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Chapter OneEdit

The Ethereal SwordEdit

Captain Ichoran Baldar, proud and famed warrior of the Brood of War and a feared pilot of the Fleet of Ruin, sat patiently in the ship's dining room, filled with many Zazane and other Brood races that had all gathered to feast. A diverse range of meals were being served, mainly the Brood standard meat from the genetically created Grunnodar beasts that were recently released for commercial value to the other Andromedan races, mainly the Draconis of the Draconid Imperium, who seemed to have grown a fondness to this perfected form of cattle. Ichoran looked down at his bowl of Grunnodar meat, which had been mashed into a form of mince, which was favoured by the Zazane, or at least a majority. Ichoran was not a fan of Grunnodar meat, believing it was unworthy for his diet. However, Koda meat had not been stored on the ship, so Ichoran would have to make do with what was being served. There was not much he could really do, he may have had authority over most of the personnel on his ship, but he did not have control on what food was imported onto the ship.

Ichoran - Ugh, why would my proud and respectable race call this...low-quality, standard meat, "food"? Its taste is appauling, not fit for a proud Captain Commander such as myself. I much prefer the meat of the deadly Koda beasts!

As Ichoran reluctantly brought the mince to his jaws, he grunted in disgust as he tasted it upon his tongue. The Cyrodi crew squawked and snarled as they fought over several scraps of meat, granted to them by their Horde Master. Several Cyrodi hordes travelled on the Ethereal Sword, the largest one being Horde Gol'Hur'Dok, and the smallest being Horde Han'Bol'Ran. There is a reputation surrounding Han'Bol'Ran, according to the crew of the Ethereal Sword, interpreting that this Horde is particularly strong, despite being the smallest. Ichoran did not believe this, though, seeing as he had only some respect for the Cyrodi as a whole, let alone each individual horde, of which there are thousands. The squawks annoyed him, greatly.

Ichoran - Somebody silence those vermin! I want to eat this piece of Shyrak in quiet, if I am to eat this!

Several Zazane that were sitting next to the horrendously noisy Cyrodi turned to them and politely asked them to be quiet, via roaring at them so that the Cyrodi understand who is in charge. Ichoran looked away, to return to eating the mince in his bowl. Aggravated about the food and noise, he was also annoyed that he had to fly his proud and glorious battleship to a planet outside of AGC territory, though still within Andromeda. An outer world, which the Brood planned to claim in order to gain more resources and territory, Ichoran was charged with getting his crew to investigate the lonely planet, the most inhabitable out of four other worlds within the system. He didn't see the point, from what he gathered from a holographic image of the world, it was small and not large enough for even a small Creed base. However, orders were orders, and Ichoran would not disobey an order directly from the Lord Tyraz Breek himself if he cared for his life. The Hetii crew of the ship were rather silent, not joining in on the feast. Ichoran was somewhat concerned, they had been silent like this all the way through the journey, although admittedly, Hetii aren't the most social of creatures, especially not with other aliens. However, to Ichoran's eyes, they weren't even communicating with each other.

Something was indeed strange. The Cyrodi Hordes would not pipe down, they seemed excited, or scared. The Hetii were silent, deadly silent, like one could sneak up on you without you noticing before slicing off your limbs. This made some of the Zazane crew nervous, they liked knowing where everybody was just in case of emergencies. However, when they didn't, this left them open for an ambush, and when an ambush was able to occur, the Zazane would do everything in their power to try and correct it. But the unsocialness of the Hetii made this very difficult. They would follow orders, but they would not speak. At all. Ichoran kept an eye on the crew which were gathered in the dining hall, some were simply standing, others were walking about, sniffing the air, which was strange for Hetii seeing as they did not possess any physical nose, except for the antennae atop their heads. Ichoran looked over to his inferior officer, Gollik Kantis.

Ichoran - Gollik, get over here for a minute.

Gollik turned his head, and walked over to his superior, standing straight, sword and gun in his hands.

Gollik - What do you require, my lord?
Ichoran - I require that you keep an eye out on the Hetii Swarm aboard this ship. They are acting stranger than usual, could be plotting an ambush.
Gollik - I doubt it sir, they don't seem to be talking with each other.
Ichoran - Just in case, Gollik. We only know one way how they communicate, how many other ways could they communicate without us knowing?

Gollik stood silent, and he nodded his head.

