The Battle of Cianbur was a key battle of the Second Great Cyrannus War fought on Ianuaria 49, 17 NE, for control over the Cianbur System in the Outer Rim of the Cyrannus Galaxy. After their defeat at the Battle of Corutaran in late 16 NE, New Republic Fleet Admiral Aver Kuestantine and the Cognatus Fleetlord Morin Ehtar retreated back to Laurantia, where they were joined by Supreme Commander Ryaler of the Mendel Pact, a Waptorian fleet under Flockguide Dan'danh, an Sacred Vanarine fleet under the command of Admiral Miru, and an Empire of Free Planets fleet under Taraen Hyperion.
Rallying a larger armada in preparation for a united strike against Cianbur, the allies were joined by a fleet from the Saviki Void Combine, which had entered into partnership with President Apollo during the closing stages of the New Republic Civil War. In spite of recent Republic victories at Cyranduas and Achiliquin, allied supply lines at that point in the war were stretched thin, with the bulk of the New Republic starfleet held back to defend the Capricorn Sector, as well as the still-vulnerable territories in Coru Secundus.
When the allied fleet moved on Cianbur, the planet was defended by a meager force commanded by Captain Titus Dromaeo, who had distinguished himself as a deadly commander during the Battle of Frenal early in the conflict. Charging forward, the allied armada soon found itself trapped by an overwhelming Imperial armada commanded by Admirals Rela Loupál and Lucaevon Pierea, who secured a crushing victory against the Republic and their allies.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Corutaran, the joint armada of Republic Fleet Admiral Aver Kuestantine, and his Cognatus counterpart Morin Ehtar retreated back to their newly acquired stronghold in the Laurantia system—the site of one of the Republic's most notable early victories in 16 NE. Though much of his fleet had been spent during his campaign to push into Basileus-held space, Kuestantine was eager to secure a tangible territorial victory over the Empire and thus turn the tide after the Empire's symbolic defeats at Cyranduas and Achiliquin. The Persan had been forced into nomadic fleets after having lost their territory to the Empire. Though for the time they had kept to raids and random acts of piracy, the recent Republic victories had renewed their spirits and many were now being to see the possibility of pushing back and taking territory from the Empire. Their dispersed fleets had begun gathering waiting for a chance to strike back.
Driven to finish his foe once and for all, Commander Ryaler had been pursuing the Imperial Captain Titus Dromaeo for many months now, sending small detachments lead by his Sub-Commanders and Students to assist his comrades in the New Republic and elsewhere, but never forgetting his primary target. His large fleet, though showing signs of needing better repair, were, despite all this, still quite ready to lay waste to what remained of Titus' fleet, the Mendel War-Leader eager to kill the Captain himself in personal combat. Captain Chivora Parakil, meanwhile, had been sent by her Count to aid the Allied forces, bringing with her a sizable flotilla of several man-of-wars and galliots. The prowler Silent Retribution, commandeered by her twin brother, accompanied the battlegroup, with Yvrak eager to take on the Imperial ships the rest of the Metafleet had avoided for years. As the allied fleet assembled, Admiral Kuestantine was stunned when a large fleet of Star Destroyers, Imperial in design, but painted with brilliant blue markings, arrived. Contacting the allied fleet, Hyperion explained that they were the Empire of Free Planets, a new ally of the Republic and secessionist group from the Empire.
When Republic probe droids reported that the nearby world Cianbur, which had been resettled after the fall of the Neraida Gigamatrix, was only lightly defended by Captain Dromeao, the allied leaders ordered the battlegroup to immediately depart, confident that their superior numbers would win the day—representing a leap forward in the liberation of the Outer Rim.
Course of the battle
One by one, the allied starships dropped out of lightspeed in orbit over Cianbur, discovering, as intelligence had indicated, that the planet was defended by a relatively light fleet, consisting of one Allegiance-class Heavy Star Destroyer, Dromeao's flagship, the New Order and five Arquitens-class frigates. In any other engagement, such an armada would prove difficult to overcome, but the allied fleet swelled with vessels gathered from across the Gigaquadrant, many of them crewed by individuals directly slighted by the Imperials. From the bridge of his flagship Spirit of the Republic, Kuestantine rallied the other vessels.
