Yes, I'm afraid they aren't dead yet, you know as well as I that Aisha Valtarion managed to escape our invasion of the Ditla system, just as she did with our invasion of the New Earth system. Apparently she is somewhere to galactic south trying to devour something called the Federation of Free Beings. So while we've managed to drive her completely out of our territories we've only made her someone else's problem. Meanwhile on the southern edge of our borders mine layers are creating a poorman's defense against the Augment Empire. Their forces have been sighted yet again, attempting to destroy the Starbase DarkWisdom (you order to have it rebuilt was followed immediately, the cost of its creation and the hasty production of Swordbreaker ships has forced us to raise taxes temporarily though) and deprive of us of the Hawking Crystals we used to help complete our research on the use of sentient technology, please keep in mind that the Remnants need these crystals to live my lord. Since the ships have, after a bit of study, been shown only to possess shielding and anti-missile counter measures, no armor, I repeat no armor, we've been utilizing Mass Driver technology against them while equipping our retrofitted Bloodwaves with a heavy dose of Shielding technology (the end product having been nicknamed "Swordbreakers" by our R&D department) the end result is still inadequete but with the help of some modified Bloodmaster Commanders the Shieldwall fleet has managed to keep Darkwisdom Safe long enough to give it a fighting chance. This along with the two starbases "Lefty" (Serial Designation 17937005842) and "Righty" (Serial Designation 18000465822) have provided us with a means to keep our Southern border safe.
If you will recall my lord, to the galactic west a civilization of androids built by an extinct race thrived in several star systems, some sort of disease, a computer virus caused many to become so apathetic that they just shut themselves down eventually. They managed to find a cure, but too little too late. In our attempts to aid this civilization we managed to stave off their ultimite death by a few years, eventually they grew tired of the struggle and surrendered their culture and territories to us. The sentient androids (Called "remnants" by most) eventually became servants and assitants to our people and have even allowed us to create many examples of intellgent technology. For many years our ships have possessed intelligence similair to that of whales or elephants, recently we managed to create human levels of intellegence in several ships. So far, 3 Bloodwaves and a Bloodmaster have passed muster. I submit unto you this plan. Pick up experienced officers from the remains of the 16th Black Brigade and Vendetta fleet, man the experimental ships with these men in officer positions and give them new blood. Send them through the Manitou Wormhole along with a fleet of troopcarriers. We know we can direct the manitou wormhole with use of the Starbase Kilroy. We have acurate data on Aisha Valtarion's Location. (Or her general location at anyrate.) We can send this fleet with its experimental weapons and technology through the gate with orders to wipe out the Protectorate and make life safe for ourselves and all of Transhumanism once and for all.
At least in regards to the Purity Protectorate threat.
I have some ideas on how to deal with our old foe Anton, but please Lord Noctos, tell me your thoughts on this plan.
Transmission from: His Lordship, Chancellor Damien Noctos, Location, Gothica, Palace of the Senate.
Your concerns are noted Professor, and acknowledged, as dangerous as the Augment Empire and our oldest nightmare is, the threat of the Protectorate cannot be ignored. We can only defeat an enemy by fully commiting ourselves to his destruction, to that end I will authorize the use of our bleeding edge technologies in this yet-to-be-named fleet. Furthermore I shall see to it that the leader of the battlegroup will be a driven individual, make sure you send me all personell files on the survivors of the Southern Slaughter. From that group I will pick a survivor each to captain the new ships, their experience and indeed, the tenure from surviving such an event should lend them a little awe from the newblood that we'll crew the battlefleet with.
Furthermore, make sure that the people sent on the troopships are volunteers only. I know this will drastically decrease the type of numbers we usually raise but since we are essentially sending these men out into the unknown. We cannot allow the risk of mutiny to occur. Furthermore make sure a supply fleet is sent, we'll need to equip several cargo cubes with the facilities required to produce and maintain food and ammunition supples for at least fifty thousand troops, not to mention the crews of the ships. If I have my numbers right the Bloodmaster supports five hundred crew whilst your typical Bloodwave will carry half that. Keep this in mind, logistics is part of what allowed us to kick the Protectorate out of this star cluster.
