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
Surg'Fess ran the thumbs of her left hand over her mandible testing the sharpness. It was the stance she always adopted while in deep contemplation. The fleet was assembled at the final jump point before moving to the staging area. By agreement with Noc'Sol, the initial assault on Rahl'Soo was set for two drahls hence. It had been a very long trip from the Gruh'Untal sector, nearly five turnots in length. Her task force, 32 ships, comprising nearly one third of the entire P'Ah'Cad fleet had arrived intact with no loss. She was on time with her entire fleet, with all ships at top operational condition. She should be please, but yet something was nagging her.
There was the dull ache of her cheekbone, under the deep scar she had received many turnas past in a duel. Whenever the scar began to throb she took it as a bad omen. In her experience each occurrence had been followed by something bad. So what was it this time? Was it Lo'Bat, the great hunter of death, sending her a premonition that her time for calling was near? Surg'Fess took such omens seriously, as they had saved her from ruin on more than one occasion. It was of special note that the omen had appeared only now, with less than two Thaar to go before the fleet made transit to rendezvous with Noc'Sol. The more she thought about it, the clearer the signal became. She summoned the communications officer.
"You are to open a secure channel to Na'Wo and Dik'Tak and put it through to my private chambers."
Shortly there after she was viewing the images of her two senior commanders. Both stared silently at their holy mother, who had long ago dispensed with formal posturing upon initial greetings. Surg'Fess viewed herself as a Battlefield commander, in fact she insisted that they address her by the title of 1st Commander while on operations instead of the traditional Holy Mother.
"Commanders, our long journey to the hunt is nearly at an end. Yet I sense that we are about to enter a period of grave danger. In fact I believe we are at greater risk with this coming transit than when we actual enter the Rahl'Soo system."
Both Na'Wo and Dik'Tak had long ago learned not to question Surg'Fess hunches, they were invariably correct.
"I believe it a high probability that the Noc'Sol will impart upon our fleet some form of treachery. I have no positive proof, however, there jealousy of our great rise in favor with the Royal Mother, and the long standing treachery of Shal'Cog is well known to us. I would not put it beneath them to ambush us at the staging area."
"It is because of this that I summon you to construct with me a plan which will leave us prepared for an attack while not invoking one from adopting to rash a posture upon transit. I listen to you now."
Dik'Tok was first to speak. "1st Commander. My trust for the Noc'Sol runs no deeper as I can dunk them. However the two divergent objectives you set for us provides some difficulty. The proper course is to array the fleet into Confront before transit, yet this posture would be a clear sign that we are intent upon battle."
"Yes that could provoke a fight right then and there if they are in fact not intent upon our destruction. An eventuality we must consider."
"I propose that the fleet make transit arrayed for Maneuver. Emission control level should also be set for maneuver, yet all crews and weapons, save targeting should be set to Confront."
"I would make one amendment to my trusted comrade's recommendation," said Na'Wo. "We offset the transit point by at least one light-se'nod. This will better allow us to gauge the Noc'Sol intentions and delay punishment from an ambush."
"One light-se'nod is too great a distance. Given the time we have had to get there, they will not accept a one light se'nod displacement as an error. They will suggest foul play. Reduce it to under one third light-se'nod." Amended Surg'Fess.
"Then I have an additional suggestion," said Na'Wo. "We split the fleet into two Arms. One makes initial transit with the offset suggested. If the Noc'Sol are intent upon our destruction, as well all suspect, then we will see them maneuver towards us. After a reasonable period, no more than ten tu'run's passing, the Second Arm transits at the original warp point. If the Noc'Sol have committed themselves to the first Arm, then we will catch them between the two of us. If there is no treachery, we can merely blame the anomaly on transit difficulties."
"I like the suggestion, however the force mixture must be carefully considered" Said Surg'Fess. "If we split the fleet evenly, they will suspect duplicity on our part. We must force their entire fleet to commit to the First Arm, as they no doubt will outnumber us considerably. Thus we can only leave a few picked vessels to comprise the Second Arm. They must include our boldest commanders and best crews. But the number is critical."
