Archive for September, 2012
Orvan Rono couldn’t take his eyes off his old friend. Decked out in the regalia of a Boentu Mehar, Renecke looked nothing like Rono remembered. Despite his formal uniform, Renecke seemed nervous; anxious to please. Unsure of himself.
Rono glanced about his house. What must his old friend think of him? When once he had resided in the First Minister’s residence on Liono, now he lived in no such formal housing. He was now a member of the council in a small port town on Vola. He made a modest income, enough to live a comfortable existence, but nothing like the extravagances of First Minister.
Then again, Renecke was barely recognizable himself. He must have gone through many cycles living in unimaginable conditions before he gained his position at Boentu Palace. Boentu Palace! Who would have thought that’s where Tonor Renecke would end up.
He knew his friend left the Arthemian system many cycles ago, but Orvan Rono had spent so much time building a new life on Vola, he had never bothered to track down Renecke. He felt guilty now. After all these cycles, Renecke had never given up the fight to clear their names.
When Renecke was done speaking, Orvan Rono waited, carefully choosing his words. He felt so much joy at being able to return to Liono. For a while Rono had dreamed nightly of such a situation, but those dreams had long passed.
“Tonor, my friend, you honour me. Everything you did. Everything you went through. You humble me.”
Renecke’s mouth twitched into a wry smile. “But?”
“But I cannot. You know I cannot return to the First Minister’s residence on Liono. Too much time has passed. Too many people turned their backs on me. Do you think I can return to that life? Shake hands with the sycophants that couldn’t even remember my name ten cycles ago?”
Renecke didn’t respond. He just sat there, his eyes downcast. He knew that his friend spoke truly. He too had felt the simmering anger as he met old acquaintances on Liono. Yet, he still felt the shroud of disappointment.
“You have given me a gift, Tonor. I can visit my home. I can lay eyes on the planet I was born on. You did a good thing. You did a noble thing. I will never forget it. I just cannot return to that life.”
“Perhaps I should order Carva to dissolve the title of Prime Minister. It is what the Assembly wants anyway.”
Orvan snorted. “The Assembly. More sycophants! No. I think, at least for the present time, Liono needs a Prime Minister. They need a leader who is not corrupt like the Carva family.”
Arjuna leaned back against the railing looking out over the green foliage of the First Minister’s garden. Liono seemed greener than back home. She liked it. Although she wished the temperature was a little warmer. Arronanto let out a sigh. Arjuna cast a sideways glance at her brother. He gazed straight down at something directly below. It didn’t take much for Arjuna to figure it out. Drapaudi, Rashdu Carva’s only daughter, sat curled in a chair with a book, reading. She played with her long dark locks as she read.
Arjuna couldn’t help smirking. Ever since they had arrived, Arronanto had been making eyes at her. Dennethom too seemed to have fallen in love with her. Arjuna supposed Drapaudi was pretty enough, for an Arthemian. In truth, it amazed her that her brothers would be so attracted to her. She was tall, at least for someone from the Arthema system, but still at least a head shorter than the average Boentu woman. Also, her arms were too skinny. They were like twigs. She didn’t look like she had lifted weights a day in her life.
“At some point you’ll actually have to speak to her,” Arjuna remarked.
“I already have spoken to her,” Arronanto asserted.
“Oh?” she replied, trying to keep a straight face.
“She’s nothing like her father and grandfather you know. She seems genuinely ashamed of what her family did to Mehar Renecke.”
“Yes, well, let’s hope she’s not like her brother, either,” said Arjuna. She didn’t like Drapaudi’s brother. He was arrogant and furious at Dennethom. She suspected he would hold a grudge against their family for many cycles.
“You know Dennethom likes her too,” she added.
“I know,” Arronanto muttered.
Arjuna gazed down at Drapaud, trying to imagine either one of her brothers with the young Arthemian female. She couldn’t. “I suppose you could duel for her.”
Arronanto grinned. “As long as it’s hand-to-hand; I could take him.”
“Take who?” Dennethom asked mildly as he stepped out on the balcony to join his siblings.
“Nevermind,” Arjuna replied. “How are negotiations?”
Dennethom sighed. “Difficult. Mehar Renecke insists on getting in a verbal jab whenever he can. Thankfully the First Minister seems eager to make reparations.”
“I’m sure he just wants us off his planet,” Arronanto chuckled.
“Probably,” Dennethom replied with a wan smile. “He wants to name Orvan Rono as Prime Minister.”
“So there’s still going to be a Prime Minister?” Arjuna asked with a raised eyebrow.
