Part 39: Auroran - Part 08 - November 30th, 1179 NC: Deep-fried DonitzNovember 30th, 1179 NC: Deep-fried Donitz
Having successfully completed our first Dechtakar assignment, we gallivant across the galaxy a bit, restocking on missiles and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. We pick up a science team headed for Kont along the way. Returning to Rimerta, we are immediately met by Lo Wang, having spent the New Year in a bar.
Upon landing you are met by Lo Wang, who informs you that a Moashi dignitary named Duradar will soon be visiting his great nephew on Auroran LP I in the SPC-1421 system. His rank is sufficiently high to require an escort to the strife-ridden border settlement. This time you will be sent without Hune to escort him from here to SPC-1421.
You struggle with your rage at being used in such a lowly manner, but after a moment you calm yourself and begin to realize that you are being tested, and that Lo Wang is waiting for your answer. What will it be?
The sheer lack of irony is staggering. It's like reading the Freeper thread... except we are the Freepers.
Lo Wang nods, satisfied with your response. He leads you over to an older man who has a disdainful expression on his face.
"You would leave me in the protection of this cur from that honorless house?" sneers Duradar. "I say that the Dechtakars are fools!"
Lo Wang, unperturbed, points out that if you should fail the Moash would have a case against the Heraan House, so who better to protect you than an ancient enemy? With a flash of insight, you realize that Lo Wang is right, and you vow to protect this scum from any harm while he is in your care.
"Very well," Duradar concedes in his condescending manner. "It might be entertaining to watch one of the barbaric Heraani working towards the good of a proper House for once."
You roll your eyes at Lo Wang after Duradar sweeps past, and he has a hard time keeping a straight face behind the pompous fool...
Duradar's pretty damn prepared to handle himself, showing up in a Cruiser. Regardless, he's under our command for the trip. I head off to Kontik to deliver the probe during the trip to LP I out of spite.
We stop a few times to refuel.
Atar has been settled for only a little more than a century, but it is so iron-rich that what started as a small mining community is now the largest mining operation in the Known Galaxy. Some thirty billion people are involved in the process, and the ore is shipped throughout the Empire to all the shipyards for the major houses. This planet is the biggest income earner for the central seat of the Empire, and is jealously guarded by warriors loyal to the First Family. No ship goes through this system without being thoroughly scanned.
Atar's Bar posted:
This lower floor of this two-level bar is filled with hundreds of miners all having a few drinks after coming off their shifts. The second, better appointed level is filled with many ferociously tattooed warriors wearing the white and gold colors of the First Family.
And we finally reach LP I. Normally escort missions require you to at least defend, but this was almost a total pacifistic cakewalk.
"Well, it seems that when put to use protecting those of us who are worthy of such security, even the Heraani are capable of performing to a level that is acceptable, if only barely," sneers Duradar. "Still, I fully expect you to run back to where you came from, where they will encourage you in the bad manners you have shown throughout the journey here. It would do you well, girl, to remember that you should respect your betters!"
As he starts to walk away, all the many hours of snide and derogatory comments finally becomes too much, and now that you have discharged your service to this pompous windbag, you let fly with a single comment that stops him in his tracks.
"You can be assured, Duradar, that whenever I meet my betters, I will be more than ready to respect them. Until then, I will simply discharge my duty."
With that you turn away to head back to your ship for the journey back to Rimerta smiling at the indignant sputtering of the Moashi fool...
Passing through Sol is the fastest way back. I drop the scientists off along the way, just to have our gesture thrown back in our faces:
What a jerk. At least the Dechtakars respect us when we return to Rimerta.
"Thank you for taking us on our journey, but you're a girl," Jerry smiles.
In the time he has been on your ship you have grown quite fond of the man, and his quiet manner. He hands you a credit chip and tells you that future generations of spacefarers will probably take routes to new systems simply because of the research you have helped with your service. You wonder about what the probe will find 'out there'. Perhaps the universe that you are beginning to know so well will only turn out to be a corner of what is really in existence. Perhaps the probe will be the first human contact with an alien race. Only time will tell.
Do you want to continue the plot [ Y / N ]
As you sit in the bar, sipping the drink bought for you by Hune, Lo Wang walks in and come over to you. "The Wild Geese have made a strike against Auroran interests in the Freya system," he informs you. "We need you two to reinforce the Auroran interests in the system."
Once again there is that odd moment of silence as both Hune and Lo Wang await your answer to the implied question of whether or not you will do your duty, even against those who were your comrades whom you still hold in high regard.
If we weren't coming from the Wild Geese, we would've learned the origin of Archindar/Flannigan's name: "He who refuses to die," named so by a Moash commander after successfully covering a Heraani retreat against large odds.
With a nod, Lo Wang accepts your affirmation of your honor and walks away.
As the two of you get your stuff together for the upcoming battle, you tell Hune a little about the Wild Geese. "They are a group of mercenaries with a long history of battle honors. Every now and again they are employed by various houses to help with their battle plans, and they never renege on any deal they ever make, and they fight like demons. Of course, they are often employed by the Federation as well, and they certainly make for worthy adversaries.
