Homeworld - Beast Wars Part I

---------------------

Dramatis Personae

Hiigaran Navy

Adam Terramin -- Hiigaran Cruiser Freedom; CO

James Faulkner -- Hiigaran Cruiser Freedom; First Officer

Tara Freman -- Hiigaran Destroyer Reclamation; First Officer

Samiir Rean -- Hiigaran Destroyer Reclamation; CO

Jack Tanen -- Soomtaw Mining Vessel Kunn-Lann

Jonathan Hecket -- Hiigaran Cruiser Constellation, CO

Taiidani Navy of the Republic

Savru Elson -- TNR Flagship Kapella

Remnants of the Taiidan Empire

Tarshuk C'jal -- ISS Imperial Wrath, CO

Grand Admiral Thar'Rook Kartanou -- ISS Tarshu-Cor

Kashka Tiishak -- Squadron Leader, 53rd Reavers

---------------

Prologue : Trials, Traitors, and Traitors at Home

Just Outside Asaam-Kiith'sid, Hiigaran Planetary Capital

"I don't understand this," Adam Terramin blurted out. He shouted for emphasis, though he did not need to grab the attention of the others in the room that held a glance on him. "We have been in here for over four hours. How many times do you want me to tell you the same thing?" He frustatingly ran his hands through his sweaty short hair. His glare was met by the panel of men sitting immediately across the long table from him.

The first one, a man by the name of Souer Branlin, sighed the way he had the hour before. Men like Branlin were the only things that made Terramin nervous-they could manipulate him. For the past three hours, Branlin had successfully driven the usually respectable and sane naval officer over the edge, past the limits of his mentality. The worst part of it, Terramin had let it show, and Branlin knew good and well that he was getting through to him.

Men like Branlin not only made Terramin nervous. Through it all, they kept a straight face, and for a man like Terramin who couldn't do the same, it made a frustating situation even worse.

Branlin shook his head over the stack of papers before him. "Just please look at it from our perspective, Admiral." He slid the first paper through his fingers with the skill and dexterity worthy of a buereacrat like himself. He studied it for a moment, making barely visible twitches in the muscles in his forehead. "For the record, do you admit to overloading the reactor core of, and thereby destroying, the Hiigaran Pride cruise liner? Please answer audibly for the recorder."

Terramin hissed through his teeth as he repeated what he had said over again for the past few hours. "Yes, I do." He eyed the court recorder in the corner who busily etched down Terramin's words. It was all a worthless practice in itself, thought Terramin, due largely inpart that the surrounding room was being recorded for audio and video testimony, but was not even a true judicial courtroom. In fact, it was simply the backroom of some backwater Star Liner office with cushioned chairs and hastily-adjusted, lighted ceilings.

"Thank you," Branlin replied, though not entirely gratefully. Though he couldn't see it, Terramin knew that Branlin was smiling inside, which made him all the more insane. "The construction of the Hiigaran Pride cost Star Line over twenty billion in Hiigaran credits and five years of drydock duty. Worker expenses are not included in the total twenty billion, only the materials required for construction and costs for access to orbital shipyards." He glanced from the paper back to Terramin. "So, as you can see, Admiral, you just destroyed the biggest and most expensive piece of ship in your career." Terramin could not help but hiss again through his teeth and seethe with anger at Branlin's remarks. Yet, he couldn't help but let a stray grin run on his face.

Nowhere even close, Branlin, Terramin thought. He knew he wouldn't be allowed to speak to the Chairman of the Star Line Board of Inquiry in such a way. He would be immediately condemned by an expressionless statue of ignorance and beuracracy as being 'out-of-line', though it was in truth the reverse. Branlin's comment had not only been out-of-line, it had also for a few seconds infuriated and insulted a man whose ship, people, and crew had fought and suffered through six months of torture and hell for this planet. Branlin quite possibly didn't know that he had just insulted the one who had killed the very embodiment of the deepest hate and fury against the Hiigaran people as a whole, the one who had personally cut to shreds by the crimson beams of the Freedom its power fifteen years ago.

Branlin shifted on towards the second page. His eyes temporarily widened with sarcastic shock as he read the first few lines. "It says here, Admiral, that Captain Miguel Vendavalos was not reported as one of the survivors in the escape pods. Would you care to enlighten us on--?"

