Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Oh,so the end of days is the Second Hyperspace War?

Yup. That conflict is the death knell of all Galactic Civilization. The actual annihilation is dragged out over 21 years with the final deathblow being delivered by Jericho's Pyrrhic victory against the Beast during the War in Heaven itself.

Akira "Paradox" Robinson claims to be trying to prevent Jericho's Pyrrhic victory and make the War in Heaven have a definitive outcome in favor of the Stormbreakers. According to her theory, this will prevent spacefaring civilization from dying out after the 2HW ends.
 
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HistoryDude

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But,presumably,it's not that simple.It's never that simple.And I fear everything will repeat...exactly as it has an infinite amount of times before and exactly as it will an infinite amount of times again...
What was will be,what will be was...
This is the last cycle...and the zeroth.
 

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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What was will be,what will be was...

I've been playing Stellaris for over 1800 hours and I've only encountered the Worm once... Which is probably a good thing, 'cause it scared the Stormbreaker right out of me. :eek:
 
Chapter 4.6: The Battle of Whakaari

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Chapter 4.6
The Battle of Whakaari

December 1, 1928 A.D.
Fort Miranda, Southern Ridge of Archer’s Canyon, Kingdom of Partoga


The entire top floor of the Officer Barracks had been given over to Queen Kendra to use as her own personal living space. The Queen set aside a room for her Kuhina Nui to recover from his injuries in, another room for her mother when she finally arrived from Partoga City, and another room for her boyfriend Eteka to sleep in, although Eteka usually just shared a bed with the Queen instead.

In the early morning hours of the first day of Hakihea, Eteka was dashing along the narrow road that lead from Fort Miranda’s armory to the Command Center. Slamming the door open and descending into the Mission Control room, Eteka had to search through a crowd of busy and excited soldiers to find Queen Kendra.

It had been slightly less than two days since Vice Admiral Patariki had revealed the location of Tantomile. The Empress of Levakia was being held in Whakaari Prison, located on an island just off the southern coast of The Mangaia. The Queen had immediately started to orchestrate a massive combined-arms rescue operation that involved elements of the Green Guard, Royal Army, and Royal Navy. The mission itself was a “smash-and-grab" operation. The Partogan military would pull Tantomile out of the prison while inflicting maximum damage to the enemy before leaving.

When she wasn’t planning Tantomile’s rescue, the Queen was having long meetings with Vice Admiral Patariki. She didn’t tell Eteka what they were discussing, but he had a hunch that whatever it was, it was an extremely grim topic. Kendra looked less and less comfortable whenever she emerged from one of her meetings with the Vice Admiral.

When Eteka found Queen Kendra in the back of the Mission Control room, she looked even more troubled than usual. She asked Eteka to follow her and then led him into a conference room. The Vice Admiral was there as well. Once the three of them sat down, Kendra said:

“Eteka, do you remember the Paradox? That Snowskin who pretended to be Titohara Nopera back when we were on the Rauuira in the Taiidan War Zone?”

“Sure.” Eteka said. “I’m still upset she never got caught. The real Titohara was murdered, and the case just kinda went cold. That wasn’t fair to anyone.”

“Well, we’ve got a development I think you need to know.” said Kendra. She turned to the Admiral. “Repeat everything you told me.”

Vice Admiral Patariki took a deep breath.

“For the past year, the Partogan government has been infiltrated by Snowskins disguising themselves like us.” he explained. “I’ve... uh... had my suspicions for a while, but your encounter on the Shieldbreaker is the first confirmation I’ve gotten. The “Paradox” her Majesty described matches the description of one of the Snowskins I’m after.”

Eteka felt his blood turn cold.

“There’s more than one of them!?” he gasped, “And they’re here!?”

The fake Titohara had been enough of a problem. This was a very bad development.

“Actually, we think there’s five of them.” The Admiral said. “That’s including the one you called ‘the Paradox.’ They’ve been quietly influencing our government and pushing us towards a military confrontation with the Levakians. We don’t know why.”

“The two of us have got our eyes on three people we suspect of being disguised Snowskins.” Kendra said darkly. “I think one of them is the Paradox herself.”

“How are we going to find them?” Eteka asked, feeling a sense of dread and fear rising within him.

“Leave that to us.” said Vice Admiral Patariki. “The Queen and I are making a plan to flush them out of hiding. I’ve seen the After-Action-Report your superiors filed after the false Titohara escaped. I’ve read your description of her and how you spotted her, too, so we know what to look for now. When you get back from your mission, we’ll bring you in on the plan.”

“Huh? What mission?” Eteka asked.

“Eteka, we have to let Tantomile know what’s going on.” Kendra said, “If she has the full picture, she might be able to help us end this war... a war that might have been started by the Snowskin Infiltrators for their own benefit. I want you to join the attack on Whakaari. When Tantomile is safe, I’ve given the Commander instructions to let you debrief her. You need to tell her everything. She needs to know the Paradox and her friends are here at Miranda. Then help her get back to The Mangaia so she can take command of her forces. Can you do all of that?”

Eteka nodded and said,

“Absolutely, Your Majesty.” Then he added, “Am I going to be by myself out there? Or are you embedding me in a unit?”

Kendra shook her head.

“I pulled a string or two. You’ll be part of a fireteam with some old familiar faces.”


December 2, 1928 A.D.
The Staging Grounds, Fort Miranda, Southern Ridge of Archer’s Canyon, Kingdom of Partoga


Old familiar faces indeed.

Arahu Ranginui and Ango Karaka were still donning their body armor when Eteka joined them next to the dropship.

“No way!” Ango said, “Eteka, how’ve you been, man?”

Ango punched Eteka on the shoulder by way of greeting, then he passed his comrade a Gauss Rifle.

“Karaka, Ranginui. It’s good to see you guys again.” Eteka said, “Are we the fireteam? Where’s Rapati?”

“He quit the military, remember?” Arahu said, barely hiding the bitterness in his voice. “He’s probably still with his family in Candon.”

Eteka noticed the unpleasant tone of Arahu’s voice. He stepped in front of Arahu and gave him a serious look.

“Look, man... are we gonna have a problem?” Eteka cut straight to the chase. “I can’t let you or sister’s frustration undermine this mission.”

A small storm of emotions swept across Arahu’s face. His normally smug, self-important façade faded, and he grabbed Eteka in a one-armed hug.

“It’s okay, man.” Arahu’s voice quavered. “I’m just glad you said something. No one’s been asking about Irirangi, you know? She’s really cut up about all of this. It means something... you asking about her... you know?”

“Maybe she should come meet my therapist.” a female voice said just behind them. “He’s got a free slot in his schedule now that I’m here.”

Eteka and Arahu looked around and saw person who had joined them. It was a fifteen-year old Partogan woman with picture perfect features: sleek silver hair, a charming smile, and curves in all the right places. Eteka’s jaw dropped before Arahu quietly reminded him:

“Aren’t you dating the Queen?”

“Amaya!?” Ango gasped. “What are you doing here!?”

Former Queen Candidate Amaya Maori tapped the silver pilot’s badge on her Royal Navy uniform.

“I’m flying your dropship. Queen’s orders.”

Arahu scratched his head in confusion.

“So... uh... You’re not our fourth?” Arahu asked, “We need one more person to be a full fireteam.”

“Back here, Ranginui!” A gruff voice called out.

Arahu's shoulder was grabbed by a tall woman with short grey hair done up in cornrows and an elaborate Tuakiri Tattoo that now covered her entire face in dozens of beautiful looping spirals and fractal patterns. Her Royal Navy uniform was now augmented with a pair of shoulder epaulettes that were green with silver stripes, identifying the wearer as a member of the Green Guard.

Toa Wahine Kopaki Raharuhi smiled at her old friends and said:

“Guys, my eyes are still up here.”

Eteka, Arahu, and Ango all shifted their gaze while Amaya burst into laughter.

“Oh, Holy Miranda! You guys are so predicable!”

The fireteam and their pilot all huddled up.

“Listen up, everyone.” Toa Kopaki said. “The Queen has decided the rescue of Empress Tantomile is going to be a joint operation between the Royal Army, Royal Navy, and the Green Guard. Everyone’s going to be pulling together on this one. The main attack force will consist of two-hundred and fifty soldiers, us included. The Royal Army dropships will put us down half a Kio away from the prison walls and we’ll approach on foot.