Gollik - Point made, sir. I will get some soldiers to make sure the Hetii are not plotting anything. If they are, I will report back to you immediatley.
Ichoran - Thank you, Gollik. And please, refer to me by my name, not as "sir" or "lord". Its Ichoran.
Gollik - Understood sir...I mean, Ichoran.
Ichoran - I know that you are new to this ship, so I want to make sure you are more social than the Hetii.
Gollik - I am grateful, but I have some family and friends aboard this ship, so I'm not completely lost. I chose to serve here due to my sister being one of the glorious pilots on this magnificent battleship.
Ichoran - I trust that your sister is the one that is known as Holdra?
Gollik - Yes, that is her. I am grateful that you allowed my sweet Holdra to serve as one of your pilots.

Ichoran simply smiled at Gollik and nodded. He lifted a piece of mince to his jaws and smirked.

Ichoran - Your sister is a fine pilot and navigator. Its an honour having her aboard.
Gollik - She has always been better with the buttons rather than the sword. Warfare has not been her strongpoint.
Ichoran - Well at least she has found her true calling. I did not expect her to be much of a warrior. Shame, a woman like her would strike fear into many enemies.
Gollik - I remember that she had once wrestled with a whole horde of Cyrodi once, as a friendly battle.
Ichoran - She shows affection for those...beasts?
Gollik - She says that if you treat them with respect, they will fight more efficiently for you.
Ichoran - I don't see how or why they would behave in such a manner towards Zazane or other aliens. They are feral beasts, nothing more.

Gollik was not prepared to argue with Ichoran on the matter, he had better things to do than discuss alien psychcology with his captain. Such behaviour would possibly reflect on his career on the ship, which he was not ready to lose because of an arguement on foreign species. Gollik simply nodded to Ichoran, and turned, walking away to check up on the strange-acting Hetii. Ichoran watched and grunted, he does not remember the last time somebody had answered back to him.

Zazane would not usually step out of line, it wasn't in their nature. But Gollik was different, he was not one to obey all the rules. Not much is known about his past except for the fact that he was not raised within the walls of a military school. Instead, he was raised within the ravaged ruins of what had been the once proud colony of Raast V, a self-supportive colony that was home to many Zazane families and communities. Hundreds of schools had been built there, and so many Zazane joined the surrounding Fire Spitters Creed. However, at the time Gollik was born, a rebellion had taken hold of the planet. The infamous leader, Nix, was in power at the time, and she had deliberately plunged the families into war with each other, forming lies just to see them fight. Gollik was part of the Kantis clan, a weak family within this planet-scale war. He had nobody but his older sister when he reached his young teens, and so had presumably learned to scavenge for food and weapons. Around his 15th birthday, near the end of the conflict, he was retrieved by a Fire Spitters attack force, who had finally had enough of the ongoing bloodshed on the planet, as they saw it as pointless and unneeded, many lives being lost for no reason. It was then that they presumed he had been trained within a military school upon seeing him try to resist them, though in truth they were taking him to a nearby colony.

The Ethereal Sword approached the small, dark planet. It was not much of an impressive sight. Small, and presumed inhabitable. Presumed. If there was life on there, it would probably get its first glance of aliens soon, seeing as it looked as if the planet had not seen many extraterrestrial visitors. The mighty ship carried a crew of several thousand, who were ready to explore this new, but disappointing, world. This mighty ship had seen battle after battle, war after war. The ship was a devastating killer, a destroyer of many lives. A perfect ship for a man such as Ichoran, who wanted nothing but the most powerful weapon in his arsenal; his own battleship. Ichoran has commanded this for 15 years, and not once has he lost a conflict with it. He was a proud man, and enforced the crew of his ship and others to show high respect for the battleship, for if it was not for it, the Brood could have possibly lost several major colonies. The Ethereal Sword is so called as it is known for its infamous reputation to cloak from radar and plain sight during battle, while its weapons are firing at enemy forces. A strong and invisible monster.

However, no matter how powerful something is, there is always weakness. And usually, the weakness is internal. Little would Ichoran or his crew know that today, the weakness of this mighty ship is found...

The LandingEdit

The Etheral Sword took up the sky. Such a terrifying sight, a Zazane warship in the skies above a planet. However, down below, there was almost complete silence. The place seemed like one big dust bowl, no trees, little grass, and apparently no fauna. Something wasn't right. Why would Tyraz be interested in a planet that seemed almost uninhabitable? Surely it held no military usage to the Brood, no commercial value, and looked useless for farming. Not even one Grunnodar would survive long on this planet due to the low amount of vegetation. There was just sand. Dark red sand. The exploration team was being led by Gollik, the only man willing to explore this desert. He was joined by a mix-species crew, mainly Zazane but also consisting of Cyrodi and Hetii.

