to know. The Canthin, for example. Back in my youth, we didn't know what a Canthin was. But now, now thousands of them call me Khan, and are willing to die at my word. They are commanded by another one of my monsters. He is of a different kind to the first. He doesn't torture innocents; instead he talks of honour. Honour… A different kind of honour from the honour I had known, and forgotten about. There is a code, a code by which this monster of mine lives his life. A code written a thousand years ago by his ancestors. He knows each and every aspect of it, and would rather die than breach it. Many would not call that monstrous. But I know better. He lets the dead speak to him, and lives by their command. He is without independent thought, without any independent virtue, or any independent vice. I am told that there are many like him, but I know better. He is this code of his, this honour, embodied in a single being. And is that not monstrous?
I repaired my tortured and broken body, replacing blood with electricity, my brains with computers, my lungs with pumps. I became a machine, and people hated me for it. And I hated them back, calling them prejudiced. But I still ran. I could fight a nation, or a culture, but I couldn't fight all of society. I ran to the outer reaches of space, and became a pirate. Out there, in the wilderness of space, I lost everything I had. I lost my pride. I lost my honour, what little I had. And finally, after so many years, I lost my compassion, my mercy, what little I had. I became a monster. As much of a monster as Fire Storm, or the Canthin who calls me Khan. My brain, my computer, was filled with thoughts, electronic pulses, of revenge. I lived revenge. I breathed revenge. I would destroy the Ale-Turans! The Ale-Turans were the bane of the Galaxiki. They were the force of true evil, the devil incarnate. Another thing I lost out there: my respect. I had always viewed the Ale-Turans as worthy enemies, but now, now I hated them with more fire than I had ever hated anything. My hate consumed me, and I consumed it, until we were not two things anymore, but one thing. I became my hate. Looking back, I hate myself for it, but at the time, I loved myself. I speak of what I lost out there, but I also found something. I found something I didn't recognise at the time. I found out what I am. More than a monster.
I was no longer young.
The Ale-Turans. I hate them. Everyone knows I hate them. I know I hate them. But I don't hate them. I used to believe that I hated them. I don't anymore. That may sound contradictory, but if you think about it, it isn’t. Everyone expects me to hate them, everyone thinks I hate them so much that it spills over onto me. If I don't hate them. I'm not myself. I'm a pale imitation. So I hate them in my head, my constantly planning and scheming head, but in my heart, in my heart that beasts, that beats again in my new body, after so long, in my heart, I love them. I love everything about that great nation. I love their democracy, their culture, their sophistication, their mercy. I love them because they are everything that I am not, everything that I never was, and can never be. I love them, but I will strive with every bone in my body and every plan and scheme in my head to destroy them. Because that's what I must do. Because everyone knows I hate them.
It came about that there was another war. I don't know what they call it. All the names of these wars, they slip from my mind. After all, they are all the same war, aren’t they? The same war again and again in slightly different circumstances. But I didn't know that, so I saw it as an opportunity, and opportunity to fight and destroy Ale-Tura, which was what I believed I wanted. So I went to the Mananins, who I thought I still was one of, and told them that I wanted to fight for them. And suddenly, all my crimes were forgotten and forgiven, and I was given a fleet to command, and told to do what I do best. And so I fought and killed. More dead to my name, Ale-Turans and Dacor, more blood on my already crimson hands. I met a man who called himself my brother. I didn't know I had a brother. I suppose that's because I didn't. I had used to have a brother, but by this point I wasn't a Mananin anymore. I thought I was, but I wasn't. I listened to him, this brother of mine, this Quaw'Ruth, and fought with him. Then the war ended, and the Mananins realised that they hated me once again. I was surprised, but I really should have seen it coming. I should have known they'd betray me. People always do. Even now, one of my monsters is plotting against me. They took me and threw me into jail, and gave me to the Ale-Turans. There was a trial, where they accused me of things that I had done, of destroying planets and torturing prisoners. They accused me of things I hadn't done as well. They accused me of the crimes of Fire Storm. I denied them all. Said I wasn't a monster. I hadn't seen the writing on the wall yet. I only just have. Because I'm guilty of all those crimes. After all, who appointed Fire Storm? There was a trial. I don't remember what they found me, but I escaped anyway. My almost-brother sent a man who broke me out of the court. I think I killed a clerk, or a judge, or a lawyer, or a juror. All I remember is that court-appointed blood flowed, as did the blood of the man my almost-brother sent. But I was free. I believed I was free.
