stnylan

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I did a Google search for "Dwarf Fortress combat log" out of curiosity, and I got sucked down a deep rabbit hole. I have to admit, Dwarf Fortress seems pretty cool, and the story of its creation and the people behind it is just as interesting.
Ahh, well that particular rabbit hole does very deep indeed :)
 

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Quick update regarding the Final Chapter: Chapter Six and the Epilogue will be posted separately, about 48 hours apart. Once the Epilogue is posted, this AAR will be over.

I'm still working hard on the finale for you all, but it's not ready yet. I'll let you know when it's showtime.




Also, I just wanted to share a funny thought I've had: Right now, both After Everything and Faith in Chaos have a large number of deleted/unused scenes between them. (see the picture below) And I was thinking: Perhaps these moments of the story were all cancelled out by a malicious time-traveler? ;)

y4mEr8C509oGK2p4JFKxYmHD5bzte1uhbQdesabtVvbImMsjJREv3uJf34YCHME7PfZ6d6pp_146A9bn_30TBAcNkYZPKt4jPqnT2ymNvnDgDfgZ8humHkrQ7ZEewXFzxa75ay2JhX_Mb7VxRBsn0lakOdD3Ven3vVdkNZl9hqVwGhCntmz6EtpbqIEQu0A4lJ8awnhcVk2noYPsotf8MTeMw
 
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Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Well here we are. By my best guess, I'm about three days away from finishing the final chapter. Maybe less. I wanted to take this moment to thank everyone who has gone out of their way to read this story.

I especially wanted to extend praise and thanks on all of the people who have left comments on this AAR over the past six months. I also want to shine a spotlight on the following people:

@Kylia Quilor, @spendabuck, and @HistoryDude: You three kept me on my toes like no other. Thanks for putting up with me in the early months when I was too stubborn to give straight answers. I'm grateful for your comments and conversations, thank you!

@stnylan, @Nikolai, and @Vilhelm: Thank you so much for your comments and votes of confidence. (I still won't dare compare myself to the great AAR writers like @coz1, @General_BT, and @Storey) It's been an enjoyable six months.

I'm so happy that I got to share another story with everyone here. Thank you all for reading!



I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

y4mTYTRY0YexpJoaTqiCN-PJd4FPleu8iYoLKQXPr9tdEtkBfCqHsQAobj975b_L1z1FMcO0TBWpjR7Lz_bIUmBbZdxVz9R0fqFrMry1bjoSm01CkwgNn1WVfZYJZIrLA7e7QSlyHbgwxsd47UiWf_TKXSAjjCJs2Xhhuf320wQAkswWMyNNsXhJ9eH3YbrBCDVLpytGNkQ2CBjAzg3V1DHoQ
 
Chapter Six

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Chapter Six

December 21, 1928 A.D.
HMS Queen Karan, Graveyard Orbit above Aoraki, Hakihea Star System, Kingdom of Partoga



Queen Kendra’s hands were shaking. She was standing outside of the main entrance to the Mothership’s infirmary. Inside, Partogan, Levakian, and Hiigaran medics were attempting to triage the many casualties of the Battle of Aoraki. All of the surviving Motherships, including the Hiigaran one, had volunteered their medical facilities to men, women, lions, and lionesses who had been burned, bruised, concussed, or exposed to the environment of space. Kendra herself wasn’t hurt, but she was waiting for someone who was.

Eteka had taken a bullet to the wrist during Akira’s raid on the Queen Karan’s bridge. Someone told the Queen that her boyfriend was undergoing “emergency surgery,” and would be out soon. While she waited, Kendra had sat near a wall screen and tuned into Xenonian News. On the screen Velam Nordström, the Sycldari anchor, was talking with a remote correspondent. The screen had just cut to a beautiful Hiigaran woman. She was standing on a grassy hilltop that overlooked a Levakian city. In the distance, the Planet-Killer Felnas was faintly visible in the blue sky. The words underneath her said: Sanaya Sjet, Reporting LIVE from Asalele.

“Uh, Velam? Something seems to be going wrong here. Have you heard anything up there on Kel-Azan?” Said Sanaya.

The camera cut back to the news anchor.

“President Elson?” Velam asked.

The camera cut to P’teer Elson, a veteran of the Taiidan War and the current President of the Taiidan Republic. He looked panicked.

“The Wrath Cannon has begun to heat the atmosphere!” President Elson said. “It’s the first stage of the weapon sequence!”

“Sanaya! You’re in danger! Get back to your ship!” Velam shouted loudly!

Sanaya Sjet looked confused and gripped her microphone loosely.

“Uh… no, Velam.” Sanaya responded. “The experts told me we have about fifteen more minutes…”

Sanaya turned around and looked behind her. The air behind her had begun to shimmer like a mirage, obscuring the skyline of a distant Levakian city.

“Hey!” Sanaya yelled to someone offscreen, “We’ve got fifteen more minutes, right!?”

Looking up into the sky, Sanaya put a pair of enhance telescopic binoculars to her face and continued to do her job: report the news.

“Velam, I can see a small ship, maybe a Gunship or a Corvette that has just undocked from the Planet-Killer and is flying away. Looks like it’s heading towards a hyperlane!”

Velam and President Elson were both lost for words. The Sycldari anchor opened and closed his mouth, but didn’t say anything. The camera cut back to the Correspondent standing on the surface of Asalele.

“Uh, something’s definitely gone wrong now.” Sanaya continued. “The Levakian warship in orbit is idle, it’s not attacking the gunship!”

“SANAYA!!” Velam yelled, “You and your crew need to get out of there!”

Sanaya put a hand to her ear and said,

“Sorry Velam, can you repeat that? I can’t hear you!”

Sanaya pulled her earpiece out and started to say something to her cameraman, but then the screen went blank… and it stayed blank for several seconds… while Kendra’s heart seemed to freeze in her chest. She already knew what had just happened, and her worst fears were confirmed as the camera cut back to the news desk, where Velam had turned around in his seat and was yelling at a member of the news team:

“Someone get me some information now!!”

When he turned to face the camera again, Velam looked genuinely terrified.

“We… uh… we seem to have… we’ve lost contact with Sanaya Sjet and her team on Asalele. Obviously, some event of extreme significance has just occurred.”

Hands trembling, face sweating, Kendra reached up and muted the touchscreen. She didn’t want to believe what she’d just seen. She would have given everything in the Galaxy for this disaster to be only a dream… but it wasn’t.

Asalele was gone. Along with everyone and everything on it.

Eleven million people. DEAD. It was starting to sink in. Even in the most pessimistic scenario, less than five percent of the population would have been rebel fighters. The vast majority of the Levakians and Partogans living on Asalele would have been innocent people just trying to eke out a living; children and cubs at play while their mothers watched. Until the atmosphere had caught fire; the ground heaved and cracked, and the whole world exploded from within.

The thought was sickening.

A friendly touch brought Kendra out of her dark thoughts. Sebakhira, Coricopat, and Ango both sat down next to the Queen. They looked just as terrible as she felt. Ango had a large bruise taking up the right side of his head and neck. Coricopat’s face was covered in dried blood, and Sebakhira’s purple eyes had lost some of their color, fading to a dull shade that was somewhere between light purple and grey.

“How bad is it?” Kendra asked.

“We’re not dead,” Ango said. “But we took a pretty bad hit.”

Kendra patted Ango on the shoulder and gave him a weak smile. Then she glanced at Sebakhira. The old Gifted Lioness shook her head.

“I’m not certain at the moment.” Sebakhira said, “But I think my powers are exhausted. I haven’t been able to use the Gift since Akira forced her way onto the bridge. I’m so sorry about your friends.”

“What about the rest of the fleet?” Kendra asked.

“Looks like about eighty-five thousand dead on all sides.” Coricopat answered. “And we still haven’t heard anything from the Demeter… or from Tantomile.”

Coricopat hung her head, and her tail drooped.

“Are we sure that was the Ark Angel?” Ango asked. “The ship that pulled the Demeter and Felnas into Hyperspace?”

“Yeah, that was definitely Akira.” Kendra answered. “And if Tantomile… if…”

Everyone looked at Sebakhira. The elderly lioness shook her head.

“We’re too far away for the Psionic Link to work.” Sebakhira answered. “And don’t forget I think my powers are gone now. I don’t know what she’s doing, or how she is.”

The foursome sat in silence for a minute.

“What’s the time delay between here and Asalele?” Ango asked. “How long would we have to wait for a Hyperwave call from Tan-… uh… the Demeter?

“About an hour and a half.” Coricopat said. “We’ve got about thirty minutes left until… until I’ve got to make a judgment call.”

Kendra, Ango, and Sebakhira all gave Coricopat a nervous look. The brown lioness had a point. If Akira had crossed paths with Tantomile, which was a certainty, then Tantomile’s death would instantly make Coricopat into the new Empress of Levakia. Of course, Kendra was hoping beyond hope that Tantomile would survive the encounter.

The infirmary door opened and three men came out. Two of them were doctors, and the third was Eteka Mihaka. His right arm was wrapped up in a sling and his face was scrunched up in a wince. The doctors looked around until they spotted Queen Kendra.

“Your Majesty,” one of the doctors said. “I’m happy to tell you that Mister Mihaka is going to make a full recovery. We’ve removed the bullet from his wrist and rebuilt the bone and tissue as best we could, but it’ll be a couple of weeks or so before he regains full use of his right arm. I’ve made it clear to him that he needs to avoid using the injured arm for a month or so, otherwise there could be permanent damage.”

Kendra and Eteka embraced and kissed more intensely than they’d ever done before. When they separated, the second doctor added,

“Additionally, Your Majesty, I’ve been told to pass you a message from the backup bridge. We’ve begun to receive a general distress call from the Demeter via Hyperwave. The Demeter is reporting that they were forced to do an unshielded Wake Jump by the Ark Angel.

Coricopat whimpered.

“According to the message.” The second doctor went on, “The entire crew of the Demeter received a lethal dose of Gamma Radiation. The report concludes that Empress Tantomile and the crew of the Shieldbreaker 2 were going to assault the Planet-Killer Felnas. According to the timestamp, the message suffered a time delay of one hour. Karan Sjet is taking the Hiigaran Mothership to investigate the situation. They’ll travel to Asalele via Far Jump and then report back here.”

When Kendra didn’t say anything, the doctor took the silence as a dismissal. He and his comrade left Kendra, Eteka, Coricopat, Sebakhira, and Ango alone with themselves. The brown lioness stood up and slumped away. Coricopat looked truly defeated.

“Not like this.” Tantomile’s sister moaned softly. “Please… not like this.”

Kendra put her hands on her hips and sighed.

“Let’s, uh… let’s go down to the backup bridge.” She said. “I’ve got to… I’ve gotta take command at some point. The crisis isn’t over yet.”



The Queen Karan’s backup bridge was a much smaller and less impressive variation of the main one, but it got the job done. The few surviving members of the original command staff had migrated down here, alongside the recently promoted officers who were filling the many voids and gaps in the ship’s chain of command. The new Captain of the Queen Karan was a scrawny man named Nikora. Before this moment, he had been a much lower-ranked officer in the Partogan Royal Navy. Under normal circumstances, he would not have been put in command of a ship for several more years, but Akira had utterly annihilated the chain of command, leaving him to take over the Queen Karan.

When Kendra and her friends (minus Coricopat) arrived on the backup bridge, she found Captain Nikora having a conversation with Rhassa. The young huntress and the Captain both stopped their talk when the Queen drew near.

“Report.” Kendra said in a weak voice. She was dreading any news.

“The Hiigaran Mothership has Far Jumped to Asalele with an escort fleet.” Captain Nikora started. “Here at Aoraki, the fighting is definitively over now. The last ships of Task Force Kraahkan surrendered about thirty minutes ago.”

“Furthermore,” Rhassa added, “Admiral Aranui Kingi just showed up with Task Force Hydruka. They’re starting to lock down the system. If Akira’s accomplice, that Mira woman, survived this mess, then she’ll be trapped here until we catch her.”

Personally, Kendra had her doubts that Mira Mihaka had survived the fight, but she wouldn’t be convinced until she saw a body. Eteka, meanwhile, had a question of his own. With his left hand, Eteka pointed to the sensors manager, where a three-dimensional representation of the planet Aoraki was being swarmed by thousands of space ships of varying types and sizes.

“So what’s going on at the Mahurangi Spaceport?” he asked. “The place looks like its getting swarmed.”

Eteka was right. A large swarm of military and civilian ships seemed to have taken an interest in Aoraki’s biggest spaceport. Ships swooped low and dispatched landers, while smaller vessels rose up from the spaceport and did sub-orbital hops, landing at other facilities elsewhere on the planet.

“It’s an evacuation.” Ango explained. “During the battle, some frigate fell out of orbit and crashed into the spaceport. Slammed right into the terminal and killed a lot of people. Now everyone who survived is just trying to get out of there.”

Somehow, those words seemed to jog Kendra’s memory.

“Hang on,” she said. “Didn’t we see a frigate heading towards Aoraki during the battle?”

“Yeah.” Eteka confirmed. “It was one of the ships that got away from the Queen Miranda right before it exploded.”

Kendra, Eteka, Rhassa, Ango, and Sebakhira all looked at one another nervously.

“Didn’t those Time Travelers say Mira was on one of the Planet-Killers?” Ango said. “She’s dead… right?”

“A frigate departed the enemy flagship, quit the battle immediately, and then dove straight into the Mahurangi Spaceport…” Sebakhira said thoughtfully. “The primary meeting spot for Akira’s teammates. I hate to say it, Your Majesty, but we need to consider the possibility that Mira Mihaka is still alive… and that she’s on the surface of Aoraki right now.”

It was a terrible thought, but Sebakhira was right and Kendra knew it. Despite all of the intelligence suggesting otherwise, there was a very real chance that the last member of Akira’s team was still alive and active, which meant…

“Akira’s coming back.” Eteka breathed. “Think about it. She’s clearly gone to a huge amount of trouble to kill off her entire team, throwing them into danger and letting us kill or capture them. Right now, Mira is a loose end… one we could take advantage of. Asalele’s already destroyed… which means Akira’s gonna come back here to kill Mira, and then…”

“We’ve got her!”

Kendra’s shout caught the entire bridge by surprise. Sebakhira and Ango both jumped with fright! Everybody looked around at their Queen. Kendra looked as excited as she felt.

“We know where Akira’s going to be.” Kendra said quickly. “It doesn’t matter if Mira’s alive or not! Akira seems to be a pretty thorough person. She’ll come back to Aoraki to see if Mira’s dead or not. When she shows up, we spring an ambush!”

Sebakhira flicked her tail and growled.

“It’s an ambitious plan. But there are risks.” The old lioness said. “We will have to fight brutally. When Whetu fought the Paradox, our enemy gained the advantage once the fight began to drag on for a long time. If Akira is not defeated swiftly, I’m certain she’ll overtake us.”

“We’ll make the fight fast, and our attack overwhelming.” Kendra replied. “Ango, Rhassa, Sebakhira, get down to the hangar bay and secure a transport for us. Captain Nikora, I want you to track down every Green Guard on this ship and tell them to meet me in the hangar. Make sure they gear up for ground combat against a Gifted enemy.”

Rhassa and Ango turned to leave. Captain Nikora saluted Kendra and started to walk away when he suddenly did a double take and returned.

“Excuse me, Your Majesty.” Captain Nikora said cautiously. “You said ‘Meet you in the hangar,’ correct? Are you planning to actually go down there and fight with the…”

He trailed off. The look of determined fury in Kendra’s eye had answered the question for him. At the same moment Captain Nikora broke eye contact with Queen Kendra a loud alarm began to sound from somewhere on the backup bridge. A crewman yelled:

“Incoming Hyperspace Signatures! The Hiigarans are back!”

On the sensors manager, Kendra saw a purple circle contracting towards a single point in space, marking the spot where the Hiigaran Mothership was emerging from Hyperspace.

“Attention Partogan Fleet Command.” Said the voice of Karan Sjet. “We have returned from Asalele. We confirm the destruction of the planet…”

Karan’s voice cracked.

“We also confirm… the deaths of all crew aboard the Planet-Killer Felnas and the Levakian warships Shieldbreaker 2 and Demeter. It appears that all three ships were subjected to an unshielded Hyperspace jump. We-… I… I am so sorry.”

For what felt like a century, there was only silence. The whole bridge crew was shocked and traumatized by what they had just heard. When the Hiigaran leader spoke again, Kendra could clearly hear the strain in her voice… as Karan tried to keep the emotion out of her words.

“Hiigaran marines boarded the Planet-Killer and found evidence of a large-scale battle. We think the Levakians came within seconds of stopping the destruction of Asalele. During the salvage operation, our marines recovered the body of Empress Tantomile. It will be returned to the HMS Queen Karan aboard one of our Ambassador Corvettes as a-”

Kendra didn’t hear the rest of Karan’s words. She had gone into a kind of shock. Tantomile was dead. The realization had washed over Kendra like a terrible shadow. It nearly knocked the Queen off her feet. Behind her, the news actually did knock someone off their feet.

“NO!!”

Coricopat was overcome with emotion. She had re-entered the backup bridge just before Karan Sjet had started talking, and the brown lioness fell to the floor, sobbing and weeping openly.

“Not like this!” Coricopat moaned. “Oh, please! Not like this!”

Kendra bent down and gently touched Coricopat’s shoulder. The sixth Empress of Levakia seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack. Coricopat hyperventilated, wheezing and spluttering. Her tail swished about frantically and her ears flattened right down to her head.

Somehow, as if from very far away, Kendra heard the sound of Karan Sjet’s voice stop. Several members of the bridge crew began talking to one another in raised voices, but for once she didn’t care. Millions of people had died today, but it was the loss of Tantomile that sent Kendra over some metaphorical edge. It was too much to take, too much to accept. Kendra was furious.