- Kuestantine: "All ships, this is Fleet Admiral Kuestantine. Launch your fighters and bombers, and concentrate your efforts on removing that Heavy Star Destroyer from the fight. Once it falls, this sector is as good as ours."
- Miru: "Registered and complying, annihilation of the target will proceed as requested."
- Hyperion: "Copy, Judicator-Class Battlecruisers, engage that Allegiance! Imperators, back them up!"
The Persan ships launched their bombers supported with fighter escort. The main ships then formed into a spear-head formation to pierce into the heart of the enemy and eliminate the "New Order" once and for all. As the Persan ships engaged the New Order, the EFP's ships began to fan out, trying to destroy the Arquitens-class Command Cruisers.
- Chivora: "We shall turn their hulls to ash and shrapnel. All Saviki ships, fire at will!"
Wasting no time, every Void Combine ship began emptying their hangars, releasing hundreds of shrike fighters and gunboats in total. Torpedos packed with antilithium left the hulls of each man-of-war in similar numbers, all directed at the Imperial ships before them. While the corvettes and galliots rushed forward to engage the Imperial ships in closer quarters, the men-of-war hung back to continue bombarding them from a distance.
- Ryaler: "Let my ships be the burning blade delivered into the heart of the Empire! For Frenal!"
Ryaler's forces moved forward, slowly but surely, weapons and primed. Walgolorian vessels fired a few long range Railguns, attempting to chip off some damage against their foes, as Orgaat bared their fangs, knives and teeth sharpened for the coming meal.
- Dan'danh: "...Let's get this over with. Worst that can happen is if we all die here."
With a telepathic command, Dan'danh ordered his ships into fighting position. Though only a few Waptorian ships had survived the collapse of Malu'h'a's underground hangars during the Imperial sack of the world, Dan'danh had become infamous for his underhanded tactics. Even the name of his flagship, the somewhat oddly-named Bamboozled Spirit, attested well to this matter.
On the bridge of the New Order, Captain Dromaeo ordered the Imperial fleet to full combat alert, sending out waves of starfighters to cover it as it retreated closer to the surface of Cianbur, followed closely by its escort frigates, which formed a defensive line preventing the allies from directly targeting the New Order's vulnerable engines. The Spirit of the Republic and the other Republic vessels quickly gave chase, followed closely by the Cognatus armada under Morin Ehtar and a trio of Saviki men-of-war, along with their escorts. Chivora radioed the Silent Retribution, which was already tailing the ships pursuing the New Order.
- Chivora: "Yvrak, you know what to do."
- Yvrak: "Consider it done."
The shape of Retribution faded as its stealth module activated, and it flew through the hail of missiles, plasma fire, and turbolasers toward the New Order. The onboard AI, Shadow Without Body, expressed her delight in what they were about to do.
- Shadow: "Though I am unfamiliar with Imperial systems, my optimism subroutines do not consider this a significant hinderance to our plan. I'm sure they'll be as fun to tear into as every other enemy computer."
- Yvrak: "Do not stay on that ship longer than you need to. Do a sufficient amount of damage, then disconnect yourself."
- Shadow: "Thankfully, my calculations say that I will greatly enjoy myself even within such cruel constraints."
Behind them, the massive Empire of Free Planets' Dreadnought Reaper followed, its heavy turbolasers blazing. The Mendel warriors eyed the blue-colored ships wearily, but went back to their tasks.
- Chivora: "Allies, my best stealth ship is on its way to the New Order to knock out its systems. We can keep the majority of our forces at a safe distance while my galliots hail the Imperials with a volley of Saviki-forged hellfire. Then we'll have an opening to rout them and their flagship, and secure victory in this system."
- Dan'danh: "Heh. Now that's sound."
- Miru: "A sound plan indeed, I approve."
- Ryaler: "My fleet will do whatever it must to secure this plan for you. My men are at your service, Chivora."
- Chivora: "Hmph. All Saviki ships, we're giving them a volley! Fall behind our galliots while they show the enemy who rules the void!"
Hyperion thought for a moment, before smiling.
- Hyperion: "I agree. This is our best chance. My ships are at your disposal and will aid in any way possible."
- Miru: "Agreed, you have my assitance."
