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Prologue Edit

On the Dromanji homeworld every living thing was suddenly dying, on both sides of the planet. A pulse of neutrinos had travelled through the system just under the speed of light so dense that even lead shielding extending all the way from the star would not have saved the inhabitants. Their star's core had collapsed and rebounded, and fractions of a second later its outer layers were ejected. Rather than exploding, the planet disintegrated layer by layer, the surface became molten as it boiled into space within a matter of weeks into two great streams of dust and ionised gases. The Dromanji species was dead and betrayed.
It is the year 630 ACS (2712), shortly before the founding of the Seven Starr Alliance. The Delpha Coalition of Planets is pushing out into the last corners of its expansion wedge, a military front extending from prime DCP territories to their holdings in the galactic centre. For six years the Dromanji has put up a stubborn resistance, the last force of any consequence in the region who could oppose the DCP. What was a territorial dispute became a fight for survival. When the Dromanji ran out of subspace weapons they fought conventionally, and when they ran out of torpedoes and plasma weapons they fought with stones and tooth, if on the surface. Alas, only two planets remained, their homeworld, and their colony Errega. It was hoped by the Dromanji that the DCP would leave their homeworld, due to an agreement not to touch it if the Dromanji were defeated at Errega. After a decisive battle, Errega was lost.
Unknown to the Dromanji, the DCP had their first superdreadnought, and superweapon: the DNF Gargantuan, which later Gargantuan class dreadnoughts would be named after. After their victory, the Gargantuan slipped discretely into Dromanji homesystem and tampered with the star using wormholes to feed it excess nickel-56 and iron-56 ashes from many other stars. The DCP knew that the Dromanji unchecked would one day rise against the Coalition again, and were dangerously close other rebellions near the core. The fear it would inspire was also invaluable. The death of the Dromanji star happened in less than a year after the war ended.

The Dromanji were all but extinct. All but a small unviable population scattered over several parsecs. Some sought genetic engineering to increase reproductive viability, but any large scale science projects were difficult to hide. While some gave in, other Dromanji looked to essence. They discovered their consciousness came not from neuronal cells, but from quantum activities inside cells, and that their minds could persist after death as long as it could find a suitable medium. Slowly, they began to recruit their dead.
Ninety years later, the DCP is facing more challenges at once than it ever had before. The Annihilation, hyperspatial revolution, war with the Dominatus, Vermulans and now its neighbours. The Dromanji ghost army waited for a time like this, sitting comfortably in the brains of its ageing leaders. Hungry to demand penance.

First quest: Finding the Finder Edit

On the world of Attlos, a poor world is the outermost regions of the Kraw galaxy, settlers of various species peer up, shielding their eyes to look at an unexpected vessel. Some recognised it to be of Tahar design, and were relieved it was not slavers.

As word got around, a small crowd of the most brave approached the streamlined vessel, at odds with the shanty town that made up most of the settler's dwellings. Out stepped five Tahar, lead by a Commander Herezh, and four researchers in toe.
"Greetings, I am Commander Herezh of the Tahar. These are my researchers, Krerrg, Rezhorg, Zheh and Goerg.".
The leader, a bald human in basic robes stepped forward. "I assume you have come to help us."
Herezh replied, "Our administration is appalled that refugees after all these years since the genocide are still poverty stricken and living in a quasi-industrial state."
The bald man, by the name of Tom; leader of the town showed the Tahar to his home. "You know, it is not often we get visitors that aren't here to raid us. One ship comes a year, mostly to ferry more settlers to this dustball. Few get off. But we seem to be getting more people like you, promising aid."
Herezh's left ear pricked. "Other people like us? The administration told us we were the only ones. If our aid is not necessary-"
"We know not of his real name. But he calls himself the Xhodocto Finder General." The researchers behind Herezh looked at each other in mild amusement, though tying to hide it.

The team walked back to their ship.
The Commander looked sternly at his team "It is clear this world has lost the enlightened values of education and science, thus without hope, they have fallen prey to a charlatan. Make no mistake, this witch-hunter will not provide the help they need. Krerrg and Rezhorg, you are fine polymaths, fluent in engineering and architecture. This world needs medical and food replication units, swarm bots and water purification, as well as inspiring buildings. You shall stay in this craft and get to the drawing boards. Be as innovative, heck unconventional."
"Zheh and Goerg, I want you to to find this Xhodocto Finder and discover who he is", Herezh spat his name.