I have a third monster. Another Canthin, though a very different type from my second monster. That one has too much honour, is honour, but this one has no honour. No honour at all. He comes from another Canthin world. I was told the history of the Canthin once, but I don't remember it. This one has no honour. Maybe it's because of the type of Canthin he is. His upbringing maybe. I don't know. I met him just after I returned, returned from the dead in a new body but with the same, the same mind, in a bar. I met him in a bar, a bar filled with pirates and murders and rapists. At my return, the realisations were flying thick and fast, the realisations of what I am, what I was, what I'd done. And I looked around the bar, and I saw petty small-timers. They were not what I was looking for. What I would need if the plans of my long-dead almost-brother were to be carried out. They were small-timers, who would shy away from the work that was to be carried out, that I used to believe needed to be carried out. But there was one. A Canthin. I recognised him for what he was straight away. He was a monster, like I used to be, before I moved on. I needed a monster, not a small-timer. So I spoke to him. He said his name was Claws. I said mine was Tails. We robbed a bank, and I saw that I was right. He was a monster. He showed no qualms, no regard for life, no worry about what I was going to do, what I'm still going to do. He showed no honour. He was perfect. Not the perfect monster, but perfect for what I needed. He is with me, with my other monsters. He doesn't realise that he will die. None of them do. I never used to. I do now though. I've realised it. Maybe they will sometime, and move beyond being a monster. Everyone dies. Everyone and everything in the universe dies. It may take eons, it may take hours, but everything dies. That is the first realisation.
My almost-brother spoke to me, once I was out of jail. He was a great speaker, a great user of words, a great schemer, a great killer. He was willing to kill billions. But he was never a monster. He believed what he was doing was right. So did I. We both thought it was right as well. But he, he knew what he was doing was right. Maybe it wasn't for other people, but it was, it was right. That's the difference between us, what made me a monster, and him a Mananin. He knew what he was doing was right. I didn't. I never did. I thought it and believed it, but I never knew it. But he convinced me, for a time. He had a plan. A plan to restore the glory of the Mananins, even if it meant killing billions of them. We did it, in the end. We did it. And to do it, we created this body. Cloning. They cloned me ten times, and sent me to every corner of the galaxy. Each clone was given a copy of my mind. An old mind for a young body. And then we did it. We did the plan, destroyed Cyer. My almost-brother died, thinking and believing and knowing what he was doing was right. I died to, a bit later. They took me, the Dacor, they took me minutes before the planet died. They took me and tried me and imprisoned me and, in the end, killed me. They put a bullet in my head. A small piece of metal putting an end to me life. I don't remember any of it, but it happened. It happened to me, to myself, to the monster that was me but was not me. The monster died, but I continued.
I gathered around me my four monsters. I gathered a fleet, and a ship. And I prepared to put into action the plan of my almost-brother, even though I knew it would fail, and it would take my life.
I was a monster, I know. But I'm not any more. I am something more than a monster. I have realised, seen the writing on the war, had an epithet. First, I saw what I was, a monster. Many monsters do this. They know what they are. But they don't see what they are. That is the distinction. Second, I saw that I would eventually die, and from there a saw that everything I had ever done, everything I am ever going to do, is futile. Utterly futile. I saw the blood upon my hands, the graves I had made, the kills I had tallied. I saw that all the people I killed died for no reason. And then, at last, I saw the truth. I saw the truth that stares us all in the face each and every day, but that so few of us see. That there is no design, no plan, no destiny, no fate, no god. There are only people, and the parts they play. I will play my part, I will fight and kill, even though I know and believe and think it is wrong, because there is nothing else. I cannot do anything but play my part. Maybe I could change my part, but I don't know how to do anything else. So I will continue to put blood on my hands until there is so much it drowns me. Then I will go into oblivion. How could I possibly do anything else?
I am Iron Fist. So I must fight. I must kill. And I will, until I finally die.
NOTE: I know this is a bit long. But I wanted to put it in the blog were people might actually read it...
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
The Bible, John 15:13
HOTSHOT: watch your six Thunder! Your six!
BURNING THUNDER: I see him, ha ha. Come and get me. Ha ha ha. This is fun, he he.
