Diplomacy

Introduction

My father was only a child when the war began.

They were refugees, running from a threat they did not know. They burned and pillaged all in their path, taking everything they came across to fuel their fear-driven migration. They came upon the trader worlds with fury…and we could not stop them.

We had no weapons to speak of; no navy, no fighters, nothing. But a millennium of peace will do that to you, make you soft.

Fighting wasn't much use. Our little defenses against pirates were swept aside by the Vasari. No matter what we did, our worlds were enslaved.

Then a worse threat emerged. They returned.

Descendents of the decadent society that our ancestors banished, they had become even more twisted than before, and just as powerful as they were corrupted. They called themselves…the Advent.

World after world was enslaved or burned. Billions were slaughtered. Parents became childless. Children became orphans…

My father was no exception.

My father's father, my grandfather, was an admiral, recalled into active service to fight them. He died defending the heartworld, Agamemnon. It was a small, Godforsaken rock that lay in the midst of a web of phase lanes. Losing it would have meant that they would have an open path to dozens of systems, billions of lives.

It was no normal Advent fleet that attacked that world…it was Orphan.

Orphan…the first Progenitor. It was the Advent's true mothership, upon which all others were based. It was Orphan who led the first attack on Trade Space only a handful of years before. It had no weapons…and it didn't need them. It crushed Agamemnon's fleet into a single, giant meteor with pure telekinetic power and threw it into the space station in orbit. Every ship present was destroyed without even a semblance of a fight…all but one…

My grandfather flew that ship, damaged and leaking atmosphere, straight into Orphan. The Progenitor was wounded and in pain, but its power remained. To this day, no one knows why it spared Agamemnon. Nonetheless, after the admiral's kamikaze strike, Orphan left and did not return.

The importance of his sacrifice, and how it later allowed our ultimate victory, was not realized for years, but his bravery was burned into the heart of every Trade Worlder. Because of him, my people learned to fight with abandon. We fought with everything we had, because we had everything to lose. Even with only frigates at our disposal, we made our enemies pay in blood for every inch they gained. With our weakest vessels, we made our enemies fear us.

Thus began the glorious age of humanity, and our time of strength in the deepest of pits.

The age of Entrenchement.

And it began because of my grandfather…Admiral Saul Kol.

We no longer ran. The Trade Worlds knew what had to be done. We needed to be organized, we needed weapons…

…We needed the Coalition.

Slowly but surely, we drew a celestial line in the sand. All across that line, we made ourselves a promise.

This far, and no further.

Our worlds united into a new nation, the Trade Emergency Coalition. Our trade fleet was repurposed, given armor and weapons, and built in numbers measured in millions. What were once innocent trade vessels could glass entire planets with a blanket of nuclear warheads. One-time freighters were now flying fortresses, carrying hundreds of fighters and bombers. So it went all across the board.

But then, something new came to the 'No Further' line. It was a ship, built on Earth itself. More than that, it was a battleship. It was our first battleship in more than seven hundred and fifty years. It was a heavily armored beast that carried the cutting edge in weapons technology. Its guns could kill entire fleets, while it could survive anything they threw at it. It was a symbol of humanity's stubborn refusal to die, and its willingness to do whatever it took to be victorious.

It was the TDN Admiral Kol.

This battleship was only the first of its kind. And many more would follow. Soon, the Kol Battleship would become the nightmare of the Coalition's attackers, alien and corrupted alike.

Our ramshackle fleet of former traders went on the offensive for the first time not months after the induction of the Kol Battleship. We reclaimed our shattered worlds, 'cleansed' by them, to rebuild and fortify. We took back our enslaved peoples, freeing them from the oppressive shackles of alien supremacy.

It was our Great Crusade.

We lost one thousand worlds during the age of War. We gained just as many during the era of Entrenchement. We were triumphant for the first time in thirty five years. We should have been overjoyed…instead, we were divided.

Our crusade was not without losses, not by any stretch of the imagination. Thousands of ships lost…millions killed in action. That was the blood price for a thousand worlds. These only compounded with the casualties from the age of War…I can't even count how many billions must have died during that time…

Our Coalition began to argue amongst itself. Where we had once been united, we were now split. Many wanted to end the war where it was. Let the aliens and fallen ones fight amongst themselves like dogs, they said. We should be content with taking back what was ours in the first place.