"I've told you hundreds of times, Branlin!" Terramin stood from his seat, leaning over the table at the uniformed man. His anger was real now, not buried deep past seething breaths and clenched teeth. "Miguel Vendavalos was executed along with the rest of the staff! Do I need to tell you again?! We saw them! We watched them on the security cameras! The Imperials shot them in the back of head--"

"Admiral Terramin, you are out of line!"Branlin raised his voice, however unlikely of himself. "Now sit down or I will have you remo--"

Terramin slammed his fist onto the table with one painful, swift motion. "Out-of-line? Don't you 'out-of-line' me, civvie! You know what? You weren't even there! You didn't see the footage of having dozens of your friends shot by Imps!" Terramin noticed through his shouting that Branlin's hand moved under the table, most likely to press the 'Call Security' button underneath. "Go ahead, bring them in! So long as it gets me the hell out of here!" Branlin and the rest of the men across the table sat in shock, their eyes filled with fear and nervousness alike. Even Branlin couldn't help but let his mouth hang open ever so slightly, just like the dumbfounded, terrified old man he was.

The door hissed open to Terramin's immediate right as two armor-laden men strolled in the room. They each carried a polished--possibly decorative--sidearm in their holsters; that wasn't their chief weapon anyway. The Soban security guards held a gruesome reputation for swiping their sharp daggers out from behind their armor--to prevent thievery, no doubt--and impaling the arm, leg, or body of an intruder or rioter. Still, these two had better sense and respect than to stick a non-Sleeper for a mere shouting fit with a civilian.

One held Terramin's right shoulder, the other one his left with an equal firmness. Branlin finally recovered from his state of shock, rubbing his temples with sweaty palms. He spoke towards the recorder, finally too afraid to speak to the officer.

"It is the finding of the Star Line Court of Inquiry that Admiral Adam Terramin, Hiigaran Naval Ship Freedom, has acted with questionable judgment, resulting in the destruction of the Hiigaran Pride Cruise Liner and the deaths of the crew, staff, and fellow passengers." Terramin was held back from lunging forward in rage at Branlin only through the security guards' grasp on him. "A complaint and possible reprimand of the Admiral has been sent to Hiigaran Fleet Command. Pending a reply, all surviving men and women involved are forbidden access to all Star Line property and vessels until further notice. These proceedings are closed." The court recorder wrapped a few short letters across his screen before folding up the computer and holding it close to his side.

Branlin made a motion with his palm toward the door, signalling the guards to escort Terramin out of the room. He marched in time with their feet, all of it generating a discordant, metallic echo in the long hallway. The buff, bulky Soban guard on his right didn't twitch his head to notice Terrain's partially-amused grin. Branlin would be shown up anyway; the rest of the survivors would back up his story. The guard on the left only turned his head as Terramin began to chuckle. A massive hangover, missing uniforms in the morning, and general cold-sleep sickness. That's how his 'relaxing' trip aboard the Hiigaran Pride had only started.

Chuckling a little more quietly to himself, Terramin spoke to both guards, though the comment was directed towards the Court of Inquiry and Souer Branlin.

"I didn't intend for another, anyway. My last cruise was shit."

Mid-Hyperspace Jump to Teigor III
ISS Imperial Wrath

Vice Admiral Tarshuk C'jal sat alone in the darkened ready room of his Carrier, the Imperial Wrath. He tapped his fingers nervously on the desk in front of him as he pondered the events of the last two hours. The artificial incandescent lights above him mixed into a blue-green shimmer all around the room with the waving blue flow of hyperspace showing on his viewscreen. He thought back on the orders he had given not too long ago, the order to withdraw Grand Admiral Kartanou's surprise attack on a Hiigaran fleet. He had left the Grand Admiral's attack fleet without support, and surely the man was dead by now.

No, he couldn't be dead. A man and an officer as vicious, cunning, and intelligent as Kartanou would not die at the hands of a betrayal in his ranks. C'jal knew that Kartanou would only have retreated to some distant, hidden outpost to lick his wounds and strike back. This time, however, his strike would not be against the Exiles, not against the Rebels who had betrayed the Emperor so long ago. No, Kartanou would come after the man who had cost him the battle and hurt his pride. C'jal was well aware that Kartanou was planning to kill him and all of those who had followed the so-called 'traitor's' orders.

C'jal had attempted to save the servants of the Emperor under his command from defeat and death at the hands of the overwhelming Hiigaran and Republican fleet, but he knew that he had well damned his own men through his order to withdraw. Kartanou would never forgive such a crime against himself, and certainly not against the Emperor whom we once served. C'jal knew that Kartanou would hunt him to the ends of the galaxy if he had to to satisfy his vengeance.

And that's exactly what Kartanou would have to do.

Had he actually damned his crew without their knowing? Had he put his entire Fleet at the wrath of the most powerful of the last Elite Guard singlehandedly? The crew was accustomed to following C'jal's orders, and, quite possibly, C'jal thought, the haste to retreat had not been respect for the decision, the strike craft desperately crash-landing in the hangar nothing but to seek cover in the forcefields and, eventually, hyperspace.