"I'm surprised you know as much as you do," Hune breathes quietly. You smile sadly, and tell him of some of the woes suffered by the Wild Geese at the hands of the evil Bureau, of their struggle to regain their homeland, and of the deaths of some of your friends and fellow warriors.
"The Heraan house have done the honorable thing," Hune notes, his face expressing his understanding of the plight of the Wild Geese and respect for your feelings towards them. "They have protected a beautiful people and gained a strong ally at the same time. I expect these Wild Geese to be most troublesome to face in combat."
"I can guarantee you," you reply with a sad but proud grin, "this will be a battle to remember."
With a nod and a slap on the shoulder, Hune moves towards his own ship, and the two of you go to do battle with your former comrades.
At least they had the decency to strike close by.
A handful of IDA Frigates and heavy fighters are there to meet us, but we have heavy guns in the form of carriers and cruisers backing us up, and the protagonist's legendary battle skills.
By which I mean "taking out everything we outweigh and letting the cruisers do the heavy lifting." Once the Frigates explode, the survivors, mostly some Mod Starbridges, turn tail and run. We land and celebrate.
I like you. I'll kill you last.
The Wild Geese gaggle fought valiantly, as you expected, but you were finally able to defeat them. Hune saved your butt more than once with his fancy shooting, and you his. You celebrate with a little more of that Nibos. Throughout the night, the two of you solemnly salute the many, now departed, members of the Wild Geese you faced today, who fought with courage and skill. More than a few of the young warriors stationed here join the two of you, many openly praising the skill shown by the both of you. Even the young Moash warriors are complimentary.
"I cannot wait until I discharge my service to the Empire," says one of the young Moashi, "so that I might test myself against the Heraan. If all of them are as capable as you, it will be a great challenge!"
"I look forward to that day," you reply, surprised to find yourself thinking that not all the Moashi are that bad, and that you will be sorry to send this one to the Hall of Heroes.
Wait-what? Man, fuck that guy. I get the feeling naming our ship Positive Space didn't change anything at all!
The next day you wake up lying beneath your ship, soaking wet and freezing, with Hune standing over you grinning with a bucket in his hands. You immediately leap to your feet and begin struggling with him, quickly pinning him to the ground and slapping him around the face as he laughs uncontrollably. You eventually let him up, and he embraces you as a sister.
"You have shown yourself worthy of being called a battle-sister of the Dechtakars. You have discharged your duty, and it is time you returned to your House. I look forward to meeting you again in the future but you're a girl. I am sure your future will be filled with glory and honor. I have a feeling that we will meet again and do great things."
With that he embraces you again, and with a wave, heads towards his ship, and you know in your bones that he is right. One day the two of you will change the course of the Empire somehow...
With our six-month service in the Dechtakars under our belt, we return to Heraan triumphant.
On returning to Heraan you are met with much rejoicing by your friends. It has been a long time between drinks! Techerakh tells you that he has need to speak to you tomorrow about the future direction of House Heraan, and that you are to play an important role in it, both behind the scenes and in the spotlight.
It is with a monstrous hangover that you make your way to Techerakh's quarters the next morning. You arrive to see him stripped to the waist, engaging a number of holographic opponents. Sweat shines on his bare body, making the images of death and destruction that adorn him writhe and take life. You politely wait for him to finish, and when he does so he sits down beside you and begins your briefing.
The problem with having such a big empire is that everything is just too damn far away. For what it's worth, the Federation flat-out shoots us on sight now due to our civic involvement.
"It is important that you become feared by our enemies, but that you are also known as an honorable warrior. The reports of you while you were with the Dechtakars were very favorable. This will do much to improve your standing in the eyes of your brothers - and our enemies.
"However," Techerakh continues, "there is going to be a duel in the Grip System. Kuron feels it will be important, and I always defer to him in matters of strategy. The man's a genius you know...and he feels that it is important that our enemies get to know just how good you are. Of course, it will be a fight to the death, and victory cannot be claimed until the winner shows that the other warriors are dead. It will be a bloody and fast encounter, as each House will only send one warrior. You have been chosen to represent House Heraan. You have a few weeks to get to Grip in order to cover yourself in glory again. So get cracking and good hunting. Hopefully I'll see you soon. By the time you get back, Kuron may well be ready to do some work and plans will be brought into action."
You quickly shake Techerakh's hand and head for battle.
We jump in and are immediately jumped by all the other duellists - a few Abominations and Phoenixes. Some free-for-all! A Pirate even joins in on the festivities.
But we have the big bad fighter and the big bad missiles so we win regardless.
The last duellist is split in half by our Thunderhead lances. I land on the nearby planet to repair the ship's armour.
Every house has some sort of world like this. It's a nice detail. We return to Heraan.
Tekel House warriors are brought to this barely habitable planet and abandoned for one week as a part of their initiation. Agrippa is scoured by occasional sandstorms of such incredible size and ferocity that few initiates might hope to survive one. Even if the wind remains low, the wide, expansive deserts bake all but the hardiest of initiates, and many still fall. That is why, when the young warriors of the Tekel House return from their initiation, many take as their death tattoo a symbol of the blazing sun. So many have done so that it has very nearly become the warrior symbol of the Tekel Family.
