I dedicate this story to Homeworld, the first game I ever had the honour of playing.
The Homeworld War through the eyes of the insane Taiidan Emperor Riesstiu IV the Second. The emperor recalls the war from his perspective just prior to the final battle for Hiigara and then plays his final card (not that it did him any good).
Reviews always appreciated.
They were coming.
He had known of their final approach even before Admiral Taritz informed him of the defeat of Admiral Argrim at Chapel Perilous. He had known that the last obstacle between him and his nemesis, in this case an enormous asteroid set on a collision course with the enemy Mothership, had been overcome and once more the Taiidan Emperor Riesstiu IV the Second flew into an untameable rage.
When he had calmed down sufficiently for logical thought, he was once again left to his pondering and lamenting. How had a race of primitive exiles from a backward wasteland of a planet managed to shatter the defences of the galaxy's largest empire and be poised to strike at the imperial capital of Hiigara itself?
It almost confounded belief.
He had done all any ruler could have done to defend his power.
At the first sign of hyperspace development taking place in the Kharak system he had acted decisively to uphold the thousands of years old treaty of his ancestors. Like any good ruler he was ever vigilant for threats to his people no matter how distant they seemed.
He had sent a fleet to purge their wretched planet of life and had later watched the footage personally. He watched as the planet burnt and writhed as it died its terrible, agonising, screaming death.
He had decided such footage would make excellent propaganda and help tame the increasingly unruly and in some cases outright rebellious population. Ignoring the advice of the increasingly impotent Assembly of Lords, Riesstiu had ordered the footage broadcast to every region of his empire. He had been utterly taken aback by the public outcry. Why his foolish people felt so deeply for the plight of an ancient enemy who would not have hesitated to act in the same way were their races' positions reversed was beyond him.
His fleet had destroyed their world and the Kharakian Solution would have been complete had the Exiles' Mothership been in orbit above Kharak at the time. Instead it had been several light years away. Fortunately there was a Turanic Raider fleet which he had instructed to destroy any ship attempting to leave the Kharak System. As a final measure the extermination fleet had left a group of assault frigates in the event the Exiles' Mothership made it back to Kharak.
What he did not know at the time was that the Raiders and the Taiidan frigates failed to eliminate the Mothership.
Failure of his forces though was something he would grow increasingly accustomed to.
So it was that the last remnants of the Exiles survived and their lust for revenge bloomed into an indefatigable sense of purpose as they set course for the Taiidan Empire. In hindsight Riesstiu realised that he had missed his best chance to destroy them. The blood should have run while the tears were still wet on their cheeks.
It was a several days after Kharak had been purged that his extermination fleet, which was resting in the Great Wastelands, got in touch with him. The fleet's admiral, a spineless man named Mirtaii whose wife's family Riesstiu had had executed to test his loyalty, transmitted all data concerning the mission to an imperial outpost on the Outer Rim.
From this information Riesstiu learnt that the Exiles' Mothership had not been destroyed at Kharak and that contact with the Turanic Raider fleet had been completely lost a few days after they had set out to hunt down and finish the Exiles. Riesstiu did not care if the Raiders had been killed or had simply scuttled away to hide. He'd have ample time once the Exiles were dead to send a fleet to acquire a "refund" for the Raiders' less than satisfactory services.
Riesstiu denied Mirtaii's wish to return to imperial space and instead told them to wait in the Great Wastelands. Mirtaii did not ask him why but he must have realised Riesstiu's intentions to effectively use him to bait the Exile fleet into a battle. Either the Exiles would be destroyed or, at the very worst, delayed substantially. Such a delay would give Riesstiu ample time to fortify the outposts on the border reaches of the Taiidan Empire to form an impassable blockade.
Riesstiu never heard from Mirtaii again.
Riesstiu expected the Exiles to appear soon after as no doubt buoyed by their triumph they would make a direct thrust at the empire hoping to pierce it. The Imperial Fleet, a third of which were now stationed along the borders, would parry such a foolhardy attempt. No such attempt came and Riesstiu had to content himself with re-watching the footage of Kharak burning.
Even the novelty of that soon wore off and Riesstiu perhaps for the first time began to resent his incarceration in his throne and life support chamber that he would never leave. He pushed such regrets aside. After all his connection to the machine had bestowed him capabilities that no ordinary man could comprehend.
Through his mind made one with the flagship and its hyperspace drive, he had been able to subtly manipulate his empire with his newfound abilities despite the best efforts of those among his own people who would see him divorced from power altogether.
They'd labelled him mad and placed him in a life support chamber long before he needed it. They'd never understand that it was they who were weak and were fit only to be ruled over.
When the Exiles finally did appear it was well within the borders of the Taiidan Empire and was signalled by the destruction of a cutting edge research station on the edge of a supernova. Riesstiu was aghast with horror and shock.
