Chapter 13: Three’s a Charm
The fleet left hyperspace and reentered the visible universe on the edge of the Stavic system. The ships were out of short range sensor detection but Unegen knew that a long range sweep would soon discover them so they needed to quickly move the two cruisers to the dark side of the large gas giant of this system. Huge storms raged in the planet’s atmosphere that should cause enough ionic and magnetic disturbances to mask the energy signatures of the ships drives unless someone looked very closely.
“Fleet Commander Qura to the commanders of the Tabin and the Arban transmit only on this closed frequency,” Unegen ordered. “Move your ships to the far side of the gas giant Begulus. Each one of you take two of your sub cruisers and the other four will remain with me. The Juchin and the sub cruisers will engage the talons. Our sensors have identified six talons in the system. Three are in orbit around the larger of the two inhabited planets and two orbit the smaller planet. One talon is docked at the Stavic Space Station and we believe it is undergoing repairs but do not assume that it is not operational. Hold the sub cruisers in reserve and I will use them only if needed. Our plan depends on the Fadians not realizing the presence of the other two cruisers unless a mindship jumps into the system. We will strike the larger planet first and attempt to draw the talons away from the planet. We wish to minimize surface damage and we believe the planets defenses are now in Fadian control so I would like to keep our distance. I have received information that our people on the surface will mount an attack on the seized defense weapons as soon as our attack begins. The number of Fadians on the surface is not great according to our Intel.”
“The Arban is now in position,” Gal responded.
“The Tabin is also in position.”
“Excellent,” said Unegen. “Commanders Gal and Qourchi if a mindship does jump do not wait for my command. There will be no time. Attack it with full forward weapons around the rear sensor array of the ship. Divert all the power to your forward shields that you can. Use the fighters and the sub cruisers to draw fire from their fighters and do not disengage from firing on the mindship. There is a weakness there I am sure of it. The Juchin will engage the mindship and try to give you as much time as possible. Are there any questions?”
“No fleet commander” Gal replied.
“We are ready.” Qourchi answered.
“Unegen took the fleet into the system at blistering speed. The largest inhabited planet was the fourth from the star. The Fadians had hardly gotten sensor readings before the first talon was hit by a concentrated particle beam blast from the Juchin. Unegen’s plan was to rip a small hole in the talon’s shield and deliver a plasma missile through the hole. The plasma missile was fired in exact timing to hit the shield after only a few nanoseconds of beam dwell time. This allowed the missile to enter the shield before the magnetic field reformed. Plasma is relatively useless in space unless it can be contained in some way. The missile once it punched through the shield released the plasma inside the magnetic field of the shield effectively igniting a star between the ship and its shield. The talon then had two choices, drop shields and dissipate the plasma or burn up. The talon dropped shields.
The Juchin then unleashed a barrage of particle beam bolts that destroyed the forward gyros and crippled the aft engines. The talon lost twenty five percent maneuverability and fifty percent thrust. The Juchin then pulled away to take on the next talon and the sub cruisers moved in to finish the wounded ship. Thracians hunt like wolves; cripple your prey and then close in as a group for the kill.
The next talon decided to try and vent the plasma instead of dropping shields. They were unsuccessful and a catastrophic hull breach took care of the second talon.
The Juchin moved to take on the third talon as it came around the planet where it had been in geosynchronous orbit.
“The talon that was in dock at the space defense platform has launched. Her ETA is forty five seconds,” Niurgun informed Unegen. “Her energy signature indicates forward port thruster is inoperable.”
“Excellent catch Niurgun, she will be vulnerable to starboard,” Unegen said. “Sub cruiser Negan and Yisun attack from the starboard side only. Concentrate particle beam bolts on starboard thrusters only. “
“Approaching talon is in range.” Niurgun announced.
“All remaining sub cruisers stay with me,” Unegen said as the rest of the fleet engaged the third talon.”
This Talon came in firing. The Fades used particle beam weapons as well but they are not effective against the Thracian double shield; unfortunately maintaining the double shield for extended periods was always problematic. Niurgun relayed the shield capacity to Unegen.