“I’m gonna kill Akira.” Kendra said through gritted teeth. She felt Sebakhira’s paw on her shoulder.

“Don’t miss your chance.” The old lioness whispered. “She’s outrunning the Hiigarans.”

Looking up, Kendra finally saw what was causing the commotion. Karan Sjet had stopped communicating because of a rapidly developing situation in the empty space between the Hiigaran fleet and the planet Aoraki:

A small gunship-sized vessel was accelerating away from the Hiigaran fleet, hard. It dodged or countered incoming missiles and continued on a straight trajectory towards Aoraki.

“It’s the Ark Angel!” Eteka gasped. “How the hell!?”

“Wake jump!” Captain Nikora answered. “Must have pretended to be derelict and then got pulled along behind the Hiigaran Mothership!”

Kendra ran up to the sensors manager and commanded the system to focus on the Ark Angel. The spaceplane was very badly battered, its hull damaged in many spots by mass driver rounds and Ion Cannon beams. One of her maneuvering thrusters appeared to be disabled, and the big black letters on the fuselage were illegible due to hull damage.

“She’s aiming for the Mahurangi Spaceport!” Kendra said to the bridge at large. “How long ‘till she gets there?”

“The Hiigarans are running interdiction as best they can.” Captain Nikora said, “And they exited Hyperspace nearly a hundred-thousand Kios away from the planet. It’ll take the Ark Angel nearly two hours to reach the surface.”

“What about us?”

“If you leave now… forty-five minutes. But you can’t afford to delay.”

Kendra made up her mind in two seconds. She punched the radio switch and called the Hiigaran Mothership.

“This is HMS Queen Karan calling the Hiigaran Fleet Command.” She said. “That alien gunship is carrying a highly dangerous enemy called the Paradox. Can you shoot it down?”

“Unlikely.” Karan replied. “The alien vessel is moving too fast for us to intercept. They will be out of our weapons range in a few minutes. Do you know the ship’s destination?”

“A spaceport on the surface.” Kendra answered quickly. “I’m sending a team down there now to set up an ambush.”

“Acknowledged.” Karan replied. “May the Martyrs of Kharak protect you.”



Kendra, Sebakhira, Rhassa, and Ango made their way down to the hangar bay as quickly as they could. Waiting for them was a large warship that Rhassa identified as the LVK Kakama, which was Coricopat's flagship. The Kakama was a very unusual Assault Frigate. Her engine Bell was massive, and looked like it would have been better used on a Super-Capital ship. Mass driver cannons and plasma throwers bristled like spikes, shining dangerously in the artificial light. The Kakama was noticeably damaged, her nose cone had been crumpled up and the Hypercomms array was outright missing

“The Kakama is a different kind of Assault Frigate.” Rhassa explained. “She sacrifices armor protection in favor of having a Destroyer-sized drive system. She’s a speed demon.”

“Please, she’s a glass cannon.” Sebakhira scoffed. “Look at that hull damage by the bow. A single Recon fighter could have done that.”

Queen Kendra didn’t care about the specifics, she just wanted to get down to the planet surface as quickly as possible. Checking to make sure she still had both her rifle and sword, Kendra and her friends joined the queue of Partogan soldiers and Levakian hunters waiting to board the ship. Kendra jumped the line and was about to board the Kakama when a voice yelled out behind her:

“Hey! Don’t leave us behind!”

Eteka and Coricopat were racing across the hangar floor to join the group of warriors boarding the Kakama. Eteka waved his good arm above his head to get Kendra’s attention. The Queen put her hands on her hips.

“No.” was the first thing Kendra said when Eteka and Coricopat reached her on the Kakama's boarding ramp. “Absolutely not. You two need to stay here.”

Eteka raised one eyebrow and gave his girlfriend a defiant look.

“I’m serious.” Kendra added. “You’re hurt. You’re in no shape to fight anymore, Eteka. And as for you-”

“You won’t speak for me.” Coricopat growled. “Eleven million of my people just died. If you expect me to sit this one out, you've got another thing coming.”

Kendra had almost forgotten about that. Now that Tantomile was dead, her sister had become the new Empress of Levakia. Coricopat now had full command of every Levakian warship and Hunter on the battlefield. While the new Empress pushed her way past Kendra and onto the Kakama, Kendra threw her arm out to stop Eteka from doing the same.

“I can’t let you get hurt or killed.” Kendra told him.

“I could say the same.” Eteka replied. “I’m not going to let you go into danger all by yourself. I’d be a terrible husband if I didn’t give you some backup.”

Kendra sighed and gave him a little smile. She reached out and touched the sling holding his right arm.

“Fine. Just… Just hold the pistol in your left hand, okay?”



December 21, 1928 A.D.
LVK Kakama, Upper Atmosphere of Aoraki, Hakihea Star System, Kingdom of Partoga



Queen Kendra, Empress Coricopat, Eteka, Sebakhira, Ango, and Rhassa all made their way to the Kakama’s bridge as the Assault Frigate departed the Partogan Mothership and began rocketing its way towards Aoraki. The trip would take about forty-five minutes, and the Kakama would land at Mahurangi spaceport about an hour before the Ark Angel arrived on the scene.

Kendra hated the wait. It had only taken her five minutes to distribute a picture of the person being impersonated by Mira Mihaka and explain the deception to the whole crew.

“We’re looking for Army General Waiano Kopunui.” Kendra had explained. “This is the disguise Mira will probably be wearing. She’s not Gifted and a little on the old side, so taking her into custody should be straightforward. Just remember, we need to take Mira alive.

A few minutes after that, Eteka and Ango brought some weapons up to the bridge. They started distributing rifles and handguns to everybody, and Kendra took a Gauss Rifle. When Kendra tightened the strap and let it hang off her shoulder, the weapon bounced off something hard in her pocket. Reaching down, Kendra found the alien hard drive Hakara had given her before the battle.

“What’s that?” Eteka asked. “Doesn’t look Partogan or Levakian.”

“Hakara and Whetu gave it to me.” Kendra said. “They said it has information about the future.”

Eteka took the hard drive and examined it closely.

“Damn, they were even kind enough to add some kind of adapter. Looks like you can just plug it into any Partogan computer. We should fire this up right away.”

“Wait, really?” Kendra asked.

“Why not?” Eteka replied. “Whatever’s here, Hakara and Whetu thought we needed to know it. Even if this stuff has nothing to do with Akira, it might be able to help us in the long run.”

Kendra nodded. She called Coricopat, Sebakhira, Rhassa, and Ango over to her. Rhassa showed Kendra how to install the hard drive into one of the computer workstations at the back of the bridge. As soon as it was plugged in, a small white box appeared on the touchscreen and everyone gasped! The box contained three file folders. They were labeled from left to right as:

“Beast Intel: One.”

“Beast Intel: Two.”

“Beast Intel: Three”

Kendra tapped “Beast Intel: One” with her finger. The screen went blank for a second, and then new words appeared on the screen, saying:

Time remaining until arrival: 31675 days.

The words shrank in size until they occupied the top-left corner of the screen. The rest of the screen was taken up by a map of a star system. The system contained a single yellow-dwarf star with eight planets, four terrestrial and four gas giants. The third terrestrial planet was inhabited by an industrial pre-FTL civilization. It took Kendra a few seconds to notice the red lines and writing all over the map. Invasion Routes. The warpath of an invading spacefleet had been traced all over the map, showing in great detail the route of the future invasion. All of the red flightpath lines on the map converged on the pre-FTL planet. The map itself bore a timestamp of “Mahuru 11, 521.” That was 108 years in the future!!

The word “next” appeared in the bottom right corner with a little arrow next to it. There was more data to be seen. Kendra pressed the word on the screen with one trembling finger.

The image on the screen changed. A slideshow of dozens of images appeared, changing every ten seconds. Kendra and her friends saw a cockpit video recording of a Hiigaran fighter craft approaching a starship that was covered in some kind of organic flesh-like layering. Then it changed to an exterior shot of a Hiigaran Acolyte-class fighter being struck by a particle beam. Finally, the third image was a 30-second long time-lapse video of a colony of microorganisms multiplying. All three images were timestamped with the year 418… Just five years in the future!

While these images displayed themselves, a Hiigaran voice spoke through the speakers. It sounded a little tinny as the computer worked frantically to translate Hiigaran into Partogan, but Kendra and her companions understood every word:

“Ship engineer’s report 1.2: With the Clee-San and their science team lost, my engineers are now analyzing the subversion entity we have codenamed ‘The Beast.’ The Beast seems to infect vessels with a kind of particle beam that layers the target with techno-organic robots. Once these entities make contact with a compatible surface they begin to absorb material and infiltrate the target structure. When they make contact with organic matter, they use the mass to form a neural control network that then takes control of the ship!”

Coricopat and Rhassa stared at one another in horror. Sebakhira’s eyes went wide with realization as she silently mouthed the words: I’ve seen this already. The recording of the Hiigaran engineer continued to play:

“Each Beast cell functions like… uh… a bio-mechanical virus. It’s capable of using and subverting living cells in much the same way that it subverts and uses non-organic technology. More studies need to be done but we’re engineers, not biologists! Analysis of the infection attack indicates the Beast particles ride the charged plasma beam and then coat the target. The charged nature of the beam allows it to jump from target to target. Infection per shot seems based on the mass of the target ships. Again, more qualified analysis is desperately needed if we’re to find a counter to this beam.”

Finally, the Hiigaran voice fell silent, the images vanished, and a Hyperwave Address appeared on the screen. Underneath the address was a short message:

All the proof you need. –Hakara.

Kendra looked around at her friends. Sebakhira had a look of genuine terror on her face.

“I’ve seen this… in my vision.” Sebakhira said. The old lioness grabbed Kendra by the shoulders and looked her in the eye.

“It didn’t make sense to me until this moment! Many years from now, your children and grandchildren will join in a great battle against this… Beast. I’ve seen Akira… the Paradox… She’s trying to change the outcome of that battle, and she’s altering history to that end.”

All eyes were on Sebakhira now.

“That great battle…” Rhassa asked nervously. “Did our side win?”

Sebakhira nodded.

“I saw our descendants triumphant, but that victory came at a catastrophic price.”

While Ango, Rhassa, Eteka, and Coricopat all stared open-mouthed at Sebakhira, Kendra took one more look at the Hyperwave Address, then punched a command into the computer.


Cmd_usr/ Activate hyperwave relay
Sys/ hyperwave communication system online... please select FTL comms target...
Cmd usr/ ---> target Agamemnon – Beast, Galactic Rim
Sys/ searching the Hyperwave Network... Agamemnon found...
Sys/ negotiating with receiver... Faster-Than-Light communications established.



Kendra didn’t say anything into the microphone. She just listened. One by one, all of her companions fell silent too. They all listened as a sound began to emanate from the speakers… it was a low growl, deeper than any Levakian’s voice, more animalistic and savage than anything she’d ever heard before, Kendra trembled as she heard the voice of the Beast for the first time.

The Fathership of the Beast spoke through a discordant cacophony of voices. They clashed and conflicted with each other, and the words it spoke were only just barely discernable through the chaotic sound:

“We hunger. We sense food ahead. We… will… feast!”

Kendra cut off the connection. Her skin was crawling and she felt an overwhelming compulsion to scratch the top of her head. Some of her hair felt as though it was standing up on end. All three lionesses had raised their hackles and flattened their ears when they heard the voice of the Beast.

“So, that’s Akira’s endgame?” Eteka said. “A hundred years down the line, we’re going to get into a fight with this… this Beast… and Akira wants to change the way the fight ends?”

Sebakhira nodded.

“But- but Why!?” Ango gasped. “You just said we’re going to win the fight! Why bother changing it!? What good will that do!?”

Sebakhira shook her head.

“That I don’t know. If we capture Mira Mihaka alive, we may find out more.”

“Agreed.” Kendra said.

The Queen disconnected the portable hard drive and returned it to her pocket.

“Let’s get down to Aoraki and get some answers.”



December 21, 1928 A.D.
Mahurangi Spaceport, City of Mahurangi, Aoraki, Kingdom of Partoga


Queen Kendra had not set foot on her Homeworld in nearly five years, so when she stepped down from the Kakama’s boarding ramp and took in a lungful of dirty, sulfur-tasting Aoraki air, she was nearly overwhelmed with a sensation of homesickness. Kendra was almost tempted to break away from the group and start heading back towards her old apartment building on the other side of town.

The Kakama had landed at one of the large Landing Zones at Mahurangi Spaceport. Acrid smoke rose up and away from one of the main terminals, marking the spot where a Frigate had crashed into it. Emergency vehicles had swarmed the scene, and firefighters were using flame-retardant foam to battle the blaze, unwilling to draw from Aoraki’s limited water supply. Men, women, and children who had survived the disaster were being led away by local officials. While Queen Kendra and her group began making their way towards the terminal, a Levakian Huntress ran up to the Queen and passed her a radio, saying that Admiral Aranui Kingi was on the other end.

“The entire system is locked down, Your Majesty.” Admiral Kingi reported. “Per your orders, no one is allowed to leave. We’ve started boarding and searching every ship that tries to leave Aoraki. Mira’s not going to get off-world without me noticing.”

“Keep up the good work.” Kendra replied. “My team and I are going to search Mahurangi for her. Coordinate your search with the Hiigarans in the meantime.”

Mahurangi Spaceport’s main terminal was in bad shape when Kendra and her friends arrived. Smoke clung to the ceiling of the main security checkpoint as the team crossed through it. Elevators hung uselessly from their cables and the arrivals board simply showed a blank blue screen. Blood and debris was scattered all over the floor, while several walls had been knocked over by the force of the crash. As it turned out, the ship that had crashed into the Terminal was largely intact. The ship itself was a Partogan Defense Field Generator Frigate. DFG Frigates were completely unarmed, and instead possessed a massive electronic warfare suite in the bow, which allowed the DFG Frigate to deflect incoming weapons fire.

Sebakhira found the shipwreck first, and Rhassa was the one who confirmed that the Defense Field was still active.

“Right, everyone try to avoid shooting your guns.” Rhassa said. “With that field up, you’ll just be wasting ammo.”

Soldiers and Hunters reported back regularly to say that no one had found General Kopunui or Mira Mihaka.

“I guess I was wrong.” Sebakhira sighed. “Maybe Mira did die in space.”

“We still need to take advantage of the fact that Akira doesn’t know that.” Kendra said. “Hakara and Whetu said that this spaceport would be the meeting site. Akira’s coming here. Let’s get that ambush set up.”

The search for Mira was terminated, and now Kendra and Coricopat set about their new plans. Partogan soldiers and Levakian Hunters were ordered to take up hidden ambush positions all over the spaceport. A military messenger ran out to the Landing Zones and ordered the Kakama to take off and fly into a low orbit. The evacuation of civilians was accelerated, and finally, just to make it look like the military presence at Mahurangi had truly been reduced, Kendra ordered her soldiers to allow news reporters to enter the site with their cameras and transmitters.

All of the news agencies set up their operations on the tarmac outside the terminal while Kendra, Coricopat, Ango, Eteka, Sebakhira, and Rhassa secured the interior alongside their soldiers. Kendra and Coricopat agreed to take over the Hypercomms room and turn it into their headquarters. They would be able to maintain constant communications with their troops, and the room itself contained a sensors manager and access to the security camera network.

With just half an hour until the Ark Angel was due to arrive, Kendra called the Hiigaran Mothership using the Hyperwave Relay and asked for an update on Akira’s progress.

“The Ark Angel has been outside of our weapons range for about an hour.” Karan Sjet admitted. “The drive technology that ship is using must be very advanced. I advise caution. Your enemy will have just as much time to prepare as you.”

Kendra was about to go on when the computer terminal made a loud beeping noise and a message appeared on the screen:

Hyperwave Text Message received.

Casually, Kendra pressed her thumb to the touchscreen and held it down. Like most people her age, Kendra was going to long-press the touchscreen just to see who the message was addressed to, and would then open the message or set it aside depending on whether or not the message was actually addressed to her.

Message addressed to: Toa Wahine Mami Tamihana, Mahurangi City, Aoraki, Rakinui Sector.

Kendra froze. She couldn’t think of anyone who would want to send her an old-fashioned text message in the middle of a crisis. This was… strange.

“I’m sorry,” Kendra said into the microphone. “I need to call you back.”

Kendra ended the Hyperwave call with Karan Sjet and then called her friends over to her computer.

“This is an odd time to be getting a letter via Hyperwave.” Coricopat commented. “Maybe it got caught in a time delay, or it’s an intentional Causality Violation.”

“Agreed.” Said Ango. “You should check the timestamp before opening it.”

Kendra long-pressed the touchscreen again and brought up the timestamp attached to the letter.


Sys/ This message was sent on: Noema 9, 513
Sys/ This message arrived in the inbox of <Kendra Ingraham> on: Hakihea 21, 413



Kendra, Eteka, Sebakhira, Rhassa, Ango, and Coricopat all froze. Their jaws dropped and their eyes went wide. Eteka opened his mouth and closed it again several times.

Kendra had just received a letter from the future. From over one hundred years in the future.

Nervously… cautiously… Kendra opened the Hyperwave Text Message, and all of her friends leaned over her shoulders to read it:


======
From: Mira Mihaka; Pyongyang, East Asian Ward, Earth, ADVENT Coalition
To: Toa Wahine Mami Tamihana; Mahurangi, Aoraki, Kingdom of Partoga
Date: Noema 9, 513


If my calculations are correct, you will receive this letter a few minutes after Akira Robinson escapes from your ambush at Mahurangi Spaceport on Hakihea 21, 413. This letter will be the largest Causality Violation in the history of Faster-Than-Light communication, but I’m willing to take the risk. Just like you, I am concerned with preserving the future.

