Story:Lament of the Immortal Colonel
Lament of the Immortal Colonel is the first story in the life of Colonel Etah Owar, and serves as an origin story. It takes place in the Bunker, shortly after Flesh and Blood.
- 1 Calm Before the Storm
- 2 Darkening of the Skies
- 3 Coming of the Rains
- 4 Striking of the Lightning
- 5 Clashing of Thunder
- 6 Crossing the Threshold
- 7 Eye of the Storm
- 8 Departing of Light
- 9 Apex of the Storm
- 10 Arrival of the Blizzard
- 11 Freezing of the Land
- 12 Silence of the Wasteland
- 13 Return of the Sun
- 14 Completion of the Lamentations
Calm Before the Storm
Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation ...
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination ...
Silently the senses abandon their defences ...
Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendour ...
Grasp it, sense it - tremulous and tender ...
Turn your face away from the garish light of day,
turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light -
and listen to the music of the night ...
Etah could feel the music swirling around him, soothing him, calming him, trickling into his mind and soul. The crescendos, the diminuendos, the subeto fortes, the subeto pianos, the slurs and ties, the staccatos, the syncopation and the rythm. He had always enjoyed this human song; it's flowing notes stirred his soul like a river. He had just come back to the Bunker after a rather disasterous night out with the team. Looking over, Etah saw the now sleeping hatchling laying in his bed. Not a complete, disaster, it seemed.
"Etah, can I ask you something? Since, you know, you're a dad now?"
"Of course, Tholker."
"You're... really, really, old, right?"
"The day I joined GSSOC was my 5000th birthday. I'm the oldest living Karnasaur and have lived 5 times longer the average lifespan. So yes, I am very, very, old."
"Well, I wanted to ask... what's it like? To be immortal?"
"What do you think it feels like?"
"Amazing! To never have to worry about bullets or poison or anything! You took a direct headshot during Intervention! You're the perfect soldier!"
"I see. Take all that enthusiasim and invert it. Yes, I cannot go KIA, but at what cost? All that I know and love has withered and died before me. My whelphood friends died over four thousand years ago. My parents are dust. My home village has rotted away, even my homeworld has been largely abandoned to nature; it is but a small agricultural colony. I kept my egg fragments, but even they eventually decayed after a few hundred years. I have nothing to live for and yet I must continue living."
"Oh... I see."
"I hope that answered your question, Tholker."
"Yeah... I guess it did. You seem like you have a lot of stuff bottled up in ya about your life, pal. Maybe you should, I dunno, write a book about it. Maybe write a song. Something to let it out, I guess."
"Hm... maybe. Listen, I'll see you later, yes?"
"Yeah, sure. See ya 'round, Etah."
As Tholker walked off, Etah pondered his short yellow friend's words. Perhaps it would do some good to express his life's story a bit...
But it felt that, across lifetimes, this was the calm before the storm...
Darkening of the Skies
Etah sat down at his piano in his room and began to think back on his life. He stirred up memories he had not thought of for millenia. He looked at Asir, sleeping peacefully on his bed, and decided it would be best to start at the beginning; His childhood.
Etah was born in 2A 2531, during the height of the Core Crusades against the Harbingers by the First Iteration of the Senate. His parents were initally farmers, but after he was born in a clutch of seven (as sole survivor), they sold their land to become traders.
His father was strong, caring, loving, funny, always spent every moment he could with his son. Etah and his father would spend hours on end outside when they were planetside to play hide and go seek when Etah was young. When Etah grew older, his father was always there when there was a certain girl he liked, or if things weren't going his way. He was more than a father; He was Etah's best friend.
His mother was compassionate, smart, and just as loving and good to Etah as her mate. She knitted him a blanket when he was a hatchling, a shirt as a wrymling, a hat when he was a wrym, and another blanket as an adult. Etah kept each one in his personal quarters; His hatchling blanket covered his hand, but he wouldn't dare let any damage come to it. His mother was always there when he was sick, was never too busy, never burdened by him, always cooked him a nice warm batch of his favorite cookies or a cozzy warm bowl of his favorite soup when he was having a bad day. She was more than a mother; She was Etah's best friend.
He was a spacer child, always going form one place to another, always helping with the loads and accounting. He business made him strong and smart, a prodigy child. His clan was made wealthy by the business; Until that fateful day when his father said they were going to start trading in the Core Worlds. Etah remembered now... his mother's concern... his fathers insistance they would stay away from the frontlines...
