Human/Kra'Vak Year Turnas: Equivalent to almost 5 Human months Month Turnot: Equivalent to 12 human days.12 Turnot make up a Turnas Day Drahl: Equivalent to 2 Human days. 6 Drahl make up a Turnot Hour Thaar: Equivalent to 8 Human hours. 6 Thaar make up a Drahl Minute Tu'runs: Equivalent to 4 human minutes. 120 Tu'runs make up a Thaar Second Se'nod: Almost two human seconds. 120 Se'nod make up a tu'runs
Spinward edge of the Kra'Vak territories
The hot musty odor of rotting vegetation and stale mud pervaded the large room as the warrior entered. It gave her a pang of longing for home. The steam was thick enough to block normal vision, but the newly appointed Kra'Vak Primarch had no problem seeing into the UV spectrum. The large room served as temporary sauna for the Noc'Sol clan's Matriarch, it's holy mother, Shal'Cog. It was a reasonable facsimile of a homeworld nesting-swamp. Even the chirping of Likadas was replicated (or were some actually in the pool?) At the far end of the artificial lagoon, she sat on her haunches. Two young males poured the warm water over her shoulders and rubbed medicinal salves onto her old and scarred skin. Being that this was Ig'Har's first time ever invited to bask with the Matriarch he had never seen her naked before. Her large bulk was legendary, and she still fit after 230 turnas. The body bore the scars of many personal duels fought in her ascension to the Matriarchy and the maintenance of the position. Her long follicles, reaching down to her mid back, belied her old age. However, physical age should not be mistaken for mental acquity, Ig'Har reminded herself. For here was one of the most cunning minds in known space, trusted advisor to the Royal Mother herself, leader of the Noc'Sol, The Y'Mirka (Keeper of the Royal Mother's honor) one of seven great houses within the council of trusted at the Feast of Holy Mothers.
"Come, take your place." She commanded. Ig'Har shuffled over, head bowed in deference. And knelt before her prostrating herself as was the ritual for such occasion.
Shal'Cog dismissed her two servants with a wave of her massive three-fingered hand. They scurried out of the room. Ig'Har noticed that two large males, fully armed and in combat armor, stood behind and to the side of the Holy mother, where they could observe him and the door.
"Enough of that, Ig'Har, squat here beside me."
"By your command, Holy Mother." She squatted to the left of Shal'Cog, head still bowed, and tusks flat against her face in a show of deference.
"Enough of that. You are the new Primarch. Hold your head up and glimpse me as I am."
Ig'Har did so reluctantly.
"My apologies for not holding a formal ceremony to commemorate you ascension, but you may not be aware of the full nature of the current emergency. I've had your predecessor, Ga'Lash, executed for incompetence. He has nearly tumbled our careful plans regarding the Hu'mans, and the planet Rahl'Soo. I know you have had no part in the planning of this operation to date, which is why I have chosen you to assume command."
"I have been following events..."
"Good. Then you know Ga'Lash has been assembling forces here for a follow-on hunt. Unfortunately we must now use these forces to retake Rahl'Soo as quickly as possible. I expect you to leave within the next drahl."
"The next drahl? Is not there undue haste in such plans?"
"Ig'Har, you have been an able commander and have made a name for yourself since puberty. However there is much beyond your reference. I will explain a very few things to you now so that you may map your intentions with intelligence, as I do not intend to meddle particulars within your realm.
"As you know the Royal Mother has set us upon a course of action to confront the Hu'Mans as they stand in our way for spinward expansion. I'll not go into great detail here of grand strategy. Suffice it to say that The Menace from the galactic core moves inexorably forward. Our great exodus takes us through the Humans to the Rim. Here we hope to set up our new homes. This is of course macro-strategy, but the Royal Mother is nothing if not replete with great foresight."
"Our house stands amongst the fore of great clans who sit beside the Royal Mother and I am her closest confidant. It is for this reason that House Noc'Sol was given the prime role in the new Hunt. And a large Hunt it is. Widespread raids and attacks are at this moment under way in Hu'Man space. But the Hu'Man territories lie distal from our core, hence the need for a logistics base from which to operate within their space. What more this prize lies near the heart of Human space, lending itself easily for a strike directly at their throats."
"Two turnas prior did our very own clan come into the possession of a relatively intact Hu'Man ship. Our own empiricists worked hard to decipher its mysteries, for it is information of the Hu'Mans which is our greatest prize. How else to plan the hunt? I attempted to keep this secret, but the Royal Mother's agents are nothing if not all seeing, and we were soon exposed and required to turn over our prize to the Xin'Dau. Their empiricists, unbeknownst to me, have been working along the same lines. As it turns out they were much ahead of us, and our prize turned the key in their quest. Hence Noc'Sol was able to save face and reap glory in the situation."