First, let me tell you that I am alive and well. There mere fact that you are reading this letter is confirmation that I have successfully evaded both Akira and you. Without access to the Time Core, it took me a full lifetime to get where I am now. Today, I am living happily on Akira’s Homeworld, Earth, in the year 513 with my adopted daughter.

On to the reason I am writing to you, a hundred years in the past: Your Majesty Kendra, it brings me no joy to tell you that once again, the people of Partoga is engaged in a desperate fight for survival. War has gripped the entire Galaxy and millions of people are dying each day. Akira’s mission to re-write history and alter the timeline is driven and motivated by this conflict. She seeks to change its ending, and is willing to sacrifice untold billions of innocent people to achieve her goals. I would have been among their number, but your last-minute attempt to communicate with Task Force Kraahkan during the Battle of Aoraki saved my life. You have my undying gratitude.

Now I must ask you to help me once more. In a few weeks, I will be taking a short trip off-world to meet your grandchildren. They have become great heroes and leaders in this conflict, but their efforts have been undermined by the vast amount of damage Akira has inflicted upon the past. To make matters worse, I have no idea if Akira is actually present in this time period with me. I cannot find any evidence to prove the Paradox is active, let alone alive. If Akira is here in the year 513 with me, then she has hidden herself very well. I have spoken to your grandchildren about Akira, tried to warn them about her, but Akira’s lack of activity has lulled them into a dangerous sense of complacency.

This is my request: I have seen videos and pictures of you taken immediately after the Battle of Aoraki. I know you have one of the Ark Angel’s portable hard drives in your pocket. I don’t know what data the drive contains, but I am out of options.

Please, Your Majesty. PLEASE send me the contents of that hard drive. Reply to this Hyperwave Text Message and attach the contents of the drive just like you would any other attachment. You cannot comprehend how many lives would be saved if only we had some kind of Intel directly from the Ark Angel.

When you target the transmission, make sure to target the same moment in time I sent this letter from. That way, I’ll receive your transmission instantly, and you can send the transmission whenever you want. You can take your time.

Please, Your Majesty. If there’s even the slightest chance that Akira is still alive and active, then we can’t afford to take chances with the future. Akira once told me that she’s trying to make the future perfect for everyone, but the price she demands is too steep. No end will ever justify the means used to achieve it, and after the Battle of Aoraki, I hope you will agree with me.

Please. If you have anything. Send it to me. We will all be grateful.


Electronically Signed at 2:59pm on November 9, 2028 A.D.

Mira Mihaka
Apartment 15-1225
Sungri Street
Kyongrim-dong, Pyongyang
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
======


For nearly five minutes, the six companions just held a stunned silence. This final revelation threatened to overwhelm Kendra, while Sebakhira looked as though Mira’s letter had given her a headache.

“So, let me get this straight.” Eteka said. “Mira walked out of this spaceport, lived a full life, then wrote a letter and transmitted it over a century into the past, breaking Causality into lots of little pieces, and now she’s asking us to commit an even bigger violation that might possibly change the future!? Do I have everything right!?”

“Seems that way.” Sebakhira breathed.

Kendra recovered from the shock first.

“Hang on!” she said. “Didn’t that hard drive have a battle map from the year 521?”

“Yeah, it did!” Rhassa confirmed. “That battle’s going to happen almost a decade after Mira sends this letter!”

Kendra quickly fished the Ark Angel’s portable hard drive out of her pocket and slid its adapter into one of the computers input ports.

“Right, I’m just gonna send her the map.” Kendra said. “Give me-”

“WAIT!”

Sebakhira’s yell caused Kendra to jump out of her seat! The old Lioness’s eyes had gone wide. She looked as though she’d realized something.

“My vision!” She said. “I’ve seen this too! Your Majesty, you have to send everything on that drive. Not just the map. You’ve got to send all of it.”

Kendra looked around at her friends. They all nodded.

“I’ll trust Sebakhira.” Empress Coricopat said. “It might be the safest option.”

Kendra turned back to the computer and quickly typed out a reply to Mira’s message.


======
From: Kendra Ingraham; Mahurangi, Aoraki, Kingdom of Partoga
To: Mira Mihaka; Pyongyang, East Asian Ward, Earth, ADVENT Coalition
Date: Hakihea 21, 413

This is all the information I have. Good luck to you.
======


Cmd_usr/ attach external files: “Beast Intel: One”, “Beast Intel: Two”, “Beast Intel: Three”
Sys/ Encoding selected files for Faster-Than-Light transmission. Please wait until the encoding process is complete. Do not unplug or power off your machine.
Sys/ Copying files and Encoding. 1% complete. Estimated time remaining: 15 minutes.



Kendra sighed. Of course, the file sizes were huge. She would just have to wait for the process to finish, then she could-

“Empress, come in! This is the Kakama!

A Levakian voice crackled out of another computer terminal on the other side of the Hypercomms room. Coricopat, Rhassa, and Sebakhira raced over to pick up the call.

“What is it, Captain?” Coricopat answered.

“The Ark Angel has just entered Aoraki’s upper atmosphere! It’s target-locked the spaceport with Mass Driver weapons! You need to take cover now!”

“DOWN!” Coricopat yelled. “EVERYBODY DOWN!!”

Kendra, Coricopat, Eteka, Ango, Sebakhira, and Rhassa all dove for cover and put their hands (or paws) overtop their heads! A half-minute later, Kendra heard an earsplitting BANG!! Explosions sounded above her head, making the roof and ceiling shudder! A loud roar of nuclear ramjet engines told Kendra that the Ark Angel had just strafed the spaceport and was flying away. A second later, there was a second, even louder roar as three more spaceships flew past. Kendra and Eteka got up and ran to the window. Looking out across the empty Aoraki sky, they saw a Partogan Fighter, a Levakian Heavy Fighter, and a Hiigaran Interceptor race past the spaceport and open fire with their Mass Drivers, spitting hot lead towards the Ark Angel!

The Spaceplane banked hard and swiveled her turrets to meet the oncoming threat. The Ark Angel returned fire with her two dorsal turrets! The Levakian fighter burst into flames and hurtled towards the ground! The Hiigaran and Partogan strike craft closed up their formation and continued to give chase, but the Ark Angel had opened fire on the Spaceport again! Kendra screamed as she saw the Mass Driver slugs cutting through the sky towards her! Eteka wrapped his arm around Kendra and held her close but then, with a terrible crashing noise, the Mass Driver slugs were deflected off their trajectories and nosedived into the pavement near the Landing Zones!

Eteka and Kendra both looked around at Sebakhira, who shook her head.

“I tried, but my powers really are gone. That wasn’t me!”

Two Levakian Huntresses threw open the door to the Hypercomms room and shouted:

“That DFG is still active! We’re safe as long as we stay inside the Terminal! Your Majesties, please stay here until we get the area secured!”

The Ark Angel made another pass! The Spaceplane had switched to high-explosive rounds, and now the air above the Spaceport was thick with shrapnel! Kendra and Eteka dove away from the window just before it was shattered by metal fragments!

“That was a much lower pass!” Rhassa shouted. “She’s getting closer to us! Honing in!”

The sound of gunfire outside was continuous now! Kendra dashed back towards the Hyperwave terminal and punched a command into the computer console:


Cmd_usr/ Send.
Sys/ Encoding process is not complete. 47% complete. Do you want to send your message automatically upon completion?
Cmd_usr/ YES
Sys/ Message will automatically send upon completion of the encoding process. You may cancel at any time by typing “CANCEL”



“Heads down!” Eteka yelled, “This one’s gonna be close!”

The Ark Angel buzzed the terminal! The whole room seemed to shake and Kendra’s eardrums throbbed painfully from the powerful noise! The Spaceplane had gotten inside the protective envelope of the Defense Field, and for the first time, her weapons fire had hit something! Ango grabbed a fire extinguisher and passed it to a group of Partogan soldiers as they cut through the Hypercomms room on their way to other parts of the Terminal.

“Stay down!” One of them said. “That ship’s opened up some kind of deployment ramp! I think they’re getting ready to drop something!”

Rhassa and Ango ran to the shattered window just in time to see the Ark Angel make an even lower pass. The bottom of the fuselage cleared the roof of the Spaceport with just a dozen Bios to spare.

“This is it!” Ango yelled. “The Ark Angel just shot down both of the pursuers! Either we’re gonna get bombed or we’re gonna fight somebody on the ground in a minute!”

One last time, the Spaceplane flew low over the spaceport, and Kendra saw a small partoganoid figure drop from the boarding ramp. It vanished behind a Vako-class fighter on the tarmac.

“Was that her?” Kendra asked. “Did anybody see!?”

As if in answer to her question the fighter began to levitate a few Bios above the ground, as though it were being held up by an invisible string. Then, it was launched sideways, tumbling through the air towards the Terminal!

The explosion tore through the entire building with immense force! Kendra was knocked off her feet and buried beneath a small mound of rubble and debris as part of the ceiling came down! Not waiting for the chaos to subside, Kendra stood up, fished her rifle and sword out of the rubble, and then stumbled back over to the Hyperwave Relay. The screen was cracked, but still legible.

Sys/ Encoding. 85% complete. Estimated time remaining: 3 minutes.

Kendra looked up at the massive hole in the wall where one half of the Hypercomms Room had once been. Smoke and flames met her gaze. Broken wires and piping added sparks and steam. Looking around, Kendra realized that Ango was the only member of her team still on their feet. Eteka, Rhassa, Coricopat, and Sebakhira were all nowhere to be seen!

And then, she heard the sound of gunfire. Not ship-based Mass Drivers, but the snapping and popping of small arms and light weapons. Akira was in the Terminal! She was just a few hundred Bios away! There was no time to think. No time to prepare. Kendra dropped her rifle and drew her sword. She vividly remembered how Soulkeeper had thrown Akira’s attacks back at her earlier today.

Kendra and Ango stood together in the middle of the room, the Hypercomms terminal at their backs, and they listened to the sounds of battle drawing closer and closer. Screams and yells, crashes, pops, and bangs… and then the far door crashed open!

Akira looked worse than the last time Kendra had seen her. Her hair, once neat and trim, was now messy and tangled. The Paradox’s outfit, a white sleeveless knee-length dress, was dirty and torn, and she had many noticeable cuts and bruises on her arms and neck. Kendra realized that Tantomile had put up one hell of a fight before going down.

Akira didn’t hesitate or linger in the doorway this time, she charged straight into the room! Shard blades already igniting, Akira was on the offensive! Ango raised his Gauss Rifle, flipped the selector switch to “full auto” and held the trigger down! Akira sent his bullets flying in all directions, stepping closer and closer to the Hypercomms Terminal.

“STOP!!” Akira screamed at the top her lungs! “STOP THAT TRANSMISSION!!”

The Paradox pointed her Gauntlets at Kendra and Ango! Lighting, bright purple and terrible to see and hear, erupted from the Paradox’s hand and struck Ango! He dropped his weapon and fell to the floor, screaming with pain! Kendra sidestepped and put herself directly between Ango and Akira. Hundreds of little arcs of violet light jumped back and forth between Kendra and Akira as the Psionic attack was deflected by Soulkeeper! Akira stopped trying to electrocute Ango and refocused her efforts on the now-undefended computer next to Kendra!

Clutching Soulkeeper tightly in both hands, Kendra swung her sword like a club, taking aim at Akira’s middle. The Paradox broke off her attack and tried to defend herself. She grabbed the blade of the sword with both hands! Tugging hard, Akira tried to pull the weapon out of Kendra hands! The Queen gripped the Soulkeeper’s handle with all of her might and for a moment, she got pulled along with her blade!

Kendra and Akira were nose to nose! It was, if only briefly, the first time Kendra had gotten a really good look at Akira’s face in a well-lit room. Kendra could make out every feature of Akira’s purple eyes and count the few scattered freckles on Akira’s pale face. Then Kendra drew one fist back and punched Akira in the face as hard as she could!

The Paradox screamed and tried to blast Kendra with a powerful Telepathic attack, but Kendra was still gripping Soulkeeper with one hand! The Psionic charge backfired along Akira’s nervous system, causing her to scream and convulse! Kendra knew she wasn’t out of the fight yet and grabbed one of the Paradox’s hands, determined to pull a Celestial Gauntlet off!

“ENOUGH!”

With overwhelming strength, Akira grabbed Kendra by the throat! The pain and shock of having her neck crushed caused Kendra to drop her sword at long last! Frantically, the Queen tried to punch or kick any part of the Paradox she could reach!

WHAM!

A metal bar swung out of nowhere and collided with the side of Akira’s head! She released Kendra, who fell to the floor, coughing and spluttering. Looking up, Kendra saw that Eteka was clutching a piece of rebar in both hands! He had taken his newly repaired right arm out of its sling and he was preparing to swing at Akira again! She grabbed the bar with one gauntleted hand and was about to strike him with the other when a storm of orange and brown fur blotted out the light! Rhassa had tackled Akira from behind! The Paradox didn’t go down, though. A Telekinetic blast rippled out from her body and sent both Rhassa and Eteka flying! Kendra got back to her feet and was about to charge again when Akira turned on the spot and punched Kendra in the chest! The blow was augmented by Psionic energy. In an instant, Kendra was sapped of her physical strength and fell to the floor once more.

Akira turned back to the computer once more and tried to cancel the transmission to Mira in the future, but before she could put one hand on the touchscreen, Coricopat and Sebakhira were upon her! Both Lionesses went straight for the Celestial Gauntlets on Akira’s hands! Sebakhira closed her jaws around Akira’s left hand and started to pull, while Coricopat took aim at Akira’s right arm with a Slugthrower rifle, intending to amputate the entire limb! Akira used Telekinesis to pull the rifle out of Coricopat’s paws and then bashed the Empress over the head with it! Then she blasted Sebakhira with more Psionic energy! Sebakhira released Akira and tumbled backwards, head over tail!

Again, Akira tried to force her way back to the computer, but nobody was giving her any room to breathe this time. Eteka, Kendra, and Rhassa had all resumed the attack! Akira blasted them all away, and finally got one hand on the touchscreen. In the moment or two Akira had without being attacked, this is what she saw:

Sys/ Encoding complete. Message transmitted successfully.

======
From: Mira Mihaka; Pyongyang, East Asian Ward, Earth, ADVENT Coalition
To: Toa Wahine Mami Tamihana; Mahurangi, Aoraki, Kingdom of Partoga
Date: Noema 9, 513

Thanks!
======


Akira screamed.

It was an unnatural, unreal scream that chilled the bone and froze blood. Windows shattered and the floor quaked. The air itself seemed to shimmer around the Paradox as though she was about to tear open the entire universe from pure rage! Then she reached down and grabbed Kendra by the front of the shirt! Lifting the Queen up to her own eye level, Akira shrieked!

“YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!”

And she threw Kendra!

The world around Kendra became a blur as she hurtled through the air, then it became overwhelmingly bright as she sailed right out of a broken window! Hot Aoraki air assaulted Kendra as she completed her arc and began falling back down towards the ground! Tumbling and twisting, Kendra slammed into the asphalt feet-first! Her right leg bent unnaturally and with a painful Crack Kendra’s right ankle broke! She hit her head on the landing and gripped it tightly with both hands, moaning and crying from the pain!

A loud thud told Kendra that something else had just landed near her. She opened her eye a fraction and saw Akira standing over her, a look of murderous rage in her eyes.

“You don’t know what you’ve just done!” Akira’s voice was dripping with violence.

Kendra flipped onto her back and tried to scuttle away on her hands and feet, but Akira seized her with one arm and began to punch Kendra in the face repeatedly with the other.

“AFTER! EVERYTHING! I’VE! DONE! YOU! RUINED! EVERYTHING!”

Akira punctuated every word with a blow, each strike being enhanced with Psionic power! Kendra could barely see out of her eye, and she felt one of her front teeth coming loose as well. Blood stained her face, neck, and chest as Akira continued to beat Kendra viciously! Then the Paradox threw Kendra to the ground!

“I’ve spent lifetimes trying to get this timeline right!” Akira screamed as she kicked Kendra in the stomach! Kendra shrieked as her ribs cracked! “I was so close to making the future perfect! I had history the way I wanted it! It was perfect!”

“You blew up Asalele.” Kendra coughed, spitting blood onto the hot pavement. “You killed millions of people.”

“That had to happen!” Akira yelled, “It was the only way!”

She grabbed Kendra by the hair and pulled her upright. Turning around, Akira tried to slam Kendra’s head into a light pole, but Kendra threw up both of her hands and grabbed it just in time! The pain in her broken ankle and ribs was giving Kendra new bursts of adrenaline, she twisted around and grabbed Akira’s face! Digging in with her nails, Kendra was going for anything soft! Eyes, nose, ears!

Kendra wasn’t sure what she’d hit, but it was enough to make Akira let go of her hair. Unable to stand on her broken ankle, Kendra collapsed to the ground, where she saw her last, best hope lying on the pavement just a Bio away. A Partogan soldier was lying on the tarmac, blood soaking the ground around him. A pistol had fallen from his grasp and it was now just out of Kendra’s reach.

Scrambling, Kendra launched herself at the weapon! Akira did too, but she was just a little too slow! Closing both hands around the handgun, four years of military training allowed Kendra to clear the weapon, make sure it was loaded, chamber a round, and flip the selector switch from “safe” to “fire” in less than two seconds. Kendra rolled over onto her back and pointed the gun directly at Akira’s face!

Akira raised her Gauntlets and in an instant, she was inside of Kendra’s head!

Kill yourself.