Not that it mattered any more. They got unlucky that terrible day on RD-725, when the Harbingers launched an unexpected raid. Etah slipped into a vivid memory from that dreaded day in his life...
"Etah! Move!" He could hear his father saying. He was 150 years old, a young adult.
"Gron, we have to save him!" His mother called out.
"Etah, get in the ship! We'll follow you in once it's safe!" His father ordered.
"No! I won't leave without you!" Etah replied.
"Son, know that we love you, and that it's the best we can do as your parents to give you this chance to live!" His father said.
"Go, Etah! Do as we say!" His mother said.
His father grabbed hold of him.
"Live your life. Serve Yetu. Honor us. We can't make you a legend, only give you the chance. So take it. Be a legend."
With that, Etah was forced into his family's ship and sent away. The last words his mother and father said as the door sealed were...
"We love you"
"I love you, too, mom and dad." Etah replied through a flood of tears.
"I love you, too, mom and dad..." Etah said, his voice creaking as the memory broke his heart again, across the years. Across lifetimes, he never stopped loving his mother and father. Across lifetimes, he never felt the crushing sorrow of their loss. Across lifetimes, he never stopped hating the Harbingers, and every damned specied like them.
Across lifetimes, he knew it was only the darkening of the skies.
Coming of the Rains
Snapping out of this melancholy trance, Etah thought on. When his ship landed on Karnas a few days later, he was emotionally traumatized. Instead of opting for a psychologic therapy plan, he enlisted with the 23rd Support Fleet, which was newly organized and preparing to ship out to the Core Worlds. During his Rite of Strength, he chose to take advanced training in piloting small-scale ships, and was liscensed to pilot most fighters, bombers, and a few transports, but he was awarded with honors for fighter piloting. This landed him a prestigious position as a corporal in the Raptor Squadron on the carrier Kenestra. Raptor Squaron was lead by Sergeant Major Sern Ress, and was split into Raptor Actual squad, again lead by Sern, and Raptor Split squad, lead by Etah. The Kenestra was captained by Captain Renr Tern, who answered tot he fleet's admiral, Admiral Preh Kune. The fleet's first assignment was to supply the 1091st Dread Fleet with fighter against a Harbinger star station near the core. The station was heaviy defended, and the Dread Fleet needed the Support Fleet's fighters and heavy cruisers to hold off the station's garrisoned fleet while they focused on blowing the place to hell, to secure the area. Raptor Squadron got lucky and unlucky; They were to be on the offensive, actively seeking and destroying Harbinger ships, but that meant they would take the brunt of the death rate. Etah remembered his first mission vividly, and fell into another flashback...
"Raptor 1 to Raptor 2, you've got Harb' interceptors on your tail, recommend counter-intercept manuever, do you copy?"
"Rapor 2 to Raptor 1, negative, I got this."
Etah was renowned for his bold, independent moves.
Etah moved his fighter around, executing and perfect barrel roll/180 turn, putting his ship into a catapult position as he shot forward, locking targets and launching missiles at the interceptors. A few managed to dodge, but Etah was fast, and let loose his plasmic pulse, a Karnasaur weapon exclusive to fighters that destroyed most ships in range, but required some time to cooldown. The loose interceptors were shreded by the plasma, and Etah wizzed around, looking for new targets.
"Raptor 2 to Raptor 6, look out, you're getting close to a Harbinger cruiser, don't let their AF Batteries get you."
"Copy that, Raptor 2, but I think I can handle mysel-"
The sounds of explosions and a man dying filled the radio.
"Guess not..." Etah said with a grimace.
"Raptor 2, new orders; Straight from the High Admiral herself. They're detecting numerous Harbinger transports headed for key dreadnaughts, and they need intercepting before they can cause damage. Two squads of transports exist; Raptor Split One, you are authorized control of Raptor Split Squad."
"Copy that, Raptor Actual One, moving for the transports."
Etah lead his squad over to the area where the transports were. Damned near got blown to pieces by a dreadnaught round, but he managed. Finding his targets, he ordered target tags. Once everyone called a target, he let out the fire-at-will order. They cleaned them up well.
Suddenly, something caught Etah's attention on his HUD. Raptor Actual was losing people. Fast.
"Raptor Split to Raptor Actual, HUD reads your losing pilots fast, acknowledge."