RED DWARF: yah, he aint gonna gat cha tis time.
FURY: Hunter, a fucker fucking coming fucking in your fucking direction.
BURNING THUNDER: thanks dwarf, ha ha. One more count for your tally, eh. He he.
FURY: Hunter, what’s fucking up. Look fucking out!
HOTSHOT: what the..?
FIRECRACKER: hel, the old man bought it!
As Hunter sat in the simulator, he tried to relax himself. He then stepped out as sure of himself as he always was, on the outside at least. He then began to proceed back to the quarters. The simulation was over. Hotshot would interview them later, after the reports and reviews. Now was the time to rest. Hunter felt he needed all the rest he could get. He passed the Fire twins, Firecracker and Flamer, who turned and looked at him with frowns on their faces.
Hunter continued down the corridor. He passed others of the squad getting out of the simulators. All looked at him. Hunter almost sped up, but forced himself to stay at the current speed. He almost breathed a sigh a relief as he turned a corner. He then did speed up.
As he turned onto the corridor where his room was, someone caught his arm. He whirled around and lashed out.
Hotshot blocked both of them. Hunter stared back, astonishment showing on his face.
“Ok Hunter, what’s up? First, you start to spend more time in your quarters than usual, then, you begin to act differently, not at all like you at all, and now your scores in the simulator begin to suffer. This isn't you. Something is bothering you.” Hotshot asked.
“I...I...Im sorry sir. I...I’m currently having a few problems. If...if you want me to take some leave, I will…be willing” Hotshot paid more attention. Hunter stuttering? That definitely wasn't the cool, calm Hunter they knew.
“No, I just need you to concentrate more. You need to settle this. I’m not going to order you to tell me what it is that is bothering you, because I know you wont answer. But you need to settle it. Its effecting your work, and badly. The others know something is up, even the new guys.”
“I’ll try, sir.” Hunter said saluting. He then turned and walked into his quarters.
Hotshot watched him go, wondering what was up with him. Hunter wasnt one to get caught up in something. And had never been caught doing drugs or drinking. Plus, he didnt even seem to be interested in girls, or even boys. Hotshot frowned, and then turned and walked off.
“That was interesting” said Flamer, watching Hunters retreating back.
“Indeed, I’ve never seen a mission kill in 1st wing, even in a simulation, let alone a kill. And we have been here for a long time” replied Firecracker.
“Something is bothering Hunter”
“No shit, Groeeowes Holos”
“Why do you read that detective junk?”
“Why do you read that Fantasy junk?”
“Because it isnt Junk, still, I cant really see what is bothering Hunter. He never does anything anyway. All he is interested in is his Honor, and his religion”
“So, it is either a problem with his religion or his honor. Or maybe something else. So what?”
“So, lets go see if we cant help him out. Come on, if its either of those, then it will probably be on the ‘net.”
“Wait, is this the great Flamer wanting to use the net for something other than porn and chatting up girls?”
“Is this the great Firecracker willing to do the same?”
“Well, what the hel. Lets go and see what we find.”
And so the two brothers headed off to the communications section of the tender. Their distinctive red pelt easily noticeable as they walked down the corridor.
“So, what da ya think of Hunter then?” Red dwarf asked, picking up a glass. He was in a shoreside club, which was possible thanks to the fact that the Tender was currently docked at a station.
“Ha ha, he is in trouble. I think he may have lost it, ha ha” Burning Thunder replied, as he lifted his glass to take a drink from it.
“Yeh, I should hah known not ta ask ya, ya idjit”
“I fucking think he is fucking gonna get us fucking fucked” replied Fury from where she sat, and then she downed another glass. She seemed to be determined to prove she could drink everyone else under the table.
“Something is up with him. I may be new to your squad, but I knew of his reputation before in the 2033rd. This isnt like how he was described at all” said Boomer, getting his piece in from where he lounged across a settee.
“I think...i think...i dunno what I think” said Bullet from where he sat. He was less than sober, from having tried to keep up with Fury with the drinks. He was the youngest of the group, being only 19, the youngest you could be in the navy after the year of training you got.
“Samethin tis up with im. Its started ta affact his pratice”
“Ha ha, so what? He is, he he, finally lost it”
“Like you lost it, so many years ago?” Boomer said, tipping his glass to him.
