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The Antaran Chronicles


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diehardtwinsfan #1 Posted 18 April 2016 - 12:32 AM

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Continued from the Noveim.

 

 


 

Commander Cyrus Destair was young for a Psilon, being only 30 solar years of age and receiving his first command, a command he received without the rank of Captain.  In a former time, this would have been an impressive feat, but now, the honor was rather common due more to war time casualties than a meritorious, promising career that deserved it.  Destair had only known a life of war as the entire core had been engulfed in one for as long as he had been alive.  Only 40 years prior, Antares had been reborn into existence, and the chaos that ensued engulfed the entire core.  Alliances that had been brokered had quickly fallen apart, and when new ones were made, they too were usually short lived.  Very few races could be considered friends these days, though some were willing to tolerate each other, if for no other reason than to protect themselves from the Antarans. 


 

The young Psilon commander had been born on Pleides, one of the first planets colonized by the Psilons during what was commonly called the second great expansion.  His career had not been without merit.  He excelled in his schooling, showing an aptitude for command and strategy.  As such, he was conscripted into the Psilon war effort at the young age of 20 solar cycles.  Only two weeks prior, he had been given his first command: the Psilon cruiser Ampere, named after one of Mentar’s most prominent cities.  At 30 years of age, most Psilons would have considered Destair to be nothing more than a child, except that most of his crew was younger.  Destair didn’t expect his life to be a long one.  The idea of living 100 solar years while serving in the military was rather farfetched.  To live a full Psilon life of 200 or more cycles was at best a dream he could only have.  He was fortunate, at least for the time being, that his ship was stationed at the remote military outpost guarding the Orion sector.  Shortly after the rebirth of Antares, Admiral Kelvim had massed what remained of the Psilon fleet and destroyed the ancient Guardian that protected the system.  The casualties had been immense, but the technology received had been well worth the cost, at least in the eyes of the Psilon military and science councils. 


 

For the most part, there had been little fighting around Orion.  The Psilons had rather quickly colonized it, and because of the unstable jump points that surrounded the planet, they were able to build it up quickly before their neighbors had a chance to explore it.  Destair’s ship was stationed with a rather large military outpost protecting the entrance into the Orion system. The outpost itself was well defended, but despite that the military council felt it necessary to have some sort of fleet there, though rarely was it a very powerful fleet, nor did it ever last.  Ships that were dispatched to Orion, often only stayed for short periods of time, as the war forced them into service.  While the colony itself was well developed, it still amounted to a frontier system for the Psilons.  There were bordered by a human group known only as the Terran Alliance.  The Alliance had problems of its own, as they were engaged in a rather brutal war with the Sakkras.  That allowed for trade relations between the neighbors, and even a non-aggression pact as neither species had the resources to go to war with the other, but tensions between the two races were never peaceful. 


 

Peace was something that seemed rather foreign.  The timing of the Antaran rebirth was both a blessing and a curse to the core.  On the one hand, most systems had been colonized at this point, and as such, the Antarans had no room to expand.  On the other hand, the Antarans had far superior ships and a relatively protected planet.  The three black holes they created to pull themselves back into this dimension made travel to the system nearly impossible. As well, the Antarans had the ability to travel through them.  Within a solar cycle of their rebirth, they conquered  Silicoid and Sakkra planet on the far outer reaches of the galaxy.  They had also laid siege to a Bulrathi system in the core, though with the help of the Darlocks, Psilons, and Humans had been repelled.  Destair had never met an Antaran, but their reputation of being a brutal species spoke for itself.  They also, or so he was taught, seemed to know the inner workings of each species all too well.  Their knowledge combined with their superior technology made it very easy for them to take and keep planets.  The Darlock-Psilon alliance had been able to prevent their expansion into the core, at least for the time that it lasted, but this alliance was now nothing more than a footnote in the history books.  Only the technology that they had acquired kept them from what would most assuredly be a destructive war.  While they had hoped to use this technology as a means of controlling the galaxy, it instead made them a target of other species.  That included the Antarans, who were all too happy to keep sending enough ships their way to prevent them from rebuilding their decimated fleets.  They still had superior technology, but the war had been costly. 


 

As his predecessors had learned, time at Orion was never long, and today was going to prove the same for him and his crew.  He knew it the moment his coms officer told him he had an incoming communication.  It did not, however, come from his normal channel.  It was none other than Admiral Kelvim himself.  The Amere was headed to Mentar, for exactly what, he did not know.



diehardtwinsfan #2 Posted 22 April 2016 - 12:33 AM

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It was a quiet evening on Saak Prime.  One could almost call it perfect if there could be a uniform definition of perfect.  The planet itself was ideal in that sense, and one could have thought that under different control it might have been a popular destination planet for rich tourists.  But it was settled by the Sakkra and later conquered by the Antarans.  The Sakkra weren’t known for clean and pristine living.  They seemed to have a tolerance for tight spaces, and like all Saakra planets, it was over crowed.  That made it easy to blend in, and the old Darlock was hoping for an easy job.  Mimicking the Sakkra was easy enough to do.  They weren’t the most intelligent of species, and there was little about them that was distinctive.  Blending in and impersonating them was easy.  But this job was more difficult.  It required infiltration of an Antaran military installation with access to their core network, and even that didn’t seem difficult in comparison, as thus far, he had found nothing.


 

The old Darlock paused for a second as he thought about what he had to do tonight.  It was another data tap.  This wasn’t his first tap into their network.  He had been operating on this system for almost a year.  Installing the data taps, while dangerous, was relatively easy in comparison to finding what it was he was looking for.  The other problem was that the Antarans kept finding his taps.  He had hidden them cleverly.  At most he could go a month before it was discovered, but of late it seemed as though they were finding them more frequently.  The Darlock had quietly moved around the planet to help avoid this.  There were a dozen military stations on the planet that boasted connectivity to the Antaran core network.  He had visited all of them, and many more than once.  Each time, the task would prove itself to be more difficult than the last. 


 

Tonight, he would be a Sakkra maintenance worker.  He hoped he wouldn’t need to shift to be an Antaran.  He did not know their language all that well, and they would only address each other in their own tongue.  Given that up until 40 years prior, the Antarans were unknown, that made learning the nuances of a complicated language that much more difficult, as this Darlock was old.  Like most species, learning a language was easier for young Darlocks than old, and the civilization took advantage of that.  It was easy for Darlock children to take the shape of an object in a heavily populated area, for the sole purpose of learning the language.  The Darlocks had an adept program for doing that, and as such, most Darlocks could speak three languages eloquently by the time they were ready for military training.  The brightest were known to speak a dozen.  Unfortunately for this Darlock, he had no such luxury.  The only advantage he had was that the Darlock tongue clearly had its roots in the Antaran language.  Posing as Sakkra slave labor, he knew that the Antaran’s wouldn’t notice his struggles with the language, but if he had to take Antaran form again, he just hoped that no one wanted to speak to him.


 

The Darlock fell into line behind a few other Sakkra laborers, hoping to be unnoticed.  Stay to the right, he quietly told himself.  Up ahead, there were three DNA scanners.  Security had been tightened here and scanners were now required for entrance into the facility.  One of his team members died when she had been caught after hacking one of the scanners.  The team had been fortunate that the Antarans didn’t realize she had been successful.  They assumed she was attempting to sabotage the facility in some way.  While there was truth to that, her main job was to make it easier for them to get in, hacking DNA scanners, planting hidden explosives for convenient use later on, installing sensors, etc.  She had completed most of her mission while being caught planting some explosives.  She had only accessed on of the scanners though, so he had to use that one.  She marked it with a special translucent dye that only Darlocks could see. It was a faint marking, but still quite visible within a few hundred feet of the scanner, enough for him to casually file over to the correct scanner to avoid detection.  The Darlock was lucky his eye sight was still good.  Darlocks could see across the spectrum in much greater wavelengths than any other species.  It was much like Alkari hearing in that sense. 


 

The Darlock held his breath as he slipped through. “Move along” growled the Antaran security guard.  Quietly, he took his maintenance cart and sauntered off towards the assignment listed on his data pad.  He was fortunate tonight as the assignment was near the data center he needed to access. He moved slowly down the halls looking for an easy opportunity, and within an hour, the quietness of the facility presented himself with one.  In a matter of seconds, he had hidden his cart and slipped into the a maintenance duct. The tight duct forced him to shape shift into a very skinny deformed Sakkra, but this would do the trick as he quietly slid into the opening above the data center.  Below, he could see a few Antaran engineers working on a console.  In his case, he only need to install the tap on to the main connection.  Since he had been here before, he knew where it was.  Like a cat stalking a mouse, he quietly moved to the line and installed his tap.  The tap itself didn’t need much for configuring. It was nothing more than a high speed processing chip that could read from and write to the data network using the electro-magnetic radiation that emanated from the line.  He attached the device and verified that the phone home setting was active.  After which, he silently slipped away.  He was now covered in dust and dirt, and hastily found his maintenance cart.  Needing a quick distraction, he managed to create a convenient accident by spilling a few containers of random liquids.  That got the ire of the Antaran maintenance coordinator, earning him a free night off, but not after receiving a number of bruises.  It was well worth it.  Outside the facility, the Darlock retrieved some hidden equipment and did a quick test of the tap.  It was working. 


 

Over the last year, they had installed at least 20 of these things, and with no luck, though at least now he thought they were getting close.  He was pretty certain they had found where the data was stored… but they had to break the encryption and then figure out what it was they needed to take.  That would take more time.



diehardtwinsfan #3 Posted 22 April 2016 - 09:58 PM

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The Orion senate was nothing more than a place to boast and bicker, at least that’s what Human delegate Raj Nagoshek thought.  He was the head Human delegate to the Senate, and while he enjoyed the pomp and prestige that it brought, nothing was rarely accomplished.  The re-birth of Antares had forced them to convene.  During the first decade of its existence, they had rallied behind the strength of the Psilon-Darlock alliance, but the Humans and other races quickly realized that this had been far more beneficial to these two races than it was to them.  To this day, one could only speculate how the Psilons and Darlocks had acquired such impressive technology, and they were not exactly willing to share it. 


 

The alliance itself had lasted only a decade though the super-powers managed to end it amicably.  Even though they were no longer allies, they still respected each other, and sometimes too much.  But it was the other races that had forced it to end, through the one meaningful action the Senate had taken.  It was a galactic war that broke out, with each race fighting against the Psilons and Darlocks.  The war had lasted for five years, when the Senate was formed, and its first and only accomplishment was to broker an end to the alliance and to the war.  The reality was that they had bigger problems.   The Antarans had conquered several key systems in the galaxy, using some sort of technology that allowed them to travel through black holes.  While the core had remained relatively intact, the Antarans had taken a number of Sakkra and Silicoid planets on the outer reaches of the galaxy.  Raj was unsure of the exact number of systems they had conquered, but he was certain that neither race was terribly honest about how much Antares had encroached on their boarders.  The Antaran attempt to conquer the core had fortunately been pushed back.  During the great war, an Antaran fleet managed to conquer the second planet in Ajeih.  Ajeih was a Bulrathi system, and it was far too close to Ursa for their comfort.  A fleet of Human, Bulrathi, Psilon, and Darlock united for a brief time to expel them from the core in an alliance that was very short lived.  Since then, nothing useful came from the Senate. 