“The gravity drive core density is dropping; we are presently at forty five percent. Levels to maintain full shields can only be maintained for perhaps nine to ten more minutes. I request permission to address the BCC directly to attempt to stabilize core?”
Unegen knew of Niurgun’s attempt to allow the organic brain to function more freely. In the time since they had allowed Sara to communicate many systems had been brought up to never before seen levels of efficiency. Many believed that the problems that had occurred in the past with the harvested caliph brains would began again if the organic brains were allowed control but as of yet Unegens fleet had experienced no problems, only benefits.
“Permission granted, fire main particle bolt but hold plasma missile.” Unegen did not think they would fall for the same trick three times. Instead she repeatedly bombarded the same area in the shield with the main beam weapon until there was a collapse in that section of the
shield. Then she pin point targeted all four gyros with laser fire. With total loss of gyros in the talon the sub cruisers then swooped in to clean up. “
“Three down, three to go.” Unegen said as she turned the ship to take on the talon from the space defense platform.
Suddenly the space before them was not space at all but the hull of the mindship Oberon. Unegen did not have time to react but Sara did. She turned her body as gracefully as she would in the seas of home skimming along the outreaches of the mindships shields. The inertial dampeners could barely keep up. The Juchin came over the top of the mindship taking heavy fire.
Niurgun talked directly to Sara about the drive core.
“Sara, I need you to increase the density of the gravity drive core. Can you do that?”
“Sara will try. Dark matter is everywhere. If you wish me to replenish I will attempt it. The process will take a few moments.”
“Yes replenish, we thought that it could only be replenished at near light speed, I was only hoping that you could increase the density by tightening the containment field.”
“Sara will do both.” She answered and Niurgun hoped she could.
The particle beam fire from the massive guns of the Oberon began to take their toll on the Juchin. There were two small moons orbiting the planet and Unegen took the Juchin around the nearest moon giving a few seconds of relief to the shields. The eight sub cruisers were engaging the fighters that had deployed from the mindship as well as the remaining talons; the Oberon’s full attention was on the Juchin.
“We cannot take more than a few more direct hits.” Unegen pointed out. “What is the status of the shield Niurgun? Has Sara been able to increase the density?”
“She is attempting to increase shield strength Commander.” He replied.
“Tell her to hurry; it’s her ass as well as ours if that gravitational field goes down.”
The Juchin came out from the dark side of the moon just as the Arban and Tabin hit the mindship from behind targeting the area around the aft sensor array.
The presence of two more cruisers had to be quite a shock for the Oberon. The Juchin aimed all its particle beam cannons on the forward gyros of the enormous ship.
“Keep firing until our shield buckles,” Unegen ordered. “That should give the other two cruisers time to penetrate the aft shield and bring her down.”
The Juchin barreled towards the oncoming fire from the mindship.
“Sara has done as you asked Niurgun. The shield is at one hundred percent capacity.” Niurgun laughed out loud.
“Shields are at one hundred percent commander.” He announced.
Unegen didn’t even take time to look surprised.
“Fire repeated plasma missiles on my mark.”
The repeated fire from the combined particle beam cannons caused the shield to collapse in one small area over the mindship’s forward gyro and that was the break Unegen needed. She followed the particle beam bolts with laser fire breaching the hull just port of the gyro and through that breach she sent in four plasma missiles that detonated inside the ship.
At almost the same time the Tabin and Arban breeched the aft shield. As the Tabin destroyed the rear sensor array with laser fire Gal breeched the hull and sent in four more plasma missiles. The Oberon listed forward and began to roll. The loss of the forward gyros was crippling but the fires that raged through the ship were lethal. Her shields were collapsing as her commander tried to divert power to seal off the plasma fires but Unegen and the other two Cruisers continued firing. Explosions rippled across the outer hull as the atmosphere in the ships sections ignited. Escape pods began to fire from the giant ship.