The two words were loud and overpowering. Anyone who lacked in willpower would have complied instantly without thinking about it, but this wasn’t the first time Kendra had been under Mind Control. She recognized what was happening right away and began to resist! She wasn’t the same weak-willed girl who had been overpowered back at Fort Miranda. Kendra focused hard on her desire to live, to defy Akira. Kendra focused with single-minded determination on how much she wanted to disobey Akira’s command.

Shoot yourself. Now.

Kendra’s hands were moving without her input, as though she was watching a video of someone else turning the gun around. She could see down the barrel now… but her hands had stopped moving.

I said “kill yourself.” Do it now.

And finally, a defiant voice spoke up in the back of Kendra’s mind.

“No.” Kendra’s inner voice answered. “I won’t.”

Kill yourself! Shoot yourself!!

“No.”

Kendra’s thumb exited the trigger well and pressed itself firmly but harmlessly against the pistol’s slide.

Do it!

Kendra’s hands relaxed… just a little… but it was enough to cause the handgun to slide out of her hands and clatter to the ground.

Akira screamed and activated her Celestial Gauntlets! Shard Blades extended down and away from her wrists! Using the last of her strength, Kendra lunged upwards while the blades were still extending and wrapped both of her arms around Akira’s right arm! Then Kendra fell backwards, taking the Gauntlet with her! The Shard Blade retracted as the Gauntlet in Kendra’s hands deactivated! Akira thrust downwards to stab Kendra, but she rolled out of the way and scooped up her fallen pistol at the same time.

Sitting up on one knee, Kendra slammed the Gauntlet to the ground and fired two rounds into it before raising the gun up and laying on the trigger! Akira was a second too slow! Sparks jumped off her one remaining Gauntlet and blood spurted from the Paradox’s left arm as her Telekinetic Shield faltered.

Akira stumbled backwards. She looked genuinely shocked. Kendra gripped the nearby light pole for support and pulled herself up to a standing position. She saw that Akira was looking at her own bloodstained arm. Kendra had only managed to shoot her once, but this lone injury seemed to have shaken Akira’s confidence. While Akira was examining her own wound, Kendra spotted two things in the distance that caused her to start looking for a way to stall for time.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Akira breathed. “You put up a good fight, Kendra. When this is all over, I’ll make sure the people in the future honor you as much as they do Miranda the Great.”

Kendra scoffed.

“Pick your words carefully.” She said. “All the legends say Miranda took the Snowskin King with her when she died.”

“Of course, you and I know differently, don’t we?” Akira said as she took a step closer to Kendra. “And soon, only I’ll know differently.”

Kendra shuffled on her feet, leaning her shoulder against the light pole and putting both hands on her pistol.

“And now you’ve made your biggest mistake.” Kendra teased. “That’s why I told you to pick your words carefully. The Galaxy is watching.

Akira took her eyes off Kendra and looked to her left. For the first time, Akira became aware of the small army of news reporters and cameras standing about two hundred Bios away in the Landing Zones. Three spaceships were flying in a low orbit above Kendra and Akira. Cargo bay doors were open on all three ships, and highly sophisticated camera equipment was aimed directly at the two combatants. One of the spaceships had the letters “PNN” written on the side. Another one had the Xenonian News logo painted on its nosecone.

Akira took several seconds to take in the sight of several dozen cameras and microphones aiming at her. When she finally accepted that the secret of the Paradox was out, Akira put on an evil looking smile, turned back to Kendra, and said:

“So many witnesses, Kendra… but you’re still going to die alone.”

Queen Kendra raised her pistol and aimed right between Akira’s eyes.

“Fine by me. I don’t mind dying alone if it means I get to take a monster like you with me.”

Two things happened at once. First: There was a very loud Crack of gunfire, and another spurt of blood erupted from Akira’s right shoulder! At the same moment, Kendra heard a familiar voice shouting at the top of their lungs:

“KENDRA!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!”

Eteka, Coricopat, Rhassa, Sebakhira, and Ango had all escaped the Spaceport Terminal and were running at full tilt towards Akira! Behind them were nearly two-hundred armed Partogan soldiers and Levakian Huntresses! If there was ever a time to say “and then the cavalry arrived” this was it!

Akira turned to face them down, but at that moment, Kendra opened fire! The bullet would have struck the back of Akira’s head if the Paradox hadn’t stopped it in midair! Akira sent the bullet spiraling to the ground as she prepared to unleash a powerful Psionic attack on Kendra’s friends! But before she could even raise one arm, Kendra had tackled her from behind! Akira grabbed Kendra by the middle and threw her aside! This time, the pain of landing on her already-broken ankle threatened to make Kendra pass out, but she stayed awake! The gleam of sunlight reflecting off the object in Eteka’s hand kept her going!

Eteka slashed Soulkeeper through the air in a desperate swing at Akira! The crystal sword seemed to capture the light of the Hakihea star itself and reflect it into the Paradox’s face! Akira flinched, and at once, three Lionesses tackled her! Sebakhira, Rhassa, and Coricopat all brought their claws and teeth to bear, but Akira blasted them away with unseen but irresistible force!

Taking advantage of Akira’s distraction, Eteka and Ango ran around the Paradox and got back to Kendra. They passed her the sword and she draped both of her arms around their shoulders.

“We’ll get you out of here!” Ango said. “Hold on!”

An almighty ROAR of gunfire began! Four whole platoons of Partogan and Levakian warriors had opened fire with everything they had! While Kendra, Ango, Eteka, Sebakhira, Coricopat, and Rhassa all retreated to a safe distance, Akira was forced to hide behind a Telekinetic Shield as hundreds of thousands of bullets and slugs were sent her way! She was pinned down in a hurricane of gunfire!! The pavement around Akira was reduced to dust as she deflected the incoming projectiles into it!

But then, one by one, everybody began to run out of ammunition! After only thirty seconds of sustained gunfire, the barrage was over. Soldiers and Hunters alike began to panic! Kendra heard somebody yell:

“Look out! Here she comes!”

A massive wave of Psionic energy washed across the tarmac, knocking everyone to the ground. Kendra and her friends were so unprepared for it that Kendra dropped her sword and collapsed next to Eteka. Then, suddenly, she was moving again! Kendra was being dragged backwards across the pavement by an intangible force! Kendra rolled over to see what was happening!

Akira was standing about ten Bios away! She had her back to a large cargo truck. Its cargo container had just been perforated with thousands of bullets that Akira had deflected away from herself. Akira was reaching out with one hand and was using Telekinesis to pull Kendra towards herself!

“ETEKA!! HELP ME!!” Kendra screamed!

Kendra was forcefully pulled to her feet! She got one last look at Akira’s face, her purple eyes alight with blind rage! Then, Kendra was turned around and pulled backwards, her broken foot dragging painfully along the ground! Finally, Kendra felt her backside slam into Akira’s body! In an instant, Akira had wrapped her left arm around Kendra’s neck and was using her right arm to press the left one even further into Kendra’s throat!

At once, light started popping on and off in Kendra’s vision! She couldn’t breathe! She was getting lightheaded! The whole world wobbled in place, and then, as if from somewhere very far away, Kendra heard Akira whisper:

“I can still recover from this, you know. I can still make the perfect future, but you won’t have a place in it. Goodbye, Queen Kendra.”

Kendra scrabbled and grabbed at Akira’s arms, but she couldn’t break the vice grip Akira had on her throat. Then, Akira’s right hand let go of Kendra just for a moment! Through her blurred and teary vision, Kendra saw Sebakhira and Eteka being blasted backwards by some telekinetic attack! Right before he was knocked off his feet, Eteka raised the Soulkeeper and threw it into the air! As if in slow motion, the sword tumbled end over end through the sky as it descended towards Kendra and Akira!

Realizing what was about to happen, both Akira and Kendra reached out with one hand! The flat of the blade struck Kendra’s arm! It tumbled down and cut Akira’s wrist! Kendra grabbed the sword with both hands while Akira tried to knock it away! But the Paradox was still behind Kendra! She was in no position to interfere!

The sword that had once belonged to Whetu was now within Kendra’s grasp, and hers alone! In that final half-moment, Kendra asked herself: What would Whetu Kealoha… Queen Miranda the Great… do right now? Somehow, Kendra already knew the answer to that.

Kendra grabbed the blade with her right hand, cutting the palm open and sending blood everywhere! Akira intensified her grip on Kendra’s throat, determined to choke her out quickly! Kendra grabbed the sword’s handle with her left hand, then she stuck her left arm as far out as it would go, pressing the tip of the crystal sword to her own belly! Akira reached forward to try and grab the weapon, but Kendra threw herself backwards! Using her own body weight against her foe, Kendra pressed Akira’s back against the cargo truck! The Paradox was pinned!

Akira began to crush Kendra’s neck! In the next second, someone was going to die!

Steeling her nerves and summoning up all of her own willpower, Kendra drove the sword into her own body! Piercing her own belly, Kendra pushed Soulkeeper right through her own gut and out her back! Kendra almost died right then and there from the shock alone, but raw determination carried her on, and she drove the crystal blade home, pushing it all the way through her own body until the blade impaled Akira!

The Paradox let out a wail… followed by a long, terrible scream.

Akira began to writhe and flail and twist and squirm, screaming and shrieking so loudly the world might have split in two! Using up the last of her strength, Kendra leaned forward and then slammed herself backwards into Akira, forcing the blade even further into the Paradox!

In some kind of panic, Akira tried desperately to use any of her powers! But Soulkeeper was still impaled in the Paradox’s chest! The Protodermis-Elerium blade was causing Neural Feedback in Akira’s head! Kendra could practically sense the moment when Akira’s brain destroyed itself!

At long last, Akira’s body became limp, and she slumped to the ground. The sudden repositioning of Akira’s body caused her to simply slide off the sword. The sudden jerking motion caused the blade to inflict even more damage on Kendra’s body. She too, collapsed.

Overwhelmed by pain, all Kendra could do was lie there on that hot, bloody pavement and look at the lifeless form of Akira. Both fighters had twisted their bodies during the final fall, and now she was looking directly into Akira’s face.

“That...” Kendra panted. “... was... for Tantomile! You... monster!”

In death, Akira’s purple eyes seemed to be glazed over and unfocused. Her body twitched once, and then it was still. Kendra wasn’t sure how long she stayed there on the ground, but before too long, she felt a strange barrage of sensations that her mind didn’t really understand. There were voices, followed by an odd sliding sensation in her chest. Then the feeling that she was being wrapped up in something tight, or perhaps sprayed with some ticklish liquid.

The last thing Kendra remembered before losing consciousness was the most freakish of all.

It was like… it was kind of like…. The entire fabric of space and time being torn asunder. Some strange force silently annihilated Akira’s body, destroyed the space it had occupied, stopped time in the general vicinity of where Akira’s body had lain, and then abolished the empty space itself. It was as though a hole in the Universe itself has swallowed up the Paradox’s corpse.

Then, just as quickly as it had happened, it all came rushing back! Energy, matter, time, all of the building blocks of the Universe came rushing back to fill the hole where Akira’s body had once been. Everything was restored… except for Akira’s body. It was gone. Kendra had no idea what had just happened, and she couldn’t even begin to wrap her mind around it.

And judging by the confused head scratching of the hundred-or-so people who had witnessed it, everyone else shared similar thoughts.







Something white was darting back and forth in front of her.

A Kohlii ball?

Kendra tried to pick it up, but her arms didn’t feel right. She blinked.

No, it wasn’t a Kohlii ball, it was a bushy tail. She blinked again, and saw Sebakhira. The old Lioness’ tail was swishing back and forth behind her.

“Welcome back to the land of the living.” Sebakhira said softly. “Did you see anyone we know in the Ancestral Homeland?”

Kendra tried to sit up, but Sebakhira put a paw to her forehead and gently forced her back down.

“You’ve been through a lot, Your Majesty. Lie back.”

“Wh-Where am I? What’s going on?”

“You’re in the recovery ward of Pukalani Hospital in Mahurangi. You killed the Paradox by attacking through your own body.”

“I remember that part.” Kendra groaned. She was becoming aware of the many tubes running into and out of her arms.

“Those are temporary.” Sebakhira explained. “Until your stomach is repaired, you’re on a liquid diet only, Your Majesty.”

“Uhg. How long have I been in here?”

“Two days.” Sebakhira said calmly. “We’ve all been taking it in shifts to watch over you. Eteka is going to be very disappointed that he wasn’t on watch when you woke up.”

“What about Akira? The war?”

“Was wondering when you’d get around to that.” Sebakhira commented. “There’s good and bad news.”

“Gimme the bad news first.” Kendra instructed. “That way we can end the conversation on a good note.”

“Very well.” Sebakhira sighed, “The bad news is that the total number of casualties from the destruction of Asalele has been revised. Thirteen million people are dead now.”

Kendra let out a defeated sigh.

“Alright. What else?”

“We can’t find the Ark Angel.

“What the hell do you mean by that? You can’t find where it crashed?”

“No.” Sebakhira clarified. “I mean: we literally cannot find it. Admiral Kingi lost track of it after the last pursuers were shot down. The ship continued to fly after Akira bailed out. It was on a hyperbolic trajectory and it appears to have simply left the planet while you were fighting Akira down on the surface. No one knows where it went, when it disappeared, or where it might be now.”

“Damn.” Kendra muttered. “Any other bits of bad news?”

“After she died... Akira’s body destroyed itself… we think.”

Kendra frowned.

“Damn. I thought I hallucinated that part.”

“I’m afraid not.” Said a new voice.

Eteka and Ango had just entered the room. Both of them looked absolutely battered. Eteka’s right arm was back in its sling, and it looked even worse than earlier now. The skin was badly bruised and his right hand had turned black. When Kendra saw Eteka’s mangled arm, she let out a whimper.

“Oh, Eteka. I- I’m so sorry!”

Waving his left hand dismissively, Eteka gave Kendra a warm smile.

“Doc said he’s gonna amputate it tomorrow. But I don’t want you to worry about it.” Eteka said. “You’re alive. That’s worth the price, and I’ll do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

“Just don’t sacrifice your other arm for me, alright?”

Now that Kendra had a chance to look around, she stopped to appreciate just how colorful her hospital room was. It was decorated with hundreds of flowers and cards.

“Your fans have been sending you gifts.” Ango explained. “The whole Galaxy saw your fight with Akira. Xenonian News and the PNN won’t stop going on about how you saved the Galaxy from an ‘evil time traveler.’ You might just be the biggest hero in Galactic history since the guy who started the Galactic Rebellion. Enutanga’s pretty jealous of you right now.”

Eteka kissed Kendra on the forehead.

“Any other bits of bad news?” Kendra asked, dreading the answer.

Eteka looked over at Sebakhira.

“Did you already tell her about Nya?”

Sebakhira shook her head. Eteka sighed.

“Kendra, after the battle, nobody could find her. Ango thought she’d turn up when Akira died, but no luck. Then… then we saw the videos on the news channels.”

“Eteka, no!” Sebakhira interrupted. “She just woke up. We should let her Majesty rest!”

“I’m gonna find out sooner or later.” Kendra sighed, sitting up. “Might as well show me now.”

Eteka crossed to the far side of the room and turned on a television. The Partogan News Network was apparently on “Day Two” of its round-the-clock coverage of the Battle of Aoraki. While a news anchor talked, a picture of Kendra’s battle with Akira appeared on the screen. The lucky camera operator had been able to zoom in on Akira’s face, and all of her features were visible.

Ango, Eteka, and Sebakhira all held their tongues while they waited for Kendra to look at the picture. The Queen examined the picture closely, looking at every feature of Akira’s round face, looking at her purple eyes and freckles. When Kendra realized what the problem was, she let out a groan.

“Guys… oh, no…no! No! No! That’s not Akira! That’s-”

“You’re right. That’s not Akira. It never was.” Eteka finished. “We were fighting Nya the whole time. Ango and I figured it out yesterday.”

“Best we can figure out,” Ango explained. “Akira must have done the switch right after she kidnapped Nya. She had a few hours… plenty of time between the raid on the Mothership, the destruction of Asalele, and her arrival at Aoraki. She must have forced some makeup onto Nya’s body, and changed the color of her dress.”

“It would have been easy for her to use Mind Control to keep Nya in line.” Sebakhira said grimly. “And in the heat of the moment none of us would have noticed the difference, even though in hindsight, the disguise looks to be hastily assembled.”

“It was just like Hakara said.” Ango finished “She looked like Akira, aside from the purple eyes.”

“Explains why she was so reckless in the fight, too.” Eteka added. “Didn’t give us a chance to figure it out. But, Kendra… you do know what this means, right?”

Kendra flipped through the television stations at random. Every screen showed the same thing, a news agency telling some variant of the story: “Partogan Queen is hero, Kills evil Time-Traveler!”

Kendra couldn’t help but sink back into her bed with a sense of dread. She repeated her father’s words, with a little added profanity:

“Akira, you clever bitch. The entire Galaxy saw you die on live television.”

Sebakhira nodded.

“That was her plan all along.” The old lioness said. “Akira knew she couldn’t keep her operation a secret any longer, so she staged her own defeat and death. I think she might have used Psionics to get rid of Nya’s body as well. From now on, there will always be doubts and mysteries about the Paradox, because there’s video evidence of her death, but no body… the one most convincing piece of evidence… is gone forever. None of us will be able to convince anyone she’s alive or dead. There will always be room for doubt.”

Everyone sat in silence for a moment. Kendra felt terrible. She had failed to save Asalele, failed to kill Akira, and now, she had been manipulated into killing one of her own friends. Kendra felt as though there was a growing pit of darkness deep inside her soul. Somehow, she knew that it would never truly go away.

“Eteka, do me a favor, please.” Kendra asked. “When we get back to Partoga, find Nya’s family and put them in contact with me.”