 

It was this that bothered him.  Raj was an observer.  He didn’t like attention, nor did he like to speak.  He much preferred watching others.  He was a master at the Human game of poker, and his ability to read others was one of the many reasons why he was a good diplomat. He could usually tell when someone wasn’t being honest, and today he was quietly trying to chase it down.  It had taken him a while, but he was able to trace the discord of the Senate down to a handful of diplomats across several races.  He suspected Darlock foul play, but strangely enough, the Senate discord never benefited Nazin.  It only seemed to benefit chaos and dysfunction.  Tonight, he was not a diplomat, but an untrained spy, as he quietly followed another Human delegate through the red-light district of Orion City. 


 

Orion City was ironically not in Orion, but instead named after the elder race that all of the core species agreed existed.  The location of the Orion home-world was speculated to be near a Psilon border, but the truth of that was that the Psilons had long since declined to share charts and none of the core species had scouted it.  The main speculation for its location came from some pirate myths and scattered rumblings of the Terran Alliance, who had claimed to detect some sort of massive monster guarding that area, but their data records were far from reliable.  Orion City was actually on Sol’s moon, and great expense had gone into terraforming it.  The Human’s greatest gift to the core was the diplomatic ability to get the Senate to convene, and in so doing they donated a large swath of land on the dark side of their moon to this cause.  The city was unique in all the galaxy for virtually no laws, as many things that would be illegal in their home worlds were completely legal at Orion city.  It did enjoy highly restrictive access, as it was well guarded by all the aliens of the core, and one of the requirements of each team was to have a member of each participating species. 


 

Diplomats and their staffs really enjoyed this, as Orion City catered the depravity of any species, and the humans profited mightily from it.  All types of mind altering substances were legal here, as was gambling, prostitution, trading in stolen artifacts and stolen merchandise.  Pirates were rumored to funnel their prize wares through legitimate traders at Orion City.  Each species contributed a tax to maintain the city, that was the price of participation.  However, it was the trade in the city and taxes from it that made many Humans wealthy.  The Human empire also benefited positively from that arrangement, as it was mostly their suppliers who won contracts to perform services there, and it was mostly human merchants that had establishments in the city, though any merchant could open one up if they could afford to pay the rent, and since the Humans effectively owned the land, they received the bulk of the rent.  The city had its privileges, as within it, all diplomats had immunity.  As such, each race had its own security detail.  Crime was surprisingly low for such an area. The city watch typically had to deal with bar fights, gambling disputes, and those types of things, but the races seemed to like their little paradise and as such chose to behave.  Though there was one exception that riled some Humans.  Slave labor here was legal as well, and no laws protected them.  While most activities were consensual in nature Bulrathi and Sakkra paramours rarely survived the encounter if they were not of the same species.  They simply weren’t strong enough, and as such slaves were brought in for that purpose as well as to provide cheap labor for many of the menial jobs.  Likewise, for some odd reason, many seemed to enjoy the sport of taming a Bulrathi.  That too was strange to Raj as people often paid good money for the opportunity and more often than not either died or were severely wounded.  Some apparently liked the challenge.  Likewise, in an even stranger twist, Bulrathi women enjoyed the sport just as much.  The ones that worked Orion City were not slaves.  They really were a violent species, and for that matter an ugly one.  Raj to this day struggled in telling the difference between a Bulrathi male and female.  While he disliked Bulrathi culture, Raj had become close friends with the head of the Bulrathi security detail, but beyond that, he avoided them.


 

Tonight was not about Bulrathi however.  It was about this other human.  He followed him through the red light district, but he was surprised when his prey continued on.  He silently followed into a dimly lit alleyway.  His prey eventually disappeared into an empty warehouse.  From the outside, he noticed some lights on the fourth floor.  A rooftop terrace was bordered that section of the warehouse, and Raj seized the opportunity to quietly climb a ladder and access the terrace.  From the outside he could hear voices, and they were angry. “You were followed!” came the gruff voice of a species whose accent he could not place.  “I was very careful,” came the human reply.  “Trust me in that I’m here alone.  We need to talk about our plans.  I’m working at getting…” “YOU WERE FOLLOWED!” bellowed the gruff voice again, clearly angry.  Raj started to back away but instead felt a searing pain in his back as the arm of an assailant wrapped around his neck.  In shock and pain he struggled to free himself and saw the edge of a large blade protruding from the base of his chest.  And then by no choice of his own he was falling forty feet, landing with a thud.  Darkness quickly surrounded him as his life slowly bled out of him, paralyzed, he could only hope someone saw him.



diehardtwinsfan #4 Posted 25 April 2016 - 12:26 AM

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View PostEmP64213, on 23 April 2016 - 06:06 PM, said:

Well, he was not as good as an old Darlok from before. I assume the mystery person was Antaran.

 

 

you'll have to read on :)



diehardtwinsfan #5 Posted 25 April 2016 - 12:27 AM

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The communication device rang at approximately 2:00 AM galactic time and Marshall Jones was woken from a deep sleep.  Quickly glancing at the clock, he answered, though he already knew that a call at this time could not mean good news.  “This is doctor Salk at the Orion City Hospital. I’m following our established protocol and want you to know that Raj Nagoshek is in stasis.  We can keep him alive for a bit longer, but he will not survive.  Please come down immediately.”  Cursing quietly under his breath, Jones rolled out of bed and began fumbling for a switch.  Quickly he got dressed, made himself a quick cup of coffee, and headed out to the local hospital, already feeling the dread of what was to come.


 

This assignment wasn’t unusual to him. Jones was the head of Human security for the Human contingent at Orion City.  The hospital there was staffed by doctors from each race, and they only treated their same species.  It was an odd configuration to be sure, but this had more to do with reasons of espionage and politics than anything else.  Human protocol was to notify him any time there was an incident, and if the incident involved high ranking officials such as Raj, he was to be called no matter what the time.  Jones also had a second title.  He was a counter-espionage spy. His predecessors never functioned in that manner, which made certain parts of their job difficult, as the Human military would occasionally intervene, confounding some of his predecessors.  However, it was clear that Orion City was a great place for espionage, and as such, he was appointed to this role in part due to his espionage skills.  He had made a name for himself on Sol.  He was the only human spy to actually catch a Darlock.  That itself was impressive, even more so that to this very day, everyone was certain that the Darlocks had no idea who caught their operative.  Several years later, when this post became available, he had been asked to take it.  At age eighty, nearing the end of his career, this seemed like a relatively safe option not far from home that he could serve out the remainder of his time.  He had come to enjoy it, except when he got these types of calls.

Arriving at the hospital, he displayed his credentials and was immediately escorted to see Dr. Salk.  Salk was a diminutive human, small in stature, but not young.  “Raj was found a couple hours ago,” he continued.  “He had been stabbed in the back and thrown forty feet to the ground.  The blade went clear through his back, puncturing his lower lung and going clear through his torso.  That injury alone would have been easy enough to deal with…” he paused, “except that the blade was poisoned.” 


 

“Poisoned with what?” Jones asked somewhat surprised.


 

“Antaran silk weed,” came the doctor’s reply.  “We didn’t even realize it.  We were treating the wound when his organs began to shut down.  Our toxicology screens don’t test for it yet.  We had a secondary panel run, but as you know those take time.  His organs were shutting down when we received the panel results, and by then it was too late.”  

Jones cursed angrily, but he knew that there was nothing that the doctor could have done.  Antaran silk weed was something new to the galaxy.  When they conquered the Bulrathi world, they brought this weed with them. It had a silky texture, and it was not something easily killed.  And it was a weed.  It spread like one.  The Antarans remained on that world for seven years, and in that time the weed had completely overrun the world, being found nearly everywhere.  No one really knew what the Antarans used it for.  It was assumed it was some sort of food that they consumed.  Whatever it was, it was toxic to nearly all species, except the Silicods, who consumed rock, and the Meklar, who God only knew what they ate.  A blade coated in the oil of Antaran Silk Weed would be lethal within a few hours of exposure.  The toxin would cause all organic life to shut down.  There were no known cases of survival.  It was so toxic that it couldn’t even be diluted to form some sort of drug for the purposes of getting high.  Its one function, at least with most species, was to kill.


 

“How long does he have?” Jones asked.


 

“Maybe a few minutes,” the doctor replied, “We didn’t see it until it was too late.  We put him in stasis immediately as per protocol.”  The doctor was clearly nervous, knowing that this put Jones in a tough situation.  Angrily, Jones told the doctor to wake him up.  A few minutes was nothing.  He didn’t even know what Raj could say in that time, but none-the-less, that was the time he had to work with, and he was going to get whatever he could from Raj before the poison shut him down permanently.  Jones proceeded to the room where Raj was being kept.  Quickly, the staff began following the doctor’s orders to bring Raj out of stasis.  Five minutes later, he was awake.

Quickly, the doctor explained to Raj what was going on.  The diplomat was fortunately old enough to understand and to be at peace with what was happening, though the doctor wasn’t exaggerating when he said the man only had a few minutes.  “The Senate is compromised,” Raj said gasping for breath.  “Walk with the Wild Spirits,” he said, breathing his last. 


 

“That wasn’t much.” Jones muttered angrily.  Though it was more than he thought he would get giving the situation.  Raj hated the Bulrathi, with one exception.  Raj was known to associate with Culso, the Bulrathi security delegate, and Jones’ peer.  As the Human security delegate, Jones had to know these things. He had profiles on all the official and non-official Human employees at Orion City.  He kept tabs on Raj, but truthfully, Raj was to be trusted and so he wasn’t as concerned about his whereabouts.  Jones was surprised that it was a Bulrathi though that Raj directed him to with his dying words.  But it was too soon to visit.  Being only 4:30 AM now, he found the Human constable that investigated the scene and asked to be taken there. 


 

When he arrived, the scene was already cordoned off.  Large lights where everywhere, as being on the dark side of the moon, there would be no light in Orion city for another week.  That too took some getting used to as the dark side of the moon was dark for long periods, followed by some periods of light.  On the moon, there were no 24 hour days, which is made the entire concept of galactic time somewhat ridiculous.  Regardless, the scene now was well lit and a number of investigators were present.  Jones was immediately escorted to the lead investigator, though he wasn’t given much more information.  “He was on that terrace,” the detective stated.  “There is some blood up there.  He was apparently thrown down to the ground here,” the detective continued, pointing to the outline and blood spatter a few feet away.  The terrace was forty feet up.  Even though he knew that gravity on the moon was much weaker, all of his senses wondered how Raj could have survived the fall.  The scene itself was rather odd.  This was a more remote portion of Orion City.  The building with the terrace was not much more than a warehouse.  Not much else was around.  Jones was a bit surprised that Raj had been found.  Apparently someone else called authorities.  Jones wondered who it was, but the answer was given before he could ask.  “It was an anonymous tip,” the detective replied.  “He wouldn’t have been found otherwise.” 