Unegen then aimed all weapons at the heart of the ship to destroy the mind drive before the ship managed to jump away from the battle but she didn’t get the chance. Massive explosions rocked the ship and she began to break up. They had destroyed the mindship Oberon.
The sub cruisers had taken out two of the other talons and the Arban made quick work of the last one as it tried to run. Two of the sub cruisers had been severely damaged by fighters but the remainder of the fleet had suffered only minor damage. The Fadian fighters began to scatter once the Oberon went down and dog fights among the fighters continued for some time but in the end it was a glorious victory for Unegen’s fleet. A mindship had fallen and that had never before happened.
The holographic image of the Empress appeared on the bridge. She had not smiled like she did that day since before the attack on Erdene. She spoke with pride as she addressed the fleet.
“The destruction of the mindship Oberon has been a sobering blow to the Fadian Collective. Cali has called you a she- wolf Unegen and she has placed enormous bounties on your head and the heads of your commanders. I have never been so proud and your names will live forever on the lips of all Thracians.”
Unegen bowed her head to the Empress.
“Thank you Empress. It was a battle hard fought by all of us but it does prove that they are not invincible. How did the other fleets fare?”
“None fared as well as yours Unegen but all in all we did well across the board. Only one other mindship jumped into the Banarius system. The cruisers there were not able to destroy the ship but it was damaged enough so that it jumped out of the system. Unfortunately we lost the Cruiser Dalan and three sub cruisers in the battle. Their reports indicate that they lost gravitational shields. The other two fleets took back the systems but met no mindship resistance. How were you able to maintain your shield strength?”
“Niurgun is responsible for that Empress. I will have him send the information to you so that it can be forwarded to all cruisers. It just might be the difference we need to stand against these giant ships.” Unegen smiled at her cousin.
“Excellent,” the Empress replied, “I do not think they will fall for this again but it cost them a mindship and crippled another. A replacement fleet will be sent to the Stavic system so you can move on to the next assignment. They should be there in ninety days. In the meantime aid the surface colonies in any way you can and round up any survivors.”
“Empress, what is our next mission?” Unegen just hated she had to wait ninety days. She was ready for the next fight.”
“While we were taking back four colonies the Fadians attacked three more. I told you this would be a war of attrition. You will go and take them back. You are my right hand Battle Fleet Commander Unegen Qura.”
Unegen heard the same words her grandmother had whispered in her ear so many years ago, the same ones Rowan had repeated to her…
“I am honored, Empress. I will not fail you.”
Many years passed and the Great War raged on. One system would fall to the Fadians only to be retaken by the Thracians. Each side suffered greatly but never enough to turn the tide. The Empress’ war of attrition wore on with no end in sight as whole systems were laid waste and the death count was past calculating.
Niurgun served under Unegen for almost five hundred earth years before he took his own command. He was given the new Cruiser Jagun and he joined Unegens fleet. Sara welcomed her new sister who Niurgun soon learned was called Dash which means good luck in Thracian. The Thracians had taken to calling their ships by both names now so Niurgun’s ship was the Jagun Dash. The combination of the sentient biological brain and the AI had proven to be more beneficial than anyone had even hoped.
Unegens fleet was known as the Blood Wolves and they were the most feared of all the battle fleets. Since the defeat of the Oberon they had taken down four more Mindships and hundreds of Talons. The bounties on their heads would buy a planet.
In the year 2012 Earth time the Blood Wolves returned to the Thracian system for repairs and supplies. Niurgun had not seen his mother in person much in the last thousand years so he was looking forward to seeing her. He was also there to ask permission to jump between systems. The year he had waited for so long had finally arrived and only thirty days separated him from seeing Rowan again.