“He’s eager to make reparations, but he still plans to hold on to the power he has,” Dennethom replied. “All we have to do is locate Orvan Rono. It seems his family moved around a bit, so it may take some time.” His voice trailed off as he noticed Drapaudi seated below them, still curled up reading.
Arjuna had the distinct impression that the Arthemian knew she was being watched. Tutting in disgust, she left her brothers to their fantasies.
“I have searched my father’s files and it seems there is some sort of discrepancy regarding your position and that of the former Fist Minister,” said Rashdu Carva.
Renecke snorted in disgust. He sat in his chair, leaning back, his whole demeanour making clear a refusal to acknowledge Rashdu Carva with the proper formality of his position.
Carva, for his part, ignored the angry Mehar and continued. “I want you to understand I had no idea what my father did to you and your family.”
Even Dennethom didn’t entirely believe Carva. The First Minister helped his father get elected. It was unlikely he was in the dark regarding his father’s dubious dealings. Still, Dennethom was willing to let it go.
“Because of this gross injustice, I want to install Orvan Rono as Prime Minister of Liono.” Carva turned to acknowledge Renecke. “And of course make financial reparations to you both.”
“Are you quite certain this is an offer you have the power to make?” Renecke asked, his tone filled with menace.
Dennethom took a deep breath. Knowing Renecke’s history with the Carva family, he hadn’t even wanted his Mehar to be there. However, this wasn’t a Boentu matter, and he needed someone to represent the people of Liono. Since they were still attempting to locate Orvan Rono, the old Mehar was their only hope.
“Mehar Renecke, may I speak with you privately for a moment?”
The old Arthemian warrior raised a bemused eyebrow, but nodded his head in acquiescence. The two rose, Dennethom apologised to the First Minister, and strode out of the room.
Closing the door behind him, Dennethom’s heart raced. He felt almost as nervous as he had during the battle just a few days earlier. “Mehar, I brought you in here to re-establish order on Liono. But I will be honest, I cannot do that if-”
“-if you truly wish to re-establish order on Liono, then you must remove the Carva’s from this residence,” Renecke interrupted, his gaze steely.
Dennethom’s heart sank. He hadn’t wanted to go to war with Liono in the first place, but he had done it, for the sake of his Mehar. Up until now he hoped, truly believed, that once Rashdin Carva surrendered, the Mehar would let go of his old animosities. Such was not the case. Ever since Renecke arrived on Liono one day earlier, it was as though Dennethom were watching a different person, one consumed by rage.
“We cannot remove Rashdu Carva from office,” he replied. “He is a democratically elected leader. The Boentu cannot just invade systems and put who they want in power.”
Renecke’s hands clenched, and he had to take a deep breath before responding. “I visited my wife yesterday. She has someone else now, as I told you. I saw my son who I have not seen for many cycles. He is now almost an adult and will be going to university next year. Do you understand how much time I lost because of that family?”
Heavy fire shook the RBF Ixxuth. Arjuna found herself glad she had listened to the Admiral about strapping in. That last volley of fire was bad.
“Hull integrity down five percent,” came the taught voice of the damage control officer.
“Tactical, target all weapons fire on the lead frigate’s volt cannons,” Admiral Dusairh snapped.
Dusairh was beginning to feel tense. He was under strict orders from the future Leader of Boentu to keep losses on both sides to a minimum. The fleet had disabled six of the frigates already, but the lead frigate was like an annoying insect; it kept buzzing in his face no matter how many times he swatted at it. This time the insect had even managed to sting him.
A surge of heavy volt energy hit the lead frigate, followed by a bright flash. Arjuna turned away from the bright light instinctively. As her gaze returned to the large view screen in front of her, she let out an audible gasp. An enormous gaping hole could be seen in the side of the ship. Dusairh cursed aloud.
“Sensors indicate heavy damage to lead frigate. Core gravitation unit appears non-functional. They’ve lost use of their propulsion system.”
Arjuna stared in horror. How many Arthemians served on a ship that size? How many would lose their lives today?
“Comms, send a message to the lead frigate captain offering any assistance necessary. Please remind the captain that the Boentu are not their enemies and our sole mission is to remove Prime Minister Carva from office,” Dusairh replied. He then turned to another Boentu warrior. “Commander Lyss, please ready a detachment to pick up survivors.”
“Admiral, let me go with them,” Arronanto piped up.
Arjuna turned to her brother in surprise, but it was easy to see why he would volunteer. The guilt she felt was etched even more deeply across his own face.
Dusairh shook his head. “Your assistance is appreciated, but I cannot risk you on the frigate. Besides,” he added when Arronanto made to protest. “Our warrior detachment is trained for zero gravity situations like this. You are not.”