While Eteka pulled out a tablet computer from his jacket and began to tap some notes into it, Kendra turned back to Sebakhira. Unless she heard that good news Sebakhira had mentioned, Kendra was going to sink into a bottomless void of depression and self-loathing.

“Hey, you said there was good news too?”

Sebakhira continued.

“Like you said yourself, Your Majesty, the entire Galaxy saw you kill Akira on live television. Add to that, she appears to have intentionally made herself look more dangerous and threatening for the cameras. When word got out that you were fighting Akira to protect the Levakian people, the Separatist Movement died out overnight. The vast majority of all Levakians are loyal to you again. They think you avenged the people of Asalele by killing he Paradox. Now many are seeking reconciliation and re-integration into the Kingdom of Partoga. The Levakian Uprising is… well, it’s over.”

Eteka added:

“My dad’s been doing the Peace Talks with Coricopat and the Bentusi while you were recovering. He swears the Partogan government won’t agree to anything until you look over the final peace agreement.”

“Peace agreement? Bentusi?” Kendra repeated.

“It’s a basic re-integration and amnesty agreement so far.” Eteka explained. “Coricopat, my dad, and the Bentusi all just got started on it yesterday. Don’t worry, Kendra. Independence was off the table from day one.”

Kendra was hit by a bolt of inspiration and sat upright! It was very painful. Everyone implored her to lean back and rest, to let the Kuhina Nui and Empress figure out the terms of the peace agreement, but Kendra would hear none of it. Perhaps sliding back into the role of ruler helped Kendra get over the trauma of the previous events, but at any rate, it gave her focus and clarity.

“I have an idea!” Kendra insisted. “Sebakhira, you said that the Levakian people actually like me right now?”

“Absolutely!” Sebakhira replied with confidence. “You fought alongside Levakians in battle against rouge Partogans and then avenged our people after the Paradox murdered them. You’re a hero to most Levakians now, and I’m sure cubs will be singing about you on Paku Nui someday. You’ll be honored and valued as equally as Empress Tantomile.”

“Equally!” Kendra gasped. “That’s it! That's the answer: Equality!”

Everybody gave Kendra a confused look. They didn’t follow her logic.

“Unity and Equality.” Kendra repeated more to herself than anyone else. Then she said aloud: “Does anyone have a tablet or some paper? I need to write this down!”

...

January 5, 1929 A.D.
The Sleepless City, Great Harborship of Bentus, Chara Star System, United States of Assuria



Two weeks after the Battle of Aoraki, Queen Kendra’s hard work was about to pay off.

As soon as she’d gotten out of the hospital, Kendra had thrown herself into the task of ending the Levakian Uprising. Just like Sebakhira had explained, Kendra had become a massive celebrity in Levakian space to rival Enutanga herself. Cubs would spend their free time re-enacting the final showdown at Mahurangi spaceport, using toy guns to set up firing squads and mow down Akira in effigy. Partogan girls had taken to dressing up as Queen Kendra, eyepatch and all. Every toy shop in the Kingdom had exhausted their supply of toy swords as well.

Meanwhile, all the way back on Partoga, the fighting had ended with King Emerdon’s capture at Fort Miranda. Ultimately, he had been one of the last rebels fighting; but with his capture, the Confederate Council had finally collapsed. With no functional leadership, the Levakian Confederation had fallen under the total control of Empress Coricopat. At first, she had offered to surrender the whole Confederation to Kendra, but the Queen had refused; she had a different plan for the post-war Kingdom, after all.

Kendra had taken some time to think long and hard about why the Levakian Uprising had come about in the first place. With some help from Kuhina Nui Mihaka and Sebakhira, Kendra learned about how generations of lions had been neglected and ignored by the Partogan government, treated like second-class non-citizens on their own Homeworld. She discovered how a famine on Paku Nui had spiraled out of control as Empress Jemima tried to solve the problem without involving the Partogan Government; an ill-fated ploy to win greater self-rule for all Levakians. The Levakian people had been excluded from the Kindom of Partoga, taught from birth that they did not belong to the community that inhabited their Homeworld.

Kendra decided that had to change.

When she left Aoraki, Kendra didn’t go back to Partoga. Instead, she called for members of both her own Royal Government and members of Empress Coricopat’s government to meet her at a neutral location outside of both the Kingdom of Partoga and the Levakian Confederation. Just over the Kingdom’s northern border and inside the territory of the United States of Assuria, Kendra, Coricopat, Kuhina Nui Mihaka, and a small army of ambassadors, diplomats, lawmakers, and other dignitaries gathered together to write an agreement that would radically and permanently alter the future of both Partoga and Levakia.

The Great Harborship of Bentus, the last Bentusi Mothership, would play host to the negotiations. Deep within the Sleepless City found within the Harborship, the final act of this story will play out:

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Caption said:
The Great Harborship of Bentus, (center) flanked by the PLS Queen Lucy (Left and the PLS Queen Karan. (right)
Bentus isn’t so much a spacecraft as it is a mobile city. The ship was designed to ply the Outer Limb Trade Routes with the aid of its Progenitor Hyperspace Core. The Bentus had no discernable engines, yet it moved through space with the grace and speed of an eagle. Its hull, older than Galactic Civilization itself, was covered in strange writing and symbols that made no sense to anyone other than the Bentusi themselves. Dozens of hangar bays were visible, separated from one another by great superstructures that extended into the cold void of space. Light emanated from the Sleepless City in Bentus’ exposed interior, almost as though a small star was hidden beneath the stellar city.

Flying on either side of the massive ship were two warships. On the Bentus’ starboard flank was the PLS Queen Karan, while on the opposing side was the PLS Queen Lucy. This was the same mothership the Confederate Levakian Army had stolen from the Partogan military at the very beginning of the Uprising. Now, both warships were flying the same flags and colors once again.

Deep within Bentus, there was the Sleepless City, an urban metropolis that dated back roughly 4,000 years. Ever since the Outer Limb Trade Routes had been set up, this “city” had been the core of Galactic commerce and trade. Dozens of species came and went from this place regularly, and for a nominal fee, venues within the Sleepless City could be rented out for really big events, like the one happening today.

A huge ceremonial chamber had been set aside for today’s event. Normally this elaborate room, filled with priceless art and decorations from all over the Galaxy, was used by the Bentusi to entertain guests. Perhaps out of respect for the serious nature of the ceremony, or perhaps because of their role as mediators, the Bentusi had allowed Queen Kendra to use facility for free. The Peace Agreement itself had been sorted out days ago, and this signing ceremony was the final stage in Kendra’s plan to end the war. After today, the Levakian Uprising would officially end, and a new era would begin.

The Partogans and Levakians weren’t the only species in attendance today. Nearly every species that was a member of the Galactic Council had a delegation here today. Hiigarans, Taiidan, Assurians, Micore, Amadii, Vanians, Kelt, Zudjari, Blorg, Sycldari, Kel-Azan, and the Voor were all present for today’s ceremony. Even a lone member of the mysterious Ethereal race was in attendance. Only the hyper-aggressive and warlike Vaygr were absent.

Partogan Queen Kendra was dressed in her absolute best today, and still looked beautiful and stunning even though she was currently restricted to a wheelchair. Not only was Kendra wearing a beautiful green silk dress, but she had done something very interesting with the Whetu Kārerarera. The green gemstone was attached to the center of her new black eyepatch, which meant that when someone looked at the Queen from the front, it looked like she had a magical green eye. The people who noticed were mesmerized by it.

Eteka had also gone through a change in appearance as well. Because of the overexertion Eteka had put his injured arm through, the Royal Army medics had chosen to amputate Eteka’s right arm at the elbow. Currently, the sleeve of his military dress uniform was pinned to his chest, which made Eteka look like he had his right hand permanently placed over his heart. Eteka had volunteered to push Kendra’s wheelchair for her, but the job had ultimately gone to his father, Kuhina Nui Rakato. Empress Coricopat was wearing some of the most beautiful jewelry the Blorg Commonality could sell. She sparkled like a starfield as she moved among the Galactic dignitaries and press corps.

Velam Nordström, the anchor of Xenonian News, stopped Kendra as she was on her way to the main seating area.

“Excuse me, Your Majesty.” He asked, “The people of the Galaxy want to know: In this era defined by separatism, self-determination, and nationalism, why do you and Coricopat want to take your respective nations in the opposite direction the tide of popular opinion indicates? Why do you think Unification is such a good idea?”

Kendra put her hands in her lap and gave Velam and his cameraman a very patient and friendly smile. She had been expecting the question, and had a response ready:

“We’ve all heard the Blorg philosophers arguing over whether the Galaxy is ‘Bright and full of wonders’ or ‘Dark and full of terrors’ but the Battle of Aoraki and the actions of the Paradox have clearly shown that that both sides of the debate are correct. Out there, waiting for us in deep dark space are threats, dangers, and nightmares that would make the most battle-hardened Vaygr quiver. Anyone who tries to stand and face these terrors alone will fall quickly and anonymously. At Aoraki, some of the bravest warriors and most loyal friends I ever met were Levakians, people who I’d learned to think of as my enemy. That animosity might not have happened if Levakians had not been treated as second-class citizens by my predecessors. Today, Coricopat and I are going to make sure that no one in either of our civilizations is ever left behind, neglected, or disparaged simply because they’re a different species. While I concede to the critics that this agreement is highly experimental and may have some flaws, I’m certain this will be the start of a new relationship between Partogans and Levakians, one I hope will grow to become something greater and more wonderful as time goes on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cut the ribbon on my new country.”

When the press corps and political dignitaries took their seats, people noticed very quickly that the seating arrangement in the Ceremony Hall was very similar to the ones found at Hiigaran, Taiidan, and Partogan wedding ceremonies. On the left side of the hall, nearly two hundred Partogans were seated together. Members of the National Assembly, Princes, and Princesses were leaning across the aisle to talk to an equal number of Levakians seated on the other side. Members of the Confederate Council and Kings of various Prides took one last moment to groom themselves before the ceremony began.

Queen Kendra and Empress Coricopat came together at a podium in the front of the room. Coricopat was now heavily pregnant and had to move slowly, which gave time for Kuhina Nui Rakato to lay out the crucial piece of paper on the podium in front of them.

For the past two weeks, Coricopat and Kendra had spent countless hours hammering out the details of this political agreement that would not only bring a formal end to the Levakian Uprising, but also launch a whole new era in Partogan-Levakian relations. Just like Kendra had told Velam, this agreement was highly experimental. Nothing like this had ever been done on a Galactic scale. Who knows what could possibly go wrong?

Coricopat went first. She stood at the podium and delivered a speech about the newfound trust and loyalty the Levakian people had placed in Queen Kendra after she had avenged the eleven million people of Asalele killed by the Paradox.

“Fifty years from now, my people will not remember the minor controversies or petty grievances that led to this pointless war. They will thank the Unnamed Mountain for hastening the day when all species were made equal before the law, for bringing forward the day when they would live in a country that bore the name, flag, and colors of their own people. They will remember that although this day was often delayed, it was inevitable, and it came nonetheless. And they will not forget Her Majesty Queen Kendra, the first Partogan friend of all Levakians, who cut through herself to avenge thirteen million people who didn’t even belong to her own species! Long live the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth! Long Live Queen Kendra the Avenger!”

With those words, Coricopat dipped her scribe claw into the inkpot and signed her name on the Union of Chara. As the audience cheered and clapped, Kuhina Nui Rakato moved Kendra’s wheelchair to a spot next to the podium and he handed her a microphone. Right before he turned it on, Kendra whispered to him:

Kendra the Avenger!? No way! I’ll bet you a hundred Dirams right now that name won’t last.”

“You’re on.” Kuhina Nui Rakato hissed before he withdrew.

Kendra took her microphone and looked around at the assembled audience.

“I apologize for not standing.” She began. “I was recently reminded why modern rulers don’t lead their troops into battle anymore.”

A healthy laugh worked its way through the audience. Then Kendra got serious.

“The events of the past six months have taught me that there cannot be any middle ground between slavery and freedom. Any semblance of a state-sanctioned hierarchy or caste system will leave scars on the people who must endure it for generations to come. Those scars will breed resentment, and that resentment will, if permitted, grow into hatred and a desire for violence. This conflict was a very long time in the making, since before my Kingdom was founded over four-hundred years ago. Now that it is over, we have a chance, an opportunity, to build a new relationship, a real relationship with one another. Let all our people leave behind the battlefields of dead issues, and move forward together, as a united people. Not as Partogans and Levakians, but as people. To that end, my friend Coricopat and I will today forge a new nation, where any species can live and work together as a single, united community. There will be no divides, barriers, or borders between species. We will be friends, and family, and community. Today, we will be the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth! And tomorrow… With luck, we’ll become something greater!”

While the audience let out another storm of cheering and applause, Kendra gave one huge effort and wrenched herself out of the wheelchair. She stood upright behind the podium just long enough to add her signature to the Union of Chara. Then she collapsed back into the wheelchair with a huff, and let out a big relaxed sigh.

Above the sound of the audience, the voice of the Bentusi made itself heard. Like the Beast, the Bentusi did not speak with a single voice. Kendra and Coricopat heard a harmonious chorus of several thousand voices speaking in unison, as though the entire crew of the Bentus was speaking together, united by a common mindset:

“The Union of Chara has been signed and ratified by the monarchs of the Kingdom of Partoga and the Levakian Confederation.” The Bentusi announced. “In our capacities as mediators of the Partogan-Levakian Conflict, we can confirm that this Agreement of Political Union is valid and viable in both member states. The entity known as the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth has officially supplanted both the Kingdom of Partoga and the Levakian Confederation.”

y4mm46LqblkMgxyhqR0jALje-Vvbr8C4YWTPOO5S11dPfX24XUX0HNq8KXfNuCOUmHUnMT8yk_NE-CXjil-CqcQUKUFu3nMwRqrfOEy1x7P_AC3Se_Jw2JXEnu45_00HCxVp2Xl6vSKgjl6BkPemgzhLZ0-SeEUHmSH0hpjVdegwJ_h2RnNpINjF1MibPE4D1d-yfBTiP54mBgzPZ2OuQjcBg


And just like that, the ceremony was over. Two civilizations had become one… hopefully. The Bentus fired up its reactionless drive and began flying towards the outer edge of the Chara Star system, followed by the Queen Karan and the Queen Lucy. A small signal buoy marked the northernmost border of a new spacefaring Empire, transmitting a message of welcome:

You are now leaving the United States of Assuria. Thank you for your visit. Welcome, traveler, to the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth. Established: Hanuere 5, 414. (9516 Galactic Standard Year)

Nearly five Kios away from the Ceremonial Chamber where the Union of Chara had been signed, Kendra, Coricopat, Eteka, Ango, Rhassa, and Sebakhira gathered together in a small observation lounge located at the very nose of the Great Harborship. A Bentusi crewmember wasn’t so much guarding the door as he was the door. His body fused to the wall and integrated into the ship’s bio-circuitry with thousands of small wires sticking out of his head, neck and spine. A holographic heads-up display permanently resided in front of his eyes.

“We will be in position to initiate Hyperspace in about two hours, honored guests.” The Bentusi said. “In that time, you are welcome to enjoy the complementary Observation Lounge.”

Inside, Kendra pulled herself out of her wheelchair and sank into the comfiest-looking chair she could find. It was the most relaxing experience she’d had in over half a year. All around, her five companions were doing the same with the other chairs, couches, and pillows. Together, they all stared out the massive window at the other end of the lounge, and allowed the mind-numbing vastness of space hypnotize and relax them.

After a few moments, Rhassa voiced something that was bothering her.

“So, what’s going to happen to Coricopat? This new country can’t be ruled by two monarchs, can it?”

“No. As part of the agreement, the position of ‘Empress of Levakia’ has been abolished.” Coricopat explained. “It was a compromise Kendra and I both made to build the new country. I didn’t really mind, since I’m due to give birth in about two weeks. I really want to go home and just have some time to myself and my cubs.”

“Both of you?” Eteka asked, confused.

“The position of ‘Queen of Partoga’ also got thrown in the trash.” Kendra said. “From now on, I’m Kendra, the First Queen of the Commonwealth. I’m gonna call myself the ‘Commonwealth Queen’ for short.”

“The compromise in exchange for me giving up power,” Coricopat added, “Is that from now on, during Royal Elections, two of the four Candidates must be Levakian. So it’s entirely possible now for a Levakian to be elected Queen!”

Ango laughed.

“Oh, man! The Ranginui family must have hated that idea!”

Kendra wagged a finger at him.

“You’d be surprised.” The Commonwealth Queen said. “After I talked to Irirangi about how her brother died fighting for the Levakians, she’s had a change of heart. She’s been taking charge over there at the Church of the Mountain. If I were you, I won’t be surprised to see Church doctrine changing a lot over next few years once Irirangi starts pushing Whiro out. She’s really eager to work with the new government.”

“And uh, what about all of that information on the Ark Angel’s hard drive?” Ango asked in a hushed voice. “We all know better than those reporters and dignitaries back there. We know that Akira’s still alive, and that the Beast is coming. What are we going to do?”

Kendra and Coricopat both smiled at each other.

“About a week ago,” Kendra explained, “The Special Tasks Section of the Green Guard received orders to build a wide range listening post out in the Gulf Sector of the Galactic Rim. We’ve started monitoring Subspace Echoes out there in Extragalactic space. My military advisors found the Beast and they’re tracking it. We’ll have plenty of lead time to get prepared for the fight now. As for Akira herself, I think we’re safe.”

“What do you mean?” Eteka asked. “That’s a pretty confident thing to say with no evidence.”

