Part 35: Auroran - Part 04 - September 30th, 1178 NC: HazingSeptember 30th, 1178 NC: Hazing
Welcome to Heraan!
It's worth noting that at this point, for some reason every single non-Heraan Auroran ship is hostile on sight to us. This will become relevant soon enough. We travel to Dominance, it's a single jump away.
When you open your hatch you are greeted by a heavily muscled man covered from head to toe with layer upon layer of savage looking tattoos. He steps forward.
"I am Techerakh," he introduces himself quietly. "You have word from my brother Archindar, whom you would know as Flannigan?"
After a moment of confusion you nod and begin relating the recent events concerning the Wild Geese. It takes several minutes, but he listens without comment, watching you calmly. When you finish, he nods slightly, as the silence grows between you.
"This is unfortunate," he acknowledges with quiet sympathy. "The Archekro are fine warriors, and do not deserve to be betrayed this way."
You look on in confusion.
"We have a tradition amongst the warriors of the Empire," Techerakh explains mildly, "of honoring those people and units that have distinguished themselves by giving them a name of honor. After the battle in which Archindar led the Wild Geese to defeat an Auroran raid and save Commander Raczak, those that survived honored you all by giving you all the name 'Archekro' which means 'they who dance with blood and war'.
"Regardless," he continues, returning to the matter at hand, "we must address the problems before us. I am prepared to offer the Archekro sanctuary here in Heraan space in return for their services in defending it. But first, I want to test the mettle of those on whom we will be depending on to help vouchsafe our borders, for while I have heard that you are all capable warriors, it is better to see these things for yourself.
"Drop by the station 'Dominance' in the Heraan Cov system sometime in the next few weeks," he finishes quietly, "and there may be a mission for you."
With that, he turns and walks away with the graceful stride of a born warrior.
Dominance is the major military base of the Heraan House. Because of its relative closeness to the Empire's border with the Federation, the tens of thousands of warriors here are assisted by many young 'Dechtakars', as the warriors who are loyal to Aurora rather than the Five Families call themselves. Because of this post, there are very tight ties between the Dechtakars and the Heraan House, and Heraan warriors who serve here carry the title 'Avarach' with pride. 'Avarach' translates into Basic as 'he who would die for his brothers from across space'.
Guess which of these two is more relevant to the plot.
Dominance's Bar posted:
Here the Heraan warriors and the Rimertan Dechtakars cement the ties of brotherhood forged between them in battle with a few quiet drinks and many loud stories.
As you sit sipping your drink you see Techerakh with another Auroran warrior enter the bar and make his way over to you. He introduces the man as Bariod, the dockmaster for the Dominance station.
"Archindar says that you are a pilot of skill and honor," he compliments you straightforwardly. "So, will you please deliver these sealed orders to Bazara, my brother. He's currently on Skye in the Murasaki system. However, he will not be there for long, so you must hurry. Will you carry them for me?"
"Not for much longer" just means that there's a very deliberate effort to shorten our lifespan.
"Good," Techerakh nods brusquely. "Here is a picture of Bazara, study it carefully, you would not want to mistake him for someone else. It is important that you are wary, as House Moashi dogs will try to intercept them. They are the cause of our predicament, but not for long. Oh no, not for much longer."
I take the sensible route and jet away with all speed.
We reach Skye not long after.
Skye is smallish for an inhabited planet. It has a slightly rarefied atmosphere, but a high internal density that provides a gravity of 0.992 standard G. Many forms of life flourish on this bountiful paradise world, which has all the environments you might expect from a class-M planet. Skye is a provincial world, and the people here are happy and carefree. The troubles of the universe seldom intrude in this best garden of the Federation. The population numbers many Gaelic people, and celebrations of traditional feast days are always exuberant. The sunsets over Hope Bay on the western hemisphere continent of Llyril are a marvel of the galaxy, and are perfect for quiet contemplation of life.
We walk into a random bar and instantly find Bazara.
Skye's Bar posted:
You walk in to hear the strains of a melodious folk-song being sung lustily and well by most of the patrons. You are immediately whisked into their midst and given a drink and shown a damn good time.
He obviously thinks highly of us, since he immediately offers up the next mission - bring his team back to Dominance.
You find Bazara in a spaceport bar in Skye. You walk over and pass him the orders. He looks at you with a surprised respect, and opens them. His face turns stony as he reads.
He looks at you and says, "The day of our vengeance grows closer. With the help of the skills you have learned in the Wild Geese, our dreams will become reality." He hands you a 25,000 credstick, "For your diligence."
"I think I will keep my eye on you," he notes inscrutably. "I have a feeling that you will one day be measured as a great warrior. You already have some standing from your time serving under Archindar (whom you call Flannigan), but you need to get out there and start earning a name for yourself as a warrior amongst the Heraan. Keep dropping back here, though, because I will have something more for you when I think you are ready."