"And what did they find holy mother?"
"The Hu'Man database contained a wealth of navigational information on their holdings. It was at this time that the planet they call Rot Hafen, which we call Rahl'Soo came to our attention. It has many valuable minerals, most important of which is Maganash, the key component in the production of our armor. Rahl'Soo would serve as the logistics base we so needed in our Hunt against the Hu'Mans. In addition it is relatively close to the core of their space, their homeworld of Sol lies within 20 light turnas of Rahl'Soo. A perfect location from which to grab right for the throat of Hu'Man space. The honor of the prize of course went to us, as the greatest house in the Feast of Holy Mothers."
"Had issues been left alone with that decision, all would be well. However the Royal Mother I her infinite wisdom seeks to keep Noc'Sol from becoming so powerful as to eventually challenge her own rule."
Ig'Har's mandibles expanded and spread outward, in a sign of surprise and awe at such a thought.
"Yes that's right Ig'Har. My ascension to the Royal Motherhood is not beyond the pale of possibility. And it is such an eventuality that has the Royal Mother scheming to keep us down at the very same time which she offers us our greatest opportunity for triumph."
"How, your holiness?"
"By allying us with House P'Ah'Cad."
"P'Ah'Cad?" Ig'Har's mandibles curved inward in a sign of indignation. "They are not worthy to carry our Guzz'tah! To think of sharing the hunt with those upstarts."
"Exactly." Shal'Cog was pleased with Ig'Har's display. "The Royal Mother has been misguided by some minor victory Surg'Fess has secured over some pitiful aliens of the Gruh'Untah sector. She sees Surg'Fess as a rising hunter amongst Houses. As you know the Pa'Ah'Cad were involved in that most unfortunate episode at Sva'Ga, Surg'Fess and myself nearly came to blows over the incident, save for the presence of the Royal Mother."
"Normally I would merely call out the cur in single combat, or else conduct a short campaign against the upstarts, but this is not the time for clan infighting. We must concentrate our resources against the enemy behind and the enemy in front. So, misguidedly, the Royal Mother has set our two houses upon the same task, where we are to work together in the securing of Rahl'Soo. Above the surface the mating of these two clans is to ensure absolute victory in this first major operation of the war against the Hu'Mans. However, below the surface, the Royal Mother seeks to keep us at our throats, dividing the glory amongst us so as to keep Noc'Sol under and to prevent myself from challenging the throne. It is a wise plan, and one that both Surg'Fess and myself graciously accepted."
"It must have been most difficult..."
"Yes it was. But you know the old saying: No outsider swims in my lagoon. The P'Ah'Cad still had most of their forces deployed in the Gruh'Untah sector, far from the current battlefront. Whereas much of our fleet was already froward-deployed. The P'Ah'Cad undertook to amass their forces at the prearranged staging area at their leisure, believing the date of attack set for three turnots forward. But I decided to strike at Rahl'Soo first before the bulk of their fleet arrived, two full turnot before the previously agreed upon strike date. Only four P'Ah'Cad ships were on hand to accompany us in. Our agents ensured that their Ti'Dok and one of their Vo'Boks had accidents during warp which left only one Vo'Bok and one transport, carrying a skull of P'Ah'Cad house marines. "
"In'Har, our commander on the spot saw to it that the Vo'Bok was destroyed early in the fighting, while the P'Ah'Cad skull was deployed to the hinterlands chasing after remnants of the Hu'Man resistance. Unfortunately, his bungling incompetence led to a serious defeat at the hands of the Hu'Mans when their fleet returned. It was at this time that I learned much of the incompetent handling of the whole operation. In'Har, of course, masked his incompetence in the proper way, by dying in battle."
"Ga'Lash and Merz'Bot were not so fortunate. I had them put to death for the potential loss of face we stand to suffer if word of their bungling gets out. This is why I have appointed you to command. You are to assemble the fleet and leave within the next drahl for our staging area. Immediately from there you are to launch against Rahl'Soo. Do not dally by setting your fleet posture to confront. Your posture is to be set to Slay from the moment you transit. There must be no survivors. On the planet all slave labor must be forced to our will with the utmost haste for I want that base operational for our forces within a half turnots."
