stnylan

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Perfect Future sounds like Perfect Nightmare now
 

Vilhelm

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Great, trying to wrap my head around the time travel and repeated cycles was hard enough (I struggle even with time travel stories I write). Now we find out The Paradox is literally powerful enough to casually violate the First Law of Thermodynamics, and I have a genuine headache.
 

Macavity116

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Great, trying to wrap my head around the time travel and repeated cycles was hard enough (I struggle even with time travel stories I write). Now we find out The Paradox is literally powerful enough to casually violate the First Law of Thermodynamics, and I have a genuine headache.

I know how you feel. I've been wrapping my head around Akira's powers and time-travel activities for over a decade. Adding Stellaris to the mix nearly blew my mind. :confused:
 

HistoryDude

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Hmm.I wonder when the next update is... *hint,hint*

Also,I'm calling BS on Hakara's "time is naturally linear" theory. The End of the Cycle agrees that time is circular, and Paradox actually denies it.Also,even if he is correct,that doesn't mean she lied. Weir could've been wrong,and she never explicitly stated that time was circular, it was just heavily implied...
 

Macavity116

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Chapter Five
Out of Darkness, Into Darkness
y4m318IOC12flvEjlhZ2LkMMeml4aE_-Q7JxIo2rsiEbIASVedTnFV2QvZcI6z9rNAfQNvUVmoqn2XN-OO8_WHzsZxrPkxDqp22ws69FDb5TQtgBLt_55F566N8lDGXY60LSMsX9hYHU97oMfVXt29P18Gxwh23u1pfbTF1n_eLqESccZZOxZOa2elZEF-46aTo9r1O54XjYCN0aLy1eNPkaw
 

HistoryDude

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Those update titles are...ominous, especially "And Hell's Coming With Me"...
Can't wait until the next update!
 
Chapter 5.1: We're Marching Onward...

Macavity116

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Well, I've settled into my new work schedule now, so I'm ready to continue the story. From here on out, I'll be following the same upload schedule as After Everything: one chapter per week on Monday or Wednesday.(depending on when the chapter is finished) Also, just like After Everything, the Final Chapter will be posted 72 hours after it is finished. I'll post a warning about 48 hours beforehand.

Enough housekeeping, on with the story!
=================

Chapter 5.1
We’re Marching Onward...

December 5, 1928 A.D.
HMS Queen Miranda, Cirban Star System, Kingdom of Partoga


Nearly seven hundred Partogan warships disengaged Hyperspace together, spilling into the Cirban System. Swarms of fighter craft separated from their carriers and fanned out in front of the fleet, clearing the way ahead. About a minute later, six gigantic Quantum Wavefronts opened up and the Planet-Killers emerged. The Jutlin, Mohtrek, Shelek, Crast, Avsa, and Felnas fell into line behind the vanguard of Task Force Kraahkan, and then the whole armada moved out as one, taking aim at a Hyperlane on the far side of the system.

y4mdVPDz4JDHr0RHYXrDvJtscvKd9xX1oqS5R5TLZu61QG655AZ3Kqxo8QTHvvPHPwKux7cQr9u0vN1s0Y4GOOmucM7Cy-lZ-jS9JXhj1dVFtLIbYqkwPnObfLHhfD8dbH2xqD1ATOqQL_TOQMTaYnXWNOz11NPEEr9n-OOeyZT1H5jebTOCSPd-axunGh_NBmL6ZPGOVEEhKOgM8XcqfJnfQ

Caption said:
Task Force Kraahkan passes near a rocky world in the Cirban System.

The HMS Queen Miranda was the Command Ship of the fleet and a relic of older times. The Queen Miranda, just like her sisterships, was a retrofitted pre-Exodus Taiidani Imperial Flagship. The Partogan government had purchased two such vessels, the other being the now-stolen Queen Lucy. After reverse-engineering the Imperial Flagships, the Kingdom of Partoga had constructed four more motherships of indigenous design. Regrettably, none of the Royal Princess-Class Motherships were part of Task Force Kraahkan. The Queen Miranda would have to support the entire fleet alone, aided by a handful of Fleet Carriers.

On the Queen Miranda’s bridge, a tense moment was occurring. Vice Admiral Wikitoria Ranginui had always been a nervous and jumpy woman, so it was incredibly strange to see her so calm and quiet. Wikitoria gave a frightened stare at the woman she thought was General Waiano Kopunui. In front of both soldiers, the Hyperwave Relay continued to blare its “incoming call” alarm, and the specialist who was supposed to be operating it continued to quake in his own boots. Someone had been trying to call the Queen Miranda for the past hour, which was a problem because military regulations said that Task Force Kraahkan was supposed to maintain radio silence until reaching the Positive Control Point in the Hakihea system.

“They’re breaking every rule in the book!” Admiral Ranginui breathed. “Don’t they know they’re giving our position away to the Levakians by contacting us!?”

When Mira Mihaka replied, she made sure to use her slightly deeper voice. The voice of General Waiano Kopunui was supposed to be comforting and reassuring, after all, like a strong father telling his children they were safe.

“Unless that’s what they want.” Mira replied. “It could be the Levakians calling us. Maybe they’re figured out how to copy our recognition signals, spoof our Hyperwaves.”

“There’s no way to know unless we answer.” Wikitoria said.

“And if it is Partogans,” Mira added, “We hang up right away. They’re in the wrong. Remember regulations, Admiral. We’re committed to Two-One-Zivon now. We can’t be ordered to turn back.”

Wikitoria nodded, then she reached across to the Hyperwave terminal and accepted the incoming call.

A voice sounded over the radio and filled the bridge!

“This is HMS Queen Madeline the Second calling Queen Miranda.” Said the voice of Admiral Aranui Kingi. “Come in, Queen Miranda, this is an emergency!”

“This is Vice Admiral Ranginui of the Queen Miranda!” Wikitoria said loudly. “We are not allowed to receive-”

“Shut the hell up and listen to me!” Aranui snapped. “We’re bouncing a Hyperwave signal to you from the Homeworld! Keep receiving!”

Before Admiral Ranginui and Mira could so much as look at one another, a second voice made itself heard:

“Vice Admiral Ranginui! This is the Queen of Partoga!” Queen Kendra didn’t give the Admiral a chance to interrupt and continued, “Your mission was triggered by subversive elements within the Command Structure. You are acting without Royal Permission! I REPEAT: You are acting without Royal Permission! I am ordering you and every ship of Task Force Kraahkan to stand down and return to base IMMEDEATELY.”

Mira, with General Kopunui’s stern face, gave Vice Admiral Ranginui a very angry glance.

“Levakians.” Mira mouthed silently. “Copying her voice. This is a trick!!”

“Your Majesty,” Wikitoria protested, “I cannot accept verbal commands or tactical alterations. For all I know, the enemy is copying your voice!”

Kendra cut her off.

“Admiral, your go-code is Two-One-Zivon-Sanok-Kraahkan-Kualsi.

“Your Majesty, we cannot receive tactical alterations right now!” Admiral Ranginui protested. “The Levakians could be copying your voice!”

Kendra ignored her and continued talking:

“Your primary targets are: Paku Nui, Vaopolu, and Asalele. Your secondary targets are Ninigai, Aiarua, and Waioku. You know it’s me! You know this is the voice of your Queen, and I am ordering you to ABORT MISSION!”

Admiral Ranginui shouted loudly, overpowering Kendra’s voice:

“You are ordering me to do something I’ve been ordered not to do!”

“ADMIRAL RANGINUI! LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW!! THIS IS AN ORDER FROM THE QUEEN-”

Mira stepped forward, put one hand on the terminal, and ended the call swiftly.

“We won’t fall for this trick.” Mira said in General Kopunui’s voice. “We knew for years the Levakians had tech that could copy Partogan voices. Now we know they can use it.”

“What do we do?” Vice Admiral Ranginui was trembling in her boots. She was clearly on the verge of panic.

“We follow procedure.” Mira replied in a confident tone. “We’ll make contact with the Royal Government when we reach the Positive Control Point. If we don’t get a genuine retreat order from the Royal Palace… then we go in and we hit our targets.”

Confident the crisis had been resolved for now, Mira said goodnight to her comrades and left the bridge. Returning to her quarters a couple of decks down, she ignored the hundreds of Partogan soldiers moving about their jobs and tasks and took a long, winding path to her destination. She had a lot to think about today, just like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.

Mira had now been part of Akira’s team for fifteen human months. (According to the Ark Angel’s internal clock) Mira wasn’t sure how much time had actually gone by, she’d spent so much time living outside the ship as part of her numerous false lives across all of history. To make the task of timekeeping even more frustrating, shortly after joining the crew, Mira had been made to stand inside of the Time Core while it was activated for a minute or two. Akira said it was a necessary task to make time travel easier on Mira.

As it turned out, exposure to the radiation of a Progenitor Hyperspace module was a bittersweet experience: It damaged the DNA markers associated with body growth and development, thus slowing the aging process to a crawl. This meant Mira’s body had only aged a few weeks since leaving the 115th Cycle. She didn’t feel any older… because she wasn’t. Of course, standing inside of a Progenitor Hyperspace Core had a downside, and it happened to be a very specific one. Luckily, Mira was in her upper sixties, so she wasn’t concerned at all when she learned the radiation caused permanent infertility. That particular ship had sailed thirty years ago.

For a year and a half, Mira and the Ark Angel’s crew had powered their way through all of Galactic history, making sure the Bentusi found the First Hyperspace Core at the appropriate time, triggering the First Hyperspace War and managing the aftermath, making sure the Hiigarans got exiled, uplifting species who needed it, and so on.

One of the most impressive things Akira’s team did to alter history left Mira stunned. First, the Ark Angel travelled to the year 1810 A.D., Akira then Far Jumped the ship to the coordinates of an automated shipyard built by the Progenitor Empire over 10,000 years ago. Akira programmed the automated shipyard to build a copy of the JSDF Ark Angel, and then she filled the new ship’s databanks with a massive list of Human names from across all times and cultures.

“Now watch this bit of black magic.” Akira had said in a joking voice before she commanded the autopilot of the Ark Angel copy to perform a Hyperspace Jump.

The uncrewed double of Akira’s ship then jumped into Hyperspace… and Rematerialized inside the Blorg Homeworld. The Ark Angel copy was destroyed when it suddenly came into existence half-a-kilometer beneath the jungles of Blorg, but the computer survived with its list of names.

“And just like that,” Akira explained, “The Blorg became a spacefaring people over two hundred years before the Second Hyperspace War, which gives them a lot more time to prepare for the conflict and get a war fleet ready.”

“So, if we didn’t do that, when would the Blorg get to space?” Mira had asked.

“About two hundred years after the Second Hyperspace War.” Was Akira’s answer. “Far too late to be helpful.”

Akira’s team also had to carry out many other tasks that were small in scale but huge in scope. For instance: Roughly fifty years before Partoga became a spacefaring state, Arioch, Mira, and Hakara helped a Zudjari scientist named Origin hunt down and capture an Ethereal known as Shamash. According to Akira, this would trigger a “Butterfly Effect” of future events, with one smaller event causing a larger one, and that larger event causing an even bigger one.

In this case, Origin enslaved Shamash and used her to transform himself into the godlike ruler of the Zudjari Empire. Eventually, the Zudjari’s meteoric rise would be punctuated by a catastrophic fall from power. According to Akira, the dying empire would eventually try to stabilize itself by launching an ill-advised invasion of Earth in the (human) year 1962. The war would be a catastrophic failure and cause the collapse of the Zudjari Empire. It would also lead to the deaths of both Origin and Shamash, an event that would motivate the other Ethereals throughout the Galaxy to congregate… an event that would lead to the Second Invasion of Earth in 2015, the rise of XCOM, creation of the ADVENT Coalition, and finally climax with the appearance of Jericho herself.

