Chapter 5, part 2
This Man's Army
The Trader Emergency Coalition
5 years ago, outer colonies, southern frontier, TEC recruitment base
"And what makes you think you're ready for this man's army, civilian?" The recruitment officer shouted out.
Archie stood with his back ramrod-straight, staring to the left and slightly up of the sergeant, at a small dark blot on the white-washed walls. It was better than looking at his eyes.
"I want to fight the Vasari, sir!" Archie responded.
The recruitment officer shook his head. "Not good enough!"
"The home worlds need protection, as do the lives of the ones living there, and I would lay my life on the line for theirs!"
The recruitment officer looked over to the sergeant, who shook his head, then said, "Are you kidding me? I want the truth, civilian!"
Archie's shoulders dropped a bit, and spoke in a quiet tone. "My friend was hurt in the war, sirs, and I want revenge on those alien bastards."
The recruitment officer looked over again at the sergeant, who was smiling. "Very good. Step to the desk to sign the articles of commission, and then Sergeant Willcocks here will escort you to your squad."
Archie stepped lightly forward and signed his name with a flourish, all traces of soberness gone. Sergeant Willcocks eyed his actions intensely, although masking the action with casual indifference. This new boy was jaunty, although he had seen some things not meant for any his age. His eyes had a deep look to them, as if storing more knowledge of life than his age was accustomed to. The recruitment officer handed Willcocks the signed articles, and he briefly scanned the name scrawled along the bottom. Then he blinked and read it again.
No it couldn't be...it couldn't be his son...Willcocks looked at the insolent youth again. He did seem to have the same face shape now that he studied it...
"Form up, soldier."
The boy's grin dropped for a moment, then slipped back as he slid in behind Willcocks. If he thought he would be getting any special treatment because he was related to the Chief Admiral of Spatial Operations (CASO), he was in for a surprise. If anything, Willcocks told himself as he led the boy down a hallway, he would be pushed harder than any of the other recruits. He would grind this boy into the dust if he had to, but he would not let himself be known as the man who failed to properly train Admiral Kol's son.
5 years ago, galactic position ???, ???
Haiti could have purred with pleasure. The front of his ship was bathed in the yellow-blue light of the wormhole. The whole of the Advent race stalled their ships behind him.
Break up into your standard fists, Haiti thought, I will take my Atlantean squad through the wormhole. The other fists will take other routes from this sector towards the sinners' worlds. We will come upon them like a soaring wave a thousand hills high!
The Unity responded to his thought with wild whoops and yells, which made Haiti grimace. They were not yet the solemn psionic super beings that he foresaw them as, and he wanted them to be perfect when he unleashed them upon the sinners' fleets and planets. They had to be perfect, anything less was unthinkable.
A thought from one of his crew made him sit up.
An unknown ship has just come out of the wormhole, High Coalescence.
Haiti stood up and a 3D representation of the wormhole's gravity well appeared in front of him. An unknown ship had indeed come out of the wormhole, and was frantically trying to turn itself around as it noticed the Advent ships.
It is an enemy. Freeze and destroy it.
Thy will be done, High Coalescence.
Haiti watched as his hangar belched forth swarms of small fighter ships. They soared forth at unimaginable speeds towards the enemy vessel. He knew they were being directed by men, as the hangar bays were the part of the ship easiest controlled with a minimal amount of psionic energy. Linked psionically but not actually in the little ships themselves, the men flew the fighters through space and open fired on the small enemy scout, as Haiti figured it was. No sane being would decide to hop through a wormhole for the first time without backup to insure their safety. And as they had seen no forms of life in the asteroid-strewn space behind them, Haiti had deduced that whoever running that ship had jumped here for the first time. What surprised him was that the ship was not from the Trade Order. The shape was all wrong, and the weapons Haiti could make out were much too sophisticated for Trade Order engineers to construct. Had some other race cleansed the Traders before they had reached them? Haiti ground his teeth in irritation. Only time would tell what had happened to the Trade Order. But whoever these heathens were, they would be punished as well, one way or the other. They had seen his fleets.
