From: Dave Hemming <>
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: FTSD: Space Opera
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000 21:57:43 +0000
Organization: remove all your clothes to reply
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"Kiribati Control, this is United Earth One. We have achieved a stable
Saturn orbit."

The long minutes of lightspeed transmission lag seemed to stretch

"Roger, UE1. Be advised that the Pontianak Center will be receiving your
next transmission."

"Confirmed, Control. Be advised we are holding at 100,000 kilometres
from the Hubble Anomaly. We can confirm it is artificial. It appears to
be two separate objects orbiting a common centre. One is smaller than
the other. Both appear to be heavily damaged."

The stocky Russian commander privately cursed the lack of gravity as he
waited for the signal to crawl back to Earth. It deprived him of his
God-given right to pace irritably to and fro. Not that the cramped
conditions of the UE-One command deck would allow pacing, even if he
could. Every square centimetre was plastered with dials and controls.

It was all pointless, anyway. He would get approval to investigate
further, that he knew; after nine weeks in transit, no one would order
him to turn back now. Of course, if by some bizarre twist of fate they
did, he would; this new global unity was too fragile to endanger just to
satisfy his curiosity. He supposed, in moments of introspection, that
that was the reason they had chosen a Russian, after all. He smiled
mirthlessly as he returned his gaze to the impossible view on the
long-range camera. The two objects - ships, he supposed they should be
called - were clearly from two different design philosophies. And he
would not be fit to be called a New Russian if he didn't recognise
combat damage when he saw it.

"UE1, this is Pontianak Space Center. You are confirmed for initial


It wasn't going well.

Of course, it hadn't been going well for several years now. Not since
the Ievad had taken the outlying colonies in fire and horror, not since
they'd crushed the Outer Fleet at Hy'pni Prime. Now they were at the
homeworld, and every ship in the Sa'kaa Fleet, barring the odd Survey
Vessel either out of contact or too far away, stood between them and the
total annihilation of the Sa'kaa peoples. 

So much for good intentions. So much for expanding out into the galaxy
with a message of peace for those who already out there, and a watching
brief for those not yet ready for the galactic stage. It had been
surprisingly successful, right up until they'd hit the edge of Ievad
controlled space. The Ievad had a rather different view.

So here they were. Outgunned, outweighed - in raw tonnage, the Ievad
held a two to one advantage - & apparently outphilosophied. Oh, they'd
whittled down the Ievad Fleet. Far more than they could have expected
from such a peaceful race, he was sure. Hy'pni Prime had cost them, just
as much as it had bled the Sa'kaa. We are not pacifists, he thought,
just peaceful realists, after all. It's a big, bad galaxy out there - we
knew that when we started. Even Survey vessels are armed as well as we
can manage. But their weapons - the Quantum Lance that can down a
SideSpace bubble with a single shot, those Collapsar missiles that can
tear a ship apart even with a near miss - we have nothing like that. Oh,
we are more manouevreable, he admitted; our ships are lighter, class for
class, and we could run rings around their capital ships if we weren't
constantly on the defensive. But there are so, so many of them.

They had no equivalent of forcewalls, at least. With those, a Saa'kaa
ship could take three or four hits that would cripple one of the enemy.
Unfortunately, they couldn't deal the same punch in return. The grasers
and seeded nukes the Saa'kaa relied upon could knock down the Ievad
SideSpace bubbles - eventually - but in the meantime they'd be pounded
to glowing debris by superior offense. Two light cruisers had already
been lost in the first, grossly unequal exchange of fire. And more were
joining them as the battle progressed. A brief surge of hope as two
cruisers managed to isolate an Ievad battlecruiser, smashing away at its
bubble while weaving past its sluggish defensive fire. But for every
Ievad ship vaporised as a damaged fusion bottle let go, or staggering,
lamed, from their remorseless advance, three Saa'kaa ships were lost.

No, Fleet Lord Sir'jaa Na'Koptis had lost this war the moment he'd
approved survey movements into Ievad space, and he knew it.

A chime from the BattleVue was all that signalled the end of the Great
Lord Ha'kaa. Out there, half a lightminute from BattleCentral, one of
the largest ships ever built by the Sa'kaa people had just gone
critical. Reading half-an-eight displays with a practiced eye, Fleet
Lord Na'koptis relived the final moments of the fleet flagship as it,
crippled and half-blind, rammed an enemy destroyer and consumed them
both in a boil of fractured space.