The Saviki ships, sans the cloaked Retribution, quickly fell behind the line of galliots, followed by the rest of the allied fleet. As soon as all had a clear shot, they began firing their large central railguns. Thrice the silent blasts of the cannons rang out in the vacuum, sending eleven superheated projectiles at the Imperial fleet each time. The first wave broke the shields of eleven ships, one per shot, while the second and third ravaged their hulls and punched holes clean through many, scattering debris trails for hundreds of meters in their wake.
- Chivora: "Now, we raze them. All men-of-war, ram the stragglers!"
The six men-of-war in the Saviki fleet briefly engaged their warp drives, directing their tough, sharpened bows at the vessels before them. Those which hadn't been impaled by the volley found themselves being cloven in half by Chivora's brutal tactics. Immediately, they began moving amongst and firing upon the rest of the Imperial fleet.
- Hyperion: "Overkill..."
- Chivora: "Why thank you. Now, will you follow us to victory?"
- Miru: "Overkill is an oxymoron, one can never have enough fire power."
Dan'danh merely watched, almost expressionless, though his subordinates could see the slight slime forming around the radialmandibles that went for it's lips.
- Hyperion: "Wait...something's not right..."
The Libertus defector turned to the sensor relay. Indeed, his years as an Imperial officer taught him that what was currently occuring in the battle was not typical Imperial doctrine. The Empire would retreat if it was outnumbered so greatly. Why was the New Order sticking around? Was it...
Hyperion's eyes widened. They were luring them into a trap! If the Empire got the majority of the allied fleet into the atmosphere and stretched them to thin, they would leave their lines open to attack by another enemy.
- Hyperion: "Admiral Kuestantine!"
- Kuestantine: "Report. Why have your ships stopped?"
- Hyperion: "This is too easy, they would retreat instead of fleeing into the atmosphere. They're luring us into a trap!"
Almost as soon as the words had escaped his mouth, a massive Imperial fleet dropped out of hyperspace on the allied armada's flanks. On the bridge of the Empirical, Admiral Rela Loupál coordinated with her subordinates as more Imperial ships, commanded by Vice Admiral Lucaevon Pierea of the Tenth Outer Rim Defence Fleet came out of lightspeed on the opposite side of the allied fleet, boxing them in. The heavily damaged New Order, which had been moving toward the atmosphere of Cianbur, suddenly turned starboard, moving into position alongside Pierea's flagship, the Star Destroyer Eviscerator, and, with the rest of the fleet, unleashed the firepower of her forward batteries.
- Hyperion: "Loupál..."
- Chivora: "Son of a... Yvrak! Get your ship out of there and throw down enough cover fire for us to get out of this alive!"
The Retribution, still cloaked, reversed direction and began speeding across the new line of Imperial ships, dropping bomb after bomb on the enemy fleet before falling back and staying close to Chivora's flagship as it prepared to jump into hyperspace.
On the bridge of the mighty Republic flagship, Admiral Kuestantine watched as his plan to capture Cianbur crumbled into dust. Wasting no time, he ordered all allied vessels to immediately depart the system, before the Imperials activated an interdiction field. Hyperion turned to his crew. All looked terrified. They knew what was about to happen. The Mendel, however, let war cries and excited yells, eager for the bloodshed to come.
- Ryaler: "Warriors, Mendel, Togunda and Orgaat alike, prepare for a battle worthy of the Gods! For the Pact!"
- Hyperion: "No! Get out of here now! We'll cover you! Reaper, engage the Empirical!"
- Ryaler: "I do not enjoy letting an ally hold off a storm on their own. My warriors will assist in covering the retreat. Fight with honor, Hyperion."
As the Imperial Fleet unleashed a storm of turbolasers, Hyperion's massive Reaper closed on the Empirical, and the two titans engaged in a massive clash. The space between the two dreadnoughts was lit by lasers, and any ships between them were cut to pieces by the barrage. The Mendel stayed at range, firing Mass Driver and rail gun rounds into the encroaching Imperials, Togunda and Orgaat unleashing Energy and Ballistic canon rounds. Dan'danh's fleet did the same, though it quickly dawned on the grizzled war veteran that the situation was untenable.
- Dan'danh: "Nope. We'll never get trough this. Let's fall back to live another day. ...And cut those bastards dry then."
- Miru: "All ships make the jump to Accel Space. I will stay behind, though."
- Chivora: "All Saviki ships, ready yourselves to do likewise, though I will be going with you."
