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This is the first of the Alliance of Worlds Novels. The Phoenix Rising won 2010 Indie Excellence Award Finalist in Science Fiction
A huge battle is about to explode. Composed of 250 assorted civilizations, the Alliance of Worlds is an impressive conglomeration of space-faring races with extraordinary array of resources. However, the Alliance will soon face its biggest threat–one that might lead to their fall. As two evil forces attempt to eliminate them, a seasoned leader is called to take on this deadly threat at the helm of his new starship, Phoenix. Witness a time of change and war in The Phoenix Rising, the first in a series of science fiction novels set in a distant future.
A Viridian Incursion
Fleet Captain Robert Allen Sheppard sat at his command station, issuing command after command to coordinate the ships in his task force. His executive officer, a capable man, controlled the general actions of his ship, the heavy cruiser Endeavor. Robert Sheppard was a tall, robust man with a light complexion, slightly graying hair, and blue eyes. He was a human with ancestors originating from the planet Earth. Sheppard was dressed in his bridge duty uniform, its imbedded sensors monitoring his health. The silvery star cluster of a fleet captain attached to his uniform’s lapel.
The duty uniform of the Alliance of Worlds was unisex and designed so that each section’s uniform jacket was designated by a different color scheme. White represented line officers and Command; blue was for the Sciences section; green was designated for the Medical division; red was for the Engineering & Maintenance section, and golden yellow for Operations, the general operation of the starship.
Sheppard’s duty uniform jacket was the bone white of Command; the duty shirt, like that of all sections, was dark gray. On his left shoulder was the ship’s patch for the Endeavor. On the right shoulder was the section patch for Command. On his right breast he wore his identification badge and on his left, the insignia symbol of the Alliance of Worlds. The duty shirt showed the rank designation on the collar, and the jacket sleeves were broken by the section color and rank designation near the sleeves’ end. The jacket even had storage pockets. The ship’s duty trousers were charcoal gray, extending to the calf, and the boots were charcoal black.
On the other side of the boundary zone was a small fleet of Viridian ships consisting of over twenty mostly cruiser or battle cruiser–type ships that appeared to be mobilizing for an assault on the Alliance’s starbase. Starbase 301 was one of the main starbases in the sector and was involved with trade and supply routes for more distant alliance members and colonies. Only a few months ago, Commodore Pilat had been injured and had passed the command of her four task forces to Fleet Captain Sheppard, as he had as much experience as she did in space battles, if not more. Almost a year ago, there had been another territorial dispute with the Viridians. Sheppard—aboard the United Galactic Alliance Starship Endeavor and commanding that along with other ships in his task force and those of another fleet captain—was able to salvage the situation when a strategic Alliance of Worlds asteroid mining station, along with valuable cargo transports near an area of the boundary zone were attacked by a Viridian fleet.
Fleet Captain Sheppard, the ranking fleet captain by seniority for this sector, had recently been awarded a medal for valorous service for his actions but had yet to return to Star One for the ceremony.
While Commodore Pilat was undergoing some regenerative surgery at the starbase, the Viridian spaceships had assumed hostile postures on their side of the boundary zone. One of the newer crew members on the bridge asked in a near whisper what the Viridian were like.
Sheppard heard the passing ensign and decided to respond while the ship continued on its course. “The Viridians are a reptile-type race. Being from Earth, I think of them as snakelike, with arms, and a supportive tail they use to move into a standing posture. Unlike snakes, they seem to have an ability to alter their colors of their scales, so if they got angry, for instance, some orange would flare into their faces. You can get additional information from the computer data files.”
Sheppard looked toward his first officer, Commander J. J. Adams, as he joined the conversation. Adams was dressed in the Command section duty uniform, his brown hair was cut short, and his blue eyes scanned the bridge as he spoke.
“Unfortunately, the Viridian never considered the Alliance of Worlds a friend, even after the initial friendship envoys,” stated Adams, raising his eyebrow. “Viridians are somewhat territorial, and even though they are a space-faring race with faster-than-light travel, some of their political methods were not as forward thinking as most of the members of our Alliance.” Most of the crew knew the history for this section of the galaxy; there had been conflicts and skirmishes with the Viridians for many years after the first nonaggression treaty’s failure.
