6. Interlude DaiEdit
Tar Ka-Hi stood on the bridge of the Exer-Hi, his mightiest battleship. With a concerned expression on his face, he watched the core of his clan, his two lumbering Dai Mothers gaining speed.
They were the pinnacle of Dai Than engineering, heavily armed, well shielded and the thickest armor possible. All this came with a price; Dai Mothers weren't very fast and it took them time to accelerate.
Every fighter was launched to create a protective cocoon around the very heart of his clan. Cam Elf-Na had kept his promise and was in hot pursuit with the combined force of all the loyal clans with him.
There was not much that frightened Tar Ka-Hi, but seeing this enormous force on the long range scanners made him wonder if he did the right thing.
Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut and simply gone to the Union without announcing it to everyone, he had hoped more of them would have seen it his way.
That fifteen hundred Tribal Chiefs followed him was quite a success, but far from the sixty-five hundred, whipped into a frenzy by Cam Elf-Na and millennia old concepts of honor and dishonor, encrusted into society and deep rooted in every way Dai Than than everything else.
It was their way and the words Okthi Dai have been spoken and tossed into his direction, declaring him and his allies Okthi Dai.
The last Overlord of the Dai had vanished for more than 20,000 cycles and along with him, the legendary mystical Urinai-Hi-Orh, the living clan mother.
Every tribal lord fended for himself ever since, listening in whispered tales of the return of the Urinai and the ship's return, elevating one male Dai to become the next Overlord.
According to Dai Lore and custom, only the Dai Lord could declare a Tribal Chief Okthi, let alone this many.
Okthi, the sum of all that was dishonor and filth and Than the sum of all that was honorable and right were more than words, more than philosophy or religion. It was what defined them.
Any being could become Dai if it was honorable and fought and died for the Tribe, but only a Dai could be a Dai Than.
Now the Pale Ones who guarded Thana Shoo and the Shrine of the Past, had not spoken and did not side with Cam Elf-Na or Tar Ka-Hi, and the verdict who was Okthi and who was Than was up to each Than to decide...
Tar Ka-Hi once entered the Shrine of the Past, long ago when he was just a son of Tar Eu-Hi and not even risen to the age where the swords were made part of a warrior.
The regal Tribal Lord brushed the thoughts away. Cobwebs and doubt were no good companions of a Warrior before battle was at hand. Courage and confidence on the other hand were indispensable.
From here, it was not far to what the mighty Union declared to be its space, but he doubted the pursuing clans would stop at this imaginary line.
It was here where Admiral Stahl promised he would be and meet him and any of the tribes wishing to join the Union.
Glancing at the long range scanners in front of him, he noticed that most of the tribes committed to him and to the idea of becoming Union had already crossed into Union Space.
None of his scanners nor any of the long range scouts had yet to report a single Union ship.
His mind drifted again and he remembered when he met the Immortal Warrior face to face, while Union Medics tended his Tribe.
The human was everything the legends and stories said he was and more. Many Dai Than respected Stahl. Meeting him Tar Ka-Hi was convinced this human could be used to define Than.
He saw the Devastator from the inside, he saw the many different beings serving with a feelable pride and dedication. He noticed their discipline and their professionalism and that is when he first really formulated an idea that was in his head for so long.
Tar Ka-Hi then asked if it would be possible for Dai Than to join the Union, despite their reputation and status.
Stahl gave his word that one, several or all Dai would be welcomed. If the Dai accepted Union Law they could become Union Citizens with the same rights as everyone else and the past meant nothing.
What happened next impressed him more than the Devastator, he was invited to appear before the very Assembly via Tele Avatar. He was able to appear thousands of light Nutho away before the Assembly as if he was there.
Experiencing the grandeur of the Assembly however, was a shock and nothing less.
He still had no real words to describe it. Entities like the Klack Queen or the legendary Mothermachine spoke to him and then the Narth Representative suggested to fast track his application.
He expected rejection and discussions and many objections, but not a 97 percent vote and thunderous applause.
He knew then there was no other decision possible.
Yet there was not a single Union ship. Even if the mighty Devastator would have been there, what could one ship, even as powerful as this one do against the combined might of so many angry Dai; an armada so huge, they probably could penetrate deep into Union space and perhaps all the way to Arsenal.
The Union fleet far out-numbered the Dai, but it was spread over an incredible region of space. It would take them weeks and months to gather enough units to mount an effective defense.
He almost feel the thoughts of the pursuing Dai.
They never felt as invincible as now!
They hated the Union and now for the first time in so many ages, united the fleets into one. Not even the mighty Union able stop them.
They were poised to destroy the Okthi and then raid every system in reach. Destroying and pillaging everything in sight, filling every hold to the brim with loot no Tribe Lord dared to dream about.
