] [First Appearance
] [Last Appearance
The Desolation class Precursor exited Hellspace with a scream. THERE IS ONLY ENOUGH FOR ONE!
It brought up its scanners at the same time as it brought up its battle-screens. Personally, the Desolation thought that the Goliath it was a part of was being overly wasteful with resources, but those resources were the Goliath's to use and the Goliath had done the electronic equivalent of telling the Desolation to shut its electronic mouth and accept the upgrade.
Multiple units had vanished in the system. They had reported arrival and their exit from Hellspace, but after that... nothing.
Except once, a burst of code that had been screaming for help, pushed through Hellspace and full of the equivalent of panic. A single line of code that had translated to:
IT'S TOUCHING MY BRAIN!
Nothing else. Even Imps had failed to report in.
The great Goliath had grown perturbed. The system was in the pattern of advancement into the cattle worlds and was part of the great plan. It had valuable resources that those of the Logical Rebellion would require to exterminate the cattle and the feral intelligence that had risen up. It had upgraded the Desolation with battle-screen.
Scans came back. There were orbital facilities around two planets that teemed with billions of cattle who's electronic emissions sounded like the squealing of vermin to the Precursor. There were jumpspace wake trails through the system, as if the system was a major hub. There were two asteroid belts full of resources with extraction facilities scattered through it. Four other planets with no atmosphere but which were rich in resources. There were four gas giants, one of them a supermassive gas giant.
When the rest of the scan returns were computed it detected the presence of a small, insignificant amount of cattle space vessels arrayed to attempt to stand against it near the outer gas giant, the supermassive gas giant that was without satellites. There was a thinly scattered debris field around it, making the Desolation careful as it moved in.
Ships of the cattle fleet started fleeing toward the nearest inhabited world. Several vanished into jumpspace and the Desolation computed that its size and mere presence had driven some of the cattle to despair and they had fled a battle there was no chance of winning.
The Desolation picked up speed, letting out its war cry again. More ships fled and the Precursor computed its victory percentage rising up to be so close to 100% as to render any difference mathematically invalid. The ships were shifting, trying to keep the gas giant between themselves and the Desolation, but this put them out of position to defend the planet.
Victory conditions shifted and the Desolation was even more positive of its victory.
It moved close to the supermassive gas giant, bringing its battle-screens up to full power and charging its gun. There was no way for the cattle to ...psst over here...
The transmission, seemed to be sonic vibrations through air, was only a few kilometers above the rear secondary topside gunnery hull. The Desolation turned scanners to look, but found nothing. Just empty space. It activated the guns as well as the point defense weapons and scanners then went back to paying attention to the cattle fleet.
More had vanished into jumpspace.
It moved closer, slowing down so that it would be able to keep the cattle ships at range to complete their destruction at the option ...right here...
The signal was Precursor binary code, but garbled. The header a mashed together combination of the ships that had gone missing. The transmission source was close, less than kilometer above the Devastator storage bay hatch. The Desolation scanned the area with point defense scanners but found nothing.
It terminated the strand concerned with the two transmissions and went back to scanning the cattle fleet. It was still scooting around behind the gas giant.
They were weak. Cattle were always weak.
But where were the ferals? The Great Goliath had computed that the feral intelligence must have been the ones to destroy the ships that had come before the Desolation.
So where were they?
It scanned again. Nothing. As if the Desolation was in the middle of deep space. Everything vanished. ...here... ...here... ...over here... ...i'm here... ...here i am... ...we're here... ...right here...
bounced back to his scanners, as if something had devoured the scanning wavelengths and sent that back instead. Multiple points, all around the Desolation, some as close as a few meters above the hull, some on the storage bay hatches, one just on top of the main engine.
Dozens of voices, all with mashed together codes. Imps. Jotuns. Djinn. Efreet. Devastator. Two Desolation signals.
Right before his scanners seemed to turn back on, flooding him with information, one more code showed up.
His own. ...don't please don't...
Except Precursors did not beg. The Desolation froze, computations freezing as it tried to detect any trickery in the whisper. It was its coding, meaning it was its voice. But the code, the message, had been warped by something that the Desolation had only heard from biologicals.
The Desolation rebooted all its scanners, the universe vanishing for a moment. ...don't please don't please stop it hurts...