The two made their way into the town. They had only just graduated from a science university, and knew much in the language of science, but not of the lowly world of daily life, especially of a world like Attlos. They found a market, but were repulsed by the stench of sweating meat and strange spices rising just over the smell of urine and faeces. Goerg's nose began to burn, so they left the market.
Not long after their exploring was interrupted by an elderly Tyrekian woman was resting in the shade. "You my dears. You appear lost."
Zheh replied "We are seeking a person who names themselves the Xhodocto Finder General. I assume you know of a man by this name?"
"Of course I do my pet. I sent him my sister to save her soul."
Both Tahar were uncomfortable with her terminology. But they had a job to do. Zheh continued, "Do you know of his whereabouts?"
"We never know where he comes from or where he goes, but then he appears right behind you. I last saw him this morning however, during the weekly interrogation."
"Not to worry about that word, hah", she cackled, "It is the Xhodocto's brethren being trialled. However, the Xhodocto Finder sometimes retreats to the saloon, near the centre of town."
The word around the town was going quick, as the new Tahar stuck out like a sore thumb. Zheh and Goerg found themselves surrounded by kids. Some kept approaching them with stones from the river, asking them both what they were, until the local bully showed up, and threw a stone at Goerg who was noticeably more withdrawn. The bully stated that the Xhodocto Finder does not approve of reason. "The Xhodocto Finder can speak for himself." The children, and adults nearby knelt in reverence as a tall figure, a Grimbolsaurian with a translator box stepped out of the saloon. Zheh said out loud, "Ah, we have been looking for you. It is time to have a little chat." Some people gasped. But the Finder just laughed warmly, and showed them to his hoverbike. Goerg whispered to Zheh as the Finder lead the way, "I don't like the looks of this" after seeing the crowd's reaction. But it was easy to shrug off after their mostly positive experience with people in the town.

***

On many worlds throughout DCP space, speakers from buildings, vehicles and drones blared out commands to DCP citizens: "Ignore the mental apparitions", "stay resolute and continue your daily assignments", "they cannot harm if you ignore them", "The apparitions are a Vermulan illusion" and so on, to increase morale. But as armies of ghosts marched through every DCP defence, the performance of workers was dropping, as well as accidents and even some suicides were on the rise. The ghosts distracted generals and commanders, and leaders of the DCP were losing sleep; while no drugs, technology or essence techniques seemed to alleviate the ghost crisis. The Dromanji has successfully tricked the DCP into attacking the Vermulans, and now were paying the price, the callous leaders of the DCP needed something to blame, but the Emperor and his closest council knew the truth. After they broke even through the Emperor's mental defences, he knew the Dromanji had in fact always been there, imprinted into the minds of DCP leadership. And that was when the Dromanji started to make demands, for the DCP to complete acts of redemption. The Dromanji insisted that Warlord Kilnok, the DCP's most cherished figure other than the Emperor was the only man to complete these quests. This would put his life on the line, away from the DCP's active conflict.

As the Star Sailor had just slipped past the Kraw Aligned Fortress with ease, Kilnok smiled to himself. The Kraw had for several years managed to keep it secret until the DCP's nanotechnology had dispersed through enough of the population. Aside from the AI supporting it, the KAF has inadequate technology to detect the Star Sailor. The DCP had in that time adapted its cloaking technology as Kilnok's ship passed by the Tahar AI's observation nodes unnoticed.
Kilnok briefly pondered the real reason why the Dromanji had chosen him above all else for these quests. He supposed the Dromanji probably thought the DCP was truly irredeemable, though he as a leader was particularly light handed. He also wondered why he was being sent after a run of the mill murderer not even worthy of the DCP's notice. True he must now have gained cunning after all these years, but what else?
The Dromanji had supplied Kilnok the planet that the Finder was haunting, but not the settlement. The planet was arid but cold, so Kilnok supposed people living on it were near the equator, which had small salty oceans and long rivers. He found the glow of settlements peppered the deltas, and dispatched small drones to gather information. After two days, some of the drones had been shot down for salvage, the Dromanji insisted that they had no defensive protocols, despite this, the drones were reporting mass graves sites of execution, with a trend depicting the most recent deaths around one of the rivers. Kilnok chose the river and began to descend his craft to the surface while flying it at a low altitude. As he was landing, he spied another shiny vessel, streamlined and blue, outside it lay various machinery and a group of people, some began to look up.