 

There really was not much else of note.  The scene was secured, but there was no other evidence at this point as to who had killed Raj.  Jones spent a bit more time looking around, but nothing else was found.   He knew his next assignment.  He had some time, so he went and grabbed breakfast, and then immediately headed to Culso’s office. 



diehardtwinsfan #6 Posted 25 April 2016 - 01:34 AM

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Culso’s office was a lot different from a traditional Bulrathi workplace.  Then again, it was different from just about everyone at Orion City.  From the moment he stepped in, Jones was pleasantly surprised at what he saw.  Then again, Culso was different from a traditional Bulrathi.  Jones knew this, it was his job.  Culso was only about 75% Bulrathi.  The rest of his DNA was human.  Culso’s father was a Bulrathi scientist.  His mother was a human orphan.  His father had purchased his mother for the purpose of genetic experimentation, and used her as his only test subject to mix Bulrathi and human DNA. Scientifically speaking, the experiments had been successful, but in all else, the human slave now had no world she could call home. It was out of honor that his father decided to marry his mother, and within a few years, Culso was born. The Bulrathi were not fond of outsiders.  Culso’s mother was shunned in their culture, as was Culso as he aged.  Culso’s parents no longer survived.  His mother died of a rare human disease, which was completely curable to Humans, formerly known as Alzheimer’s disease.  The cure, unfortunately, worked on Human DNA, and his mother was half Bulrathi.  Human cures didn’t work, and as such, she died.  Death by old age was not an honorable way to die in Bulrathi culture, and in tradition with their Culture, Culso’s father sought an honorable death for his wife.  To do so, he needed a battlefield victory, which at his age was difficult. The Bulrathi had a means for this.  Convicted criminals who were sentenced to death had the opportunity to fight.  The sentence was never commuted, but the winner’s place in the Great Hall with the Great Bear was secured.  His father had to fight a sentenced criminal.  The Bulrathi did their part in making it a challenge, giving Culso’s father a match with a Bulrathi in the prime of his age.  Culso’s father won the fight, killing his opponent, but not without suffering a mortal wound in the process, and at age thirty, Culso had no parents.  The victory, however, allowed his father and mother to both die with honor and secure their place with the Great Bear.   


 

Culso had the strength of a Bulrathi, though he had Human wits.  Growing up, must Bulrathi viewed Culso as a coward, but he never lost a fight, as he was smart enough to know when to fight and when to avoid them.  In another life, he might have been a Bulrathi admiral, but their strict devotion to race kept his career largely stalled. Some recognized his gifts, and as such he had become the Bulrathi security delegate to Orion City, but many despised him, as he would often refuse to charge into a scene where he knew the odds were against him.  That was his human wit. He didn’t accept his life as a pawn, like most Bulrathi.  He was smart. 

Everything about his office was strange.  Entering it, Jones was greeted by a young Human female. Most diplomatic offices were staffed by only the species of that race.  Culso’s was different. The walls of his office were adorned with various pictures.  All of them involved Culso in some way, and as Jones gazed at the various photos, he noticed one of significance.  In it, were both Culso and Raj shaking hands and receiving some sort of award.  The photo was too vague to show what, but he could see from Raj’s age that the two had known each other for some time.  He quickly removed the photo, but looking around he saw even more of interest.

To his right, there was a Bulrathi cub playing with a Sakkra hatchling.  It was an odd site for sure, and Jones thought it amusing because in a year he would be surprised if one hadn’t killed the other.  Overseeing them was another human female and a Sakkra littermaid.  Littermaids were an interesting concept as the Sakkra were a rapidly maturing species.  Within a year of hatching they were physically adults.  Mentally, however, they were not.  Capable of reproducing offspring, but not capable of raising them, the Sakkra used littermaids to raise the Sakkra young. These were usually females, but much older ones, being ten to twenty years of age.  As such, Sakkra children rarely knew their parents.  Littermaid was not a glorifying title in their culture, but it did provide a reasonable income to survive. 


 

“Culso will see you now,” interrupted the female Human.  She was young, and attractive by Human standards.  Jones wasn’t sure how she had come in Culso’s employ, but that was not his issue at the moment.  He was escorted into Culso’s office.


 

Culso was small for a Bulrathi male, being just shy of seven feet tall.  He was still taller than most of their females, but not by much.  “Greetings friend,” replied the Bulrathi, “What is the nature of your request, and why the urgency?” said the Burathi in a friendly voice. 


 

“Raj Nagoshek is dead,” Jones replied.  “He was murdered last night.”


 

“How?” the Bulrathi replied angrily.  Jones could see the sadness in his eyes as well as the anger clearly welling up within him.  Jones regretted his choice of words, but he knew the Bulrathi culture well enough to know that this fit their definition of murder.  To a Bulrathi, anyone could legally kill another as long as the one who died had the opportunity to fight his or her assailant.   Murder meant that there was no opportunity to fight.  This was not honorable, and the crime allowed family and friends the right to retribution. 


 

“He was stabbed in the back with a poisoned blade and then thrown forty feet to his death,” Jones replied.  “If he faced his accuser, he did not identify him or her.  He only said that the Senate was compromised and that I should walk with the wild spirits.  I assumed he was trying to tell me to visit you,” he said as he put the picture he had taken on Culso’s desk. 


 

“Frathis un Betatol!” the Bulrathi bellowed slamming his fists on the desk.  The room shook with force with the impact making the room shake.  Jones assumed the desk had an adamantium core as somehow, it did not break apart.  He was not sure what the Bulrathi said, though he assumed it was not pleasant.  “Who did this?”  The Bulrathi asked angrily.  “They must pay.  This must be Darlock trickery!”


 

“I don’t know.”  Jones replied.  “I was hoping you could help me there.”  Jones knew one thing for sure; it probably wasn’t Darlock.  They were good at espionage, but if it had been them, it would have looked like an accident, or they would have clearly framed someone else. He was an expert on the Darlocks, as he even managed to spend a year on Nazin as a part of an exchange program when their races were much closer.


 

“I don’t know much,” came the Bulrathi response.  “I know that Raj recognized something about the Senate that didn’t sit well with him.  What was the senate’s last accomplishment?”  he asked. 


 

“Galactic time,” Jones sarcastically replied.  He knew the answer before he said it.  Galactic time was a universal joke.  The times of the capital cities of all the major races were synchronized with the time of Sol’s capital.  Everything was taken in a plus/minus system of hours from the “official” time on earth.  Of course, there was a big problem in that not all planets had 24 hour days. Outside of Orion City, the whole concept was a farce. Jones knew this, as did every intelligent person.  To make it work, some systems had to add hours each night at odd times while others subtracted them.  In the end, it took several years to pass this legislation, and since then nothing of worth had been accomplished.


 

“Exactly,” the Bulrathi replied.  “Raj thought this was odd even for politicians.  He was certain it was compromised.  I don’t know who, or what, just that Raj was convinced.  I trusted him on that, but I must ask one thing of you.  Let me avenge him.  If ever there was a Human that could live with the Great Bear, it was Raj.  Let me kill his killer.”

“I will,” Jones replied.  On that, he was fairly certain.  He respected Raj Nagoshek, and the last thing he wanted was whatever consequences would follow should he have to apprehend the killer.  It would be much easier to let the Bulrathi deal with that fallout.


 

As Jones left the office, he suddenly heard a Human female calling his name.  Looking behind him, he noticed a woman rapidly approaching him.  He didn’t know her, which was a problem as he supposedly knew all official Humans in Orion City.  She was also about as normal as normal could be, slightly overweight and probably late thirties.  She was not attractive, nor was there anything about her that stood out.  That could only mean one thing.  She was not Human at all. She was a Darlock.



diehardtwinsfan #7 Posted 12 May 2016 - 01:08 AM

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View PostEmP64213, on 27 April 2016 - 06:15 PM, said:

Oh, a from action to mystery. I like it. Just one correction, Darlok is without "ck".

 

grr....

diehardtwinsfan #8 Posted 12 May 2016 - 01:09 AM

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Jones was not ready to deal with the Darloks.  Everything was always a spy game to them, and while he knew he would want to reach out to them at one point, he did not want to be doing that now.  Unfortunately for him, they were choosing the time table.  One thing was for sure, they had information they wanted to share.  Whether or not the information was accurate, complete, or just completely self-serving was a different issue.  Darloks were well known for communicating in this manner. They rarely took their own form for non-official communication and instead choose to take the form of the race they were communicating with.  In these scenarios, Jones knew he was relatively safe.  They could assassinate with ease, and they didn’t need a false pretense to do it.  As such, they respected this part of the game. 


 

The problem for Jones was that this was just as much about sizing him up as it was about delivering information. In his official role, he was a relative unknown to them.  His official role was for Human security, and as such, he interacted very little with the other races in Orion City.  That was just fine to him, as even in his unofficial role, interacting with non-humans made little sense.  This was going to be one of the few scenarios where his official role could expose his un-official role.  For certain, his handlers would need to be notified, but he hadn’t had the time to do this, and he now was being forced to play a much more serious spy game.  To the Darloks, he was an unknown.  He was also a new player, and this was likely one of many chess games they would play in order to determine his value on the board.  He knew what was next.  They would reveal information.  Some of it would be obvious; however, some of this information would be much more subtly delivered.  What he did with this information would be just as much of a test.  Proving to be too valuable of a piece would likely get him killed.   Proving himself to be a weak piece would be beneficial either.  He had to play the game well enough to earn their respect, yet not so well that they feared him.  If they had known that he was responsible for catching one of their spies, he’d likely be dead already.  That was a piece of information he had hoped they would never find.


 

This particular Darlok was about as normal as normal could be.  She had no distinguishing features and was slightly overweight.  This too was somewhat comforting.  Darloks rarely took the form of an attractive being.  When they did it was usually to distract their opponent while another Darlok was doing something more nefarious.  “I trust you know who I am,” the Darlok said with a slight wheeziness in her voice.  “I know all the Humans in Orion city,” Jones replied, “and I don’t know you.  You’re here to give me a message.”


 

“Come with me,” she wheezed a bit louder.  They walked a few blocks while saying nothing.  They moved away from the embassy district into one of the older areas of Orion City.  This area wasn’t all that far from where Raj had died.  The apartments here were in disrepair, as no one was living there.  Heavy equipment was nearby. This area was in the beginning stages of a major renovation project.  It was also a perfect area to hide.  After a few minutes, the Darlock escorted him into the front door of one of the apartment buildings.  The main floor of this particular building appeared to be some sort of bar, at least it was at some point.  Now it was empty and in disrepair.  Suddenly, however, he realized that they were not alone.  There were now a dozen people in the room, maybe more as inanimate objects were now people.  All were identical in every aspect and his guide… she was gone now too. Likely taking the same form.  He quickly counted the number of people in the room.  There were fifteen in total.  “You have nothing to be afraid of,” came a voice from the center of the room.  The figures all turned towards him silently looking him over.  The human speaker began to approach. 