"Most importantly, the P'Ah'Cad are expected to arrive at the staging area any drahl now. You must secure the planet before they arrive. It must be seen that Surg'Fess' dalliance has nearly cost us the campaign, but under yours and my leadership, we have still plucked this rich prize for the Royal Mother herself. Surg'Fess will be in disgrace at the feast of Holy Mothers and will never again be a force to challenge us. Des'Ret has been appointed to replace Merz'Bot as our chief of espionage. She will see to the dissemination of misinformation in this matter. In time I will see her dead, but that is for the future. The Royal mother will be forced to acknowledge our leadership in the coming war, where Noc'Sol will set the example. This influence will put us in direct line for a shot at the throne. The Royal Mother is old and will not live forever. Other measures are being taken to ensure her predecessors will be in no position to intervene. And as such, her very plan to keep us down shall be turned against her."
"It is brilliant, Holy Mother."
"Of course it is brilliance, I though of it. Now lets make something clear. Everything depends upon you, young one. You must arrive on station and secure Rahl'Soo with a tremendous crushing victory before the P'Ah'Cad arrive. I have confidence in your ability to do so. But let me down and you shall die a thousand slow deaths."
"I will not fail, Holy Mother."
Cog'Shal leaned her large bulk forward until her mandibles were inches away from Ig'Har's face. They curved menacingly until they were but millimeters from her eyes. Ig'Har did not flinch. The Holy Mother's yellow eyes bored into her. "No, you will not fail."
For a moment the Holy Mother stayed there and Ig'Har almost expected a blood slice on her cheek, the traditional mark of dominance or punishment. But the Surg'Fess leaned back and adopted a light air. "But for the moment we have time to enjoy a pleasure or two, no Ig'Har?"
Ig'Har breathed again. "Yes holy Mother." Surg'Fess was also famous for the excesses she took in her position.
"Guards, bring in the Juveniles."
The mating passed quickly for Ig'Har. Her mind was not into pleasure with such a Herculean task thrust upon her. She had barley breathed throughout the whole meeting, but as time passed later in the drahl, she grew more confident and more elated in the possibilities of what had befallen her. Primarch of the most powerful house! It was an unbelievable turn of events. However Ig'Har was not chosen at random. She spent the day in a flurry of activity, and her staff was hard pressed to keep up. The fleet, already in place, made final provisioning. She received authorization form the Holy Mother to take every ship but her private escorts. By sundown, Ig'Har was on a shuttle up to the Yu'Kas Mandia.
Ig'Har took special pains to supervise the navigation plan. The fleet would make four transits per Dahl, each at 20 light turnas per jump. The pace was well above normal safe limits, but Ig'Har was driven and she drove her staff and crews in turn. In one drahls the fleet would be arriving at the staging area.
Ig'Har used the time to study her enemy. Most useful was a report from the surviving commander on the scene, a 4th Commander named K'zirt. In the quiet of her own cabin, Ig'Har read the report which had been classified top secret and kept from nearly all eyes....
For: 1st Commander House Noc'Sol Naval Affairs
Of: 4th Commander K'zirt Acting Commander, 2d Talon Noc'Sol fleet
About: Action at Rahl'Soo 1218.104.22.168.44.111
After gaining some initial sensor data, the fleet was ordered into Confront. 1st Commander In'har kept the fleet together but ordered my squadron, my Ti'Dak and 2 Vo'Bok hunters, into a wider arc to engage the weaker Hu'man flank. The main part of the fleet was to cluster together as it proved effective in defeating the missile salvoes of previous encounters. Our initial confrontation proved this point as none of their missiles found targets.
12 tu'runs into the conflict, we had crippled one of the opposing battle cruisers with repeated railgun Attacks. We lost 1 Vo'Bok to a malfunctioning power core that exploded when struck by enemy fire. Sadly, my flagship was struck a lucky blow to the command center. The beam weapons of the Hu'mans cut deeply and severed all intership and intraship communications. I had to spend precious time relocating to auxiliary control. My Vo'Boks effectively screened us as we drifted. They scored again and again with their railguns, crippling one of the Hu'man battlecruisers.
Meanwhile, the heart of the fleet was engaging the four Hu'man Superdreadnoughts. By positioning our fleet the way he did, 1st Commander In'har was able to concentrate fire on the Hu'man Primary ships, one at a time. In'har directed all fire on what we believed to be the Mothership of their fleet. After doing a significant amount of damage, she shifted fire to a second of the huge ships. Strangely, the crippling damage to their flagship did nothing to the Hu'man morale. Surely they saw that their ship was useless and they still did not surrender. The second Hu'Man Primary was then crippled and still they fought on. 1st Commander In'har then ordered the fleet into Slay as it seemed that the Hu'mans simply did not think as we do. Destroying them utterly is the only course of action.