“One of the problems was that the Viridians never seemed to make clear claims to any intervening space or dust cloud zones. Leaving their territory set in several scattered clusters of stars,” stated Sheppard.
Adams spoke up. “Whereas the Alliance has a habit of claiming intervening areas of space. Evidently, over the years, the expansion of the Alliance and the gaining of new members cut off some of the Viridian trade or mining routes,” he said.
“With the Viridian’s unwillingness to agree to a trade or affiliation treaty,” Sheppard continued, “they limited their own expansion, except in the direction of the galactic edge and across the space between the galactic spiral arms.” Sheppard paused for a moment.
“The only political achievement with them was a type of loose nonaggression pact, and that with only a portion of their warlord-like leadership council,” finished Sheppard.
“A more secure nonaggression, trade or affiliation treaty has yet to be arranged. The basic nonaggression pact resulted in the creation of this boundary zone we are approaching,” added Adams.
Sheppard and his task force of ships had previously participated in neutralizing the threat at asteroid mining station M304, which over the course of a few years had drifted into an area of the boundary zone. Even though there were valuable minerals in the asteroids that M304 was involved in mining, strangely, the Viridians had yielded part of the region after losing that battle. Now Alliance ships were coming to the aid of the local starbase. This particular starbase, designated 301, was an older facility, and its defense systems and starfighter complement were several years overdue for a refit.
Somehow, Starbase 301’s attitudinal thrusters had fired, seemingly by accident. As a result, the station was now headed toward and likely going to cross, the boundary zone. Unfortunately, the attitude controls were overloaded afterward, and repairs to the section were proceeding slowly, since most of the engineers were at a conference at another station. Starbase 301’s current commanding officer, Fleet Captain Lauren, thought the situation should be under control by now, but things had progressed to the point that reinforcements were requested by the starbase commaning officer. Additonally The Viridian personel who had previously visited the station in the past were not responding to information sent concerning the problem and seemed to be ready with deadly force for any breach of their border.
Fleet Captain Sheppard’s task force, designated Task Force Four, had been sent there as reinforcement for the starbase. The task force was made up of twelve different cruiser types of vessels: four Waterway-class light cruisers, five Heroic-class heavy cruisers, and two Legendary-class battle cruisers. The final member of the task force was one standard assault carrier with eight starfighter wings, and a space marine brigade of ground support forces. Normally, each wing consisted of twenty starfighters. The starfighters present had been constructed by several sources, including member worlds and some corporate construction facilities, like BradCorp. However, many had been constructed at any number of Alliance of Worlds shipyards, including the yards at Star One. Each of the Waterway cruisers had one wing or squadron of starfighters; the Heroic class usually had three squadron wings and the Legendary-class up to five wings, depending on size and design configuration.
Sheppard was just as good at tactical planning for starfighters as he was for the large capital ships. He had been squadron officer and eventually a highly decorated commander of twenty starfighter wings on the Constellation-class battlecarrier H’jum’pta. Sheppard plotted course and speed for the starfighter attack and ordered launch of all tactical wings. Sheppard could have had a junior officer do the task, but he thought he might need to be on top of this particular situation. After about ten minutes, all starfighters from the task force were headed to defend Starbase 301 and intercept any long-range missiles or torpedoes launched by the Viridian fleet.
Sheppard’s helm officer was a light blue–skinned, white-haired humanoid from Azura. Sheppard instructed him, “Move Endeavor into position to strike any Viridians who might clearly cross over the sixty light-second boundary zone into Alliance of Worlds space, and launch our antimissile countermeasures.” His tactical display indicated that a salvo of missiles had fired toward the starbase.