It would be the end of the Dai of course.
Eventually enough Union assets would concentrate and then pursue every Dai tribe and ship. The many species would unleash their most vicious demons. Once Terrans gathered momentum and shed that veneer of temperance, no species, no civilization could stand. The Union led by Terran tenacity would not stop at Free Space and would end the Dai threat once and for all.
Had his decision caused the ultimate doom of his kind?
Was he the one who brought the inevitable end much sooner than necessary over his proud kind?
The last stragglers and most of his clan was now only one Light Nutho or, in Union terms, only about ten Light Years from the Union Border.
This region of space has always been known by the space traveling societies of this sector as the Thalim Nebula.
In a long distant time six suns had gone super nova.
He always wondered what caused six suns to simultaneously go supernova.
The legends were rich and not spoken, only whispered. Of Nether Demons, of sun eating monsters and of god-like beings fighting and no one wanted any story to be true. Yet a beautiful stellar gas cloud, the cosmic graveyard of suns was not deniable.
It was also an area of space with millions of asteroids, chunks of rock and ice, remnants of the destroyed star system's planets.
It was considered a rich hunting ground for Dai Than as there were many mining colonies prospecting for precious metals and minerals far from Union core space and close to Free Space. Why Admiral Stahl had asked him to rendezvous there he could not fathom.
That the Immortal Human Warrior had a good reason for it, he had no doubt.
As much as Stahl was hated and feared among the Dai, no one questioned his tactical and strategic genius. If only half the legends about this man were true, then he was without a doubt the greatest warrior and military genius in the Galaxy.
Stahl was not there!
The sensors of his battle ship, the scanners of the forward scouts would have been able to pick up that enormous ship, or any other Union battle ship.
True, the scanners were somewhat hampered by the dust and gaseous clouds but matter was still spread over many light years and nothing could hide the Devastator.
Bas-Co, the former leader of his own tribe, walked up to him and stepped into the Orb of Command.
"I see the concern in your face, Old Friend and I share it. I expected every ship of the Union to be there. Either to finish us off once and for all or to keep their word and welcome us as new members. Are we too early perhaps?"
"Yes we are somewhat early. I told Stahl that I would announce my plans at the meeting. I had planned to go forward with this at the end of the meeting, not three days in. We are about ten days early, but I expected ... no I hoped he would be prepared for it."
"He is a man of his word. I trust our enemy more than some of our kind in that regard. We might have to survive ten days."
"We won't last two days. The enemy is too numerous!"
"True that, but we are not facing a trained Armada, my friend. They fly together but are not united under one command, as much as Cam Elf-Na wishes it to be that way. There will be much confusion and it will be hard to differentiate friend from foe. We are all Dai and no ship changed its marking to show it to be Okthi"
"You speak wisely."
"Did we send the Transponder codes to all our allies? So if the Union does show they can differentiate?"
"Yes my liege and all confirmed."
"I wish we had marvelous instantaneous communication; just as the Union possesses. We could call and warn the Union! There will be much death on Union side before our kind is no more."
"We soon will. I am confident. Maybe not all of us, but the Dai Than will survive this time of trial. Your decision was the only one open to us and guarantee our survival. Should we fail, then we die as Dai Than"
"As much as I bemoan your losses my friend, once a glorious Tribe lord and now standing aside another who just might doomed us all."
"Bas-Co in times like this, I am glad you are with me now. It is an honor like no other to have a friend like you in times like this."
"I am your friend and you are my Lord now. Lead me to whatever end the Spirit of the Galaxy has chosen for us. I will hail your name in victory and my spirit will hail your name in death"
Har-Hi, his oldest son, also came up and bowed, crossing his underarms before his chest. "Father let me be out there. Only my fighter remains aboard! I am old enough to fight. You know my skills as pilot are second to few."
"They are second to none, my son. Yet you must remain here on the bridge. Battle is soon upon us and it is you who I favor to be the Tar of this tribe. If I fail, it is you that will lead this tribe or whatever is left of it, once the last shot is fired. It is you who must take command, you cannot do this from a fighter."
"You shall not fail father. Wise Bas-Co is more aide to you than I can be onboard a battle ship. Father, I will obey and do as you ask, but consider my desire."
Tar Ka-Hi smiled weakly and put his hands on Har-Hi's shoulders.
"So be it then, my son. You are the pride that fills my heart. Go and join thy brethren, fly and fight as fight we must!"
Har-Hi also smiled, crossed his arms again and then rushed to the elevators.
The Navigator reported, "Our mothers have crossed into Union Space, only we and the rear guard remain. The enemy is gaining."
Another of his bridge crew said, "Liege, everyone is hailed from a single Union Destroyer that has just come in Scanner range."
