Here's the next chapter for you all, questions will be answered and others will be asked. Note: I only own what characters i create, the names and places i invent and the ships and vehicles i seem to be designing in droves for this single story.
I would like to thank AlexanderD for all his help and i strongly recomend reading his story New Dawn. I hope he likes the character named after him Admiral Alec Xander.
For those of you interested in what some of the ships featured in this story look like here are a few sketches on photobucket: albums/ae166/Senrab_Nomis/
Please review and i will respond. Or alternatively post in the thread for this story in my forum. topic/84023/35075481/1/
AlexanderD: I realised that advancing the evolution of humans was an ability that would be foolish to waste. Those new abilities will serve Tomin well and you are about to get a small taster of what he can now do.
Cdoctor: Wait no longer.
Oddliver: I originally envisioned the maco particle rifle from star trek when i thought of the plasma rifle. But the terminator plasma gun is quite similar to my envisioned shape for the plasma blaster and plasma storm cannon.
stormwolf3710: I don't operate on the belief of hyperspace routes since ships have been shown to ignore entire planets while travelling in hyperspace. The Traveller vessels will be useful for operating below the radar on supply runs.
Osced: I trust i have answered your question.
romanhellhound: Wait no longer.
Just a Crazy-Man: Thank you.
BIG Z1776: If you see chapter 28 you'll see how i recruited the needed numbers from multiple branches across the whole of the IOA, thus allowing for the necessary personnel without the need for disclosure. As it stands i don't have any plans for disclosure to happen.
vash1914: Thank you.
Jedi Carpet: Welcome back. I always seem to make that mistake when i type it. Maybe i should just stop using that phrase.
Monsterjeffbuk: Unfortunately if i hope to update regularly the time in between is necessary. Enjoy.
Tomin and Andose strode down the ships corridors heading for the training room. Along the way they encountered numerous crewmen who paused to greet them as they paused. Eventually they wound up at the training room, a specially designed room on the ship where the soldiers of the Liberum could keep their skills sharp while they spent a lot of time onboard ship.
As the two entered the large training room they took in the room's occupants. On one side of the room was a firing range where several soldiers were practising with their staff weapons, shooting at targets set at various ranges. On the other side of the room there were soldiers sparring with training swords, but the real show was in the centre of the sparring area where Prior Caius was sparring against several soldiers.
Against a Prior a few soldiers would normally stand no chance whatsoever. However these weren't your typical circumstances. For one Caius wasn't using the full extent of his abilities, or rather he was using the full extent of his personal abilities without the aid of the other Priors via his staff. His staff lay on the mat next to him and there were six soldiers with staff weapons in front of him.
It was a training exercise meant to test a Prior's skill in combat. The aim for the Prior was to retrieve his staff without getting shot. The aim for the soldiers was to shoot the Prior before he got his staff back because once he did he would be powerful enough to take them all down without breaking a sweat. The staff weapons used a white stun crystal rather than the regular blue one. It wouldn't do to inflict a fatal wound during training.
"Begin," intoned one of the watchers.
As one the soldiers immediately fired at Caius. Drawing on his limited abilities Caius created a shield that blocked the six shots, though he staggered somewhat from the effect of so many hitting at once. The soldiers used this opportunity to spread out around him so that they were harder to target and the Caius would be unable defend against all of their attacks.
Seeing the tactic for what it was Caius raised his hands and sent out two telekinetic force strikes at the two outer soldiers. The two soldiers took the strikes head on and were knocked to the mat, their staff weapons falling out of their hands as they landed. The other four soldiers immediately started firing blast after blast at the Prior, hoping to keep him occupied long enough for their companions to get back up and into the fight again.
Caius immediately put up a shield in response, waiting for the right moment to strike back. When the other two soldiers got back on their feet and picked up their staffs the other four relaxed slightly and Caius chose that moment to act. Moving with a nimbleness that defied his wizened appearance he rolled to his left, letting his shield drop, before gathering a powerful force strike and sending it at the four soldiers. Not expecting such a move they were unable to react fast enough to move out of the way, not that they could actually see it coming. All four of them were sent scattering to the mat, feeling like they had been hit by a sledge hammer.
The first two immediately started firing again and Caius took to dodging while sending out the occasional strike. The two soldiers, having gotten wise to his hand movements' significance, attempted to dodge the invisible strikes sent their way but with only limited success. The two of them staggered as they were clipped by several blasts but remained standing nonetheless. Caius meanwhile was beginning to find himself in a tricky situation. The other four soldiers were getting to their feet, or rather they were attempting to since Caius was sending force strikes their way whenever they attempted to get up. This just meant that the other two were slowly circling around behind him. Sensing he was about to overwhelmed he decided to try a new approach and utilise one of his less used abilities, energy manipulation.
