Vailiynkee -- The First Encounter
The Ambasatari, with Kamala in overall command, is in a high orbit above the planet of Binos observing the pandemonium breaking out about the planet below as ships try to break free of orbit and from the docks. The comm is jammed with panicked incoming calls despite broad band messages in fifteen intergalactic languages emanating from Binos demanding calm and order. Spaceships collide one with another exploding into fields of debris while still more flotsam and jetsam in the form of cargo holds jettisoned from ships trying to lighten their load in an effort to make fast their escape litter the space-ways. From the Ambasatari’s main screen, Kamala and crew watch horrified as visions of ships with gaping holes in their hulls or pieces of cables and fuel lines still attached to them fleeing into deep space pass by them.
Overwhelmed by cries for help, Kamala is faced with the distasteful task of doing ship triage: rendering assistance to damaged ships that stand a chance of survival, letting ships with only minor damage make their own repairs and abandoning the hopelessly damaged ships to their doom. However, the Ambasatari soon finds herself not alone in her task as ships from other systems warp in to rescue the crews from doomed ships. The cargo ship Radiant, out of Solaria, is brought into the Ambasatari’s hanger for repairs. The grateful ship’s captain makes payment in the form of the Radiant’s cargo which is planting seed newly acquired from Lynphea. Stella, who had been making ready to return to Solaria before the storm broke, graciously sees the Radiant off wishing her captain and crew a safe trip home. Despite wanting to take the offered passage home, Stella elects to remain aboard the Ambasatari until Bloom and the other Winx are safely back. She misses her son, Mazal, but knows he’s in good hands – after all, what are maids, servants and the royal nanny for?
Three days later, the Ambasatari is still searching for ships in distress. It is the night watch ship’s time aboard the Ambasatari. In the Captain’s chair sits Mieze, leader of one of the three Cat-Witch Guard trix. To her right is the foxmorph, Vulpa, who is ship’s advisor. Before her are the other members of her trix and new members of the Cat-Witch Guard: The lynxmorph, Elk Charm, on scanners and communications and the grey and white tabby, Tatha, at the helm. Behind her on shields and weapons is the Specialist, Prince Sky.
“This is Captain Tkikikiki of the Vailiynkee cargo vessel Saaavkikk hailing any ship in this parsec for assistance,” comes a voice, harsh and staccato, over the intergalactic emergency hailing frequency. “We’re losing atmosphere and venting plasma. We are in urgent need of assistance.” The call is followed by a rattle of code relaying the ship’s coordinates.
Mieze feels herself caught between mistrust and the unspoken rule that all must come to the aid of other ships in distress. “Where do these coordinates put us, helm?” she asks Tatha.
“It’s near a space debris field twelve centi-parsecs from Binos,” replies her helmswoman.
“Helm, bring us into range close enough for visual inspection and visual ship-to-ship communication but not too close,” orders Mieze. “Steady as she goes.”
“Aye, Captain,” replies Tatha.
“Shields and scanners on stand-by,” orders Mieze.
“Aye, Captain,” comes the reply from Elk Charm and Prince Sky.
Soon enough, they encounter a small ship that looks like a drab grey beetle with its legs tucked under its belly.
“Captain, she’s leaking atmosphere and plasma,” confirms Elk Charm. “I’ll try to establish visual communications.”
Within seconds, a creature appears on the view screen that looks as if someone had taken pieces of a grasshopper, a wasp and a beetle and grafted them onto a humanoid body.
“This is Captain Mieze of the Ambasatari,” states Mieze. “How may we assist you?”
“We are venting atmosphere and the ship is filling with hard radiation. It’s only a few hours before one, the other, or both kill us,” comes a voice – cold and tinny – through the speakers. “We and our ship are in desperate need of transport to Vailiyn. Would you allow us to land in your hanger?”
Something in that sends up immediate red flags in Vulpa’s mind then using only ear flicks, nose twitches and tail swishes signals a cut-off of communications.
“They’re playing on what they believe to be our ignorance,” explains Vulpa to Mieze who is looking at her with her eyebrows lowered and her ears partially down. “They are insectoids. That means they can live for weeks in zero atmosphere and can withstand hard radiation far beyond what vertebrate humanoids can.”
“I scanned for life forms and couldn’t even pick up hers,” reports Elk Charm.
“You won’t,” replies Vulpa, “at least not by means of standard life form detection. Look, Captain,” she cautions, “if we allow that ship to land in our hanger, we may well be allowing access to a ship packed from stem to stern with an armed boarding party.”
Mieze looks pensive. “Elk Charm, do a deeper scan. Sky, have battle shields on standby and prepare a low-yield photon torpedo and be ready to fire at my command. Computer, bring the ship to silent Yellow Alert.”
