THE TITAN CHRONICLES, EPISODE III: THRESHOLDING
This Story is rated -M- for scenes of war, some language, and sexual content. To the younger of my returning readers: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Author's Notes: As the Title suggests, this fic is the third in a series. Please read the previous episodes first, or certain story elements may not make sense to you. Thank you.
This fic is dedicated to Post, for all he has contributed to its existence. Nmiaow, you bastard. ;-)
"Captain, the craft has jumped out of light-speed. Coordinates are coming in now."
Captain Tromand'r nodded sharply, swinging his Tamaranian hair forward. "Be ready for anything, men," he spoke in the Tamaranian tongue. "It looks like this may be our foe's final destination. Let's find out what they want with whatever system this is, and stop them."
"Coordinates deciphered…" the Tamaranian officer who spoke earlier announced. There was a slight gasp of surprise, then, "C-captain, sir, you'd better take a look at this!"
"Onscreen," Tromand'r ordered. Immediately the image of their target's destination appeared onscreen. Filling the view-screen was a solar system of nine planets. A quick glance told the Captain that none of them held the sort of conditions that might support life…all except the third planet from the star, which sat front and center in the view-screen and appeared very lively indeed. Analyses spewed out at the Captain: the planet's surface was approximately seventy percent water, its core was extremely stable, and there were fairly low levels of toxins in the air. It was most definitely a planet ideal for life…and life was thriving quite well, if the readouts he was seeing were accurate. There were traces of sentient life on the planet, though their technology was rather primitive compared to their own Tamaranian tech. If their target wanted to conquer the planet, it would be all too easy.
"I can certainly see why our quarry would be interested in this planet," the Captain observed. "Officer Lysand'r, what's the designation of this rock?"
"T-that's the problem, sir," the officer continued. "The databanks record the planet as 'Terra Firma,' but…we know it more commonly as 'Earth.'"
Tromand'r let out a hiss of surprise. "The planet on which the Princess Koriand'r resides?.!"
The Captain swore in Tamaranian under his breath; things just got a lot more complicated. "Locate that ship's exact position; I want a full report on every last thing it does. I shall report this news to the Emperor personally."
Tromand'r left his crew to do their jobs. He stepped into the elevator pod and punched the button for the Emperor's quarters. The elevator shot upward and came to a halt less than five seconds later at his destination. The doors swished open, and the Captain entered the Emperor's quarters.
"Captain Tromand'r," the Emperor rumbled from his chair. "What news have you brought?"
"The troubling kind, I am afraid, Emperor Galfore," Tromand'r admitted. "We have tracked the Gordanian scout craft to a small star system approximately twenty-six light-years from Tamaran. The data relayed from our homing device informs us that the planet at which the ship has stopped is a planet at high risk of Gordanian takeover. It is thriving with natural resources, and the sentient life forms do not appear to have the capabilities to resist an invasion by a force of Gordanians. And…there is a further complication."
"What complication?" Galfore asked.
"The planet is Earth, sir. The planet that Princess Koriand'r now calls home."
Predictably, Galfore's eyes widened at the mention of the girl whom he'd raised from childhood. "You suspect the Gordanians wish to conquer Earth?"
"I'd say it is almost definite," Tromand'r affirmed. "However, we do not know whether the Gordanians are aware of the princess' presence there. They may have merely discovered the planet by other means, and they almost certainly intend to take control of the planet and its resources, but we cannot dismiss the possibility that they have something in mind for the princess as well. I recommend, sir, that we remove the princess from the planet as quickly as possible before an invasion can take place."
"That will not work, Captain," Galfore countered. "My Koriand'r will refuse to leave her new home and her human friends, especially if they are in danger. Of that I can assure you. I suggest you send a strike force ahead to Earth to deal with the scout ship, and establish a defense around the planet."
The captain frowned. "Defend the planet? Sir, this 'Earth' is full of primitives. Hardly worth our concern."