Redirecting his attention to the other two soldiers he knocked them to the floor, allowing the other four to get to their feet once again. As one the four of them fired off a volley of shots at Caius but just before they could hit him he extended his will and sent them smashing into each other. Having an idea what was going to happen next he quickly raised a shield just as the four stun blasts collided and the energies combined. The result was a mild stun wave powerful enough to render the six soldiers weak enough that their legs were unable to support them and they collapsed to the ground, momentarily out of the fight.
Caius extended his hand and pulled his staff to him with his telepathy, raising it above his head in triumph. The other soldiers applauded politely while several helped the disorientated soldiers to their feet again.
"Nicely done," said Tomin.
"Thank you Commander," said Caius, before tilting his head to look at Tomin.
"Something is different about you," he said, with narrowed eyes before they widened with realisation. "You've undergone the final stage of your transformation."
Andose smiled, "Well sensed."
"I just underwent the last change," Tomin confirmed.
"Is it that time already?" Caius asked surprised. "I must have been in here longer than I thought."
"Yes I can tell by the number of bruises on these soldiers," Tomin said. A number of the soldiers were sporting bruises from the more powerful telepathic force strikes.
"They'll heal," Caius assured him. "Care to test out your new abilities?"
The three of them moved over to the practise range were three metal, gong like targets were standing at the end. Each one when struck would produce a distinctly different tone when struck by a telepathic force strike.
Gathering up his new abilities Tomin settled into a fighting stance. Those with a complete mastery over their abilities could use their powers without the need for physical gestures to aid control. The idea was that at lower skill levels the telekinetic powers could be used as an extension of physical actions that were already second nature.
Raising a closed fist he punched forwards, a powerful telekinetic force strike surging outwards and struck all three targets causing a deep ring to resonate around the room.
"Show off," Andose said jokingly.
"Actually I was aiming for the middle one," Tomin said with a frown.
"Ah," said Caius. "You're not used to the increase in power. Try a smaller action first then to get a feel for the size of the strike."
Tomin raised a single outstretched hand and flicked a finger at the target. A force strike shot out and struck the middle target square on, though with a distinctly shorter note than before.
"Better," Tomin noted.
"Now remember the feel of that strike and maintain the shape but dial up the power a little," advised Caius.
Caius was the most experienced in fighting using his abilities, mostly because of the many hours he spent practising.
Tomin resettled into his previous stance and punched outwards. The force strike hit the target only this time it emitted a slightly longer note as Tomin had increased the power.
"Now keep dialling it up," Caius said.
Tomin repeatedly sent out stronger and stronger force strikes at the target, each one causing a longer lasting note. Eventually Tomin reached his limit and the tones, though now deep and booming, remained the same length.
"Well done," said Andose. "You seem to have the basic idea down. With practise you should be able to focus the blasts into more concentrated bursts and without such a large physical action."
Tomin raised his open palm at the target. With his hand remaining completely still he sent out a force strike at the middle target. He intended for a mid strength strike but instead the note produced was short, no longer than when he had first struck the target with only a flick of his finger. He had failed to create the same level of power using only his mind and not an ingrained physical action to assist his control. He tried again, focusing his will into a more powerful burst, but the result was far from what he had hoped. It was definitely more powerful but his control had suffered as a result and he had managed to create a wide burst of power that struck all three targets.
"I see what you mean," Tomin said. "It's not easy to produce a focused strike with high power."
"It'll get easier," Caius assured him.
"So what do you suggest?" Tomin asked.
Caius shrugged. "Keep practising."
"Practise makes perfect," Andose said with a grin. "Experiment with different strikes. Once you get it right remember that mindset and reproduce the action."
"Focused force strikes and energy manipulation are the two hardest skills to master," Caius explained. "You can easily create a sweep strike because it's just a wide blast of power requiring very little control but if you want to create a focused strike so you don't waste energy you need to practise."
Telekinetic actions, like physical ones, still required energy and focus in order to utilise. Admittedly it would take a sizeable amount of usage to actually wear someone out but eventually it would take its toll.
Tomin sighed. "I had better control than this when my powers were weaker."
Andose shrugged. "The price of acquiring more power is that you must learn how to wield it. You just need time to adjust to your new strength and to get a feel for how much to use to achieve the desired result."