- Ryaler: "Warriors, do not retreat until the last of our allies makes it through. We will hold of the tide no matter the odds! *To Miru and Chivora* I will stay as long as I can, but I will need to fall back. My men need me. I trust you two have a plan of some sort plan?"
- Miru: "I plan to be captured."
- Ryaler: "Hmm. The Empire shall regret taking you then. Good luck. May Scathla's shadow hide you."
- Miru': "Indeed, by Arata may your blades strike true."
Suddenly, a massive explosion ignited from one of the EFP's Judicator-class Battlecruisers, as the once proud ship and one of the only three of its class in the EFP's navy collapsed into a twisted wreck. Hyperion looked down, before turning. The allied ships were finally making their escape. However, the Reaper shook under the combined brunt of an armada's worth of firepower. Yet, through it all, Hyperion knew his ship could hold on. Ordering a full broadside, an Imperator-class Star Destroyer was obliterated as it tried to cut off the Dreadnought's retreat.
Chivora's flagship, too, found itself being cut down before it could escape, with several galliots also being damaged in critical areas, preventing them from fleeing. The proud captain felt the floor giving out from beneath her, both literally and figuratively, but her first mate soon managed to pull her away and into her personal escape pod. Chivora's docked with her brother's prowler, while the rest docked with other ships or engaged warp drives and made for the system's edge.
The Vanara ships laid down barrages of Crepuscular Matter pules and waves, laser fire, and phase missiles while their engines charged up. Miru waited until the crew from her ship had been safely teleported abaord other ships before giving the signal. After a brief moment the space infront of the Vanara ships began to glow and rip open as brilliant eldritch energies poured forth. One by one the Vanara ships slipped into Accel Space, laying down supporting fire as the did so.
Ryaler's fleet held off valiantly. Though difficult, they had seen many battles together, and their trust in their commander pushed them onward. Imperial ships fire at them again and again, and the Mendel, determined as ever, hung on, returning fire with everything they had, a determined fire burning in their eyes. Orgaat vessels absorbed the fire like massive shields in space, as the Togunda turned their advanced fire power upon the Imperials, their weaponry, both militant and mining lasers, turning many Imperial cruisers into slag. Yet, no matter how many ships they hit, or even how many they managed to destroy, the Imperial fleet, like a slow, heavy tide, pushed them backwards, slowly forcing them back, destroying a number of vessels with every push.
On the far side of the battle, the Republic and Cognatus fleet attempted to break through Pierea's blockade while the rest of the allies contended with the Empirical. While the Spirit of the Republic outgunned any vessel in Pierea's armada, the combined firepower of the Imperial battlefleet, concentrated on the Dreadnought's bridge eventually caused the mighty ship's shields to flicker and burn away. Simultaneously, the Endurance of the Hallowed Star, and the rest of Morin Ehtar's flotilla bravely attempted to protect the less heavily armed Republic ships fleeing the system, utilising their superior shields and hull plating to physically plow through an Imperial battlecruiser, before escaping into the relative safety of hyperspace. One of the Empire of Free Planet's Imperator-class Star Destroyers led a flotilla of EFP ships in an attempt to rescue the stricken Dreadnought. But they could not withstand the combined firepower of the Imperial fleet, and were forced to withdraw.
The only fleet that was not heavily damaged was Dan'danh's. His fleet had already been the smallest of the allies and had not simply recovered enough since the sack of Malu'h'a to constitute a true treat. They were support, nothing more, and their flockguide could simply not risk having many more Waptorian ships destroyed. A commander who preferred guerillia warfare over close combat, Dan'danh withdrew his ships with each Imperial push, saving them from the onslaught but also, of course, preventing them from contributing much damage to the Imperials. After a few more pushed backwards, the Waptorians found themselves wholly isolated from the remaining Republican and Mendel fleets. With a sigh, Dan'danh ordered the retreat into hyperspace. There would be no celebrations of victory today, but melancholy was an emotion the flockguide knew well. It would have honed it into an even sharper blade the next time, it swore.
On the bridge of the Spirit of the Republic, which began to collapse under the intense bombardment, Admiral Kuestantine ordered the ship to tilt on its axis—the mighty bulk of the vessel shielding the few remaining Republic frigates as they made the jump to lightspeed. Knowing that his end was at hand, Kuestantine thanked his command crew, many of whom had served with him for years, and closed his eyes, confident that this defeat would merely be a delay, and that the war would be won. After enduring several minutes of continuous fire, the Spirit of the Republic exploded, outshining Cianbur's primary, and scattering debris across the battlefield.