The Endeavor’s bridge was oval in general shape and consisted of several stations, including astrogation and helm, each of which had two officers who could operate the station. The other stations included communications and engineering, as well as two science stations, one for physical and the other for life sciences. The first officer’s station was adjacent to the helm, and the captain’s station was situated centrally. Both the first officer and the captain’s station allowed them to interface and to work with the other officers. Manual actions sometimes became necessary; during battle or if there was shield failure, interlinks and other computer interface devices sometimes would not function properly. Like all Alliance of Worlds spaceships over one thousand meters in length, the Endeavour was a rhomboid shaped spacecraft composed of a reinforced trans-titanium alloy with multiple enclosed decks. There were comfortable crew quarters, a main bridge and a secondary bridge, science and research decks, primary and secondary engineering control areas, and hangar bays for the starfighters. There were even multipurpose areas for storage of the supplies, and recreation areas for a prolonged journey.
Sheppard issued orders to the communication coordination officer. “Arrange for the other capital ships to move into defensive positions near the starbase,” he said, “although not within or across the boundary.” He knew that many of the Alliance’s weapon systems had longer effective ranges than the Viridian’s capital ships, and could strike sooner if they entered the boundary zone to strike Starbase 301, which was now approaching the edge of the sixty-light-second boundary zone. It was now too late to try to use a coordinated effort of starships to pull or tractor the starbase.
Sheppard asked, “What’s the situation on the repairs to the starbase attitude controls?”
“Sir, they still have to finish fabricating a few of the parts for Starbase 301’s attitude adjustment system,” replied Commander Adams. “The damage they incurred was more substantial than previously thought. Fortunately, they will finish within the hour, but not before the starbase moves across the boundary zone.”
“Freg!” cursed Sheppard. “This is going to be a breach, and, right or wrong, the Viridians will look on it as an Alliance of Worlds breach of territory.”
His crew watched him with anticipation.
“All ahead. Engines to full sublight,” he commanded.
“Aye, sir,” piped Lieutenant Commander Rel’kesh, the helm officer. “Accelerating from ten thousand to one-hundred fifty thousand kilometers a second.” Then he checked his instruments and reported, “Acceleration process will end in three hundred seconds.”
Sheppard noticed a few small tugs on his body as the gravitic compensators and inertial dampeners activated to neutralize the effects of acceleration.
“I want to be in range to repel any attack on Starbase 301. Notify the other ships, and send this positional configuration to each of their captains,” Sheppard said as he sent course coordinates from his computer interface station that he and his tactical coordinating officer had just worked out. “From here on, each ship’s captain will have to make active decisions on how to engage the Viridian.”
He continued. “Open a channel to all the ships in the task force,” said Sheppard to Kira Benton, the communications officer.
As Sheppard waited a few seconds for the multiple contacts to the other ships to all activate, he looked at the silver star cluster on his uniform, which signified his rank as a fleet captain.
“Ready to transmit sir,” replied Lieutenant Benton.
Sheppard began speaking. “Endeavor to all Task Force Four vessels. This is Fleet Captain Robert Sheppard. I want us all to be ready for what will likely come to pass. Starbase 301 will not have full maneuvering control until it is well into the boundary zone, or even beyond that; therefore we will have to protect the base. Even now, the starbase is about to cross into the boundary zone. We need to have the cruisers support the starfighters as they surround the starbase to intercept any missiles and torpedoes. As you may be aware, the starbase’s primary defense systems are outdated compared to many of our starship weapons systems. Some of our starfighters will be used for augmenting the starbases point-defense weaponry against incoming long-range missile or torpedo attacks. As the starbase has a more predictable course, it may also become a target of particle cannons or energy disruptors used by the Viridian capital ships. I will send updates for specific starship support when we arrive at the destination. Fleet Captain Sheppard out.”
Some time passed as Sheppard’s fourth task force moved closer to the border zone. After Starbase 301 crossed into the border zone, the Viridian starships waited until it was halfway across and then launched a salvo of torpedoes as well as their own starfighters. The Viridian capital ships outnumbered the Alliance of Worlds fleet by slightly more than two to one.
The starbase activated its point defense systems to intercept incoming torpedoes, even as the engineering team was finishing repair and realignment to the attitude and thruster systems. Viridian starfighters began to engage various types of Alliance of Worlds star fighters, including single-pilot interceptors and star furies, as well as the larger T20 and T30 transport-type star fighters that had been launched.