Galfore's eyes narrowed. "Mind your tongue, Captain…" he warned. "Those 'primitives' you refer to are my bumgorf's chosen friends and family. I would suggest you not speak ill of them…in her presence, or mine."
"Yes, sir…my apologies," the Captain said quickly, though not quite sincerely.
"Besides, the Gordanians are hurting for resources. I would rather they not gain more here. We are at war, Captain. And war requires resources. If we can ward off the Gordanians here, at Earth, their war machine will run dry very quickly. If we succeed here, we may be nearing an end to the bloodshed."
"Dispatch a small force to Earth to deal with the scout. I want you to lead this force, personally, Captain. I shall send a full strike force to establish a perimeter defense shortly."
Tromand'r saluted. "By your command, Emperor."
Galfore returned the salute, and the captain stepped back into the elevator. He waited until the doors had closed before he allowed the mask to drop, and the scowl on his face came to light.
Defend the primitives…bah…what a waste of time… he grumbled.
"Approaching Earth's solar system," Officer Lysand'r announced. "Now exiting light-speed…"
In unison, three Tamaranian starships flashed into existence near the planet designated 'Mars.' Captain Tromand'r, commanding from his flagship, the Isom'r, nodded his acknowledgement. "Do we have a lock on our target?"
"Yes, sir. ETA to target, two minutes." Then, "Sir! They've spotted us! We're picking up a Gordanian distress signal!"
"Engines to full!" Tromand'r snapped. "Engage the enemy and cut off that transmission, now!"
The triangle of starships surged forward, main guns charging as the great blue mass that was Earth came into view.
"Fire only on their engines and their communications relay," the Captain ordered. "We want to take these things alive if at all possible for interrogation."
The main guns of each starship fired a single blast; one tore through the communications relay near the bridge and cut off the distress signal, while the other two blew the craft's dual engines to pieces.
"Perfect!" Tromand'r said. "Prepare a boarding party to-"
The Gordanian craft abruptly exploded in a rush of flames.
"What happened?.!" Tromand'r demanded.
"I-I don't know, sir!" Lysand'r said. "Our shots were non-lethal, I don't understand…"
"FIGHTERS!" another officer suddenly shouted. "I REPEAT, FIGHTERS INBOUND!"
Tromand'r snarled at the view-screen; indeed, about two-dozen Gordanian fighter craft – flat wings and rounded bodies with bulbous green globs for windows - were emerging from the fires, weapons hailing on the Tamaranian ships.
"A trap…" he hissed to himself. Then, to his crew, "Evasive action! All pilots to their ships! Launch fighters and engage! I repeat, LAUNCH FIGHTERS!"
Klaxons wailed; red emergency lights flashed; and scores of Tamaranian warriors sprinted down the corridors of the three ships to the fighter bays. The pilots strapped in, and prepared to launch…
"Captain!.!.!" Lysand'r shouted. "The Tallomor is taking too much fire! It's going down!"
The Tamaranian ship to the captain's left – the Tallomor – was indeed being pounded relentlessly by enemy fire, and plumes of flame were shooting from several gaping holes in its hull.
Tromand'r spat a Tamaranian curse. "Intercept those enemy fighters and protect the Tallomor!" he ordered.
But it was too late; before so much as a single fighter could be launched from its docking bays, the Tallomor exploded, silencing the screams of a hundred dying warriors that went down with it.
"Th…the Tallomor is gone…" Lysand'r murmured. "And everyone within it…"
"We still have the Squir'l and the Isom'r!" Tromand'r snarled back. "We're not out of this yet! In the name of X'Hal, GET THOSE FIGHTERS MOVING, NOW!.!.!"
Fortunately, Tromand'r had trained his troops well. Rather than allow the loss of the Tallomor to affect them, it instead spurred them to greater heights. Tamaranian fighter craft launched from the two remaining starships and screamed in pursuit of the fighters.