 

“We had nothing to do with this,” he said. 


 

“I will determine that,” Jones replied.  “You are welcome to give me evidence.”  Jones was very quickly moving from person to person, sizing them up for differences.  There would be one for sure.  There may be several.  Differences in these forms would either be born of a mistake, as some Darloks had difficulty mastering the details of the form they assumed, or it was a test to see if he could spot it.  The men were all human, likely sixty or so in age.  They had graying hair, with shades of black.  Each wore the same outfit.  All were the same size.  Then he noticed it, the speaker was wearing a ring.  None of the others had one.  It was strange as well. It was a stone, most likely onyx.  It wasn’t a stone set in gold or silver, as most rings were.  It was simply a stone that had been carved and polished into a ring.  He approached the speaker, offering his hand as a token of friendship.  The speaker understood human culture and offered up his hand as well. 


 

“The council is compromised,” the speaker stated as he calmly shook Jones’ hand.  Jones took one more quick glance at the ring.  It had an emblem on it that looked like a dragon with three suns over its head.  “By whom?”  Jones asked.


 

He wasn’t surprised by the answer.  “We do not know,” the Darlok replied.  “Your ambassador was following another human.  We were as well.  Other species are compromised as well:  Psilon, Sakkra, and Bulrathi for sure.”


 

“And their purpose?” Jones asked quietly.


 

“Likely what the collector already told you,” replied the speaker.


 

Jones was confused for a second, but he suspected that Culso was the collector.  Now that he thought about it, the statement made sense as the Bulrathi has a number of different species working at his office… an odd thing for sure, especially for a security officer. 


 

“You mean Culso,” Jones replied.


 

The human nodded.  “The Veil of Orion must be lifted,” and with that statement, the Darlok’s became birds and flew away, leaving Jones alone. 


 

Jones headed back to his own office.  He needed to notify his handlers, and he needed to figure out who Raj had been following.  The compromise of the Senate would be very important to them.  Round one with the Darloks was done now.  They would wait on him.  They wanted him to identify that ring. Hopefully, that was all they hoped he would see. 



diehardtwinsfan #9 Posted 13 May 2016 - 12:03 AM

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It had been many years since Destair had been to Mentar.  He spent a year there for officer training and had visited on a few occasions.  It was never home to him, as he had no close contacts.  The Psilon home world was busy with traffic, but not much in terms of military traffic.  Mentar was safely tucked away in the heart of the Psilon empire, allowing its residents the allusion of peace.  The bulk of the Psilon fleet was now stationed at Chondata, in part due to the two stable wormholes near the system and in part because it was a relatively short jump to any of the systems close to the Antaran border.  The Ampere was escorted by a few frigates tasked with guarding the system and was promptly given access to a docking bay at the Star Fortress orbiting Mentar.  He was greeted at the airlock by the chief engineer.  The engineer did not appear to be up for much conversation, as he handed Destair a manifest with a list of repairs and upgrades that were to happen immediately.  They apparently would be there for a few weeks, but the upgrades were being expedited.  He passed the order to his crew allowing his officers to distribute leave as needed.  The Star Fortress itself wasn’t much for commerce.  Unlike Human installations, the Psilon orbitals had a very small area for commerce and recreation. 


 

He located his assigned quarter and was surprised by its size.  That could only mean one thing, he was probably the highest ranking officer on board other than the Captain commanding this military base.  While Psilons weren’t much for extravagance with food or drink, Destair had acquired a taste for Human ale.  He replicated a glass of it and sat down to read through the papers he was handed.  The repairs were relatively straight forward.  His battle computer was being upgraded, and some of his Pulson missiles were being replaced with Orion Death Ray beams whose technology was discovered when the Psilons defeated the Orion Guardian.  The rest of his missiles were being upgraded to Zeon missiles.   Psilon cruisers tended to be more of missile boats, with beam weapons being reserved for the larger Heavy Cruisers, Battleships, and even the new Titan class he had only heard about.  He had hoped to see one here at Mentar, but apparently he would have to wait. The Psilon fleet only had one, but several more were in production.


 

His ship armor was not being replaced.  The Psilon-Darlock alliance had been fruitful in that manner, as both species decked their ships with Xenotorium armor.  The same alliance had yielded Antaran particle beam technology and Damper field technology.  He was receiving some minor upgrades to his Damper field.  His scanners were also being completely overhauled and his engines were being upgraded as well.  Finally, megafluxers were being installed giving his ship more space to add more weapons and some additional targeting systems.  He turned to the last page of the manifest and saw a classified data key.


 

The key was one part of a larger system for him to access classified data on the Psilon military network.  His quarters contained another piece, namely a workstation to use it on.  He inserted the key into the appropriate port at the terminal and proceeded with his biometric scans.  Once those were verified, he entered his personal authorization code and was presented with his orders.  To his surprise, he wasn’t going to be rendezvousing with the main Psilon fleet.  He was instead headed to investigate an anomaly that had been detected in a remote portion of the galaxy along the Psilon and Darlok boarder.  He would have a week to explore and potentially return his findings to the Psilon military, but at that point he was to head to a Darlok world and meet up with a Darlok cruiser.  No orders were given beyond that point.  “Strange,” he mumbled silently to himself.  “I thought our alliance with the Darlok race was over.”  His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an explosion with an almost instantaneous reply of the base’s alarm system.  Destair quickly grabbed his data key and raced out of his quarters to the direction of the explosion. 


 

The automated repair crews of the Star Fortress had already responded, as they had erected a shield to prevent the vacuum of space from swallowing those inside of the facility, but the damage was quite extensive.  Destair had raced through what felt like miles of corridors until he reached the site, a docking bay on the opposite end of the facility.  The frigate that had been docked there was completely obliterated, as was the command bridge a few levels up.  Destair was no expert in espionage, but he was pretty certain it was sabotage as this was the only docking bay close enough to the command bridge to damage it.  Following protocol, Destair located an emergency comms system.  These were self-contained communications systems that were not linked into the main communications.  In the event of an attack, they could be used to notify status to a nearby listener configured on one of the system sensor grids.  He stated his name and rank along with a brief description of what he observed, and now it was time to wait.



diehardtwinsfan #10 Posted 26 May 2016 - 05:48 PM

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Jones had hoped for a chance to absorb all of this information and perhaps rest a bit, but today was not going to be an easy day.  He arrived at his office and was warned by his assistant that he already had guests. He knew what that meant.  His handlers were already present, and sure enough, when entering his office, he was greeted by his handler, known only to him as Mr. Smith.  “You’ve been busy this morning,” Mr. Smith noted as Jones sat down.  “What do you know so far?”


 

“Not much,” Jones replied.  “Raj was investigating something, and he apparently got too close.  You wouldn’t by chance know if he was working with the Human Intelligence Agency?”


 

“I didn’t sanction anything,” Mr. Smith replied.  “If the HIA was involved, it didn’t go through me.  That said, we have bigger problems.  It seems that in the last day, there has been a rash of espionage activities.  The star fortress at Mentar was heavily damaged in an attack, as were battle stations at Ursa prime and even Nazin.  We saw two military outposts along our boarder with the Daroks attacked and destroyed.  Our sources at Fierras indicate that the Mrrshan’s were attacked as well.  That’s an impressive list of sabotage.”


 

Jones silently pondered the information as Mr. Smith transferred the information to his data terminal.  After a few moments of awkward silence, Jones spoke up.  “The Darlok’s visited me this morning,” he said as he studied his handler closely.  Mr. Smith only looked at him inquisitively, saying nothing.  “They only insisted that they had nothing to do with Raj’s death.  That and they seemed to think that his investigation, whatever it was, was warranted.” 


 

“Interesting,” came the reply from Mr. Smith.  “Given then level of activity, one would have to suspect they were behind these recent attempts…” 


 

“Except why attack their own home world?” Jones interrupted, “I’ve worked with Darlok’s for years.  Attacking themselves would be new.   


 

“I’m not sure it’s unprecedented,” came the reply.  “You yourself have pointed out on numerous occasions just how well they play the game.  A chess master has no problems sacrificing a pawn, sometimes, they sacrifice more valuable pieces.” 


 

“Perhaps, but something isn’t right here.”  Jones got up from his desk and walked over to the replicator in the corner of his office.  “Black Coffee” he stated as he placed a large mug inside the device. 


 

“You know my successes with the Darlok’s,” he continued as he waited for his drink.  “This isn’t their style.  I’ll be honest, if there was anything I detected from my encounter with them, it was fear.  Who stands to benefit most if the core goes to war?” 


 

“That’s easy,” replied Smith.  “Antares, but you and I know they have little in terms of spy networks.  They were at war with everyone as soon as their planet returned to this dimension.  They haven’t had open borders with anyone.  Very few can even say they’ve seen one.  You don’t see Antarans at space ports, and they have no embassies with any races, and as far as we know, they have no presence here.” 


 

“That doesn’t make it impossible to spy,” Jones commented as he retrieved his drink.  “It just makes it more difficult.” 


 

“Agreed.” Mr. Smith nodded a bit uncomfortably.  “That would redefine the playing field.”


 

“And whose side would we be on?” Jones asked somewhat curious manner.


 

“The winning one.” Smith replied.  “We are going to have to manage your cover a bit closer right now.  I cannot reassign you as that would likely expose your true purpose here.  The Human empire however is going to be publicly very concerned about this and will be assigning you additional personnel.  They will be arriving from Sol later today.  Leah Schnell will be joining you in an investigative capacity.  Her role is just as it sounds, to assist you in figuring out what happened.  She’s had quite a bit of experience doing this type of work already.  Along with her, you’ll be joined by an official HIA representative in Ramon Markovich.  He will serve to hopefully keep the other race’s espionage teams focused on him.  He will have his own staff, and don’t expect his full cooperation.  We do expect yours.”


 

With that, Mr. Smith left.  The tone of that conversation seemed odd.  Jones wasn’t too surprised in HIA’s involvement.  That was protocol to an extent given the undesired crossover between his official and unofficial roles, but something about it made him uneasy.  The Darloks seemed convinced there was more to this story, as did his peer in the Bulrathi empire.  An ambassador was dead, and that was not someone typically targeted, especially with no real agenda going on in the Senate at the moment. 


 

Regardless, Jones had work to do, and he sensed that this was not something that time was not going to be his friend.



diehardtwinsfan #11 Posted 31 May 2016 - 03:05 PM

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They day flew by as Jones frantically attempted to accomplish all that he could.  He pulled up all of the HIA surveillance notes on Raj and found nothing he did not already know.  Raj had a curious relationship with Culso, and met with him publicly on many occasions, but that was no secret to Jones.  Raj had no family other than an adult son from a relationship that had long ago ended.  Based on communication records, the two did communicate.  He was able to reach the son, but after that conversation, he was fairly certain that his son had no information of use.  Raj’s other known associates were all human, most of whom he knew as well.  He reached out to several of them, all of whom were either surprised or saddened.  No one provided any useful information that could aid his investigation.  Whatever Raj was up to, he it seemed as though he did not trust anyone with it. 