“Commander Talbert,” Sheppard ordered, “transfer the recent tactical sensor data of the battle to my station.” Talbert was the tactical officer and would properly arrange the data to be sent to the ships in the taskforce.
Sheppard analyzed the displays of the combat that ensued and noticed a small weakness in the Viridian force. He dispatched the Endeavor and another Heroic-class cruiser, the Defender, under Captain Gideon, and the larger Legendary-class battlecruiser Pelonus under a Zal captain Natarris. The Zal were also one of the more technically advanced members of the Alliance of Worlds. Like Robert Sheppard, this Zal officer was a Star Knight and known for his ability to predict enemy strategy. In the Alliance of Worlds, the Star Knights were gifted with psionic abilities, and as part of their code, they tended to use their metaphysical or psionic abilities and disciplines to aid them in preserving civilization. The Star Knights were not government-sanctioned police or guards but were more akin to special agents who belonged to various organizations, or orders.
“Let’s move into this gap and hit them hard,” Sheppard said as he transferred his tactical instructions to the astrogation station. Endeavor moved to an attack position, supported by the other ships in the task force.
Starbase 301 had finally regained attitudinal controls and was beginning to use its thrusters to resume its position across the border zone. The starbase had almost crossed the full distance and was just a few hundred meters adjacent to declared Viridian space before it stopped and began slowly moving back to officially designated Alliance of Worlds space.
“Sir, Starbase 301 has taken moderate damage,” stated Commander Talbert, the task force tactical officer. “They seemed to concentrate their attacks on the weapons systems. Several of their missiles penetrated the outdated point defense system on Starbase 301.”
“You’re right, Commander, but the problem is that the Viridian are generally honorable. They waited until the starbase crossed fully into the boundary zone before they launched their attack,” Sheppard said.
“It appears that they postured and moved about enough in the interim to get us to possibly make the first move,” replied Talbert.
“My worry is how they had any idea to be here at precisely this moment to take advantage of the situation,” Sheppard said. “They seem to be waiting.…” His voice trailed off.
“Recall our ships from within the boundary zone,” Sheppard ordered. “Stay on our side of it with a little extra margin, just in case their sensors delineate the margin as slightly different from our boarder calculation line using the signals from a few maker buoys in this region.”
“Aye sir, task force–wide orders sent,” replied Lieutenant Benton.
Talbert said, “I’ve never known the Viridian to be the first to break a boundary treaty; they’ve usually attacked corporate mining ships that don’t pay attention or willfully make a breach. I think they wanted us to cross into their territory first.”
“Yes, I agree it’s good that the Starbase 301 stopped just in time, replied Sheppard. “Order the ships to defensively withdraw, and support the retreat of the starbase, Commander.”
“Sir,” said Lieutenant Benton, “I was actively scanning and found that an unusual communication on a hyper bandwidth was sent from Viridian space. I can’t resolve the signal more clearly or locate the sending ship; it’s using some form of cloaking or anti-scanning countermeasures. I think they must have detected my scans.”
Sheppard trusted Benton, who was a highly trained officer. Sheppard knew Benton’s father, who was a captain in the same fleet. The Bentons were fellow Terrans from Earth, descended from South Africans who had left for space about three centuries ago.
“While were still in the edge of boundary zone can you determine what type of ship it is,” replied Sheppard. “As far as I’m aware, the Viridians don’t have that type of countermeasure system.”
“Sorry Sir, I don’t have further information,” Talbert said. “It seemed to be of unknown configuration, and it masked its signature. What I can read from the scan is disturbing, because the residual energy signature indicates a small ship with a masked but impressive power source. It likely is moving at … approximately translight velocity equivalent to … well, beyond our trans-light velocity levels.”
“What beyond our…?” Sheppard exclaimed. “Benton, encrypt and send the data to the tactical branch at Star One,” he ordered. “For all we know, it could be an Estrian spaceship or one of the other elder Hegemony races observing us.” Sheppard paused, considering the situation. “I’m going to need to contact the Viridian fleet’s senior officer.”