“What do you mean? Ha ha”
“I fucking dont fucking think he has fucking noticed. But fucking anyway, I dont fucking think Hunter fucking knows how to fucking lose it. He fucking seems very fucking stable to me. HEY, fucking WAITER, another FUCKING ROUND, motherfucker”
“I agree, ha ha, he just seems so cool and calm. Im surprised he can feel anything, he he”
“I think...i think...i think I need to go to the bathroom” said Bullet standing up. The others watched him totter a few steps before he went straight from vertical to horizontal. The others just looked at him. Them Thunder and Red Dwarf got up and picked him and threw him bodily onto a settee.
In fact, the only one of the 2050th squadron who wasnt thinking about Hunter was Kraakeen. Who was at that time holed up in an engine room with several others. And was trying to win at cards.
“Attack when they are unprepared, make your move when they do not expect it” Sun Tzu, the art of war
Hunter sat cross legged and tried to relax into meditation, but for the first time in his life he couldnt. He also was, for the first time in many years, unsure on what he should do.
He sighed. At heart, he was, and always had been, a warriorist. And had believed in his own Honor. But now he wasnt sure whether to follow his honor or his religion, or even whether there was difference.
Hunter, whose real name was Hreeon Hreos, had a smooth black pelt that indicated that his lineage had been aristocratic for millennia. He had no qualms about serving with people who weren't of his religion like some of his fellows, or anyone who was not of an important clan. He wasnt racist; didn't think he was superior to anyone who didn't have a black pelt. He didn't act superior as if he was more important than anyone else, but did act, not exactly arrogant, but more knowledgeable about his skill. He didn't exactly boast, but he knew his skill and made sure others did.
But on the flip side, he didn't really mix. He was the silent one, the lone ranger. The one who only cared for the battle, and ignored society at other times. Maybe that was why they had decided to share it with him.
He looked down at the leaflet in front of him. With its preaching of conspiracy, of how there was a plot against the warriorists. Hunter didn't think most of them really believed that, but there would always be a few. But it was a tool, a tool of propaganda, and Hunter was religious and didn't like how his religion was loosing power.
But was that any reason for what they had planned. Hunter bit his lip with one of his sharp teeth. What was he to do? This was treason, there was no other word. Where did his honor lie? With him helping his religion return to power, even if that meant a coup? Or did it lie with defending the Khan?
Beneath the surface, the normally calm sea of Hunter’s emotions roiled in the middle of a storm.
Hunter knew he needed to make a decision, but what to do?
He began to turn to the past to try to decide, and remembered a battle, what seemed like so long ago.
“Pyramid warship off the 9th flank. Incoming anti-fighter fire” Hunter called out into the com. He soared. This was where he belonged in battle.
“You heard him, evasive maneuvers. Keep them from hitting you” called Hotshot, his wingman.
Hunter twisted his fighter around, breaking away from his wingman. He was vaguely aware of a conversation on the com, and then became aware of the cause. One of the fighters, it looked like Tornado’s, was not evading. Hunter tried to listen and concentrate on the com.
“they...they...” uttered Tornado.
“Move ya idjit” called Red Dwarf.
At last Hunter understood. Slammer, Tornado’s wingman and brother, had already died. Now Tornado was angry over it.
“Do what you have to boy, but do not do so in vain.” Hunter told him.
“THEY KILLED HIM”
Hunter watched as the fighter charged straight down, towards one of the great pyramid ships. Tornado accelerated, in a suicide dive. This was not a strafing run, this was a suicide run. The ship had seen him, and began to fire, but Tornado avoided it with relative ease.
Hunter pulled his fighter away, avoiding a little fire himself. Then the fighter hit. The ship rippled by secondary explosions, and then blew apart.
Hunter opened his eyes, and stirred from the past. He knew what he had to do now.
Hotshot watched as the 2050th squadron joked around. Over in the corner of the club, the fire twins, named after their red pelts, were chatting up a couple of girls. He could hear laughter as burning thunder regaled tales of battle to a group of other jocks. Fury (although the name Heera was always present in his mind), one of the few females in the navy, and Bullet, both of them relatively new to the squadron, sat watching him with wide eyes. Or rather, wide eyes in Bullets case, but thoughtful composure in Fury’s case.