 

With his afternoon largely done, it was time to meet his new partners.  Jones had never met Schnell before.  He had not even heard of her.  He spent a few minutes looking at her profile, and from the looks of it, she was a good fit for what she was being asked to do.  She had worked and resolved several difficult and high profile investigations during her career.  This would be another one of those, he was certain.  Markovich, on the other hand, was someone Jones knew, and there was something about him that Jones did not care for.  His inclusion in this investigation was a bit odd for sure.  Perhaps it was just to take scrutiny off of Jones’s unofficial role.  HIA would no doubt be involved in any investigation, but as a covert HIA defense operator, he could not just come out and identify himself with HIA.  If anything, it would keep the Darlok’s from recognizing his role easily, unless of course they already knew.  Regardless, personal history told Jones that Markovich was not going to be easy to work with. 


 

Jones arrived at the landing pad a few minutes before the Sol shuttle landed.  He spent a few minutes chatting with some acquaintances, and when the shuttle landed he moved to the landing area to meet Schnell and Markovich.  To his surprise, only Schnell was on board.  She was quite a bit younger than him, perhaps not even forty.  Whereas Jones was looking to retire soon and spend the next forty or so years of his life enjoying it, Schnell was still up and coming in her field.  She had a vigorous energy about her as well.  She had finished shaking his hand and was asking for his case notes.  He suspected she would want that information, and as such he had already documented everything he knew.


 

“Where is Markovich?” Jones asked as he handed her a data pad containing everything he knew on the subject.


 

“I was told he was already here,” she nonchalantly replied. 


 

Strange, he thought.  Markovich was known to visit Orion City from time to time, but never that he knew of in secret.  Jones made it a point of knowing every Human that would come and go from the city.  This was a surprise, and not the kind that he liked.  If anything, it meant one more suspect, and a difficult one at that. 


 

“He’s right behind you,” came the reply from an all too familiar voice.  Turning around, Jones saw Markovich approaching the two of them.  “My apologies for not reaching out to you sooner,” he said.  “I was notified the same time you were, unfortunately, I took the first shuttle here.  Unfortunately, I don’t sleep well on those trips, and given the long couple of days, I decided to rest for a few hours.” 


 

“I understand,” Jones replied as he extended his hand, and then he noticed it. Markovich had a ring on his right hand.  It was the same ring the Darlok speaker wore.  Jones gazed at it a bit too long as Markovich noticed.


 

“It has been in my family since the middle ages,” he said as he removed the object and handed it to Jones.  “The entire ring is pure Onyx.  It was carved right out of the stone at a time before there was laser cutting and replication technology.  It’s rather impressive that it has survived this long, and it is at least a thousand years old.”


 

“It’s impressive,” Jones replied as he handed it back to Markovich. 


 

“I’m guessing you’re as tired as I am,” Markovich stated, “I’ll be leading this investigation.  You both know your roles.  In your case Chandler, get some rest.  Let’s meet first thing tomorrow morning and go over our notes.  We need to find out who is responsible.  Someone clearly wanted Raj dead.  I have some profiles on some people here who did not care much for him.  I’ll be interviewing them later today.”  And with that he left the others, capping a strange day with an even stranger ending. 



diehardtwinsfan #12 Posted 06 June 2016 - 01:49 PM

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“I need the latest fleet movement status,” Admiral Zophran asked of one of his young officers as he entered the bridge of his Darlok battleship.  “This routine is getting dull.” Zophran muttered to himself as he was handed a data pad containing the information he wanted.  Every ‘morning’ was the same routine.  Wake up, eat quickly, and grab the morning reports.  Morning was a loose term in space.  Based on ship time, it was morning, which really meant that it was morning at Nazin’s capital city. 


 

The Darlocks had two main fleets, and Zophran was the junior Admiral commanding the smaller fleet stationed at Nazin.  Fleet deployment in the galaxy was always an interesting debate.  Ships were expensive to build, and the larger ones took many cycles to build as well.  Assembling smaller fleets left a race vulnerable to being picked off from a larger fleet, and losing enough ships might make it impossible to recover.  The tradeoff to this was that no matter where a fleet was stationed, the empire risked leaving a number of systems exposed to a potential attack with no means of quickly responding.  Jump gate technology had improved much of that, but the Darloks had a fairly wide expanse of space, boarding Humans, Psilon, and Bulrathi and were near enough to the wormhole at Condata that they had to deal with Silicoid and Sakkra forces as well, as it was a rare occurrence for them to not be at war with at least one of those two species.  As a consequence, the Darloks maintained two large fleets, and Zophran was the commander of the smaller one.  The larger fleet was stationed near Chondata as it was often called on to repel raids into Darlok space.  Occasionally, a Psilon/Human/Darlok alliance was temporarily formed to push back the Silicoids.  The Silicoids were the largest of the races in terms of both planets and population; and consequently, they could build fleets quicker.  Even with an Antaran presence keeping them in check somewhat, the Siliciods remained the galaxy’s biggest threat, and over the cycles they constantly reminded the core species of that fact.


 

Because of the need to station ships at an extreme end of Darlok territory, the Cabal decided it would be wise to maintain a secondary fleet at Nazin, which was a more central location.  Zophran’s fleet consisted mainly of cruisers and heavy cruisers, but he was able to plead for a couple of battleships. In all, he commanded approximately 40% of Nazin’s military vessels.  That number increased slightly due to the recent attack on Nazin’s battle station.  The Cabal was clearly surprised by such a brazen attempt, and they were more surprised at its success.  As such, they ordered a consolidation of sorts.  Older ships reserved for pirate duty were being called to his side, and a newly built battleship was in route as well.  Repairs were already ongoing, but it would be months before the battle station was fully operational again.  His primary concern was with the sensor grid.


 

Nazin, much like the Darloks themselves, was blessed with secrecy.  It existed inside a nebula, making it difficult to detect.  In the early years of the expansion, the Darlok’s enjoyed that secrecy as scanning technology made it difficult to detect their home world, as well as the first few worlds they colonized.  Darlok history books glorified this as well.  They were a secretive species with a home world hidden in a place that few ships dared travel.  Technology had changed that of course.  Scanning technology was better and other species were eventually able to identify their home world.  Nazin was no longer a secret, but it was still buried deep in the nebula.  In that aspect, the destruction of their battle station hurt.  To get around the little problem of their location, the Darloks had installed a number of sensor drones throughout their system, and the command center was on that battle station.  The drones gave them sight that no opponent could have, making Nazin much easier to defend.  Zophran was not overseeing the repairs of this battle station, but he was insistent that the command center get top priority, something that fortunately was agreed on.  That said, his latest estimate indicated that it would still be a while before the command center was operational again.  To counteract this, he was forced to spread his fleet out within the system.  They were close enough together to consolidate should a fleet breech Nazin, but in doing so he risked ship loss in case of an attack.  The pirate raiders were welcome in that regard, as Zophran had them essentially functioning in the same way his battle scanners did.  They were older ships, and as such more expendable, even if their commanders disagreed.  His problem was that he didn’t have enough.  The cabal attempted to contract commercial vessels for that purpose, but that expense was inordinate.  He was forced to use some of his own ships.  As such, several of his cruisers and all of his destroyers were pressed into that duty as well. 


 

Zophran sat down at his desk in his quarters, a small room adjacent to the bridge. Today’s fleet report was more of the same.  Two weeks prior, a large Bulrathi fleet had entered human space.  It was headed with a human fleet towards a human controlled system nearest to Chondata.  Presumably, they were going to attack one of the races on the other side, but its exact location was now unknown.  Zophran was not familiar with the politics of that situation, but the two races who had been at war were now warring together.  The Humans had also moved ships along the Darlok border.  This too was not too much of a surprise given the destruction of several military outposts along their border.  The Darloks were fortunate to maintain a decent relationship with the Human empire.  The Cabal was in constant contact with them.  The Humans hadn’t sent a large fleet there, but several cruisers were now stationed in place of the military outposts that no longer existed.  This wasn’t much of a surprise.  The Psilon main fleet was at Chondata, which had essentially been Kelvim’s home since the Antaran rebirth.  Their secondary fleet had been recalled to Mentar, and given the attack on their star fortress, this too was not odd.  The Mrrshans were more difficult to figure out.  The Darloks had little contact with them, and as such very little spy data.  Sandwiched between the Bulrathi and the Silicoid, the Mrrshans rarely got to observe peace, but then again, they were as catty as ever.  One never knew where they truly stood with that race.  Their one fleet, however, was stationed at Fierras, and it had not moved for a long period of time.  Spy data from the Silicoid indicated that they were massing ships on the other end of the Chondata wormhole, a system called Kled.  For them, this was convenient as it was a short jump away from the Mrrshan, who shared a boarder with them.  There were no reports on the Klackon and Terran alliance, but they were far enough away that it didn’t matter.


 

It was going to be another slow day, and Zophran studied his reports with far more intensity than what he thought he needed.  Something about the battle station sabotage was bothering him though.  Darloks were the spy masters.  Successfully pulling off an operation against them was rare… an operation of that magnitude, however, was unheard of.  He looked through his history of the galaxy and saw nothing of note.  They had lost an operative on Sol once.  That was a rarity.  The circumstances were still unknown.  Someone had stolen some technology from them nearly fifty solar cycles prior, but even that was rare.  Destroying a battle station on their home world no less… that was impressive.  It had to be Antaran, he thought.  That was an old race, and far more advanced than any of the other races, but espionage was not something they seemed to engage in.  The Darloks were able to place some spies with them.  It was difficult, but not so much that it was impossible.  The Antarans had four known planets.  The Darlocks had spies at all but Antares itself.  That planet had been difficult to infiltrate, in large part because the three black holes nearby made it nearly impossible to visit.  They had well controlled entry to their planet, and since they did not engage in commerce with the other species in the core, it was difficult to enter.  Antarans were not known for their offensive capabilities, that much was for sure, but defensively, they were good.


 

Zophran’s thoughts were interrupted by his com signal.  “Sir!” came the voice of one of his officers.  “We’ve lost contact with the two ships in zone 5.”


 

“Again?” Zophran said with exasperation.  “You know the drill.  Consolidate the fleets and attempt to re-establish communications.”


 

“Yes Sir!” came the voice on the other side.


 

The drill was old, but had to be done.  The Nebula had plenty of phenomena that could occasionally prevent communications with ships, especially if they strayed too far away from their closest link. Zophran quickly went back to his report, studying the information closely, but he was again interrupted.  This time, it was the sound and shudder of a nearby explosion followed the blaring of the ship’s alarms. 


 

“Status!” screamed Zophran as he left his quarters and entered the bridge.  His communications officer responded, but Zophran did not hear the response.  He could already see on the view screen that this was no drill.  A fleet more than twice the size of his was now on the screen with more ships appearing every few seconds, and they were already in formation, picking off Darlok ships attempting to get into formation.  The Darloks were the beneficiaries of superior technology, having the Antaran particle beam, damper fields, and Xentronium armor as the spoils to their arrangement with the Psilons many decades prior, but the sheer number of ships on the view screen told Zophran that the technological advantage he had was not going to be enough.