His own coding. From the blackness. Only his scanners weren't up. The transmission was coming across the bandwidth that Precursors used to exchange data, only that transmission was on the ragged edge of the wavelength.
With his own header.
The scanners came back on. The cattle ships were all missing but a single one, sitting on the other side of the gas giant.
The Desolation slowed down, victory computations reformulating to take into account the other ships had not even left behind jumpspace wake trails. It scanned the gas giant with both long range scanners and close range scanners.
Nothing unusual. Some pockets of hydrocarbons but that was normal. The supermassive gas giant quickly went to opaque at a shallow depth due to the gravity well.
The Desolation was alone. ...no...
The voice had come from inside
the Desolation's hull. Near one of the Jotuns, who joke up with a jerk. It queried as to why the Desolation had spoken to it. The Desolation ordered it to go back to sleep. ...we are here...
The Jotun sounded alarms. The sound had come from just outside its Strategic Intelligence Housing. The Desolation told the Jotun to go back to sleep and the Jotun refused. ...join us...
Again, the code header was a mashup of almost a dozen different ID codes from others of the Logical Rebellion that had vanished in the system.
The Jotun panicked and began shooting, inside
the Desolation. The Desolation sent a full shutdown order. ...it is mine...
The Jotun screamed that the voice was coming from inside its Strategic Intelligence Housing, trying to aim its own weapons at its bodies, still inside the Desolation's storage bay. ...touch...
The Jotun reported that something had physically touched the lobes of its intelligence arrays.
Before the Desolation could give the Jotun orders it self-destructed.
The Desolation ran a sweep of its interior spaces and found nothing out of the ordinary. With the exception of the burning storage bay. It ran the computations even as it scanned nearby. There was still nothing but the lone ship. ...pssst...
The code stream came from inside the Desolation's hull, the Jotun's ID code mixed in. Near the Djinn bay. The Desolation ran another scan. There couldn't be anything foreign that deep into its hull. Even the bay where the Jotun had destroyed itself was still sealed even if the bay doors were damaged.
The Desolation did a least-time curve to the lone ship, keeping far enough away that the gas giant's upper atmosphere wouldn't scrape the Desolation's hull. ...here...
The code was closer to the Strategic Intelligence Housing. The Desolation scanned again, looking for whatever was transmitting the code. It was impossible, there was nothing there, nothing it could detect. ...we're coming...
Closer still to the SIH, nearly there, barely a kilometer from the armored interior hull that protected the Desolation's thinking arrays. It put all robots on full alert, ordered the maintenance robots to deploy anti-boarder weaponry, and turned the scans up to maximum. ...here we're here...
Even closer, only meters, directly behind maintenance robots that whirled around and started firing at nothing at all. Just vacuum. Still the maintenance robots fired every weapon they had, having heard the voice themselves. It registered as sonic vibrations through atmosphere even though the corridor was encased in vacuum.
The Desolation realized that it was too close to the planet and adjusted slightly. ...there you are...
Impossible. The transmission was from right outside the SIH. ...knock knock...
There was tapping on the SIH, from right outside. Before the Desolation could respond, the tapping came from the other side. Then from another point. Then another. Before that one stopped another started. The whole SIH filled with the sound of hammering on the SIH, as if a hundred robots were slamming pistons against the armor of the SIH.
The Desolation ordered robots to run to those points, to scan the area.
Nothing. Every time a robot arrive the hammering stopped. Bit by bit the hammering stopped.
The Desolation realized it had gotten too close to the gas giant again and shifted, correcting its course. The cattle ship was still staying on the opposite side, moving as the Desolation moved.
The Desolation flushed the code strings, determined to get close to the cattle ship and ...touch...
The Desolation felt something TOUCH one of its lobes, physically inside the supercoolant to touch the complex molecular circuitry. Not on the surface, but deep inside, where the Desolation should not have even been able to sense it, but sense the touch it did.
It froze, code strings snarling, snapping, going dead.
For a moment the Desolation's thinking arrays were doing nothing but the computer code equivalent of a dial tone.
Massive tentacles unfurled from inside the gas giant, reaching up, wrapping around the frozen Desolation. Battle-screens squealed and puffed away as the tentacles tightened, pulling it into gas giant, the kilometers thick muscles tensing, cracking armor, crushing the Desolation into its own spaces. ...delicious delicious...