Where had they come from? There'd been no battle along the borders. No signs of an attempted incursion. The only real gap in the border defences was the Great Nebula of Kadesh which was undefended due to no one having ever gone into the Nebula and returned before. Any imperial forces sent there were never heard from again. Riesstiu had decided it made an interesting method of torture, and potentially execution, to send military units of dubious loyalty on active reconnaissance duty on the very edge of the Nebula.
Furthermore it was the strength of the fleet that destroyed the research station that alarmed him more than anything.
Mirtaii's genocide fleet had reported that the Exiles' measly defences at Kharak consisted solely of strike craft and yet here was an armada with ships ranging all the way up to the super-capital class. The variety of the fleet's composition was also unsettling for Riesstiu as not only had the Exiles designed their own ships, which seemed to be more than a match for the imperial fleet, but they had numerous captured Raider and Taiidan ships as well as ones of truly alien design. The Exiles now had a fleet that was, ship for ship, the Taiidan fleet's equal. Reisstiu knew such dramatic and quick advances could not have been made by the Exiles on their own. Granted the vast amount of technology they had captured and pilfered would have helped but Riesstiu suspected that wasn't the only reason.
Riesstiu's spies then confirmed this.
The ion cannons being used by the Exiles were of an identical, if much weakened, configuration to those used by Bentusi vessels. The proof was damning and Riesstiu ordered the imperial fleet to attack all Bentusi ships on sight. The Bentusi must be supporting the Exiles, possibly out of guilt for their role in their exile from Hiigara, and would not doubt seek to get the matter heard before the Galactic Council. Riesstiu did not want the Council getting involved. Relations with the Council were poor at best and Riesstiu knew any action they took would inevitably favour the Exiles. He had to finish the Exiles before the lethargic Council finished procrastinating and took action.
He had opened a communication channel from his flagship to all Taiidan Admirals within range and, from the colossal life support chamber he inhabited, spoke to them.
"You have failed to keep the Exiles from penetrating the outer perimeter. This could be disastrous. You will find and destroy them immediately."
Riesstiu then issued the second part of his edict.
"Our spies believe that the Bentusi have interfered. They must not be allowed to bring this matter before the Council and gain support for the Exiles."
While no explicit order had been given to attack, his Admirals would understand what he had effectively ordered them to do. Out of blind fear and obedience they would not think twice.
It was about this time that Riesstiu first became aware of a presence among the Exiles. A presence whom he sensed had led them from their dead world and whose leadership had been instrumental in bringing them this far. As this presence and the Exiles drew nearer, he learnt it had a name; Karan S'jet.
It was also about this time, just as the Exiles entered his empire, that the simmering discontent among the Taiidan people finally erupted into full blown rebellion.
The Taiidan Rebellion as it was known disgusted him even more than the upstart Exiles. How could his own people lift a hand against their emperor? After all he had done to protect them. They claimed to be fighting to free the Taiidann Empire from his so called despotic tyranny and yet to do so they were willing to ally with the Exiles.
They were ignorant and delusional fools playing at being "freedom fighters". All they'd achieve by helping the Exiles win would be the signing of the death warrant for the entire Taiidan race. Did they really expect that the Hiigarans would forgive the Taiidan people for the burning of their planet? Only a fool forgives and, Riesstiu had to admit, the Exiles had proven themselves to be no fools.
Riesstiu congratulated himself on his masterful political manoeuvre. The Taiidan would either fight with him and secure his rule for all eternity or face extinction at the hands of the people whose first planet they had stolen and whose second they burnt.
In the grand scheme of things though, the Taiidan Rebellion was insignificant. There had been uprisings before and all had been put down successfully. This one would be no different and only continued to survive thanks to the Exiles who were the true threat to his supremacy.
A threat that only continued to increase in magnitude as the Exiles managed to save both the Taiidan Rebellion and the Bentusi from his righteous wrath. The first Bentusi tradeship the imperial fleet attacked was saved by the narrowest of margins and following that bungled attack, all other Bentusi tradeships hyperspaced clear of the Taiidan Empire. Then one of the Rebellion's main leaders was saved by the Exiles and now both forces were allied and ready to lunge for Hiigara in order to depose him.
Riesstiu's paranoia and anger were now at their zenith. He was convinced that this S'jet woman knew his own plans before he did.
The Exiles' Mothership came ever nearer, making an absolute mockery of the previously undefeated Taiidan Empire and its universally feared imperial fleet. Every trap Riesstiu laid was thwarted, every fleet he sent defeated and every failure pushed him further into a corner. The machine he resided in seemed to sense his desperation and Riesstiu's powers grew daily. Using his greater capabilities he peered into space and scoured the Exiles fleet with his invisible gaze.
He discovered that the Exiles' Mothership was powered by an ancient hyperspace core his ancestors believed had been lost long ago when the Exiles had been humiliated and banished to Kharak in the first place. To control such a core required the entire focus of Karan S'jet who acted as the ship's living core and guide through hyperspace. The devotion of her people to her was so great that Riesstiu, who had never much cared for what people thought of him, was filled with envy. The dumbstruck Exiles saw her more as a goddess than what she really was; a glorified compass.