All personell decisions will of course be checked with you and the War Ministry but I trust you will find my judgement in matters of character and drive as impeccable as ever. I may have to live in this damned chair but that doesn't mean I've lost what helped me form the Confederation from a few bickering transhumanist states. Continuing in this vein switch the Blackguard units that have been monitoring what's left of Protectorate culture in this sector and get them into the Augment Empire. I don't care how. I need information on just what we are facing and I need it a year ago.
Finally, make sure Bloodthrone powerpacks are sent to the new fleet, I know we barely have any to go around ever since we destroyed the Imperial ships that raided and anihilated our Multi-Elemental Extraction and Refinement Facility in Clarke's Nebula but I want that fleet well armed. It's time we finished this damnit. I want that Puritan bitch caught and I want her fried in an electric chair after she's tried for wartimes on Gothica. Spare no cost. That's an order.
Tesla sat in the dank, stone hallway of the entrance to the most heavily defended facility in the entirety of Confederation space. The room he sat in was dim, cold, wet, and home to a pair of black, laquered pews that were, apparently entirely immune to the conditions that surrounded him. Not that the Starcorpsman was surprised by that. Faux-archaic had been the official Gothican decoration since time immemorial. Even now, whilst the rest of the Confederation of Augments slowly began to upgrade to sleek matte black and chrome when it came to doing their building, Art Deco and Gothic architecture still were the norm on Darkholme, Shaed, and their Mother world. A man dressed in form fitting black armor stepped forward, his face hidden by hood and helmet, though his glowing green eyes marked him as a Steel Child. "His Lordship will see you now." the man said in a dull monotone, beckoning the young man forward.
Tesla Mandaris stood, ignoring the classical villain who stared back at him from the reflective surfaces of the soldier's armor. His hair had gone stark white after the battle with the Imperial Augments, it had been turning grey prematurely but now the thick mane had gone comepletly snow white, right along whith his goatee. He was dressed up in the black jumpsuit of the Starcorp, his uniform still bearing Vendetta fleet markings and his pewter grey pilot's jacket still had a large red V emblazoned on it. The fact that the fleet was dead didn't matter to Tesla. The Vendetta had had become that much more potent. Tesla gave the man a sharp salute, and the guard returned it, apparently unfazed by the sleek black plates that covered his body. Still that suit looked like a modified hyper-compact envirosuit with armor plates crafted onto it. Couldn't be comfortable, any jealousy he would've felt in the old days for the man's equipment was washed away in a tide of grief, fatigue and apathy. without a word in reply Tesla advanced down the dark hallway, towards a 12 foot high set of black laquered wooden doors.
As he approached them the doors creaked open, obviously leading into a vast space which the young man entered without fear, pausing only to adjust the eyeglasses that adorned his face and shift position of the headphones-and-microphone universal translator that every Starcorp officer wore. After he continued fully into the room the doors quietly shut behind him, sealing with a quiet clicking noise. Tesla was prepared to offer up one of his signature expressions of blase contempt but for once he couldn't be anything but impressed. The space was vast, an ancient cave complex converted into the base of the Confederation of Augments leader, but it was still a cave, bats and all. Cold winds sent the young man's hair waving this way and that as his eyes roved over a line of military vehicles, some produced by the confederation, some traded for from other cultures, some taken from Earth on the long voyage to Gothica, others claimed in war. Tanks, jeeps, hovercraft, walkers, vehicles that defied description stood in a row. From the looks of them, Tesla would've bet mad dosh that they all worked.
His gaze turned, another collection, this one of military uniforms from every Earth culture, from the Black Guard, Anton Vortecka's watchmen, the Starcorp. Come of the primitive commuinities they had since run into and begun trading with. All in a glass box with a display light shining down on them. Tesla moved forward and looked with apprecation on some of the more fantastic costumes before his gaze, yet again moved over to another set of trophies. Animals, Earthforms and and alien, taxedermy subjects and bone displays, all dominated their own side of the cave. Where oh where had they gotten a Tyranosaurus Skeleton?