“Aye, Captain,” reply all.
“Well, look here, Captain,” says Elk Charm. “The whole surface of the ship is pitted with vents -- some disguised as hull breaches that release both atmospheric and radioactive gases. And yes, she does have cargo holds on her larboard and starboard but fore and aft are dummy holds hiding large caliber cannons.”
“So, she’s definitely an unfriendly,” says Mieze, her ears now plated against her skull and her whiskers bristling. “Let’s shake the tree a bit and see what falls out. Sky, launch that torpedo over her bow. “Look sharp, everyone!” then the Cat-Witches lower the special visors that protect their sensitive eyes.
The shell bursts into a star above the Vailiynkee ship which immediately turns tail and rushes into the debris field.
“Shall we pursue, Captain?” asks Tatha.
“No, hold steady!” orders Mieze. “That’s only the booga-booga ship. It’s an attempt to lure us into the debris field where our manoeuvrability will be hampered then they’ll have us set up for a Vailiynkee gang-bang. Red alert! Battle shields up! All weapons online!”
All watch as the Vailiynkee raider flies into the debris field. Suddenly, the Ambasatari is besieged by a swarm of enemy raiders that has sprung up from its hiding places amongst the debris and is rushing towards the Ambasatari with all weapons ablaze.
“Firing solution Vessa!” yells Mieze then the helm is filled with the hissing sounds of the ship’s many Gatling cannons sending a criss-cross of flying metallic death into space and the screech of armour-piercing torpedoes launching from their bays.
There is a deafening crash and the ship shudders.
“That was an enemy raider ramming our shields,” reports Elk Charm.
“No damage,” reports Sky. “We are mowing them down by the hundreds but still some are getting through. It’s only a matter of time before one of them finds a vulnerable spot.”
“Many drops of water upon a stone,” says Mieze, acknowledging Sky’s assessment but Sky knows that it is pointless to suggest retreating. Witch mentality does not work that way. The Witch code of conduct is: ‘Come back bearing your shield or on it.’ Once engaged in a fire-fight, Witches won’t back down. The battle goes on until they destroy the enemy or they themselves are destroyed. To them, anything else is unthinkable.
The Ambasatari shakes again as another Vailiynkee raider hits its shields. Vulpa, who has been following the battle, suddenly barks, “That one! Hit that one!” while pointing to a bluebottle green ship with insectoid versions of a deathhead painted on its bow and sides.
“Bring it down!” yells Mieze to Sky.
A burst of fire renders the ship into so much space dust. Then, as quickly as the battle began, it stops as the Vailiynkee raiders turn tail and flee into the debris field.
“Knock out as many as you still can!” Mieze orders Sky.
There is soon silence again throughout the Ambasatari.
“What just happened?” enquires Elk Charm.
“We knocked out their flagship,” explains Vulpa. “The others suddenly found themselves leaderless so they fled.”
“Wasn’t that just a bit bloodthirsty, firing on retreating ships?” questions Sky, obviously upset about the last order.
“Maybe to Faeries,” replies Mieze, “but we had to put the fear of the Goddess into them.”
“We may have just kicked a hornets’ nest instead,” counters Sky, to which Mieze nods in agreement but with her ears down and her whiskers twitching.
By this time Kamala and Tora-ko are on the bridge. Mieze gives the two a brief rundown of the encounter. “What have we learned from this?” asks Kamala once the bridge crew is gathered around her.
“We need scanner upgrades to detect Vailiynkee lifeforms,” Elk Charm is quick to reply.
“One of those raiders nearly took out our gyros and stabilizers,” reports Tatha. “We need better shielding for those areas.”
“We need vastly more mobile weapons platforms,” is Sky’s contribution. “In short: we need raiders. I would like to set a dragon on those who insisted that we were on a ‘peaceful mission’ so we didn’t need raiders.”
“Agreed on all points,” nods Kamala. “We’ll go to Daingneach to have this done.”
“Forget Daingneach,” interjects Tora-ko. “They couldn’t build a capable raider if their lives depended on it. Go to Katz. I have contacts there. They can provide everything for us without shaving the fur off our hides.”
“Yes, and at Katz we’ll still be in instant communications range of Binos,” adds Elk Charm. “But how are we to pay for all this?”
“Captain Shego entrusted me with a bag of blue ice diamonds for such needs,” grins Kamala. “We have enough to purchase a whole fleet of Tiger Claw class raiders, their pilots, support crews, parts and munitions and still have plenty left over for all the other upgrades. To your posts, everyone. Helm, lay in a course for Katz.”