After the starbase was back in Alliance of Worlds space, Fleet Captain Sheppard offered further communications to the Viridian and offered a truce and cease-fire. The Viridian’s new commander accepted, as the original admiral had been lost along with his ship, which had been critically damaged in its attempt to draw the Defender and the Pelonus across the boundary zone to the Viridian side.
The Defender was seriously damaged and had to be towed, and many alliance starfighters did not return to their launch pads that day. One of the Waterway-class cruisers had been damaged severely, as well, when it went to support the Defender and the Pelonus.
Fleet Captain Sheppard was awarded a medal for his handling of the situation. The remaining Viridians indicated that their deceased admiral was under the belief that the Alliance of Worlds was going to use the starbase to invade their space.
The Accadian scout cruiser Samok moved away from Viridian space to more securely transmit its coded message to their governor:
To Office of Mor'ag, Governor of Accadian forces:
Operation Boundary Breach was a failure. We are returning to base. The other project is proceeding as planned. Agents are arranging to replace the commanding officer with one appreciative to our cause. Hostilities will again break out, and this time the Viridian should strike. They will see us as an ally because of our racial similarity. When the entire project is completed, the Viridian should be drawn to our side, allowing us to establish bases in their space. End message.
The Accadian Advance
On board the Accadian dreadnaught Kadath, orbiting the habitable world of Volsk, deep within the Delta quadrant, Mor'ag—the commanding governor of the Accadian military forces—stood before the ominous, towering, three-dimensional image projection of his senior officer.
Lord Kra'ag, the regional imperial high governor of the Accadian forces of the Jiyarr in this region of the universe, looked down upon his subordinate with amusement. The Accads were an ancient and technologically advanced race of space-faring reptilians that had begun colonizing and building up forces in this particular galaxy several decades ago. They looked like a cross between a crocodile and something human, with green to gray hide and a short partially snakelike snout. They were originally genetically engineered workers for the Jiyarr.
Recently, things had begun to go wrong. During the latest expansion, the Accadian colonial expeditions had begun to meet with marginal resistance from some of the other civilizations in the galaxy, and when they started losing territories they had already “claimed” in the name of the empire, Imperial High Governor Kra’ag decided to become more involved. Mor’ag was not overly thrilled at this prospect, though he did his best to hide his feelings. It didn’t help that the imperial high governor was also his cousin, a quirk of fate that he believed Lord Kra’ag possibly regretted.
“Governor Mor’ag,” boomed the image of Lord Kra’ag. “I am anxious to know of your progress in Galaxy Ten., Make your report on the spiral galaxy that you are continuing to establish our recent colonies.”
Mor'ag knew that Kra’ag had obtained the rank of Archon amongst the Jiyarr for his additions to the empire, and sat with the Jiyarr ruling body at several of their meetings. He was not a senior Archon, but still it was an achievement few Accadians had matched.
Mor'ag raised his head and saluted his leader, arm across his chest.
“All is going as planned, cousin,” Mor’ag said. “The Vuldranaii problem is no more, and the Shug and Zuul uprising has been crushed since our last communication.” He laughed at the thought and added, “Thanks to Admiral Kor’eth and his mighty armada, who finally moved through their star system like a mighty Sloar, scattering and devouring everything in its path. The additional reinforcements you sent have arrived—on time, as expected. With their force added to my own, I believe we will soon be able to strike the remaining advanced civilizations.”
The image of Kra’ag’s three-dimensional face fell into the Accadian version of a frown as he said, “I had expected you to be further along by now, Mor’ag. There is much I must do, and my plans for that galaxy cannot continue until you and your forces have completed your tasks.”
“Apologies, Milord Kra'ag,” said Mor'ag, solemnly bowing his head. “But there have been ...” he stammered, “some minor setbacks … umm … delays to the schedule.” Then, as afterthought, he added cheerfully, “Oh, by the way, may I congratulate you on the completion of your campaign in Galaxy Five. Only through your great efforts has the majority of that galaxy been placed under Accadian domination and Jiyarr rule.”