"Yes, most....Impressive wouldn't you say?" Tesla turned as a large, humming chair rolled up to him on a cushion of air. From the looks of things Tesla was pretty sure it could sprout legs on command if it had to. Nestled behind a glass bubble, or what appeared to be a glass bubble at any rate, the crippled corpse of an old man sat, his body encrusted with lifesupport equipment. But the man's eyes stared into Tesla's and blazed with life and determination. "Three hundred Gregorian years worth of collecting..... I have more if you would care to see it." The old man's voice wheezed through some unseen mechanism. Obviously he was too old to even talk, but not arrogant enough to use a voice that didn't fit this body, though Tesla had to admit, the little old man voice could sound intimidating or charismatic on command if it had to. This shriveled corpse of a human was the reason he'd joined the Starcorp.
"Well I would but this...Interview you scheduled." Tesla was, for once unsure of himself, sure the man was a cripple. But his withered body practically radiated life energy, his eyes broadcasted charisma and his voice had already set the younger man at ease. On the one hand he wanted to stay, on the other he wanted to get the hell out of here, he felt like a caveman in a china shop. A mechanical arm sprouted from the side of Damien's hover chair and extended, waving away the protest and the pair set off. Tesla following in the matte black machine's wake. "We can examine my collection....Whilst we speak of things to come." A wheezing noise erupted from the man's vocalcaster, a cough followed. Just when Tesla was about to ask if he was alright the mechanical arm waved away the younger man's concern. "Of course, so I was called here because....?"
The chair turned, they'd stopped near a statue of some strange humanoid, his features partly feline, he wore a loincloth and in his paws he gripped a large ruby. With quiet dignity the cat man watched, and listened to the pair as they examined every inch of his half naked stone body. "You served as Captain Wolfgang's second as I recall." Tesla nodded, sighing as a piece of his soul spasmed and bled. Oh how he had adored Captain Wolfgang. The man had been a friend, and mentor and had, during the final hours of his ship knocked Tesla unconcious and forced him into the last envirosuit available. The fact that Wolfgang was pushing ninety years didn't concern him, the old cyborg had deserved to live, to fight another day. Instead Tesla had gotten his chance. "I was, I'm sure you know the circumstances it was all over the local media."
The oldman's voice somehow intuited a nod his body couldn't perform anymore and in his same, charming, authortive, aged voice Damien spoke, giving the cat statue a wave before he moved on. "Yes, you tried to get him to take the last enviro suit after you supervised the crew's evacuation. But taking your job seriously you gave out all the suits, all of them. even the auxiliary suits. Seeing as how the press was on board. So the captain decked you, put you on one of the lifepreservers and stayed with a skeleton crew of volunteers. How much did you learn from him...?" The man had turned, an old, strange alien automoton wearily looked down at them from his perch on the cavern wall. Tesla meanwhile closed his eyes, gathered his thoughts and spoke. "I learned...well all the basics, tactics, ship mainetence, weapon loadouts, all manner of important details when it comes to running a battle ship. Not to mention crew handling. Wolfgang's golden rule was to never give an order he wouldn't follow himself." He managed stay calm but that damned guilt... It still ate at him. When he opened his eyes Tesla found his slate grey eyes reflected by the glass bubble, and both of Damien's cloudy indigo orbs locked onto his. "Is that your rule?" No hesitation, just a snort and a "Hell yes." Was, was that a smile on the old man's face? The tour continued.
"So you served under a very decorated man, even picked up a medal or two yourself." Tesla shrugged, rubbing at the place where he'd kept a sword belt. Now lost in the debris field that had been Black Bart, The Benjamin Breeg, Mysterious Stranger, and the Nightrider. "Yeah," Tesla replied, a rueful smile on his face. "We had a purification Platform cornered so we decided to board it. Or rather I did, practically got down on my knees and begged." Tesla sighed as the tension that Wolfgang's memory and his survivor's guilt had brought about melted away. "He finally gave in and let me lead the charge. We had to use swords and Disruptor pistols on low energy settings, along with old fashioned autopistols and fragile bullets. Cleaned 'em out and took a lot of prisoners. Got the Warden's Sword for that." Damien had stopped by a case of weapons; swords, spears, bows and rifles, all lay in a massive glass case, resting on red velvet. "I notice you are not wearing your blade." the metal pincer that served Damien as a hand in his twilight years tapped the young man's hip, resting against his disruptor pistol in its holster before backing off. "Oh, well..." Tesla tried to find a way to say it and just blurted the obvious. "I lost it when Nightrider blew up." Damien nodded Judiciously and pointed to the case, one of the glass panels opened, then another and another. "Go ahead boy. Take one." Feeling more than a little awed tesla stepped forward and scanned the available weapons before settling on a Cavalry saber, the basket hilt shining golden. The sheath lustrous black. Tesla stared at it for....a time until Damien chuckled and told him to put it on. He did, and found himself speechless.