He could here the bumpkin accent of Red Dwarf boasting about how he was from a superior planet, and how everyone spoke wrong. It was quite hard to follow, as his accent was more pronounced than usual. Hotshot had heard it all before, and was sure quite a bit of the accent was put on.
Kraakeen and Boomer were sitting at a table where they were playing cards with more jocks. They seemed to be doing fine, or at least, not that badly.
Hotshot turned back to the bar, and his drink. He smiled, he always thought his squadron, with all the little characters within it, each with their own unique personality, was one of the best he had ever been in. Even Hunter, who was a recluse, was part of this wonderful group.
Hotshot always felt like a father figure to the delinquents of his squadron. With all their little quirks. Hotshot frowned though, Hunter, something was up with him, he had seen him earlier, and he had looked a little, well, flustered. That wasnt like the calm, collected Hunter they all knew. Something was up, and as the leader of the Squadron, it was Hotshots job to find out.
Fury got up. Burning Thunder’s laugh, which came into play every sentence, was beginning to get on her nerves. She turned to where her partner Boomer was, with Kraakeen. Both of them were new to the squadron, having had 4th wing wiped completely out in the battle of Xolotl. Boomer was more experienced than her, and most of his squadron had been destroyed in the same battle. Fury was new, but had had plenty of training. More than Bullet, anyway.
She turned and looked about the room. Then headed for the card table. She should be able to have some fun there.
“What’s fucking up motherfuckers?” she asked in her usually colorful language.
“Hey there sweetie” said one of the jocks around the table. His nametag read Bloody, “What’s up?”
“Im fucking no ones fucking sweetie you fucking motherfucker. And I’m fucking looking for some fucking cards. Fucking deal me fucking in, dealer” she replied.
Kraakeen and Boomer grinned at the shock showing on some of the faces around the table. Bloody stared angrily at her.
“I suggest you take your business elsewhere” he said.
“I go fucking where I fucking want, you fucking motherfucker. Now, if you dont fucking mind, I’d like to fucking play fucking cards.”
“I strongly suggest you leave now, you Heeraki” everyone around the table stared as Bloody insulted the women in their midst. Fury just turned and looked at him angrily, her eyes narrowing at him.
“I fucking suggest you fucking take the fucking back, you fucker” she replied.
“Make me, Heeraki. Go eat dirt like you should” Bloody said standing up, grinning at her. Two of his friends stood up, as did Boomer and Kraakeen. The other 3 around the table began to back away.
Fury turned, her face screwed up in her namesake, and then she kicked. The hit landed directly between the legs of Bloody, who doubled over in pain. She then punched him in a downward motion.
Boomer pounced on one of Bloodies mates, who had swung a kick at Fury.
It was five minutes later when the shore police arrived to break up the brawl, which had by this time drawn in a total of six different squadrons entirely, and many other people from other squadrons, who had one reason or another to fight. Most on their own sides.
Great Fist of the Khan Hreeros Kaanis grinned as his Task force came out of FTL. There, floating in the middle of space, was his target. There Khanates spare ships. 149,000 ships, all unmanned, all defenseless, apart from the single fleet of 1000 ships guarding them, of course.
With these ships destroyed, plus the 150,000 ships he had under his control, it would leave the Khanate with only 700,000 ships, but they were all weak ships. They would not stand in the way of the new Khan’s ships, and the new Khan will unite the nations of Ale-Tura, the Khanate, the Children and the Mananins into a new Khanate, which would span the galaxiki, and be the most glorious ever. Then, they will seize the rest of the galaxiki, and then, they would go on to take the Universe. Just like they were meant to.
Jreeos stumbled onto his bridge, as the klaxons still sounded.
“What have we got” he called out.
“FTL footprint, Their ours, but I have nothing on the schedule, plus, its an entire task force” called out his sensor tech.
“Prep fighters for launch, just in case” Great Claw of the Khan Jreeos called out.
He frowned, no one came here without permission, and that meant very few people did. And those that did were almost always scheduled. Never, in his experience, had an entire task force come here.
“Incoming transmission” called his com officer.
“Put it on the screen” Jreeos called out.
“Hello, sorry for our abrupt arrival, but I need to transfer some crews. These ships are going to be the new graveyard, and the current graveyard task force 14 will become our fleet”
“We have nothing on the schedule”
“Really? I wonder why that is. I have my orders”
“im afraid that I cant let you carry those orders out without confirmation”
“Sir, their fleet just went live!”called out his sensor officer. Jreeos whirled to stare at him. “They’ve Launched!”