At this deliberate evasion, the image of Lord Kra’ag’s frown turned to a scowl.
“Yes,” he replied slowly after a ponderous second, “we were victorious. Have you been trying to adapt the Jiyarr weapons to our ships? It’s not so much stealing knowledge as it is furthering the Accadian Empire and, of course, our families.”
“They have been adapted,” said Mor’ag, with a smile. “Our Kad’jiah-class starships have already assisted our Varlon allies in attacks against the Betellians and the Saldron. Our engineers have even made a prototype antiparticle weapon. It is not quite as efficient as the original Jiyarr design, but it will soon be available on some of our Kadath-class ships in a few tzuras. Unfortunately, some of the Jiyarr systems are currently beyond our present available resources. Perhaps if—”
“Governor Mor'ag,” interrupted Kra'ag, “you should know that I prefer to keep to a schedule. My position in the Jiyarr Archon depends on our advance. As I advance, so will you and those who serve you. Tell me briefly about the opposition forces in that galaxy.”
Mor'ag nodded. “Our main opposition in this galaxy,” he stated, “will be from several of its most advanced races, some of which have banded together.”
“I see,” replied Kra’ag slowly, angered at the news.
Mor'ag made his next statements carefully about keeping to his exalted cousin’s schedule and a degree of confidence because of his already successful plans. He said, “Also, the Saldron Confederation is laying claim to several worlds in this galaxy that would be ideal for us. They, too, are a reptiloid civilization and share many common planetary needs with us. We prefer similar worlds, and there has been competition for some mineral and colony worlds over the past few years with the Saldron.”
“Umm …” continued Mor’ag, gathering his thoughts. “Then there are the Betellians. As you know, they too have a presence in this galaxy.”
Kra’ag’s scowl deepened at this, but he said nothing. However, he now looked as if he had swallowed some distasteful medicine.
“According to our most recent reports, they have completed two worldspheres around stable stars,” said Mor’ag, “and are working on a third. However, the additional Jiyarr ships you sent will help us, perhaps giving us the advantage we need in our attacks.”
“I should think so,” replied Kra’ag.
“Lastly, it is possible that a few of the more advanced races or those groups with large enough numbers will be able to resist our incursion,” said Mor’ag. Then, with sarcasm he added, “One of those groups, for the past two hundred lactar or so, have formed a federation of sorts called the Alliance of Worlds. This ‘Alliance of Worlds’ is composed of approximately 250 assorted civilizations, many with an impressive array of resources. They represent over a quarter of the space-faring races in this galaxy. The only consolation is that their technology is less advanced than ours, and significantly less advanced than the Jiyarr.”
“Hmm,” intoned Kra'ag thoughtfully as he began scanning data from his console. “Several of these civilizations seem to be peaceful or neutral in nature. We will have them eliminated soon. Were you successful with the Varlon treaty?”
“Ahh! Yes, Milord,” replied Mor'ag happily. “Their xenophobic nature was … difficult to overcome, as I stated in my earlier reports. But, after several hostile interactions, we have since established a working relationship with many of the newer senators in their Imperium. Together we have been able to convince the Varlon ruling body, called the Icarria, that an alliance between our peoples would be to our mutual benefit.”
“Good,” responded Kra’ag with a light, amused chuckle. “We will deal with them later, after all the others have been eliminated or subjugated.”
“By your order,” responded Mor’ag, “I shall continue with my plans.” He continued his briefing. “My officers have arranged the demise of several members of what might be organizations that could seriously delay our advance. For example we have made arrangements for high-ranking officers in that so-called ‘Alliance of Worlds’ to be eliminated and critical equipment to be sabotaged. I have arranged for Jiyarr equipment to assist in the endeavor, and I have also garnered the support of some of the Varlon senators who favor the use of sabotage. They are arranging cooperative agents to work with ours.”
Kra’ag nodded approvingly.
Mor’ag paused, and then decided this was as good a time as ever to confront his cousin on an issue that had been bothering him.