"Raptor Actual to Raptor Split, we're taking losses, but we can handle oursel-"
And once again, the sound of explosions and a man dying filled the radio.
But just then, Etah's cockpit was filled with enough light to illuminate a planet. Looking over, he saw the station had just exploded. The mission was a success. The remaining Harbinger ships retreated into FTL.
"This is High Admiral Sree transmitting to all Karnasaur ships; Station destroyed, region secured. Mission completed."
The battle left Raptor Squadron with too few pilots to make a full squadron, so most pilots were reassigned to a different fleet. At the request of High Admiral Sree, Etah was transferred into a completely different environment: He was promoted to Sergeant and was now given command of a marine squad in General Kesh Gorn's 124th Orbital Deployment Division. Orbital Deployment is technically special operations, and this assignment is what got him noticed by the higher-ups.
And Etah knew, across lifetimes, that this was the coming of the rains.
Striking of the Lightning
Continuing out from this chapter of his life, Etah continued composing. Several ideas had surfaced and were rejected. He thought now, to his days as a marine sergeant dropping from orbit to support Army troopers. One operation seriously turned his career skyward; It was called Operation Skyfire. Skyfire's purpose was a proof-of-concept experiment in military science to test the viability of an orbital blitzkrieg; Dispatching shock troops from orbit to lay enemy defenses bare, followed by a wave of standard Army Legions to secure the areas. General Kesh and the 124th Orbital was assigned to the 1st Rapid Assault Fleet, first of its kind, with a distinct lack of destroyers or carriers, but rather a focus on high-mobility frigates and cruisers. The cruisers were planned to carry the Orbitals and troop transport, already a gambit, since that role is usually given to carriers. However, carriers were deemed too slow for use in a Rapid Assault Fleet. As such, the then-Sergeant Major Etah and his assigned platoon were to test the 'Orbital Blitz' idea on a small empire's homeworld to... accelerate, its annexation as a dominion of the KMF. Since it wasn't eligible for even honorary membership in the Senate, they were free game.
The Fleet arrived over the planet, met by a moderately sized defensive fleet. Etah's orders were clear: While the battle for orbital domination raged on overhead, he and his platoon were to meet up with the other platoons from the 2nd Battalion (of 4) of the 124th Orbital Deployment Legion in the captial city, while the 1st, 3rd, and 4th captured the three other critical cities. The 423rd Orbital Deployment Legion, under the jurisdiction of General Konrad Szu'kun, would split its three battalions up to secure the major transport hubs during this time, to cut off enemy transport. If resistance contines after orbital control is established, regular Army Legions will be deployed from the remaining cruisers. This would continue until national leaders accepted the terms of annexation.
As the small quakes from bombardment on the shields began, Etah and his platoon loaded into their SODPs and kicked the door, jettisoning themselves from hundreds of miles above the ground at terrifying speeds. The pod's HUD gave Etah a countdown of when impact will occur, and lifesigns from his platoon. Etah could take a total of three weapons; two in the pod and one holstered already. The holstered weapon was most likely to survive impact, and as such, Etah kept a plasma revolver in his holster. He didn't know why; An assault rifle would be far more effective. Still; This plasma revolver felt special, somehow. He kept a plain old ensis and an assault rifle in the pod's holsters. He looked over the mission intel in the 5 minutes before impact.
"Men, when he hit the ground, we head straight for the capitol building. We'll land five minutes from it, and I want the national leaders surrendering ASAP." Etah ordered to his team.
"Sir, I thought we were meeting up with the rest of 2nd Battalion?" Inquired a private.
"That's what we were told to do. This is what we're doing." Etah replied.
"Sir, that's direct insubordination! You'll get yourself court martialed!" A sergeant replied.
"Yeah, well, that's my problem, isn't it?" Etah retorted.
"It's your funeral, boss..." The sergeant resigned.
When they hit the ground, Etah emerged with his men, grabbed his weapons, and motioned for them to follow him as he moved towards the capitol building. Civilians, largely shocked at alien marines landing with guns in the middle of a street, began panicking and running. Trained against this, Etah and his men pressed forward. Etah's radioed crackled.
"...Sergeant Major Etah, you're headed away from the rendevous point, acknowledge?" Inquired some officer.
Etah, not needing the rest of the battalion worrying about his gambit, replied with a fabrication:
"We thought we saw some kind of heavy fortification on our way in. Investigating, and if needed, neutralizing."
"...Copy that..." Replied the officer, with skepticism clear. Etah was still known for bold moves.