- Ryaler: "Honored Kuestantine, go to rest, my dear brother in arms. May you find peace in the afterlife, and someday be reborn by Zaraturai's Light. Peace brother."
- "Hyperion": "I swear, that one day, we shall destroy the False Emperor. Mou'Cyran, the Rambo, and all the others will be avenged!"
- Chivora: "I wish you all either luck in covering our collective escape, or deaths worthy of remembrance. But I will not stay any longer. All Saviki ships, we leave now!"
- Shadow: "A shame we could not make playthings of their ships. Hopefully next time we will find ourselves in a more enjoyable battle."
What few Saviki ships had not already escaped made their departure through hyperspace, releasing a final wave of missiles and railgun fire to remember them by. One man-of-war managed to ram through a star destroyer one last time before leaving, using a barrage of missiles to nudge the splintered remains toward nearby Imperial ships. As the last allied ships made their escape, the Reaper and its Mendel comrades continued holding the line, preventing the Empirical and her escorts from getting to the rest of the allies.
- Hyperion: "Mendel, you have fought bravely! Just a little longer, and we shall escape to fight another day!"
- Ryaler: "May Hoorangir keep us within the moral realm until then! Glory to you and your men, Hyperion!"
Hyperion and his crew looked on in muted sadness as they watched Miru's ship become surrounded. Another loss on this sad day. Turning, the admiral of the Empire of Free Planets took a deep breath, and calmly ordered a status report. The report was depressing. The Reaper was badly damaged, and a third of his fleet was gone. Destroyed by what they once considered their brothers in arms. The Mendel were barely holding, even the advanced shielding and hulls of the Togunda were buckling under the intense abuse of the Imperial attack. Still, they hung on, pride in themselves, and loyalty in their commander pushing them on, even as one ship after another fell under the intense attacks.
- Hyperion: "Allied leaders, report your status! We cannot hold out much longer!"
- Ryaler: "Things are stable, for now. Fire is heavy, and the ammo supplies are low. We can retreat whenever you are ready."
- Hyperion: "Go, we will cover you. All allied ships, retreat to friendly territory! We have nothing to gain by continuing this."
- Ryaler: "I am honored to have fought at your side. May the Gods guide your blade. Good luck."
With a heavy heart, the Mendel went into hyperspace, the Orgaat and Togunda making it into hyperspace first, thanks to their advanced engine systems, followed by their Mendel allies. Watching as his own ships finally withdrew, Hyperion ordered the Reaper to make its jump. As the massive ship fired everything it had at the Imperial fleet pursuing it, the hyperspace coordinates were finally punched in. Then, as quickly as it arrived, the Reaper jumped into hyperspace, the last allied ship to flee the disastrous Battle of Cianbur.
Miru watched the last of her allies leave before ordering the ship's AI to stop firing and send out a signal of surrender. She then sat back in her chair and had one of the serving bots bring her a fresh glass of blood. She sipped it slowly as she watched the debrises of the "Spirit of the Republic" drift across her view as the Imperial ships surrounded her.
The Battle of Cianbur ended a recent string of Republic victories that began with the Battle of Cyranduas late in 16 NE, and proved to be a crushing defeat for their war effort, all but halting the ambitious, though surprisingly effective invasion into the Empire's southern Outer Rim territories. With the destruction of the Spirit of the Republic, as well as the destruction of the majority of the Nineteenth Fleet, the Republic Navy was dealt a blow on a scale which almost rivalled that of the disastrous Coru Secundus Campaign at the beginning of the conflict. In the aftermath, President Apollo ordered any surviving Republic vessels back to space securely under Republic control, and to cease any offensive action into Imperial territory. Such a decision would prove wise, given the events which transpired two weeks after the battle's conclusion.
The battle, while a major allied defeat, was viewed as a sort of "baptism of fire" for the Empire of Free Planets. Its forces, despite heavy losses, had withstood the full fury of their former comrades, and proven their loyalty to the Republic's cause. Hyperion himself would remark that he had never seen finer soldiers and ships then those of the combined allied fleet at Cianbur. Nevertheless, the fact that they had lost so many ships and men was sobering. The EFP would be forced to rely on older vessels and ships for a long time, rather than risk their few remaining modern ships in more pitched battles.