“Supreme Governor, I recently received a notice that you were heading to this galaxy. I had not realized you would wish to personally come here at this time … with all your other campaigns still being fought.”
Kra’ag sighed softly, as if in resignation. “Mor’ag,” he said. “I want a new challenge. The Talcon and Netharo bore me. Your earlier reports indicated the presence of several other advanced civilizations, and also possible Quellien deposits. You could say I am intrigued.”
“Well, if that is your desire, may I say there are several very advanced civilizations in this galaxy that might present a challenge to you if you desire to strike personally,” stated Mor'ag. “I did not include a great deal of information about them in my reports, since several of them are secretive or prefer to remain apart from the other, ‘lesser’ races and civilizations.”
Mor’ag began to look wary; he did not want to admit to Kra’ag that some of these civilizations were proving to be a problem. He continued, “The most advanced civilizations include the Cynz, the Estrians, the Karratin, and the Lyramenians. These races are probably among the most technologically advanced in this galaxy and are, to some degree, allied or affiliated with each other. But, they tend not to involve themselves with the other civilizations much, especially the less advanced ones. The remaining races include the Rhyn, who have been surrounded by the Varlon and yet have been able to hold them at bay. Another very technologically advanced group is known as the Ceyloom. They are, by all accounts, arthropod type life forms, possessing exoskeletons. However, these Ceyloom are currently at war with a rebel faction within their own civilization. The Ceyloom do have occasionally skirmishes with the Saldron, and on occasion with the Varlon, although the Varlon consider them kindred.
“Then there are also the Thurians and the Icorians,” continued Mor’ag. “Two races who have mastered ‘gate’ technology, practically to the exclusion of all other forms of transportation. It seems they are capable of moving from system to system via powerful ‘worldgates’ or ‘travel corridors’ rather than using spacecraft.”
“Fascinating,” replied Kra’ag, still looking at the monitor at the information Mor’ag was sending.
Mor’ag continued, “It seems that the Thurians in the past moved whole cities from different worlds to their home world. However those two civilizations tend to stay in their territories and planets and should not cause any notable problems for our forces in space.”
“Though they are advanced,” interrupted Kra’ag, “they are no direct threat to the Accadian Empire. Continue.”
Mor’ag did, but carefully, to avoid upsetting his powerful cousin.
“One that will certainly cause problems,” he said, “is a very advanced cybernetic race known as the Tenoid, who merged with their organic makers to form the present race. This fusion is not across their entire civilization, as some of the Myroid progenitors prefer attempting to gain something called ‘ascension.’ Lastly, there are the Calyx, one of the oldest races, and possibly as advanced as the Jiyarr; however, their numbers have been dwindling, and I am not sure why. Speculation is that they are interested in alternate universes and dimensions, an interest they share with the Karratins. They tend to keep to themselves.”
“An excellent variety of adversaries!” bellowed Kra'ag happily. “It will be a glorious road to victory. I shall start planning our battle strategies.” He then turned to an officer on his left. “Summon Admirals M’agh and Rhiss.”
“There is one final item of importance, Milord,” said Mor'ag as he activated the computer screen imaging system. “As you can see, there are two Talcon starcities in hyperspace en route to this galaxy. Our telemetry was not complete due to their jamming systems and the distance, but we have been able to ascertain that their automated defense systems are operational and that they should arrive in about six zilakh.” At this, Mor'ag cleared his throat and added nervously, “During the Feast of Ji’toth, I believe.”
Kra’ag hissed by way of acknowledgment.
Mor'ag knew that his cousin enjoyed the Feast of Ji’toth and would prefer it not to be disturbed by an enemy’s arrival.
“They will most probably be arriving in that region of Alliance of Worlds space that they call the Beta quadrant,” continued Mor'ag. “The Talcon Starcities will most likely drop out of hyperspace at a distance of approximately sixty thousand light-years from any of our active colonies. It may cause a serious problem between the Talcon, who will be seeking territory and the Alliance of Worlds.”