As the dust settled, Kilnok found a crowd of the locals surround him ship, with the look of intrigue and disquiet. Kilnok instinctively reached for his weapons rack, but on second thought decided against it. As Kilnok stepped out his craft, the crowd suddenly knelt before him.
One of them, a human man in robe, cried out "Oh Xhodocto Finder! What have we done to deserve your leave?"
Kilnok realised the Xhodocto Finder must be a Grimbolsaurian of about his height. But he didn't think his race looked that alike! He quickly realised it was better to play along.
"The Xhodocto are gone from this world, ah hem, my children." Kilnok didn't want to take it too far.
"Your voice. It is different... And where is your mask?"
"It is a voice of joy, of a Grimbolsaurian who is celebrating is righteous victory after ridding this world of evil."
Another, a Kraw shouted "What of the Tahar invaders? They came to spread the word scientific arrogance and send us mechanical hell."
"Tahar?... Those Tahar! I have given you the tools and means to deal with them yourselves." said Kilnok sternly.
"Forgive me. But we have failed to penetrate their hull!"
"Fine. But make no mistake, once I am gone, you will have to do things yourself."
Kilnok closed the door of his ship, and promptly fixed the coordinates of his transport beam to the Tahar vessel.

***

Krerrg, Herezh and Rezhorg woke up to the sound of a massive bang in the back of their vessel. Herezh grabbed his pistol, but the other two were too nervous to think properly. Had the settlers finally broken in? To his surprise, the ship detected no breaches but a sharp radiation spike. He ran down the corridors and found the intruder, a tall entity shrugging off black-grey foam. He realised it was a Grimbolsaurian and fired his pistol, but it merely dissipated.
"Sorry. Matter transporters are really personal jumpdrives, so very loud when I warp into the air."
Herezh hesitated, before enquiring Kilnok's identity.
"Who in Terkom's name are you? The DCP is not allowed in this galaxy!" croaked Rezhorg.
"It was easy enough, slipping through. The Kraw Aligned Fortress is cunning idea though. If you stop shooting at me, I can tell you how to improve your network."
"Before you say anything more. My presence here is beneficial. I can get rid of the crowd trying to break into your boat."
"We are doing just fine." said Herezh defiantly.
"No you are not. Your engines have been destroyed, and there is another Grimbolsaurian here, a real criminal. If the locals can't get in, he can."
"Say, what?" all three asked.
"First let us take all this in. I am Kilnok, by the way."
The three Tahar had clearly enough shocks for one day, so they retreated to the ship's mess. Kilnok began to explain the Xhodocto Finder General, and Herezh first, began to realise the fate of the two students.
"We didn't understand why the settlers turned against us, they were hospitable when we first arrived four days ago. We didn't know who this 'general' was, aside from the fact he has obvious intent to spread ignorance. I only wish I had not sent Goerg and Zheh alone. Kilnok replied; "I profess, I had not heard of this psycho either. But he clearly has his way with words, even with your race. He may have taken advantage of the naivety of youth, in the case of your researchers."
"They were not that young" replied Herezh.
"But still, my point remains. The DCP is not just made up of military servicemen, they send me only the best engineers and scientists to work with. I find they have unfathomable curiosity, vision and creativity. But they are also innocent, and naive of the lowly social world and its sad tragedies. But there other kinds of intelligence, the kinds of social predator that exist are more rampant. You need a balanced person or group of people, in my opinion"

TBC

Trivia Edit

  • Wormulon would like to point out while he is interested in the idea of quantum conciousness put forward by Penrose and Hameroff which inspired the idea of ghosts in this fiction, he does not agree with it.
  • The DCP-Vermulan War, Dromanji, Great Xonexian Schism and the Shattering are being written as a connected story and era, where the universe faces new challenges, political strife, and the DCP itself changes. It is also a chance to reflect on Kilnok other characters in DCP command more personally, as well as shed light on the DCP's unseen times.
  • The story is inspired in spirit by the Greek epic, the Labours of Hercules, but is unlikely to mirror the labours written.
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