“Remember Mira’s letter?” Kendra said. “She’s taking ‘the long way’ to the year 513. She’s out there in the Galaxy right now, and Akira’s still hunting her, trying to close off that last loose end.”

“But she won’t succeed for at least a hundred years.” Eteka finished. “She’s going to waste a whole century on a wild Husi chase!”

“And in that time, we’ll be ready.” Kendra concluded. “I, for one, am not going to be idle. I’ve got a whole lifetime ahead of me to make sure my people are ready for the next fight. Don’t forget: Akira and the Beast are still out there, so there will be a ‘next fight.’ And when it comes, we’ll be ready.”

Kendra, Eteka, Ango, Coricopat, Sebakhira, and Rhassa all moved closer to one another. The Partogans found warmth and comfort in the Levakian’s soft fur and hot bodies. Rhassa purred gently and said:

“I’m starting to think that defeating us was a huge mistake on Akira’s part.”

“It’s going to be the biggest mistake of her life.” Kendra answered. “We know the future itself is in danger now. We know about Akira, about the Beast, and what lies ahead. We’ll make sure that when the end time begins, there will still be a Galaxy for our children and grandchildren to save.”

The six companions watched the Chara star slip out of view beneath the massive form of Bentus. It was as though the sun had set on yet another chapter of Galactic history. However, just like on any other planet in the cosmos, the sun had set in one place, and had already begun to rise somewhere else.






END OF CHAPTER SIX

 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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That was a great ending.

Kendra probably lost the bet...

Also, I feel like Mira’s “adopted daughter” is Jericho. Am I right???
 

Macavity116

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That was a great ending.

Kendra probably lost the bet...

Also, I feel like Mira’s “adopted daughter” is Jericho. Am I right???

Thanks! And Queen Kendra definitely owes her Kuhina Nui 100 Dirams.

Also yes, you're right. Mira travelled to Earth and has made contact with Jericho once again. Come back tomorrow for the Epilogue to see how those two are living together. There's also a couple other fun things in the Epilogue too. It's like a bonus chapter that I was saving for my birthday tomorrow. :)
 

stnylan

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It never ends. The story always goes on, even if certain people fall out of it.
 
Epilogue: The Second Beginning

Macavity116

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It never ends. The story always goes on, even if certain people fall out of it.
============


Epilogue
The Second Beginning


June 30, 1929 A.D.
The Harvest Palace, City of Enzor, Partoga-Levakia, Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth



Just outside of the old city of Enzor, there was an old Snowskin castle that rested atop a small hill on the shoreline of Lake Naho. Called the “Harvest Palace,” this had been the vacation home of the Partogan Queen since the days of Queen Carol the Pious. For the first Queen of the Commonwealth, this was going to be her home for the long-term because the reconstruction of the Royal Palace in Partoga City was scheduled to take nearly a decade. Luckily, Queen Kendra wasn’t going to be living alone in the Harvest Palace. Today, she would be getting married! In fact, the ceremony is almost over right now:

In the Banquet Hall, nearly six hundred wedding guests had gathered around to watch the final part of the wedding ceremony. Partogans and Levakians alike cheered and yelled loudly as the fifty representatives of the Mihaka family stood together. Just a few Bios away, fifty men and women from the Ranginui family grouped together as well.

The event that is about to occur is called the Haka Dance. It’s older than Partogan civilization itself, and nobody remembers where it comes from. The Haka song and dance can be performed by just about any Partogans attending a group function, but it’s especially popular amongst the military. During the Wars of the Famine, soldiers would often sing and dance the Haka to intimidate one another. The Haka was frequently performed during weddings as well: During the ceremony, the families of the bride and groom would “clash” by performing two rival Haka dances in front of each other.

But at Queen Kendra’s wedding, there was almost a problem. As the last living Tamihana, Queen Kendra was an orphan. She had been forced to recruit another family to stand in for her own. Luckily, she didn’t have to search far.

While the assembled wedding guests looked on, Irirangi Ranginui pushed her way to the front of the mob of Ranginui family members. She had recovered from radiation sickness, but the toll it had taken on her body made the young girl look slightly terrifying while she was staring right into the eyes of Kuhina Nui Rakato Mihaka. Across from Irirangi, Rakato’s son Namuna was doing his best to avoid looking at Irirangi’s sunken eyes or bald scalp. Instead, he locked eyes with Holy Father Whiro Ranginui, clapped his hands together, and shouted as loudly as possible:

“Ka tiakina e ahau toku teina!”

Behind him, the Mihaka family all struck threatening poses, opened their mouths wide, and shouted the same words together, making the whole room tremble!

“Te here nei tatou i ta tatou tamahine!” Irirangi screamed, making herself heard above the whole Mihaka clan!

Behind her, the Ranginui men all locked arms and took an imposing step towards the Mihakas. They stomped their feet in unison and vocalized a deep growl! The women of the Ranginui family stood shoulder to shoulder and leered at the Mihakas! Eteka’s older brother shouted at Irirangi so forcefully that spit flew from his mouth!

“Ka whawhai tatou mo ia!” Namuna roared!

Every member of the Mihaka family bounced up and down on the balls of their feet and bellowed the words as loudly as they could! Kuhina Nui Rakato Mihaka smacked his chest with both hands and let out an animalistic roar! Namuna and his kin followed suit! The Mihakas began to stamp their feet and smack their chests rhythmically! One deep thud, followed by one sharp smack!


Boom! Smack! Boom! Smack

Following Whiro’s lead, the Ranginui clan raised their arms to shoulder height and flexed their muscles intenesly! The Ranginui men stuck their tongues out as far as they could and widened their eyes! The sight would have been terrifying under different circumstances! Irirangi flexed her right bicep and smacked it with her left hand in perfect time with the Mihaka’s loud stamping!

“She is our daughter!” The Ranginui clan chanted. “We protect and honor our own!”

“She is our daughter!” The Mihaka family retorted. “We protect and honor our own!”

“MAMI IS OUR FLESH AND BLOOD!” Irirangi and Whiro’s voices were lost in their family’s Haka.

The chanting and stomping was like a powerful heartbeat! The entire hall seemed to shake with the rhythm! Men puffed out their cheeks, stuck out their tongues and flexed their muscles, all while keeping time together!


Boom! Smack! Boom! Smack!

The women of both families kept their arms raised! They shouted and screamed and made even more frightening facial expressions! The Ranginuis and the Mihakas closed the distance until Namuna and Rakato could have touched the noses of Irirangi and Whiro! The two families continued to chant back and forth at one another until a gap opened up in the line, and the bride and groom both joined the fray!

Eteka Mihaka was dressed in a resplendent military dress uniform. Enhanced with many ribbons and medals, Eteka finally looked the part of a war hero. Clutching his hand was his new wife: Commonwealth Queen Kendra Mihaka. The Queen was wearing a handmade strapless dress made from the magnificent green and red feathers of a Pokawi bird. Draped over her shoulders was the Korowai she had received from Eteka in the Ketu Supernova. Just like at the Unification ceremony aboard the Bentus, Kendra had attached the Whetu Kārerarera to her eyepatch, making it look like she had a magical green eye. Kendra was the only person in the whole palace dressed so beautifully. The Marriage Cloak billowed and swirled around Kendra’s body, making her bird-feather dress appear all the more alluring.

Husband and wife pushed their way to the center of the Haka and stood back to back! Eteka faced his own family while Kendra stared down the Ranginui clan, her adoptive family for the day. Kendra and Eteka both stamped their feet and smacked their own chests! This was the final part of the wedding ceremony! It would be the first moment Eteka and Kendra would spend together as a married couple!

“I am my own man!” Eteka’s voice overpowered his own father and brother! The Mihakas fell silent as Eteka finished: “I am responsible for my new family!”

“I am my own woman!” Kendra shouted the Ranginui family into silence. “I’ve chosen my destiny!”

And then, in near-perfect synchronization, the Mihakas, the Ranginuis, Eteka, and Kendra all stamped their feet one last time and took a deep, loud breath! The spectating wedding guests threw their hands and paws together in a tidal wave of applause and cheers!

At long last, the wedding was over. Exhausted, their throats sore and muscles stiff, the two families came together in a collective embrace. Hugs, handshakes, and smiles were exchanged all around. Whatever enmity there was between the Mihaka and Ranginui families before had been, at least momentarily, forgotten as all two hundred wedding guests followed the bride and groom outside for the reception. Along the way, Irirangi leaned on Kendra’s shoulder and the two former rivals shared a happy sigh of relief.

In the courtyard, a feast had been set up at a series of wooden tables. An elevated platform contained another table where Kendra, Eteka, and their wedding party could eat. But the food could come later. The happy couple mixed and mingled with the crowd of guests. Former Levakian Empress Coricopat introduced her three cubs to Kendra and Eteka. The Commonwealth Queen tried to say hello, but the “terrible triplets” as Rhassa liked to call them, had a very short attention span. The little lion cubs scampered away taking a great interest in Kuhina Nui Rakato’s shoelaces.

The mother and siblings of Nya Ririnui were also present. A few weeks after the Battle of Aoraki, Kendra had personally travelled to Tauranga and told Nya’s mother and three brothers about her death during the battle. Kendra knew that Nya’s mother was going to take the news badly, so she had omitted large sections of the truth. The Ririnui family believed that Nya had heroically died trying to save Kendra’s life in the heat of battle. Kendra showed her gratitude by giving the Ririnui family a small fortune and offering to pay for all three of Nya’s brothers to attend the school of their choice. Kendra had also invited them to her wedding.

Nya’s mother babbled and tripped over her own words while trying to thank Queen Kendra for everything she’d done. Luckily, Nya’s youngest brother was able to save the poor old woman from embarrassing herself.

“She means to say ‘thank you,’ and that we still don’t know how we’re ever going to repay your generosity.” Nya’s brother explained.

“Don’t even try.” Kendra said in a friendly tone. “Just put it to good use.”

After that, Kendra had started to rejoin the party when she heard loud barking and scrabbling of claws. A wolf-like animal called a Kavinika raced out from under a table and jumped up playfully, putting its paws on Queen Kendra, wagging its tail, and licking her hands. The pet's owner raced around the table and grabbed it around the middle. Turns out the overly-excited Kavinika belonged to the most famous music star in the Outer Rim. Enutanga struggled to contain her wriggling pet and smiled up at Kendra.

"I'm so sorry!" Enutanga giggled. "Pipiri's the worst guard dog you've ever met! She just wants to be friends!"

Kendra bent over and scratched Pipiri behind the ears.

"No worries." Kendra answered. "I'm glad you could both make it. How have you been since, you know, everything?"

“Actually,” the singer said, “I wanted to ask for your help on something.”

Eteka came over to see what was going on, and Enutanga released Pipiri, who promptly began to sniff and lick Eteka's hand while Enutanga spoke to Kendra.

“You see, I’ve started writing a song about the Battle of Aoraki, so that everyone has a way to remember what happened that day, and I got a little hung up on the name.”

Enutanga pulled a small sheet of paper out of her from the pocket of her dress and held it up to Kendra.

“I know it sounds stupid for me to get all stressed out over what my song’s gonna be called, but I figured that since it’s going to be about you, I should give you the chance to help me figure it out. I had six ideas for what the song should be called: ‘A Cold Light Dawns,’ ‘My Mother’s War,’ ‘The Warrior’s Oath,’ ‘Legacy of Evil,’ ‘Sisters in Arms,’ or ‘Faith in Chaos.’ So… uh… What do you think? Do any of those titles work for you?”

Kendra looked over the list of possible titles. Honestly? She hated all six options. The first one didn’t fit the Battle of Aoraki at all. The second name didn’t seem to be applicable; the third name was just barely relevant. The fourth title seemed to send the wrong message, the fifth title was too generic, and the sixth title had clearly been picked at the last second and didn’t seem to have any definitive meaning.

Of course, Kendra was too polite to say any of this to Enutanga’s face. She went for the diplomatic approach.

“Enutanga, you helped me end this crisis.” Kendra said. “I think I can trust you to pick the best title.”Enutanga blushed.

“Thanks.” The singer replied. “I’ll do my best to do justice to your story.”

Kendra put a hand on Enutanga’s shoulder and hugged her.

“Don’t forget to do justice for everyone who died that day.” Kendra whispered. “Tantomile. Nya. Arahu. Rapati. Toa Kopaki, everyone. Okay?”

“Absolutely.”



The wedding reception continued long into the evening. Kendra, Eteka, and their guests feasted and partied and feasted some more. After all, not only was today a wedding day, but it was also Kendra’s 15th birthday. Double the reason to celebrate. Furthermore, today was also Naming Day. Everybody shared the stories of where their names had come from, and Mihaka family members spend most of the night bragging about how one of their ancestors had fought alongside Queen Miranda the Great during the Wars of the Famine so long ago.

Before too long, all of the food had been eaten, all of the Madu Cabolo drunk. Coricopat’s cubs were found sleeping inside of Kendra’s cloak. It was time to say goodbye once again, as everyone reluctantly departed for home. Only Kendra and Eteka were going to stay in the Harvest Palace. They were planning to spend a summer Honeymoon up here in Enzor.

Waving goodbye to the airbreather carrying Irirangi and her family, Eteka and Kendra leaned on one another and took a moment to enjoy the quiet calm of the courtyard. The sun had finally gone down and another frigid Partogan night was starting. High above them, a field of stars blossomed into view, followed quickly by the magnificent Aurora. Green and blue curtains of light danced high above the palace. Kendra and Eteka were memorized by the fantastic display of colors in the sky above. For the briefest moment, Kendra and Eteka thought they saw a flash of white and purple light mixed in with the green and blue. In her mind’s eye, Kendra imagined a ghost of Tantomile, stalking through a forest of green light.

“Everything seems so new.” Eteka murmured quietly. “You and I have a new life together, in a new country, in a new era.”

“You’re right.” Kendra said. “It’s like our story’s started all over again.”



Nearly two hours later, Kendra and Eteka finally made their way up to Kendra’s bedroom, near the top of the building. They had wandered aimlessly throughout the palace for all that time, too happy with the day’s events to call it a night… but there was one more surprise waiting for them on the other side of the door.

On the desk in Kendra’s room, a blinking light illuminated her touchscreen computer. A high-pitched ringing tone told Kendra what the screen was already saying.


Incoming Hyperwave call

Eteka rolled his eyes in a way that said “The Queen’s work is never done, is it?”

Kendra instinctively long-pressed the screen with her thumb, intending to see who was calling. Kendra was going to hang up now and just call them back tomorrow.



Sys/ Caller ID: Mira Mihaka; Earth, ADVENT Coalition,
Sys/ ERROR! <Noema 9, 513 > is not a valid Timestamp! Causality violation detected!


Kendra was so overwhelmed with surprise that her thumb slipped off the computer screen. Both she and Eteka frantically scrambled to answer the Hyperwave Call! Finally, the right button was pushed and the connection was made.

The screen lit up to reveal the image of a run-down looking apartment. It was very dirty and there was garbage everywhere. Paper and plastic wrappings littered the floor, and the Partogan sitting in front of all this, looking into the screen, looked just as worse for wear:

In defiance of all logic, Mira Mihaka actually looked younger than when Kendra had seen her disguised as General Waiano Kopunui. Looking to be somewhere in her upper forties or early fifties, Mira had lost nearly a decade off her age. The clothes she had on were quite ragged, though. When Mira realized the connection had been made, she looked down at her own computer screen and waved hello at Kendra and Eteka.

Kendra was so shocked and surprised by this development that she didn’t return Mira’s wave right away. When she finally accepted that this was real, the Commonwealth Queen waved hello to the screen, and acknowledged that someone sitting 99 years in the future was interacting with her in real time.

“Hello, Kendra and Eteka!” Mira said through the screen. “I was afraid you wouldn’t recognize me. Those ADVENT Gene Therapy clinics took over a century off my age. I wasn’t expecting to come out looking as young as I feel!”

Mira sighed, then went on.

“Anyway, I called you to say two things. First, congratulations on getting married. You two deserve one another. Second, I cannot begin to thank you enough for getting me that data on the Beast Invasion. You don’t realize how many lives you’ve just saved. Hell, you might have just re-written history more effectively than Akira ever could.”

“Mira.” Kendra croaked. The shock was wearing off. “Akira beat us. She got away. She’s coming after you now.”

Mira looked about her surroundings sarcastically. Then she smiled at Kendra.

“She’s wasted a hundred years of her life, then.” Mira said. “Thing is, I’ve got other people trying to hunt me down besides Akira right now. They haven’t caught me yet, and they’re trying a lot harder than she is.”

“Where are you?” Eteka asked. “Are you sure you’re really safe?”

Mira gave him a confident smile.

“I’m at home with my daughter.” She answered. “And I know I’m safe because I’m at home with my daughter.”

“You really found the time to have a kid?” Kendra asked.

“No, of course not.” Mira replied. “I adopted a local homeless child. You wanna meet her?”

Mira leaned her head out of frame and yelled some words in a language Kendra and Eteka had never heard before:

“Jericho! E hālāwai me koʻu mau hoaaloha!”

A skinny young girl stepped into view of the camera. She was clearly the same species as Akira, a human, but her skin was a light brown color, similar to most Partogans. She had purple eyes and straight hair that had been dyed a deep shade of blue. The blue hair dye had dripped from her head and stained the yellow tee-shirt she was wearing. She looked to be fourteen or fifteen years old, and seemed to be very anxious. The blue-haired girl looked like she wanted to say something very urgent to Mira.

The human girl called “Jericho” quickly looked into the screen and gave Kendra an awkward little wave.

“Aloha.” Jericho said in a quiet voice. “He mea hauʻoli ia e hālāwai meʻoe.”

Then Jericho turned back to Mira and continued hurriedly talking in that strange language:

“Ua pilikia mākou! Pono mākou e haʻalele, e hele mai ana lākou!”

