Prologue - The birth of the Traders Emergency Coalition
The small vessel emerged from phase space, leaving anti-matter dust in its wake. Its ion engines flared and it banked towards the planet of Koronis. Fires could be seen even from here, thousands of kilometres above in orbit, as hundreds of buildings were burning from orbital bombardment. The Providence banked sharply to avoid a huge lump of wreckage. As they passed by it, the pilot could see that it was a piece of a refinery ship, outfitted with several laser cannons. They were cold now, more powerful weapons having torn the ship asunder. More such wrecks came in sight, cold and lifeless as the rag-tag warship they saw earlier. Denaros sighed, deep cirles seemingly engraved under his eyes. His quarters were bright and cosy, unlike his mood. The Vasari had sacked another planet, Kron, stripping it bare of any resources. The Kronian defence fleet was swept aside by an armoured wall of Kortuls and Antoraks, supported by endless torpedoes fired by Kanraks. They had barely managed to evacuate half the Kron's population when Vasari started slagging it from orbit with Karrastras. Millions of civilians died. The rest got on the over-cramped trade ships and small fighters. The 'evacuation' was a complete chaos. Many ships were shot down by Vasari fighters and bombers before they could enter phase space and escape to other planets.
His thoughts were interrupted by the comm-device's crackle "My Lord we're docking with Nevarios in a minute. The rest of the council are here already."
Nevarios was a giant of a space station, there were few of these left in Trader space. These stations served as refill and trade points, and were crucial to the infrastructure, so they were outfitted with the heaviest weapons Traders used. Lasers, missiles, autocannons and the like. The shields were immensely powerful, and as such, they could hold their own against marauding pirates with ease. These stations also served as refineries, repair stations, and also were able constructing space-faring vessels. At these times, these stations were the safest places in the gravity well. Thousands had fled to the stations, forcing them to 'grow' biodomes, and now they were truly self-sufficient cities in space, thanks to the vast hydroponics decks that supplied these stations with food. Vasari dared not to attack these vast stations, for the cost would be too great. The exploding reactors would obliterate their fleet easily. He heard a soft 'clang' as they docked with Nevarios. He stood up and tidied his robes.
The door opened with a hiss and he saw the station's commander "Great to see you, Lord Denaros. The council is impatient to see you."
He nodded. They walked over to the elevator and stepped inside. As they zoomed upwards, Denaros could see hundreds of people in space suits, flying around and collecting wreckage to be remelted and reused. A couple of them recognised Denaros for who he was and saluted him. The elevator slowed to a halt and the door slid open. Denaros was momentarily deafened by the overwhelming noise. Dozens of men and women were arguing heatedly, their voices a incoherent gaggle.
"SILENCE! SILENCE, YOU FOOLS! YOU CALL YOURSELVES DIPLOMATS?" he roared. The huge hall fell quiet instantly. He used the moment of silence to cross the hall and stepped on the podium.
"I am bearing grave news. The last of the Alexi Dinasty have died, leaving me and the Order's council to lead the Traders. I say that we need an efficient fleet of warships." Cries of protest went up from the crowd, but he continued "Would you rather watch our worlds burn, poorly equipped ships and men die for nothing? They are traders, not soldiers! This millenia of peace has made us soft! And whatever I say, goes! We need to suspend our agenda for the time being, and reorganize ourselves into a fighting force. I have a name for this alliance against Vasari." He slotted a memory chip in the computer. After a few seconds, three letters appeared on the screen, mounted in the wall.
"TEC, what does that mean, Lord Denaros?" a woman stood up, whom Denaros recognized as Waleriona, the leader of Tondam Corporation.
He smiled "Simple enough. Traders Emergency Coalition."
Waleriona quietly mouthed the words. Then she stood up and cheered "My worlds, resources and workforce are at your disposal! Long live the TEC!"
Gerron, leader of Nitheim Rebels joined her, cheering "I join the Coalition as well! All I own is Lord Denaros' now!"
More people joined in, cheering and pledging their allegiance to the newly founded alliance. He unfurled a banner. They cheered again, shaking hands with each other.
The mankind finally had a hope.
The entirety of Trader leaders had joined the TEC, and were now milling over the crucial questions but one thing was sure: they had to increase the military production - on a massive scale. They also needed the crucial warships. For that they had brought the sharpest and brightest minds from all over the galaxy. They were working restlessly for days now, on new and improved warship designs, borrowing details from millenia old designs, which were used before the Golden Age, or thinking up new, innovative designs. Rumours were going about that they were already building a prototype warship already. They would not let everyone inside, telling that 'it's a surprise'. The door slid apart, and a whitecoat stumbled inside, dataslate in his hands.