No, C'jal thought. No, we have all brought this on ourselves. He remembered for an instant the seemingly-desperate expression on his First Officer's face when he had given the order to retreat. The officer who C'jal only showed age by thirteen years had not been desperate once in his whole career under C'jal. No, Commander Mar'Ratha had been as clear any other crewman on the bridge. Their expressions had all silently agreed with C'jal's words: "To hell with our orders."

The Admiral had fallen so deep into thought and mesmerization of hyperspace that he had neglected to respond to the chirp that was the call. On the second tune, C'jal snapped awake. He hurriedly ordered, "Come."

In the open door stood Kashka Tishak, fully clad in uniform as was an officer's duty. She held a serious face as she entered and took the motion from C'jal as an invitation to sit opposite him across the desk. Tishak's bright red scar on her left cheek seeed to cool with the mixture of the hyperspace aura's color.

"Commander Tishak," C'jal spoke surprisedly as she sat. "You should be in Sick Bay." His words were less of an order than a question of concern for the young pilot. Tishak nodded, rubbing her scar left after a close encounter with Hiigaran guerilla fighters.

"I've had a lot on my mind, Admiral," she said confidently in the face of her superior. Brash or not in the man's sight, Tishak was still one not to take orders to Sick Bay for more than was necessary. "Mostly about the...incident recently." The pilot's uneasiness and concern showed in her shifting face muscles. Her eyes rarely left the table as she spoke, only lifting to look at the older officer across the table.

"That makes two of us, Commander," he replied, attempting to grin. It came out as a weak shift of the cheek bones and lips, generating no facial response from Tishak. He didn't need for Tishak to speak to know what she had on her mind, or what he thought was. While the Imperial Wrath and Kartanou's fleet were engaging the Republican and Hiigaran navies, the 53rd Reaver's Squadron Leader had joined along with a taskforce of marines to hijack a Hiigaran cruise liner thart was passing through the system. The attack had gone off perfectly for the first phase of actually taking control of the ship. They had ejected all twenty-five thousand passengers in the escape pods and executed each and every one of the ranking officers and crew on the ship, hoping to keep permanent control of the ship.

"I've seen death before, Admiral," she began quietly. "I've killed more Exiles than I can count. Killed them in ways that the Council would condemn me for. But the way that they killed us-" Tishak visibly shook at her obviously vivid memories. Her look wasn't new to C'jal at all; he had seen the same hidden terror on countless faces throughout his whole life in the service of the Emperor, the same horror that struck every fresh grunt that had only begun to understand the deaths that came with life in the Imperial Navy.

Tishak was not a fresh grunt. C'jal could easily remember back to when the two had met ten years ago. She had been a little runt straight out of the guerilla camps on Triigor II, fresh and new to war. He remembered how it had all changed after the first attack on the newly-established Hiigaran Fleet; she had been laid back and shielded from the horrors of war before. Immediately after watching hundreds of her comrades-in-arms die, her views on war had changed. Every new conflict had brought her more hardened to death and war, and now, after ten years of constant raging conflict with the Rebels and Exiles, she was again beginning to show the reactions of a newbie to war.

"You don't need to go on, Commander," C'jal said, this more of an order than sympathetic reponse. He didn't want her to continue for both their benefits; Tishak obviously pained at her memories, and C'jal simply wanted for the whole series of events to never have played out in the first place. "We've all been victims of mistakes and bad decisions recently. I know I've made more than my share of them." Whatever hint of a smile on C'jal's face disappeared immediately after he finished his statement. He couldn't bear to speak directly to one of his own about how he had failed them.

"Me too," she agreed. Her face showed the first sign of humor that it had for days. She well understood the gravity of the situation, but anyone in her position would do anything to ease the tension and stress in the room.

"You should really get back to Sick Bay, Commander," C'jal said, now ordering. "I'll have the doctors give you some drugs to get you some sleep." Tishak reluctantly nodded in agreement. She knew her need for sleep, but the two both knew how she despised drug injections.

"Yes, sir," she replied as she stood from her seat. She gave a salute to the Admiral with her uninjured arm, generating a meaningful return gesture from him. With that, she turned and walked out of the Imperial Wrath's Ready Room. C'jal reached for the circular compiece on his right breast. He felt the cold metal for only a second as he depressed a smaller button in the center.