The Mendel return to allied lines was one of sober silence and darkened hearts. They had left, expecting to strike back after the devastation of Frenal, and restore their honor. While they had fought hard, and taken down many Imperial ships, they had faced steep losses. Not only were many fine Mendel vessels now left crackling, ruined hulks, but many allied Orgaat and Togunda vessels had also fallen, damaging their war effort. After this, Kiun, Ryaler's fellow student of Curiantau'va, would be sent to reinforce Ryaler's fleet, and strengthen it. The Taidhleior, the Mendel diplomats and government workers, were quick to try and turn the battle into a source of propaganda, that even with a stinging defeat, the Mendel could still do much to damage the Imperial war effort. Once his fleet was ready, Ryaler and his brother-in-arms would make plans to strike again, and hopefully score a victory for their fallen comrades.
The Vanara themselves returned to allied space their bloodthirst unquenched and the black fire in their hearts burning fiercer than ever. Despite all they had done the Empire still stayed strong and they had made no ground no ground. As restlessness was building in their ranks like a volcano readying for an eruption. They would need to pull out all the stops if they wanted to defeat the Empire and now was the time to do it.
Given all paramaters, Dan'danh projected there would be little time before the Empire's next strike. Embedded within allied lines, he gave his Biotics the impetus to engage their mitotic protocols to maximum efficiency. A entire new fleet was hatched from myriad buds that spouted on the flanks of already-existing ships, although the downside of this process was that the newborn Biotics were yet frail; their armor and hulls yet translucent and unhardened instead of void-hardened and bioluminescent. As for Dan'danh, he isolated himself for days on end in his personal chambers, his mind attuned to a single goal - vengeance.
The Saviki of the Void Combine, meanwhile, regrouped in allied territory and reorganized their fleets to compensate for the losses. Chivora, dishonored by her loss in battle and destruction of her ship, was demoted to lead a corvette which had recently lost its captain with no named successor. Meanwhile, Rikken Eksil made his way back into the Endless Space alone to convene with the Chrills of Dusk, Storm, and Winter in the hopes of somehow convincing them to join the war.
Coiling to Strike
Deep in the pitch black of an isolated cell in an Imperial prison Miru sat, still as death. But Miru was far from dead, no she felt more alive than ever. While her body hibernated comatose, her mind was free to wander, and wander it did. Like a seamstress she wove her away into the Imperial computer network. She then began the slow, arduous process of threading herself into Imperial data banks and communication lines. While one half of her mind did that, the other cast out looking for any Republic network to connect itself two.
Deep in the darkness of her cell Miru smiled, her hypodermic fangs descending and transpart goo dripping from them to the floor. The Empire thought they had struck a major blow capturing an enemy admiral, but in truth they had only infected themselves with a virus.
Ryaler sat upon his commander's chair, past war trophies hanging behind him in the dim light, his sword in his right hand as he looked down gravely. So many of his warriors, lost in battle, and in a moment when they were to strike back and avenge the loss of many holdings upon Frenal. The Mendel were re-organizing and rerouting new troops and crewmen to make up for the loses, and more Togunda and Orgaat joined, their nomadic fleets eager to avenge the loss of honor faced by the Imperials. He turned slightly as he heard the heavy footsteps of another entering the bridge, interrupting his isolated silence.
- Kiun - "Commander Ryaler, brother, how are you doing? Your troops worry over your absence."
- Ryaler - "I have lost many men today, Kiun. In a day of triumph. This is an embarrasment. I have dishonored them."
- Kiun - "Do not be too harsh with yourself. Remember, even the greatest leaders face difficulties. The greatest victories are those that come about through hardship."
- Ryaler - "Tell that to my men, and their Clans back home. Many have joined the Oversoul far too early."
- Kiun - "We entered this war for our allies. To not expect loses is naiive. You should know better, especially after Demogorgon Prime and the Dominatus Wars."
- Ryaler - "And yet, these defeats seem to come from nowhere. My forces on Agralla were routed and destroyed out of seemingly nowhere, and the Resistance with them."
- Kiun - "The Empire is full of tricks then."