"You're the last, Candidate that is. I've interviewed them all except you. Given them little going away presents. Something that'll ease the sting when I send off the winners." Tesla felt his heart race. Was he being rejected or....? "Tell me boy. Why'd you join up. What made you want to fight the good fight when you come from a society of scholars and merchants?" Tesla blinked in surprise for a moment before shrugging. "It was the heroes. From cartoons and comic books. They always struck most of the other kids my age as silly but..." Damien kept staring at him with his usual expression, crippled old man, for some reason that encouraged him. "Stand Tall, fight evil. Do right, stop wrongs. Always wake up ready to make the world a better place." Tesla shrugged, his white hair shifting on his shoulders like a waterfall frothing with power and fury. "It's fine." Damien replied in a tired voice. "Better ideals than some people I've seen keeping to these days. Doesn't matter if Ultra Patriot and the Challengers of Tommorrow are the ones who taught ya, as long as you fight the good fight." Crippled old man. No wonder the bastard was a steady rock in the river of the Chancellory. He was impossible to read, no telling what was going on behind his eyes. It seemed he was being appraised. The chair bobbed and Noctos turned, leading his guest out of his chambers. apparently the interview was done. Tesla burned to know, had he passed snuff? Would he get to fight the imperials in this new super secret operation? "Stay at the hotel. Wait where you are. You'll get a call. Don't worry boy. I have plans for ya." The last thing Tesla saw of his nation's leader was a surprising sight.
Damien winked at him.
Transmission From: His Lordship, Damien Noctos, Location, Gothica, Palace of the Senate.
Okay Professor here's your crew list. I've already spoken to the boys and they've even named their ships.
Battle Leader: Tesla Mandaris: Flightmaster, Captain of Midnight's Voice.
Kristoff Talbaux: Wingmaster, Captain of Defiance.
Gregori Levay: Mindmaster, Captain of Beloved Nightmare.
Johnny Huntswell: Wingmaster, Captain of Denial.
Smith Trebadour: Battlemaster, Captain of Troop Transport Bloodrain and commander of Invasion Fleet Rebuttal.
Arturo Gados: Skirmishmaster, Captain of Trooptransport Shadowsky.
George Baldradur: Skirmishmaster and Captain of Trooptransport Endgame.
Romeo Valdt: Free Merchant and captain of supply ship Last Chance.
Invasion Fleet callsign Hellrider.
Overall command is given to Tesla Mandaris.
Tesla sipped from the chrome wineglass in his hand as he reclined in the raised leather chair that dominated the Captain's pit. The command deck was part observation hall with its impressive view screens and programmable digital wallpaper and its trilevel construction. On the lowest level was a catwalk that surrounded a sunken area full of computing equipment of all sorts and a chair, sequestered even further into its own pit, that faced the thirty foot wide viewscreen that dominated the center of the deck. Above that was the secondary area, a busy floor staffed by officers and ensigns, all attending to various functions that required constant vigilance, but were to mundane, or unimportant despite the level of attention required. The third, and final level was the tactical planning deck, a lounge of leather chairs, beanbags, and holographic display tables, currently being used for holobilliards and several tabletop war games by the more recreation minded tacticians.
Tesla could see it all, through a cable that was attached to an artificial vertebrae in his neck he could see every deck, control every system, and knew the exact status of Midnight's Voice as if she were his own body. After all, with the implant attached, she effectively was his body. He sighed in contentment as he sipped his Bloodwine, the decks ventilators wheezed in sympathy and Tesla checked on the ships status for the Nth time. They were in route, Kilroy's starbase had used an experimental gravity based weapon, currently too power hungry to make an effective feild device, to bend the naturally occuring wormhole and force it open wide enough so that Hellrider fleet could slip through.