Tomin nodded, moving away from the three targets to a lone one a short distance away from the others. It was very different to the others, circular in shape but with a small hole in the middle. Behind it was a swinging hammer that would strike a different gong positioned above it. The contraption was designed to test one's control of the shape and power of force strikes. The idea was to direct a force strike small enough to get through the hole without hitting the sides and with enough power to cause the hammer to swing and hit the second gong. There were numerous other set ups like these for the priors to test their various powers, including fire and general energy manipulation. One of them was actually dedicated to redirecting energy blasts to a limited degree and many hours of practise on it had allowed Caius to perform his stun wave trick earlier.
"Last one to hit the gong has to fly the ship?" Tomin suggested.
Andose and Caius grinned at the challenge.
"Open palmed though," said Caius. "You need the practise."
"Deal," said Tomin.
He casually raised a hand at the target and let loose a precision shot that struck the hammer dead on but lacked enough power.
"Not bad," Caius said approvingly. "Now watch how your elders do it."
"They have come far haven't they," Janus said admiringly. "To go beyond blind obedience to forging a nation to call their own is truly wonderful."
"The Jaffa or the Liberum?" Morgan asked.
"Both," Janus replied.
"I cannot deny that they have certainly come far," said Oma. "It will be a shame to see such bright souls pass from this plane of existence, unless we offer them ascension of course."
"Did you have anyone in particular in mind?" Janus asked.
"One or two," said Oma.
"I'm surprised at you Janus," said Morgan. "I thought you would be more interested in the war effort."
Janus shrugged. "They are doing all that they can do until they can go on the offensive which they can't do until they find the Zarasian worlds, assuming they even have worlds."
"And yet you haven't even taken a look at the new dockyards they are building," Morgan noted.
"How do you know I haven't snuck away when you weren't looking?" Janus asked with a crooked smile.
"Because I haven't let you out of my sight since the last time you tried to sneak off to study Borealis," Morgan shot back.
"Can you really say you didn't want to see what they would do to pull a city ship back from the scrap heap?" Janus asked. "You have to admit the Tau'ri certainly are creative."
"And highly militarised," Morgan pointed out. "They turned the remains of Borealis into a weapon."
"No a sanctuary," Janus countered. "A relief centre for their brave soldiers to rest. A base that can relocate to wherever it is needed as the battle lines change is a brilliant idea. We could have used thinking like that during the war with the Wraith. Our warships can't even be called proper warships since by Tau'ri standards they are more like massive missile ships. They develop strong weapons to protect what they care about, that isn't something to be looked down on."
"So will you be interfering again?" Morgan asked. "Or will you let them fight their own battles?"
"I am one man, what real difference can I make?" Janus asked innocently.
"That isn't a no," Oma pointed out.
"No it isn't," said Janus. "But they already have the powers of the Liberum behind them so what do they need me for?"
"So you would if you were needed but won't because you're not?" Morgan asked.
"You could say that," Janus said dismissively.
Morgan sighed. "Sometimes Janus you really do try my patience."
"Life is full of tests," Oma pointed out.
Morgan glared at her briefly.
"What do you think will happen?" she asked seriously.
Janus frowned. "It will be difficult but they aren't facing this challenge alone so it won't be impossible."
"Lives will be lost," Morgan said sadly. "Innocents will die fighting for other's freedom."
"But so many more will be saved because they banded together against the threat," Janus pointed out.
"How bad do you think it will get?" Morgan asked.
Janus sighed. "I couldn't even begin to guess. They have plans in place if it turns nasty though."
"Like Concordia for instance."
"And the Thor."
"Should we interfere?" Morgan asked doubtfully.
Janus looked at her and knew how difficult it was for her to ask that question.
"No," he answered. "I think we should help."
Unknown Location – Zarasian Lab
If any one from Earth were to walk in here they would immediately assume that this was the lab of a mad scientist. On numerous work benches throughout the spacious room there were examples of nearly all current Zarasian technology, as well as some prototypes, in various states of completion. But this wasn't the lab of a mere engineer, as denoted by the various vats and pods lining the walls, but the lab of a cyberneticist. A cyberneticist who happened to be the greatest mind in Zarasian history and had more than earned the title of Cyber Lord but had also earned the reputation of mad scientist.
Zarin walked into the lab and looked around. By a far bench stood a figure hunched over and clad in a pitch black robe. Around the figure was the occasional spark from an unseen piece of equipment that the figure was working on.
"Cyber Lord Azamoth," Zarin intoned.
"Yes Etere," Azamoth said in his strangely high and sing-song voice.