“When all of the troops are in position, Royal Navy gunships will do an attack run and knock down the walls and put down any defenders. The gunships will orbit the Prison and give us close air support as we go in. The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Marka will be in Geostationary orbit to provide heavy artillery, but we probably won’t need it if we’re fast enough. Intel reports there are 60 employees, about 80 armed guards, and some 30 prisoners inside the building. The Royal Army soldiers will engage the prison staff and guards while a Green Guard strike force finds and extracts Tantomile. Once the Levakian Empress is secured, we exfiltrate to the Mangaia City Spaceport. It’s been overrun by friendly Levakians who are loyal to Queen Kendra. They’ll give us a straight shot at putting Tantomile back into the Mangaia Palace, where she can use the Imperial Hyperwave to take command of the Confederate military away from the Confederate Council... hopefully.”

“Best case scenario,” said Arahu. “Is that the Confederate Army starts to get conflicting orders from Tantomile and the Confederate Council. The confusion will open up an opportunity for us to crush them!”

“That’s the plan.” said Toa Kopaki. “Any questions?”

Eteka raised his hand.

“Are we going to be part of the Army or Green Guard strike forces?” he asked.

“Uh...” Toa Kopaki seemed to be thinking fast. “Here. We’ll do this.”

She reached into one of her cargo pockets and produced half a dozen extra epaulettes. She gave one each to her five comrades and said in a semi-sarcastic and semi-serious tone:

“You’re all Green Guards now. You swear to obey and protect the Church of the Mountain or anyone authorized to speak in its place blah, blah, blah. Everyone aboard the dropship! Maori, fire up the engines!”


December 2, 1928 A.D.
Whakaari Island, Kingdom of The Mangaia, Partogan Homeworld


This was the most awe-inspiring thing Eteka had ever seen!

Nearly a hundred dropships and gunships, flying at low altitude, sped across the shimmering silver waters of the Whakaari Gulf. Legs dangling out the side portals of their dropships, Partogan soldiers, armed and armored to the teeth, clutched their weapons and gritted their teeth as the cold early morning air whipped past. In the passenger area of his own dropship, Eteka heard Amaya Maori’s voice over the radio.

“Shoreline in sight!”

Below, ocean was replaced by beach and in turn the beach was replaced by dense forest. Treetops whipped past Eteka’s ankles and were blown about by hot exhaust gasses. Next to Eteka, Toa Kopaki wasn’t holding her weapon. It was too big. Instead of the usual Gauss Rifle, Toa Kopaki had armed herself with a Magnetic Cannon. This fully automatic machinegun could fire hypersonic Gauss Rounds at a rate of nearly 2,000 per minute. The Mag Cannon was designed to wipe out whole battalions in less than that time.

“Ninety seconds to objective!” a voice yelled over the radio.

“All gunships, this is Miranda.” the voice of Vice Admiral Patariki came over the radio. “We can see anti-aircraft weaponry on the guard towers.”

“Copy all, Miranda.”

“Thirty seconds!” Amaya yelled to the soldiers in the back of her dropship. “Riri Nui go with you!”

Twenty seconds!

“Incoming triple-A!" a gunship commander reported.

Suddenly, the night sky was as brightly lit as in daytime as all of the attacking aircraft popped flares. From Eteka’s point of view, it looked as though a thousand stars had fallen out of the night sky and were descending to the treetops below. Anti-aircraft missiles streaked up from Whakaari Prison and smacked into the flares, exploding like grotesque fireworks.

Ten seconds!

Amaya pulled back on her control column and brought her dropship to a midair hover. Around her, dozens of dropships did the same thing. Two squadrons of Royal Navy gunships broke away from the formation and began to pour Mass Driver fire into the Prison. The distant explosions sounded like a powerful thunderstorm!

Time was up! Toa Kopaki threw a switch on a wall panel next to her and yelled:

“Go go go!!”

The air assault began.

Half a dozen thick ropes dropped from their moorings on the sides of the dropship and hung there, ready. Eteka grabbed one and hooked it to his harness. Eteka, Toa Kopaki, Arahu, and Ango all rappelled nearly twenty Bios to the ground, past the treetops and into the darkness below! All around them, four Platoon’s worth of Partogan soldiers did the same. Arahu hit the ground first, unhooking his rope and readying his Gauss Rifle. Eteka, Toa Kopaki, and Ango did the same.

“All Callsigns, this is Miranda.” Vice Admiral Patariki’s voice sounded tinny in Eteka’s earpiece. “The anti-aircraft weapons are down and the gunships report at least 25 enemy K-I-A. You are clear to begin infantry assault!”

Toa Kopaki waved at her comrades.

“Follow me!” She yelled, “Keep low, move fast, and don’t stop to count the dead!”

About fifty Bios before reaching the walls of Whakaari Prison, the forest very suddenly stopped. The ground dipped low and became a trench.

“Who the hell digs a moat around a prison!?” Ango said.

“Just be glad they didn’t fill it!” Toa Kopaki responded. “Follow those engineers!”

A group of Army combat engineers had brought a portable bridge building system with them, and an improvised pontoon was slowly extending across the moat towards a gaping hole in the wall. A Mass Driver slug still smoldered at the bottom of the crater.

Gunfire! Loud pops and cracks rent the air as Arahu screamed!

“Contact front!”

The fireteam dropped to their bellies, pointed their weapons into the broken wall and opened fire! The sharp pop pop pop of bullets flying overhead turned into an extremely loud CRACK CRACK CRACK as the enemy fire became more accurate.

“They’re shooting over our heads!” Ango yelled, “Everyone stay on the ground!”

Eteka pressed his body to the dirt so hard the frames of his glasses creaked and threatened to break.

“Miranda, this is Tahnok 7-8!” Toa Kopaki shouted into her radio. “We’re pinned down by enemy suppression along the north wall! We need some help over here!”

“Standby, Tahnok 7-8.” Vice Admiral Patariki’s voice replied, “There’s a rifle squad to your right. We’re sending them your way. Watch your fire as they come in.”

Eketa tilted his head upwards the smallest amount. Over the top of the wild grass he was lying in, he could just barely see a group of nine or ten soldiers on the other side of the broken wall. These were the people shooting at his own fireteam. A flurry of movement and gunshots to his right caught his attention.

“Friendlies on the right!” He yelled out to his team. “They’re in front of us!”

“Shift fire left!” Toa Kopaki yelled.

All four members of the fire team canted their weapons hard to the left and continued firing into the air. Like this, it was impossible for them to actually hit their enemies. The Gauss rounds would simply sail high and to the left of their intended targets, but that didn’t matter. The intense suppressing fire Eteka and his teammates laid down forced the enemy to cease fire and take cover. They never saw the rifle squad coming. In seconds, their flank was completely overrun, and the attack on Eteka’s fireteam ceased.

“Tahnok 7-8! You’re shooting at friendlies!! Green on green!” The rifle squad leader shouted as loudly as he could to be heard over the noise of gunfire and explosions.

“Cease fire!” Toa Kopaki yelled.

Eteka, Ango, and Arahu all clambered back to their feet and finally entered Whakaari Prison.

The place was wrecked. Normally, Whakaari was a complex of nearly three dozen buildings of varying size and shape all crammed together inside a concrete wall. However, the large-scale military assault had caused some of the structures to collapse, and one of the guard towers had fallen right over and crushed a cafeteria. In front of the fireteam, a group of prison guards lay dead or dying on the blood-soaked pavement. Four of the guards were Partogans, the other six were Levakians. One of the lions stirred, blood pouring from a gunshot wound to its chest, and Toa Kopaki moved swiftly.

Kneeling down on the wounded Levakian’s body, Toa Kopaki pressed her knee into his throat and the barrel of a Gauss Pistol into the side of his head.

“Empress Tantomile!” Toa Kopaki shouted. “Where is she!?”

“Like hell I’m gonna tell you!” The lion spat out. “Your ink doesn’t scare us anymore, Taihara.”

Toa Kopaki screeched so loudly that her voice echoed off of the nearby wall.

You think I’m fucking around here!?