Arronanto didn’t reply. Instead he nodded his head, and turned to look out at the dark hulk of the frigate.
“Admiral, receiving an urgent message from the Prime Minister of Liono.”
“Multiple footprints entering realspace. They’re Boentu,” said the shocked sensor array officer over the intercom.
“On screen,” Admiral Jaynus barked in CIC upon news of the Boentu ships.
Lossepharr couldn’t help but gape in surprise as ten Royal Boentu Fleet heavy cruisers filled the screen.
“The lead ship is hailing us,” said the Comms officer. “They have a message from the Ixxuth. For Tsalu Lossepharr.”
Lossepharr’s lips thinned into a grimace. “I’ll take it in private,” he muttered, and made his way to the nearest vidscreen.
After tapping in his personal security code, the blank screen was replaced by the broad grin of Arronanto. “Thought you could use a hand cousin.”
Rashdin Carva went to pour more tea but only the last, cold, sludgy remnants remained. He cursed. It was his ritual to sit and have a hot cup of tea while he enjoyed the sunset. Now the sky was dark, his tea finished, and yet he still had to stay here and await the damnable conclusion of the battle at the fuel depot. He was going to need more tea. He reached out to buzz his personal assistant, but his comms chimed.
“Prime Minister. Sensors are picking up more Boentu heavy cruisers entering realspace. They’re targeting our frigates.”
Carva frowned. This was unexpected. The Boentu boy had mentioned just one fleet. How could this be? “Lieutenant, are you saying that there’s a second fleet in-system?” He tried to ignore the feeling of alarm creeping over him.
“Yes, and that’s not all, Prime Minister. Reports from the frigate commander indicate that twenty Boentu heavy cruisers jumped away.”
“There’ll be coming here,” Carva muttered to himself.
“That is their most likely course of action.” The Lieutenant paused, feeling uncomfortable. “We expect they’ll be in Liono orbit any moment now. What are your orders, sir?”
“Exiting into real space. Heavy weapons fire ahead.”
“Tactical, target Arthemian ships, we want to disable, not destroy,” Admiral Dusairh’s calm voice rang out aboard the RBF Ixxuth. He glanced at Arjuna and her brother. “Looks as though you were correct about the fuel depot being your cousin’s first target.”
Arjuna smiled to herself as she studied the tactical readouts continuously being updated in CIC.
“My cousin’s known for his shortcuts, the stupider the better.”
Arjuna couldn’t help herself. It seemed so obvious, at least, when Admiral Dusairh had explained it to them. The fuel depot was just one in-system jump from Liono. Of course Rashdin Carva would mount a defence there.
She wondered if Admiral Jaynus, the commander of Third Fleet had argued against taking the fuel depot gateway. It wouldn’t surprise her if Lossepharr ignored the Admiral’s recommendations.
Mehar Renecke always told them that a good warrior listens to his advisers, and she liked to think that she was a good warrior. It had been Admiral Dusairh’s idea to travel the longer route, fuelling up before taking the gateway to the Arthema System. It meant doing several large, in-system jumps to catch up to Third Fleet. The ship’s engines were now working past full capacity. They would need to do a refit before taking the gateway back to Boentu space.
“He’s using decoys all right, but he’s kept a few actual frigates here to keep Third Fleet on their toes,” Arronanto remarked.
The communications officer’s voice came over the speaker. “I’ve finished analysing the heat signature of the frigates and compared it to the ones surrounding Liono. The majority are decoys. I estimate only ten frigates orbiting the planet.”
“Understood,” Dusairh responded. “Connect me to Captain Drimarch aboard the Nala.” “Connecting you now, Amdiral,” the comms officer replied.
“Captain, we’re splitting up the fleet. I want you to stay here with ten heavy cruisers to clean up this mess with Third Fleet. I’ll be leading the rest of the fleet to Liono.”
“Prime Minister, the Boentu fleet have exited the gateway. They’re targeting the mines.”
Rashdin Carva rubbed at his forehead, weary, he took a last savouring glance out the window before returning his gaze to the vidscreen.
“How much damage did the Boentu fleet sustain?” Carva asked, taking a sweet biscuit from the plate in front of him and dunking it in his tea.
“Multiple small attack craft were destroyed. Also, it looks as though several of the heavy cruisers have sustained minor hull damage. We definitely caught them off guard.”
“Good.” He bit into the moistened biscuit. “Send in the second line of defence.”
