-- Chapter 32
1. "They're so blinded by lust that
they'll do anything to gratify their passion," Kor said to Dal El's
chief of staff. He handed Dal his tablet back, "The
Exiles want a winner-take-all confrontation." The war had reached
its zenith for both sides and the Constitutional
Vejhonians wanted it to end. "You are driven to pursue us, and we
are driven to avoid capture.." the offer read, "...we are prepared to
negeotiate a means for reunification." "I never dreamed I'd live
to see this day," Kor said. "Does that mean they intend to
surrender, Sir?" Dal El's chief of staff asked. "They don't
actually use the word 'surrender,'" Dal injected, "but it's an
2. "Does that mean they're asking for a truce then?" an adjutant
asked. The Vejhonian
Revolutionaries, who had evicted their law-abiding kin; forged
unwilling alliances and absorbed like-minded cultures
into their own, were now being asked to the table. The entire
Universe was entangled, as Kor'an D'seas proclaimed at the academy,
"There are no neutrals!
Either you're with us, or against us!" Indeed, there was no piece
of real estate anywhere in the Universe that was unaffected.
There were only so many worlds that could be destroyed, and each
destruction reduced the available raw material needed to build more
3. The equasion called for an end. "I
believe so," Kor answered the adjutant. This was an entirely new
concept for the Elite. "Do we even have plans for...
reunification?" the adjutant pronounced the word with disdain, but not
maliciously. "This will seriously drain Blue Funnel's
profits," Dal El noted. Nobody cared about Blue Funnel's
transparent interests. "I find it distasteful that the wealth of the
entire Universe drains into the coffers of one family," Kor said.
"Let's round 'em up and kill 'em," a Son of the Morning
suggested. His status entitled him to speak freely. Kor
nodded in agreement, "Indeed, this... reunification...
may invite just such a ploy."
4. "We can do it," Dal El agreed, "but as a separate op."
"That's true," his chief of staff agreed, "they have their agents
everywhere -- we would have to act just as soon as they start fidgeting
from the news." "Yes," Dal agreed, "Reunification would provide
a faultless lure since they were outlawed under the old regime."
He was referring to Blue funnel. "They'll automatically assume
that repatriated Constitutional assets are
loot for the taking. We'll look like champions of
morality!" Everyone in the conference room stared incredulously
at each other because this sort of dialogue had never transpired
before. The intended outcome: The war would end --
5. Four generations of Elite
warriors had rallied behind a single war cry: Annihilate
every Constitutional shellan in existence! Although they had
failed, the war cry had sustained the economy for 70 years.
And now they were discussing reunification, of all things.
"...Beauty and Savagery," the Elite mantra.
6. Daniel dreamed that the Angels flew down in formation to
smite the enemies of
God; their wings unfurled like eagles about to strike. In their
hands was an endless supply of lightening bolts that could be hurled at
will. They descended from the sky and glided stealthily across
land; their gallant spirits energized with purpose and their faces
reflecting the glory of God. Within moments, the warrior Angels
annihilated the enemies of God; leaving no trace that they had ever
existed. Daniel awoke. "It's happening. The time has
7. "They ident friendly," communications reported, "the
sweeps say they're ours." "Heading?" the commander asked.
"To the rendezvous point," comm replied. "Stay on course then,"
the commander ordered, "they're probably Aquarian." "Do you really think this'll work?" a junior bridge
officer asked. Kor's super kids had strong misgivings about this
meet-and-greet-ambush tactic. "If you'd like to ask Him -- there's the comm," the
commander suggested facetiously. All of Kor's super kids could
block their thoughts effortlessly.
8. The super kid chose to belay that action. There could
only be one Kor'an D'seas, and he wasn't him. The commander
shared his junior officer's concern, "Kor El," he said in the tone of a
retraction, "I really don't know." The commander was also a
second-generation super kid. Kor El appreciated his commander's
candor. For the most part, the super kids were protective of
their own and rigidly obeyed the chain-of-command. It was not
illegal to have a personality.