 

“Activate the mines!” Zophran ordered.  Within moments the first wave of Nazin’s planetary defenses sprang into action.  The Darloks had built an impressive cloaked mining system around Nazin.  It remained dormant except on command, and command of this defense system had already been restored.  The mines worked by targeting all ships in an area with no discretion between friend and foe, given that the number of mines needed to surround the planet was far beyond what could be built.  Over the years the Darloks added to the number, and that would be needed today.  The mines themselves would destroy a few of the smaller ships, but the damage sustained by the bulk of the enemy fleet would range from minimal to moderate, especially given the nebula’s effect on their opponents shields.  At the moment though, this would buy him some time.  Each impact created a flash of light on the view screen, and the view screen was lighting up as though someone had lit a string of firecrackers. The planetary fighter garrison and ground batters were also targeting enemy ships as Zophran’s fleet fell into formation.  The anomalous red blips on the view screen were now changing as the enemy signatures were coming back.


 

“It’s Human and Bulrathi!” came a voice from behind him, “They must have navigated Crisval’s maze.”  The maze was a largely unknown passage through the Nebula, a back door to Nazin so to speak, but one too dangerous for ships to pass without very detailed charts.  Its exit point was near human space, and passage through it was undetectable even with the most advanced scanning technology.  The maze was named for the Darlok that first charted the maze and solved the mysteries behind the phenomena that protected it.  Its secrets were highly classified and given only to commanders as needed.  Not even Zophran knew how to pass through it safely.  How a foreign fleet acquired the knowledge to make it through was something Zophran did not want to consider.


 

New additions to the view screen had now stopped.  Zophran was outnumbered three to one.  The mine field had given his fleet a chance to group, and even with the technological advantage, Zophran knew there was little chance of victory.  “Start powering up FTL engines,” Zophran calmly ordered.  “Target long range weapons at the weakest ships near the front of their fleet.”


 

“Our engines won’t charge,” came the reply of the ship’s engineer. 


 

“Warp Interdictors,” Zophran thought as he cursed out loud.  He rapidly flipped through his data pad looking for information on which Human or Bulrathi ship would have them.  The Humans did not appear to use the technology, but it was a tool of the Bulrathi as they had no problems requiring other races to engage in fights to the death.  His data pad confirmed what he already suspected.  They were standard issue on all Bulrathi battleships.  “Redirect the fighter garrison and ground batteries to target those two battleships,” he quickly ordered.  “All long range fleet weapons need to concentrate on clearing a path towards them.”  Within moments the Darlok fleet responded to his orders, moving in formation towards the center of the Bulrathi fleet.  Like clockwork, the Human fleet responded and began to take a flanking formation.  This battle would be bloody.



diehardtwinsfan #13 Posted 07 June 2016 - 02:12 AM

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View PostEmP64213, on 06 June 2016 - 04:40 PM, said:

That was unexpected! Are Antarans manipulating all this behind the scenes or are Humans and Bulrathi raiding for technology? In either case there is going to be power vacuum after the battle.

 

:)

Edited by diehardtwinsfan, 07 June 2016 - 02:13 AM.


diehardtwinsfan #14 Posted 07 June 2016 - 02:14 AM

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“Get a warning off to Admiral Virsch!” Zophran screamed at the top of his lungs.  “Wipe that Bulrathi fleet off the map!” 


 

The Darlok fleet moved in unison, ignoring the Humans closing in on their flank.  The nebula would be both a blessing and a curse, as neither side could effectively target their opponents inside of it.  The Darlok’s damper field would provide some measure of protection, as it was not inhibited in the same field in the way that standard shields would be.  The best weapon would likely be the fighters, as they would fire their weapons within line of sight.  The problem was that there were not a lot of them.  Both sides were heavily dependent on beams and missiles. 


 

“Move in close,” Zophran ordered.  “There won’t be margin for error.  Take out those battleships first.  They will not leave your families alive!”  Fire erupted from both sides, but the Darlok fleet ignored the typical dance fleets performed as they engaged in combat, charging straight at the Bulrathi.  The nebula was true to its power, as both fleets found their long range weapons worthless.  Short range targeting was far more effective.  Within moments Zophran was both scoring hits and feeling his ships rocked by enemy fire.  Nazin’s fighters pounded relentlessly on the Bulrathi battleships scoring hit after hit.  The fleet’s accuracy was not quite as good, scoring as many misses as hits.  Zophran’s view screen popped with light as ships began to disappear.  Two Darlok destroyers and a cruiser were the first to go, followed by a massive eruption from one of the Bulrathi battleships.  The explosion had overloaded its engines, and the resulting eruption destroyed two human frigates. 


 

“Target some of the smaller ships,” Zophran ordered his weapons officer.  “We need to reduce their numbers!  Take our ship towards that other battleship,” Zophran ordered simultaneously at the ships pilot.  The Darlok flag ship moved effortlessly towards the last Bulrathi battleship, firing at the Bulrathi and Human destroyers within range.  At close range, their particle beams were lethal, slicing through several enemy ships as it approached the enemy.  The numbers game was becoming dire, as Zophran watched more Darlok ships disappear from the view screen.  Three enemies for every one of his was what he had hoped to see, but the ratio was not so kind.  For every three ships they destroyed, two of their own were now perishing, as the numbers game was now extracting its toll.


 

“Target all fire on that battleship, and plow right into it,” Zophran ordered his weapons officer and pilot.  “Detonate our engine core at impact!  Tell the remaining ships to get out of here as soon as that interdictor is destroyed.”  His officers obeyed, but Zophran saw the fear in their eyes.  Losing Nazin would be painful, but Virsch’s fleet would be large enough to finish this one off.  Winnning whatever fight remained, however, would require ships.  Zophran deplored suicide, but this sacrifice would be one that even the Bulrathi would sing about in their songs.  “Grant our people a place in the great expanse,” Zophran whispered, praying to a deity he never worshiped.  His ship shuddered with impact, and seconds later its engines overloaded causing a chain reaction on the crippled Bulrathi ship, and the last interdictor was lifted.


 

On Nazin the night sky lit up with the sight of Darlok ships engaging their engines.  Twelve hours later, no life remained on the planet.  Half of Zophran's fleet had been destroyed to roughly a third of their opponent.



diehardtwinsfan #15 Posted 07 June 2016 - 11:29 AM

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“Another bloody wake up call,” Jones growled at his communications device as it woke him from his slumber.  It was 3:00 AM galactic time, and given the position of Sol’s moon, Jones knew that getting back to sleep would be difficult.  Orion City was now facing Sol’s sun.  There would be no darkness for another week.  “It had better be important,” Jones barked as he answered his device.

“It is sir,” came the response of a young man on the other end.  “We are at war.  We allied with the Bulrathi and attacked Nazin.  The Darlok home world has been destroyed.”  The words were like an instant shot of caffeine.  Jones bolted out of his bed immediately.  “The Human sector of Orion City is being locked down.  No doubt the Darloks and Bulrathi will follow shortly.  As you know, any decision to contact Darloks outside of approved channels will carry a penalty, up to, but not necessarily including death.  Furthermore, all government staff are to meet at the Human embassy at 9:00 AM.  There are no exceptions.  Make no contact with any other species other than normal engagements with the Bulrathi, as we expect there to be repercussions.”


 

The click on the other end was chilling. Tired or not, Jones would not be able to sleep.  The winning one, Jones thought.  Those were the words uttered by Mr. Smith in their last encounter.  Jones was no expert on interplanetary diplomacy, but he understood conspiracy and espionage all too well.  Smith’s words reverberated in his head like the sounds of the church bells made by ancient human cathedrals.  “It will be interesting to see how this is spun,” Jones thought as he replicated himself an early morning breakfast.  It had been a little over a week since the death of the Human ambassador.  His investigation had been fruitless.  Schnell had proven herself to be tireless and very intelligent.  Markovich was the same guy he always knew.  He was insistent that Raj’s death had been Darlok espionage.  Schnell might have been inclined to agree, except that Jones was the Humans leading and perhaps only expert on Darlok behavior.  He was surprised as to how much respect he had from her, and that respect kept the case open.  Many books had been written about the Darloks, but only Jones had actually uncovered one.  Very few human scholars had ever lived on Nazin, but only Jones could claim to not only be one of them, but to have put his understanding to use in a way that delivered results.  Humans always had opinions, but they were better masters at hindsight.  Very few understood the chessboard that was in front of them. 


 

“The winning one…” Jones muttered to himself.  “Whose side was Raj on?  It has been a week…”  The sudden realization gripped him with a chilling fear.  From his data console he frantically pulled up the star charts to confirm what his conscience had already told him.  Nazin was on the edge of a very dense nebula, one that had proven very difficult to travel.  Electrical storms rendered ships useless, and the gas was dense enough to hide asteroid fields and floating bodies until well beyond the ability to successfully react, and if the legends were to be trusted, there were monsters and other space phenomena there too.  Even the Darloks feared it, as they colonized away from the expanse.  Humans had colonized along one border of the nebula, with one of their planets near its edge.  For a hundred years daring human explorers had attempted to find a way through it, all leading to death.  But to reach Nazin in secret, there was only one way to get there, and it would take much longer than a week.  This attack was planned long before the destruction of the human military outposts, the Ursa and Nazin battle stations, and the Psilon star fortress.  Those events were part of a bigger game, and Jones was not sure who was on that side of the board.  The only mistake might have been the Nazin battle station, but that was necessary to secure the defeat of the planet.  The Psilons were a wild card.  They were a peaceful race by nature and of course highly intelligent.  They would be the last to mobilize, and their reaction would not be as predictable.  An attack on them might sway them, if they knew for certain who the attacker was.  Today’s Senate broadcast would be interesting; as no doubt a case would be presented against Nazin.  The problem was that only knowledge could manipulate the Psilons.  They were not swayed easily by emotion.


 

Jones’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock at his door.  It was 5:00 AM now, too soon for company.  Jones quickly grabbed a blaster and called out to the unknown visitor.  “Who is it?”


 

“A friend,” came Culso’s familiar voice.  The two had met several times over the last week, and despite his need for impartiality, Jones had quickly found a place of respect for the Bulrathi half-breed. 


 

“Come in,” he replied as he sat down, concealing his weapon carefully.  “A little early for a visit,” Jones stated inquisitively. 


 

“Yes,” came the gruff reply.  “You have been informed already, yes?”


 

“I have,” Jones replied as he studied the hulking creature in front of him.  His instincts told him to be wary, and within seconds he knew why.  Culso was wearing that onyx ring.  “Who are you really?” Jones growled now displaying his concealed blaster.


 

The Darlok shifted into its natural form.  “You are a spy master,” it replied.  “We’ve been watching you closely for years now.”

“And who is we?” Jones replied as he carefully pointed his weapon at the visitor.