The blue glow filled the throne room as Niurgun appeared. The huge room was dark and smelled of exotic woods and leather. The stained glass windows, each one depicting one of the sixteen main solar systems in the Division, cast colored shadows across the stone floor. The throne was nothing more than a large ancient chair that was made of wood from the sacred tree at the Well of the Galax on Tegus. Grand tapestries hung on the walls depicting scenes of hunts, battles and picturesque landscapes, the ceiling was a holographic depiction of space, so real it was almost disorienting to those not accustomed to the sight. The antique tapestries all reminded Niurgun of the beautiful tunic Rowan had been wearing the last time he saw her. He and his mother held each other for a long time.
“It is so good to hold you again my son,” she said as she brushed his hair back from his eyes as if he was a small boy again.
“I have never been so glad to be home.” I have some things that I must tell you in private, he thought to her as they held each other.
The Empress let go of her son and turned to the people in the room
“Please excuse us but I wish to be alone with my son for a while. We have been apart for so long.”
Everyone murmured their approval and left the room some giving Niurgun a firm pat on the back or a hand shake. Most were his family or advisors of his mother that he had known since he was a boy. When they had all gone his mother sat on the large ceremonial chair and Niurgun pulled up a plain leather covered stool to sit beside her. The Empress spoke first.
“So tell me what is so important that it must be the first thing we speak of when there is so much to say to one another?”
Niurgun had been over what he was going to say on this day a thousand times and suddenly he did not know where to start. He hesitated for a moment.
“Do you remember the day that I told you I had been visited by a time traveler who claimed to be Annunaki?”
“How could I forget?” His mother said. “That was the day Erdene was attacked and so many died; that was the day this war started.”
Niurgun nodded solemnly.
“The time traveler gave me a necklace that was to be given to my daughter and then passed on until it was in the hands of the one for whom we wait. In thirty days that person will send her first object and I must be the first one to get to her. She is the one for whom we wait, she is of our blood mother and I believe that she is also the Eki.”
The Empress looked shocked.
“Niurgun you had a daughter?”
“The night I left earth during the battle where the Gamus was destroyed I left the Annunaki necklace with a woman who carried my child. She was an incredible woman named Erdene. I named her that when she was just a baby because her eyes were the color of the skies of
Erdene. The mother of my child was half Fadian, the daughter of Lord Brannoc Tong Durai, granddaughter of the Divine Mother.”
The Empress leaned forward, “You know I have lived a long time and not many things surprise me but you have managed to do that today son. Why did you not bring her with you?”
“Well for one thing she was Fadian,” Niurgun replied, “and I really did not think she would be welcome aboard any Thracian ship but more importantly she had to be on earth so that eventually Rowan would be born on earth. Rowan is the product of a very complicated Annunaki plan to produce the Eki. She is Tolui and she is sender, she can speak to animals like a Fadian, she is telekinetic and probably much more but we were separated before I could discern all of her abilities. But one thing I do know she is the most powerful sender ever born. She initiated a time jump without any training and no collar.”
Niurgun closed his eyes and recited the words Rowan had made him memorize.
“I must meet her on October 6, 2012 earth time in a parking lot in Pittsburgh at 6:23pm beside a red Toyota Celica.” He opened his eyes.
“She told me where I must be and when but I need your permission to be there. It is a long jump and the power usage will be tremendous.”
The Empress was silent for a moment.
“Of course you have permission to jump if for no other reason your service to the Division for the last ten centuries has earned you the right to go with no questions asked but do you know for sure she will come with you?”
“I know for sure she will not.” Niurgun answered emphatically.
The Empress was surprised for the second time that day as Niurgun continued.
“When I jumped to intercept her she would not come with me but my contact with her activated her latent telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Her abilities then save her life in the following twenty four hours and allow her to meet me in the past. If I had not let her go events would not have transpired that would eventually lead to her birth. She is a time paradox. The events she initiated in the distant past were necessary for her to be born in the future. Mother you remember my dream, the one where I believed you were trapped behind the mirror?”
“Of course I do son.”
“It was her behind the mirror not you. She gave me Bayar and it was unlike any Bayar I have ever experienced. She was there with me; the dream is in her memory as well. She and I must go to Tegus and we must face the darkness together. I also believe that she will be the one to end this war and for that reason Cali will seek her destruction above all others.”