Moving on, Etah and his troops met some resistance in the form of a ragtag civilian militia. Nothing big; Just sports guns. Etah and some men plucked them off with precision fire. Some of them had to be no older than young adults. Regretful at the civilian loss, Etah brethed a prayer and moved up.
Reaching the national leader's office, Etah and his men began taking potshots to scare the hell out of them. Breaking through the line of security, the platoon entered the lavish residence. Cutting security guards down with precision (plus a grenade or two), Etah moved towards what had to be the main office and ordered his men to sweep the place. Kicking the door down as some officer began prying about his whereabouts again, Etah entered the main office.
Sitting in a desk was the president or prime minister of the alien republic, who began standing up as his elite guards attacked Etah. Moving fast, he hit one with his AR, only to have it pried away, and himself thrown against a wall. The guard who took his gun aimed it at the Karnasaur, and prepared to end the draconic being's life.
Acting fast, Etah whipped out his almost-forgotten about plasma revolver and nailed the bastard right in the face. Quickly doing the same for the other guard, Etah hovered the barrel to the president and barely stopped himself from pulling the trigger. He held the gun.
"President Daigon, I believe the people of the United States of Kimerica have yet to accept the terms of the Karnasaur Meritocratic Federation's annexation plans."
"...I see. I shall... remedy that... presently..."
Lowering his revolver, Etah looked outside to see Sauren transports deploying regular Legions. Space dominance. The planet was their's, anyway.
Etah got a stern lecture from General Kesh, but during this lecture, a Karnasaur came into the room. He didn't give a name, only a branch:
The Elite Operations Division. Ancestor to the High Risk Operations and Training Division. Etah was to be transferred to become an Elite Operative, basically a watered-down HIRIOT. He answered to very few people, and not even Generals had authority over him save when they were given it by handler. Etah knew, across lifetimes, that this was the flash of light in his career that started him on the Elite Operations track. He knew, across lifetimes, that this opprotunity would never come again.
Etah knew, across lifetimes, that this was the striking of the lightning.
Clashing of Thunder
Snapping out of it again, Etah continued his composition. It was coming along, but it was still lacking something. Continuing his recollection of his life, Etah came to the point where the Karnasaurs broke off from the original Senate; Back then, there were alot more members, and it was corrupt out the ass. The KMF would have none of it and declared war on the Senate states, wit a few breaking off with them to form the Karnasaur Alliance. As an Elite Operative, Etah performed alot of ops that were covered in black ink afterwards. He remembered one operation, a daring strike against the Hunre Crown... the objective was simple:
The assasination of the Hunre king.
"Etah, report." Etah heard over the radio.
He had three team mates; Renr Juur, who was a CQC specialist, Eshu Gu'don, tech specialist, and Ders Serk, who was providing overwatch with Eshu in a covertly hijacked Hunre helo. It was Ders who radioed Etah, who had an SA(S) M/33-H45 Bronte sniper rifle and was sharpshooting.
"Target still not in my sights. He's supposed to start giving the speech in 5 minutes." Etah answered.
"Renr, Eshu, what can you give me?" Ders asked.
"Eshu here, target is on CCTV, heading towards designated killzone now." Reported in Eshu, who was wirelessly connected to the Hunre security systems via system uplink placed by Renr.
"Renr here. Cloaked. Target no- Wait, just turned a corner, target in sight." Renr reported.
"Etah, keep your scope ready. Take the shot at the height of the speech." Ders ordered.
"Copy that. Sniper on standby." Etah whispered. He was on the top of a building a few hundred yards from the killzone. They were on a modest Hunre Crown world where King... king... the hell was his name... Etah couldn't remember. Not dwelling on this, and settling to just call him the king, Etah remembered that the king was delivering a speech here to rally the industrial centre workers to speed production for the Crown. His team was deployed on an infiltration craft using cloaking systems, and Renr was using experimental armor that allowed full body cloaking and complete soundproofing on the inside. He could radio in without giving off a sound. This was the time when personal cloaking fields required a dedicated suit...
Suddenly, Etah saw him: The king had walked on stage with great fanfare and stood at a podium. The idea was for Etah to shoot him out, and if he missed the first shot with his Bronte, then Renr would kill him in CQC. All the while, Eshu seals the area off remotely. Then Ders flies in for extraction, and the whole team flies off to their space transport waiting for them in the middle of the nearby desert. In, out, simple.