Moving too fast for Eteka, Arahu, Ango, or the captive lion to do anything about, Toa Kopaki used her free hand to pull a massive looking combat knife out of her waistband and plunged the blade into the lion’s shoulder. Eteka winced and the lion roared!

Taihara bitch!” The lion roared, “That little thing won’t kill me!”

“THAT’S THE POINT!” Toa Kopaki responded, “WHERE’S TANTOMILE!?”

She spun 180 degrees, keeping herself atop the lion the whole time. The Toa leaned forward and in one sadistic strike, she cut the lion’s tail off!

Eteka and Arahu jumped backwards to avoid being splattered with blood! The lion, wracked by immense pain from both old injuries and the new ones, roared again and tried to stand up, but Kopaki stabbed him in the back and gripped the handle of her knife with both hands, forcing her adversary back to the ground again.

“I’ll do this all day if I have to, cat!” Toa Kopaki shouted. “Where’s Tantomile!?”

“Stop!” The lion gasped, “She’s in the second Max Security building, west end of the compound! The solitary confinement cells in the sub-basement!”

Toa Kopaki instantly relaxed her grip on the lion and stood up. She pushed the “talk” button on her radio and said:

“All Callsigns, this is Tahnok 7-8. We have the HVI’s position. Maximum Security block, building 2, sub-basement. She’s in an isolation cell.”

Then Toa Kopaki turned to her squadmates.

“Alright. Who wants to be a Taihara?”

The question was so unexpected, so out of the blue, that Ango, Eteka, and Arahu all just stared at her for a moment. Coughing blood, the wounded Levakian on the ground didn’t seem to notice what Toa Kopaki had just said. Eteka instinctively wanted to say no. He just had a little trouble finding the right way to say it. Finally, Eteka spoke:

“I didn’t join the Royal Navy because I wanted to be a killer.” he said. “That lion’s not a threat anymore. Leave him. Let’s go get Tantomile.”

Toa Kopaki nodded and pursed her lips.

“Alright. Another time, perhaps.” She chambered a round in her Gauss Pistol, then turned to face the wounded Levakian again.

“Wait!” Arahu gasped, but Toa Kopaki cut him off.

“I didn’t hear him surrender... did you?

The Lion looked up at Toa Kopaki, his eyes went wide with fear and he gasped:

“I-I-”

Pop-pop!

It happened so quickly that Eteka couldn’t process it. When his mind finally returned to normal speed, he saw the blood on the pavement and the exhaust gas rising from her Gauss Pistol. The lion twitched one last time before he finally lay still.

“Right.” said Toa Kopaki. “Now... Let’s go get Tantomile.”



Inside the cramped compound of Whakaari Prison, the rules of urban warfare applied. Every room had to be meticulously cleared and searched before moving on to the next. The threat of ambushes and traps were omnipresent, despite the fact that most of the Prison staff and guards were accounted for.

Eteka’s strike team entered Maximum Security building number 2 just as the sun was starting to rise. An hour later, they had finally reached the stairwell leading to the sub-basement.

“All callsigns, this is Miranda.” the voice of Vice Admiral Patariki made itself heard across all radios, headsets, and earpieces. “We confirm that 74 prison guards are now dead, wounded, or captured, alongside some 89 members of staff. We now have reason to believe that the entire enemy force has been accounted for. Continue to use caution while clearing buildings. Let’s not have any nasty surprises.”

Down in the sub-basement, the search continued. Toa Kopaki used a very simple but effective way of checking each cell before proceeding. She had smashed a mirror in an upstairs bathroom and taken several shards of broken mirror. Then she used some tree branches and rope to create a very crude periscope. None of the cell doors had windows of any kind, so it was very easy to spy on anyone inside without alerting them to the presence of a Green Guard fireteam.

Every cell contained either a Partogan prisoner or a Levakian one. They all seemed to be completely unconcerned with the sounds of gunfire and explosions coming from above, and the surgery scars atop their heads seemed to explain why.

Just when Eteka was starting to worry about never finding Tantomile down here, Toa Kopaki pushed her periscope to the gap between a cell door and the floor and said quietly:

“Eyes on HVI and two OPFOR. Armed. Prep a thunderflash.”

Eteka, Ango, and Arahu stacked themselves up along the wall next to the cell door. Eteka and Ango took the left side while Arahu and Toa Kopaki held the right. Across from Eteka, Arahu pulled the pin on a Thunderflash Bomb. Arahu hesitated for a few seconds, cooking off the grenade in his fist.

“Remember,” he said, “The white lioness is a friendly. Waste everyone else in that room. On my go... three... two... one...”

Toa Kopaki wrenched the cell door open with so much strength that it came off its hinges and crashed to the floor! A Partogan voice inside the cell screamed:

“Wait!”

And a female Levakian voice screamed:

“HELP ME!”

Arahu tossed the Thunderflash into the tiny little cell and retreated behind cover again!

BANG!

Eteka and Arahu were the first two around the corner! Two lions and a Partogan were waiting inside of the room. All three of them had been stunned by the Thunderflash! Seated in the middle of the room was a white lioness, there was still a mark on her fur where the brown lion had been pressing a Slugthrower Rifle to the back of her head. Looking up, Eteka saw that the brown lion was now raising his weapon up to point at Eteka!

Reflexively, without even thinking about it, Eteka raised his Gauss Rifle and squeezed the trigger four times! The brown lion stumbled backwards and hit the wall! Almost simultaneously, Eteka heard two blasts to his left, and saw the Partogan man crumple straight down to the floor! Arahu had shot him in the neck and chest. A Gauss Pistol clattered to the cold cell floor.

“He was going for you!” Arahu gasped. “I-If I hadn’t-”

Toa Kopaki pushed past them both and grabbed Tantomile’s face.

“Look at me,” she said. “Did they do anything to you!? Did they open up your head!?”

“No.” Empress Tantomile answered. “No, they were waiting for word from Emerdon. I’m fine.”

“Thank Miranda for that.” said Ango. “I’m gonna call it in...”

He stepped away from the group and talked into his radio.

“All callsigns, this is Tahnok 7-8. We’ve secured the HVI and we’re coming out of Max Security number 2. Give us a dropship so we can move her.”

“Well done, Tahnok 7-8.” replied the voice of Vice Admiral Patariki. “Lieutenant Maori is on her way to you now. She’ll be about ten minutes.”

Arahu, Ango, Toa Kopaki, and Empress Tantomile all got up to leave, spilling out into the hallway and celebrating the success of the mission. Eteka, however, did not. He was looking at the body of the Partogan who now lay dead on the floor of Tantomile’s cell. Toa Kopaki put a hand on Eteka’s shoulder.

“Hey, Mihaka. That was a good kill,” she said. “We’ll make sure you get a Tuakiri as soon as we get back to Fort Miranda, alright?”

“It's not that...” Eteka said in a stunned voice. “It’s him.”

Eteka raised a finger and pointed at the Partogan corpse on the floor. Toa Kopaki scratched her chin.

“You know what?” she said. “That’s also a good call. Ranginui, Karaka, check the corpse for intel!”

While Arahu and Ango started rifling through the pockets of the dead man, Tantomile spoke to Eteka:

“What’s up, Mihaka? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Not a ghost.” Eteka said. “A body double.”

He got on the radio.

“Miranda, this is Tahnok 7-8.” He said, “Do a headcount at Mission Control and tell me where Toa Nanui Ehau is.”

“Uh... there’s no need to do that, Tahnok 7-8.” Vice Admiral Patariki replied. “He was in here about ten minutes ago. I just spoke with him.”

Everyone looked down at the corpse. Eteka whispered,

“He’s a perfect copy.”

There was no doubt in Eteka’s mind. The dead man on the floor was Toa Nanui Ehau. He had the same buzzcut and odd-looking uniform as the man Eteka had seen at Fort Miranda. Eteka was so confused by this discovery that his mind just seemed to hang for a moment. While Eteka got his thoughts straight, Arahu pulled an object out of the dead man’s jacket. It looked like the stock, handle, and trigger section of a rifle. A black heat sink rose out of the upper part of what should have been the trigger assembly.

“What is this thing!?” Arahu said.