"It is a simple task. By using simple civilian ships, we have amassed enough weapons for our reserves at Dominance to break the Moashi blockade from the inside out. We have given you this mission out of our respect for your skills as a member of the Wild Geese, but it is also a test. Your efforts will be noted."
We don't get the most friendly reception back at Heraan Cov. Life is hard in Aurora.
The now familiar men load your cargo. Once inside your ship, they remove the simple dockworker garb that made their disguise, and stand before you in the cloth of Auroran warriors. Bazara cuts an impressive figure in his armor, decorated with many small frescoes of battles, recent and long past.
220,000,000,000 people, can't be too hard to find one, right?
The cargo is unloaded amongst the fleet of warships preparing to do battle with House Moash and Bazara and his team head for debriefing.
"You have passed the test comfortably. You have honored the memory of all those who ever served with you in the Wild Geese," you feel your eyes prick with tears at the memory of Michaleen, and Bazara nods in respect for your feelings towards your former comrade before continuing on.
"Now it is time for you to enter House Heraan. You must travel to Heraan itself and find Kuron; an elder of the House, and the man my brother and I report to. He would have no trouble finding tasks for an enterprising pilot such as yourself," says a respectful Bazara before heading off.
You have barely walked into the bar when all conversation around you ceases. A man walks towards you, the weight of ages upon his withered shoulders.
He looks you up and down, and smiles broadly. "But you're a girl, the pilot who so greatly impressed my two Kachi. You must be good, very good, for they are not easy to impress. I understand that you wish to serve House Heraan. Are you willing to face the trials required to enter it?"
Well, can't be too bad, right? We show up alongside six other initiates. They immediately gang up on us. Hardly fair, but then again, we're the one in the three-million-credit heavy fighter.
"Before you may take your place amongst us, you must prove yourself worthy of the honor of becoming a warrior. Go to the Laok system and battle the other would-be warriors that wait for you there. Before you return here you must defeat them all - don't worry, they all have escape pods, we want this to be non-lethal. They will try to disable you, it is the Auroran way."
Everyone thoroughly lased, we return.
You land exhausted but elated. Your pulse quickens as you remember the heady feeling of battle. Kuron pushes through the throng of cheering warriors and instructs you to fly to Gungungun immediately, for the rites of warriorhood, and your new existence.
And off we go. Time to get mystical.
Midday. Awakening from too much ale, with heavy head but light heart, you bid your new-found friends adieu, and go for a brief jaunt to freshen up before your journey.
Along the promenades and balconies of the enormous Heraan family arcology, you feel a strange sense of destiny. Here are people at least as decent and honorable than those you have left behind. Yet...
With only a little trepidation you continue on your way to your ship to begin your journey to Gungungun.
What the hell is a Fed Carrier doing this far in Auroran space? And why does it hurt so much?
Gungungun is a long haul. Along the way, we get viciously attacked...
Damnit! The drop bears strike again! We actually do lose two weeks and a bit of cash recovering. Hopefully the ceremony will wait for us.
You are casually wandering around the spaceport when you are surprised by a heavy weight crashing onto your shoulders and pain across your head, chest and arms. Mercifully you quickly fall unconscious.
You wake up some time later in an Auroran hospital where you are informed that you are merely the latest victim of the devastating Auroran Drop Bear. You spend two weeks recuperating before discharging yourself and paying your medical bills vowing to keep a better eye out above you whenever in an Auroran port from now on.
Remember how every Auroran ship hates us? It doesn't really help that I respond in kind. Sorry.
What a ridiculous name.
Although most Aurorans have little time for religion, this planet is the religious center for the Empire. This religion consists of a belief in an ethos of impeccability, and a cycle of rebirth depending on a person's actions in the previous life. Even the warriors, who live by this same ethos, only pay lip service to the priests on Gungungun, and most Aurorans have even less tolerance of the idea, and live out their lives ignoring it.
The Aurorans are pretty interesting in that they have massive populations outstripping the other factions at least 10:1, yet a warrior caste that isn't much larger. Where is the rest of the civilization's massive economic output? Maybe the warriors are just a tiny subculture in the glorious socialist arcolotopias of the space-future.
The monks welcome you, an initiate into the Auroran faith. An anonymous faithful robes you in the dark crimson of House Heraan, and the purple sash of the Auroran Empire. He takes you to a small cell and bids you to fast and consider the nature of death. When you emerge, a young monk bars your path, and demands to know what death is.
"Death is release. A breaking of the fiery chains of honor and duty." The words leap unbidden from your mouth, as if they have lived within you always and were merely awaiting this moment to reveal themselves. The monk beckons. You follow him to a central chamber where, in a private ceremony, the abbot tattoos two chains of blazing fire from shoulder to shoulder, and the insignia of House Heraan on your favored arm. He intones softly, "Once the chains are broken, warrior, and the wars are lost and won, you will enter the hall of heroes and rejoice with them for eternity."