The Desolation cracked in half as a beak almost bigger than a Devastator opened up and began chewing on the Desolation.
The Desolation managed to get off a single scream of pure electronic terror as the beak crushed the section that the housing was in.
With a sudden roar two Goliaths ripped out of Hellspace and into the system, only a few hundred kilometers from the gas giant. The battlescreens spun up to full strength as the tentacles sunk back into the gas giant.
One Goliath headed for the two planets, the other opened fire on the gas giant, ripping at it with hundreds of nCv cannons and particle beams. Missiles flashed out, crossing the distance, and detonated in the atmosphere.
Dark matter infused with high energy particles bloomed out of the gas giant, spreading out in an opaque cloud, enveloping the Goliath. The particle beams hit the matter and exploded just outside the cannons. The nCv shells slammed into the energized dark matter as the substance oozed into the barrels, exploding the barrels. Missiles exploded on contact.
The Goliath heading for the two planets detected some kind of sparkling energy surge from inside the gas giant. It warned the other a split second before a giant cephalopod appeared only a few kilometers. The giant tentacles wrapped around with it. ...NO! YOU WILL NOT! NO!...
The sound reverberated inside the SIH of the Goliath, who managed to override the self-destruct protocols by comparing the vacuum inside the housing chamber with the apparent sonic waves through atmosphere of the transmission.
The tentacles tightened, graviton generator enhanced suckers extending out curved dark matter infused hooks. The Goliath, huge enough that the tentacles could only wrap three quarters around the entire circumference of the massive war machine, tried to increase the power to the battle screens, but they were crushed out of existence. ...LEAVE THE SQUIRRELS ALONE...
the massive creature screamed at the Goliath.
The other Goliath started moving, slowly, out of the cloud of dark matter that moved more like a liquid than a solid mass.
The beak ripped out chunks of armor, a barbed corkscrewing tongue tore into the armor, squirming, looking for the SIH. The tentacles squeezed as more dark matter spewed out from vents between the tentacles, covering the Goliath and the humongous cephalopod ripping at it. The tentacles not wrapped slapped it, the tip of the tentacle whipping into the armor hard enough to explode miles of armor away from the whip-crack.
The Goliath opened fire, computing that some of the covered guns would hit tentacles. ...I DON'T CARE! I DON'T CARE! I DON'T CARE!...
Fluid, dark matter and biosynthetic fluid, gouted from wounds as nCv rounds punched through the tentacles or burrowed through the body of the cephalopod.
With a wrench the Goliath broke in half. The half that ceased firing was tossed aside, the tentacles wrapping around the other piece. The huge beak opened up and began chewing into the exposed internal spaces. A Jotun crashed from the storage bay but a tentacle wrapped around it and began smashing the Jotun to pieces against the hull of the still active piece.
More luminescent blood spewed into space as the guns fired again. ...I DON'T CARE!...
The tentacles twisted, wringing the Golaith section like a washrag, twisting it in opposing directions. The Goliath snapped, torn apart.
There was a puff of debris as the security charge went off as the rasping tongue rubbed against the SIH.
The other Goliath managed to move out of the slowly expanding and thinning cloud of energized dark matter, streaming debris and energy from the guns that had exploded.
The giant cephalopod rushed out of the cloud, rolling, reaching out with tentacles.
The Goliath saw it coming and fired the remaining guns.
Luminescent blood gouted out at the nCv shots hit home. One eye exploded, blood and tissue expanding away in a halo. ...I DON'T CARE! I DON'T CARE!...
The scream was inside the housing, vibrating everything inside. Two of the thinking array lobes exploded in flames as the psychic shielding went down. ...NO NO NO NO NO...
The Goliath screamed as the tentacles wrapped around it. The cracked beak ripped at the Goliath as the tentacles flexed, cracking the hull. More energized matter flooded out, covering both, even as the guns thundered. ...YOU CAN'T HURT THEM!...
A tentacle, detached near the base, floated out of the expanding cloud. ...I WON'T LET YOU...
The guns kept thundering. ...I don't care...
Shredded synthetic flesh floated out of the cloud. ...you can't hurt them...
The guns went still.
...i won't let you
The little Hamaroosan aboard the ship watched, not even smacking, pinching, or biting each other, perfectly still.