A loud gasp caught everyone’s attention. Eteka, Toa Kopaki, Arahu, and Ango all looked at Tantomile... she was pointing at the object in Arahu’s hand with a shaking paw... a look of terrified recognition in her purple eyes. Rushing forward, Tantomile shoved Arahu aside and began clawing at the dead man’s face.

“What the hell are you doing!?” Eteka yelled, “He’s already dead!”

“No!” shouted Tantomile. “He’s a Snowskin!”

She stepped back and showed them all what she had done.

The topmost layer of skin had been peeled away from the dead man’s face like cool wax. The brown skin of a Partogan lay shredded and discarded, and despite being made pale by death, the man’s white face stood out painfully from the rest of the dark cell... like the last pile of snow to survive the morning sun.

For a few moments, everyone just stood there... shocked.

“We need to call Queen Kendra.” said Tantomile, “Right now.”

“Dropship’s up top.” Eteka said slowly. “We’re supposed to take you to The Mangaia, you’ve got friends and loyalists waiting for you there, and a whole plan to take over the Imperial Palace.”

“Alright, then.” Tantomile sighed. “But the second we get control of the Imperial Palace, we call Kendra.”


December 2, 1928 A.D.
Fort Miranda, Southern Ridge of Archer’s Canyon, Kingdom of Partoga


“Miranda this is Tahnok 7-8. We have the HVI aboard our dropship and we’re en route to The Mangaia now. ETA two hours!” Toa Kopaki’s voice said over the radio. “Mihaka is debriefing the HVI now as the Queen instructed.”

Cheers and celebratory yells went up all over the Mission Control room. Vice Admiral Maui Patariki, who had been looking very uncomfortable for the past few minutes, sighed and said into the microphone:

“Solid copy Tahnok 7-8. Miranda out.”

Queen Kendra sighed.

“That had me on the edge of my seat.” she said. “How long until they reach The Mangaia?”

“We have to wait for the Pro-Partogan resistance there to send us a signal saying the Spaceport is safe to land at.” The Admiral explained. “Since they overran the Spaceport yesterday, we won’t have to wait long. After that, it’s just a matter of waiting for Tantomile to force her way into the Imperial Palace, overthrow the Confederate Council, and take command of the Confederate Army. The war could be over by sundown!”

“I like the sound of that.” Kendra said. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

Kendra slipped through a door in the back of the Mission Control room and slumped behind a desk. She was terrified that she had actually sent her own boyfriend into battle... but it had been her only choice. Kendra needed Eteka to leave Fort Miranda for a few days while she sorted out another problem:

Kendra had a very strong suspicion that the Paradox was here inside Fort Miranda, disguised as Aku Mihaka.

The alarm bells started ringing for Kendra a couple of days ago. Vice Admiral Maui Patariki had explained to her about how Princess Aku had nearly missed the Royal Election four months ago, showing up to the National Assembly uncharacteristically late. Maui had also mentioned that Aku would disappear for days at a time, leave the room to take radiophone calls, drink only from sealed containers, and was being extremely overprotective of her daughter, Kaio.

According to Maui, all of these behaviors were out-of-character for Aku.

“She’s not acting like herself.” Maui had said. “If you ask me, she’s acting like a totally different person wearing Aku’s clothes.”

Now that Eteka was going to be gone for a few days, Kendra decided this was the time to confront Aku and figure out if there was any truth to the mutual suspicions shared between Kendra and Maui. Punching the intercom button on her desk, Kendra called a secretary working at the main entrance to the Command Center.

“Has Nya Ririnui gotten back from her supply run yet?” Kendra asked.

“No, Your Majesty.” The secretary replied. “Should I send her to you when she gets back?”

“Yes, thank you.” Kendra answered. “Send her straight to the Mission Control room.”

The Queen was about to stand up and leave when there was a knock on the office door.

“Come in,” Kendra said, quickly adjusting her new eyepatch.

Kuhina Nui Tapu Mihaka stepped inside. His legs were still injured from being trapped under rubble at the Royal Palace, so he was helped through the threshold by Kaio Mihaka and her mother, Princess Aku. Kendra felt her stomach lurch. She’d been planning to separate Kaio from Aku and talk to them separately. Determined to keep some control over the situation, Kendra decided to speak first.

“Eteka’s safe!” Kendra said quickly. “He’s on his way to The Mangaia with Empress Tantomile right now!”

Queen Kendra had expected the Mihakas to react with happiness and maybe a little celebration, but bizarrely, the trio all began to look frustrated... and a little angry.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Why’s Tantomile still alive?” Kuhina Nui Tapu said, “That was our best chance to do her in.”

Kendra was so caught off guard, so confused by what her Kuhina Nui had just said, that she didn’t realize the statement was not meant for her.

Princess Aku shook her head.

“The whole plan’s gone to pieces.” she said, “We’ll just get her at Aoraki, but that means we’ve gotta accelerate things here.”

“Hey!” Kendra said loudly, “That in Miranda’s name are you t-”

Princess Aku pointed her finger at the Queen and said coldly:

Shut the hell up! Manaaki, anytime now would be nice! We need to know how she found out about us!”

Kendra’s mouth closed, despite the fact that she was still trying to talk. She tried to raise her arms but found they wouldn’t obey. No part of Kendra’s body would respond to commands! It was as though Kendra was paralyzed!

Looking frantically from one Mihaka to the next, Kendra was terrified to see that none of them seemed at all concerned that their Queen had frozen mid-sentence. Kuhina Nui Tapu stared hard into Kendra’s eye... and the Queen began to feel a strange sensation. Against her will, memories were called to the front of Kendra’s mind and replayed for both Kendra and her attacker to see: Her conversations with Vice Admiral Patariki, their plan to rescue Tantomile and stop the war... Patariki’s warning about Snowskin infiltrators... her discussions with Tantomile about the Paradox... and then, Kendra’s own suspicions about Aku.

Kendra began to feel a surge of anger... powerful fury that wasn’t her own! Tapu’s rage swelled within Kendra’s body until it suddenly began to drain out of her as the mental invasion came to an end.

Kendra had never felt so... violated... attacked. It was horrible.

Ignoring the Queen’s pained gasps, Tapu turned to his companions and said:

“Hakara blew our cover. He told her a lot, but not everything. It’s not containable; she told the Mihaka kid and he’s in Whakaari. He’s got her convinced not to launch the Planet-Killers... and damn, Hakara’s really disillusioned with us. We can’t get him back.”

Kaio swore.

“What do we do now?” Aku asked. “We still can’t contact Akira or the Ark Angel. We’re on our own out here.”

“We do it ourselves.” Kuhina Nui Tapu said, “And put a few bullets in Hakara for good measure.”

Tapu’s voice spoke from within Kendra’s mind.

Follow me.

Kendra wanted to refuse, to disobey, but whatever power Tapu was using to hold her was overwhelming! Her legs carried Kendra forward as though they belonged to someone else, and as all four of them exited the office and re-entered the Mission Control room, Vice Admiral Patariki turned around on the spot to greet the Queen, and his smile vanished at once!

The Vice Admiral, Princess, Kuhina Nui, and Princess’s daughter all pulled Gauss Pistols from their holsters and took aim at one another! All around them, there was yelling, scraping of chairs, and cocking of hammers as guns upon guns were drawn! Tapu, Aku, and Kaio were surrounded and outgunned as nearly forty Partogans drew their weapons and took aim at them!

“Let go of the Queen!” Vice Admiral Patariki said threateningly, pointing his weapon at Aku’s face. “I swear, Whetu, I’ll kill you!”

“Hakara, you’re out of line!” Aku spat, “What the hell did you think you were doing, spilling to her!? She’s not your real kid!”

“She’s real enough for me!” Maui Patariki shouted, he took two steps forward and pressed he barrel of his weapon into the bridge of Aku’s nose. “Let. Her. Go. NOW.”

There was an incredible commotion around the room, and confused yelling caused both Aku and Maui to look away from each other. Ten members of the Mission Control staff were gripping and grabbing at their own heads and shouting in pain!

“He’s in my head!” one man shouted,

“No! Get out! Stop!” a woman screamed,

Then, just as suddenly, these same ten individuals calmly raised their weapons and aimed at their own comrades! It was as though some unseen force had caused them to change sides in the standoff!