The Cyber Lord turned to look at his master, revealing his peculiar form. His right hand was clad in a metallic contraption, with his index finger tipped by a wielding tool which was still aglow with energy. Beneath the hood of his cloak his face was masked in shadow except for a single glowing red light coming from the area around his left eye. When he spoke the withered skin around his mouth twitched aside to reveal glinting gold teeth. From the depths of the cloak shadows formed, hinting at the tube like objects beneath.
"What progress have you made?" Zarin asked.
"Much Etere, much," Azamoth said gleefully. "The copied data files have been restored to working order and I have been able to determine the source of the intrusion. It was, as we suspected, a direct neural interface from a cybernetic being."
Zarin frowned. "I underestimated this Sovaer. Now I know he is not all he appears. It will not happen again."
"Such a fascinating creature. I would very much like to study him. So much could be gleamed. Records from the killed reapers show he was even a match for them."
"He was going hand to hand with several reapers before they brought him down? Now that does bear further study," Zarin said thoughtfully. "What is the status of the new batch?"
Azamoth looked at the row of tanks behind him.
"They are now fully grown and ready for the procedure," he said. "I am experimenting with some upgrades before putting them into mass production. The standard version will be a fine addition to your army when complete."
"Begin at once," Zarin ordered.
"Of course Etere," Azamoth intoned.
Both turned and went their separate ways. Zarin walked out of the lab to leave the technological genius to his work while Azamoth went to his private operating theatre in the next room. The floor rang with a metallic click each time he took a step and his cloak swished around him, revealing stark metal beneath and curling around unseen tubes.
No one knew exactly what was beneath the dark cloak that he never removed but there were stories, legends even, that were whispered amongst his subordinates. Azamoth was old, very old and older than any who served him could say for sure since he had been around longer than even those long since retired due to age. Some believed he had found an actual form of immortality but unlike Zarin he had not succumbed to a fake form of immortality. As his skill in his craft had progressed he had chosen to improve upon his form, replacing decaying flesh with his own glorious creations. Now he had taken a step beyond mortal flesh to become something new, something stranger than even the reapers.
Stepping into the operating theatre he shrugged aside the cloak from his right hand and tapped away at a control panel set into the wall. The door behind him slid shut with a hiss, a pristine metallic operating table rose from the floor and several tables, covered with operating instruments, on suspension arms lowered from the ceiling. Finally a robotic arm pulled a capsule containing the still form of a reaper from the wall before rotating it ninety degrees and placing it onto the table.
Azamoth raised his left arm, his cloak shifting to uncover an advanced cybernetic device where his forearm and hand should be. The device hovered over the reaper's cranium and a bright red laser shot from one of the many protruding implants to slice through the reaper's skull.
Azamoth grinned. He always enjoyed the prospect of a new experiment in cybernetics.
The laser scalpel sliced away the reaper's right eye lids. From his left arm a small claw emerged and plucked the reaper's exposed eye from its socket. Wasting no time the self proclaimed machine god set to work implanting the latest of his genius creations.
The other capsules were occupied by reapers, all of which had been infused with various cybernetic implants from energy weapons to robotic eyepieces. These were just his personal experiments, the prototypes of what had gone on to become the final versions when the various pieces were put together in a single form. His masterpiece though was still on the drawing board but he had plans, great plans. He had no ambitions to seize power however. He was completely loyal to Zarin who not only supported his experiments but supplied with unlimited resources and countless reapers to experiment on as long as he got results, and he did.
Smiling gleefully he set to work on his latest experiment.
Since the declaration of war the mighty Averian warship had been on patrol duty ready to lend support for any world that came under threat as well as patrolling the space around Alliance worlds.
Everyone onboard was on edge because of the situation. They were literally waiting for the enemy to turn up so they could fight them and that was not a situation they were comfortable with. Xander didn't like it, his crew didn't like it and no one in the Alliance liked it. The only good thing about this was that it at least gave them time to pack up and get the civilians to Concordia, time they desperately needed if they were to evacuate the more industrialised worlds.
Xander was interrupted from his musings by the voice of his comm. officer.
"Sir we're receiving a distress call from a Traveller vessel. They are under attack by a small Zarasian combat group, five vessels."
Xander frowned. Five Zarasian vessels wasn't much but against a Traveller vessel it was more than enough, just one would have been enough.
"Anyone else nearby?" he asked.
"We're the closest vessel on patrol duty sir."
The Tau'ri and Asgard vessels were easily faster than the Aror but they were all on search duty elsewhere. The Aror was the closest vessel designated for patrol duty and thus was required to respond to the threat since it was easily within their capabilities to handle it.
"Set a course and sound the alert," Xander ordered. "Battle stations people."