“Fighters away, no…” Jreeos never got to finish his command, as a missile, small compared to many nations, hit his flagship and blew it apart.
The battle didnt last long. 50,000 ships versus 1000 is no real hope for victory. The Anti-FTL device deployed stopped them from leaving, or communicating. They still fought bravely, against the treacherous members of their own nation who dared to interfere with them. Some of the rebel ships were destroyed, but they were few and far between.
And then, the ships turned and began to laser down the graveyard, where the Khanate kept all the ships it didnt have the manpower to maintain in peacetime. And now they never would get the chance.
All 150,000 of them were shot down with lasers. Destroyed to prevent them from being used.
NOTE: the 2050th squadron were first written about in the as yet unfinished Tomb Star 2, in the bit that hasnt been post. That fight came first, not this. enjoy them, i know i do.
Harod Jeson looked into the mirror at his appearance. The suit did indeed look good on him, and the smiles from his valet and protocol officer behind him showed him they knew that they had been right. It was indeed important, but Harod was a military officer, and not really an ambassador at all. He sometimes hated all of the parties he was required to attend, and was thankful for the tradition that meant subordinates normally did most of the negotiating for most things.
And if he didnt have an ambassadorial state of mind, his staff certainly did. They loved all of this, and Harod was happy to let them get on with it.
He knew some would have considered that his new position may have a demotion. After all, there was nothing like commanding a fleet. But the Ale-Turan government considered that the Khanate needed a military officer in charge, and so an admiral got sent.
Of course, even with the staff and his military service, he didnt understand the Khanate. He knew that even the ambassadorial staff had failed to fully do so, mainly as they still didnt have a complete translation of the Khanates written language, especially with over 10,000 individual letters, to study the texts which the Khanate was so fond of, such as the Code.
Harod sighed. Well, he couldnt help it. It was his duty to go where he was told in the service of the Alliance. So he might as well get on with the big ball he was going to. It wasnt even really important, but several of the major players in the Crenii Keeraki were going, which meant he might actually get something done for the good of his nation.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Harod turned at the sound of the voice, to see the valet and protocol officer turn as well, and there was one of the porters with a messenger.
“I apologize for the intrusion, Vrenta, but I must deliver an invitation to you. His Maaaki requests that you attend a luncheon at the palace within a few hours. I do hope this does not inconvenience you in any way” the messenger said. Harod blinked. The Khan was inviting him? That was unusual in the least. Normally any meeting would be arranged months before, or at least weeks. To receive an invitation within a few days was unheard of, let alone on that day.
“It will not, Vrenina” Harod replied. At least it got him out of the ball. The messenger meanwhile beamed at the form of praise that Harod had given him. Most people didnt know High Khanate, but most knew enough of the main terms. High Khanate was rarely used anymore except at main functions and special events.
The Messenger bowed and backed out of the room. And the valet and protocol officer just stared. Then they bowed their heads together. Harod looked at them, and they then turned to the closet.
Harod groaned. Evidently the suit he was wearing wasnt suitable for a meeting at the palace.
Harod frowned as his guide led him down another corridor. This wasnt wear he normally met the Khans representative. In fact, he was sure it was deeper into the palace than he had ever been before. Which was odd. Few non-Canthin ever went into the palace, or were even allowed in, let alone allowed past the point that he had met the Khans representative. In fact, few of the leaders of the clans ever made it farther, and most of the ones who did never came any where near the Khan.
He frowned again as they entered a massive dome. Inside, it was obviously a greenhouse, but it was huge. It had to be at least a kilometer high, and more than 5 in diameter. He stared into the center of the room, which was dominated by a huge 2 kilometer long tree, which seemed to be floating in the air. It lay on its side, but slowly seemed to spin.
He could only see parts of it over the trees and other plants. The entire floor of the dome seemed to be covered in plants, of many different shapes and sizes and colors. The Guide gestured to a cart, and then got in the drivers seat. Harod sat in the seat.
He stared as he passed a flower bed set out almost entirely by plants from Gauyus, including several Treagy plants. It didnt seem to be there for food production, just for the look.