For the moment they were in route to their destination, a cluster of stars more than six hundred light years away from Helden's Cluster, home of the warring factions of the Confederacy, the Prectorate, the Augment empire, apparently, and all manner of interesting, if, minor races for centuries. This new cluster, currently dubbed "Warzone 1267888534" by the war ministry was, according to the calculations of the fleet's astronomers about... five weeks away.
EM Fold drive.....All Systems Nominal, forward Pulsegun array, Nominal, left Pulsegun array Nominal, right Pulsegun array, nominal, rear Pulsegun array nominal. Forward facing Nuclear Missile racks.... Nominal. Shielding, and Point Defense, Nominal. Running Sensory Scan for internal or external hull damage.... Processing....Collating Data. No flaws found. Checking Nanomachine repair readyness....no maintenence required, please check back in...one gregorian month... Sealant Forcefield Emitters....Running Diagnostic check, all systems green.
The slightest hint of a chuckle flitted across Tesla's mind and he shivered as the light touch of a woman's finger drifted down his spine. Never mind that the sensation wasn't real. It felt real, and if it felt real it might as well have been. "My man is so antsy..." a deep feminine voice sounded in Tesla's mind, syrupy sweet and seductive. "Expecting trouble? Here, in the time and space inbetween our universe?" A kiss underneath his ear. "Just relax lover." A light touch of fingers on his chest, drifting down his belly.
"Not here." Tesla murmured, eyes shut, suddenly grateful for the distance the captain kept from his crew on the Bloodmaster class. "Not now." The impression of a pout on impossibly luscious lips, eyes full of intelligence and understanding. "Have a little fun Coil." Again, the hands on his body, this time merely friendly instead of seductive. "We have five weeks ahead of us." Tesla smirked and adjusted the hat that adorned his head, the jetblack leather, and golden decorations shining in the control center's dim light. "and I have an off duty shift in six hours and a plug in the side of my room's walls. Then we can get to know each other a little better Midnight." A sigh and a mock dejected slump. The female ghost that only he could see and feel slipped away from him. "It figures that I'd get an old fashioned man wouldn't it?"
Admiral Rambla sighed in something in between exhaustion and frusteration. The Federation of Free Beings was technologically superior to its foe, but apparently her economy was weaker. Each time the Hume ships crossed into the nuetral zone Battlefleet Audacity reppelled them, and lost one of its ships to the Benidi repair docks. He's started with five fleets, each with seven fully functional ships, one battle ship, three battle cruisers, and a wing of light assault craft. Now he had one fleet. Albeit a well equipped, well trained fleet full of battle hardened veterans but now the Foxlike humanoid found his fleet facing down eight fleets of six puritan ships. So far they couldn't be identified from this distance but their sensors were picking up profiles even now.
"Give me the bad news Ild." The tired Vulpis said, his bushy orange red tail drooping whilst he leaned over the command deck's railing to stair down at the small observation window the helmsman sat behind. He could just barely see a few glimmering, moving stars in the distance... "We have flights of the Hume fighter craft, both heavy and light. Battle Cruisers, and several battleships. Sensors indicate no change in the equipment of this craft." The Fellinur attendent shrygged, her feline features displaying the usual lack of care her species showed and she flicked through data on her clipboard sized digital assitant, a stylus in one of her deliciatly groomed paws. "There have been some... Strange Sensor readings to date." The female continued, slicking down her uniform dress after the admiral fully focused his attention on her. "Stange readings?" Rambla prompted his adjutant whilst he did his best to sort out his new yet, somewhat disheveled uniform. He carefully straightened his white tunic, and cinched up his white pants whilst rearranging his equipment belt and its myriad useful items. "Yes, they began roughly after the first engagement. It seems that a large bubble of warped space is slowly beginning to form, roughly in the center of the Nuetral Zone." Warzone you mean... Rambla thought to himself, his ears and whiskers assuming a sour stance.
Shrugging the older man turned about to bellow out an order to his people, commanding his crew to ready for battle, but in that moment space in front of the enemy fleet began to...warp. a massive blast of electromagnetic energy tore through time and space sending shockwaves that rocked the fleet, even here a parsec away. Gaping in a rather undignified manner Admiral Rambla managed to recover himself admirably. "Ild, get me sensor readings on that phenomena as soon as possible!"