"Doctor Kan'Thora, this is C'jal," he said hoping for a reply from his medical staff. No matter who responded, he would order that young Tishak was given enough rest. They had medical supplements to induce sleep, the last C'jal remembered. Perhaps some cryogenic sleep was all that the pilot needed; a state of deep sleep, uninfluenced by REM. In her mental state, Tishak was in no position to dream. She only needed her rest, as did C'jal.

"This is Kan'Thora, Admiral," C'jal's Chief Medical Officer responded. Doctor Marshu Kan'Thora had served with the Imperial Navy for longer than C'jal could remember, though his age of sixty-one didn't show through his voice. C'jal depressed the communicater again.

"Doctor, Commander Tishak is on her way down to you. I want you to put her in cryo sleep for the duration of our tour." A few seconds passed. Silence.

"Yes, of course, Admiral," Kan'Thora said. "I do believe I have enough CryoStim left for one final patient. I will put her asleep when she arrives." Enough CryoStim left for one more? Other patients are being frozen? Damn. C'jal thought. If those are my pilots, I'm in deep. A cryosleeper, as C'jal knew, did not wake up for nearly hours after being revived to allow for vital functions to reinstate. In lieu of it all, they faced waking pains equal to a dozen Ale's hangovers.

"Thank you, doctor. C'jal out," he closed the channel y depressing the utton. He gazed at the viewscreen and the flowing blue waves of hyperspace and soaked in the gentle humm that echoed through the ship. Very soon, Tarshuk C'jal closed his eyes and lulled off to sleep.

Soomtaw "Charon"-class Shuttlecraft
Just Outside the Kashink'ra Nebula

Roughly thirty lightyears away, Jack Tanen had just snapped out of sleep in the passenger bay of a small shuttlecraft. The small vessel had rumbled and shuttered enough to bring him to, and now he looked about the cabin for any other passengers. Seeing none--not surprisingly--Tanen stretched his arms out as much as he could in his secured seat. The strain as his muscles moved for the first time in thirty-six hours was extraordinarily pleasurable, making him groan with satisfaction. Just as he woke, a small green light flashed three times on his armrest, echoing a quiet beep at the same time. Tanen, his arm muscles snapping back towards his body, involuntarily pressed the button under the light. He was naturally shocked to hear the voice of a young male pilot echoing throughout the cabin.

"Good sleep, Commodore?" Tanen looked around for where the voice came from, but then recognized where the comm channel had been opened at his armrest. He stumbled with his words for a few seconds before answering.

"Very good sleep," he said. He rubbed his hand through his hair, partly in waking, but mostly in embarrassment. How stupid he must have sounded to the pilot! "Best that I've had in a long time."

"Of course," the pilot said, a hint of disbelief in his tone. Tanen had been telling the truth: it was the most sleep that he had gotten in four or five days, with the endless hours of interrogation by angry businessmen not giving him a moment's peace except when he was walking down a hallway. Of course, the pilot wouldn't know about it; Tanen pardoned the mistake that went unrealized by the pilot.

"I'm sure you get this all the time," Tanen said, "but are we there yet?" The pilot failed to see the misplaced humor in Tanen's question, and answered him with the exact coordinates of the shuttlecraft. Hearing no reply from Tanen, the pilot went on.

"By that, I mean that we're nearly there," he said. "Actually, I just entered hailing range if you want to send them a message." Tanen proposed the idea in his head for a moment, but then just as quickly rejected it. As much as he wanted to have a decent conversation with another Soomtaw, it would have to wait until he landed. It was more important to him to give the crew of the Kunn-Lann a little shocker as the shuttlecraft's doors opened, and he, one who was supposedly dead after the Hiigaran Pride incident, stepped out, well-rested and in better shape than ever.

"Negative, pilot," he decided. "Just land this baby and get me off. I've had about enough of being flown around in tight places for once." The pilot acknowledged and shut off the comm channel. The green light flickered off, and Tanen laid back in his seat again. He pressed a group of buttons and the artificially-lit interior of the shuttle was instantly flooded with the crimson red of the surrounding nebula. For the next few minutes, the Soomtaw officer stared blankly out of the viewport that he had opened. A quick awakening from his mental stupor brought his memory to recognize the nebula around him. He knew that not far off, a large sector of space known as the Kashink'ra Nebula was served well y its crimson ribbons of cloud.

Kashink'ra had not been a planned destination by Hiigaran Star Line for its massive luxury vessel. Mere lightyears away, a section of space had become a battleground between the Kiith and the Faction, and Captain Miguel Vendavalos had believed his altered course would shield his vessel and passengers from the effects of the battle. He couldn't have been more wrong. The Imperials had een in waiting, and, in a matter of an hour had wrestled control of the ship away from its crew. The last, desperate attempt by the survivors to avenge the deaths of their brothers and sisters had been an insane, yet still sensible act indeed. As the luxury liner went down in its final death throes, the handful of survivors had barely escaped on the remaining pods.