9. Delegations from both sides met for the first time
in secret to discuss a
winner-take-all solution. Both sides
gleaned as much intelligence as they could during the meeting and both
sides carefully concealed an aversion to reunification.
Very few shellans were still alive who actually remembered a unified
10. "If I understood you
correctly," Daniel said, "both sides plan to ambush each other at a
mutually-agreed-upon meeting?" "It's as if they photocopied each
others mission plan," B'jhon replied. "And our people tell us
that there's no way that could have happened?" Daniel reiterated.
"No possible way," B'jhon
quoted. Both sides intentionally leaked that large armadas would
respective delegations. Both sides plan to ambush the enemy
talks are in progress. Both sides
intercepted each others disinformation and both sides reclassified the
intercepts as 'internal memos' transmitted in error. "That is so
impossible, that no one will ever believe it," Daniel said.
B'jhon didn't know what else to say. It is what it is.
ON THE FRONT LINE
11. "I swear to Kor that looks
like a frackin' Cardship!" tactical reported, "long-range shows
standard configuration." "Calm," the skipper ordered, "we're all friendly -- remember?"
The tactical officer desperately wanted to shoot something and he was
breaking into a cold sweat. "The captain gave his XO a
tongue-in-cheek expression which the XO acknowledged." "I
promised him he could shoot first," the XO said psionically to his
skipper, "afterward, of course." "Maybe we should let him beat
somebody up?" the skipper suggested, "to vent a little."
"Captain," the XO sighed quietly but intently, "this is the craziest
... strategy... I've..." The captain raised his arm to silence
his XO. It was a friendly way of agreeing without tolerating
12. "Sir, listen to this," communications said and patched the
audio through, "... yeah, well, we wiped out two Exile shells in 90
days; got a sweeeeeet dinner and decorated by The Master
himself." "No shit? We wiped out three shells and didn't
get a frackin' thing..." Captain gave the "cut" signal on his
neck, "Where the frack's that coming from?" Communications raised
her arms incredulously toward an obvious pixiliated rectangle that
measured 1 x 5 x 20 miles. Then asked, "Do we have those
now?" Her question was sincere but didn't fully mask its
13. At one point, Elite and Exile combatants had cryptic
conversations over secured lines, both believing that they were
speaking to allies or to covert operatives planted behind enemy
lines. The subject matter was banal, not
especially alarming with moments of entertaining intrigue.
14. "The targeting computers are
on stand-by," tactical reported, "...plotter shows too much congestion
for tactical." The fleet was not in a congested condition
yet. The projection map clearly showed an impending cluster, but
did not project alternate routes. There was still plenty of
time. "Maybe it doesn't recognize the new equipment," the XO
suggested, "...it's not recommending anything." The plotter
typically projected alternate paths as ships joined in formation or
approached each other.
15. "I'm getting all-friendly,"
tactical reported, "please tell me this is the 'distraction' and
'diversion' part of the plan." "It's all loaded in," the XO
sighed calmly. "Distraction, Diversion and Division," was on page
one of the Academy field manual. If this event had been
pre-meditated, the strategist would have gone into the annals of
tactical hell. "Sir?" the XO said to
elicit a response from his captain, "the... ambush?" he reminded him
16. Cardships that had been
lost since the evacuation were emerging from nowhere and
everywhere. "I can not wait!" tactical
wailed, "PLEASE, KOR let me shoot something!" The poor kid
sounded pathetic and was obscenely oversexed. "Kor,
please help him," his captain quietly sympathized. "It's like
craming every fish in the sea into one barrel," the captain said to his
XO. "How did they get the enemy to go along with this?" the XO
asked his captain, "Didn't they get a little
17. "Do you see that... non standard configuration?" the
navigation officer pointed out. "So they're not sitting ducks," the XO
observed. Closer inspection revealed offensive capability that
had never been seen in action; the fleeing barges of
yesterDan were a thing of the past. "Harmless as
butterflies," tactical whispered, "OK, so it will be a fairer
fight!" he rationalized restlessly. "Kor El!"