Others decried such a statement, vowing vengeance on the Advent and Vasari for the billions that they killed. First it was our worlds, our people, our blood. It was high time we made it their worlds, their people, their blood.

It was a shame my father didn't have the influence he would possess in later years during the end of the age of Entrenchement. If he'd possessed it then, no one would have bothered with petty peace talks.

But he did not have that influence. Thus the age of Entrenchement came to an end. The age of Diplomacy had begun.

I won't say much about those blasted talks, I was never a part of them, so I never knew much about them. Even if I did know, I doubt my stomach could handle my relating it in detail. The bottom line: a Coalition diplomatic team stood in the same room as a Vasari and one of them.

Deplorable, I know. But it happened, regardless of my feelings or yours about it.

Generally, they went just as far as expected: nowhere.

We were simply too different, and too bitter, from and towards one another. The Vasari had no experience with negotiating any kind of treaty with a nation as an equal. The Advent and their "Unity" was even poorer at it. They refused to negotiate any major agreement that did not involve total fealty given to their "Unity."

I can't tell you how our own diplomats did. I would shoot them if I could, just for agreeing to go.

As diplomacy flailed and floundered just above the absolute breaking point, what was once an outer conflict became an inner one. In the face of talks that could decide the fate of the war in an instant, major offensives all but stopped on all sides. No one wanted to risk anything anymore. Instead, our internal strife became readily apparent. Discordant anti-harmonies began to be heard in the once unified song of the Coalition. Their reasons for discontent varied at the pace of a wormhole's phase frequency: almost by the second.

Some wanted to return to the ways of the Trade Worlds and pretend the war never happened. Others were dissatisfied with the pace of diplomatic talks, and thought that they were not getting enough accomplished in a given time. Still others were against the talks altogether, as I was. In-between were those who held to some combination of the three.

It all came to a head during the 60th Day Congregate, well into the seventh attempt to accomplish something, anything, through diplomacy.

That day saw the dusk of the age of Diplomacy, and the dawn of the age of Rebellion.

On that day, all of the nations, whether alien, corrupted, or Coalition, were immolated in the fires of revolt.

The Kal'thyim Rebels…a name I will never forget.

No one knew their reasons. No one knew why, or even how. We just saw the end result.

An entire planet, once populated with lively, dedicated Coalition citizens, was burned to ashes…with the system's own nukes.

Betrayal.

Until that moment, no one truly knew the meaning of that word. The Kal'thyim gave us a quick, devastating lesson in treason. They killed an entire world and ran, trying to prove a point that no one cared about.

That's right. No one even cared about their reasons. All we cared about was the result: a dead world, millions deceased at the hands of traitors. While we knew that the Advent and Vasari had schisms of their own, we didn't care. The War was a time for many firsts in this millennium. This was one of them: the first civil war in more than eight hundred years.

"Civil" war…there was nothing civil about it. Worlds died that should have remained. Entire planets that had only just been liberated now endured a war that should not have been. The jump lanes were choked with the wreckage of Coalition ships…and Coalition ships only.

The age of Rebellion…it was our darkest moment, darker even than the beginning of the war. Brother fought brother, sister fought sister, mother and son, father and daughter…all slaughtered one another for a cause that even they didn't know.

It was in that dark time that my father rose to prominence: the great Captain Moriah Kol, hero of Melchior. He was the man who stood when others ran, who single handedly saved an entire world from a marauding band of Kal'thyim. Of all of Melchior's fleet, only the TDN Kolossus remained.

Yet again, one of the Kol clan taught our people how to fight.

We could fight in ways we could not against our other enemies. We could use the people against the Rebels. Show them that they weren't welcome, that their treachery would never be forgotten…and show them we did.

As quickly as it began…the era of Rebellion was over…and the War ended.

You know how it ended. Everyone does. My father ended it. Like his father before him, he turned the tide…

How did he end it? Well, I suppose I should say it for the record, if nothing else. I can give the general idea in a single word.

Agamemnon.

The forsaken little rock that my grandfather saved from Orphan. The Progenitor had returned, though it was no longer alone. A veritable Host of ships accompanied it. Nor did it end there. The aliens had found our world as well, and they wanted it for themselves.

It was a three way battle, with their forces equaling in the high thousands. Our defense fleet consisted merely of hundreds. How did we not only survive, but prevail, then?

Kalephaeron, the Argonev-class starbase.