Gollik - Ichoran, I'll lead my team across every direction. If we find anything important, like fauna or such, I'll contact you.
Ichoran - Good, I want everything newly discovered reported back to me, so I can report to Lord Tyraz. The planet may seem useless, although a good Zazane never underestimates.
Gollik - Indeed, we may find a few surprises upon this...rock.

With that, Gollik shut off his communicator. It was salways better to keep in contact with each other, but Gollik figured he could handle this himself. He was a fine fighter, and his party carried guns and other weapons, in case of a surprise conflict, which a majority of the crew doubted. The Zazane crew anyway. The Cyrodi looked very uneasy, while the Hetii kept on their strange behaviour. The Zazane crew was admittedly nervous, they didn't want to deal with ambushes from the Cyrodi or Hetii. Onboard other warships, Cyrodi hordes have been known to rebel against their Zazane masters and slaughter whole crew, just so that they can feed. Though this was uncommon, such rebellions were often stopped before they took place by simply feeding the Cyrodi hordes, as that was what they rebelled for; food. They were usually starved while on their way to battles, so that their hunger makes them more aggressive during the battle and thus more effective. Seeing as this was no battle, there was a reduced chance of Cyrodi treachery, although this unease they are falling may cause them to lash out, maybe even with each other. This was why Zazane had to be careful, once a Cyrodi becomes aggressive, its hard to calm it, and often results in the death of either it or those trying to restrain it.

Gollik was not prepared to restrain Cyrodi, so if they rebelled, Gollik would be prepared to shoot them without hesitation. He was already annoyed that he was under Ichoran's command, he didn't want his own inferiors showing him up or disrespecting him, for if they did, he would indeed be incredibly angry. He didn't like being commander just as much as he disliked being commanded, and was more of a solo fighter, wanting to achieve his own goals by himself. However, this was the way of Zazane, and he had to respect his species for all that they have been through. He knows the concept of the "bigger fish", and so doesn't dare mess with Ichoran if he cared for his life. He knew that within a second, his party would be on him if Ichoran ordered. This was why he needed to stay on his good side. He was not a traitor, just more of an independant thinker. Unfortunately, independant thinkers were not very welcome in Ichoran's crew, as they have proved a threat to battleships before, such as fighting for dominance of the ship. These battles often end with many personnel on both sides killed and the eventual ordered destruction of the ship, which is always a heavy loss to the Fleet of Ruin.

The landscape was rough, littered with rocks and stones. The sand was blood red, as if a giant beast had bled to death all over the planet. This was not disturbing to the Zazane crew, they have had many encounters with bloodshed over their evolution that they are not fazed by even the deepest of wounds. However, for an entire planet to be this red, blood must've been shed, and a lot of it. Perhaps a huge battle had taken place, but it would not explain why there were no ruins unless the planet was glassed. Gollik sniffed the air and grunted.

Gollik - It smells like something died here...and not recently either.

Suddenly, the squad of Cyrodi let out a loud, ear-piercing squawk before running, away from the party. Gollik and the Zazane turned in surprised as they ran off towards the west side of the area. The Zazane prepared to run after them, but Gollik let out an aggressive roar.

Gollik - You do not leave this party, you hear?! If they wish to be left behind, so be it! It is their own fault that they have doomed themselves.

The Zazane looked to each other with concern, before nodding and looking back at Gollik, ready for his command.

Zazane - What is your order, sir?
Gollik - I want you to follow me and keep an eye on the scanner in case anything important comes up. And if you have to face any conflict, do not hesitate to fight back, whether it be alien or traitor.

The Zazane then prepared their weapons and followed Gollik as he walked north, and they were followed by the Hetii warriors. The skies above were dark, filled with black clouds, as well as the Ethereal Sword in all its magnificent and destructive glory, making the Zazane more comfortable knowing that their comrades would happily drop down to help them if conflict became too large, though conflict here seemed unlikely, as there looked to be no traces of life anywhere, not even insects. The life signals on the scanner that was being held by a Zazane was not reporting anything but their own life signals. A planet like this must have at least some life, aside from the few patches of fauna that sprouted every here and there. Some people would expect to see some bugs like a few venomous or deadly critters, but the area was just bare. No biodiversity, no life. Just sand, rocks and stones.