his XO intoned paternally. Kor El banged his head on his console
dramatically and then raised his arms into the air while leaning far
back into his chair, "My dear Master," he prayed, "please... let...
me... KILL SOMEBODY!" he practically shouted. The entire bridge
crew started laughing at him. The XO grabbed a tablet and smacked
upside Kor El's head. The tablet didn't survive
but Kor El was still in mint condition.
18. "KOR EL, GET A GRIP!" his XO rebuked
over the laughter, then he resumed his former calm, "I promise you will
be the first one to get
weapons free." The concept of a 'Cardship attack'
was one oxymoron that would never survive Elite etymology.
Kor'an D'seas was commanding a destroyer too, and
had personally recommended Kor El to Captain Thoth. "Did you have
a can of adrenaline for breakfast?" his XO asked him. "A whole
Guards-damn case," the Captain mumbled.
LA NASHA'S FLAGSHIP
19. Bri had aged gracefully and
walk with a cane, he didn't move as fast as he used to. "Father
Bri," the President's 2nd counselor said, "President La Nasha wishes to
consult with you." Bri had held office for 35 years before
turning the reigns over to a younger more energetic Presidential
contender... and much prettier too. Silver La Nasha had been born
in flight and was the third President to follow him since the
evacuation. As the reigning
patriarch of Constitutional Vejhon, "Father Bri," had become a
permanent term of endearment by which he was Universally
25. "Helm, veer us to port three
degrees, Y minus 1 or 2 -- make it look good," the XO ordered.
The helmsman did not want to alert anyone that he was having an
issue. Helmsmen throughout the Elite fleet were experiencing the
same embarrassment and none of them wanted to draw attention to the
issue. The ships were responding slowly to shallow course
corrections; nothing too terribly alarming, at times,
unnoticeable. For some, the helm seemed to be piloted by a remote
source and nobody wanted to announce, "Sir, it's not responding,"
because the XO would reply, "Are you saying you don't know how to
drive?" and relieve them of duty.
20. Bri had already sensed La Nasha's concerns. Even though
her loyalty to the Constitution was faultless, the Director had asked
Bri to organize and deploy his 'mirror tactic' alone: Only key
members of the Psionic Guard knew about Bri's plan. "Father Bri,"
La Nasha bowed when he entered her office. Her love and affection
for him was pure. Behind her was the wall-to-wall panorama
that concerned her. She was hoping that he might comment, since
she accepted his voice as the highest corporeal authority, much like
Bri esteemed Director Wexli, who had died in exile. Wexli still
visited Bri in his glorified form, from time to time.
21. Vicar Miles entered and stood beside Bri where Kyle'yn had
once stood during the evacuation. It did not seem that long
ago. La Nasha followed Bri's movements as a
sunflower faces the sun. The congestion
of ships outside was undeniably spectacular. He also noticed that
many of his mementos were exactly as he had left them during his
presidency. Bri motioned that LaNasha stand beside him, which
22. "There are some things that I have never told anyone," he
began, "secrets that I have guarded since before the evacuation."
Bri smiled at La Nasha, "What is the one question that you are asking
right now?" "Why aren't they attacking?" she answered. Bri
nodded his head pleased, "Exactly -- why aren't they attacking?"
Bri returned his gaze to the array of ships outside, "There is a
protocol hard-wired into all Vejhonian vessles to avoid port
entanglements," he explained, "If necessary, that protocol can override
the ships navigation systems to save the ship."