"All the Yukas?"
"No. That would be too obvious."
"Da'Las and Al'Lan, with their Yukas. Ter'Hat and Sved'Ma with their Ti'Daks, SaitTel and Bom'As with their Vo'Boks." Suggested Na'Wo.
"Agreed. And you will lead the Second Arm with your Ko'Vol." Seven ships. That leaves 25 ships for Dik'Tak and myself. A believable number. Assuming they even know how many ships we have committed."
"Do not underestimate Noc'Sol spies." Warned Dik'Tak.
"Agreed. Commanders we have less than two standard thaars to work out the particulars. Let us get to work."
Using up to date reconnaissance data from K'zirt's Vo'Ats, 38 Noc'Sol warships made transit into Hu'Man space. Extra time was allowed for the plot to ensure a tight formation, and Ig'Har was pleased to see every ship in it's assigned position. Much to her relief there was only one Hu'Man ship in the vicinity, which rapidly withdrew. Sensors reached out to identify and classify the enemy ships, comparing it with the database that K'zirt had created in the intervening Drahls since the last fight. The information would prove vital.
"Send the signal."
A narrow beam encoded signal went out to the command skull at Rahl'Soo, signaling them to begin their part in the action. And so Ig'Hor set about hunt to secure for his clan that grubby red ball. South of the spaceport, Ralh'Soo
Ja'Fol listened carefully to the prerecorded briefing which had been just brought over by a runner from the Noc'Sol Skull commander. The plan was more rubbish, but what else had she come to expect in the preceding turnots? She had never met so incompetent a commander as this dra'at who passed herself off as a talon commander. But then again not a single one of the Noc'Sol leadership had issued a single order which had made sense to her since they first set foot on this miserable ball of dirt. It was all he could do to keep herself from turning her claws upon the Noc'Sol themselves and she had had to restrain more than one young male in altercations with the dra'at.
But if the situation was sinking below fast let no one make the accusation that it had been due in any part to the P'Ah'Cad skull. In her opinion they had carried out every task assigned, no matter how ridiculous, in the most exemplary manner. It had been they who had tracked down the Hu'Man hill fighters in a true hunter's fashion, killing them singly, in pairs and in groups, until all their bases had been eradicated. She nodded them a grudging respect. Despite their puny demeanor they fought with courage. Their response had of course been to move their remnants into the city where they found the incompetent Noc'Sol easy prey for their cunning tactics. The eradication of the fleet in orbit, no matter how hard they attempted to hide it, had not gone unnoticed by Ja'Fol. The Hu'Man landing had wisely avoided the clumsily camouflaged defenses and no more ridiculous event had she ever witnessed than the foolhardy attack on the pass by the bulk of the Noc'Sol armor, easily defeated by the Hu'Mans. They were nothing if opportunists.
Ja'fol could at least take solace in the fact that most of the dra'at were now dead, which should have left her with a freeer hand to defend the city, but the Skull commander, Bu'Kal had conveniently survived by remaining at headquarters. So she remained pestered by her incompetence. Now Ja'fol crossed her arms and listened to Bu'Kal drivel.
"You are to await the great counterstrike which will occur at nine-one this drahl. At that point I require you to assault the Hu'Mans here at this position. This will cut their assault in half. Simultaneous with your attack, out killercraft will sweep the skies of their ships and attack them from above. My skull will plant it's stake at the tip of the Hu'Man assault and hod them in place as we smash them from all directions. Before daybreak we shall see the fleet once again secure in orbit where they will rain death upon the remaining Hu'Mans. Then we swill set about eradicating the remaining frsshtookk and secure the planet. Remember, time your attack to begin at precisely five-one. So I command it, so it shall be done."