Next to her, Kendra saw that Kuhina Nui Tapu was now visibly straining. His eyes were emitting a brilliant purple light and a faint visible purple aura now ran around his entire head, which shook from the strain it was under.

“If you’re not going to help, then get out of our way, Hakara.” Kaio said. “We still have a job to do.”

“Not anymore!” Maui shouted, “Haven’t you noticed!? Haven’t you seen what’s going on!? Can’t you see what Akira’s about to do!?

“She’s about to make the perfect future for all of us.” Tapu answered.

“For herself!!” Maui yelled. “She’s making the future perfect for herself! We aren’t going to have a place in it! She’s going to leave us behind!!”

Aku tilted her head back and laughed.

“You actually believed that thing?” she shrieked. “The words of a ghost really made you stop believing in Akira!?”

Maui gripped his pistol with both hands and said:

“No. Akira did that.”

Gunfire erupted! Kuhina Nui Tapu clutched at his chest as half a dozen Gauss slugs slotted through his torso! Kendra was thrown to the floor by the same unseen force that had moved her limbs against her will. Above her, the noise of gunbattle, explosions, and screaming all melded together into one formless, deafening cacophony! Shattered glass, plaster, and blood rained down on the Queen, who screamed noiselessly against the hellish storm of cracks and pops!

And then, finally, it was over. The gunfire stopped, and all Kendra could hear was the sounds of half a dozen people moaning, screaming, and yelling in pain. Then, one by one, the Queen heard a loud pop! as a single gunshot silenced each wounded person. Curled up in the fetal position, Kendra wasn’t sure if she was in control of her own body, and didn’t want to test it.

Ignore me. She thought to herself. I’m already dead. Don’t check me. Don’t look over here.

“She’s alive.” said Aku’s voice. “I can hear her thoughts. She’s over here.”

Frantic, panicking, the Queen tried to silence her own mind, only to feel a firm hand gripping her arm. Aku pulled Kendra back to her feet.

“We’ve still got work to do, Majesty.” Aku said coldly.

The Princess’s eyes began to shimmer with purple light. Kendra knew her mind was about to be invaded again and tried to resist, but it was no good. While Kendra’s brain sent the command “resist” to every nerve and fiber of her body, Kendra’s arms stopped flailing and fell obediently to her sides.

Launch the Planet-Killers. Aku’s command filled Kendra’s mind. Now.

Kendra’s inner voice screamed: “NO!! STOP!!” while her body involuntarily stepped over the bullet-riddled corpse of Kuhina Nui Tapu and moved towards a computer workstation. The plastic sign on top of it said “Shipyard Nynrah.”

Kendra’s hand slipped into her pocket and pulled out her military Command Card. As her hands worked over the computer, Kendra’s mind continued to mount a furious (but futile) resistance.


Sys/ hyperwave communication system online... please select FTL comms target...
Cmd usr/ ---> target Wikitoria Ranginui – Shipyard Nynrah, Beznar Star System
Sys/ searching the Hyperwave Network... Wikitoria Ranginui found...
Sys/ negotiating with receiver... Faster-Than-Light communications established.


“This is HMS Queen Miranda, Task Force Kraahkan.” said a female voice, “General Waiano Kopunui here.”

Kendra willed herself to call for help, to scream, or do anything to show General Kopunui that she was under duress. Instead, the Queen’s mouth opened, and Princess Aku spoke with Kendra’s voice:

“General, this is your Queen. I have a new fire mission for Task Force Kraahkan.”

“Do you have the Command Card, Your Majesty?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Dayword?” General Kopunui asked,

Kendra was forced to hold up the Command Card to her face, her eye unwillingly focused on the little words.

“Sanok.” Kendra was compelled to reply.

“Command word?” Kopunui requested.

“Kraahkan.” The word was forcibly extracted from Kendra.

“Action word?”

“Kualsi.” Kendra had never felt so weak... so powerless.

“Command lines confirmed.” said the voice of General Kopunui. “What are your orders, Your Majesty?”

“General Kopunui...” Kendra said. “Implement Two-One-Zivon.”

As soon as the secret codename for Operation Divine Fury left her mouth, Kendra was struck by a wave of despair, followed by newfound fury.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” General Kopunui responded. “It’ll take a few minutes to scramble the crews and get the Planet-Killers launched. Hyperlanes are jammed with hostile Levakian warships, so I estimate Task Force Kraahkan will take about two weeks to reach the Positive Control Point. I’m saying too much, Your Majesty. I’ll get to work now.”

And General Kopunui hung up.

Aku’s power forced Kendra to hold perfectly still.

“Okay,” Aku said out loud. “You’ve got a lot memories that need to be fixed. This is going to take a few minutes. Hold still now...”

Kendra could practically feel the Princess’ hand closing in on the back of her head...

Pop-pop-pop-pop!

Four gunshots rang out across the cramped space, Aku screamed loudly and at long last, her control over Kendra broke! The Queen scampered for cover, desperate to get away from whoever was letting rounds off! Looking behind her, Kendra saw Aku. The Princess was clutching at her right arm, which was soaked with blood! Kaio scooped up a Gauss Pistol from the floor and took aim at the other side of the Mission Control room, she took aim at the far door and shouted:

“It’s Ririnui! Look out!”

Kaio squeezed off just one return shot, causing Nya to dive for cover. Both mother and daughter fled into the hallway and out of sight. Their clattering footsteps fell silent as they got further and further away, and Kaio’s panicked voice echoed back out of the hallway and into the room, saying:

“I don’t get it! Why didn’t Nya just use the Gift!?”

“We’ll figure it out later!” Aku’s voice grew softer as it faded down the hallway. “We need to hide!”

Nya Ririnui dropped a still-smoking stuttermag to the floor and ran to Kendra’s side.

“What happened!? Are you okay!?”

“Planet-Killers!” Kendra gasped, “I’ve gotta stop them! You pull the security alarm and get some Green Guards in here, then guard the door! If Aku or Kaio tries to come back in, you shoot them on sight! Clear!?”

Nya quickly crossed the room and triggered the security alarm. Shouting from the floors above told Kendra that the Green Guard was on their way to secure the room. Vice Admiral Maui Patariki was nowhere to be seen. He had probably escaped out of the same door Nya had entered from. Nearly 40 people lay dead on the floor of the Mission Control room, and the combined smell of guns and blood was so overpowering that the Queen gagged as she reached the Hyperwave terminal and started dialing in the address of Shipyard Nynrah.


Sys/ hyperwave communication system online... please select FTL comms target...
Cmd usr/ ---> target Waiano Kopunui – Shipyard Nynrah, Beznar Star System
Sys/ searching the Hyperwave Network... Network Error!
Sys/ No active Hyperwave Relays found in the Beznar Star System. Please try again later.


“NO!” Kendra screamed! “NONONONONO!!”

She hit the call button again, this time with added desperation!


Sys/ hyperwave communication system online... please select FTL comms target...
Cmd usr/ ---> target HMS Queen Miranda, Partogan Royal Navy
Sys/ searching the Hyperwave Network... Network Error!
Sys/ HMS Queen Miranda is not receiving Hyperwave calls at this time. Please try again later.


“Oh, Holy Miranda! What happened!?”

The Green Guard had arrived, and they’d brought two familiar faces with them.

Prince Rakato Mihaka, Toa Nanui Ehau, and several Green Guards had just entered the room. Prince Rakato separated from the soldiers and ran over to the Queen. He held her face in both hands and checked Kendra for injuries while she choked out a response:

“Aku, Kaio, and Tapu all turned! Killed everyone! They forced me to launch the Planet-Killers!”

Prince Rakato was stunned with disbelief. He looked down at the bullet-riddled body of Tapu Mihaka and winced.

“Forced you!? But why!?” he said.

“No idea.” Kendra had to hold tears back, too emotional to think straight. “It doesn’t make sense! We had a workable plan to stop this war! To stop the killing, and now...”

“Those Planet-Killers have enough firepower to wipe out the whole Levakian species!” Rakato finished. “They’ll end the war quickly enough... at the cost of millions of innocent lives. We’ve got to stop them! Have you issued the abort command?”

“I just tried!” Kendra said, “I can’t get through! Their comms must be down, they can’t hear me!”