 

“I mean you no harm,” the Darlok calmly replied, “I had visited Raj before, as well as Culso and a few others.  Culso knows I’m here.  He let me take his form.  He will visit you later today.  Test his DNA if you wish to be certain.  He will submit to it.  The Senate is compromised.  You know it.  Raj knew it.  We know it.  By whom is the question.  We did not attack your military outposts.  We did not attack Mentar.  We did not attack Ursa.”


 

“And you think I can convince Sol?” Jones asked with a sarcastic smile. 


 

“No,” the creature replied.  “I only bring the light.  Only Darloks could have accomplished the espionage of the last week, but it wasn’t us.  Only a Darlok could have navigated your fleets through Crisval’s maze, but no chess player sacrifices his king.  Whomever did this has spies with all races,” the creature replied with a gesture that displayed the ring.  “You’ve seen this ring, have you not?”


 

“Yes,” Jones replied uncomfortably as he pointed his blaster at the creature.


 

“It belongs to a known Human conspirator,” Culso replied as he moved towards the door, and with that the Bulrathi left. 


 

Jones cursed silently under his breath.  It was going to be a long day.  Jones quickly grabbed his assassination gear.  One could not be too careful.  His life was in danger, and he suspected that many more would be as well.  He might need those small, concealable weapons.



diehardtwinsfan #16 Posted 08 June 2016 - 02:32 AM

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“Why didn’t I kill the Darlok?”  Second guessing was second nature and Jones was rethinking that for a moment.  The Darlok likely suspected it would happen.  His standing with them would not have changed.  If anything, he tipped his hand.  There was something to what they had to say, and now he put himself at risk.  He swept his quarters regularly for recording devices, and if the Humans had them there, he would be surprised.  He knew there were some outside of his quarters, as he had a role in setting them up, but those should capture Culso leaving his place, not the Darlok.


 

Jones had an hour before the mandatory meeting, and he stopped by Culso’s office.  The Bulrathi was already there, and clearly expecting him.


 

“Do you have questions from our visit this morning?” Culso asked?  “No, but I need a DNA sample.”  The conversation was innocuous enough, that anyone listening would be able to confirm that they had visited.  This was just protocol at this point, and a somewhat common one among allies given the known existence of a race of shapeshifters.  DNA scanners could be fooled, and Jones had already used it to test himself to make sure it was working.  Culso’s test revealed what it should have.  Since they both had places to be, they left together.  Outside, they could speak without the worry of listening devices.  “How many are involved?” Jones asked.


 

“I don’t know.  It seems that whomever is behind this has both of our races by their fingers, and perhaps more.  I have my suspicions in my empire. I have no proof yet.”


 

The two parted ways as Jones had somewhere to be.  The assembly of human delegates and officers was never an interesting affair.  Meetings such as this were rare to begin with.  Security was tight with multiple DNA scanners, additional biometric verification, and the standard military access codes.  Guards were well armed and well stocked to protect the fifty or so people in attendance.  The Humans and the Bulrathi formally declared war on the Darloks only hours earlier with their attack on Nazin.  This was in retaliation for the recent espionage attempts.  Jones decided it prudent not to ask the tough questions.  He knew better.  Most of the delegates would not even be aware.  Very few were aware of the difficulties of travel around Nazin.  Even less were aware of where the Human fleet was and when it left.  Jones sat in on many of the intelligence briefings, and as such he was aware of this.  The main points of the meeting were to avoid contact with Darloks, travel to the shared areas of Orion City with protection and never alone.  All contact with non-Human or Bulrathi races were to be reported immediately.  The Psilons were the biggest concerns.  No one knew where they would fall.  The superior technology of the Darloks would make that war difficult on its own.  If the Psilons jumped into the fray, they would tip the scale to whatever side the Psilons joined.


 

“Some intelligence,” Jones heard a familiar voice mutter.  He turned around to see Markovich standing against a wall behind him.  Jones quietly got up and moved next to Markovich.  “Someone had to have gaged Mentar prior to something like this,” Jones carefully countered.  “At the very least, they had a plan, right?”


 

Markovich smiled slyly.  “Of course,” he said with an obvious note of sarcasm.  “HIA knows all.”  The two HIA operatives understand that joke all too well.  Human leaders were often arrogant and dangerously so.  What was often called bravery could easily be referred to by a more common vernacular… stupid.  Markovich was not likely to reveal anything here, and Jones was not sure if he wanted to befriend him or simply track him.  Neither would be easy.  Markovich knew these games well, and using a tracking device would be risky too.  Very few Humans at Orion City had that.  For now, keeping a friendship seemed the best.


 

“Look at the bright side,” he said carefully.  “If the right moves are made, our jobs just got a lot easier.  Imagine espionage without Darloks; or better yet, imagine it with Darlok operatives working for us.”  The two chuckled quietly knowing the odds of such a thing were low.  That had already been made clear by the military.  Not nearly enough of the Darlok fleet was destroyed.  Their commanding officer had acted with intelligence.  The Bulrathi’s were affected the most, but they already had their second fleet moving towards another Darlok colony near their border.  “How do you think Mentar will respond?” Jones asked somewhat honestly. 


 

Markovich paused before responding.  “If I could predict such things, I’d be rich.”  The meeting wrapped up revealing little else.  Jones went back to his quarters to decide his next move.  His role as a spy would be beneficial for this as he had access to all Human systems.  Markovich’s access badge was used on regular occasion, but he did notice occasional gaps between use of several hours.  Given the detail of the tracking systems they used, this alone was anomalous behavior.  Every could of days it seemed, Markovich would vanish for a few hours. 


 

“He lied.” Jones suddenly thought remembering back to their conversation one week prior.  Jones checked the records and verified.  Sure enough, Markovich had arrived in Orion City a day earlier than what he had said.  “And there he is” Jones noted spotting Markovich’s bio chip signature leaving a human building not far from where Raj was found. A minute later, Raj went through that same access point.  Video feeds would be worthless.  They had already reviewed all of them for the investigation.  Jones plans were interrupted by a knock on his door.  Blaster in hand, he opened it carefully to see Schnell on the other side.


 

“Put that away,” she said all too casually as she walked into his quarters.  “It seems that the Chancellor believes Darloks were behind all of this.” 


 

“The Chancellor believes what his advisors tell him.” Jones replied derisively.  “How many of them would you trust to find you a doctor in the hospital if your life depended on it?”


 

Schnell smiled at him.  “You raced out of the meeting before I could catch you.  Why the urgency?  Everything is shut down today.” 


 

“I don’t suppose you know why Markovich lied to us about his arrival to Orion City.” Jones stated showing her the information on his data terminal.


 

“Maybe those bastards were right after all.”  She replied in a nonchalant manner.  Her response surprised Jones somewhat and he looked at her inquisitively.  “Your Darlok friends visited me a few days ago as well.”



diehardtwinsfan #17 Posted 13 June 2016 - 10:54 AM

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View PostEmP64213, on 08 June 2016 - 07:34 PM, said:

Multiple episodes last few days, me happy!

 

 

I was on vacation last week.  I tend to sit and relax when that happens.  Back to the grind this week. :(



diehardtwinsfan #18 Posted 16 June 2016 - 09:32 PM

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Tonight was a big night, and potentially a long one.  Jones was looking through his HIA issued gear for what he thought would be needed.  He had to travel light, but given the risks, he was not going to be unprepared.  He had already grabbed some useful equipment:  a small plasma blaster as well as a concealed knife.  He also had a prototype personal shield that Human spies carried.  It was somewhat heavy, and it could only survive one or two shots, but in a surprise, it would mean the difference between life and death.  He had to conceal it in a backpack, but those were common on Orion City.  He had a listening device as well.  This little devil even had a cloaking device which he could activate via remote.  The device itself could be anywhere and invisible.  He switched his glasses out for the HIA issued ones.  These could render other spectrums visible, which was very useful in case someone had a personal cloaking device.  Humans hadn’t mastered the tech yet, but the Darloks supposedly had, and possibly the Psilons too.  Lastly, he added a small EMP grenade, which would not do physical damage, but it would disable any electrical system in its blast radius.


 

Days had now passed since Nazin’s destruction and a new normal was setting in, as normal as that could be.  Five years of peace in the core was the longest stretch that had existed since the re-birth of Antares.  Jones had resigned himself to that as many jobs now changed with wartime in mind.  The public areas of the city were staffed with peacekeeping forces.  Each race provided their own sets of forces.  That made policing efforts a bit difficult, but strangely enough, those in the city managed to do so with very little incident rates.  What Jones hated most about war time is that every establishment’s entertainment options consisted solely of Senate proceedings.  A lunch time meal watching Bulrathi gladiators or Sol sporting events were common place during peaceful times, but now all that was on any station was Senate proceedings.  Today’s proceedings were particularly juicy, if one were into politics.  The Darloks had proposed a vote of no-confidence in the Senate, asking for a new election of Senate leadership.  While there were not enough votes for any one race to become the Senate leader, Humans did manage to hold many of the prime positions.  The Darloks were making every political effort possible to strip them of those roles.  Naturally, the Bulrathi sided with the Humans.  The Darloks had an odd friend in the Mrrshans, but had more to do with their undying hatred of the Bulrathi.  The Psilons were as usual rather neutral.  Their ambassador seemed to hint personally at his distaste for Nazin, but it was clear he had orders elsewhere, as Mentar was, as best as Jones could tell, neutral. 


 

Everyone seemed to be clamoring for Mentar’s alliances.  Jones had access to diplomatic visit schedules and the Psilon diplomats were meeting with everyone around the clock.  They were likely being courted.  With the largest and most technologically advanced fleet in the core, they would tip the scales.  Jones was rather surprised that the Humans had gone to war without their consent.  It seemed rather brazen.  The Psilons had their own problems.  Being the occupying government of Chondata, they had to keep a fairly sizable fleet there, as the Sakkra and Silicoid were always nearby, and there was always threats of an Antaran surprise attack.  Jones wondered if Mentar would eventually get sick of that role and agree to cede that system to the Sakkra in exchange for an alliance.  That’s what he would do at least, as with the Sakkra at their side, they could conquer the core.  Of course, power wasn’t what drove the Psilons.  It was knowledge.  They worshipped knowledge like a god, and since no one could give them that, they were often content to let other races kill each other off and pick up the spoils.  They didn’t have the largest number of planets, but they were by far the most developed, and they had done an admiral job keeping their fleet up, despite the war that all races fought with Antares.