The king started his speech, and Etah waited for Ders to give the green light. Etah didn't even listen to the speech. Etah waited and waited and waited.
"Deus, Ders, how much longer?" Etah thought.
Suddenly, the king started moving his hands about more passionately, and Etah cold tell he was reaching the height of his speech. He set his scope according to distance and wind to lodge a bullet in the bastard's head and waited for the kill order.
"Now?" Etah asked.
"Wait..." Ders responded.
"NOW?" Etah insisted.
"Wait..." Ders replied.
"Damn it, Ders!" Etah quietly exclaimed.
"NOW!" Ders ordered.
Etah pulled the trigger, and the Bronte let loose a thunderous explosion as the bullet flied out. Etah didn't bother with a silencer, he was the last extracted but they'd be caught in chaos. Three seconds passed, and the bullet lodged right in his skull, as Etah planned. The whole place locked in on itself, and Ders flew over and opened up the helo, with Renr dashing in after uncloaking. The helo flew back up and turned towards Etah, and started to fly over to him. Unfortunately, few ops are ever perfect and fewer see everyone go home. Etah didn't know who or how, but someone got hold of a Hunre rocket launcher and shot a ten pound missle right at the helo. They didn't stand a chance; The whole thing erupted in fire and fell to the ground. Etah stretched out his wings and started flying for the space evac site; That was Elite Operative doctrine, minimize losses, worry about yourself. If they were alive, they'd either get to the evac site in the next 12 hours or prevent capture by means of necronis pills.
But doctrine didn't stop him from feeling like he was leaving people behind. On that day, when no one else showed up at the evac sight, he swore he would never leave another man behind again. ETah now thought of that mission at the Shrine of Yetu, when he saved Pyro's life. He figured he was keeping up with his promises.
Still, Etah knew, across lifetimes, that the thunderous roar his sniper spewed out was the death knell of his team. Etah knew, across lifetimes, that the shot he made was signing his team's death warrant.
Etah knew, across lifetimes, that this was the clashing of the thunder.
Crossing the Threshold
Etah was snapped out of this melancholy by the sound of blankets stirring. He looked over, and saw Asir saring at him. He gave a small yelp, as if someone had just grabbed him. Etah stared back at the hatchling quizically. Asir gave another yelp, and another followed suit. Etah thought of something; He was hungry.
Looking around, he grabbed a leg of meat he brought from the mess hall in case of emergency. He had read most species couldn't eat solid food so shortly after birth; But Karnasaur hatchlings could do it simply. It was a matter of survival. If they couldn't eat solid foods within a day of hatching, they died of starvation. Holding the meat close to Asir's snout, he wagged it around to let the hatchling catch its scent. Asir lunged at it, but Etah pulled it away. It was tradition; A kind of rudimentary first hunt. Asir snapped at it again, lunging himself forward a little. He managed to grab a nibble this time. Etah imitated a wounded prey and moved the leg further away, and rested it a few inches from the small infant. This was a true test; Karnasaurs had to walk, at least on all fours, as soon as possible; Otherwise, they couldn't hunt. No hunting meant no food. Asir looked longingly at the meat, but instead of yelping for help, like most newlyhatcheds do, he seemed to focus his features with resolve, and slowly but surely started crawling towards the meat. When he reached it, Etah was impressed by his adoptive son's determination. He could tell then and there, this would be no ordinary hatchling.
The ordeal with the first hunt reminded Etah of something; His training to become an ELICAN... how his iron will was the only thing that saved him...
Searing, burning pain shot up Etah's back. His whole body felt like collapsing. His vision contracted in pain, as he heard the hammer of the revolver click back.
The fifth shot entered into his back in a nonlethal area. Once more, his vision contracted, and he felt as if the Angel of Death was watching over him, saying, 'Soon... soon... soon...'.
But he didn't make a sound.
He refused to let the conditioners have that satisfaction of hearing him scream. He would not beg. He would not collapse. He would not give in to the pain. He was told that the ELICAN Program was specially designed to turn soldiers into legends. All the time he spent in that hell, the whispers of his dead parents were with him;
Become a legend...
Of course, not everyone can be a legend. Five hundred men walked into that facility. Ten would walk out. Ten. That's a 98% mortality rate. They estimated a 95% death rate; Etah didn't care. He wouldn't be a part of the pile. He would be standing on top of it.