At this time, we were also confronting the Hu'man killercraft. We were seriously outnumbered on this level of the conflict and our own killercraft were unable to strike. Instead, they were ordered into Protect and assigned to our own Yu'kas class Superdreadnoughts. At this time, the Hu'man missiles found their mark and a coordinated attack by both killercraft and missiles wrought horrible damage on the heart of our fleet. Our scatterguns completely destroyed 4 full attack groups of enemy killercraft and did serious damage to the remainder. However, the missiles kept coming.
After 16 tu'runs, the mighty Yu'kas under 2nd Commander Ta'sin was completely destroyed by the Hu'man attack wave. There was no time for them to even signal their doom. One moment they were there, and the next they were not. I have never seen such a thing. More distressing than this was the crippling of our own Mothership. 1st Commander In'har was slain as the enemy missiles destroyed the Flag Bridge, Auxiliary Control, Life Support and the Engine room. 3rd Commander Ti'ree took command of the fleet and, in her fury, completely destroyed the crippled Hu'mans Primary, similar in mass to our Yu'Kas and crippled 2 others. The coordinated Railgun fire tore through their hulls even as a second wave of missiles and killercraft came in.
The Hu'mans have also developed a horrible new device that allows for small craft to remain unseen by our scanners. Though I have heard of similar craft in our fleet, they seem to be ahead of our own Science Clan in this area. They mounted cloaking devices on small ships that carried more of their missiles. Using this cloaking technology, they were able to launch missile strikes from behind our main fleet and wrought more damage upon us. Several of our Ti'daks took severe damage and attempted to withdraw but were hunted down by the remaining enemy killercraft. The fleet was ordered into Flee and those ships that were capable moved to disengage. Those that could not follow bravely held back the Hu'man ships and another of their primaries was destroyed. During this time, 3rd Commander Ti'ree and her ship were lost as the last of the enemy killercraft concentrated on them. His last act as commander was to approve the pleas of our own killercraft pilots who were screaming for vengeance. Thus released, they made straight for the Hu'man fleet, using their last moments of life to strike at the enemy.
With me now in charge, I gathered what was left of our fleet and warped out. Only five of our ships made it out but we carry back crucial information about Hu'man tactics and technology. Having now experienced two Confronts against the Hu'Mans, my recommendations and observations to our Science Clan are as follows:
1) Cloaking and anti-Cloaking devices. If all our ships can not cloak, we must at least be able to penetrate theirs.
2) Extended Point Defense. If we had available scatterguns that could support another ship, we would not have fallen prey to the Hu'man missiles so easily. Several ships had no choice but to watch as their sisters died.
3) Upgrading our existing scatterguns to allow for reloading during combat. They proved very effective but very short-lived as well.
My recommendations and observations to our War Leaders are as follows:
1) Increase the use and production of killercraft. If only to screen our capital ships. They proved vital but, in the end, futile due to being horribly outnumbered.
2) A change of doctrine is needed. Confront is no longer a viable tactic. Slay is the only course that can be followed when fighting the Hu'mans. They do not follow our ways and we can not think that they would surrender to us.
3) Close maneuvering has served us well in defeating initial waves of the Hu'man missiles. However, we must be able to lend support between ships. Scatterguns should be reserved for Point Defense use and not as a ship to ship weapon.
4) Targeting priority should be changed to destroy the missile capable ships as soon as they are detected. The missile salvoes are much more deadly than their beam weapons.
4th Commander K'zirt
It was clear to Ig'Har that this K'zirt was an insightful commander. A second report detailed her ongoing reconnaissance plan of Rahl'Soo with the surviving Vo'At cloaked scouts. She would promote K'zirt upon reaching the Staging area. Ig'Har needed commanders with experience against the Hu'Mans. No doubt K'zirt, suffering under the humiliation of having survived, would conduct herself with added frenzy in the next battle, yet another plus. With regards to the report, she would have a clerk scrub the data from any hint of loss and pass it to one of Science Clan on the ship. The indispensable purple-robed Xin'Dau accompanied every clan while on operations. Perhaps they could make some modifications to current systems. The Xin'Dau or "science clan" didn't actually do much inventing of their own. Their real expertise lay in reverse engineering captured technology. From the time the first alien FTL vessel had landed on the Kra'Vak homewold during an exploration mission, this was the way they had made advances in their technology. FTL, Grav drive, improved railgun targeting, and the newest mind control technology that was being used on the Hu'Mans. Kra'Vak science reverse engineered existing technology and made it their own, then made it better. Already they were looking at the Hu'Man shields..