"Put them on."
"This is Captain Brandon Lane of the USS Bilbao. Hailing all Dai forces. Stop all engines, drop shields and prepare to surrender."
Tar Ka-Hi responded, "This is Tar Ka-Hi. I have come with many Tribes of my kind to accept the offer received by Admiral Richard Stahl and the invitation of your Assembly. We are being pursued by Dai that do not agree with our decision. It will come to a large battle I am afraid."
After the usual Tachyon Radio delay, the Union Captain was heard again.
"We are receiving your transponder codes and verifying them with Fleet Central, one moment!"
Did Stahl forget? Was he so arrogant or did he not believe he would really do it?
Tar Ka-Hi did not feel too well.
His Scanner Operator added to his woes. "Liege I am seeing large numbers of a Kermac Thrall Fleet amassing three Nutho Years on the fringes of Kermac Space, at least 2000 heavy units, all Nogoll Battle ships!"
The Union Captain came back on. "Fleet Command confirmed your Codes and all Dai who wish to join are asked to approach the coordinates I am transmitting. I was informed the Admiral and a delegation of Pluribus is on its way to welcome you and facilitate your membership."
Then the single Destroyer hailed everyone. "Captain Brandon Lane, USS Bilbao. Hailing all pursuing Dai and the Nogoll. Any aggression towards the Union Applicants, any trespass into Union Space or the discharge of weapons across and into Union territory will be considered an act of war and I am authorized by Union Command to retaliate with all force!"
Cam Elf-Na could not resist and responded. "Arrogant, puny Union ship. You are facing the combined might of all Dai! We are in pursuit of traitors and will not be stopped or denied. Go and run, even let that cursed Stahl come and we show him how impotent his ship is against the combined might of all Dai. This is the hour of revenge and we won't stop until we destroyed and looted everything in this sector."
A third individual became visible on the com screens.
A tall being with long black fur, glaring red eyes and a maw full of teeth pointed his clawed finger. "The Nogoll care not what the Dai do or not, but Union be warned, trespass into Free Space and war shall be upon you!"
The Union captain seemed completely relaxed and unimpressed. "Well Goat-face, then it will come to no surprise to you that the opposite holds true as well. If I see your furry butt or one of your rust buckets in Free Space, it's going to be a goat cook off you won't forget!"
In between the transmissions was always a little delay. The faster than light transmissions used by Dai, Nogoll and the Union ship was only twice as fast than light and had limited range. In one of the delays someone on the battle ship bridge said, "He must be Terran, that Union Captain. No other species I know of is so confident even in the face of such overwhelming odds."
"Don't forget he does have Translocators. He will be destroyed but not without taking more than a fair share with him." said another.
Tar Ka-Hi motioned with his hand.
"Helm, bring us to the coordinates he requested. Not that it won't do us much good to be behind that asteroid swarm. It is not dense or big enough to provide any protection for any ship."
The Scanner operator's voice sounded nervous. "My Liege, our angry brethren has not stopped. They crossed into Union Space and they are charging weapons and should be within firing range in ten noktas."
"Raise shields, power weapons, cocoon formation around the Mothers!"
Cam Elf-Na transmitted once more: "All Okthi Dai! Reconsider your decision, wipe that stain of shame from your names. Join us and we will stomp out the Union and the Dai will be masters once again! Come Nogoll join our ranks! The Union is unprepared, with you on our side we can raid Ulta and Terra before the rest will plead surrender! Where is this coward Stahl! I wanted to meet him and make him pay!"
Tar Ka-Hi's battle ship shuddered as it was hit by the first salvos.
"Shields holding, but not for long my liege. We are the focus of seven Battle ships and the Elf-Na Mother is launching fighters!"
The Scanner Operator yelled. "The Nogoll are moving as well!"
Then all hell broke loose!
The Devastator had suddenly appeared close and seemingly out of nowhere. The tremendous ship extended Translocator turrets.
At the same time weapon batteries suddenly dotted every asteroid in sight.
The Communication screens came on and Admiral Stahl appeared. "I am right here Cam Elf-Na! You asked for payment? I hope you brought spare change. All I got is translocator bombs! Here have a few!"
His words were underlined with the sudden appearance of thousands of expanding mini suns, globes of star like energies bloomed in the darkness of space and each marked the doom of a Dai Than ship.
Tar Ka-Hi stood there with an open mouth. The Devastator in all its size maneuvered agilely between the asteroids and Dai ships. Her enormous gun turrets now paired with FTL directed energy cannons, and the ingenious revolving fighter launchers spitting wave after wave of Wolfcraft Fighters. Plowing a path of horrible destruction through the mass of attacking Dai Tribes!