23. La Nasha looked pleased but puzzled, "...that was 70 years
ago," she thought privately. "There were only 7 engineers who
fully understood from start to finish how the protocol was integrated
into all of the ships most vital systems..." Bri turned triumphantly
toward La Nasha with a warm smile, "...and all seven of them
evacuated." La Nasha wanted to laugh out loud, even though she
was not an engineer. "I was prepared to use my Presidential
override to disable shell assets during the evacuation... but Kor let
us flee unscathed... I never needed to expose the protocol."
24. "All these many, weary years," Bri said, "the Elite built
upon our platforms," he pointed at a destroyer in the distance, "they
may have built bigger and deadlier ships, but the original architecture
is here." Bri pointed
to the vestiage of State. La Nasha felt greatly enlightened, but
still had one remaining question, which Bri proceeded to answer:
"And that leads to what you see now. In 70 years, a perfectly
was impossible -- two steps above 'thinking like the enemy.'
Then I remembered the protocol... it was the only thing they
didn't know about." "So..." La Nasha injected, "...the protocol and the mirror tactic resulted
in... that." She spread her arms toward the window.
Bri nodded gently in agreement. "They think we're falling into their ploy?" she asked. Bri
nodded his head. The Elite had no need to re-invent the ship
management system; they just expanded the existing model and installed
it aboard every vessle. What could possibly go wrong?
BACK ON THE FRONT
26. One exasperated captain scolded his helmsman, "When in
history has the wheel ever malfunctioned? You're confined to
quarters, and hope to Kor I don't throw you in the brig!" That
was an extremely serious charge. The captain took over to prove
that the pilot was an idiot, but the helm did not respond...
"She's right!" he retracted, "belay that! It's not
responding." Then the XO gave it a try and everyone else
took a turn. The wheel was not considered rocket science.
This created a new prediciment: Nobody wanted to report that
their ship was out of control. "Let's regain control and proceed
as if nothing had happened..." that was the plan.
27. "Get the engineer and carpenter on it," one
skipper ordered. A wave of psyos swept over the fleet as captains
psionically asked other captains if they were experiencing inexplicable
Elite used IFF copies
without understanding how deeply embedded the encryption was in
nothing had ever gone wrong, there was no reason to suspect any
vulnerabilities. The IFF virally infected everything. If
one system was taken off-line, the remaining systems could
compensate. When IFF synched with other ships, full saturation
occurred within moments. The entire fleet was being piloted by
28. "It's not an engineering issue," one engineer
reported, "it's a port safety protocol; built into everything --
there's no way to disable it." "Well, it would stand to reason,"
a Sky Spirit defended, "that somebody
can, because the ships AREN'T DRIVING THEMSELVES!" "Then you tell
that to Kor and Dal El!" the engineer suggested. "No Thank-you!"
Sky Spirit withdrew with disdain. The Elite thought this was
going to be an open-and-closed ambush with minimal, if any losses.
LA NASHA'S FLAGSHIP
29. "I made this little program to keep track of
everything," Bri said. He entered a code on a keypad on La
Nasha's desk and a holographic map
appeared superimposed across the full length of her observation
window. When an
Elite destroyer drifted within range, a holographic marker tagged it
"IFF - Friendly." La Nasha grinned, "That's a lot of green
markers," she said. In fact, all of them were green. "I
think their helmsmen are starting to go crazy about right now," Bri
said. She laughed. His first
had felt unworthy to occupy his office, so Bri moved the State Seal to
his protégé’s office and continued to serve in less
auspicious ways. La Nasha had never known life without Bri.
ON THE FRONT
30. "We're gonna have to tell somebody," the XO lamented.
The captain knew that his career was over, "Open a channel," he
sighed. Over the channel they heard: "... that's not so
crazy -- talk about an outta control
shellan, that Jolvian turd parked his vehicle IN the shell,
donned his mask and opened the frackin' seal..." "What the HELL
IS THIS?" the captain yelled, "a DIFFERENT channel!" "... Theos
will capitulate -- they got saucers but no balls!..." "OFF!" the
captain yelled, "Are ALL the channels doing that?" The
communications officer meekly nodded her head, "Yes." "Did it
EVER occur to you," the captain asked as cooly as he could, "that those
are NOT REAL communications?" She meekly shook her head,
"No." She thought it was just ship-to-ship
chatter. All of them did.