All of that was in the future, though.

There were also some things Akira’s crew had to do repeatedly across many years or decades. On no fewer than five occasions, Akira had to stop the Taiidan from accidentally discovering the Third Hyperspace Core. (The Vaygr are supposed to find it) Hakara also had to revisit the Taiidan Empire once in a while and nudge Emperor Riesstiu IV towards insanity, while the human crewmembers had to interfere on their own Homeworld a lot. Lee Chong-Il and Song Soo mostly just kept a watchful eye on the ancestors of the Stormbreakers, keeping their families safe.

Frighteningly, on two occasions Arioch only noticed just in time that someone was about to accidentally stumble into the Beast-Infected exploration vessel Naggarok. The Ark Angel found and killed everyone who came too close to discovering that terrible secret earlier than Akira wanted them to. When Mira asked why it was so important to stop the Naggarok being discovered “too early” she was hit with a history lesson:

The Naggarok itself was an alien exploration vessel that had originated in a completely different galaxy over one million years ago and was, as far as Akira knew, the very first spaceship in history to encounter the Beast. The extragalactic aliens who crewed the Naggarok quickly realized the true nature of the Beast and tried to trap it aboard their own ship by destroying the engines and communications equipment, leaving the Infected Naggarok to drift aimlessly throughout the Galaxy for the next million years. All the while, the Infected extragalactic Colony Ships Agamemnon and Astynome were still flying towards the Galaxy through the Intergalactic Void, carrying an older and more contagious variant of the Beast Virus.

Mira remembered what happened next from her elementary school history books: about ten years after the Levakian Uprising, a Hiigaran mining ship stumbled across a beacon pod launched from the Naggarok. The pod itself contained a small sample of Beast materiel, and the virus began to spread across the inner rim, triggering a brief but ferocious conflict called the Beast War. The Imperialist Taiidani found and repaired the Naggarok in the hopes of striking up an alliance with the Beast, but the Hiigarans and Republican Taiidan were able to hunt down and kill the Infected Naggarok before it could act. Thanks to the Hiigarans, the entire Galaxy developed a resistance to the Beast Virus. This would prove to be a massive advantage during the Second Hyperspace War.

“If the Beast War happens too early,” Akira explained, “Complacency will set in and the resistance to the Beast will wear off. For maximum effect, the Beast War needs to happen less than one hundred years before the Second Hyperspace War. That way, the children and grandchildren of Beast War veterans will have fresh experience and knowledge to work from.”

There was other work that needed to be done throughout history as well:

Whenever the Ark Angel ventured into Partoga, it would fall to Whetu and Manaaki to make changes to Partogan history, with Akira only stepping in occasionally for crucial events, like the Battle of Archer’s Canyon or the Assassination of Queen Emily. (During which she screwed up and got photographed a second time) For the first two hundred years of Partogan history, groups of Gifted Levakians would try to confront Akira’s team. Mira never witnessed these fights, as Akira made a conscious effort to keep her away from Levakians, but she did hear about several battles that would have been worthy of the history books, including a spectacular fight involving Akira, Whetu, Manaaki, and a whole pride of Gifted Lions.

“The problem,” Akira told Mira after one of those fights, “Is that we’re battling the spread of knowledge just as much as the lions themselves. Whenever the lions run across us, they always make sure to have escape routes, not necessarily for themselves, but for any information they learn about us. Then the Asalele Levakians tell Earth about us, which’ll cause the Stormbreakers to turn hostile before we reach them. If we destroy Asalele, we’ll wipe out the vast majority of the knowledge and intelligence the Levakians have gathered about us. If we succeed, the Stormbreakers, Humanity, XCOM, and the Galactic Alliance won’t consider us to be a threat when we show up during the Second Hyperspace War. We’ll all be on the same team for once.”

Helping set the course of history right should have filled Mira with a sense of purpose or determination, but she found herself unable to focus entirely on the work at hand. She was distracted by the thoughts and memories of her final days in her original Cycle. After a while, Mira had become paranoid and jumpy, then she discovered her memories were being manipulated.

It had all started when Mira tried to find out why the Green Guard had suddenly shown up at her apartment that day when Yukiko and Whetu came to get her. To this day Mira had never found out why her own niece had so suddenly put out a warrant for Mira’s arrest.

Mira could distinctly remember starting several conversations with Akira, but then her recollection would come to a halt, or worse, jump to another memory with no real rhyme or reason. In fact, as far as Mira could remember, this seemed to be happening a lot, because she had a small mountain of burning questions she’d wanted to ask Akira, but couldn’t seem to remember asking them. Mira did have mild suspicions, but she wasn’t genuinely alarmed until she decided to take Hakara’s advice and start sleeping with Yukiko’s old Mindshield attached to the back of her neck at night.

About a month after joining the crew, Mira had abruptly woken up in the middle of the night to find Akira standing over her bunk, with one hand on Mira’s forehead. The two of them had just stared at each other for half a minute before Akira withdrew and left, grumbling to herself about “trust issues.”

Oh yes… there were definitely “trust issues” after that.

To keep her distance from Akira, Mira made a point of volunteering for more and more long-duration covert ops. Nowadays, she seemed to spend more time disguised than not, but these long stints in disguise meant that Mira also had time to focus train her mind. Just like Hakara, Mira soon mastered the art of keeping her mind empty of thought, denying Akira the privilege of being able to know what Mira was thinking or planning.

Akira seemed to know that she had lost the confidence and trust of both Hakara and Mira. She kept them apart and gave them assignments that ensured they would almost never see or speak to one another. Mira didn’t mind. Akira had failed to prevent her from making a “desertion pact” with Hakara. When he finally chose to quit the team, Mira would go with him. Simple as that.



After wandering about the bowels of the Mothership for nearly half an hour Mira finally returned to her quarters. The sign hanging on the door had been hastily applied and the corner of another sign was visible:


General Waiano Kopunui – Partogan Royal Army

Closing the door behind her, Mira let out a deep sigh, realizing just how exhausted she was. Mira flipped a switch on her hot water pot and patiently waited. The sound of water boiling somehow made her relax a little. Then she pulled off her jacket and dropped her prosthetic eye into a large bowl, and finally she poured some boiling water into the bowl. (This is a simple but effective way to clean prosthetic eyes) Ready to end the day at last, Mira sat down on her bunk. Mira wanted to go straight to sleep, but something was bothering her in the back of her mind. She needed to save these thoughts for later, in a place where Akira couldn’t get to them.

Mira opened up a drawer next to her bed and withdrew two objects, a tablet computer and an external hard drive. She couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgia right now. This was the same hard drive that contained all of her old mission logs from the Midak expedition so long ago. Sometimes she would listen to them, not to hear her own voice, but to hear the voices of so many friends she’d left behind. Kaia. Moana. Anahera. Hell, she even missed Tai, despite the way he’d betrayed Mira later on in life.

Ready to put her thoughts someplace safe, Mira pressed the “record” button on her tablet. Just like old times:



[Personal Log: Mission Specialist Mira Mihaka, HMS Queen Miranda, Outer Cirban Star System, 15 Mahuru, 709]
Sys/ automated backup engaged…successfully saved all data to external storage device


I think something’s happened.

Today, Queen Kendra (the Mami version, not the Amaya one) called us via Hyperwave and gave Kraahkan the abort order. I kept Wikitoria on task, but I noticed something odd about the whole interchange. The first time Kendra called us to launch the Planet-Killers, she spoke in that stilted, staccato tone of voice you normally expect to hear from somebody who’s been Mind Controlled. I figured Manaaki had to do it because she wasn’t playing along. But when she called us to try and abort the Planet-Killers, she was talking in her normal tone of voice. I don’t know how, but I think Kendra’s broken free of Mind Control, which has a lot of really bad implications.

Whetu, Manaaki, and Soo were all supposed to be covering Kendra. Keeping tabs on her. The only way Kendra could’ve broken free and started acting on her own again is if something happened to all three of those guys. I haven’t forgotten how pear-shaped everything went for Anika and Akira aboard Tantomile’s ship, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something actually has gone wrong.

I still don’t know where Akira is, either. She’s missed both of her check-in points, which means I’m still running this part of the mission by myself.

Honestly, I’m getting really frustrated with Akira. I liked her idea at first about fixing history and changing the Second Hyperspace War so it’ll have a better ending for everyone, but the way she’s going about it just makes me feel uneasy. She’s kept me in the dark on so many parts of the plan up till now, she shuts me out of decision-making, and I’ve never heard anyone on the team criticize her or her plan. It’s like we’re just her tools and the Ark Angel is a tool chest to keep us in when she’s not using us. This… I don’t know what this is, but it’s nothing like a team… and I’m starting to really think about getting out. I still have my deal with Hakara, if he walks, I will too… but I still like Akira’s plan to fix history and I really do want to see it work out… and…

…Whenever I think about Hakara’s idea, to just quit and live out the rest of my life on some quiet planet, I end up thinking about those sensor readings Akira showed me a couple months back:


The Subspace Echoes.

Agamemnon and Astynone are about 86 years away, but they’re close enough to the Galactic Rim that we can detect them now with really specialized instruments. Thanks to that radiation treatment from the Time Core, there’s a real chance that if I quit now and settle down on a Partogan colony, I’ll live to see the Second Hyperspace War anyway. Biologically, I’m probably about 68 or 69 years old. The Time Core won’t make me younger, it just stops me from aging… but I’m still too old to just pick up a weapon and fight. I’d be useless, and probably end up getting subverted by the Beast. From what I’ve heard, that would be worse than death itself.

Maybe I do want out of Akira’s plan… but I just don’t think I can do that anymore, not without paying for it in the long run. Is this how she got everyone else to stick around for so long?

I’m not sure what to do anymore besides keep up the act. I’ll just have to keep this up until I link up with the rest of the team at Aoraki. After that… I honestly don’t think I’m going to stick around. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but I can’t make that decision here. I think I wanna talk to Hakara one more time before I do that.

Just gotta keep being Waiano Kopunui for a couple more weeks. Do Aoraki. Get outta this time period… then I can take a minute and rethink. Reassess.

[Personal log closed]




December 6, 1928 A.D.
HMS Queen Miranda, Cirban Star System, Kingdom of Partoga


“General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your action stations!”

Mira sat upright in her bed so quickly she felt a crick in her back. Yelling and shouting echoed up and down the hallways outside her door. Mira snatched a quick look at herself in the mirror. Her disguise was easy to assemble (she didn’t need to change her skin color) and only required the use of a prosthetic eye. Once Mira got her fake eye in, she dashed out of her quarters and yelled at the first soldier she saw:

“What’s going on!?”

When the soldier replied, his voice was filled with panic.

“Task Force Hydruka just dropped out of Hyperspace behind us! They’re target-locking all of our ships!”
y4mIhytm5Qh3MNgYkG_lfc3vqFmgrQ4bprVb917RQxHKuv03VAA1IMG4ArkgN7ROFSXdQqMXGt8yK5xgTTe8h_RTgHZobzKn6P3ETSL0eCHu31PKzT3hsT4qEXSwsNv6hVIQAc2fczBdDL0T_pp6q9bCekC-xTYOj9Vns5UhPCLM7jIv4TNPbYPVIl4IYN-0i03QoAlMqMV29BDuTJpDzJMKg

Caption said:
Task Force Hydruka appears behind Task Force Kraahkan.