A cluster of the Gordanian fighters spun to face the coming rush a moment too late. A few managed to fire off a beam of red at the Tamaranian ships, but none came close to hitting their targets. A second later, green streams fired en masse from the Tamaranian craft, ripping half-a-dozen Gordanian craft to pieces.
"That's more like it!" Tromand'r barked, watching from the bridge of the Isom'r.
Five more Gordanian craft circled around and aimed for the cluster of Tamaranian fighters. This group contained much more capable pilots than the last; the fivesome managed to pick off a few Tamaranian fighters and escape the crossfire unscathed.
"Watch for that group, men!" Tromand'r warned. "They're crafty ones…"
"They're coming right for us!" Lysand'r shouted, pointing; indeed, the fivesome of elite fighters were bearing down fast on the Isom'r.
"EVASIVE ACTION!" Tromand'r ordered, but too late. Blazing red lasers fired on Tromand'r's ship with relentless force…
An explosion rocked the ship, knocking over several officers and sending sparks shooting out of light fixtures and control panels.
"Nnngh…status report!" Tromand'r ordered.
"Not good, sir! The Gordanians have destroyed one of our engines!" Lysand'r said. The ship jerked again. "And now we've been caught in Earth's gravitational pull! It's too strong to escape on just the one engine! We can keep airborne in the atmosphere, but we can't escape the planet's gravity well without our other engine!"
Tromand'r opened a connection to the other remaining starship. "Get the Squir'l and the rest of our fighters out of here!" he ordered the captain of the other ship. "The Gordanians are sure to be on their way here. Get back to the fleet and warn the Emperor!"
As commanded, the Squir'l and the remaining Tamaranian fighters retreated into light-speed, and the Gordanian fighters did the same, each returning to their respective fleets.
"Lysand'r, run a scan for the most advanced communication signal on the planet," Tromand'r said. "That will surely be Princess Koriand'r. Once you find it, send a distress signal. We need a place to land and repair the ship if at all possible."
"Signal locked, sir," Lysand'r reported. "Channel open. You may send your message."
Tromand'r cleared his throat and spoke as clearly as he could, "Princess Koriand'r. This is Captain Tromand'r of the Tamaranian fleet ship Isom'r. We have suffered heavy damage in a battle with the Gordanians. We request of you a place to land and make repairs. Your assistance would me greatly appreciated, Princess."
For a short time, nothing was heard on the other end but static.
"Princess Koriand'r?" Tromand'r queried. "Are you receiving this transmission?"
A second later, a voice did crackle over the intercom. But it was not that of the princess. It was a harsh, male voice, speaking in a language Tromand'r was not familiar with.
"I don't understand," Tromand'r muttered. "This has to be the Princess' signal. These humans are too primitive to have better communication equipment than the princess…"
It seemed, however, that Tromand'r was wrong. The voice was definitely not the princess; this was almost certainly a human he was attempting – and failing – to converse with.
"Perhaps this is one of her human friends simply answering her communiqué for her while she is absent?" Lysand'r suggested.
"Ah! Of course! That must be it!" the Captain said. He turned back to the communicator, from which the voice was growing louder and harsher. "Now let's see…what was it those friends of the Princess called themselves…?"
Alarms flashed again suddenly, cutting off the Captain's thought process. "What's happening?.!"
"S-sir…the humans…they've launched some sort of projectile at us! Impact in twenty seconds!"
"Evasive action!" Tromand'r ordered.
"It's not helping!" Lysand'r cried a moment later. "It's being guided somehow! I think it's tracking the heat from our remaining engine!"
Tromand'r turned back to the comm and barked in rapid Tamaranian. "Friends of the Princess, cease your attack immediately! Blast it all, what was that name…Teen Titans! Teen Titans, call off your-"
The explosion rocked the entire ship, knocking out the last of the bridge's systems.
"We've lost the other engine! All systems failing! We're going down!" Lysand'r wailed.
Tromand'r could do nothing but watch helplessly as the Earth's surface came burning toward them, right at the line between earth and sea at the western edge of one of the planet's landmasses.
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "Brace for impact…"