Calming down, Kendra watched as the Green Guards started to remove bodies from the room and posted guards at the entrances. Looking around, she finally realized that Vice Admiral Patariki was missing. The full impact and seriousness of the new crisis was starting to settle in.

Nya rejoined the Queen.

“Your Majesty, if we can’t recall the Planet-Killers, could we send someone up there to meet them and turn them back?”

Kendra’s heart did a summersault in her chest!

“That’s brilliant!! Why the hell didn’t I think of that!?” she said, her voice cracking with high-pitched elation!

Kendra grabbed Nya with both hands and kissed her on the mouth! Pushing the shocked and blushing Acolyte aside, Kendra fired up the Hyperwave Relay again. While she punched in commands, she said to Prince Rakato:

“Someone’s trying to make pawns out of us, Rakato. They want us to wipe out the Levakians and they started the war to make it happen! Millions of lions who never did anything wrong are about to get murdered for no good reason! We’ve gotta stop the Planet-Killers at all costs! Do you agree?”

Rakato nodded, stepping out of the way so the Green Guards could start to remove corpses from the room.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” he said, “We can’t allow ourselves to be forced toward destruction when peace is still possible.”

Kendra smiled at him.

“Congratulations, Prince Mihaka.” the Queen said. “You just became my new Kuhina Nui.”

She reached into her pocket and produced her Green Guard Command Card. Tossing it to Rakato, she said:

“Call up as many Green Guard forces as you need.” she said, “Get them to intercept and turn the Planet-Killers around. Tell them that I’ve given my permission to shoot down any Planet-Killer that disobeys!”

Both Rakato and Nya looked stunned.

“Your Majesty,” Rakato stammered. “Those are our Planet-Killers! You’re talking about killing our own people!”

“Stop the Planet-Killers at all costs. You agreed to that.” Kendra said, “That’s what we’re doing. If those things get past the Positive Control Point, the war will escalate to a point of no return! There won’t be a chance for peace after that! Now I need to make a call. Wait.”

Kendra turned back to the Hyperwave Relay terminal and typed in a new command.


Sys/ hyperwave communication system online... please select FTL comms target...
Cmd usr/ ---> target Aranui Kingi – HMS Queen Madeline the Second, Partogan Royal Navy
Sys/ searching the Hyperwave Network... Aranui Kingi found...
Sys/ negotiating with receiver... Faster-Than-Light communications established.


A Partogan woman Queen Kendra had not seen since her Election Day appeared on the screen.

“What can I do for you, Your Majesty?” Admiral Aranui Kingi said.

“Admiral, I want you to listen to me very closely.” Kendra said, speaking in a serious tone. “Several... uh... rogue individuals within the chain of command have triggered an uncommanded launch of the Planet-Killers from Shipyard Nynrah. I’ve tried to give the abort order but for some reason, they won’t listen to me. I repeat: the Planet-Killers were launched without my consent and are now ignoring my abort orders. Do you understand?”

Admiral Kingi’s face went pale.

“Oh, Holy Miranda.” she gasped. “What do you want me to do?”

“Your Task Force...” Kendra said, “is to intercept Task Force Kraahkan and order them to return to base immediately. If you can’t communicate with them or they refuse to obey your orders... you will engage and destroy Task Force Kraakhan.”

“Uh... Yes, Your Majesty.” Admiral Kingi’s voice was filled with hesitation. “Intercept Task Force Kraakhan and order them to return to base, and if they are noncompliant... engage and destroy them.”

“That’s correct, Admiral.” Kendra replied. “Task Force Kraahkan has to pass through the Positive Control Point at the Hakihea Star System to reach Levakian space. Intercept them before they get to that point. Understood?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. Will comply. Task Force Hydruka out.”

Kendra stood up from the Hyperwave terminal and moved a few Bios to her right. She sat down and began working at the second computer, her fingers flying over the keyboard. Rakato and Nya both looked at her, confused.

“What are you doing now?” Rakato asked.

“It’s a backup plan that I’m just kinda making up on the fly.” Kendra admitted. “The people who infiltrated our government and turned your family members against us are pretty resourceful. They might figure out where Task Force Hydruka is going, and we need a contingency.”

Kendra used her Command Card to call up a large number of restricted data files. She cast a sideways look at Rakato and noticed that he was still looking at the body of Tapu, which was being carried out of the room by two Green Guards.

“Hey, I am sorry about him.” Said Kendra. “I promise, if we get the chance, I’ll make sure Aku and Kaio are taken alive. I want to know why they did this just as much as you.”

Rakato shuddered.

“I don’t know who I should be angry at.” he said. “Who could have turned Tapu against his Kingdom? Why would he agree to it in the first place?”

A sudden thought crept into the back of Kendra’s mind. She didn’t want to consider it right now.

“We’ll figure it out later.” Kendra said. “Right now, we’ve got to act.”

With the push of a button, all of the data she had collected was dumped onto an external hard drive, which she separated from the computer and handed to Nya. Then she scribbled a message onto a small sheet of paper and passed to Nya as well. Then the Queen called Toa Nanui over to her.

“Alright, I have a mission for both of you.” Kendra said, “Any minute now, Empress Tantomile and a Partogan strike team are going to land in The Mangaia. They’re going to fight their way into The Mangaia Palace and try to overthrow the Confederate Council... or at the very least, give Tantomile control of the Confederate Army. Take these things and get them to Tantomile. They’re design schematics for the Planet-Killers and a list of exploitable weaknesses. If things go south for Admiral Kingi and Task Force Hydruka, then the Levakians will know how to fight the Planet-Killers themselves. The hard drive also has a copy of the security tapes from in here.”

Kendra pointed up at a security camera in a far corner.

“That way she’ll be able to keep a lookout for any more infiltrators. We’ve got a Vako Nui Corvette up on the landing pad right now. Take it and fly into The Mangaia. Shoot your way past anyone who resists, and Nya... don’t you dare take orders from anyone but me. Clear?”

Nya gripped the hard drive in both hands and said:

“What are you going to do while we’re gone?”

The Queen picked up a Gauss Pistol from the floor.

“I have one more Hyperwave call I need to make.” Kendra said, “Then the Green Guard and I are going to hunt some traitors.”


December 2, 1928 A.D.
HMS Felnas, Docked to Shipyard Nynrah, Beznar Star System, Kingdom of Partoga

y4mMU4smqWHYmdNURZUG4ejO_45O6UbTFp5rVZjud_ofVOOkPEpOSvUPLwRvlDccPifmS4p5_tSCh9_ID9xZS0v37gsmd7Og8Lw35JdByJYHv5OhJM1d50rfq8thUFUDZqEjVMfr4Oa6szgX0xJKSKLJL5opNizy0F3i0NVHxwA49rnUX6v99KVltu1nKv2iUoBRgzmuSEQqvyOqrEzoPkpGw

Caption said:
Task Force Kraahkan idles near Beznar-A.

Former Rauuira crewmates Akehakeha Temara and Ourangi Pipiri moved down the hallway at a brisk pace. Crewmembers stepped out of their way and raised their hands in salute while Temara walked past. In the months since the Battle of Aiowa, he had been promoted to Captain and given command of the HMS Felnas. It was a job known to only a few, and it placed a certain weight upon Temara’s shoulders.

Today, Captain Temara and Commander Pipiri were late for their shift. Of course, no one would ever accuse the Captain of a starship of being “late.” Everyone else was just early. When they entered the bridge, the bridge crew of the HMS Felnas all stood up at attention and said together:

“Kia roa te Kuini!”

Then the long wait began. The Felnas, like is five sister ships, was a Riri Nui-class Planet-Killer, which meant that a tour of duty aboard the ship entailed spending twelve hours a day doing nothing, followed by twelve hours of maintenance, followed by twelve hours of training. Rinse and repeat for nine months until your tour was over.

The six Planet-Killers were seemingly permanent fixtures dangling off the spindly arms of Shipyard Nynrah, doomed to an eternity of anonymous idling. On the bridge of the Felnas, the long boring days had even sapped the sense of humor right out of class clown Ihanga Waaka. She’d run out of comedic material during her first month, and now just worked silently at her station, bearing little to no resemblance to the happy-go-lucky woman who had once served on the Rauuira.