Up on the Queen Miranda’s bridge, chaos was threatening to overwhelm the crew! Men and women reported to their stations half-dressed and frantic while the night shift crew tried to bring them up to speed on what had been happening.

“Why are they locking us!?” An Ensign shouted in fear. “Can’t they see we’re Partogans!? We’re on the same side!”

“Fighter craft launching from the HMS Queen Madeline the Second!” a staff officer reported. “I count about four hundred fighters and Corvettes! They’re incoming on attack vectors with weapons hot!”

By the time Mira reached the Dias (an elevated position on the bridge where the Commanding officer could look down on everyone else) Vice Admiral Wikitoria Ranginui had also arrived. Pulling her uniform on over a nightgown, she said:

“Damnit, it’s two o’clock in the morning, this better not be another sensor malfunction!”

Wikitoria saw the sensor readings, looked at the viewscreen, and then her mouth fell open.

“Ko-Kopunui… you’re seeing this too, right?” she stammered.

“Seeing, still working on believing.” Mira answered.

“What do we do?” Wikitoria breathed. “What do we do? What do we do? What do we do?”

Mira looked around at the Vice Admiral. Manaaki had been right after all. This woman really didn’t have the stomach for total war. Wikitoria was shaking with fear, her eyes wide as headlights. Mira grabbed her by the shoulders.

“We’ve got a mission, remember?” Mira said harshly. “You need to snap out of it before we get blown to bits by those guys!”

Wikitoria continued to stare straight ahead and mutter wordlessly. She was in shock.

“That’s it!” Mira pushed Wikitoria Ranginui off the Dias. “My niece would throw up if she knew you shared her name. I’m taking command!”

The whole bridge crew looked around at Mira. They all saw the enraged expression on the old General’s face and cowered as she yelled:

“And if you’ve got a problem with that, you can take it up with Task Force Hydruka! Now scramble our fighters and bring the Assault Frigates about!”

At once, the bridge crew began to act with newfound vigor and intensity! Communications specialists and logistics officers began to move around fleet assets while fighter crews were sent down to the hangar bay. An earsplitting siren blared above the noise of the bridge! Mira held her hands to her ears as the voice of Queen Kendra forced its way back onto the bridge!

“Vice Admiral Ranginui! Keep receiving, do you understand me!? Keep receiving!”

“Someone shut her up!” Mira yelled, but it was too late. Another voice spoke over the radio.

“Attention crew of Task Force Kraahkan, this is Empress Tantomile of the Levakian Confederation! I am here aboard the HMS Queen Karan with Her Majesty Kendra! We have agreed to a ceasefire! The war is over! I repeat! THE WAR IS OVER!”

“Is that really Tantomile?” An Ensign asked.

“No.” Mira replied, injecting her frightened voice with as much confidence as possible. “This is a trick! They’re imitating Queen Kendra’s voice! We need to check if the ships of Task Force Hydruka were reported stolen!”

“Listen to her!” Queen Kendra screamed over the radio, “Nobody can fake this!”

“Incoming!” a weapons control officer yelled. “Hydruka’s Missile Destroyers just fired a salvo at us! Fighters will be in weapons range in fifteen seconds!”

Vice Admiral Ranginui stumbled her way back onto the Dias.

“Wait.” She stammered. “Just wait!”

“Hydruka strike craft are firing missiles at us!” another officer yelled. “There’s nearly a thousand warheads coming at us!”

“THE WAR IS OVER!!” Tantomile screamed into the radio. “TURN AROUND AND GO HOME!! THE WAR IS OVER!!”

“Shut her up or kill the Hyperwave!” Mira ordered, “Return fire and start calculations for an Emergency Hyperspace Jump!”

Mira spun around and put both hands on Wikitoria’s chest, shoving her hard! The Vice Admiral fell off the Dias and tumbled to the floor! Wikitoria looked up at Mira with a fearful expression.

“But… what if?”

“Impact in five! Four! Three!”

The bridge lurched horrifically and Mira was flung to the floor! Sparks and smoke filled the room, as did screams of fear and pain! Then Mira heard a loud hissing noise above her head, followed by the loud scraping of metal bulkheads.

“Damage report!” Mira yelled above the hissing of gas.

“Hull breaches across decks one through four!” A bridge officer yelled above the din. “They hit us from above and behind!”

Looking around, Mira saw that the viewscreens had all been disabled. Both of the Sensors Manager stations on the bridge were also disabled, which meant that the Queen Miranda was completely blind, and had no way to see how the fight around her was progressing.

“We can’t fight like this.” Mira coughed, choking on the smoke which filled the air. “Put me on with the rest of the fleet!”

Mira’s voice filled intercom speakers across every vessel in Task Force Kraahkan!


“All ships return for docking and prepare for Hyperspace!”

Mira didn’t wait. As soon as the order was out, she and the rest of the bridge crew began to move towards their assigned Radiation Shelters.

The Hyperspace Module was set for a two minute delay, this was a double-edged sword:

On the one hand, a vast majority of Task Force Kraahkan’s ships would be given a chance to either dock with the Mothership or fall into formation with it, so they could be dragged along behind her in a Wake Jump. On the other hand, most of the Capital Ships (including the Mothership) would sit idle and defenseless for a full two minutes while their crews reported to the Radiation Shelters. Task Force Kraahkan was going to be a very, very easy target now.

By the time Mira and Vice Admiral Ranginui reached their Radiation Shelter, someone had already activated a computer terminal on the far side of the room and was keeping track of the casualties.

“We’ve lost two Destroyers, a Heavy Cruiser, and a dozen frigates.” An officer reported, “They’re also-“

The Queen Miranda lurched violently. Mira nearly fell over and grabbed at the soldier’s arm for support.

“They’re also targeting us with Ion Cannons!” The soldier finished.

Above their heads, a serene computerized voice announced:


“Emergency Hyperspace Jump in – Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven-“

The ship rocked again, this time with greater intensity and violence! Mira actually did fall down this time, hitting her head on the floor and swearing loudly!

“Damnit, someone get us into Hyperspace, right now!”


“…two, one. Hyperspace engaged.”

The Quantum Wavefront washed over the ship, and Mira breathed a sigh of relief as it swept through the Radiation Shelter. All around her, soldiers began to relax, knowing that the danger was finally behind them. While Mira slowly clambered back to her feet, a very pertinent question was asked:

“What the hell was that last one?” one soldier said. “That didn’t feel like a weapons impact.”

“Hang on. I’ll check.” Replied a bridge officer.

Everyone in the shelter turned to watch the man as he tapped away on the computer screen, checking the status of Task Force Kraahkan’s ships. When he let out a sharp gasp, Mira knew that whatever news he had, it wasn’t good.

“We… uh...” The man looked like he couldn’t find the right words. “We lost a Planet-Killer. The Crast got hit by Ion Beams, and the Quantum Wavefront collapsed onto its keel. Half of the ship is in Hyperspace with us, but the other half got left behind in Normal Space. That was the blast we felt.”

Silence fell. No one spoke for the rest of the Jump, but when the Quantum Wavefront washed over Mira and her crew again, she spoke.

“We aren’t done here, soldiers. We still have our mission. The Levakians thought they could trick us out of our duty. Well, that won’t work. We’ll keep going forward, keep fighting until the day is ours. Let’s get out there and end this war!”





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

 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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Hmm.I wonder when the next update is... *hint,hint*

Also,I'm calling BS on Hakara's "time is naturally linear" theory. The End of the Cycle agrees that time is circular, and Paradox actually denies it.Also,even if he is correct,that doesn't mean she lied. Weir could've been wrong,and she never explicitly stated that time was circular, it was just heavily implied...

Bumping this.

Also,again, what does Eteka think of Mira being a Mihaka? (You said to ask now,so...)
 

Macavity116

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I'm calling BS on Hakara's "time is naturally linear" theory. The End of the Cycle agrees that time is circular, and Paradox actually denies it.Also,even if he is correct,that doesn't mean she lied. Weir could've been wrong,and she never explicitly stated that time was circular, it was just heavily implied...

Just like Mira, Hakara was intentionally kept in the dark by Akira on a lot of subjects, including the operation of the Time Core. Hakara can teach you how to work the device all day long, but he doesn't know what makes it tick. He certainly wasn't speaking from a position of authority on the subject of linear-circular time and easily could be wrong.

With the End of the Cycle removed from play, Akira now has a disturbing amount of power over Time. Whether it's circular or linear, the power to manipulate time has definitely fallen into the very... very... very wrong hands. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until the third and final part of this story, Stormbreakers, for a follow-up to Akira's alleged encounter with XCOM scientist Alan Weir, there just isn't enough time left to cover that plot point in Faith in Chaos. (Only 5 chapters left!) Seriously though, the guy already had grey hair in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, (1962) which means he would have been insanely old in the mid-2050's when Akira claims to have met him.

Remember, everything that comes out of Akira's mouth needs to be handled with suspicion.

Ally to none. Enemy of all.


Also,again, what does Eteka think of Mira being a Mihaka?
Oh, yeah! I forgot I moved that segment to Chapter 5.2! Here's the info you're looking for:
Eteka Mihaka said:
That Hakara guy mentioned 'Mira Mihaka' when he was briefing all of us about the Ark Angel's crew after we all met up aboard the Queen Karan. He just told us she was secretly commanding Task Force Kraahkan and he didn't specify if she was from the past or the future... which is frustrating. If he'd said when she was from, we could prepare for her. I really don't wanna go into this fight with missing intel. See, I've got multiple relatives named Mira. I've got an ancestor from the Wars of the Famine named Mira, and my older brother Namuna talked about naming his first daughter Mira as well, so there's at least one future Mira we know about! So which Mira was Hakara talking about, damnit!?

If its Namuna's kid, we can plan accordingly. Ango thinks we could exploit the fact that she'd recognize me.

If it's Toa Wahine Mira Mihaka, we just have to bring a gun to a knife fight. She was supposed to be some kind of swordsmaster during the Wars of the Famine. Easy as walking.

But Hakara didn't say what time or era this Mira's from, which means I have nothing to go on, and I really, really don't like that! I need to know which Mira he was talking about! If I can't catch up to Hakara and ask, I'll just get Kendra to do it.



-Eteka Mihaka
 

HistoryDude

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Wait,given that Hakara and Mira has a “defection pact” ,why didn’t Hakara tell Mira that he’d defected? It would’ve prevented many deaths…
Also,@QueenKendra, how do you feel about General Kopunui Ignoring your orders?
 

Macavity116

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Wait,given that Hakara and Mira has a “defection pact” ,why didn’t Hakara tell Mira that he’d defected? It would’ve prevented many deaths…

Task Force Kraahkan has been maintaining radio silence until the events of Chapter 5.1. Hakara and Mira are unable to communicate with each other right now. That's why Mira is waiting until after the Battle of Aoraki to decide whether or not to quit. She wants to talk to Hakara one more time. Currently, Mira does not know about Akira's mass betrayal.

Also,@QueenKendra, how do you feel about General Kopunui Ignoring your orders?
Chapter 5.2 is gonna get complicated...
Queen Kendra said:
Technically, she hasn't answered my call yet. We committed one helluva Causality Violation to make that call happen, but she's pissed me off nonetheless. If General Kopunui turns out to be that Mira woman Hakara warned us about, I might get... well... she definitely knows what I'm trying to stop, and if she obstructs me again, I'll kill her myself. We're dealing with Planet-Killers... there's no room for mistakes.

-Queen Kendra
 

stnylan

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Mira ... Mira Mira Mira.

She has a habit of making deals with devils
 

HistoryDude

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Ok,so when is Hakara going to call in the defection pact? And why didn't he appear during that Hyperwave call??

@EmpressTantomile are you going to try and attack Paradox directly?