31. The captain sat back down in his chair. "Recordings?"
his XO guessed psionically. The captain didn't answer, "We fell
for this?" he said in disbelief, "Nobody saw this coming?" he was
shocked, "... the whole FRACKIN' FLEET!"
LA NASHA'S FLAGSHIP
32. "I want you to
see this," Bri said excitedly to the President. "See this word,"
he pointed to the word "Exile" on the Cardship markers that for 70
years had vexed him sorely. "Watch this," he said. He
touched a holographic switch on the holographic display and all of the
ships, Elite and Exile alike, were re-tagged, "Vejhonian."
35. "Let's watch this from
office," Bri suggested; The Hall of Remembrance. It seemed
appropriate that the healing begin there. The
three of them entered the tomb reverently; paying tribute to the
triangular flag case sitting on its mantle. The room seemed
colder than other rooms, and was darkly lit for a more reverent
ambiance. "What will it look like when we return?" he
wondered. A floodgate of memories returned with all of the
familiar symbolism surrounding them.
President La Nasha never thought she would live to see this day; her
dignified tears reflected Bri's joy. She hugged Bri because
she was happy that 'Father Bri,' the patriarch of a long and violent
war, had lived to see its end; and had carried the key and the solution
to its end. "I want you here, Wex," Bri prodded. "I
warrant," Miles said, who was standing right beside him, "I'll let you
know if he shows up, or you let me know." Miles understood Bri's
preoccupation. "I meant
you, Miles," Bri corrected. He didn't want Miles to feel less
appreciated than Wexli. "I miss him too," Miles confided.
Neither of them needed to explain.
34. Every director developed the iconoclast archetype image over
36. "Can you hear me... Brother?"
37. "So Bri knows why..." Kor thought. The
psyos indicated that this happy-go-lucky, frivolous engagement was
melting down. Nobody wanted to report their difficulties for
understandable reasons. Kor did not want to distress his key commanders by
making psionic inquiries; they knew the inquest was coming if they
didn't regain control of their ships. Kor's fleet sailed right
into a slowly warming pot, thinking that the reverse was true. In
spite of this strategic failure, Dal El maintained a firm
situational grasp with his admirals.
D'seas, a.k.a. Kor II, insisted that Kor and Dal El view the massacre
aboard separate ships, "I'm sure it
will all go according to plan, but just in case. Humor me," he
admonished them. He was much more tactful than he used to be in
his younger days. "You mean I can go all by myself on my own
ship," Dal El teased him. Kor II did did not reply; he was more
tempered, but still fearless. The Master patted Kor II on
the shoulder, since he had been making policy decisions for the last 20
39. "You don't have manual
control at all?" Kor asked innocently. "It's automated," came
the chorus, "There's a port safety program running everything -- it won't let us
escape." The word "Escape" was not in the Elite vocabulary.
"The technicians say it's embedded
into all of the critical systems -- it can't be shut it down without
shutting down life support." "It can't be shut down period," a
captain added, "we tried
shutting down life support and that didn't work." Who reads
diagnostic reports anyway? Kor did not ask the logical 'next'
question. Dal El would investigate the matter following the
Kor knew that firing solutions
were blocked in port and in
close formation. "We walked right into a trap, that we thought
was our own," he reiteriated. "Seventy years of victory... and
now this? Does Bri
Bri was the only one who knew.
41. There had never been a reason for Elite Commanders to scan
bland ship-to-ship chatter for tactically relevant information.
Dal El said it was healithier to let the crew chat, "Don't
muzzle them," he said.