Mongke reached out and took hold of Niurgun’s hands.
“I have not seen what you have seen but I trust you Niurgun, of course you may jump.”
Niurgun knew the next part was going to be the hardest for her to agree to.
“There is more I am afraid. She will be captured by us and then released from Thracian hands back into the custody of Brannoc Tong Durai in the past on Earth. The reason for her release then is the same as my reason for going now. If I had not released her she would not have been born a thousand years later. Brannoc will of course take her to the Academy on Availon. It is from there that I must rescue her; I promised her I would come for her.”
The shock on Mongke’s face was obvious as she shook her head.
“I believe extraction from the Academy to be impossible Niurgun.”
“I agree,” Niurgun said as he nodded, “but they will arrive at the circle in the royal garden and they will all walk down the Avenue of Weeping Trees. I know exactly how many of them there are and the precise moment they will arrive. I plan to use the advantage of my knowledge of future events to take her before she reaches the Academy.”
Mongke was silent for a moment as she thought it all out. Finally she spoke.
“It is certainly a bold plan but for one so important I can justify the risk.”
Niurgun let out a long breath. He had waited many years to tell his mother and even though he had always known that she would believe him hearing her say it was a huge relief.
“First I will jump to earth and intercept Rowan before the Fades get her. I will watch them from a distance until I know they have made the accidental time jump and then I will jump back here from the stones at Callanish. Then we will have three days before we jump to Availon.
I will need about ten soldiers to take Brannoc’s party. They have two Carliffs with them and two senders not counting Rowan. She will be collared with a dampening collar but they will not yet have put on the control collar. We will have the element of surprise and even with her collar on Rowan will still have telekinetic power. I have thought about this for a thousand years and I believe this is the only chance to get her. Once she is in the Academy it will be too late.”
“Well at least you have a little time to spend with me before you go,” Mongke said as she smiled. “You love her don’t you son?”
“More than life mother, more than life.”
Niurgun spent most of the time until the jump planning out every move he would make. He knew what Rowan had told him about what he had done and what he had said, he felt that he had to repeat it exactly. Once he was done on earth he would jump back to Erdene and lead the rescue to Availon. He and Rowan would be together again and before he knew it the day of the jump arrived. His mother stood beside him on the platform of the Great Circle of Erdene.
“I still think you should not go alone,” she said.
“I went alone the first time so I must go alone this time,” he replied, he wished he could reassure her more but he couldn’t.
“Perhaps you were not alone; maybe Rowan just did not see that there were others with you?” Mongke suggested.
“I can’t take the chance that I will change what happened. I must go alone.” Niurgun said as he walked to the middle of the great circle.
His mother backed away off the platform. She raised her hand and mouthed the words I love you as the blue glow intensified; Niurgun disappeared and then reappeared in the stone circle at Callinish. He immediately jumped to the River Street parking lot at the University of Pittsburgh.
He stood in the blowing snow under the sodium vapor lights and waited by her red Toyota. In all the years he had waited this moment seemed the longest by far.
Finally the metal bar of the heavy door just on the other side of the parking lot made a loud clunk and the door swung open. Light flooded out of the building reflecting off the falling snowflakes. From where Niurgun stood in the deepening twilight he could not tell who was coming out of the door.
The door closed and Niurgun could see Rowan in the pink twilight. Her thick red hair cascaded across her shoulders and half way down her back. She was so tall and beautiful it caused him physical pain to see her. He wanted to run to her and take her in his arms. He wanted to make love to her for days somewhere far away from the Fades and the war but he stood his ground knowing that her very existence depended on what he did in the next few moments.
She was reaching into her pocket and then she looked up. He could tell she saw him because her gait slowed.
Rowan, he thought to her as gently as he could. He saw her winch; he knew that the first telepathic connection could be painful. She stopped.
Rowan you don’t need to be afraid, he thought
“Who are you!” she shouted back at him.