Also,Mira is the unluckiest person ever...she's caused the end of days,basically made a simple civil war into both a psionic war and a war in heaven,amongst gods,been involved in what's probably a time loop,and died,like 6 times (by my count).

Also,@EmpressTantomile and @QueenKendra, be careful not to give up your morals trying to defeat Paradox.Three quotes make this possibility frightentingly possible:
  • The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
  • Power corrupts,and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • He who fights with monsters might take lest he become a monster.When you gaze long into an abyss,the abyss gazes also into you...
Paradox was likely a good person once,but she fell victim to all of these. Hopefully you do not face the same fate...
 

Macavity116

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Ok,so when is Hakara going to call in the defection pact? And why didn't he appear during that Hyperwave call??
As you'll see in Chapter 5.2, Hakara missed his chance to do both through no fault of his own. Kendra's inability to trust him is partially to blame.


@EmpressTantomile are you going to try and attack Paradox directly?
Tantomile's answer is drawn from Chapter 5.2.
Empress Tantomile and Sebakhira said:
Only if she gets in the way. My new Command Ship, the LVK Demeter, is built to kill Super-Capital ships. (like Planet-Killers, for instance) So, if the Ark Angel tries to protect Task Force Kraahkan and gets caught in the Demeter's crosshairs... so much the better.



@EmpressTantomile and @QueenKendra, be careful not to give up your morals trying to defeat Paradox.
Queen Kendra said:
I'm more scared about getting my friends killed. I still haven't repaid Eteka for going to Whakaari.
Empress Tantomile and Sebakhira said:
I'm worried about losing control of my destiny. What's the point of going on if I can't decide who I'm going to be?

I'm terrified we might lose the future itself. The Paradox is trying to take it away from us.
Eteka Mihaka said:
I don't want to lose the woman I love... or her future. If I lost her, I'd just be living with no good purpose.





Also,what's Tantomile's unique power?
Its about to come into play.
 

HistoryDude

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So,Mira’s stuck on Paradox’s side now?Or can she ditch?Or become a third party?


And of course,there will be a reckoning.

Can’t wait until the next chapter.
 

Macavity116

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can she ditch?Or become a third party?
Both are possible.

See Chapter 5.4 of Faith in Chaos and pretty much the entire first act of Stormbreakers.

Either you're psychic or I'm just predictable.;)

And of course,there will be a reckoning.

Damn right.
 
Chapter 5.2: ...to the Nightmare

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
17 Badges
Mar 1, 2018
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archiveofourown.org
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition

Chapter 5.2
...to the Nightmare

December 7, 1928 A.D.
HMS Queen Karan, Hithara Star System, Kingdom of Partoga


The arrival of a massive armada from hyperspace would have caught the attention of anyone in-system. Luckily, Hithara is a desolate place. Fifty Super-Capital ships, some two hundred-sixty frigates, two Levakian Assault Carriers, and one Partogan Mothership roared through space at maximum speed, rocketing towards the Hyperlane on the opposite end of the system. This combined armada was Joint Task Force Kardas, named after a mythical dragon that was supposed to live the Rahkshian Jungle near The Mangaia.

y4mBbQ_HToFhaeV53S2Q9OByAJjYQq104aXpllJTnhOYrBIRFoQ8yGCm8rQRcuwTCIAHIY1ErNCkvVVEgpLwuhqX_p1atsdBAh8JuJFXXNMNolfgiaUfTi2sm23l7_knkV1kG6jQuLq20PkmIWQoHRq_s-pmGQxOYVBs9ZCl2Vg3Yu-lm2W8c6llUwaS0f_lJ01eh8TIGkDMLqznC1HhqMe8w

Caption said:
The HMS Queen Karan (left) and the LVK Demeter (Right)

At the heart of the formation, one of the Rancor-Class Assault Carriers was flying in close formation with the Partogan Mothership. The Assault Carrier was named Demeter and it had once been part of Tantomile’s mercenary fleet. Now, in the final stage of this crisis, it served as her Flagship and the Command Center of the Confederate Levakian Navy. Flying alongside her was the HMS Queen Karan, a Royal Princess-Class Mothership. These are the largest ships in the Partogan Royal Navy by far. They are incredibly slow and nearly impossible to defend in a fight, but Royal Princesses made up for their myriad weaknesses by possessing some of the most sophisticated fleet construction and logistics facilities in the Galaxy. Royal Princesses could effectively build, deploy, and control entire armadas with little to no outside support. The only other ship in the entire Galaxy that could match the Royal Princess in terms of adaptability and deep-space endurance was the Hiigaran Explorer-Class Mothership.

Aboard the Queen Karan, preparations were being made. Military officers were moving back and forth between the command, communications, and logistical centers of the Mothership, making sure that everyone and everything was ready for the upcoming confrontation.

While that work was being done, one of the conference rooms aboard the Queen Karan was set aside for a very important meeting. For the first time since before the Royal Election, Queen Kendra and Empress Tantomile met face-to-face. At the conference table, Nya Ririnui and Sebakhira sat next to their respective monarchs and took notes while Kendra and Tantomile had their reunion.

“Kia ora!” Tantomile shouted an informal Partogan greeting as soon as she saw Kendra.

The Queen hugged Tantomile, and the Empress rubbed her face on Kendra’s head and shoulders. The lioness made a low growling noise Kendra chose to interpret as “purring.”

“Welcome aboard the Queen Karan,” Kendra said as they took their seats. “Glad to see your ships finally caught up with us. I’m sorry we couldn’t wait for you, but this thing is really slow, and we needed all the time we could get.”

Kendra wrapped her knuckles on the hard tabletop, showing that she was talking about the Queen Karan itself.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t be in the Mangaia for the burial.” Kendra continued. “Again, we had to get moving. Your mother deserved better.”

Tantomile sighed.

“So am I.” The Empress replied, “But I still blame Emerdon for her death. He should have known my mom was too old to be having cubs. Fatal complications were... almost inevitable... at her age.”

Tantomile hung her head sadly, but she looked up again when Nya spoke up.

“What happened to the cub, anyway?” The Acolyte asked meekly.

Tantomile glared at her, then answered.

“It was Emerdon’s cub. His blood and bone... so I threw it into the ocean.”

Kendra knew that this was a terrible time to discuss Levakian Culture’s willingness to overlook infanticide, there was too much going on right now, so she pressed the more important topic.

“Tantomile, as happy as I am that we’re going to be working together again, we still have to stop this war first.”

The Empress nodded and growled. Sebakhira dipped her scribe claw into an inkpot and held it over her paper, ready to start writing. Nya clicked her pen and did the same.

“I agree, but it won’t be that easy.” Tantomile nodded. “The Paradox might have manipulated the situation for her own purposes, but the situation is still real, Kendra. There really is a large number of Levakians who just don’t want to live under your rule.”

Tantomile held up her paws.

“I’m not one of them.” She added, “But we have to accept that the Independence Movement won’t go away because you and I made peace. My people still want a country to call their own, and a lot of them will refuse to stop fighting for it.”

“Things will go back to the way they were during Madeline the Second’s reign.” Kendra admitted. “Terrorist attacks every other week, riots and bombings; and then I’d have to calm your people down with another concession. We’d basically be setting the issue aside for a future generation, like hitting a ‘reset’ button.”

Tantomile shook her head.

“No, it’s not.” she said, “Kendra, you’re a Taihara. You’ve got the ink. There’s no way in hell I could convince my people to accept a concession from you, even if it was something huge. Most lions won’t trust anything you say or do because of that mark on your face. That’s partly why the Confederate Army found so much support in the first place. Everyone wanted to be the lion that pushed back against the Taihara Queen. They were making a stand against someone they thought to be a ruthless butcher.”

The words stung deep, but Kendra had been expecting this, so it didn’t cause her that much distress.

“My past is undermining me. I’ll accept that.” the Queen said, “But I won’t let it stop what we’re trying to do here. Please believe me, Tantomile, I don’t want to kill any more Levakians. I swear, I want to end this fight without spilling anymore blood if I can help it.”

“Oh, I believe you.” Tantomile answered. “Trust me, when the whole Galaxy sees you defending the Levakian people against a fleet of rouge Planet-Killers, a lot of lions will come around to your side... just not all of them. And the ones who still oppose you after this are probably going to have guns.”

Kendra sat back in her chair and sighed.

“So... what could I do to convince them to lay down their arms?” Kendra said, “I can’t send them to Whakaari. The place is shot to hell right now.”

“We could try to address the Paku Nui famine.” Tantomile suggested. “Queen Marie angered a lot of Levakians by not doing anything about it.”

“I thought your mother wanted to try and solve that one on her own.” Kendra interjected. “I asked a couple of National Assembly members about that way back when I first got elected. They all said Jemima was trying to find a Levakian solution without getting the Partogan Government involved.”

“Yeah, and you saw how well that worked out.” Tantomile sounded a little sarcastic. “The famine got worse and your predecessor got all the blame. It's just easier to hate the person running the show, you know?”

This gave Kendra something to think about.

“Hang on,” She said, “Say that last part again?”

“Uh... ‘It’s easier to hate the person running the show.’” Tantomile repeated.

“That’s it!” Kendra stood up from her chair and began to pace up and down the conference room excitedly. “There’s no way a majority of all Levakians will accept anything I offer them, you said it yourself. So, what if... hear me out here, what if we get a third party involved?”

“Like a mediator?”

“Precisely!” said Kendra, “Tantomile, let’s say we call the Galactic Council and broker a peace deal with them as a middleman, would the separatists go for something like that?”

Tantomile scratched her neck vigorously with one of her hind legs.

“As long as it looked like the Galactic Council was treating us like equals...” Tantomile started to say, but then she trailed off. “Oh... wait...”

Kendra’s eye went wide. She had just seen the problem too.

“Oh.” she said. “That’s right.”

The Galactic Council was the largest multinational peacekeeping body in the Galaxy and their intervention, be it real or imagined, could have a massive impact on the Partogan-Levakian Conflict. However, only fully independent sovereign states were allowed to interact with the Council. The Levakian Confederation was a rebellious entity within the Kingdom of Partoga, which meant the Council itself would be highly unlikely to interfere with Partoga’s “internal affairs.”

“We’ve gotta try.” Kendra said.

“What’ll we do if they say no?” Tantomile asked.

“We might have to go with the plan that leaves a lot of lions angry.” Kendra admitted. “That’s not ideal, but it’s still better than having no plan at all.”

Kendra walked back to the head of the conference table and pressed an intercom button.

“Yes, Your Majesty?” said the voice of the ship’s Captain.

“I want you to establish a Hyperwave call with the Partogan Ambassador to the Galactic Council.” Kendra commanded. “Tell him I need to speak with the Galactic Council Security Council as soon as possible.”



Kendra and Tantomile only needed to wait a few minutes for the connection to be established. Ambassador Taunui Kahurangi called from the Blorg Capital, where the Galactic Council had re-housed itself after the Battle of Hiigara six years ago.

“Your Majesty, you’re in luck.” Ambassador Kahurangi said. “The GCSC members are still here. They were having a conference about the Taiidan War just a few hours ago. I think everyone’s still in the building. Just give me a few minutes.”

Tantomile, Kendra, Nya, and Sebakhira waited in nervous silence until the Ambassador came back on the line. He sounded exhausted but relieved when he said:

“The GCSC will speak to you now, Your Majesty. Turn on your viewscreen.”

Nya jumped out of her seat and activated a digital screen on the near wall. Kendra turned her chair to face it, while Tantomile stood upright to make sure she was visible to the camera.