The Supreme Commander seemed to ponder this news for a long moment, and then replied, “I will investigate this matter personally when I arrive. For the time being, Mor’ag, continue with your plans to disrupt our enemies. Also, I want you to continue attempting to locate and mine any Quellien crystals. They will be very useful for our dealings with the Jiyarr.”
“Understood, Milord,” responded Mor'ag, snapping a salute.
The communication ended, and Mor'ag was relieved. His cousin would not likely punish him, but there was the possibility Kra’ag could order a few of his officers’ executions. Mor’ag had to find a way to appease his cousin’s potential wrath, so as not to lose any of his well-trained personal staff.
An Unusual Call
The morning of April 29, 2756, of the old Earth calendar, came hard for Fleet Captain Robert Allen Sheppard. He was awakened from a restless and all-too-brief rest period by the intra-ship communication system. Composing himself as best he could in the few seconds between hails, he answered the transmission.
Clearing his throat, he said in a rough voice, “Yes, Bridge?”
“Incoming transmission through the COMNET from Star One for you, sir," reported the voice of Lieutenant Bosq, the on-duty communications officer. “It's Admiral Wainright, and he's requesting to talk to you on the Alpha channel.” He paused. “Uh, sir, there's almost a twenty-second delay in transmission, even with the COMNET’s hyperspace-boosting capability, due to our distance here near the galactic rim, so be patient, sir.”
“Yes, thank you, Lieutenant. I'll take it in my quarters.” This he said as his fingers found the processor console and punched up an order of hot coffee from the synthesizer. The device hummed quietly during the synthesis process.
Admiral Wainright's picture appeared on the viewer, and he began delivering what Sheppard would describe later as cryptic orders, with few answers to Sheppard’s questions.
Minutes later, Commander Adams received an open intercom order from Fleet Captain Sheppard. “Sheppard here,” the captain said. “Set course for Star One emergency speed; we’re being reassigned I will be headed toward the bridge soon, then I will need to coordinate with the other ship captains in Task Force Four."
“All right,” said Commander Adams, addressing the flight control officer at the conn. “You heard the order, Lieutenant; emergency speed! How long before we can get back to Star One?”
Lieutenant MacTavish’s fingers flew with precision over the navi-computer's touchpad as he inputted the course data, and then he sat back momentarily as the altered course data plotted. About a second later, he had his answer. Turning from the conn, he said, “Well, sir, since we're about ten thousand light-years out from Star One, at this distance.” Acessing astrogation to set a safe jump pathway Mac Tavish determined that traveling at the ships emergency speed of translight velocity equivalent to one hundred thousand times C, the speed of light. “Sir it will take us a little over thirty-six days to get back. Now, if we had the upgraded jump system, we could get there in half the time.”
“That's fine, Lieutenant MacTavish. This ship’s engines can handle emergency speed for just about that long,” said Sheppard thoughtfully. “Take us home. Endeavor will put in for an overhaul while we’re at Star One.” Mac Tavish activated Endeavour’s translight hyperspace drive which initiated the formation a hyperspace transference tunnel allowing the entire ship to jump into a layer of hyperspace.
Sheppard addressed the communications officer. “Lieutenant Bosq, open a coded communications to Captain Jarred. As he is the next-senior captain, I will have to give him command of the other eleven ships in this task force. Besides, Endeavor is due for a refit soon enough. Perhaps Commander Adams can even arrange to get the upgraded drive system when we arrive at Star One.”
Star One was essentially a totally self-sufficient, multi-species Alliance of Worlds colony. The Star One facility included several communities with their own hydroponics, aquaculture, and gardens for food production. The huge space city inside Star One included multiple housing facilities for representatives of every member civilization and their families. Star One also contained the main campus of the Alliance of Worlds Academy, as well as two other universities. There were even training grounds for the starship officers and the space marines within the vast space station complex.
Sheppard did not want to tell anyone just now, but he was being promoted and would be reassigned. The admiral hadn’t provided much detail about his future assignment, but upon his promotion to the rank of commodore, he knew he would be required to transfer to a different ship.