It was then Riesstiu took it upon himself to do what his pathetic soldiers could not. He would use his power to cut off the head of the snake, crush its bleeding body and scatter its remains into oblivion.
Riesstiu stopped reminiscing and his thoughts returned to the present.
They were close now.
The Exiles were so very close.
He could feel Karan among them. Her level of power was far beyond his thanks to the nature of her hyperspace core but right now her focus was on guiding the Mothership. She was vulnerable and Riesstiu would strike her down.
He reached out into space and like a moth to a flame honed in on her distinctive signature. It was almost as though he couldn't resist even if he had wanted to. Focusing intensely on her he managed to open a communication channel directly to her neural network and he forced his way in, overriding any primitive firewalls that were set up in his path.
He watched as she froze and realised he was watching her- no was within her very being. It must have been simply agonising for her knowing someone else was now privy to all her secrets, her hopes, her desires, her soul.
Had she not been so absorbed in piloting her people through remorseless space, she could have shut off the channel and repelled him. She might even have been able to kill him if her capabilities were powerful enough.
She could do nothing though. To risk breaking concentration could throw the ship uncontrollably through hyperspace and into all manner of peril.
Convinced she was at his mercy, it was then that Riesstiu IV the Second spoke to her for the first, and the last, time.
"Karan. You've taken one step too close to me."
The subsequent attack was so vicious and powerful that a person standing in the Emperor's chamber would have seen an actual ripple in the air as Riesstiu's madness, anger, loathing and fear manifested itself into a beserk, howling tempest which flew through space. The Taiidan personnel posted just outside his chamber died as their brains, unable to handle being near such a force's origin point, melted in their skulls.
The monstrous blast of unchained, raw emotion hurled itself into Karan's brain with the force of a star exploding and physically sent her flying into the air.
Riesstiu wasn't finished though. He wrapped the mind blast round Karan's reeling brain and with deliberate purpose began to obliterate her mind. He felt a great sense of satisfaction at every memory he destroyed, every sensation he stole. She fought back the best she could, trying to stop him from engulfing her, but he lashed out again with a rage almost primal and smashed her devastated mind into the blackness of unconsciousness.
Riesstiu could not stop the torture however as, to his amazement, her mind was already regenerating and still piloting the Mothership towards its pre-plotted destination despite the destruction he had wrought upon her. Her connection with the ship was perfect.
He sensed the Exile's Mothership arriving from hyperspace and the enormous screens on the walls of his chamber showed the first visual sightings of the Exiles' fleet from the scout ships he had patrolling the area. They had arrived.
Riesstiu's attention was snapped from his prey to Admiral Taritz who was communicating from his command carrier and requesting permission to attack. Riesstiu gave his permission disappointed the Exile fleet had made it through hyperspace but confident his Elite Guard would protect him. Reinforcements were on the way and the Exiles would be unable to resist forever. Besides, he was sure their will to fight would be crippled once they realised their beloved Fleet Command was unable to help them.
Turning his attention back to his victim, whose brain was already showing the first signs of recovery, Riesstiu pounced once again with near feral ferocity and crushed Karan's mind again. It was swept away by his power like the sands of Kharak. He realised with a degree of satisfaction that he would have to keep annihilating her mind repeatedly to stop her from recovering.
Riesstiu stopped long enough to wonder if his fleet might need his illustrious command but decided it could perform its menial task without him. Taritz was a competent admiral and besides such trivial, wasteful clashes between flimsy metal constructs that struggled to swim the stars were of no significance compared to his own struggle with his nemesis.
Theirs was a fight between gods and not puny mortals. Mortals that existed only to be ruled and whose miserable flickering lives were nothing more than tools.
Tools that got broken like Kharak.
Riesstiu, reminding himself of his greatest triumph, decided to allow his opposing god to join in one of his favourite pastimes of late. Transmitting the footage of Kharak aflame, Riesstiu forced Karan to watch her home burn and burn and burn again. He felt her anguish, her pain and her hatred for him. Riesstiu smiled to himself and savoured every moment.
It would all be over soon.
Karan would never awaken and would join the rest of her fanatical disciples in death as they were slaughtered by Riesstiu's own loyal ones.
The Exiles would die above the world they had risked everything for.
He had passed judgment and would see his decision come to pass.
None of them would ever set foot on Hiigara.
The whole "mind attack" thing is unexplained in the game and the Taiidan Emperor himself is neither named or really talked about so I had to use information from a variety of places namely Encyclopedia Hiigara and the Homeworld Cataclysm Manual.
It is a crying shame such an incredible game like Homeworld is so neglected on this site in terms of stories. I hope in time to remedy this.
Reviews are appreciated.