On screen, an image of a meeting hall appeared. A table had been set up and six beings sat side by side, facing the camera. Behind them, a wide window filled the room with tropical daylight and a pleasant view of the Blorg Capital City’s skyline. Seated at the table were six aliens. Five of them were representatives of the five members of the Galactic Council Security Council. Sitting at the centermost position of the table was Heidi Vestergaard, the Secretary General of the Galactic Council. Vestergaard was a particularly hideous-looking Blorg female and the former ruler of the Blorg Commonality. It was she who spoke first:

“I call this emergency session of the Galactic Council Security Council to order on the 5th day of the 12th month, in Galactic Standard Year 9515. We are here to discuss the Kingdom of Partoga’s application for GCSC intervention in its own civil conflict. I’ll begin by taking roll: Dika na-Filvan from the Taiidan Republic?”

“Present.” Dika grunted. He was easily the biggest being at the table. Taiidan were large people to begin with.

“Japra Liirhra from the New Hiigaran Daiamid?” Vestergaard asked.

“Hello again, Secretary General.” Japra answered. Like most Hiigarans, Japra bore many similarities to a Partogan, and could have passed for one if her skin was a little darker and her hair grey or white.

“The Ambassador of the Zudjari Empire?”

The Zudjari Ambassador raised his hand and nodded politely. Zudjari do not have names. Unlike the other species at the table, his mouth opened laterally, moving side to side instead of up and down.

“D-One-Five, from the Micore Empire?”

A bipedal Droid with no discernable head bent its entire torso forward in greeting. D-One-Five was the name of a Diplomacy program that could be uploaded into a synthetic brain, so that any Micore Droid could fulfill the duties of Ambassador.

“Tuutalk from Amadiio?”

A huge avian creature with short flightless wings, powerful long legs, and dark plumage squawked loudly before turning his head to one side so he could focus more clearly on the image of Kendra on his screen.

Once the GCSC settled down, Secretary General Vestergaard gave Queen Kendra the floor. Choosing her words carefully, Kendra shifted her eyes from one delegate to another as she spoke, doing her best to read the room:

“As you can see by my present company,” Kendra began, “The peace process between Partogans and Levakians has finally gotten started. Since Empress Tantomile and I established communication with one another, we’ve made a concerted effort to order our military forces to stand down and stop fighting, so as to accelerate the peace process.”

“An unexpected move.” The Zudjari Ambassador commented. “Especially after the large-scale nuclear attack on Partoga City.”

“Both combatant entities still have intact militaries.” D-One-Five said in a flat, monotone voice, “Perhaps seeking arbitration now has become preferable to the alternatives.”

Tantomile stood up and made her presence known.

“A lot has happened.” She said. “Things have been changing quickly out here.”

The Hiigaran Ambassador raised her hand, and the Secretary General allowed her to speak.

“I know the Partogans are in no position to trust anything I say,” Japra said, “But the Council should remember that just six years ago, my own people were in a similar situation that was fluid and subject to rapid changes. If Her Highness Tantomile and Her Majesty Kendra really say they’re committed to peace, then we should believe them. And if this body is committed to peace as well, then we should help them.”

The Amadii, Taiidan, and Droid Ambassadors all looked around at one another. The Zudjari Ambassador frowned at Kendra through the screen.

“Thank you, honorable delegate from Hiigara.” Kendra said, “Tantomile and I have hit a stumbling block in our peace talks, and we’ve agreed to seek help from the Galactic Council.”

“Some of the reasons my people rebelled have never been addressed.” Tantomile explained to the Council. “The Paku Nui famine and the cultural implications of a Taihara being elected Queen are chief among them. The two of us believe that a small but dangerous minority of the Levakian population will reject any peace offering from Queen Kendra and try to resume the fight. On behalf of all people in the Levakian Confederation, and in my capacity as its Empress, I ask the Galactic Council to mediate our conflict.”

“I’m making the same request.” Kendra added. “We need to have a neutral third party at the negotiating table.”

The five members of the Security Council looked at one another. Tuutalk tried to whisper something to Japra, but his voice carried loudly enough for Kendra and Tantomile to hear him:

“Partoga is a member of the Galactic Council General Assembly, but the rules of mediating between members and non-members aren’t exactly clear.”

“On the contrary.” Japra replied. “I don’t think there are any rules on that topic.”

Then the Zudjari Ambassador spoke to the Secretary General.

“I request a five minute recess.”

“Seconded!” Said Hiigaran Ambassador Japra. “I need to call home and get guidance from the New Daiamid.”

“Same here.” Said Tuutalk. “I must call my homeworld.”

The Secretary General granted the recess. As the five members of the Security Council stood up to leave, Tantomile muted the screen.

“Well, what do you think?” she asked.

“Two out of five of them had to call their homeworlds.” Kendra said. “That has to be a good sign.”

“The Micore Droids and Zudjari each function with a Gestalt Consciousness.” Sebakhira reminded them both. “They already have a direct connection to their homeworlds. If I had to guess, I’d say the Zudjari wanted a recess because their Hive Mind was lacking in consensus. They’re divided on how to respond to your request, Your Majesties.”

After another few minutes of waiting, the delegates returned to their seats and began to converse with the Secretary General. Then Secretary General Vestergaard called the meeting to order again.

“The GCSC is confident that the two of you have made the correct decision by seeing outside mediation, and all five members have expressed an interest in seeing the Partoga-Levakian conflict end peacefully.” Vestergaard began, “However, there are multiple issues that prevent the Council from taking more definitive action: First, the Galactic Council Charter is unclear on how to regulate interactions between members and non-members. Furthermore, all five members of the Security Council have a conflict of interest that makes them poorly qualified to mediate your dispute, as all of them have been involved in the Taiidan War at some point or another, either as the allies or enemies of the Kingdom of Partoga. Your Majesties Kendra and Tantomile, if you are interested in mediation the GCSC is prepared to recommend a mediator who is not a member of the Security Council and does not have any apparent conflict of interest.”

Kendra and Tantomile shot quick looks at one another.

“Good enough for us.” Tantomile said. “Who did you have in mind?”

“The Bentusi.” Hiigaran Ambassador Jarpa replied. “Your Kingdom is located near the spot where Outer Limb Trade Routes used to be, so there are many Bentusi Tradeships in your vicinity. They can be on the scene within weeks.”

Kendra and Tantomile both nodded to each other.

“Thank you.” Kendra said to the Council. “If you can put us in touch with the Bentusi, you may save millions of lives on both sides.”

Secretary General Vestergaard’s face scrunched up into a repulsive configuration that passed for a friendly smile among Blorg.

“All those in favor of asking the Bentusi to mediate the Partogan-Levakian conflict?”

Four hands and one wing were raised.

“Passed unanimously.” Said Vestergaard. “Although I’ll take a moment to remind both of you that the Galactic Council does not tolerate post-ceasefire aggression, and we will take appropriate punitive actions if we discover you have resumed fighting.”

“Oh…” said Kendra. “Yeah, about that... I should… uh… I should tell you…”

Kendra and Tantomile shot nervous glances at each other while the GCSC glared at them through the screen.

“Does this have to do with the large fleet of starships currently flying towards Levakian Space through the Rakinui sector?” said Tuutalk, the Amadii Ambassador.

“Uh…”

In private, Kendra and Tantomile had agreed to avoid mentioning time travel to people who didn’t know the whole story unless it was absolutely necessary. Neither monarch wanted to cause undue confusion, panic, and second-guessing on a large scale. For a brief moment, Kendra was seriously considering telling the GCSC about the time traveler responsible for this crisis, but in the end, she decided that telling a half-truth should be enough to get the help she needed.

“Yes.” Kendra said. “I’m sure by now our neighbors in the Micore Empire will have detected something… unusual."

“We did.” The Droid Ambassador said in its uncaring drone. “We assumed you were calling the GCSC to inform us that this is a routine patrol that in no way violates the ceasefire you have negotiated with Empress Tantomile. The GCSC has laws of war, Kendra, and attempting to hide your violations of those laws behind subterfuge and deception will only decrease your chances-“

“No, no, no, NO!” Kendra said, raising her voice to talk over the Droid. “Hang on! LET ME EXPLAIN!!”

The Galactic Council Security Council fell silent. They all stared at Kendra and Tantomile through the screen. Ambassador Japra sat upright, looking alarmed.

“Tell us!” she said quickly. “Go on!”

Kendra spoke loudly and a little slowly, determined to make sure the Council heard every word:

“A fleet of Partogan warships, augmented by six Riri Nui-class Planet-Killers, is moving to attack Levakian territories with the intent of destroying nearly two dozen inhabited Levakian worlds.”

Silence. Then the Zudjari Ambassador said coldly:

“We shall watch with great interest as you recall them. If that’s what you intend to do.”

“Just listen to me!” Kendra said angrily through gritted teeth. “We’ve tried to recall them and failed multiple times. I’m planning to try again as soon as this meeting is over, but those ships are, at least for the moment, completely out of control.”

The Taiidani Ambassador looked horrified.

“Is this fleet being commanded by a madman?” Dika asked.

Again with the half-truth…

“Possibly.” Kendra said with a quick glance at Tantomile. “Right now, as much as it hurts me to say this, Task Force Kraahkan is acting on their own and they refuse to abort their mission.”

Tantomile stood up in front of the screen and looked directly into the camera, addressing the Council.

“The ceasefire I’ve negotiated with Kendra is still on shaky ground. Many Levakians are eager to resume fighting, and a Planet-Killer attack will give them an excuse to do just that. Kendra and I are working together to stop Task Force Kraahkan from reigniting a war that otherwise could be stopped.”

“We have observed your efforts to do as you say.” D-One-Five said. “Our listening posts on the Nithascal border have detected a Levakian fleet positioning itself directly in the path of Task Force Kraahkan. We have also seen a Partogan fleet moving to attack these Planet-Killers from behind in the Cirban System.”

“Partogan warships sent out to destroy their own country’s superweapons.” Secretary General Vestergaard said quietly. “Incredible.”

“Because of the time dilation associated with Faster-Than-Light communications…” the Zudjari Ambassador said, “It is almost certain that the battle has already been fought. You have my sympathy, Queen Kendra. The Mosaic has taught me that ordering your own soldiers to their certain death is one of the most difficult things a ruler can do. It is a challenge of strength… and for the moment, you seem to be passing it.”

These words must have had some kind of impact, because Taiidan Ambassador Dika tried to talk over the Zudjari Ambassador, and in return, the Hiigaran Ambassador tried to talk over him. In seconds, all five members of the GCSC were arguing and yelling at one another. (minus the Droid Ambassador, which simply talked over everyone without stopping) Kendra only caught a few words like “unacceptable” and “interventionism” and “unprecedented.”

Finally, Secretary General Vestergaard was able to restore order.

“Your Majesty,” she said, “A rouge military element will endanger the peace process before it even starts. I can’t guarantee the Bentusi will be willing to help you in the face of such a situation.”

“Let the Bentusi be the judge of that.” Said Tantomile.

At that moment, a Partogan Navy officer entered the conference room and whispered into Kendra’s ear:

“Your Majesty, Admiral Kingi has made contact with Task Force Kraahkan.”

The Queen stood up.

“I’m sorry, Council.” She said. “But I have to go. My forces are about to engage that rouge fleet.”

Secretary General Vestergaard nodded.

“Please be aware that the Galactic Council will continue to monitor and discuss the situation in your absence.” She said. “And good luck to you, Queen Kendra.”



Kendra, Tantomile, Nya, and Sebakhira scrambled up to the Mothership’s bridge. Toa Wahine Kopaki Raharuhi was standing near the Hyperwave terminal, shaking her head and looking disappointed.