They all knew that they had done what they had set out to do. The blood that filled Kashink'ra's crimson skies was of much Imperial descent as Hiigaran.

The shuttlecraft shuddered lightly, though enough to send a limp Jack Tanen forward. Again, he awoke from his trance and grunted in muffled confusion. He reached for the green button on the panel again.

"What was that, pilot?" he said. He released the button now that the channel was open. A moment of silence in the cain.

"Sorry about the shaking, sir," the pilot responded, sincerely this time. "I've just set her to autopilot for the docking sequence. We should be landing in-oh, cover your ea-" The pilot's voice was overtaken by a roar surrounding the small ship. Tanen looked out of the viewscreen as a blur and a white trail of exhaust passed by. A "Seeker"-one of Soomtaw's reconnaisance ships-circled around the shuttle and passed by again in a blur. It was only a single craft, not a long-range patrol, but most likely a scanner investigating the shuttle.

"We have our clearance now, sir. We'll be on deck in twelve minutes." Tanen silently acknowledged by pressing the green button, and the radio chatter audible through the speakers silenced at once. He took another glance out of the viewport and immediately identified the slowly-rotating, rust-colored barrel clearly extending beyond the shuttlecraft as the Kunn-Lann's ore processing canister. It's slow revolutions seemd unusual to Tanen; it had always seemed to spin much more rapidly on the last of his mining expeditions. He shrugged off the though. Whoever was in command would surely have an explanation for it.

The shuttle continued to drift past the ore canister and down towards the bridge. As the forward comm arrays came into view, the shuttle shuddered again. The ship rotated, evident from the outside hiss from the maneuvering ducts. Tanen switched off the viewscreen and allowed the artificial lights to brighten. The sound of the shuttle's engines powering down was a relief, as he knew from this point on the Kunn-Lann's automated tractor beam would pull the little craft in for docking. The hum of the beam echoed throughout the cabin for the next few minutes, then ceased as the ship shook one final time.

"We're in, sir," the pilot said at last. His voice seemed prideful for his successful flight, or, more likely, anxious for the big, fat salary that he would pull off from transporting an offier. "I'm opening bay doors now. Have a good one, sir." For once as Tanen stepped out on the cabin steps, he felt gratitude toward the pilot.

"Good work with the flying," he said through the comm. "Your check should be waiting for you back at the station." Though he couldn't see him, Tanen knew that the pilot had a very satisfied grin as the Soomtaw officer walked off onto the hanger deck.

After his first few steps, Tanen felt a tug on his shoulder. Turning his head to the right, he came face-to-face with a young female pilot in full flight gear. He smiled.

"Lieutenant Dunn," he said, immediately recognizing the pilot. He returnedthe salute crisply, then dropped his arms as Dunn leaped at him. Her arms wrapped around his back firmly. "I see that you're glad to see me, Allana." She held even more tightly as she spoke.

"Jack," she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. "We all thought you were dead after we heard about the Pride. Sajuuk sel-rah, it's good to see you." Tanen returned her affection with a brief hug as he set her down. The young pilot wiped the tears off her cheeks but maintained her pouty eyes. There was no way that anyone could look into her now wet, blue-green eyes and not see Dunn's youth as well as her innocence as a young woman. It made no differene, however, in the seat of a Seeker or Acolyte: innocent or not, Dunn was one of the best pilots in the Soomtaw Navy, next only to Tanen and a certain Commander Muir on the Fal-Corum.

"Well, shows how much faith you people still put in me," he said jokingly. Both Soomtaw chuckled. "So who's been in command while I've been out?"

"The Admiral," Dunn said. Tanen raised an eyebrow. Admiral Jeremiah Richardson was supposed to be in cryosleep to be rested enough for his next six months on duty.

"The Old Man Richardson never sleeps, does he?" he thought aloud. Dunn, obviously failing to see the humor in Tanen's comment, diverted her eyes to the deck.

"He does now," she murmured. Tanen kept his eyebrow raised.

"In the cryotubes, right?" Dunn shook her head slowly. She sniffed and breathed in deeply.

"No, Jack... he's-" Dunn said through her sniffling. "He's-Jack, can we talk over a drink? I think we'll both need one." She lowered her head even further, now breathing rapidly. Tanen put his arm around her shoulder as the two walked off the hanger dek. For the second time since he had landed, Tanen saw a tear roll off of Allana Dunn's cheek and onto the cold deck.