The sixth and final shot for the day ripped into his back, and he felt a rib shatter. He didn't care. He didn't give a sigh of relief. He didn't cry in happiness that it was over. This had happened so many days before and would happen so many days after, Etah was growing used to it. He simply got up and walked over to the relief station to have the bullets removed and his wounds tended to. A few minutes later, he was dressed again and off to firearms training.
He remembered the rewrites... how so many died from rejecting the retrovirus used.
He remembered the implants... how so many died from the trauma caused.
And he remembered graduation... how so few lived to stand atop the corpses and be legends.
And he remembered seeing each and every 'legend' die or leave... how he was all that was left.
And Etah knew, across lifetimes, that this was the crossing of the threshold.
Eye of the Storm
Of course, the Galactic War wouldn't last forever. When the Universal Alliance finally surrendered and the Karnasaurs reasserted their political dominance, Etah and the remaining ELICANs were put on reserve. It was basically them being able to go on leave until needed. Etah elected to spend his vacation assisting Sauran research efforts on early civilizations. He bounced around worlds, visiting unimportant, backwater worlds that were later named things like Malisk II, Ucharpli, and Earth.
Etah chuckled softly. The KMF knew the Eteno and Dhragolon before they touched the sky, let alone the heavens. And he was around to see them. It had been the pride of the KMF to know everything about anything; The Indexing Project was one such effort, to catalog and index every planet with lifeforms on it, as well as any intelligent species they found. Of course, after a few centuries, the project was halted with about 20% of the galaxy charted and indexed. Even now, millenia later, the KMF continues its focus on learning absolutely everything. Knowledge is power, and power is needed to protect the chaos of the galaxy.
Etah remembered few events of importance from this time; It was a calm time. A time of relative peace in the galaxy. It was something he could look at and not have to check if he took his medication.
Etah knew, across lifetimes, that this was the eye of the storm.
Departing of Light
Still, peace in the Milky Way never lasts. When Emperor Nrek came to power, his ultranationalistic stance swayed the KMF into a cold war with the other superpowers. Every Emperor knew that the Sauran agenda demanded Karnasaur dominance to ensure the continuation of chaos, but Nrek made no attempt to be subtle. He had blatantly denounced both the Heglareans and Hunre for what he saw as their weaknesses and flaws. He promoted the KMF as being the chosen guardian of the galaxy, and any who claim otherwise face the wrath of the night itself. He was a curious blend of tyrant, nationalist, patriot, villain, conqueror, warmonger, and zealot. At first, Etah went along with it. To Etah, he was right; The KMF was the guardian of chaos. So, when Nrek secretly assembled his Sauran Supremacy Assurance Team, of course Etah volunteered. He remembered meeting Nrek and being named the team's field commander, how he felt so accomplished to be a member of the group which would effectively prevent the cold war from escalating into another Galactic War. How wrong he was. Now, he could taste the irony.
He nearly choked on the bitterness.
Although the Heglarea Incident was definitely the start of the war, it was not the event which Etah thought of now; No, he thought of when he crossed yet another threshold, one he retreated back through once he realized the mistake, and thanked Misericordia, Angel of Mercy, that he was able to save himself.
It was codenamed Operation: Darkbringer. Heglarean scientists were attepting to create a light-based WMD which used ultra-focused solar radiation to bombard a planet with gamma and X-ray frequency radiation over a considerably populated research colony. Such a weapon would purge a world of life in moments.
As such, Etah and SSAT was sent in to bring the project to a crashing halt. As usual, they were given carte blanche. Whatever got the job done, as long as no one knew it was the KMF. Using a combination of wormholes and personal stealth technology, the team managed to infiltrate the superstructure. Etah's part of the team was to reach the command center while the rest went to detonate the core. The hope was to sap the site's intel and then make it look as it the reactor overloaded. They didn't speak a word most of the time. Speaking made sound. Sound caught attention. Attention for SSAT was very, very bad. It was the omninous silence of the missions that Etah cringed at now, not because of the silence itself, but because deep down, he knew that he enjoyed it.
Arriving at the command center, they found it to be surpisingly filled. Etah paid close attention to a scientist speaking to what looked to be a general via video chat.
"We'll be ready for the test fire soon, sir. But there's a kink in the system right now; Whenever the fusion core is hyper-pressurized by the magnetic field for the firing process, it seems like the magnetic field doesn't contain it as long as we need it to. At least, according to the calculations. We project that in the event of a premature firing, we'd manage to get off one good shot, but it would result in the superstructure's detonation as a result."