That left - what, something like two-eights ships - to defend the
Homeworld against a fleet of the most rapacious empire-builders the
galaxy has ever seen. It wasn't going to work. The admiral was drawing
breath to order a suicide charge from the remaining ships when the outer
sensors caught his eye. All across the SideSpace limit, the sensors were
registering incursions. Ships that matched nothing in any databse, enemy
or friend. Not that any of their so-called friends had taken an interest
in their conflict, oh no. They'd all decided to skip this "internal
reorganisation" as the Vaa had termed it. The Drusk had been even more
abrupt - "resources committed to a futile defence of the Saa'kaa are
resource we will need ourselves". The Drusk were still grappling with
the concept of diplomacy. So who were these newcomers? And whose side
were they on?

"Multiple launches! Unknown sources have launched on... Ievad fleet
going to evasion! They're on our side!" Fleet Lord Na'koptis made a
mental note to berate the half-lord in charge of Scanning. But it was,
he had to admit, nice to know that they had some friends out there. With
no outward sign of triumph, he watched as the Ievad line of battle
scattered as they desperately tried to avoid the spray of sublight
munitions from these unexpected allies.

"Tracking three-eights of friendly unknowns now, Fleet Lord." 

"Bad conjecture, Tracksman. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my
friend, after all."

"My apologies, Fleet Lord. I assumed - "

"Assume nothing, Tracksman. Do we have contact with the unknown fleet?"

"They are broadcasting an IFF on an obsolete band, Admiral. But - "

"But nothing!" He had to make a decision, he knew. It was all or
nothing. "Instruct all vessels to support the unknown fleet! Oh, Maker -
we could actually win this!"

"Fleet Lord, these IFF readings..."

"Yes?" Oh, it was glorious to watch. Sandwiched between the alien fleet
and the Home Guard, the Ievad warships were making a break for the
SideSpace limit. But they were going to pay heavily for their commitment
to a RealSpace action, that was apparent to anyone with the Fleet Lord's
eye. Despite a frosty outer front, he was cheering internally as quantum
lances from the unknown fleet crippled three of the Ievad's line of
battle, puncturing their SideSpace bubbles, leaving them desperately
sculling to bring their broadsides to bear on this unexpected front. Odd
- the quantum lance was Ievad technology. Was this some internal
conflict? But there - an Ievad lance raked a newcomer ship and its
rainbow strobing clearly indicated a forcewall dissipating energy. All
the while the Sa'kaa fleet, or what was left of it, closed on their
stern aspects, presented with too little concern for their original

"These new ships, Fleet Lord - They are the Ship Lord Tu'maris, the
Least Lord Sabal, The Eight Lord Fah'Tak, the..."

"I don't care! The Small Lord Fo'kri just popped a nuke right up the
half-mother's skirt! YES!" The Admiral fairly danced around the main
control room as a lowly destroyer savaged an enemy battleship that had
been too concerned with the new fleet to watch where it was pointing its
vulnerable drive aperture.

In his exultation, it took a few moments for the Tracksmans words to
penetrate. Then it did. The Tu'maris? If someone had called the Admiral
that, he'd have challenged them to a duel on the spot. And the Fah'tak?
Did these aliens, then, sleep with their mothers? He leaned close to the
BattleVue as, one-by-one, the alien ships were tagged with their
broadcast IDs. It read like a dictionary of crude insults and slang.

"Fleet Lord! I am receiving a sublight transmission from the aliens!"

"On my monitor." The monitor switched from listing lost and damaged
Saa'kaa ships, to a curious looking creature in a dark uniform. Rapidly
the Admiral catalogued what could be deduced - bipedal, bilaterally
symmetric, a short fuzz of fur on the top of the head, an odd
protuberance in the centre. No tendrils, he noted - how did it tak'mor?
- but apart from that, bearable to look upon, even if it was an odd
shade of beige. 

"Greetings to Saa'kaa Peoples. We are _Human_ peoples. We owe great debt
to Saa'kaa peoples, come to repay."

Its peculiar mouth arrangement struggled with some of the Saa'kaa
language, and it didn't seem to have a very large vocabulary. The
Admiral's pondering on where they had got any vocabulary was answered

"Human peoples find Saa'kaa survey wreck in own system. It stop Ievad" -
the humans mangling of that was even worse than its attempts at Saa'kaa
- "cruiser. It died to save us. We honour its crew - get names from
personal journal." 

Oh, dear. Yes, a personal journal like that _would_ be put somewhere
safe. So safe that it had survived whatever battle had occurred to bring
these... Humans... here. At some point, the Admiral was going to have to
explain to these unexpected allies, even as some unknown beam weapon
stabbed straight _through_ an Ievad dreadnought, that their flagships
name implied that they had a rulebook wedged in their defecatory

Dave Hemming(c) 2000
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