“The time delay is really bad.” She said. “They’re so far away that the Causality Violation is over two days long. Basically, you’re going to be sending a message into the past, and they’ll respond by sending one into the future. I’m not sure this is gonna work.”

“We’ve got to try.” Kendra answered. “Put me on.”

Toa Kopaki filled a switch and a voice came out of the speakers

“This is HMS Queen Madeline the Second calling Queen Miranda!” said the voice of Admiral Aranui Kingi. “Come in, Queen Miranda, this is an emergency!”

“This is Vice Admiral Ranginui of the Queen Miranda!” replied the voice of Wikitoria Ranginui. “We are not allowed to receive-“

“Shut the hell up and listen to me!” Aranui snapped. “We’re bouncing a Hyperwave signal to you from the Homeworld! Keep receiving!”

“Homeworld?” Nya repeated, “That time delay must be really bad. We left Partoga two days ago!”

Kendra ignored her and shouted into the microphone.

“Vice Admiral Ranginui! This is the Queen of Partoga! Your mission was triggered by subversive elements within the Command Structure. You are acting without Royal Permission! I REPEAT: You are acting without Royal Permission! I am ordering you and every ship of Task Force Kraahkan to stand down and return to base IMMEDEATELY.”

“Your Majesty,” Wikitoria protested, “I cannot accept verbal commands or tactical alterations. For all I know, the enemy is copying your voice!”

Kendra cut her off.

“Admiral, your go-code is Two-One-Zivon-Sanok-Kraahkan-Kualsi.

“Your Majesty, we cannot receive tactical alterations right now!” Admiral Ranginui protested. “The Levakians could be copying your voice!”

“Are you kidding me!?” Tantomile gasped while Kendra continued talking:

““Your primary targets are: Paku Nui, Vaopolu, and Asalele. Your secondary targets are Ninigai, Aiarua, and Waioku. You know it’s me! You know this is the voice of your Queen, and I am ordering you to ABORT MISSION!”

Admiral Ranginui shouted loudly, overpowering Kendra’s voice:

“You are ordering me to do something I’ve been ordered not to do!”

“ADMIRAL RANGINUI! LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW!! THIS IS AN ORDER FROM THE QUEEN-”

The line went dead.

Kendra swore.



The next few hours were spent trying to call Task Force Kraahkan back. Unfortunately, Vice Admiral Ranginui simply refused to answer the calls. There was nothing to do but wait for Admiral Kingi and Task Force Hydruka to close the distance and get within weapons range of the Planet-Killers.

In the meantime, there were other things to take care of. Kendra, not wanting to waste her time on the bridge waiting for Admiral Kingi to find the Planet-Killers, left the bridge and made her way down to the Brig. She was followed by Nya, Tantomile, and Sebakhira. Nya was the only one who didn’t know why Kendra wanted to visit the Brig, so she asked.

“There are a couple people I brought with me from Fort Miranda.” Kendra explained. “And I really want to talk to them right now.”

Along the way to the Brig, Kendra pushed open an armory door and shouted inside:

“Eteka! Come with us for a minute!”

Kendra’s boyfriend broke off from his new squad and joined her. When he got close, the Queen raised her eyebrow at him and said:

“No Tuakiri?

Despite the fact that Eteka had killed a Levakian during the Battle of Whakaari, his face was unmarked by Tattoo ink. He shrugged at her question.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate, since, you know, we’re trying to make peace with the Levakians and all.” Then he gave Kendra a nervous look. “You think I should get one?”

The Queen shook her head.

“Nah, I think you made the right choice. Besides, I already liked the way you looked.”

Eteka pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and smiled at her.

“Thanks. So where are we going?”

“To get some information, and say hello to an old friend.”



The Queen Karan’s Brig was a surprisingly large place. According to Eteka, it had to be, in the event of a captured enemy ship being brought into the hangar bay with its crew still alive. Today, however, it was being occupied by only four people: two guards and two prisoners. One of the guards was a total stranger Kendra, Tantomile, and Eteka had never met before, but the other guard was someone they hadn’t seen since the Royal Election many months ago.

“Holy Miranda!” Eteka gasped. “No way! I thought you quit!”

Rapati Hipango gave Eteka in a firm handshake with his one remaining hand. His new bionic hand tightly gripped a Gauss Rifle.

“So did I!” Rapati replied. “But my hometown, Candon, is a mostly-Partogan city located in the heart of Levakian territory. I got this pretty quickly.”

Rapati stepped into the light and turned his face to show Eteka, Kendra, Tantomile, Sebakhira, and Nya his new Tuakiri Tattoo. The ink only covered the left side of Rapati’s face, its patterns and pictographs told the story of how Rapati had used lethal force to defend his family home.

“Killed in self-defense, huh?” Sebakhira commented. “Respectable.”

“Anyway,” Rapati continued. “The Green Guard showed up a couple of days ago to relieve the city, and then the whole war just kinda stopped. Most of the lions and Partogans suddenly laid down their arms and went home. Anyone who tried to keep fighting just got arrested. And then the Green Guard said ‘You’re a skilled fighter, we need you on a top-secret mission’ and next thing I knew, I was here, guarding the Brig on the Royal Flagship!”

He cast a look at Kendra.

“This is your Flagship, right?”

Kendra folded her arms and said in a half-sarcastic voice:

“I dunno. Is the Queen of Partoga on board right now?”

Rapati laughed.

“Anyway, your Majesty, if you want to see the female prisoner, we have to go in with you for security reasons because-“

“She’s Gifted, I know.”

Sebakhira squinted her eyes at Rapati and said.

“You’ve built up quite the resistance to mental assault. Has that prisoner been giving you trouble?”

“Not since yesterday.” Rapati replied. “She’s calmed down now.”

Both of the prisoners were in neighboring cells, so they couldn’t actually see one another. Hakara Tamihana looked to be completely bored and would have fallen asleep on the bench if not for visitors. Whetu Kealoha hadn’t noticed anyone coming in. She was standing in the back of her cell and had lifted up her shirt to examine the fresh surgery scars on her belly. Rapati tapped his metal arm on the cell doors loudly to get the attention of Hakara and Whetu.

“Damn, Kendra. Your medics are really aggressive.” Whetu said as she approached the little window in her cell door. “Most doctors in my day didn’t carry friggin’ tranquilizers.”

“I needed you alive.” Kendra said. “So I ended that argument before you had a chance to start it.”

“What do you need?” Hakara asked. “I can’t speak for Whetu, but you know I’m ready to help however I can.”

“Hey, I’ll help too.” Whetu cut in. “Just tell your people to stop drugging me first.”

“We’re having trouble talking to the Planet-Killer fleet.” Kendra explained. “Vice Admiral Ranginui isn’t listening to us. You said the last member of Akira’s team is on their Command Ship, right? Is she impersonating Admiral Ranginui?”

“No.” Whetu said at once. “She’s pretending to be General Waiano Kopunui, and she’s not aboard the Command Ship. Akira explicitly told her to board the Planet-Killer Mohtrek. We figured out a couple Cycles back that Ranginui is more easily controlled than impersonated. If you’re having trouble talking to her, it’s definitely because Mira’s talked her out of listening to you.”

“Talked her out of it?” Kendra repeated.

“That was our plan.” Whetu said. “Mira was supposed to convince everyone in Task Force Kraahkan that the Levakians would use technology to copy your voice and issue a fake Abort order. By now, I’m sure most of the officers in the fleet are convinced that any message from you is a trick set up by the Levakians.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Tantomile complained.

“What? Do you actually have the technology to copy voices?” Eteka asked.

“Yes, we do.” Tantomile said, “But I swear we were never planning to use it that way!”

“Stealing money from the Partogan Royal Treasury isn’t really a productive use of the tech.” Hakara said. “Anyway, Mira Mihaka is the other team member I mentioned. She’s the other one of us who was suspicious of Akira.”

“Does she know Akira’s betrayed her entire team?” Tantomile asked.

“Definitely not.” Hakara answered. “Task Force Kraahkan is supposed to maintain radio silence until it reaches the Positive Control Point in the Hakihea system. I guarantee you, Mira’s in the dark right now. She doesn’t know the situation.”

“Hang on,” Eteka interrupted. “I’ve just got to ask. You said your teammate’s name is Mira Mihaka. Are you talking about my brother’s kid? Namuna told me a month ago that his wife is pregnant, and that they’re gonna name it Mira if it turns out to be a girl.”

“Uh, no.” said Hakara. “That’s the wrong Mira.”

“Is it Toa Wahine Mira Mihaka?” Eteka pressed on, “She was my-“

“Hey! I remember her!” Whetu interrupted. “Toa Mira was part of my team during the Wars of the Famine. Toa Enoka called her the ‘crazy sword lady’ because she always had, like, eight or nine swords tied on her belt, her legs, her back and shoulders. She was like a pincushion that talked!”

Eteka’s eyes went wide, he looked back and forth between Whetu and Kendra.

“You know…” he said, “I think I’m still having trouble accepting that this is the real Miranda the Great. I always pictured her older.”

“Don’t call me Miranda!” Whetu protested, “And I’m twenty-one! Anyway, all your history books say I died when I was fifteen, so what the hell were you expecting!?”

While Kendra went back to interrogating Hakara, Nya leaned in close to Whetu’s cell door and whispered:

“I always wanted to ask: Was Toa Taki really as beautiful as the storybooks made her out to be?”

“Of course not.” Whetu answered. “It was the Wars of the Famine. She was just as skinny as the rest of us. Thinner than a tree branch, you know?”

Kendra ignored this exchange and pressed on.

“Which Mira Mihaka are we dealing with here?”

“One from the very far future.” Hakara answered. “She won’t be born for almost three hundred years.”

“Oh, great.” Said Eteka. “That just great. Nice to know my family’s gonna raise a time-travelling marauder someday. Will I at least get to live long enough to see the Mihaka clan go to shit?”

He wasn’t taking the revelation very well. Kendra put an arm around him and squeezed. She felt Eteka relax a little.

“How would she react if she heard you on the Hyperwave?” Kendra asked. Hakara frowned in thought.

“She’d be really confused.” He answered. “Before we all left the Ark Angel, we committed to a plan. Everyone would go to their positions and do their jobs, be it impersonation or whatever. When everyone had done what they were supposed to do, we were all supposed to gather on Aoraki.”

“The Battle of Aoraki was supposed to be our last act in this era.” Whetu explained. “Once it got started, the whole team was supposed to escort the Planet-Killers to Asalele, then escape.”

“Get together on Aoraki?” Kendra repeated. “Where? You had a meeting place?”

“Mahurangi.” Hakara said. “Specifically, the Mahurangi Spaceport. You should know it well, Kendra. It’s on the opposite side of town from where you and your mother used to live.”

The Queen winced at the mention of her late mother.

“So Mira’s going to continue her mission, and then during the fight at Aoraki…”

“She’ll abandon Task Force Kraahkan and head for the surface of Aoraki.” Whetu finished. “She definitely thinks the rest of us will be waiting for her at the Spaceport.”

“Unless we head her off first.” Kendra said. “Hakara, you said you wanted to help. Well, here’s your moment.”

The Queen turned to face Rapati.

“Release the prisoners and have them follow me up to the bridge.”

While Rapati went about getting the cells open, Kendra turned her attention to Whetu.

“Every history book in the Galaxy says you’re dead.” Kendra said to Whetu. “And I’m your legally elected successor. The second you start trying to do my job I’ll airlock you.”

Whetu raised her hands in a gesture of submission.

“Loud and clear, Your Majesty.” Whetu said. “You’re the Queen. But if we’re going to keep my… uh… history under wraps, you and your friends probably shouldn’t use my last name. Whetu is a common name, but Kealoha is kinda rare. It’ll draw attention.”