"How long before this error is resolved?"
"We just need to calibrate the magnetic field to maintain its strength for just a few more seconds. Adding an auxiliary power source to bolster its strength should do the trick. A month, tops."
"Excellent. We'll have a testing ground set aside by then. Get it done, doctor."
With that, the feed cut. Etah made a signal to his team to cut the camera feeds. The time for subtlety was over.
Once they were sure security had no eyes, Etah slit a doctor's throat, decloaking himself as a result. His team followed suit, with lethal and silent efficiency. It was over before anyone could scream. It was a lethal silence.
Etah's favorite at the time.
Looking around the room, Etah looted the corpse of the doctor he killed and found a datapad. It detailed the project's every specification.
Including the firing sequence.
All he needed was an external drive with the .exe file needed to initiate the firing sequence. He ordered the team to look around for an external drive. When they came up with nothing, Etah had to improvise. He approached a command panel and tried to hack into it. The firewalls were tight though, and even when he managed to get into the system, he knew he still needed that missing file to run the firing protocol.
"Sir, are you trying to fire this thing?"
"Of course. The perfect accident: An entire Heglarean research colony, fried and purged, and Deus knows how many Nras spent wasted. They'll never fund this project again."
"Sir, that would be... countless deaths! Are you sure?"
Etah responded by shooting the insubordinate bastard in the head.
"Any other objections, or shall we complete the mission?"
Silence. Always silence.
Etah looked at the coding. The .exe file seemed to comprise only a few lines of coding, so if he could manage to fill in the gap, he'd have a kind of wax key. Taking out his own external drive, he plugged it into the panel and ran his hacking program. This program was designed for stuff like this: It could run through hundreds of combinations in a second. It would be moments before they had a working .exe file.
After a few strenuous moments, the code segment suddenly shifted to a message box.
'WARNING: PROGRAM 'FIRINGPROTOCOL.EXE' IS REQUESTING PERMISSION TO EXECUTE. ALLOW?'
Etah looked at his team.
"Tell our boys at the fusion core to get out."
Etah looked back at the panel and clicked 'Allow'.
Red warning sirens blared up, alerting the entire structure of its inevitable destruction. Etah pressed a button on his suit's wrist computer; The Recall Beacon. It gave his coordinates via QED to their exfil for wormhole projection. Never a moment late, a wormhole opened near them, and they piled out. In the exfil, he looked out the nearby observation window to watch. The superstructure seemed to shoot a beam of dark, deep violet light at the planet below, which seemed to blow off the atmosphere, before suddenly erupting in a massive nuclear inferno. Etah looked around to see half his team was still missing.
"Dumbasses. If they can't make it out themselves, they don't deserve to live, let alone be on my team."
Of course, Nrek praised Etah for his brilliance and efficiency. When he read that Etah killed a team mate due to 'insubordination', he just gave him a pay bonus. Etah gleamed with pride that day. But this day, he cringed in guilt and regret. Across lifetimes, he knew this was a dark threshold. Across lifetimes, he knew he broke his promise to never leave a man behind. Across lifetimes, he knew the Angels wept for his soul that day.
Across lifetimes, Etah knew that this was the departing of light.
Apex of the Storm
Etah had stopped trying to compose. The chord progressions were wrong, the key signature never seemed to fit, nothing worked how he wanted it to. Unfortunately, this harkened him back to still another memory. The Second Galactic War. He was Supreme High General of the Karnasaur Armed Forces. The Dragonslayer Armada had forced his hand; He used emergency powers to order Nrek to issue the Total Recall Order.Across the line, entire worlds were lost. Billions died during the meager defensives. The Dragonslayer Armada was flying for Karnas to end the war before the year was out. Just what Etah had hoped for.
This flashback of his had him onboard his flagship, the KDN Nrek, the first Nrek-class dreadnought which utilized cutting edge hyperkinetic technology in the weapon systems. He remembered that day when the galaxy turned black, when the Armada arrived in the space above Karnas...
"Sir, they're almost here."
"Both. Dragonslayers are a few minutes out. The Star Fleet might not make it on time."
"They'll make it."
Etah had made the boldest move in history; The timing had to be perfect.