Zazane - Sir, is it true we are here to colonise the planet?
Gollik - Yes, Kurin. W are here to make sure that this planet is suitable for Brood colonisation.
Zazane - But this place is barren! There is nothing here!
Gollik - Tell that to lord Ichoran and see if you survive the night! He wants us to explore, we're exploring!
Zazane - But sir, what if there really is nothing?
Gollik - Then we have wasted our time. Deal with it. Every race, even Zazane, must make sacrifices, whether it be life or time.

Gollik's words were able to silence the Zazane, giving him something to think about. But the Zazane's words also made Gollik curious. What if the planet really was a waste of time? That couldn't be right, could it? Otherwise, as Ichoran said, why would the Lord Tyraz send the Ethereal Sword, one of the Fleet of Ruin's greatest battleships, and Ichoran himself, the captain-commander of the ship and victor of many space-based battle, out here to check out this planet? Gollik wouldn't bother thinking about it, though. He had better things to do, especially since the area scanner just went off. Something has been detected, and it was something big.

Gollik - What have you detected, Borza?
Borza - I don't know. It seems to be lifeforms, but they are underground, where we cannot get to them.
Gollik - How far?
Borza - 60 metres below.
Gollik - We must be able to find an entrance. There is no way lifeforms can live that far below and register on the scanner without somewhere nearby leading to them.
Borza - Thing is, its only registering heat signals. No heartbeat or brain activity, just heat and movement.
Gollik - That is strange...thats like no lifeform I've seen before.
Borza - At least its something.

Gollik nodded, perhaps things were about to get exciting. If these really were lifeforms, it could possibly mean a chance for the Zazane to practice their fighting skill if the supposed aliens are aggressive. The Zazane known as Borza was not ruling out the possibility that it could be machinery, which it may be, although Gollik was more certain it was extra-terrestrials. And if they were sentient, they must have built a city beneath the desert. If there is a city, that must mean they could quite possibly be holding something useful or important. However, if not, then the journey was not a complete waste, as the Brood would have the chance to offer these beings the option of joining the protectorate species of the AGC. That is, if any beings were down there at all.

The GatewayEdit

Borza kept his eye out for anything that may give the party a clue to how to get below the ground, to where the supposed aliens were living. A hole or some machinery would prove useful. The Ethereal Sword was capable of doing so, but they fear that the blast would do more damage than it should, and so are refraining from calling in the order for the time being, though if they have to, they will need to activate the Ethereal Sword's weapons system so that they can get below. It is important that they find an entrance first though, to prevent potentially killing or scaring any of the strange lifeforms below with the ship's blasters. Also, the destructive blasts from the ship's weaponry would also leave behind Shidium gas, which can be toxic to some species, so it would be a bad idea. Gollik sat upon a rock, sharpening his combat knife, which was significantly bigger than the combat knives developed by humans that were used in their military. The Shidium blade was serrated, to provide more usage in slashing through flesh. The Shidium metal alone was incredibly strong, and a good bash from the handle would break a human's skull with ease. The Zazane skeleton was layered with naturally-occuring Shidium, so being thrown or being in an impact is not as dangerous. Also, thanks to the horns on a Zazane, being crushed is not as easy.

The Zazane show great pride in their biology, which has been adapted for many millions of years for the one purpose of fighting. They evolved to fight, to be the perfect fighting machines. Quick reflexes, strong bodies, aggressive nature and the ability to adapt to almost any situation or environment allow the Zazane to be at top condition almost all the time, ready for conflict and war. Back in their old universe, there was no shortage of war. The Zazane Empire, which preceeded the Brood of War, was a mighty and proud civilization, which had many races under its fierce oppression. However, due to their own over-confidence and no fear of rebellion, they were swiftly taken down by the combined forces of the oppressed races, and were eventually forced to leave their universe behind as the wars from there grew too much, and their numbers were drastically reduced.