"Fine-one!" Ja'Fol eyed the Noc'Sol courier menacingly. Despite himself, the juvenile's air-follicles went rigid with fear in the presence of so many angry P'Ah'Cad. "Five-One! Do you know what time it is? It's past five now! We're to launch a major counterattack against the Hu'Mans with only ten tu'run's preparation!" Ja'Fol stepped closer to the Juvenile, her necklace of Hu'Man skulls and other bones rattling with the movement. She drew had Shaddah and held the blade under the Noc'Sol's throat. "What is the reason for your delay and bringing me this order?"
"There was no delay! I came at once, Commander."
As he suspected, Bu'Kal delayed the order until it was almost too late to carry it out. Another attempt to disgrace the P'Ah'Cad. How could they ever hope to beat the Hu'Mans if they were still trying to beat each other?
"I'd slice you into pieces if I had the time, but I have a battle to fight. Your command calls the Hu'Mans frsshtookk. I say it is not they, but it is he who is the frsshtookk. If we survive this mess I will come for him personally and call him out for his incompetence in this operation. Now go before I change my mind."
The Juvenile bowed quickly turned and fled the room, running into a warrior in combat armor on the way out, which almost knocked him over. Ja'Fol studied her situational display. Given her current deployment, only the 2nd Arm would be able to participate in the attack. 1st Leg would support with two raiding claws. The problem was once they exposed themselves, the Hu'Mans had the firepower to make any attack costly. The key was to reduce their fire support. The attack by the Kra'Vak fleet should take care of their ortillery. Their air support had been virtually non-existent since the Kra'Vak killer craft made their presence known to the Hu'Mans. And the Hu'Man skimmers had been reduced in numbers through attrition over the past few drahls. Rapidly Ja'Fol scanned the enemy plot. A large Hu'Man fire support unit had recently relocated forward to the outskirts of the city, but there was no way for her to strike at it. It was within range of the 2nd eye, one of her two combination reconnaissance/sniper teams, but he had no organic fire support of his own that could reach the target.
"How to hit that unit?" He thought out loud.
"Attack them with our Ra'San. Said Bor'Lan, 2nd Arm Commander.
"You know, as well as I, that the Craft are Noc'Sol. We cannot even communicate with them."
"That's not exactly true."
Bor'Lan and Ja'Fol spun and looked at a young juvenile who was a communications tech from 1st Leg currently assigned to the skull staff. His commander stared at him in horror. How dare a juve dare speak in the presence of Ja'Fol? The commander was on the juve in a second cuffing the young male to the ground.
"Wait." Ja'fol held up a claw. "Let the Juve speak."
The Kra'Vak tech picked himself up. Every Juvenile was used to receiving beatings so he was quick to recover. "Commander, my duties during the initial occupation often carried me to headquarters. I had on several occasions to observed Noc'Sol code cubes left unattended. I…I..."
"Go on you're wasting time!"
"On a challenge from a claw mate I "liberated" one of the cubes during my last trip."
"We can transmit this data to the commander of 2nd Eye. He can program in his designator to replicate a Noc'Sol support request. He should be able to get one of their ships to target the enemy unit."
There was a moment of silence. "Implement your plan." Ja'Fol turned to the Juve's commander. "Claw leader, commend that young warrior." The juve stood up straight bowed quickly and turned to his console.
"Bor'Lan, this will be your jump off position. 2nd Leg will move its armor to this position and create a diversion. When I give the word you are to strike to this building which oversees their axis of advance. Strike swift and deadly. Seize this building and we will have them by the throat. There is little time to prepare your warriors so I suggest you move now. I shall join you in several Tu'runs"
"Hoi." Bor'Lan picked up his advanced combat railgun, nodded and left.
Ja'Fol made arrangements for the relocation of the skull and the gathering of his outlying 1st Arm for the coming struggle. He stepped out of the building into the fading light, followed by his communications tech, two runners and three warriors, which served as his bodyguards. They set off at a jog to the catch up with the 2nd Arm. Above him, in the evening sky, he could see the first bright flashes and mini-suns of exploding ships. None in the small command group needed reminding that their fate was intertwined in the outcome of that battle.
Go to Caught in the Grinder, chapter 11, of Röt Hafen
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