Looking out, he saw now that the largest ships in the enemy fleet were visible. Dreadnoughts. Battleships. Etah's eyes narrowed. That meant the smaller ships were entering operational range soon. The Battle for Karnas would begin in mere moments. Etah took a deep breath and prayed; He knew Deus wouldn't hear him, the Karnasaur god had been missing from the pantheon since Yetu's death. Instead he prayed to Nocturne and Luna, looking at the two moons named for them. He prayed the Angel of the Night and the Angel of the Moon would protect their home. He prayed that he would weather the storm. He prayed-
Before another word could come from his mind, the ships red lights went off. Enemies in range. Etah looked around.
"...Fire." Etah said quietly. There was no shouting. No roaring. No yelling. Nothing.
He saw the lights of the nearby ships opening fire. It was a tiny Fleet. He listened to deafening silence as explosions lit up the void.
Explosions of friendly ships.
It became perfectly clear to Etah that if any Karnasaur was to live this night, the Star Fleet needed to be here. Now.
The ship started rocking. The shields were failing. The silence was broken by rumbling. The main cannon fired numerous times at many things. Etah closed his eyes and breathed what he knew may have been his last prayer.
Explosions rocked the room as the last of the shields failed. Etah was thrown to his feet and felt the vacuum of space nearly take him until emergency blast shields stopped it. Before he could get up, another explosion rocked the room. Fires everywhere, electrical. The lights were red and dim. The Armada was terrifingly close. He could see the fighters up close. The battle was mere moment in and the firepower they brought to bear was already taking the bridge of the most powerful ship in the KAF.
Etah stopped trying to get up. He failed. He had failed. Karnas was lost. The KMF was doomed. The war was over.
Until he saw another Fleet enter orbit.
And hundreds more.
Billions of ships everywhere, dreadnoughts, cruisers, carriers, battleships, destroyers, frigates; the full might of three galaxies of starships and soldiers brought to bear on the Dragonslayers.
The Star Fleet had arrived.
Etah stood as he saw the beauty of the battle unfold. The Armada, once on the verge of victory, was suddenly being turned to slag. He saw dreadnoughts erupt in nuclear inferno. Battleships break in two. The innumerous fighters popping like firecrackers across the void. He saw the two titanic fleets duke it out, saw the invaders turn tail to run, saw as those who tried just lost their engines. And he listened to the sound of his life:
There was no sound. No roaring. No explosions. Nothing. Etah heard nothing. Sound was irrelevant. The only thing that he noticed was the sight before him. The silence made it almost disturbing.
And he felt a small grin creep across his face at the sight of the comeback.
Now, Etah knew, even across lifetimes, that this was the apex of the storm.
Arrival of the Blizzard
Etah heaved over in a sudden contraction of his chest and vision.
Of course, of course, of freaking course...
He began patting about his jacket, once more desperate to locate that damned box which contained his sanity. He managed to find it quicker than last time, but noticed that the effects had set in quicker than usual. He had just prepared the syringe when he hit the ground in a short convulsion, and saw his vision contract as sounds began rining in his ear, sounds of screaming
The screaming, Nocturne, the screaming...
Where... where am I...
A... a city?
A Hunre city...
Hunre were evil bastards... they're trying to kill us all... but we'll kill them all first...
The 222nd Airborne will sweep over the city and cleanse it with plasma bombings
Who... who's saying that...?
The 501st Dread Fleet will begin bombardment at the system capital soon
Is that... my voice?
May Nocturne judge them all to be damned
A Hunre? He's... he's just a kid, I-
Spy! We have a spy!
Firearm, plasma revolver, the child's face blown apart
NO! THAT'S MY SON! THAT'S MY-
Just a boy
Just a man
Freezing of the Land
Nrek, this is going to far
It's not gone far enough
They're ready to surrender
Not until they're all dead
Such is the fate of the foolish
The words of a child of the sun
The words of one who fears the light
We've killed their children, Nrek
They killed our wryms
We're killing their women, Nrek
They killed our wives
We're destroying their worlds, Nrek
They destroyed our pride
We're robbing the universe of chaos
They robbed it of innocence
I'm sorry, Nrek
Will never be enough
Silence of the Wasteland
Colonel Etah, I hereby place you on extended leave pending evaluation of your mental fitness
You're suffering from a kind of PTSD, Colonel
We expected this
Didn't say anything
We're calling it 'Exertion Triggered Hyper Paranoia Syndrome', or ETHPS for short
You'll need to stay medicated
You'll be operating optimally
Emperor Nrek will be pleased
Always needs more
Took away sound