Lossepharr watched as the heavy cruiser Alon made its way through the wormhole gateway. Bright flashes of explosions and hulking metallic wreckage littered the darkness. Suddenly, a sharp shudder could be felt throughout the ship as the nose of a small attack craft unlucky enough to meet a mine crashed into the side of the heavy cruiser. It was just one of many large pieces of debris continuing on a path momentum had carved out for it.
“Minor damage to the hull on decks three through seven,” called out the damage control officer from the bridge.
“Target that debris,” snapped Captain Reka over the comms.
“How many mines left, Captain?” Admiral Jaynus asked.
“Less than thirty, admiral. No damage to the fuel depot.”
“They’re just hoping to scare us off,” the admiral replied, studying the readouts on his own screen.
It appears that way,” Reka agreed. “The heat signatures we were picking up were ghosts. They’ve been using decoys. However, we’re picking up more around Liono. Another 30-40 craft.”
“Those are probably all decoys as well,” Lossepharr sneered as he turned to Admiral Jaynus. “I told you Liono doesn’t have that many craft. The coward is fighting us with smoke and mirrors.”
Another large shudder took hold of CIC and Lossepharr grabbed the edge of a console less he loose his footing.
“We’re being targeted,” the Alon’s junior tactical officer called out.
“Admiral, Comms is picking up a message broadcasting on a continuous cycle from one of the Arthemian frigates.”
“Put it through, Captain,” Lossepharr replied before Admiral Jaynus could respond. The Admiral glanced at the young Boentu but said nothing, merely nodding his head in agreement.
Captain Reka’s face disappeared from the vidscreen only to be replaced by that of an Arthemian. Lossepharr easily recognised the fur-less features of Rashdin Carva. The Prime Minister of Liono seemed cool and collected for somebody with a battlefleet on his doorstep. However, he also appeared tired. “Attention Boentu fleet. You are violating intergalactic treaties between the Boentu star system and the Arthema star system. Any action against Liono is an act of aggression against the Arthemian race and will be considered an act of war.”
“He’s lying,” Lossepharr sneered. “Mehar Renecke says the Arthema system won’t interfere in a skirmish like this.”
Jaynus didn’t know quite how to respond. He knew Mehar Renecke well and trusted his opinion on most matters, but this whole course of action seemed, in his view, rash. Worse, what if the Mehar was wrong about Liono’s defences? Before he could reply, Captain Reka’s face appeared on-screen again.
“Sir, one of our scouts transmitted these images before a mine destroyed his craft.”
The image of the captain was replaced by the view from the cockpit of a small attack craft as it emerged through the wormhole gateway. For a moment, the area seemed clear. Jaynus could make out no sign of enemy ships. Suddenly, all around the small fighter, bright flashes erupted as mines obliterated the ships in front. Massive fragments of debris careened in all directions, The screen shuddered as the pilot fought to regain control. And then the image disappeared and the transmission was over.
Lossepharr stared at the screen for a moment, in shock. “What was that?”he asked, leaning around the admiral so that he could replay the image..
Admiral Jaynus cursed to himself before turning to the young warrior. “They’ve mined the fuel depot.”
Lossepharr’s lips curled into a small smile. He hadn’t been expecting any resistance from the Arthemians. This was most interesting. “Not a bad surprise attack. Shame he can only play that trick once.”
Jaynus agreed, his face grim. “Indeed.” He touched his comms link. “Captain, we’re bringing the fleet through the gateway. The fuel depot has been mined. Send word down the line, we need to target those mines with volt cannons.”
“Approaching the fuel depot gateway. Communications is picking up lots of chatter. Multiple heat signatures. It’s difficult to get a lock from this side of the gateway, but I’d say we’re looking at maybe 40-50 frigates.”
Standing in CIC aboard the heavy cruiser Alon, Lossepharr grimaced as a screen appeared showing the possible heat signatures from frigates at the depot. “It seems my cousin decided to inform the First Minister of our visit.” He frowned at the numbers on the display. This was not remotely the type of numbers Mehar Renecke had suggested. “Admiral, it isn’t possible Liono has that many ships at its disposal. There must be a mistake.”
Fleet Admiral Jaynus, Third Fleet’s commanding officer nodded his head thoughtfully. “I agree.” He touched a button on a panel next to him. “Captain Reka, let’s deploy some scouts. I want to know exactly how many ships we’re dealing with.”
“Sensors are picking up multiple footprints emerging from the fuel depot gateway, just as you expected, Prime Minister.”
Rashdin Carva sat in his office, peering thoughtfully out of a window at the rich green foliage outside. He dearly loved the view from his office. It wasn’t just the view either. It was the sound of insects buzzing, the breeze, the smell of late booming flowers. He glanced wearily at the small vidscreen on his desk. “How are our defences holding?” His voice was calm. Unemotional. Like a good leader should sound.