Now, the Zazane have learned from their mistakes. They were stronger, faster, more endurable, and less cocky than before. A race restored in number. They were ready to once again fight. Although, Gollik was not expecting to take it this long to find something to fight with. He let out a groan as he sharpened his blade, while his party were still scanning the area for an entrance. Borza was getting doubtful that the life underground was actually life, he was keen that it was machinery or robots seeing as they had no brain pattern or heartbeat. His opinion wouldn't matter to Gollik, so he kept it to himself for the mean time. He duelled as a scientist and as a soldier, though they wouldn't affect each other in any way, he was smart and strong, as were most scientist Zazane expected to be. Zazane performing jobs outside of the warrior branch is becoming increasingly more common, and there is concern that the Zazane are becoming weaker by this, although other sources state that the number of Zazane is increasing so they can perform other jobs. In fact, it was the Zazane that learned how to genetic alter and modify, even create, species within the Brood, something they've never been able to do before due to the fact they were too busy killing and fighting. Borza himself was not that much into the idea of genetically modifying species, he prefers that evolution carries itself out naturally.

Zazane - Sir! We found something!

The Zazane's cry alerted Gollik, and he blinked, looking over.

Gollik - What did you find?
Zazane - Its...complicated, sir. You'll have to look for yourself.

Gollik stood up, placing the knife back along its strap. He looked at the Zazane with displeasure.

Gollik - Why do I need to look at it?
Zazane - You're exploration leader, its your job to tell us about this thing! And in order for you to do it, you need to look at it!

Gollik snarled aggressively, recieving a snarl back from the Zazane. Gollik was taller than the Zazane, indicating a sign of age and experience, as well as good genes. The Zazane was somewhat confident, but he was not prepared for a fight against Gollik. Gollik smirked and walked straight up to the Zazane.

Gollik - Stand down, and I won't kill you.
Zazane - Sir, you must look at the find.

Gollik grunted and budged past the Zazane. The blood rushing through his veins appeared black, appearing into his cheeks and forehead. This was normal for Zazane, whose mud-like blood showed up as a black through their scales. Gollik was angry and annoyed, though it was his job to find out and identify what this supposedly discovered artefact was. Maybe it was something of importance, but seeing as his party had told him nothing about it, he could only guess. As he wandered towards where this object was, he thought about what Ichoran could be doing. Would he perhaps leave the party there for them to perish? Or would he simply blast them all into dust with his weaponry? No, of course he wouldn't. He wouldn't want to upset Lord Tyraz, whose history has shown he would most likely turn on them. Or at least, in the eyes of Gollik. Though Gollik was not prepared for what the party wanted to show him.

Gollik - This find had better be good, otherwise I will personally slaughter the Zazane tha--

There it was. Gollik could not believe his eyes. A marvel of construction, the Zazane were astounded by how large it was. A gargantuan, rectanglular object resided amidst sandy winds. Gollik looked on in awe as he took a step forward.

Gollik - What...is that?
Borza - I believe it is some form of building...perhaps whats left of previous residents here. This doesn't look like a ship. It has no mode of lifting off the ground. Although, we cannot be so quick to make assumptions. It is alien, after all.
Gollik - But...how does something like this not come up on the planetary radar on the ship? Its huge!
Borza - It may have been cloaking itself, to try and discourage alien visitors...like ourselves.

Gollik switched on his communicator, and Ichoran blinked in surprise. He sat up and growled down his communicator.

Ichoran - Gollik, what is it? Did you find something?
Gollik - An artefact of sorts...and it's huge. Seriously huge.
Ichoran - How big do you estimate?
Gollik - 50 metres in height, 200 metres in length, 30 metres in width.
Ichoran - Some artefact. Why didn't we detect it?
Gollik - A possible cloaking device. I don't how though. It is possibly automatic.
Ichoran - If it is possible, get inside it and investigate. I want as much information on it as possible.
Gollik - Affirmative. You should get yourself down here and check it out yourself.
Ichoran - I am busy aboard my ship. You're paid to investigate, not to suggest to me.

Gollik growled and nodded.

Gollik - Of course...

Gollik switched off his communicator, again irritated. He grunted and ruffled his shoulders, before looking again to the artefact. He began to walk.

Gollik - Follow me, crew.

They began to travel towards the object. Zazane have never seen an artefact of this size before, aside from the Zazane ships that were discovered beneath the crusts of planets some few thousands of years ago. This was Gollik's first major, significant discovery, and what was held within it would make Gollik known throughout the Brood as a hero or adventurer of sorts, or at least, that was what he hoped. In reality, Gollik could not even comprehend what was within the object, nor could he imagine what really lay below the ground. All he had ever known would be questioned upon stepping inside.

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