The Aror shifted in hyperspace, her course altering to lend the Traveller vessel support.
In minutes they emerged from hyperspace to find a heart wrenching scene. With a gas giant as a backdrop a lone and broken Traveller vessel lay crippled in space while five Zarasian strike vessels circled like vultures. Xander knew that if they had left the ship space worthy then it was only because they planned to board her. They would have to just take out those ships before they could launch fighters.
"Take us in," he ordered. "Put us between the Traveller vessel and the enemy. Forward weapons, fire at will."
Along the sides of the ships, covers on weapons nests retracted and heavy plasma cannons rose from the hull before locking into place. As the ship surged forwards her plasma beams powered up and lanced out at a lone vessel directly in their path. The raw power of the five beams saw the Zarasian strike craft dispatched in short order, exploding as the shields collapsed and the beams cut through the hull.
"Fire full broadside, plasma storm," Xander ordered as the Aror came to rest over her stricken companion.
With the order given the plasma cannons on the sides of the Aror powered up and unleashed a hail storm of orange bolts at the four enemy vessels. The Zarasian strike craft didn't stand a chance as they were literally smothered by the storm. It was impossible to tell if they had attempted to launch fighters, as they died violent deaths with numerous explosions dotting their hulls.
The battle had barely lasted a minute, with the Zarasian vessels unable to withstand against the destructive power the Aror could unleash in a single volley.
"I have the Traveller vessel online sir," the comm. officer reported.
"Put it onscreen," Xander ordered.
The main view screen image flickered and changed to the scene on the bridge of the Traveller vessel.
The image showed a scene of a battle against chaos. The bridge was filled with a thin layer of smoke from several small fires while broken cables could be seen hanging from the ceiling and consoles sparked. The captain of the vessel looked as battered as his ship but relatively healthy.
"This is Yovin Calim calling the Averian ship, thank you for your assistance," he said.
"This Admiral Xander of the Kalen Aror," Xander replied. "Don't mention it. What is your status?"
"It's bad, although I'm sure I don't have to tell you that," Calim said. "We've lost shields, weapons and our engines are completely gone. We have numerous wounded but can't get a count just yet because our internal communications are down. Luckily we weren't boarded but considering our condition I think that was their intention until you arrived."
"Lower our shields and prep the shuttles," Xander ordered before turning back to the screen. "We're sending over shuttles to transport the wounded across, if necessary we'll evacuate your entire crew."
"Thank you Admiral," said Calim. "I just hope it won't be necessary."
"As do I but…" He was cut off as the Aror rocked and alarms blared. "Report!"
"Enemy craft exiting the gas giant's atmosphere and firing! Plasma beams are offline. Shields are now up!"
They were using the gas giant's atmosphere to hide themselves from our sensors, Xander realised. That was why they had left their prey intact, it was a trap!
"Return fire," Xander ordered.
"Admiral," Calim yelled over the noise. "Get out of here now!"
"I can't do that," Xander stated adamantly.
"We're reading fifty ships out there Admiral," Calim stated. "You can't survive against that, save your crew and get out of here. We were dead the moment we dropped out of hyperspace and the Zarasian's ambushed us."
"Damn it!" Xander yelled as the Aror rocked as she was struck. "I'm sorry. Helm, get us out of here now."
The Aror surged forwards ploughing through the formation of Zarasian strike craft. The much smaller Zarasian vessels swarmed around her attempting to block her escape route, ignoring the crippled Traveller vessel in favour of the more appetising prey. Bolt after bolt was fired erratically as the gunners targeted whatever appeared in their sights but there seemed to be no end to the Zarasian vessels and they had now launched well over a thousand fighter craft to pepper the ship's shield with shots.
"Launch missiles and get us out of this mess," Xander ordered.
The Aror swerved until the thinnest part of the swarm was in front of them and charged forwards. Meanwhile missile after missile left the launch tubes as fast as they could be loaded, peppering the enemy craft with explosions. Space became a maelstrom of fighters, plasma bolts, missiles and explosions.
As the forward heavy plasma cannons of the Aror fired and destroyed a Zarasian strike craft the ship suddenly found its path clear, but with the hounds of hell nipping at her heels.
Just when it seemed like they would be able to escape disaster struck.
"Massive hyperspace window opening dead ahead."
"Evasive manoeuvres now!" Xander ordered.
The helm officer desperately tried to manoeuvre the ship away from the now fully formed hyperspace window and out of the path of the oncoming Zarasian ships, flying purely by instruments alone he couldn't even see the large craft emerge from the hyperspace window.