He also stared at the birds. They were everywhere, and seemed to be from a huge range of planets. There were these three trees which had white foliage, and a purple trunk. Below it, a small sign said it was a “IRIDESCENT STUBTREE, ASTROBA”.
There seemed to be hundreds of plants as the guide led him through winding tracks. Through what looked like a rainforest jungle, through meadows and arranged flower beds. Each arranged in a strange and unique way.
And then they came to a gate, and beyond appeared to be a fenced garden. It was set back against a massive metal plate which Harod saw was an anti-gravity plate. It was holding up the massive tree thing, along with several others along its length.
The guide gestured to Harod at the gate, and then opened it for him. Harod passed through it, and the guide turned and boarded the Cart, and then drove off. Within the garden, a small table was set up, and there were two seats.
Harod, however, was stunned just looking at the massive tree which floated above him. It was huge, bigger than anything had the right to be. It was practically the size of a space ship. Bigger even.
“Impressive isnt it” said a voice, and Harod looked round. There was a Canthin weeding in a bed of flowers next to him. He had a black pelt, which meant that he was from one of the old families, and was thus an important figure. The Canthin was male, from the sound of his voice and the lack of mammaries upon his chest, and was on his hands on knees, pulling small plants from the bed.
“Indeed” Harod replied “but what is it?”
“It is a Sway tree, native to the Voy system. Actually, its a special version, specifically genetically modified to fit in here. The ones native to the Voy system grow up to 100 kilometers long. Anyway, I didnt ask you here to talk” said Khan Kreeos XI, standing up.
Harod stared. He recognized the Khan from pictures, but had never seen him in person, face to face anyway, before. As far as he knew, no Khan had ever met with a non-Khanate citizen, and rarely met any of even his most important council leaders. He stayed out of sight, out of the way.
And he was standing here, without so much as a guard in evidence, about to have lunch with him, the ambassador of the Ale-Turans. The nation which a little less than a hundred years ago had had a war with the Khanate.
Or, not quite, thought Harod as he caught the flash of a sight on a rifle. He realized that the Guard had snipers in the trees surrounding the small fenced garden.
“Sit, please, I insist” the Khan said, indicating the chairs at the table, and Haron sat while the Khan sat at the other side of the table.
“Tea?” asked the Khan, picking up the jug in the center of the table.
“Um, yes your Maaaki” Haron finally got out. And the Khan poured tea into Haron’s cup, and then poured some into his own. He then set down the jug.
“Please, call me Kreeos, Mr ambassador. This is not an official occasion.
“I have always been amused about how people from a nation like yours which seems to detest monarchs, is completely respectful and seems to love other nations monarchs. Sometimes you people are more respectful than some of my own subjects, although not by much”
Harod was still trying to get around the fact that the ruling Khan of the Khanate had just poured tea for him. He knew about traditions that meant that the host must pour tea for the guest, but this was not how it was supposed to be for the Khan, who had servants to do this sort of thing.
The Khan seemed to read his mind.
“Thinking that I should have used servants, are you?” when Harod nodded he went on. “Just because I am an aristocrat does not mean I have to use servants for everything, a fact the Ale-Turans do not understand, and some of my fellow aristocrats have forgotten. Some of your own people act more like the evil, overlords you imagine us to be than we do, meaning no disrespect of course.
Anyway, feel free to dig in” the Khan said, indicating the plates on the table, which were piled high with food.
Harod smiled and tried to compose himself. In fact, the Khan seemed more like the President, or former president at least.
They then ate through the meal, which was full of things grown in the garden. Harod learned that the Khan was in direct control of the gardeners, and he was a keen gardener himself. The garden they were in though, was cared for exclusively by the Khan himself. He loved gardening, although he did have other interests, such as insect keeping, and metal working (he had built the ornate Iron fence around the garden).
Then the meal was over, and they both leaned back.
“and now, to business” the Khan said, and Harod sit up straighter. “How much do you know of our religions and internal politics?”
“not a lot, im afraid”
“I was afraid of that. The different languages we have are most likely hampering your investigations. Very well, I will explain them to you.
As you no doubt know, the Khanate is directly ruled by me, the Khan, in theory. The reality is that the Crenii Keeraki has wrested the control the Khan once had from me. I could theoretically use that power at any time, but the problem would be I wouldnt have the support of the leaders of the Crenii Keeraki on my side, and they are the most powerful figures in the Khanate after me.