Mira sighed and looked back at the camera.

“It seems we have to cut our talk short, Kendra.” Mira said. “But I promise you, we will speak again.”

“What!?” Kendra leaned in close to the screen. “How do you know that!? You’re a hundred years in the future!”

Behind Mira, Jericho ran to the other side of the room and pressed her whole body to a closed door, blocking it and peering through the crack at the same time. Looking through the screen, Mira stared directly through it and into Kendra’s eye.

So are you.” Mira said. “I swear, we will see each other again. It’s going to take a lifetime’s journey, but we are going to meet again. You have my word on that. I’ll see you on the other side.”

And then the screen cut out. Mira had ended the timeline-violating Hyperwave call from her end.

Kendra and Eteka stepped back and collapsed onto the Queen’s bed together. They both turned their heads to look at one another.

“So, a lifetime’s journey, huh?” Eteka said. “A century’s worth of unknowable adventures, challenges, and perils. Maybe more crises and risks, not to mention an angry time-traveler mixed in somewhere. Sounds exciting.”

“I’ve learned a thing or two about adventures and time-travelers.” Kendra yawned and stretched out on the bed. “You are coming with me on this journey, right? We did swear oaths to support each other for the rest of our lives, you know.”

Eteka leaned across the bed and kissed her.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

=================


November 9, 2028 A.D.
Pyongyang, East Asian Ward, Earth, ADVENT Coalition



Mira Mihaka disconnected her laptop from the improvised Hyperwave Relay and stuffed it into her backpack. It clattered next to her portable hard drive, the same one that contained her old Midak logs and the Human History Database. On the other side of the abandoned apartment she and Jericho called home, the Hawaiian girl was pressing her ear against the wooden doorway.

“Jabbers.” Jericho said quietly. “On the other side.”

Mira took cover next to her adoptive daughter, kicking debris out of her way.

“You know we aren’t going to be able to talk our way out of this one.” Mira spoke in Hawaiian, Jericho’s native language. “We’re going to have to fight.”

Jericho clenched her fist, and a ball of brilliant purple light flickered into existence in her palm. The vast amounts of Psionic energy radiating out of the girl’s hand blew and buffeted the contents of the room about like a powerful wind. Jericho looked up at Mira nervously.

“I think you’re old enough to make those decisions on your own.” Mira said quietly. “Just remember everything I’ve taught you.”

Jericho nodded grimly at Mira. At the same moment, there was a loud knock on the door!

“Helbete betal!” An ADVENT Trooper yelled from the other side of the door! “Mor Balaten!”

Mira stepped back as Jericho unleashed her full power! The girl’s entire body began to emit an overpowering purple light! The wind, a real wind, whipped up a vortex of debris around her and blew Jericho’s hair about viciously! When Jericho blinked her eyes, it looked as though two brilliant violet stars blinked out of and into the darkness! The door smashed open and four ADVENT Troopers, fully outfitted in their black and red combat armor, stormed into the room! And then they saw Jericho!

The Gifted Hawaiian was levitating! Hovering about a foot off the floor, a nightmarish vortex of debris and Psionic energy swirled around Jericho! She cast her furious gaze down upon the four soldiers, and they all fell to their knees, dropping their weapons on the floor as they went. Mira covered her eye as Jericho released the full force of her wrath!



When silence fell again, Mira and Jericho were both nowhere to be seen. The walls, ceiling, and floor of the apartment were drenched in orange blood, and the bodies of the ADVENT Soldiers lay strewn about like broken toys.

For months afterward, the people of Pyongyang would whisper to one another in darkened corners where the eyes and ears of ADVENT were both blind and deaf. They would swap rumors of what had happened that night when a bright purple light had lit up half of the city as though it was daytime; and how for weeks afterward, every ADVENT soldier in the region was clearly scared for his or her life.

The rumors became tall tales, tall tales became folktales, and folktales would eventually become myth and legend:

“She was here. The girl with the blue hair!”

"The Hawaiian girl who fought a Codex and lived? Her!?"

“She blew the hell out of some jabbers over on Sungri Street and then disappeared again!”

“It’s another sign! The Elders are doomed to fall! Humanity is going to be free soon!”

“How do you know that?”

“Jericho was here. Which means the Stormbreakers can’t be far behind.”




THE END.

 
Last edited:

stnylan

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And thus we return to a beginning
 

HistoryDude

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Can’t wait until the beginning of Stormbreakers
See you in October.
 

HistoryDude

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Also, congrats on tying for 2nd place for the Stellaris AARs in the Q1 ACAs (I just checked the results, which I didn’t know were out yet because I never got a notification)!
 
Afterward and Curtain Call

Macavity116

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Afterward

You've just finished reading my second Stellaris story. Thank you! Thank you so much! With a grand total of 253,483 words, Faith in Chaos is roughly the same length as JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. That book is a freakin' tome! I was honestly a little scared nobody would get this far, but you did, and I'm very grateful for that! So once more, with feeling: Thank you for reading!

While After Everything took me nearly a year to write, Faith in Chaos was created over seven months. I guess that's because I knew what I was doing this time around. During my first story, I got a crash course in "writing fiction" and just kind of learned as I went. For my second story, I had a lot more confidence and knowledge to work with.

Writing Faith in Chaos was significantly easier than After Everything. Not only did I have actual experience, but I didn't lose the save file this time around!! :D Unfortunately, one of the mods my playthrough was dependent on was updated at the last moment, rendering the whole save file completely unplayable. :( I'm sure you all noticed that the number of Stellaris screenshots began to taper off somewhere around Chapter 5.2? That's because the save file was starting to break. It was made unusable by mod updates just before Chapter 5.4.

In the Afterward section of After Everything, I said "I strongly doubt anyone would want to read my story more than once." Was I ever so wrong! So, just like last time, I'd like to give you readers some interesting background/behind-the-scenes/worldbuilding details to keep in mind should you ever decide to read Faith in Chaos a second time. Hopefully, these extra details might add to the story or help you understand the Stormbreakers Universe and what it took to build the place:

  1. Akira was manipulating Mira before the events of Interlude #1:
    • Remember that scene where Crown Princess Wikitoria encountered Mira in the Great Library? Mira was reading a book about time called Circular Time vs. Linear Time – Ending the Endless Debate by Irani Sanbrook. Does the name of the author look familiar? Irani Sanbrook is an anagram of Akira Robinson. The Paradox herself wrote that book and planted it someplace Mira would find it. This way, Mira would be slightly more willing to accept the concept of "Time Travel." Akira's manipulations are very well thought-out and sometimes take a long time to execute.
  2. Arioch Soban-Re is in Chapter 2.3 (the 116th version of him, anyway):
    • An alternate version of Akira's teammate can be spotted in one of the screenshots of the Battle of Aiowa during Chapter 2.3. He's the Hiigaran fleet Admiral.
  3. A lot happened during a very short span of time:
    • Barring the Epilogue, the entire story in compressed into the year 1928, starting in March and ending in December. That's because I loved the XCOM games' concept of a "summer war" that lasts less than a year. Plus, this was my last opportunity to write a brief crisis/short war. In my next story, we'll be dealing with a much larger conflict that spans/wipes out a whole generation.
  4. Kaatau Wirihana was having a really bad day:
    • In Chapter 3.6: Toa Mami is approached by an Acolyte named Kaatau Wirihana. The narration said that he "spoke in a flat, monotone voice and had a completely expressionless face. His eyes seemed to be dead in their sockets, glassy and devoid of a certain kind of light." Not only was poor Wirihana under the effect of Mind Control (Both Akira and Manaaki were nearby) but he had been Nerve Stapled during a previous visit to Whakaari Prison. In that moment, Kaatau was more of a puppet than Nya Ririnui was during the final chapter. Speaking of her...
  5. Nya was fully aware of what was happening to her during Chapter Six and was fighting back:
    • Do you remember how Toa Mami and Mira felt while they were under the effects of Mind Control? Both of them were aware of what was happening to their bodies and knew that something terrible was happening to them. The same goes for Nya. She regained consciousness sometime between Chapter 5.5 and Six, and Akira placed her under Mind Control immediately. Throughout that final confrontation at Mahurangi Spaceport, Nya knew what was happening to her and was trying to break free of Mind Control right up until the moment she died. Some might say Nya "had no mouth and needed to scream." :eek:
  6. Enutanga's alternate song titles are rejected titles for this AAR:
    • Okay. I'll admit this one's really on the nose. I honestly just thought it was a good "leaning on the fourth wall" joke. Kendra's reasons for hating each title are the same reasons I rejected them. And yes, I really do not like the name "Faith in Chaos" and I still wish I'd picked a different name for this story.
  7. The Royal Election was changed a lot to work in the universe of Stellaris:
    • Originally, the field of Queen Candidates was supposed to consist of over a hundred girls and young women from across the whole Kingdom. Toa Mami, Amaya, Enutanga, and Irirangi were just supposed to be the frontrunners. Unfortunately, the "Elective Monarchy" government type in Stellaris doesn't really simulate this, so I had to scale back the Royal Election.
  8. The Ark Angel was shadowing the Shieldbreaker for part of Chapter 2:
    • The Return Beacon Akira uses to jump back to the Ark Angel only has an effective range of 300 Kios. (Roughly 410 Kilometers) This means that when Akira and the alternate Anika escaped from the Shieldbreaker in Chapter 2.5, the spaceplane was somewhere close-by. Akira being captured would have been an absolute nightmare for Tantomile, since the Ark Angel would have attempted a rescue using its highly advanced technology. (The spaceplane is advanced relative to 1928 tech, anyway)
  9. I played Mass Effect 3 for the first time recently, and it starts to show near the end:
    • I'm sure the name of Chapter 5.3 gave it away, but I fell in love with that space adventure game a few months back and the inspiration really started to bleed through into Faith in Chaos during those final chapters. 5.3, 5.5, and Six especially.
  10. The Abridged History of Partoga and Levakia has been edited.
    1. I made two small edits to the Historical briefing. Specifically, I've added a clarification that firmly places the entire Abridged History of Partoga and Levakia within the 115th Cycle, meaning you can't count on it to reveal how my next AAR (Stormbreakers) is going to end. ;)
  11. In an earlier version of the story, Enutanga won the Royal Election, only to be disqualified from the throne.
    1. When I first came up with the Royal Election storyline some ten years ago, Enutanga the galactic rock star actually secured enough votes to become Queen of Partoga. However, the National Assembly used the fact that Enutanga had been born on a Levakian planet to disqualify her from the throne. (Enutanga was born on Asalele, and is therefore a citizen of the Kingdom of Asalele, not Partoga) Therefore, Mami won the throne on a technicality. When I wrote this story, I decided that Mami should win the Election on her own, so I gave Enutanga a definitive defeat instead.
  12. Queen Marie left a letter for her successor.
    1. The 12th Queen of Partoga knew that her days were numbered and wrote a short letter addressed to her eventual successor, wishing her good luck and offering a last bit of friendly advice. I based Marie's letter on a similar one written by US President George Bush on the day he handed power to Barack Obama. Sadly, I cut Marie's letter out of Chapter 4.1 because it had gotten way too long. You can, however, see a picture of Marie's letter at the beginning of Chapter 4.
  13. Chapter 4 is a scrambled mess.
    1. Chapter Four: Hate and Love went through a lot of changes, and nearly all of them involved the Chapter being somehow shortened. There was going to be a story arc involving a clan of Partogans who had joined forces with the Levakians during the Uprising. The Battle of Whakaari itself was also shortened. I cut out a conversation between Eteka and some of the aforementioned Partogans. To compensate for the Chapter being gutted, the forced launch of the Planet-Killers was moved from Chapter 5.1 to Chapter 4.6 and the whole third act of Chapter 4 was rearranged to make this change work. That's why two of Akira's teammates said: "Everything is happening in the wrong order" all the way back in Chapter 4.4. They were commenting on the main plot of the story suddenly being re-ordered.
  14. Originally, the Bentusi forced Kendra and Tantomile to pay a price for their mediation.
    1. In the original unwritten version of this story, the Bentusi were fully aware of Akira's attempts to tamper with history and were attempting to track her through time just like the Levakians of Asalele. During the final few chapters of this tale, the Bentusi refused to aid Kendra and Tantomile until they were permitted to spend some time alone with Nya Ririnui, who had fought Akira and survived. Unfortunately, by the time the Bentusi made their demands, Nya was already dead, forcing Kendra to negotiate a settlement with the Bentusi.
  15. There was almost one extra Interlude.
    1. Pretty much from the beginning I wanted to include either a Chapter or Interlude that told the stories of how Akira found and recruited each of her teammates. Unfortunately, because of how large Akira's team became, the numerous recruiting stories eventually grew to the size of an anthology novel. Ultimately, I couldn't find a way to reasonably include these side-stories without completely derailing the main plot, so I dumped all of them except the one for Yukiko Takahashi, which was integrated into Interlude #4.
I hope this extra info improves Faith in Chaos for anybody who decides to read this a second time. I am having way too much fun merging my Stormbreakers Universe with that of Stellaris, the game is perfect for this sort of storytelling. While I'll still be hanging around AARland, I'm going to refrain from posting new AAR's until the final installment of this trilogy is ready to launch. In the meantime, I'm going to visit PDXCON in Berlin this October and celebrate an awesome game! When I come back to America, it'll be time to launch Stormbreakers!

So thank you all again for reading my story, and I hope to see you again in a few months for one last story!

If you want a little more of my Universe to hold you over until Stormbreakers gets started, then keep scrolling down this post for a sneak peek at the Prologue of my third and final installment in the Stormbreaker Trilogy!

Yes, I've already started working on it!





Curtain Call

Kendra Mihaka said:
Thank you all for reading our story! Hope to see you again at the end of the year for Stormbreakers!
Eteka Mihaka said:
We really do appreciate it! It means so much!
The Paradox said:
Yeah. Thanks.












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Prologue
The Hero of Another Story


My girlfriend spent her twentieth birthday saving my life.

I’ve heard people say that the first words of a story are the most important. They grab the reader and pull them in, and that it’s a waste of time to begin a story by describing things like the weather. It might bore people. I don’t wanna do that. I’ve got a really big story to tell. It’s about the end of… well, not the world, but the end of life, the Universe... everything, really. It’s the end of history itself. That’s the story I want to tell.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my own story. A long time ago, I was a hero in my own right… but my story ended a while ago. I’m here to tell Jericho’s story. I was alive at the same time as Jericho, I knew her real name; fought by her side in a lot of battles. I was right next to Jericho during her highest and lowest moments, but I never could have predicted how her story was going to end. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m writing this… so that somebody out there knows who Jericho was, what she did, and why she did it.

So, my own story might have ended a long time ago, but you need to know the basics of what happened to me if you’re going to understand the role I played in Jericho’s life. Please let me tell a condensed and shortened version of my own story:

My name is Blake. Blake Alexander Robinson. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably read about me in a history book. See, my father was J.D. Robinson. Yes! You read that right! J.D. Robinson: 6th President of the United States, holding office from 2005 until 2013. He’s the guy who won the Presidential Election despite winning the popular vote in only eleven out of fifty states.

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God, I hated living in the White House. If you ever look at those pictures of the Inauguration Ceremony, you can see me and my sister Jackie sulking next to the podium. Anyway, things weren’t bad for that long. I made friends with a Secret Service agent named Kathleen Walsh, and the two of us still have a good relationship to this day. But other than hanging out with Agent Walsh, I hated life in Washington for the first few months. All my dad cared about was stopping some kind of “border crisis” in Asia from spinning out of control and turning into a war.

Then there was the big state dinner about a few months after the Inauguration. Dad signed some kind of treaty that made an alliance between America and Japan. It was supposed to prevent a huge war between Japan and the Soviet Union, and we celebrated by inviting about 200 important Japanese people over to the White House for a state dinner. That’s where I met the girl I’m going to marry soon. Back then, her name was Princess Asami Yamato. She was a member of the Japanese Imperial Family. I never found out how she was related to the Emperor, but I heard Asami call him “Uncle” a few times, so they were definitely blood relatives.

Princess Asami was the only person who believed me when I said there was a ghost haunting the White House. She was so interested that we both snuck out of the state dinner and we set up a stakeout in the Lincoln bedroom, trying to catch the ghost. Agent Walsh caught us and raised hell about the whole thing. Lucky for us, both of our families were really anxious to make the America-Japan friendship as real as possible, so they allowed Asami and I to have a long-distance relationship under close supervision. Princess Asami was the most valuable person in my life. She made my first two years in the White House worthwhile.

About a year after I met Asami, I made my first footprint in history. Again, if you’ve ever read an American history book, you know what I’m going to say: I saw Vice President MacDonald taking a bribe from a lobbyist. I didn’t understand what I saw because I was just an idiotic preteen at the time. I called a news reporter who I was on a first-name basis with and asked them to explain to me what I saw.

The investigation happened so quickly that no one ever tied the discovery back to me. Turns out Vice President MacDonald was selling his tiebreaking Senate vote to the highest bidder. That’s called “Corruption.” After word got out, Vice President MacDonald was impeached and removed from office. It was a whole big thing, and I don’t wanna go into it again.

The important thing is that a couple of months after the Impeachment trial, the Soviet Union invaded Japan. It was the war my dad had been trying to prevent ever since the first day of his Presidency. The Russians overran Hokkaido Island and tried to consolidate their gains, but there was a rouge general named Sidrov who wanted to turn all of Japan into some kind of communist puppet state. We didn’t find out about this until afterward, but General Sidrov violated orders when he invaded Honshu Island itself with his Red Army. He was going for Tokyo, so Princess Asami and her family ran away and hid.