The most intense battle you have ever experienced still resonates within your soul as you enter the Great Hall. Your near-naked body is adorned with fresh kill tattoos, with the tattoo of Auroran Champion still smarting on your face. The hall is jammed full of proud warriors. Thousands of voices roar with approval as you step into the light of the huge bonfires, and you feel your heart almost burst with pride. Tears well in your eyes as Kuron raises his hands for silence.
"Little Wolf," he begins, "the days are brief since you stood before us for the first time, yet your achievements nearly cover you. I have watched you grow into a mighty warrior."
Nuada Skullsplitter, head of House Heraan, motions you to kneel before him. In a regal motion, he pulls a white hot brand from a nearby fire pit and touches it to the top of your favored hand. You grit your teeth as you feel the flesh sizzle against the hot metal.
"As by steel you live, by steel you are marked," Nuada intones. "This marks you as a weapon of this great House. Now stand and be recognized, KarHallarn - the wolf of House Heraan." Through the night's celebrations, all you can look at is the seal on your flesh - a heron gliding gracefully over a leaping wolf. It feels good on you.
Our new scent is distilled Cunjo bile. It beats drop-bear spray.
The mood in the bar is one of quiet waiting. The Council has been planning a new battle group, and most predict that you will be leading them. Many warriors have challenged you of late, from wrestles to simulated combat in ships varying from fighter size to capital ships. You are exhausted most of the time, but you know why they are doing it; they wish to impress you with their prowess, trying to become part of the legend that is rising around you. Those who challenge you are paying you a great honor.
Most of the available warriors in the House have been recalled to Heraan, and the bars are all full of restless, loincloth-clad bodies, and the air is heady with the scent of tattoo ink. With anticipation you head for the Great Hall. A crowd gathers behind you, many of those present having duelled with you in the past few weeks. By the time you meet Bazara, the crowd has swelled further.
"Well," he glances behind you. "I see you must have on a new perfume!"
Karrod steps from inside Bazara's quarters and continues, "Hmmm," he sniffs you loudly. "Smells like success to me."
You glower at the two of them as they laugh long and hard, but realize that there isn't much point. Bazara and Karrod are like most warriors. They take little seriously, unless it is war or death. The three of you head for the hall. Karrod tells you that after the Council meeting he wants you to meet his son, Jesura, just back from the Federation front. Karrod has spoken highly of him in the past, as have Techerakh and Bazara, and you are keen to meet him. You bring your focus back to the present as you enter the familiar dimness of the Hall.
The sounds of conversation dies away as Kuron steps into the firelight. He strikes the flagstones with his staff and begins.
"Fellow warriors, you have been called here to endorse a new battle group. Like the Auroran warriors of old, it will travel the universe battling with prowess and skill. There will be a reckoning in the land as House Heraan walks the warrior's 'Path of Strength'. It is the contention of the council that the Moash House has been First Family too long, and that House Heraan must take over that position if we Aurorans are to prosper."
The roar for the assembly deafens, and you roar with the others. As the cheering dies down, Kuron continues.
"This new battle group will be working directly with me and with Techerakh the Bloody Hammer. The Mundokiir and Thurokiir will guide them and use them to bring about the destruction of the Moash House."
Again more cheering, which forces Kuron to wait. It is during these few moments that Kuron makes eye contact with you, and you know for sure that you are to lead this new group. Your heart hammers in your chest.
"The new group will be known as 'The Pack' and their leader will be the mighty KarHallarn.
Yeah, if you're male you instead get Savard the fierce female warrior who is also quite nubile and younger than you. I bet she's swarthy too.
Cheers of approval erupt as a multitude of hands slap you on the back and reach to be shaken. Kuron speaks again.
"The ranks of House Heraan have been scoured for the Seven best warriors to join the new group. They are...Horgar the Grim, Skultir Whose Weapons Spell Doom, Burch'ee of the Cold Death, Savard whom Death Knows Well, Syn'tax Never Fears, Jesura Iron Will and finally Bazara the Cunning."
You catch yourself thinking how nice it would be to have a much more personal knowledge of the handsome Jesura, but stop yourself when you realize you have been staring. Jesura is a determined warrior, not much older than you. In fact only Horgar looks to be older than you by very far. New tattoos are placed upon bodies wherever they will fit: a wolf, its muzzle dripping gore from a rotted skull. The symbolism doesn't fail to strike you, for the Skull is the symbol of House Moash.
"Stand my warriors and be recognized," Nuada says, and 'The Pack' stands as one and feels the approval of their fellows.
"KarHallarn, I charge you to lead this strike force deep into the heart of Federation space and attack the forces of Sol. Soon there will be a Federation shipping convoy passing through that system. I feel it is right that we warn them that 'The Pack' is fearless, and that their jaws will soon close around Moashi throats."
But now we have a Wolf Pack! And our first mission is to interdict shipping in a hit-and-run attack! Too bad we can't grow an awesome voyage-beard.
Next time: Lone Wolf gets a Death Aura and Syn'tax absolutely eviscerated gets