Ask me with your mind, he thought trying to help her learn to use her telepathic ability.
Are you fucking crazy? Was Rowan’s answer.
He smiled as her answer came back at him as clear as a bell.
No I am perfectly sane, he thought back. You have abilities you don’t understand and I am here to help you. Something happened to you today did it not?
Rowan backed up a couple of steps.
How did he know that, Rowan thought to herself?
Niurgun could see the fear on her face. It hurt him to frighten her so and it hurt him even more to think of what she was going to have to go through in the next day. She would have her world ripped from her, be wrapped in biogel, be viciously attacked, almost raped and killed, kill a man and then almost die. Of course the two days that followed would more than make up for the trouble but he could not think about that now. He had to focus on this moment.
We all felt it, the whole universe felt it, he thought to her. That is why I am here to take you somewhere safe before the others come.
What others? Rowan thought, this way of communication came so naturally to her she did not even realize she was doing it.
He could feel the panic in her thoughts. He tried to explain.
The Fades, I know that name means nothing to you but they will come for you and it will be soon and if not them it will be someone worse. Come with me now before it is too late. I can hide you.
Rowan flashed him one of her brilliant smiles and then laughed out loud.
You must be crazy if you think I am going anywhere with you. Now get away from my car!
Niurgun took two steps back to catch his balance. The force of her thought had pushed him back hard.
I had forgotten your strength. He thought to her. We have never seen such strength in a newling, my mother is very anxious to meet you.
He knew Rowan had told him that this had infuriated her so he braced himself for what was to come. His shield was at maximum strength.
Your mother, you plan to show me to your mother?
He could feel the anger rising in her thoughts.
Please Rowan, understand my mother is the most powerful sender in the entire Division, may be in the whole universe. She can protect you, train you, and help you to understand what you are. Please come with me now. They are here.
He stepped forward into the light so she could see him. His eyes caught the light and reflected it. He showed her his fangs because she said that had been what had truly frightened her.
I know I look different. I am different but we are not as unalike as you think. That is why you can hear me. Please don’t fear me. I wish you could remember….
He felt like he was losing it. He wanted to tell her the truth. He wanted to take her away now.
GET OUT OF MY HEAD! Rowan screamed in her thoughts.
Niurgun flew at least twelve feet backwards and landed on the hood of her car. His shield had deflected a great deal of the force and the energy dissipated around him in crackling blue lights. Even so it took him a moment to recover. Rowan took off running. Niurgun jumped to the roof of the building Rowan had come out of. He saw her stop and turn to see if he was following her.
Whatever you do don’t tell them you could hear me, he thought as she ran down the street towards a low building made of stone. Niurgun turned off all of his devices and crouched down. He knew Brannoc and Sukh would be there any moment and he did not want to show up on their sensors.
He had not waited long when the blue glow grew in intensity in the dark alley beside the stone building and Brannoc and Sukh walked out into the street. They both looked at their comps. Niurgun knew his jump signature would still be in the area but they would just assume it was any one of a multitude of bounty hunters that could have come to retrieve Rowan. They scanned the area for energy signatures; he saw them point in the direction of the parking lot. Niurgun was running dark so he was hidden from the scan. When they were satisfied that there was no one close that they needed to be worried about they turned and walked into the building where Rowan had gone.
Niurgun looked down from the four story building and he could see the glass roof tops of the conservatory in the distance. The snow was falling a bit harder now and twilight had turned to night. He knew that Rowan would cause an aborted jump and that the three of them would end up in the conservatory. He waited until he saw the flash of blue light and he knew they were in the conservatory.
Niurgun made a sightline jump to the street behind the conservatory and he waited for the second blue flash. Rowan had said that another group of bounty hunters had jumped into the conservatory and that was what had forced Brannoc to make the jump.
The second blue flash came and then the third as Brannoc, Rowan and Sukh jumped to avoid the other hunters. Niurgun knew they were gone a thousand years into the past. He looked down at his comp and as he reached with his other hand to activate his shield everything went white.