Now, this would be fine if they were good leaders, but they are not. And there isnt a thing I can do to stop them from leading us all into disaster.
Now, as you no doubt know, we have several religions, in addition to the code, which could be considered one on its own. The code is actually more complex than it first appears, and there are loads of contradictions within it.
The two major religions that are causing trouble are Warriorism, and Wayism. For the past five centuries, the Warriorists have been slowly gaining power. My Uncle, the former Khan, was a member of this religion, although thankfully a moderate.
Now, as you would assume from the name, Warriorism is quite a violent religion, preaching that we must conquer the entire galaxiki, and then the Universe. And that it is our destiny to rule this. Now, most of these are moderates and believe that we will do so in time, and a few less believe it will and can happen through less violent ways. But there is a core of extremists who believe it is their duty to do so, and I fear that they are up to something. The even bigger problem is that there is a large amount of them in the Navy, and they seem to be becoming part of a few Task forces. I feel this grouping could be dangerous, to us as much as to you. The Warriorists see the Ale-Turans and the Dacor as the greatest threats to them, as you are the biggest and most visible “Threat” to the Khanate.
Now, Wayism is much more moderate and less violence. In fact, it tries to discourage violence in general. It is very philosophical, and plenty of different version exist. The problem is that many of the followers join the navy, simply because they feel it is a duty to protect others. In fact, I think it might have something to do with the book “The Art of War”, which was written by a Wayist. The Wayists believe that cooperation with our fellow sentients is the best way, and since the Ale-Turan war, they have been gaining more and more power within the Crenii Keeraki.
This worries me, as it puts the two largest factions in the navy at odds with one another.”
Harod was deep in thought. This was more information than they had ever managed to gather. They didnt know much, but they knew that the Code dated back before the religions had been formed. They knew there were a lot of them, but a Canthin religion expert that had worked on the Great Refuge religions had thrown his hands up at the Khanate religions, exclaiming they were completely different.
The Code was still followed, but much of it was obscure to even a scholar of the Khanate. It had been written so long ago. He thought this needed a lot more thought.
“I fear that some sort of confrontation is on the way, and the Ale-Turan may get caught up in it. Anyway, it appears that it is time for you to leave. I do hope you have enjoyed your visit.” the Khan said gesturing to the cart which had returned, along with the same guide.
Haron stood, and then bowed.
“Thank you for your hospitality, Vrenta” he said.
“And thank you, Vrenmea” the Khan replied with a smile. Haron almost recoiled in shock. The Khan had addressed him as an equal! And in the praise form as well!
He was going to have a lot of things to discuss with his superiors when he got back.
Treagy plants native to the Gnaan (NCE495) system and created by danansan
Sway trees native to the Voy system (VBF863) and created by nnygamer
A picture of an IRIDESCENT STUBTREE can be found in the Astroba (NKB136) system, and created by dakotastrange.
Nobody thought much of it at the time, the disappearance of that ship. In those days, before the SSF and CONSEC, the pirates at Skyhaven were at the height of their power. Literally thousands of Pirates operated right across the sector, and civilian traders, and even the occasional government ship, disappeared with alarming regularity…
No one really cared when a Worldrunner light freighter, registered with Turi Shuttles, was reported missing in the region. The major local powers, the Ganites, Herreni and Canthin, had no inclination to go chasing after a single light freighter. Even Assada Industries, who had contracted the Worldrunner to carry an experimental compound, were not all that cut up about it. They had plenty of the substance, and could ship again…
Years later, after Skymass was captured by the SSF, an Ale-Turan firm was contracted to search through all the records of raids and attacks by the major pirate syndicates. The Morijan Syndicate held the records of a failed raid by a customised Dacor Marauder against a Worldrunner class light freighter. The Worldrunner had been disabled, but the Marauder had lost it after the trader drifted into a nebula…
The Worldrunner's name was the Van Egel of Eved Eath, a product of Turi Shuttle's brief owner ship by the Egel family…
Her crew was from six different races, all biologically diverse…
A ship carrying an experimental compound, with a multinational crew, goes missing into an unstable nebula…
It just had to happen, really.
This is the start of a story I wrote. I decided not the post the whole thing because it's two thousand worlds long. The rest is in the KBW, under science fiction, then Danansan's stories
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