Settling into the captain’s chair like a particularly fat animal into a cozy nest, Captain Temara was just about to fall asleep for the rest of his twelve-hour shift when a loud klaxon alarm pierced through the bridge!

“Kraakhan!” Said a voice over the intercom, “This is Nynrah Fleet Command with an Emergency War Priority message. Prepare to copy!”

Everyone on the bridge scrambled into action. Temara, Waaka, and Ourangi pulled pens out of their pockets and frantically scrambled around, looking for something to write on! All three of them found scraps of paper just in time as the intercom voice began to speak again.

“Emergency War Priority message follows: Two-One-Zivon-Sanok-Kraahkan-Kualsi.” the voice recited.

Captain Temara wrote down the message and then pulled a little codebook out of his cargo pocket. Ihanga and Ourangi did the same. The three officers scanned the codebooks frantically looking for a matching message. One by one, they did.

“I have a valid launch order!” Ihanga shouted, “This is real!”

“So do I!” Ourangi confirmed. “I read a genuine launch order!”

“I’ve got one too!” Captain Temara said. “Standby for authentication!”

“I agree with authentication, Sir!” Ihanga and Ourangi said in unison.

All three of them pressed their thumbs to a fingerprint reader on the back wall of the bridge. It hummed gently and a series of computerized locks retracted, allowing Ihanga to open up the Captain’s Safe. Inside were three bright red cards made of a hard plastic. Each officer took one and bent the cards until they broke in half, revealing a smaller red and white card within. All three officers held their cards up to the coded message they had copied down half a minute ago.

While the three officers authenticated the launch order, the remaining men and women on the bridge were taking actions of their own. Alarms had begun sounding on all decks of the Felnas. The crew was roused from its unending torpor and called to their action stations.

Temara, Ihanga, and Ourangi all went back to their stations and started typing commands into their computers.

“Entering launch codes now!” Ihanga reported.

“Same!” Ourangi replied.

Captain Temara was silent. He’d begun to sweat, and his hands were shaking.

All three of the officer’s computers buzzed as a message came in from Shipyard Nynrah’s Command Center.

“Launch order is confirmed!” Ihanga announced.

“Holy Miranda...” Ourangi breathed. “This is actually real!!”

“Target selection complete!” Ihanga reported, “Galactic Coordinates downloaded to the Navigation Computer, and the Hyperspace Module is charging! Requesting permission to undock from Shipyard Nynrah now!”

“HMS Felnas,” said a voice over the intercom. “You are clear to disengage from Nynrah. By orders of General Kopunui, you are to maintain radio silence until you have struck your assigned targets.”

With a mighty lurch, the Planet-Killer separated from the Shipyard and began to fall away into space. Around her, the Mohtrek, Shelek, Avsa, Jutlin, and Crast did the same.

“We’re ready to begin main engine sequence!” Ourangi announced, pointing with one finger to his former Rauuira comrade Tirowaru Himona, who was at the helm.

“Main engine start, sixty seconds!” Tirowaru said, then he looked around at Captain Temara and said:

“Sir, what are you doing!?”

Temara had turned the Captain’s chair to face the Hyperwave Relay terminal, and he was shouting at Homai Kewhena:

“Get me Admiral Ranginui on the line!”

“Sir!” Homai protested, “That’s not the correct procedure! We have to ignite our engines!”

“TO HELL WITH YOUR PROCEDURES!” Captain Temara yelled, “I want someone on the Hyperline before I fly off to kill ten million lions!”

Homai folded his arms defiantly and said,

“No, Sir.”

Ourangi Pipiri grabbed the Captain’s chair and spun it around to face forward again.

“Sir, we’ve got a job to do! A duty! If you don’t give the order, I will!”

“Main Engine Start in ten seconds!” Ihanga called out. “Task Force Kraahkan is assembling in the Nithascal System, and they’ll escort us to the Positive Control Point from there. Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”

Silence. Everyone looked at Captain Temara, waiting for him to give the command. He didn’t. The Captain had frozen. Ahead of them, the other five Planet-Killers had fired up their main engines and were moving towards the edge of the System, spooling up their Hyperspace Modules as they went.

“Shipyard Nynrah calling Felnas.” a voice said over the radio, “What’s the holdup?”

Moving in unison, Ourangi, Homai, and Tirowaru lunged forward and wrestled Temara out of the Captain’s chair. He didn’t put up any kind of fight and was quickly relieved of his sidearm and Command Cards.

“Take him to the brig.” Ourangi said, “And start the Main Engines! All ahead flank!”

Rejoining its sister ships, the Felnas fell in line with the rest of Task Force Kraahkan. The fleet moved out as one... to carry out their one and only mission.

y4mSgL3ItHolHBj8BBobzki4A7vO0RN7Rmr4MoauFEyvwe4jmkw4i-ZqwEeiBbTrXDBX4pGSClGhLn4bTvDzjiY6wV7l9jdLo5Wo4CMxnueG9tZGlSUYnxs3d4cJWgdRNwfWil0b4KNydyEYdErUqZgog2idfIa2tEPxnSf1FCdXz43HypSFp2ZzrBkv9R3ts2hidBIYoF4GKBZJT1ms3rzXQ

The Countdown to Doomsday said:
It is seven minutes to midnight.


 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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That is not good…for anyone.

And the betrayal is here…and the words of a ghost?The End of the Cycle?
 

HistoryDude

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Also,”we don’t know why.” Hakara knows exactly why.
Also,I wonder how the Queen will respond to Hakara being formerly allied to the Paradox. Also, how she’ll respond to him being her father but not her father…and the truth about time.

@QueenKendra how do you feel about the weird names the betrayers (and the Vice Admiral) called each other.

I wonder how Paradox will react...

Also,when do Mira and Paradox actually come into play?

Also,is the Snowskin disguised as Toa Nanui actually dead, or just pretending to be dead?
 

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@QueenKendra how do you feel about the weird names the betrayers (and the Vice Admiral) called each other.
Queen Kendra said:
Reminds me of those stupid callsigns we had to call each other during Asymmetric Warfare training at Fort Daxia. The Drill Instructor told us we had to use callsigns instead of our real names so the enemy would have a harder time figuring out who was who. Eteka and I didn't like using callsigns, but Arahu and Rapati did. They made up all sorts of nicknames for me, making fun of how tall I am. Rapati called me "Rakau Wahine" all the time. It means "tree girl" and it's still not funny!! :mad:

-Queen Kendra


Also,when do Mira and Paradox actually come into play?
Mira just did. She's impersonating General Waiano Kopunui. You'll see her again in Chapter Five (and Interlude #4)

Akira will make her next appearance in Chapter 4.7: Kill the Messenger.


Also,is the Snowskin disguised as Toa Nanui actually dead, or just pretending to be dead?
Eteka Mihaka said:
Dude, Arahu blew a couple holes in that guy's chest with a Gauss Rifle at point-blank range. That guy's dead.
Empress Tantomile and Sebakhira said:
Unconscious people generally wake up when I claw their face. That Snowskin is definitely dead.
 

HistoryDude

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Who was disguised as Toa Nanui,though?If they were psionic,they could easily pretend to be dead.
@QueenKendra did you consider those names were their actual names?
Also,I wonder how Sebakhira and Tantomile’s Link gets severed...probably Paradox.

I wonder…if Paradox succeeds,this would be the last cycle,and if the entire crew of the Ark Angel is killed,this would be the last cycle...and we know that this is the last cycle.So it could go to either extreme,but it can’t go to the middle path.
 

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Who was disguised as Toa Nanui,though?If they were psionic,they could easily pretend to be dead.

Let's take attendance:
  • Akira "Paradox" Robinson (Gifted Human)
    • Last seen impersonating a news reporter in Partoga City during Chapter 3.8.
    • Currently unaccounted for
  • Whetu Kealoha (Gifted Partogan)
    • Last seen impersonating Princess Aku Mihaka in Chapter 4.6
  • Hakara Tamihana (Partogan)
    • Last seen impersonating Vice Admiral Maui Patariki in Chapter 4.6
    • Missing and possibly injured or dead
  • Yukiko Takahashi (Gifted Human)
    • Currently unaccounted for
  • Anika Aranui (Partogan)
    • Currently unaccounted for
  • Song Soo (Human)
    • Currently unaccounted for
    • Possibly impersonating Kaio Mihaka due to her age
  • Manaaki Ranginui (Gifted Partogan)
    • Killed by Hakara Tamihana during Chapter 4.6
  • Lee Chong-Il (Human)
    • Currently unaccounted for
  • Arioch Soban-Re (Hiigaran)
    • Currently unaccounted for
  • Mira Mihaka (Partogan)
    • Last seen impersonating General Waiano Kopunui in Chapter 4.6
By process of elimination (thanks to Chapter 4.6) we can rule out Manaaki and Hakara; so the dead man in Tantomile's cell is either Arioch Soban-Re or Lee Chong-Il. Neither of them are Gifted.