 

Jones and Schnell’s visit by the Darloks had them working closer together.  If Jones were younger, Schnell might have been a potential romantic partner.  She was reasonably attractive and had many of the qualities he admired in the opposite sex.  However, that was a life he had long left behind.  Any partner of his would have to be vetted.  He did not really like the idea of having to do such a thing as this was a rather delicate matter.  Some in his position would request a partner as part of a cover story.  He knew his handler had done that.  He found that odd.  It was abusive at best, as it usually led to someone’s career being ruined; usually the poor person assigned to the job, a job they were picked for not for their skills but their level of attraction.  On occasion, it could backfire on the higher ranking official, especially if he or she were into things that were illegal.  Jones had no desire to put that type of pressure on someone.  There was something about her though that he admired.  They had been quietly narrowing their investigation on Markovich, and a closer look at his habits showed him coming and going from the Human areas of Orion City at odd times to say the least, and when he missed a meeting or something like that, he would lie about it as well.  He was hiding something, that much they were certain of.  Raj likely had been following him as well.  Both Schnell and Jones were getting lots of pressure to close this case, and they were clearly being nudged to point the finger at Nazin, but Jones had refused and Schnell went along with him.  As it turned out, one of her favorite classes in the academy was Darlok sociology.  Jones could never tell her that he had written the book on the subject, quite literally in this case, but under a different name.  However, he could not hide his knowledge of their species, and she was clearly impressed by this. 


 

It was now dark in Orion City again, and Jones knew he had an opportunity.  He had been watching Markovich’s schedule carefully and was convinced that Markovich would head out again soon.  He was going to follow him, but hopefully with better success than Raj.  After several hours of staying near and watching every movement of his prey on his data pad, he finally got his break as Markovich slipped out of the Human complex.  Jones followed Markovich at a distance.  The data pad could track his movements in the Human complex, but outside of the complex, the com signal was automatically disabled.  Jones had thought about trying to put a tracking device on him, but operatives were routinely swept for them, and the discovery of a human tracking device on a human would lead to too many questions.  At a distance he silently stalked is prey.  Markovich was clearly confident, or perhaps he was an idiot, as he paid no attention to being followed.  He eventually entered an abandoned facility a few blocks away from where Raj had been found.  The area was unlit, so Jones could not see if anyone else was there, but his thermal sensor showed life forms, and a lot of them.  Near the entrance was a guard, but not one that he could see, though he wasn’t close enough to be certain, but it was probably cloaked.  He used his portable bug to get a bit closer.  It too couldn’t see the guard, but since the guard couldn’t see it, he used it to enter a small open window several stories up. 


 

Jones flipped on the recorder, sending the data back to his personal terminal as well as a hidden backup terminal that he had setup with Culso.  He was caught off guard by what he saw next.  It seemed that all species were in the room:  Sakkra, Silicoid, Darlok, Psilon, Human, Mrrshan.  Only the Meklar were missing, though there were some in the shadows as well.  Jones understood instantly why his Darlok visitor never entered.  Darloks could sense each other rather well. They could walk in plane site among each other, but no Darlok could fool another one by shape shifting.  “Admiral Virsch has picked up the remaining ships from Zophran’s fleet,” a voice said.  “They will shatter the Bulrathi and Human fleets.” 


 

“We have more,” came Markovich’s familiar voice.  “We knew these ships would be sacrificed.  We invaded Zibb prime this morning and will take Zibb II shortly.  Our Bulrathi friends have attacked Ursula as well.  Virsch cannot be everywhere at once.  The Darloks will be down a few planets shortly, and if our Psilon friend can come through, they will be down an empire.”

The Psilon spoke next and Jones instantly recognized him.  It was the Psilon senate ambassador.  “I have been doing my best.  The military council is divided presently as to what to do.  They need an incentive if you want them to join you.  There are too many ties to the Darloks among our race, even now.  Kelvim himself has voted to send his fleet to join the Darloks, and he is well respected among the council.”


 

“A new round of operations is about to begin,” spoke one of the Darloks.  “We have several operatives on Mentar now.  The next wave of events will begin.  Tell me who to assassinate, and it will be done,” the Darlok continued...

Jones pondered for a second as to what type of person would willingly betray millions of his own species, but he suddenly realized that he was not alone.  At this age it was more than instinct, as he had been an operative for many years.  Whatever it was, he had learned to trust it.  He quickly backed against a wall flipping his thermal view on, and sure enough in front of him were two menacing creatures.  He grabbed his blaster as the first creature fired.  The shield held thankfully and Jones dove for cover behind a concrete planter box while firing his blaster.  He was pretty sure he scored one hit, as the silhouette of a humanoid figure was now somewhat visible.  He tossed his EMP grenade at the objects firing at him.  The grenade disabled their cloaking devices revealing a rather large Bulrathi assailant and an Antaran soldier, a species he had never seen before, but only knew of from reputation.  The three traded fire for what seemed like an eternity when suddenly the night sky lit up with a bright yellow beam followed by the unmistakable sound of a plasma rifle.  Snipers he thought, but he wasn’t dead.  Instead, the Antaran was face down and motionless as the Bulrathi foolishly turned to charge his new attacker.  A second shot followed and the Bulrathi slumped over. “Get out of here Chandler,” came an oddly familiar voice.  “You accomplished what we needed.  No one will know you were here.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it.  What was once an inanimate object was now the Human woman that had visited him earlier.   The shock of the situation wore off and Jones instinctively took off running.  He would be momentarily safe back in the Human complex, but the repercussions to follow would be dangerous.



diehardtwinsfan #19 Posted 20 June 2016 - 01:17 PM

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View PostEmP64213, on 18 June 2016 - 12:09 PM, said:

It was Antaran ploy all along, I knew it!

 

 

Yeah, if I had time, I could have written in a bunch of characters whose sole purpose was to either die or simply confuse the end results...  But I didn't feel like writing a novel :)


 

Still have a couple of fun tricks that might turn out as surprises though.



diehardtwinsfan #20 Posted 30 June 2016 - 10:49 PM

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Jones’ alarm went off, much to his surprise.  He half expected a call, instead he got a reasonable night’s sleep, not a long one, as his brain kept him tossing and turning.  The Darloks had clearly been watching this group, but they had done nothing.  Why?  He snoozed it a few times, but he knew today was going to be a busy one.  He got up and decided to check his news feeds.  Sure enough, there were plenty.  “Dead Antaran found in Orion City” was the gist of every news feed he could find.  And there were more, a dead Bulrathi, a dead Psilon (their ambassador no less), two Darloks, a Sakkra, but no Human.  However, a quick check of the facilities entrance and exit logs showed the Markovich was not present.  Jones cursed to himself on that one.  He really wanted Markovich to disappear.  Perhaps he had, but there was no way of knowing.  It would solve a problem for him, and he really did not like Markovich, and then he saw it:  his surveillance video.  It was there too.  Jones quickly checked and saw the copy on his terminal.  He deleted it and then frantically searched for his data pad.  His brain knew what body had not quite figured out.  His data pad was not here.  He dropped it during the fire fight.  Flight or fight was a great human instinct, but dropping it would tie him to that scene.  Its presence would elicit questions he did not want to answer.  It was a fairly typical device, but it had human configuration.  It would be tied back to someone, and since he used it, more than likely it would be him.  He could only hope the Darloks had it, though he was not sure if they were friend or foe.  What he did know is that whatever this cabal was doing, it had Darloks on both sides of it, which made them both friend and foe.


 

Jones’ thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door.  He grabbed his blaster, forgetting that he was barely dressed, and checked the monitor to see who was there.  “Let me in Chandler,” came Schnell’s familiar voice.  Jones forgot about his current situation and unlocked the door.  He realized it as she started to open the door.  “Let me get dressed,” he shouted as he quickly ran to his bedroom.  A few minutes later he emerged wearing a robe.  “What is so important this early?” he asked, trying to feign some sort of ignorance over what had happened.


 

“I’m sure you know already,” she said.  “Dead Antaran, others, and the video?  You were right about Raj. There’s something bigger than just a murder investigation here,” she said with a slight smile.  “You were involved, weren’t you?”


 

Jones was taken back a bit by the direct statement.  That was not typical in his line of work.  He smiled ever so slightly.  He trusted her, but that was an answer he could not provide.  “Antaran and others?” he asked, attempting feebly to feign ignorance.  “Looks like we have a busy day ahead of us”.  Jones quickly pulled up a news feed while trying and failing to act as though he was surprised.  “It’s not far from here,” he said. “Let me get dressed and we can head over.”


 

They couldn’t arrive at the scene quickly enough.  The crime scene was brightly lit, as bright as it could possibly be on the dark side of Sol’s moon.  Portable lights had been erected everywhere, and the scene was cordoned off by the city security.  If there had been a human casualty, they would have been permitted to enter, but the lack of a dead human prevented it.  Jones attempted to tell one of the detectives that this may be related to his own investigation, but he was having no such luck. Based on what he could see, however, it was immediately clear to Jones that the Darloks had been busy.  The dead Antaran and Bulrathi remained where they had been left.  Neither looked quite as imposing as they did alive.  The Antaran in particular was an odd creature, as Jones had never seen one before.  Unlike most sentient species, it had an exoskeleton protecting its internal organs.  The plasma beam had ruptured its skeleton and vaporized its internal organs.  One of its several arms lay a few feet away from its body, obviously detached during the fire fight.  The lifeless Bulrathi had to be at least eight feet tall.  Jones could see from the burn marks that the Bulrathi had been hit several times.  Those things could certainly take a beating.  Jones noticed Culso working the scene.  He hoped to get his attention, but the Bulrathi ignored him as he did his job. 

From his location, Jones could see some of the other bodies.  He wondered quietly if the Darloks had moved them.  The building itself had multiple entrances.  Why any of them would run towards the firefight was odd to say the least.  The scandal alone would be the talk of Orion City for a week at least.  The Psilon’s ambassador was found dead in the company of Bulrathi, Darlok, Sakkra, and Antaran.  Nothing could explain that.  He wondered where the others were.  His thoughts were interrupted by the presence of someone sliding up beside him. He glanced to his left expecting to see Schnell, but instead saw the familiar form of the human woman his Darlok visitor liked to take.  “I believe you dropped this,” she wheezed, handing Jones his data pad.  “You would be wise not to lose this again.”


 

“It will be destroyed,” he commented quietly, looking around to make sure he wasn’t being watched.  He was fortunate that Schnell had wandered off somewhere.  He was not sure where, but at the moment he did not care. 


 

“Where are the others?” he asked quietly.


 

“Not your concern,” she replied.  “We still do not know what the cabal was up to, and we intend to find out.  Our own race is plotting against us, trying to wipe us off the map.”


 

“I suspect they simply want the core to go to war,” Jones replied.  “Everyone being weak makes them ripe for conquest.”


 

“A fair assessment,” the woman replied, “But does that explain the need to destroy Nazin?”


 

“You had one of the strongest fleets.  Even after that battle you still have one of the largest, and everyone knows your weaponry and defenses are superior as well, and the speed at which you took down Altair…” Jones cut himself off there.  That was probably more info than what he should have divulged, though truthfully it was hardly a secret.  The Humans had benefited from that as well.  The Alkari on the other hand, they got the worst of it.  The Humans had enslaved their Alkari, many died.  The Humans forced many into Pilots for their fleet.  That had certainly benefited humanity.  The death toll among the Alkari though was high.  For that reason alone, in his line of work they were never to be trusted.


 

“The cabal will be exposed,” the Darlok replied.  “Antares is the real enemy.”


 

“Perhaps,” Jones replied.  “If you and the Psilons and all of your technological might couldn’t defeat them though, what makes you think we can?” With that, she silently left.






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