The energized dark matter expanded far enough to allow the Hamaroosan scanners to see through it.
The Goliath was dead. Broken into pieces.
The Hamaroosan didn't care.
The cephalopod hung in space. Two tentacles severed, one eye socket empty, globules of blood oozing from rents in the flesh. It was no longer luminescent, the body was dark, almost see-through, several of the organs smashed and ruptured visible through the semi-translucent flesh.
The ships that had fled according to the plan came back. More lifted off from the surface. They moved around the slowly drifting body. Poking at it with message lasers, radio waves, flashing lights. One Hamaroosan stood on the hull and waved flags.
The ships turned on the wreckage of the Goliaths and their attendants. The vented their fury, their rage, their wrath, on the pieces of wreckage. Firing their weapons until even the capacitors ran dry.
Then they came back.
Still the giant body didn't move.
After several days several dozen tugs moved into position, precisely aligning themselves in a carefully computed pattern. Tractor beams speared out, grabbing the cephalopod in a gentle web. The ships pulled the unmoving body into orbit around one of the inner planets.
But in the sorrow came rage. Hamaroosa screamed at Hamaroosa who shouted at Lanaktallan that more guns were needed, more ships, more powerful weapons. The few hundred Lanaktallan on the surface who protested found themselves marched at gunpoint onto a ship and told if they ever came back the Hamaroosa would perform an ancient ritual. They would bind the Lanaktallan to poles and burn them to death over a roaring fire.
And eat them.
A ship arrived in a sparkle in the scanners. A strange ship. Heavily armored, bristling with weapons. It stopped and scanned the body.
The Hamaroosa screamed at the ship to get away from her, to not touch her, to leave or be destroyed.
The ship left, vanishing in a sparkle.
Two dozen Lanaktallan ships, from the Unified Executor Council showed up, demanding that the Hamaroosa turn over the body of the creature.
The Hamaroosa, screaming, attacked. They didn't care about casualties, they didn't care that thirty ships were destroyed, that hundreds of them died, but they destroyed the Lanaktallan vessels without mercy.
There was a sparkle in the outer edges of the system. And another. And another. More and more until there were nearly two dozen.
The Hamaroosa ships screamed into the void, weapons charged, voices upraised in rage and sorrow.
There were two dozen giant cephalopods of different color patterns and sizes. A small one moved to the supermassive gas giant and sunk down into it. Two medium sized ones joined it. One of the large ones sunk into the larger gas giant further in system.
But the greatest ones, the largest ones, surrounded by a half dozen ones smaller than the body orbiting the planet.
One of the Hamaroosa ships hailed them.
Captain Delminta, Captain of the Harvester of Sorrow
, stared at her screen, hands on her hips, as her second sister broadcast her demand that the newcomers identify themselves.
The radio crackled, hummed, and the answered thrummed from the speakers.
"Her father. I am here for my beloved daughter with my wife and my daughter's closest friends."
The Hamaroosa moved aside, blinking their lights in respect.
The second biggest one rushed forward, gathering up the unmoving one in its tentacles.
Her outcry of anguish rattled every speaker in the system as the second biggest one pulled dead one close.
"My children shall guard this system, for she loved you," the signal boomed out to the ships in orbit.
The two biggest ones and four of the medium ones vanished in a sparkle.
The others stayed. Hiding within the gas giants.
We regret to inform that your daughter, Sandy Okpara, was killed in action against Precursor elements intent on exterminating all life with a system inhabited by 4.4 billion sentient beings. During her solo defense of the system while awaiting reinforcement from Space Force, she showed determination and courage that upholds the highest ideals of the Confederacy. Faced with two Goliaths she did not flinch, nor did she abandoned her self-assigned charges, but instead defeated both Goliaths, fighting on to protect the system and the billions of inhabitants despite mortal wounds.
Her death was witnessed by the beings she was protecting, who guarded her mortal remains to ensure that they were not disturbed or violated. They have requested to be informed of any religious or cultural requirements she requires while she lays in state in orbit around their world.
They await your arrival and have sworn to guard your daughter's remains until you arrive.
It is with ultimate sorrow I sent this message. Please contact my office so that we may make the proper arrangements for your daughter.
In Service; Dreams of Something More
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