“Working just as predicted, sir. All scout ships have been taken out.”
“Good. And the message is still transmitting?”
“Yes sir. On all frequencies.”
Rashdin Carva nodded his head, switching the vidscreen off and taking a sip of hot tea before going back to his view. Just let the Boentu try and take away his view. He was ready for the furry bastards.
Dennethom cursed his cousin yet again. It was just as he predicted. The Arthemian Assembly saw the imminent arrival of Third Fleet as an act of aggression, accompanied as it is, with the proposed removal of an elected leader. But Rashdin Carva is no longer an elected leader, he reminded himself.
“I have certainly had the same thoughts as you. However, you must understand that I would not risk the lives of my warriors for something as trivial as revenge. I weighed this endeavour greatly before embarking. I believe this is a wrong that should have been corrected. You’ll forgive me if I seem impertinent, but it should have been corrected by you the Assembly.”
“You try my patience, Dennethom, future leader of the Boentu. It is not up to you to understand and judge the ways of the Arthema,” Jana replied.
“True,” Dennethom replied. “But I need you to understand that as a Boentu warrior I am morally obligated to complete this mission. I gave my word to Mehar Renecke.”
“And what precisely do you propose? You certainly did not bring the might of the Boentu to request a new ethics hearing.”
Dennethom took in all the faces of the Assembly before replying. “The removal of Rashdin Carva from the government of Liono.”
The dark skinned man scoffed. “My father is an acknowledged leader of Liono. Before his appointment to Prime Minister, he was First Minister of Liono for ten cycles. Do you honestly believe that I will simply remove my father from office at the behest of an alien race?”
“It is my understanding that the position of Prime Minister has no term limits,” Dennethom replied. “Which means that he can be in that position indefinitely unless a new First Minister chooses otherwise. Except, that is unlikely to happen since it is also my understanding that your son is being groomed for office after you.” His tone grew apologetic. “I do not wish my cause to be misunderstood. The Boentu have always had a good relationship with the Arthema system and I sincerely hope that we can continue to do so. But the fact is that Rashdin Carva forced Orvan Rono out of office and has built a political empire that ensures he remain in power, beyond the reach of the Assembly. Surely this goes against all that you stand for.”
A soft murmur arose in the Assembly hall and Dennethom knew he had hit upon a good point. The members of the Assembly were elected leaders. They did not think highly of those that hoard power, especially those that do not have to answer to the Assembly.
“I find it amusing that a Boentu who will inherit his father’s title should argue for an elected government,” Rashdu smirked. “However, as a warrior and future leader, you must surely know that I cannot simply allow you to remove my father from office.”
Dennethom nodded his head. “I hope you will see sense and understand that I do not wish for conflict.”
“I have heard enough,” said Jana. “By bringing a fleet into Arthemian territory, you have made clear that the Boentu will use force, if necessary, to remove Rashdin Carva from office. However, Rashdin Carva is not an elected representative of Liono. His rights are not protected by the Assembly.”
Upon on the large monitor, Dennethom could saw Rashdu’s face contort in anger. “Speaker of the Assembly, you cannot be serious!”
“Furthermore,” Jana continued unperturbed. “You have gone out of your way to assure the Assembly that you mean no harm to the Arthema System. You appear to be an honourable warrior, Dennethom, son of Chran. I propose that the Assembly allow your Third Fleet into the system, unchallenged. So long as the fleet remains on course for Liono, we will not interfere.”
“Are we to bow down to the requests of aliens? Speaker of the Assembly, I have to protest. The political landscape of Liono has nothing to do with the Boentu race. If you wish to make this a matter of Arthemian concern, I am happy to do so, but to allow an invasion fleet into our star system? I must object.”
“The Assembly has no jurisdiction over Rashdin Carva. You and your father have seen to that. However, your objection has been noted First Minister.” Jana’s tone was inscrutable. She turned to address her fellows. “The assembly will now vote. All those who agree, say aye. All those who disagree, say nay.”
The room fell silent for several minutes. It surprised Dennethom at how quickly the Assembly were willing to vote on the matter. In truth, he believed it would take far more convincing than that. Rashdu’s face was stony as he cast his vote. There didn’t seem to be much love lost between him and his fellow members of the Assembly. The thought suddenly occurred to Dennethom that perhaps the Assembly was using him to remove a thorn in their side; a politician they had no control over. His thoughts were confirmed when Jana finally glanced at the datapad in front of her and announced: “The ayes have it. You may bring your fleet into the Arthema System.”