42. At a point when the congestion could not get any
thicker, swarms of Theite saucers
began filling the cracks. "They did all this just for me," Kor
realized, "This whole fiasco... " Indeed, reality was going
43. Daniel invited every available body to watch the
'mother of all battles' directly from the ops center. He had
extra seats and refreshments brought in -- if you were on Sunova -- you
were there. He fussed over it like a bride doting over wedding
details. "The SuperBowl of Battles,"
I-40 joked, refering to a machine tournament somewhere.
44. Finally, Daniel took a seat, drink in hand, and waited for
the show to begin. He waited for a really
long time. "There's B'lines everywhere!" he said with fake forced
excitement, "like shooting fish in a barrel!" He watched the
swarms of shimmering metal until he could no longer force his fake
excitement. B'jhon poured something stronger into his cup,
"It'll help take the edge off," he said sympathetically. "Pass
that around," an agent suggested. "We all know you meant well,"
B'jhon said. It would be the only party thrown in the ops center
with Daniel's blessing. He took a swig of B'jhon's libation and
gave a frowny face of approval.
45. "What is that?"
Daniel asked. "Something I found on a Jolvian frigate," B'jhon
answered. "I like it," Daniel confessed. Some of the other
agents were beginning to lighten up in spite of Daniel's
disappointment. "Four generations of mass annihilation," Daniel
sighed, "the extinction of whole species... the destruction of
planets... and this is how it ends. With nothing." Maybe
they'll be a parade!"
I-40 tried to cheer him up. B'jhon gave I-40 a curt smile
because he knew I-40 meant well.
46. "Who's ever heard of a bloodless battle?"
Daniel complained. He finished his drink and suggested that
B'jhon pour another. "Death and savagery for 70 years and
this is how it ends!" "Maybe it was a blessing?" a female agent
suggested. "Yeah, I want my money back," another joked.
The Jolvian Ale was making him feel better, "It is what it is," he
accepted, "and we shut down for it." He laughed at the
absurdity. "Maybe it was better that the
killing simply end," he resigned, "beginning with the mother of all
47. As a display of compassion and mercy, Kor planned to dispatch
an Elite envoy to return with Bri so that Bri could concede
the conflict with dignity. After 70 years, Kor would finally have
his day. Dal's generals drilled
the shock troops mercilessly for weeks, and the media was ordered to
promote this story as the greatest Elite achievement of all time.
48. None of that was going to happen. The precision tuned
machine never sprang into action. The public execution of each
enemy commander, one-by-one was cancelled.
50. O'Helno had been reactivated to command the
raid. He stopped his saucer within an inch of Bri's observation
window and deenergized his dome so that Bri could see him. Bri
beamed warmly and waved. One of the Theite seats was
occupied by a Cacci Dai technician. "I
validate," Bri said to the machine through the glass, "The Elite did
not even stand a
chance," he said to La Nasha. Kor threatened everyone, so the
Dai had a stake in the outcome too. Conscious evidently approved
of Cacci Dai's participation; one asset per B'line.
49. The sight of 1 ½ million saucers
was ungraspable by the shellan mind. It
looked like a glittering sea of shimmering
metal, swelling and swaying in a purposeful cosmic rhythm too intricate to
navigate. The B'lines made sure they were visible for this encore
performance, and emulated the Breath of God; a polar contrast to the
black Elite heart. B'lines are immune to port safety
protocols. Visit any Theotian port to understand why.
There were still some entertaining scenes for Daniel to see:
Theite shock troops approached Dal El's dias,
yanked him off his throne, cuffed him
and led him away on a leash. The dreaded Vice Elite was now in
custody again, with assurances from the Psionic Guard that nobody
could help him to escape, now or ever.
52. In the space of 58 minutes,
the mother of all battles was declared, "Concluded." That did not
mean that every enemy combatant was accounted for, it only meant that
the enemy vessels had been disabled and that specific ships had been