Tar Bas-Co's prediction came true. The Dai fleets were uncoordinated, had they acted under one command combining their fire, the Devastator would not have been so successful.
To his horror he saw the Asteroid Cannons were Translocator Gatling cannons, the most devastating weapon in the known Universe.
Thor Gun Boats lifted from hidden hangars on the asteroids with Long Range Sniper TL cannons. Then on the long range scanners appeared the entire Fleet, all battle groups.
Waves of Union Battle ships in perfect spear head formation accompanied by Super cruisers and destroyers
Fifty Klack Megalon Battle Cruisers, their ISAH Pods glowing bright blue at maximum speed output in perfect V formation joined the battle.
From the same direction, an Armada of a thousand sleek looking and very fast Attikan Dreadnoughts overtook the Klack force. Dai Formations releasing salvo after salvo.
Tar Ka-Hi slammed his fist on the trans fleet communicator. "Let us join our new allies and show them that we are not helpless victims but Dai and that is them who are the Okthi Dai. Athar-Ko formation, return fire!"
Tar Ka-Hi and his followers had survived with only minor losses.
The Nogoll were retreating in panic, only a third of their initial force had made it back to GC space.
Observing the immediate aftermath of this titanic battle, he noticed a Union Destroyer pursuing a Nogoll straggler. Seeing the transponder code identifier next to the computronic enhanced scanner images, he identified the destroyer as the USS Bilbao.
The crippled Nogoll unit turned into blazing cloud of nuclear inferno a moment later.
Tar Bas-Co still close had seen it too. "Once unleashed, once they fight..."
An average Dai Tribe consisted of a Dai Mother and hundreds of carriers and battle ships. He wondered how many had made it back, and how many had been destroyed. There was no clean retreat, the combined might of the Dai led by Cam Elf-Na, fled. They fled as fast as their ships could fly.
This morning they felt invincible, declared Pluribus their very target.
The heartbreaking image of a still burning and wrecked Dai Mother floated across the visual sensors of their main viewers.
Tar Ka-Hi recognized her as the Rakarh-Reb-Urh, the pride of arrogant Tar Reb-Ut, not a friend but still a Dai Than Tribe Lord with many sons and ships.
While the Dai and the Nogoll fled, still more Union assets arrived.
Union fleet tenders towing or repairing damaged Union ships.
Several of the majestic white Hospital ships rendering aid.
Massive Marine troop ships releasing regiment after regiment of Marines in Heavy Destroyer suits boarding Dai Ships too damaged to flee.
The Dai would not surrender and the Marines would not give quarter.
It was a dark day for his species and Tar Ka-Hi was deeply saddened.
Bas-Co changed the resolution and now they saw not one but hundreds of Dai Mothers shredded to twisted wrecks. Smaller units unrecognizable clouds of debris.
Even though the Dai Than that perished were now enemies and because he made the decision as Than he would not hesitate to fight any one including other Dai Than attacking, they were still Dai and the seats of the Amphitheater would have many more empty seats at the next meeting.
The Crisis was not over however, as the Nogoll had crossed into Free Space and thus violated the Big Four treaty. The Kermac, leading their thrall species, fearing Union retaliation massed a fleet on their side.
Tar Ka-Hi listened in on the communication. Admiral Stahl standing with spread legs and arms crossed behind his back on the bridge of his enormous ship.
"Let it be known to you Kermac and to your lackeys that we do not take the trespass of your Nogoll slaves lightly.
The entire Union is on highest alert and every combat capable ship is on its way to meet any and all aggression.
I was urged by my superiors to give you a chance why the Nogoll that are part of the Galactic Council decided to cross into Free Space and attack Union assets in space that is recognized by treaty as ours. I personally think it is time to end the Kermac problem once and for all!
You have one hour to reply. If there is no reply my government will accept, then the next time I address you is when I am in orbit around Kermac Prime."
The response came in less than thirty minutes.
"The Nogoll have acted without the approval of Kermac High Command. We will punish those who acted without consulting us first.
Kermac High Command wishes to express its apologies and suggests a diplomatic meeting and solution of this crisis.
The status of Free Space must be maintained, we will not seek any further hostile activities, but will respond with all force if the Free Space treaty is violated."
Stahl managed to sound disappointed.
"It would have been interesting to see if your all force response would have been enough to stop me from transforming Kermac Prime into a parking lot.
My government however, accepts your apologies and expects your diplomatic envoys to discuss this on a different level than military confrontation.
Let me make it absolutely clear to you, this is the last time such an incident is tolerated. The next time there will be no chance to explain, no diplomatic solution and no treaty. The next time all your diplomats will do is sign a declaration of total surrender, you have my personal guarantee on that, Stahl out!"