“You want us to call you something different?” Kendra asked.

“Can you call me ‘Whetu Karawana’?” Whetu asked. “I met a woman with the same name in the far future and I really liked her. She died in an important battle, so the least I can do is preserve her name.”

“For you, I’ll let Naming Day come six months early.” Kendra answered with a smile. “Whetu Karawana it is.”

“I was born on Naming Day.” Whetu Karawana said casually.

“Cool.” Kendra answered. “Me too.”

“For the love of Miranda, can we just get going already!?” Tantomile groaned.



Kendra sent Eteka, Rapati, and Sebakhira to gather all of her friends and comrades for a meeting in the Briefing room. There they would wait for Kendra to join them. Meanwhile the Queen took Hakara, the newly-renamed Whetu Karawana, and Tantomile back to the bridge for another attempt to communicate with Task Force Kraahkan.

Toa Wahine Kopaki Raharuhi was still on the bridge when they returned. She was as frustrated and angry as ever, trying as hard as possible to establish an FTL communications link with Admiral Kingi.

“They might as well be on the other side of the Galaxy!” She complained. “I can see why people like to use these things to send messages to their future selves!”

After a few minutes, she had something. Clutching a set of headphones to one ear, she listened intently.

“Your Majesty!” Toa Kopaki reported, “I’m not sure, but it sounds like Admiral Kingi got within weapons range of Task Force Kraahkan. I’m gonna try and patch you in.”

Toa Kopaki started typing commands into the console.

“Right.” Said Kendra. “Hakara and Whetu, do you think Mira’s on the Miranda?

They both shook their heads.

“She’s not supposed to be.” Whetu answered. “She’s supposed to be on board the HMS Mohtrek. It’s the Planet-Killer assigned to Asalele in Operation Divine Fury.”

Kendra tapped Toa Kopaki on the shoulder.

“Give these two a direct line to the HMS Mohtrek. I don’t care about Causality Violations or how many timelines you cross doing it, just pipe their voices right onto the bridge.”

Toa Kopaki nodded and then passed a headset to Kendra. While Whetu and Hakara were working on talking to the Mohtrek, Kendra held up her headset so she and Tantomile could both listen to it. A computerized voice spoke softly over the headset:

“System error! Target relay is partially disabled!”

“Someone on the other end is trying to cut the connection!” Toa Kopaki said, “You can send transmissions all you want, Your Majesty, but their transmitter is down. They won’t be able to talk back to you!” Say something before they kill the receiver too!”

Knowing this was going to be a one-sided conversation, Kendra yelled into the microphone:

“Vice Admiral Ranginui! Keep receiving, do you understand me!? Keep receiving!”

She passed the headset to Tantomile.

“Attention crew of Task Force Kraahkan, this is Empress Tantomile of the Levakian Confederation! I am here aboard the HMS Queen Karan with Her Majesty Kendra! We have agreed to a ceasefire! The war is over! I repeat! THE WAR IS OVER!”

Remembering what Hakara had said about Mira’s mission to trick everyone into thinking Kendra was being impersonated by the Levakians, Kendra shouted into the microphone:

“Listen to her! Nobody can fake this!”

“THE WAR IS OVER!!” Tantomile screamed into the radio. “TURN AROUND AND GO HOME!! THE WAR IS OVER!!”

And that was it. Once more, the line went dead.

A few minutes later, Toa Kopaki reported that Task Force Kraahkan had disappeared into Hyperspace after being fired upon by Task Force Hydruka.

“If it’s any consolation,” Toa Kopaki said, “They got a Planet-Killer. The Crast got blown in half.”

“Yeah, one down, five to go.” Tantomile couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice. “I feel so reassured.”

Whetu set down her headset in frustration.

“They cut the connection from the other end.” She said. “Mira’s got them pretty paranoid over there. I think they’re convinced the ships of Task Force Hydruka were stolen by the Levakians.”

“What do we do now?” Tantomile asked.

“We need to get everyone together.” Kendra said. “Plan out our next move.”



The Mothership’s briefing room was perfect for what Queen Kendra needed. A trapezoidal table drew all eyes to the Queen and the digital screen behind her. Gathered together in this one room many of the friends, allies, colleagues, and acquaintances Kendra and Tantomile had made over the past year. Whetu, Hakara, Eteka, Rapati, Arahu, Ango, Amaya, Toa Kopaki, Toa Nanui, and Nya all sat together on one side while Empress Tantomile was joined on the other side of the table by Sebakhira, King Admetus, Princess Coricopat, and three lions Kendra had never met before. A big lion with a deep voice introduced himself as Tumeric, the King of Asalele. A huge lion introduced himself as “Korova” while a skinny lioness identified herself as “Rhassa.” The latter must have been separated from her friends for quite a while, because Tantomile and Sebakhira greeted Rhassa happily and asked where she’d been.

“Locked up in the Queen Lucy’s Brig ever since we lost the Shieldbreaker.” Rhassa explained. “They let me go after you overthrew the Confederate Council and ended the war. And not a moment too soon, I was starting to get stir-crazy in there.”

“Out of the frying pan, it seems.” Korova commented. “I would almost prefer the war to the next crisis I have to deal with.”

“I get the feeling you’re not talking about Planet-Killers.” King Admetus commented. “What have I missed?”

Korova pointed at Princess Coricopat and said:

“Three. It’s a worst-case scenario.”

Tantomile looked over at her sister with an expression of pleasant surprise.

“You’re pregnant!?” she gasped. “How many? When?”

“Three cubs.” Coricopat answered. “They’ll be here in about a month.”

Unlike Partogans, Levakian pregnancies only last for about 100 days.

It took nearly half an hour for everyone in the room to finish congratulating Coricopat and settle into their seats. Then the meeting began.

Kendra gave Hakara and Whetu permission to explain everything, and they did, to the best of their ability. For over an hour, all of Kendra and Tantomile’s friends listened closely while Hakara and Whetu took it in turns to explain who Akira was, her method of Time Travel, why she had such an interest in this time period, and her end goal of altering a future conflict called the “Second Hyperspace War.” They also explained how Tantomile had caught her aboard the Shieldbreaker, and how Akira seemed to have betrayed her whole team.

Kendra and Tantomile’s friends were a very good audience. They gasped at Hakara’s description of the future “the Second Hyperspace War” and its aftermath. Sebakhira wore an expression of happy validation on her face when Whetu revealed just how much history had been altered by Akira. Many shocked looks were shared around the room as Whetu’s true identity was revealed, and a few curious glances were aimed at Kendra when Hakara explained his relationship to her. Amaya turned pale when Hakara explained how Akira’s team had tampered with the Royal Election, and Toa Kopaki cracked her knuckles when Whetu revealed just how far Akira’s team had infiltrated both the Partogan government and military. Eteka’s head and shoulders twitched uncomfortably when Hakara revealed his family had been targeted for impersonation.

Kendra knew that it would be completely impossible for Hakara and Whetu to share every last detail of their time working with Akira, and she had a hunch they were omitting a lot from their explanation, but there simply wasn’t enough time to press the issue. It would be an unnecessary distraction.

Toa Nanui was the first one to ask a question.

“This human world… this… ‘Earth’ is just a primitive world right now, right? Where is it? Maybe we can-“

“You can’t.” Hakara interrupted. “Earth is inside the borders of the Zudjari Empire, and they’ve already started to make plans for an invasion. If Partoga tries to get there first, you’d just be making a bad situation worse.”

“Do you know why Akira suddenly started to abandon her teammates?” Sebakhira asked.

Whetu shook her head.

“It came out of the blue with no explanation.” She said. “Hakara thinks she always meant to abandon us and leave us behind, but I’ve worked with Akira for over a hundred Cycles. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Sebakhira frowned. She was deep in thought. Finally, she turned to Rhassa.

“Wasn’t a portion of the Asalele Library preserved on the Shieldbreaker’s computers? Could we save that data?”

“Not anymore.” Rhassa answered. “The Shieldbreaker was melted down and converted into a squadron of Corvettes. Whatever data Tantomile took is gone now.”

“What if we get to Asalele first and recover the data ourselves?” Arahu asked. “It’ll be harder for her to wipe out all of that data if there are multiple copies of it.”

“It’s impossible for us to get there first.” Hakara said. “Akira’s ship is a Far-Jumper. Unless you’ve got a Progenitor Hyperspace Module up your sleeve, we don’t stand a chance of beating her to the library.”

“Hang on.” Amaya Maori cut in. “She’s doing all of this to stop herself getting discovered in the future, right? Let’s just out her right now. Call up PNN and Xenonian News and let the entire Galaxy know what she’s doing.”

“That’s happened already in like, two or three Cycles.” Whetu said. “Akira just quit on the entire Cycle and moved on to the next one. We can do that, but it won’t solve the immediate problem of the Planet-Killers.”

“She’s right.” Tantomile chimed in. “We can’t afford to start second-guessing all of our future plans or stressing about what Akira’s going to do months or years down the line. The Planet-Killers are our immediate crisis. We have to focus on stopping them.”

“Besides,” King Tumeric added, “By telling all of us, Akira has been discovered. Even if the Asalele Library is destroyed and its data lost, her secret’s out.”

Hakara nodded.

“Agreed. The whole point of this operation was for Queen Kendra to get blamed for the destruction of Asalele. That’s clearly not going to happen now.”

“Exactly.” Kendra said. “And I’ve got a plan… or rather, the beginnings of one… on how save Asalele. Everyone look up here.”

She stood up from the meeting table and tapped the digital screen behind her. A map of the Hakihea system appeared on it.

“According the ship’s Captain,” Kendra began, “Our fleet, which I’m calling ‘Joint Task Force Kardas,’ will enter the Hakihea star system about six or seven hours before Task Force Kraahkan does. We’ll have that long to set up a blockade.”

“Blockade?” Coricopat repeated.

“Yeah.” Kendra went on. “You see, the Planet-Killers and their escorts will have to cross the entire system to reach the Hyperlane on the far side. As soon as JTF Kardas gets in-system, we start laying down Hyperspace Inhibitors and Gravity Well Generators. It’ll disable their Hyperspace systems and force them to travel down a path of our choosing.”

Kendra tapped the screen again and highlighted a corridor of space running through the system and ultimately stopping in high orbit above Aoraki.

“Task Force Kraahkan will be restricted to this narrow passageway of space, where the Gravwell fields are weakest. We surround them and demand their surrender. Any refusal is answered with weapons fire.”

Kendra faced Tantomile.

“Tantomile, your ship will be doing most of the heavy lifting against the Planet-Killers, since the Demeter is actually built for that kind of work”

“The Demeter’s got Ion Cannons, heavy Kinetic Batteries, and anti-ship missile systems.” Tantomile bragged. “This is gonna be easy.”

“Now listen, guys. This last part is important.” Kendra addressed the room as a whole. “Our most important priority is the Planet-Killers. If we can’t turn them back, we turn them to scrap. It’s simple as that. Asalele isn’t the only planet at risk here. There are 21 Levakian worlds and billions of people whose very lives are in danger right now. Until those people are safe, apprehending Akira is a low-level priority. That being said... If you do encounter the Ark Angel, or Akira herself, DO NOT try to fight or confront her alone. Our best chance of surviving against her is if we’re together. That’s why we’re only splitting up into two groups.”

Tantomile stood up.

“Half of you are coming with me.” The Empress said, “You’ll be hunting Planet-Killers on the Demeter with the Levakians.”

“The other half will be staying with me.” Kendra said. “We’re going to guard the Gravwell Generators and stop the enemy from escaping. Anyone have questions?”