More time and money had been spent fortifying Agamemnon than any other world. Kalephaeron was the result: a fortress of unbreachable armor, hundreds of laser batteries, sixteen beam cannons, dozens of multi-missile launchers, and thousands of fighters.

My father led the charge…and our enemies knew fear.

It was on Agamemnon that they discovered firsthand our newest weapon, created from the captured wreckage of a Vasari interplanetary cannon.

It was the Type-1 Heavy Interstellar Bombardment Platform, also known as the Novalith Cannon.

It fired not once, not twice, but three times during the battle. Each time it sent a nuclear charge into phase space, our enemies knew that one of their worlds was about to die. Most couldn't think that for long, though. They were too busy dying themselves.

We wondered for a long time why that was the last battle of the war. I don't think anyone truly understood the losses taken until long afterwards. Hell, most people still don't get it. We had lost hundreds of worlds, all of them burned to nothingness, yet we fought on. They lost three planets and gave up.

The planets were not why they surrendered.

Orphan was the very first Progenitor. It was the Mothership, the very oldest, wisest, and most powerful single being of the Advent…and my father killed it with a well placed gauss round. It had been injured by the mass of firepower it was going up against, and could not stand the fury of the Kol Battleship Kolossus. Though we didn't know it, we showed the "Unity" that it was not invincible. We could, and would, kill it.

And the Vasari…no one knew, at that time, their origins. No one knew that their warships were not just warships, but refugee carriers. Every ship we destroyed meant equal parts soldiers and civilians killed. And their "Jarrasuls"…we destroyed two of them. But we should have known from the way they acted; never truly joining the battle, desperately trying to get away when targeted, but we did not care. The memories of millions of dead pervaded our thoughts. We were angry, bitter, and vengeful. We did not pay attention to what they did, only the fact that they were there.

Forty thousand Vasari. That was how many we killed in only a single blow. Never before had they taken such a loss. They saw their Evacuators as the salvation of their kind. They defended the ships rabidly, and had never lost one in its entirety before.

Yet we destroyed not one, but two. No matter their resolve, they were no match for the fury of the Coalition. We were too strong, they were too weak.

My father was a hero. The Advent mourned. The aliens were devastated.

…I suppose I was a bit too harsh earlier, about the age of Diplomacy. It was my anger speaking then. I know that we could not have kept fighting. The Coalition was in shambles, ready to burst at the seams from the tumult of war. The Advent reeled from a loss the likes of which they had never before dealt with. The Vasari were in shambles. They had lost too much time, too many resources, and were now unable to continue their flight from their unknown enemy.

We had fought each other for more than fifty years, but now it was time to stop…for all our sakes.

I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say, we had to work together if any of us wanted to recover. If we continued at each other's throats, no one would survive. We had to…to…coexist.

It's an idea that I find as hard to accept as anyone else, but I recognize the necessity of it. I can't say the same for my father.

From the ashes of war came the dual-worlds, shared by two of the three factions. The people cried out against any mention of corrupted ones or aliens living amongst them, many not realizing the dire situation the Coalition was in: namely, that it had no right to exist anymore.

I thank God every day that politicians today aren't as stupid as they were when the Trade Worlds were formed. They knew that we needed the Coalition. But there were always idiots out there calling out that the TEC was an "Emergency" Coalition…not an everyday governing body.

In a nearly unanimous vote, the TEC was disbanded. From it rose the United Systems Coalition; a permanent republic of planets, one better prepared for war than the virtually weaponless Trade Worlds. Even more, a new age of Entrenchement began, as we learned of the threat pursuing the Vasari. Two generations: that's how long we had until they arrived. We would not run, we would not hide. We would stand united against whatever force had claimed the old Empire.

The Vasari, had been broken, but this resurgence of strength in their former enemies renewed their own vigor. They had long ago given up trying to run. Now, they held their own ultimatum.

This far, and no further.

That's about it, I suppose. Going into more detail would just take too much time, so this is as far as I'll take it…but now I have a question for you.

I've told you my family's history. I am the grandson of the man who kicked off the Entrenchement, and who had an entire class of ships named after him. I'm the son of the hero of Melchior. I myself am a soldier, a Colonel, and I fought in the tail end of the war…

…So how did I end up with a job as a diplomat?


A/N: Hey ho, readers!

What's this? Apocalypto Magnos is writing a story that isn't Warhammer related? HERESY!

Anyway, reads and reviews are welcome. Till next time, peace out, peeps.