However it was not the Hu'Mans themselves which concerned Ig'Har. They were, after all, mere frsshtookk and would easily succumb to her might. No, the P'Ah'Cad were was the main threat. With her ships engaged with the Hu'Mans, what guarantee did he have that Surg'Fess ships would not attack and then secure the glory of the capture for themselves. She would not put it past the upstarts to attempt such a treacherous move. No. That could not be allowed to stand. Ig'Har began mapping out her own strategy to circumvent such an event.
Ig'Har bore with her nearly one hundred Noc'Sol warships to the staging area. This represented nearly a third of the Noc'Sol fleet. In her opinion it was overkill to bring this entire fleet into Rahl'Soo to squash a bunch of frshstookk. No, the real threat lay with the Pa'Ah'Cad. With no oversight anything could happen at the staging area or in system. But she would turn the tables on Surg'Fess. By last estimate, the P'Ah'Cad fleet on the way to the staging area was estimated at fewer than 30 ships. What Ig'Har decided to do was spilt her fleet in half, leaving nearly 60 ships in wait for the P'Ah'Cad. Herself and K'zirt, whom she decided to promote to 2nd Commander would take the fleet into Rahl'Soo. She would leave 2nd Commander T'ahl in command of the ambush at the staging area. The need for precise navigation to the jump point would necessitate them adopting a tight formation. Normal procedure called for jumping at relaxed stations when arriving in a "secure" area. Ig'Har would order her fleet to adopt Confront within firing proximity of the Jump point. When they drew close, the fleet would conduct a Slay, destroying the P'Ah'Cad to the last ship. Thus in one Fateful Drahl, she would eliminate the greatest threat to the Noc'Sol house and secure Rahl'Soo for the Holy Mother. This would cement her position as Primarch. Why his very name would possibly be spoken at the Feast of Mothers! Almost beside herself with giddiness, Ig'Har summoned her staff and set about drawing up her plans.
Upon arrival at the staging area, Ig'Har was relieved to see that no P'Ah'Cad ships had yet arrived. Only six ships, survivors of the original invasion force, were in evidence. Only two, a pair of Vo'Bok cruisers, were in any shape to accompany the fleet on the final jump. Pushing the fleet had cost Ig'Har seven ships dropped off at previous transit points with maintenance problems. Ig'Har immediately requested a report from 4th Commander K'zirt.
The bulky warrior entered Ig'Har's office and stiffly bowed. In the ensuing silence she kept her head lowered, expecting at the very least a berating from the new Primarch. "Welcome aboard 2nd Commander K'zirt."
The officer raised her head hesitatingly. "Excuse me Primarch?"
"You understood me."
"I...I am at a loss…"
"I read your report. It was intelligently written. No doubt you have surmised that we are returning to Rahl'Soo to evict the Hu'Mans once and for all. I need a commander at my side with your experience of fighting them. Together we shall put an end to this resistance and get on with the hunt."
"I observed the fleet making transit. It's is a force of infinitesimal power. We cannot fail, Primarch."
The door slid open and in walked T'ahl. 2nd Commander K'zirt, I would like you to meet 2nd Commander T'ahl. Fleet sub commander."
"It is an honor." Said K'zirt bowing.
T'ahl merely grunted. She looked incredibly old and dour.
"T'ahl will be remaining behind with part of the fleet to lay and ambush for the P'Ah'Cad."
"Yes the P'Ah'Cad fleet intends to strike us from behind as we engage the Hu'Mans. Fortunately, our agents have learned of their devious plots and given us sufficient warning to turn the surprise on its head."
"So we are delaying the move against Rahl'Soo in order to dispense of the P'Ah'Cad?" Asked K'zirt.
"Absolutely not. It is imperative that we slay the Hu'Mans at once. I plan on moving before the drahl ends."
"How many ships are staying behind?"
"Primarch, with respect, you would divide our forces and fight two actions back to back simultaneously? With less than fifty ships we return to Rahl'Soo? I must advise against…."
Ig'Har was up and at K'zirt in a flash, in her face. "You will advise nothing! You will follow orders you ungrateful cur! I could just as easily have had you beheaded instead of promoted. You will cease all further discussion, take this data cube which contains your orders and set about implementing your part of the plan. Do you understand?"
K'zirt gave a curt bow and left the office. That went really well, she thought.
Go to The Hunters (Part 2), chapter 10, of Röt Hafen
Return to Bri's Science Fiction Collection