Waleriona stood up, hope filling her voice "Is it done?"
Without a word, the scientist walked over to the holoprojector and plugged the dataslate in it. A rotating 3D render flickered, and the mighty warship was visible to all. Denaros gasped, taken aback by what he saw. The utilitarian desing was simple, rugged, but also fluid-like.
"What are its specifications?" The leader of Provians asked.
"Well, it's exactly 10000 metres long, has armour plating straight from Eija Foundries" this caused a murmur of impressment. Eija Atio was the founder of these massive, spacefaring foundries. The armour plating provided by them was as close to invincibility one could get. But the scientist continued "As you all may know, the Vasari use a strange missile system. It penetrates the shields of our vessels, tearing in the hull. This new warship has a special shield configuration that will negate their ability to bypass the shields. I remind you, this configuration is a PROTOTYPE, so all kinks are not worked out yet. The shields themselves are powerful enough to shrug off most space battles. Combined with the brand-new design Vernos 344-BGD Ion drive engines, it is amazingly fast. A plethora of smaller drives are placed all over the ship, making it amazingly agile for its size. A Stage-7 Grinox phase drive ensures quick, safe, efficient FTL travel. It certainly does not lack in firepower, either. We made sure of that. On the front are four linked beam cannons, and a experimental railgun. Three autocannons and two inter-linked pulse laser batteries complement them. On the starboard side there are three autocannon batteries, on the port side are another two. Even the rear section is covered by two more autocannons. It can support two squadrons of strike craft if needed. To end, this behemoth is crewed by a crew of 2500..." His monologue was interrupted by a shadow that was covering the hall. Waleriona cautiously walked over the curved windows. A massive gun slided past her, followed by three more. There was a massive warship outside. It moved upwards, and she was in level with the command bridge of this ship. Inside she saw dozens of people, crewing their stations. A faint shimmering gave away the presence of shielding. The captain greeted her and the rest of the leaders who had gone mute, completely dumbstruck.
The scientist wiped tears from his eyes "Behold the first of Kol class, The Newborn Hope."
Denaros immediately had thrown the scientists a load of work. They were now to design more ships, a task they happily accepted. Having received so much praise for the Kol, they were more than lucky to get on with this task.
"Now then, what did they ask? A basic frigate, a orbital bombardment design and more, but I think that we will need to convert some civvie designs. Erso, hand me that blueprint, please? Thank you. Now then, this one I like. A Hoshiko. Now see, this one is able to launch drones. We will replace them with repair and demolition bots. See these niches, they offer a near 360 degree launch. Just remember to give it a heavy laser. Now what's this? What do you call this? Hmm, Cobalt? I see, great job! Now this one will be great in basic combat. I have designed this one, you see. Two pods of long-range missiles to support them. I named it Javelis LRM frigate. LRM stands for 'long range missiles'. Because of the job we have to do, I haven't been able to give it what it really needs - Cyclotaurite payloads, for improved range and damage. It also could use improved ACM." The scientists' job had no visible end to it.
The room was full of celebrating people, the leaders were feeling as hopeful as never before the war with Vasari. They now had the weapon with which to retake their worlds. The news had spread throughout the Nevarios, the civilians gaping at the mighty warship moored at the station. The ship was bustling with people, everyone wanting to see it for themselves. The news had also spread to nearby planets. Reports were coming in that new fleets were being built, the scientists on Koronis having sent out copies of the brand-new warships. Now the main scientists were presenting these blueprints. Strike craft carrier, bombardment frigate, a flak frigate, a long range missile frigate, a combat frigate, you name it, they got it. Everything to make a diverse fleet. But that wasn't all. The scientists had brought up a plethora of orbital defences. Dual-cannon gauss turrets, hangars, planetary shields, repair stations, the lot. Denaros and the rest of Coalition's council listened intently, when a message came "Lord Denaros, the Vasari are massing for another attack against Koronis. They will be here in 41 minutes!"
He responded instantly "How big is the fleet?"
"The phase space probes came back several minutes. A Jarrasul, three Skarovas, supported by a pair of Junsuraks. They got a dozen of Ravastras as well."
Denaros sighed "Alert the fleet! And tell them that we're bringing The Newborn Hope along as well."
Waleriona smiled a predatory smile.