Amaya pointed at Tantomile and Sebakhira.

“So, what are those things on your wrists?”

“These are Psionic Amplifiers.” Sebakhira answered. “They enhance our Gift and make it stronger.”

Coricopat patted Tantomile on the back.

“Your Gift showed itself!?” She said excitedly, “Congratulations!”

“That’s great!” Korova added, “Have you found your special power yet?”

Tantomile buried her face in her paws and muttered a noncommittal answer. She was clearly embarrassed.

“Nope, come on, let’s see it!” Coricopat tapped a small button on Tantomile’s Amplifier. “We need to know what it is in case it helps us in battle. Show us, blow us away!”

“Not literally, though.” Rapati added.

Tantomile rolled her eyes in frustration and moaned.

“Okay, fine.” She said. “Anyone got an Uka?”

Amaya pulled a coin from her pocket. Tantomile pointed to the coin in Amaya’s hand and said:

“Okay, guys. If you flip a coin, what are the chances it’ll land heads-side-up?”

“Fifty-fifty.” Eteka replied. “Easy. What does this have to do with Psionic powers?”

“Just watch.” Tantomile said. “Hey Maori, do me a favor and flip that coin ten times. Tell us what it lands on.”

Amaya raised her eyebrows, but obliged. For a few seconds, everybody focused hard on her hand as she sent the Uka flipping into the air. Amaya caught the coin and reported on its disposition, her voice filling with surprise as she went on:

“Heads.” Amaya said, “Heads, heads, heads, heads… what the hell? Heads again… heads… heads, seriously!? Heads!? Oh, holy Miranda!”

“Damn.” Whetu breathed. “Ten heads in a row!? Also, is that really what you thought my face looked like?”

While Whetu examined her own image on the coin, Tantomile spoke.

Probability.” The Empress said. “I can mess with it… and I guess that means I can never visit another casino as long as I live, but Sebakhira and I have been testing it out for a few days now. I can tweak the likelihood of something happening. If I really, really focus my mind on it, then I can force a future event to be more or less likely… at least, that’s how I think it works. Whetu?”

Whetu positioned the Uka in her hand, ready to flip it.

“I’m gonna call tails.” Whetu said, “I want you to give me ten tails, Tantomile.”

Whetu sent the Uka flipping into the air. When it hit the table, Arahu called the results out loud:

“Heads. Heads again. Heads. Yup, that’s heads. Heads. Heads up. Oh! There’s a tails! Heads again. Heads. And one last heads. That’s nine heads and one tails.”

Tantomile shook her head.

“Got distracted.” She said. “That tails slipped through. Like I said, I don’t really know how this power works, and I’m honestly not sure if it could help us in battle. If I were you guys, I wouldn’t count on it.”

“She’s being humble.” Sebakhira added. “The Gift is exactly what the name suggests. I’m confident her powers will be useful to us.”

Whetu rolled the Uka across the table and it came to rest by Amaya.

“Any other questions?” Kendra asked.

Toa Nanui spoke up.

“Hakara, you said that in the future, there’s going to be some kind of Extragalactic Invasion that’ll cause a Hyperspace War. How far in the future are we talking about?”

“About eighty-five years.” Hakara said. “Most of you won’t live to see it, but your children and grandchildren will. Try not to think about it right now, though. We need everyone focused on the task at hand.”

Rapati raised his hand.

“Are we expecting Akira herself to show up at Aoraki? Or is it just gonna be Mira?”

Simultaneously, Whetu and Kendra spoke at the same time:

“Yes.” Whetu said.

“No.” Kendra said.

Everyone looked at their Queen. Kendra smacked herself in the forehead and said:

“Oh, that’s right! I forgot to tell you all. I’ve got a body double at Fort Miranda. Akira thinks I’m still on the Homeworld!”

Whetu and Hakara looked at each other and shook their heads.

“No, she doesn’t.” Hakara said. “I guarantee you she does not think that.”

The smile faded from Kendra’s face.

“What do you mean?”

“Your Majesty, we’ve been doing the ‘body-double’ thing for a very long time.” Whetu said, “We’re so good at disguising ourselves that we can spot disguised people just as well as your Acolyte can.”

Before Whetu could go on, Hakara tapped her on the shoulder and said:

“Nya’s not Gifted this time around. She can be tricked just like the rest of us now.”

Whetu whirled around to stare at Nya, looking shocked.

“Really!?” Whetu sounded upset. “You were Gifted for, like, ten Cycles in a row, Acolyte! You were the only person in the Galaxy we never fooled, you know! Nothing ever got past you! That’s… that’s not fair!”

Nya shrugged her shoulders.

“Sorry.” The Acolyte squeaked in her little voice.

Whetu rolled her eyes.

“Anyway…” she said. “I guarantee you Akira knows you’ve left the planet. Is there any way we can see your body double? I’ll prove my point.”

“Your Majesty,” Amaya said loudly. “Your double was on Xenonian News earlier. We were watching before you got here.”

Kendra pressed her thumb to the digital screen and brought up the latest news report. A Xenonian News field reporter was standing outside the walls of Fort Miranda on Partoga. Behind him, hundreds of Partogan soldiers were celebrating loudly and firing their guns up into the air. The banner at the bottom of the screen said:

Emerdon captured! Partogan-Levakian conflict near the end?

The news reporter had to raise his voice to be heard above the noise:

“Viewers at home, as you can see behind me there is cause for celebration in Partoga tonight! Preliminary reports coming from the Partogan Royal Government as well as multiple civilian eyewitnesses here in Visonia confirm that King Emerdon, the leader of an armed rebellion against the government of Queen Kendra, was captured alive by the Partogan Green Guard during a midnight raid. The Partogan Queen gave this statement earlier today.”

The screen then cut to a prerecorded video. Kendra couldn’t help but be impressed by what she saw: Enutanga had truly transformed into a copy of the Queen. Her bushy silver hair was now straight and white, a pair of trick shoes gave the singer Kendra’s unusual height, and she even wore a custom-made eyepatch that matched the one Kendra was currently wearing. While Enutanga delivered a speech to the cameras, Hakara and Whetu both groaned loudly.

“Nooo.” Whetu moaned. “So damn close.”

“It’s a good disguise.” Hakara admitted, “Hell, you tricked the news reporters, but there is one problem.”

He walked to the screen and pointed at the lower half of Enutanga’s body.

“Kendra, I know you.” He said, “And I know you really, really don’t like to wear skirts.”

Uh-oh. Enutanga was wearing an ankle-length skirt as part of her outfit, and Hakara was right. Kendra had never liked to wear skirts or dresses.

“We’ve been time-travelling for longer than you can possibly comprehend.” Hakara said. “Trust me, Kendra. Akira knows you pretty well… and she knows you wouldn’t wear clothes like that unless it was a really special occasion, like your own wedding, perhaps, but this isn’t one of those circumstances. Akira will know that’s not you.”

He tapped the screen and muted the news reports.

“Credit where it’s due.” Hakara said. “That’s a pretty good double, and she’ll definitely pull the wool over a lot of eyes, but Akira’s going to notice small details like that.”

Kendra sighed and nodded.

“Alright. Fine.” She said. “Let’s plan ahead assuming that Akira will show up. It’s the safest plan anyway.”

She turned to face the group as a whole.

“Alright, this is how we’re going to split up on the day of the battle: King Tumeric, Sebakhira, Korova, Toa Nanui, Arahu, Rapati, Ango, Hakara, and Amaya: You’re all going with Tantomile. Report to the Demeter on the 19th of Hakihea. That’s two days before we get into orbit above Aoraki. Everyone else is staying with me. Does anyone have any questions?”

Everyone looked around the room, reading expressions and giving each other encouraging looks. Finally, Eteka raised his hand.

“Um, does that mean the battle’s going to happen on the 21st?”

“Yes.” Kendra replied instinctively. “Why do you – ooohhh…”

She realized why her boyfriend had asked that question as soon as the words left her mouth. Kendra looked back at the digital screen and tapped her map of the Hakihea star system again.

Of course. She’d missed it at first glance because the current month was named Hakihea… and her fleet was also travelling to a star system with the same name.

Just below a red dot in the middle of the map were the following words:

Joint Task Force Kardas/Task Force Kraahkan interception. Date of intercept: 21 Hakihea, 413

The twenty-first day of Hakihea was just over two weeks out.

It was also Eteka Mihaka’s fifteenth birthday.



December 8, 1928 A.D.

HMS Queen Karan, Hithara Star System, Kingdom of Partoga


“On his birthday!? Not near it or close to it… on it!?

“Yup.”

“Wow. That’s bad luck.”

Empress Tantomile and Queen Kendra were talking together on the bridge of the Queen Karan. They were waiting for a Bentusi Tradeship to emerge from Hyperspace and make contact with them. They were talking about Eteka’s birthday while they waited.

“So, what are you going to do?” Tantomile asked. “That’s a hard intercept date. You can’t just call the enemy and ask them to slow down for a few days.”

“I know what I’ll do.” Kendra replied. “I’ve been taking Eteka for granted for the past few months, and I’ve thought about fixing that by doing something for him, but I’ve been distracted by… you know… everything else going on. Well, no more. We’ve got two solid weeks of waiting before we’re actually in position for the final battle, so I’m gonna do something for him in the meantime. Something big.”

Smiling, Kendra pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and passed it to Tantomile.

“What’s this?” The Empress asked as she started to unfold the paper.

“An invitation.” Kendra replied. “I don’t know how it is for you Levakians, but when a Partogan turns fifteen, it’s a really big deal. I’ve decided that Eteka’s going to turn fifteen a week early. So, on Hakihea 15th, show that invitation to the guard outside of the fore cafeteria and he’ll let you into the party.”

“A party?” Tantomile replied, a smile curling her mouth. “I love it! I’ll bring some Madu Cabolo!”

Tantomile rubbed her face on Kendra’s arm and purred. The young Queen couldn’t purr like a feline, but she did give a grateful sigh. As the combined Levakian-Partogan armada soared through space towards its destiny, Kendra could relax for a moment, knowing that she would have one last happy moment with her friends before the final battle.

y4mm8F6fHic9xPmgKz6us7s49ky-DZp7sEEFlS3R8zGVIOiId8fJ7GvLjt0s7ayVZMsxSDybuGEePuuiBnE0lUC2xJgYPEvI9weynKykip1JbPIbRVwk1EHe7Yn-EgFzGhyKklQKQPnIvPRnTl-WS9-Yv2lRtt4KbLRZ5Dwl1Xqqejd7nfIrX3aeSSTnKZ4uYdErPu8AdNJ8pulxQnv1LEQdw

Caption said:
Joint Task Force Kardas prepares to move out. The Partogan fleet is on the left, and the Levakian one on the right.







Countdown to Doomsday said:
It is two minutes to midnight.


 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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@QueenKendra Yeah,Hakara and Whetu are holding back stuff.I’m not sure if they’re holding back what Akira’s special power is,because I’m not sure if they know.That information matters,though.

@EmpressTantomile Any plans on using that special power?How?

Also,can Paradox block Tantomile’s special power?

Also,I already know Mira and Akira’s fate at the end of this tale…No spoilers on the theory,though.
 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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Also,why did the Doomsday Clock jump from five minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight?

@QueenKendra, @EmpressTantomile/Sebakhira, @Eteka Also,if Hakara and Whetu told them about the Cycles,what’s their reaction?They were pissed about Paradox taking their free will,but in this view, they never had free will.
 

stnylan

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I have to say I am with Tantomile - I don't quite have the patience for all this chitchat. I imagine she just wants to lay waste to something or someone.