@QueenKendra did you consider those names were their actual names?
Queen Kendra said:
Why would Snowskins have Partogan names? I've read about those strange names Snowskins had for themselves... names like "Yamada," "Hirayama," "Fujiwara," "Todoya"... those would be their names. Maybe they're some kind of sleeper agents... but that would imply a much larger portion of their species is still alive. It would be really strange.

-Queen Kendra
**Note: At this point in the story, Kendra has no reason to suspect the infiltrators are anything other than Snowskins. For the moment, she'll dismiss alternate explanations as nonsensical.


Also,I wonder how Sebakhira and Tantomile’s Link gets severed...probably Paradox.

Well, its entirely possible for Sebakhira to willingly break the link on her own, but she'd need a really good reason to do so. Tantomile could break it on her end, but she doesn't have the training or practice to do that.

Alternatively, the link will break if one of them dies.
 

HistoryDude

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When will Queen Kendra realize that some of these people are actually Partogan?What chapter should I look forward to to see that happen?

Also,I doubt many people are sad to see Manaaki go.You completely villianized him in After Everything.

Also,posting those aforementioned contact stories in the month+ break between Chapters 5.5 and 6 would help tide people over.

Also,the Second Hyperspace War sounds a lot like the Battle of Armageddon.Just saying.

Also,given that there isn't a difference between past and future,After Everything is the sequel and the prequel to Faith in Chaos,Faith in Chaos is the sequel and the prequel to itself,and After Everything is the sequel and the prequel to itself.
 

Macavity116

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When will Queen Kendra realize that some of these people are actually Partogan?What chapter should I look forward to to see that happen?
Chapter 5 is still a work in progress and subject to change... at least for the moment you're most likely to find such a scene in 4.8, 5.1, and Six.


Also,I doubt many people are sad to see Manaaki go.You completely villianized him in After Everything.
Manaaki is just the warmup act to Akira. Every villain in the Stormbreakers Universe, right up to and including the End of the Cycle itself, is the warmup act.


Also,posting those aforementioned contact stories in the month+ break between Chapters 5.5 and 6 would help tide people over.
Perhaps. The final Chapter of After Everything took three weeks to write and another two weeks of proofreading and editing before I was finally happy with it. I'll need to do something during the downtime.


Also,the Second Hyperspace War sounds a lot like the Battle of Armageddon.Just saying.
That's the intention.


Also,given that there isn't a difference between past and future,After Everything is the sequel and the prequel to Faith in Chaos,Faith in Chaos is the sequel and the prequel to itself,and After Everything is the sequel and the prequel to itself.
This is a trilogy. You'll have to find a way to factor Stormbreakers into the equation at some point. ;)
 

HistoryDude

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Oh,sh**,Akira's going to do something horrific,isn't she?
It's kind of hard to beat the literal Harbinger of the Apocalypse* in villainy...
*This is another way of saying the End of the Cycle.
Speaking of which,I'm wondering if Mira will admit to making that covenant in the main tale?
 

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Oh,sh**,Akira's going to do something horrific,isn't she?
What hasn't she done at this point? Familicide, starting countless wars, don't forget she's confessed to at least one Genocide.

Also... thanks to the foreshadowing in Interludes 2 and 3, and the fact that Akira appears in the main story (which is set after the Interludes) it should be blatantly obvious by now that Akira definitely overpowered and/or defeated the End of the Cycle in a straight fight. If that's not horrific, I don't know what is.

Speaking of which,I'm wondering if Mira will admit to making that covenant in the main tale?

There's a reason Mira won't be in Chapter Six.
 

HistoryDude

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There's a reason Mira won't be in Chapter Six.
Too bad.But the End of the Cycle needs its revenge...

Also,you have previously stated that to know how Vice Admiral Patariki knew where Tantomile is,we should check Chapter 4.7.So,does he reveal his true identity in Chapter 4.7 or something?

And,truly,how much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. Also,how much more harmful are the consequences of ambition than the causes of it...(yes I came up with that).
 

Macavity116

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So,does he reveal his true identity in Chapter 4.7 or something?

One of Akira's teammates overcorrects while trying to stop the plan from falling apart and they accidentally spill too much information.
 

HistoryDude

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Can’t wait until Chapter 4.7.

Also,since Hakara isn’t psionic,why don’t they just wipe his mind?It’s not like they’re against that. I get that Queen Kendra and Eteka know,but all they need to do is a mass wipe and kill Tantomile...

Also,when do we get an explanation from Paradox and co?Ever?
 

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Can’t wait until Chapter 4.7.

Also,since Hakara isn’t psionic,why don’t they just wipe his mind?It’s not like they’re against that. I get that Queen Kendra and Eteka know,but all they need to do is a mass wipe and kill Tantomile...

Also,when do we get an explanation from Paradox and co?Ever?

4.7 will probably be ready to go on Thursday. Getting a screenshot of the Ark Angel in flight is easy, but getting one that looks cool is proving troublesome. :p

As much as I love the Neuralizer tools in the Men in Black movies, Psionic Manipulation doesn't work that way. In Chapter 4.6, Aku/Whetu commented that it would take a long time to "correct" Kendra's memories. That's because Kendra had hours and possibly days' worth of memories Aku/Whetu needed to sort through and alter. This would have taken a great deal of time and energy for Aku to pull off. If Aku had gotten her hands on Kendra, she would have been focused on the task that she would have been caught in the crossfire of the Nya/Kaio gunfight and killed. Similarly, Mass Manipulations are also troublesome. Akira, Whetu, and Manaaki successfully pulled one off against that group of news reporters in Chapter 3.7, but that was because they were in full control of the situation and had time to kill. Neither of those conditions apply right now.

See Chapter Six for more info on that front.
 

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The tapestry of time is getting very frayed indeed.
 

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By process of elimination (thanks to Chapter 4.6) we can rule out Manaaki and Hakara; so the dead man in Tantomile's cell is either Arioch Soban-Re or Lee Chong-Il. Neither of them are Gifted.
Isn’t Arioch Hiigaran?Given that Tantomile explicitly recognized the imposter as a Snowskin, it’s unlikely it was him.Therefore,it was Chong-Il.

Also,@Tantomile and Sebakhira,does Sebakhira know about anything about this?Did anything get through the link?
 
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Macavity116

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Isn’t Arioch Hiigaran?Given that Tantomile explicitly recognized the imposter as a Snowskin, it’s unlikely it was him.Therefore,it was Chong-Il.

Also,@Tantomile and Sebakhira,does Sebakhira know about anything about this?Did anything get through the link?
Bullseye! You are correct! Tantomile spent a couple of months in the Taiidan War Zone before the future Queen arrived aboard the Rauuira. She is more than capable of identifying a Hiigaran on-sight. Since Tantomile confirmed that Toa Nanui Ehau's impersonator was not a Hiigaran, we can conclude (with certainty) that North Korean Air Force pilot Lee Chong-Il is dead at Whakaari Prison.

Two members of Akira's team are now confirmed dead. Whatever plan they started out with has clearly gone wrong.


Empress Tantomile and Sebakhira said:
I saw the whole thing, including that Thunderflash bomb. My eyes still hurt. The discovery of another Snowskin doesn't make much sense to me. No one's seen a male Snowskin since the Battle of Archer's Canyon. That was four-hundred-twelve years ago! Then again, the whole species is supposed to be extinct and time travel is supposed to be a myth. There's less and less that surprises me these days.

At this point, I guess we have to consider the possibility that the Snowskin species is not extinct. Tantomile and I agree that there could be more than two Snowskins on Partoga right now.