Haiti drew his attention back to the holographic display as an explosion filled the control console's view screen. The fighters were returning to their hangars, the enemy ship was destroyed. Haiti looked at his own forces. Many of the Advent ships had left, and those who hadn't yet were formed up in their respective fists and knuckles on the edge of the gravity well, and were preparing to phase out. Only Haiti's Reemergence and the rest of his Atlantean squad remained near the wormhole.
May memory speed your engines, Haiti thought to the Advent ships as they phased out, and they responded with the usual formal replies.
May fate serve you well.
May the heavens themselves part to guide you.
May the Atlanteans never falter.
Haiti turned back to the glowing wormhole in the center of the gravity well.
"Women," he began out loud, startling the crew members around him. Almost no words were spoken on an Advent war ship. "Warm up the cannons. We will soon be confronting an enemy of unknown strength appearing from this wormhole."
They looked at him curiously, trying to discern how he knew enemy ships were approaching, but he let no thought slip.
Atlanteans will now deploy in these positions...
Haiti outlined his assault plans.
10 years ago, galactic position 305, 741
Esquian looked up slowly as the fragmented report from the Jikara Navigator came in. The passage through the wormhole in front of them was clear but...there was something wrong with the data coming in from the other side. There was something waiting for them, surely, Esquian hissed at that, but the log said the reports were coming to him from five years into the future! Had he discovered a wormhole that bended time as well as space! It was unthinkable! But he needed to concentrate on defeating the enemy before focusing on the unnatural space phenomenon in front of him. That these filthy creatures had amassed a fleet so quickly amazed him, but what truly caught his attention was the rapidity in which they destroyed the Jikara. They had more superior weapons than the Vasari had previously thought. Still, it was best to take precautions. Esquian gave a short list of orders to the officers in the command center, then returned to his room to craft a memory orb. Once his message was complete, he sent up a link to the Platinum and transmitted the orb. That done, he returned to the command center. If things ended poorly, then Num'pol was warned to stay away. If not, then Esquian himself could meet his fellow Elite Subjugator and...apologize. The word grated on his scaly tongue, yet it would have to be done if he survived. Yet that was still a big if.
"Are all ships ready to move?" He asked his Senior Eliminator.
"They are, Elite Subjugator," the senior eliminator said smoothly, touching finger to forehead and bowing slightly. "All who are still present know of our probable fate and wish to continue. Those who left will fall into our crossfire in five minutes."
"Good..." mused Esquian, not really paying attention. Traitors and deserters would die, and those who were true to the Vasari would continue on and die anyway. But die in honor.
"First branch advance!" Esquian barked. "The weak shall fall, and the strong shall fall, and the Vasari will remain triumphant!"
As one the 100 remaining ships powered up and surged through the wormhole.
5 years ago, galactic position ???, ???
There was a small flash on the screen. Haiti rose and smiled. Just as he had predicted, the heathen ships had appeared from the wormhole, and were moving along cautiously, obviously triple checking their scanners. From their scout they knew that an enemy lurked nearby. But Haiti was betting on the fact that once their sensors turned up nothing they would assume the enemy had left the wormhole and traveled to another position in the sector, or with luck, had phased out at the sun. Haiti grinned, the wolf-like attitude of the Unity seeping into his emotions. They would pay for their folly.
Just as he had predicted, the heathen ships formed back together and sped up towards the edge of the gravity well, no doubt hoping to discover something about their enemy at another position.
The Unity was restless.
Like a bird of prey, the Advent Atlantean squad, three thousand spatial miles above the the gravity well plane, turned the beautiful noses of their ships down and plunged at the heathen ships. The Reemergence's computers calculated the number of enemy ships, and Haiti grinned like a wildcat. One hundred ships to his twenty. It would be an even fight.