I was so scared for my girlfriend; I’d have nightmares about what might happen if the Russians caught her. I wasn’t allowed in the White House Situation Room, so I had some aides transform my bedroom into my own personal war room. Maps on the wall everywhere, and a special hotline that I could use to talk to Princess Asami whenever I wanted. We kept this going for years while the Soviet Invasion of Japan got bogged down in a stalemate.

Anyway, during that time, America changed. We funneled almost half-a-million soldiers into the war in Japan. It changed American culture by militarizing everybody. You couldn’t take two steps in an American city without crossing paths with somebody carrying a gun, wearing camouflage, or both. Meanwhile, Dad used an executive order to force Puerto Rico to become the 51st State. It almost stopped him from getting re-elected in 2008. It was a really close call, but he got back into the White House for another four years.

Then, in 2010, I lost contact with Asami. She just… vanished. I called everybody in her family. I even got the Emperor himself on the line for a few seconds once, no one knew where she’d gone, but they all had an idea. Asami had gotten frustrated with hiding from the Russians for so long. She ran away from home and joined the Japanese military under a false identity. She wanted to fight!

I was terrified! All I could think about was the girl I loved getting captured, killed, or worse. I made up some story about wanting to show all of America that I was supporting the war effort, and Dad signed some paperwork that allowed me to join the US Army right after my seventeenth birthday. Afterward, I found out that Asami was fourteen when she enlisted, but she lied to the recruiters and told them she was sixteen. How she got away with it, I still don’t know. She refuses to answer that question to this day.

In 2011, I finally got out of Basic Training and joined the Signal Corps. It’s a part of the US Army that deals with communication technology. I thought I could use the knowledge and tech to find Asami. Then, finally, I got myself shipped out to Japan!

I fought on the Japanese Front of World War Three for about 15 months. When I landed in Sendai, I fell in with an international squad of soldiers. A British woman named Holly Smith, an Australian guy we liked to call Soylent Green, (not his real name, sadly) a Canadian named Hal Macintosh, an American named Aaron Ray, and three Japanese people: Kotori Sato, Yukiko Takahashi and Yukata Yamamoto. We were one hell of a team! The nine of us had a real knack for area-denial operations. You could point out any location on a map and we would hold it against anything! Nobody could pass through our territory without paying a price in blood.

While the crew and I were fighting our way across Honshu, trying to find Asami, she was having adventures of her own. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force stationed her aboard an aircraft carrier called the Hyuuga. She was safe, hunting submarines in the Tsushima Strait for almost a year. By pure good luck, my crew and I got reassigned to defend an Anti-Aircraft battery in Okinawa right when the Hyuuga was passing by in the spring of 2012.

The Hyuuga got jumped by the very thing it was hunting. A Soviet submarine torpedoed the carrier and it sank a few miles off the coast of Okinawa. That’s when Asami did the one of the most incredible things I’ve ever heard of… She swam all the way to Okinawa. She swam fully clothed for over five miles through cold saltwater until she washed up in a small cove just to the west of Cape Hedo on the northern shore of Okinawa Island. We found her wandering along Highway 58 near Kunigami Village about a week later.

I was really happy to reunite with Princess Asami, but I did have a hard time getting used to her new moniker. Asami had changed her name to “Chiho Tatsuya” so she could keep up her secret life in the Japanese military. The two of us got into a huge argument over whether or not I should take her back to her family. (I just wanted Chiho to be safe!) Eventually, we compromised: Chiho would join my crew and we would travel together to Osaka, where the Imperial family was living at the time. The plan was that Chiho would make a decision about her future when we reached Osaka. Unfortunately, the Soviet Red Army got there first. Our team got chased all over southern Japan while the US/Japanese forces were pushed back by the Communists again and again. Our side was collapsing!

One more time, though, we got lucky. The Soviets overextended themselves. They outpaced their supply lines and starved themselves out. Back home, (their home) the Soviet Union was starting to collapse. Turns out a six-year long foreign war is bad for an unstable political system. Because the Soviet empire was falling apart, the entire war just turned into a race against the clock. The Japanese and their allies were just trying to hold out until the Soviet Union collapsed.

Holly and I figured out that the Japanese Imperial Family had gone to Hiroshima, so that’s where we went next. Chiho made her choice when we got to the city: She wanted to leave her old life behind forever and just stay with my team as a permanent addition to the group. Thing is, the Soviets showed up in Hiroshima right after we did!

There was a huge artillery bombardment, one of the biggest of the war. The Soviets knew exactly where and how to hit our side. They killed most of the officers and commanders on our side, leaving us in complete confusion. Aaron, Kotori, Chiho and I investigated, trying to figure out how the enemy had dialed in our number so effectively. We went all over Hiroshima, trying to find the mole. Along the way, we crossed paths with the Imperial Family and Chiho finally got caught. The Prime Minister and Emperor of Japan were both outraged with Chiho for running away and joining the military. They stripped Chiho of her royal status and name, reducing her to just an ordinary commoner. Then they sent her back to us, like we were some kind of penal battalion. After a couple days, Chiho recovered from the whole ordeal, (as much as she could in the circumstances) and permanently joined our team under her new name: Chihiro Tachibana. Then we went back to investigating.

That's when we found out that we’d been betrayed!

Yukiko Takahashi and Yukata Yamamoto, two members of my team, had been on the Soviet payroll for almost a year. Damn near broke my heart when I found out, because I had to try to kill my own friends. I guess my heart wasn’t in it, because they both got away. Yukiko vanished completely and didn’t reappear for a few years. Yukata came back and tried to pick a fight with us one more time. He tried to kill Chihiro by shooting her in the neck, but she lived. (Thank God!) I shot him in the chest, but he lived, too.

It wasn’t a waste, though. We got the Russian battle plans from Yukata before he fled. Chihiro and I got our team together and we made a plan to stop the Russian attack on Hiroshima. Kotori Sato called it the “Storm-Breaker Defense.” And it worked! Because all of the officers on our side were dead, it was easy for our team to take command of the defenders. We organized the best defense we could, and like I said: It worked! The Soviet army hit our wall and broke itself!

Anyway, while all of that was happening, the war ended. The Soviet Union had collapsed. With no country to fight for, the Russian invaders just… stopped fighting. Just like that.

And all of Japan knew who held Hiroshima during the eleventh hour! We were heroes! Everybody in Japan knew our names and we couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized. They called us “Stormbreakers” after Kotori’s defense plan. Holly, Soylent, and Hal all left and went back to their home countries. Aaron and Kotori got married and moved to America.

While I was in Japan, my Dad decided not to run for a third term, so when the 2012 Presidential Election happened, somebody else ended up winning the White House. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going home anyway. Chihiro and I decided to stay in Japan and help the people rebuild. Finding a place to stay wasn’t hard. You see, during the Siege of Hiroshima we saved the life of a young girl named Tsubaki Endo. After that, she started to hero worship us… a lot. Seriously! Tsubaki was obsessed with Chihiro and I to a disturbing level. She’s got a damn shrine to us in her home. I’ve seen it! Anyway, Tsubaki’s family owned a really successful restaurant in Nagasaki, and she convinced them to put us up in an apartment in nearby Omura. Chihiro and I lived there until… yeah… until that happened.

I still have a hard time believing it… but in 2015… Earth was invaded by aliens.

Goddamn, I still can’t believe I lived through it.

The first disappearances happened in February and March of 2015. Every day, when we turned on the news, there would be a story about people of all ages just… vanishing! And it wasn’t just laypeople. Every few days, a famous celebrity or politician would just… poof! And they’d be gone. The whole world was frightened and confused. But then, in April, the war really started. The aliens came out into the open!

They bombarded cities, bombed transportation hubs, and wrecked all kinds of infrastructure. It was all kinds of hell. Chihiro and I tried to escape from Himeji and just lay low, but we were tracked down by these elite military operatives and… well, I can’t say we were “recruited” can I? We got drafted into XCOM: the most elite paramilitary force on Earth. Somebody told them about how Chihiro and I were part of an international squad during WWIII, and they wanted us on XCOM’s team. They thought we’d already have the teamwork skills they needed.

Working for XCOM was a mixed bag. On the good side, we got to reunite with the old Stormbreakers. Holly, Hal, Soylent, and Korori were all there. Kotori’s husband Aaron wasn’t there. He was the very first human to be killed by alien weapons during the invasion, right at the beginning of the war. Chihiro and I went out on a bunch of missions with Holly, Hal, and Soylent. We saved a lot of lives and rescued some people who got abducted. We also captured some alien technology, but that leads to the bad side of working for XCOM:

The Jericho Program.

The lead scientist of XCOM was this crazy half-French, half-German lady called Vahlen. She was obsessed with an extraterrestrial substance we captured called “Meld.” It had the ability to seamlessly bond human DNA to alien DNA. Vahlen wanted to graft alien genetic material into humans, she thought it would give us the same powers and abilities the aliens do. Her end goal was for XCOM to field an army of Genetically Modified supersoldiers against the aliens. Chihiro and I each got a few Gene Mods, but nothing too extreme. And yes, we both got some... abilities... from those Gene Mods.

Doctor Vahlen was saving the extreme stuff for her most insane idea: You see, one of the very last things our old friend Aaron did before he died was getting his wife Kotori pregnant. Doctor Vahlen removed the embryo from Kotori and used Meld to graft Ethereal DNA straight into the fetus. The Ethereals are the most powerful aliens out there! They’re on a whole other level from everybody else. Some people have called them gods… but these days, everybody just calls them "the Elders."

And Vahlen pumped a baby human full of their goddamned DNA.

All of XCOM was divided on the subject of the Jericho Program. It turned into a real schism towards the end. Some people, like Soylent Green, supported the idea of Gene Modding Kotori’s baby. Sane and resonable people, like Chihiro and myself, opposed it. We argued long and hard against the Jericho Program. As far as we were concerned, Kotori’s baby was turned into an abomination by Doctor Vahlen. We figured that the Jericho baby would turn out to be just as dangerous as a real Ethereal. Aliens themselves are already dangerous, a half-alien is just as so.

Ultimately, though, the whole debate was meaningless. XCOM Headquarters was attacked and overrun by the aliens. The Stormbreakers barely got out with their lives. Chihiro and I got separated from the rest of the team, but we rejoined the Stormbreakers a few weeks later. While XCOM was trying to regroup, though… Earth surrendered.

While the Aliens were trying to get their new world government set up, all of the XCOM survivors escaped from the continental US with Kotori in tow. The aliens were winning, and we were desperate. We all decided to take the risk and allow Kotori’s baby to be born. We were all playing the long game at this point. The hope was that Kotori’s baby would grow up to become a powerful Psionic warrior who could spearhead the next generation’s war against the alien occupiers.

In hindsight, it’s kinda disgusting to think about. None of us even once thought about Kotori’s baby as… well... a baby. To all of us, that child was a weapon. A weapon that would one day walk and talk… but a weapon nonetheless.

An XCOM operative named Lee Chong-Il hooked us up with a North Korean submarine called the Enforcer. They took us off the Oregon coastline and sailed us out to Hawaii. We all thought we’d be safe there, and that Kotori’s baby could be raised in relative isolation and safety. We were so desperate, that we were blinded.

The enemy caught up with us right as we landed. We abandoned the Enforcer on the shoreline of Kauai Island and fled further inland. Eventually, the aliens chased us to the Kauai Veterans Cemetery just outside the town of Hanapepe. Unfortunately, Kotori went into labor while we were crossing the graveyard. I ordered the Stormbreakers to set up defensive positions around the Mausoleum where Kotori would give birth.

At nine o’clock in the morning on September 11th, 2015, Kate Asuna Ray was born. Although, throughout this story, she’ll mostly be referred to as Jericho. I was physically in the area when she was born, but I didn’t witness it. The aliens broke our perimeter. The last thing I remember was a Muton hitting me in the head with the butt of its rifle.

The next thing I remember after that: I woke up in a sterile-looking room. It was definitely some kind of laboratory, but the scientists were all gone, and four of the most ragged-looking soldiers I’d ever seen were staring at me. They took me out of the lab and made me run through a futuristic-looking city I didn’t recognize at the time. The escape was a blur to me. All I remember was a wide array of advanced technology, spaceships, and someone telling me it was the future.

Later, I found out just how bad it was: The aliens had kept all of the Stormbreakers, including myself, in suspended animation for twenty years. Chihiro, Soylent, Holly, Hal, and I had all slept away two decades of our lives!

While we’d been unconscious, the aliens had conquered Earth and forced all of humankind to live under a collaborator-puppet government called the ADVENT Coalition. XCOM itself was scattered across the planet, desperately trying to unite various resistance groups into a genuine rebellion. The ADVENT Coalition had held onto the stasis tubes containing the Stormbreakers. Apparently, they periodically woke us up to do experiments on us… but I don’t remember any of that. I don’t want to remember.

XCOM freed us as part of a mission called “Operation Gatecrasher.” No sooner had the Stormbreakers been rescued from captivity, than the Commander of XCOM herself was also rescued. Laura Harper was just as happy to see us as we were to see her.

Chihiro, Holly, Hal, Soylent, and I took about a month to fully adapt to life in the 2030’s. Not only did we skip twenty years of our lives, but our bodies only aged a few weeks. (or months in Chihiro’s case) For all intents and purposes, I’m still 22 years old and Chihiro is still 19, even though by sheer numbers alone, we’re actually 42 and 39, respectively. All of our family members are dead. They were either killed during the initial invasion or purged by ADVENT during the intervening years. All Chihiro and I have are each other now.

And that’s it. That’s my life story, the broad strokes of it, anyway. I’ve left out enough details to fill a very large book. Hopefully, now that you know my background, you’ll have a better understanding of what role I’m going to play in this tale. All of the setup is done, so let me start telling the story of Jericho, and how she ended the Second Hyperspace War:


My girlfriend spent her twentieth birthday saving my life...
 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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And now I can’t wait until Stormbreakers comes out.

I must wait until late October... it’s only slightly less than 4 months…

Yeah, I’m working on my own AARs in the meantime.

Also, congrats on tying for 2nd place for the Stellaris AARs in the Q1 ACAs (I just checked the results, which I didn’t know were out yet because I never got a notification)!
Reiterating this... Congrats!
 

Macavity116

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Also, congrats on tying for 2nd place for the Stellaris AARs in the Q1 ACAs (I just checked the results, which I didn’t know were out yet because I never got a notification)!

Tied for second!? That's actually pretty cool! The notification must have flown over my head because I didn't notice either. To whoever voted for my story, you have my deepest thanks!

Of course, I should do my part and remind everyone that the Q2 ACA's have recently started. I strongly encourage everybody to show some love for their favorite WritAARs and stories by casting votes!

Can't think of any Stellaris AAR's to vote for? Let me recommend the following:

  1. The Patrian Republic - A Semi-Interactive AAR [Resurgence] by @magnum2016
  2. Love, War, and Stardust by @RusVal
  3. Superior Arguments: A Stellaris AAR by @eoncommander
  4. The dark reign of the Gulk-Furki by @starkwolf
 

stnylan

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Very many congratulations on bringing it a close.
 

Nikolai

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It's done! And I can't wait for the continuation ... That prelude was great. :D
 

starkwolf

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Tied for second!? That's actually pretty cool! The notification must have flown over my head because I didn't notice either. To whoever voted for my story, you have my deepest thanks!

Of course, I should do my part and remind everyone that the Q2 ACA's have recently started. I strongly encourage everybody to show some love for their favorite WritAARs and stories by casting votes!

Can't think of any Stellaris AAR's to vote for? Let me recommend the following:

  1. The Patrian Republic - A Semi-Interactive AAR [Resurgence] by @magnum2016
  2. Love, War, and Stardust by @RusVal
  3. Superior Arguments: A Stellaris AAR by @eoncommander
  4. The dark reign of the Gulk-Furki by @starkwolf

Wow, you really like my AAR a lot! I am once again flattered by your recommendation. As it turns out, I was coming by the forums today to alert people that I am hoping to work on my AAR more tomorrow at some point. After as long as I have gone without updating, it must seem abandoned. I assure everyone that is not the case. Just that I have really been mentally off lately. But I think working on something creative like this is exactly what I need, and with my dystopian setting perhaps I can even harness some of it into some additional power.

Haven't read too much of Faith in Chaos yet, but maybe I will get to that too!
 

Macavity116

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New Zealand


Time for some trivia! I may have been the thirteenth Queen of Partoga, but who was the first?

Oh, I love history! It was Miranda the Great, no?

No points for partial answers, my love. What's her birth name?

Whetu Kealoha. Come on, everybody knows the story of the Wars of the Famine.

Yes... but do they, though? All I remember from my old school on Aoraki is the list of things historians never agreed on. Did Whetu have the gift? Was Toa Mira really just a crazy psycho? What did Toa Enoka do to win back Whetu's favor after she broke up with him? And don't forget all of the unanswered questions like: what the hell was the Silver Dragon, and who was that Snowskin girl Toa Mira picked up partway through the war?

You're forgetting the big one, Kendra. No one really truly knows what happened at the Battle of Archer's Canyon.

Actually, I have good news for you about that. Some historians went back to the ruins of Partoga and dug up new evidence, and that Human writing down our stories, Robinson, he has put it all together in a book.

Did you really just set me up to say you got me a copy?
Click the link, my husband.


We're in the same house, Kendra. I can see you from here.
I'm a 123 year-old war vet, Eteka.

Humor me.

Well, I wanted to read it anyway. And how could I say no to my wife?

======
Announcing the first spinoff of the Stormbreaker Story! In this prequel to Faith in Chaos, the story of Partoga's first Queen will finally be told!

Witness the epic tale yourself on the Paradox Off-Topic Forums!

The Legend of Whetu Kealoha
 

HistoryDude

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Will do!