Ryaler stood up, and readjusted his grip upon his massive blade. While made for his battlesuit in mind, he could still yield relatively easily by himself with his own natural strength. He faced Kiun, as the white and gold armored warrior gripped his shoulder.
- Kiun - "My men are here. By the Empyreals and the Gods, we will have victory."
- Ryaler - "Indeed. I am foolish to caste myself low at such a time. But such a trap, I should have been better prepared for this"
- Kiun - "The Pact has faced tough times, but we will endure. Zaraturai gave us the ingeniuty. Hoorangiir, the unbreakable will. Missteps occur, but like our teacher taught, they teach us much of humility and to be ready for even defeat."
- Ryaler - "Indeed. I still wish Curiantau'va was still with us. His wisdom and will would be a fine weapon against the Empire."
- Kiun - "We carry his legacy, brother. With my warriors at your side, nothing can conquer us. My arsenal of weapons, and your blade, will see victory of the Pact."
- Ryaler - "Indeed. Let us meet with our Sub-Commanders. We must plan our next move. My men will have their vengeance, one way or another."
Kiun nodded, as the two marched out, heading to the meeting hall aboard the ship, near the dining area, Ryaler's head held high once more. Gathered at this great hall, were even more trophies hung from various foes, were various members of the Pact's military, Mendel warriors with Claymores and assault rifles slung at their sides, armor bedecked with trophies and animal skins, Orgaat warriors, with their own grizzly trophies taken from Imperial foes, and Togunda warriors, loaded with advanced armor and equipment.
They all turned to see Ryaler and Kiun entering, and stood at attention, as Ryaler signaled for them to stand down.
- Ryaler - "We have been humbled, but we are not yet beaten. Let us show the Empire this, and be ready to strike at them again, from another angle. What is our status?"
The group broke into discussion, as Ryaler began organizing a new plan within his mind. The Empire could break the weapons of the Pact, but never its spirit. Ryaler would make sure of that.
Null and Void
In the endless night of the void between galaxies, a lone arkship sat, scrubbed of any Combine colors or markings. The Void Chrill strode through its dimly lit passages, surrounded by silent Saviki clad all in black—the Null Guard, the devote and chosen protectors of this consecrated place, their tongues voluntarily removed in devotion to that which had hallowed this ship. A door opened, and Rikken entered the bridge, which served as a meeting room where the Chrills could gather on neutral ground. Vekin Sirex of Storm, Dedrin Surkris of Winter, and Pravis Skerisan of Dusk all stood around the central table, facing the young Void Chrill.
- Vekin: "Late to your own meeting, Rikken? I'd think one who associates so much with planet-clingers would have better manners."
- Rikken: "Hsss. Those 'planet-clingers' could rout even your fleet if they so desired. Allying with them is much more rewarding."
- Pravis: "Your Combine's latest taste of action certainly proved that."
Vekin and Dedrin each suppressed a chuckle. Rikken narrowed his four eyes in disapproval.
- Rikken: "Though I will admit this last single battle ended poorly, I doubt the same will be said of future battles. We've got the backing of so many dedicated allies now; even with half of them, we could finish this war and begin building a new home for our people."
- Rikken: "You would all be smart to join me."
The three Chrills looked at him in silence for a moment. Pravis was the first to reply.
- Pravis: "While your passion is admirable, at least somewhat, everything you do and say indicates you're directing it poorly. We already have a home: our fleets. We can move where we wish, flee whenever we are struck at, and gather resources where those who cling to uncompromising stars and planets have fallen. We have all that we need, and what we do not we have the means to acquire. Is it not enough to simply survive?"
- Dedrin: "Pravis and I have found the Andromeda Galaxy ripe with unguarded resources which will sustain our Combines so long as we remain on the move. If we tried to settle down on a planet, everything with a battleship and ammunition would be after us. The nations of these galaxies will ris and fall, but in the Great Wander, we will always be able to endure."
Rikken pounded his fist against the table in frustration. The Null Guards tightened their grips on their skewers, but did not move to apprehend him.
- Rikken: "But what if we could still endure with worlds to call home? With allies forged in the fires of war, we could be safe. Guns wouldn't turn on our ships whenever they pass near the borders of established empires, and we could build a future where not every Saviki has to live on one end of weapon. Wouldn't any of you want that?"
- Vekin: "I doubt anyone would want our fellowship, after what we've spent centuries doing. Your Combine has always sold itself to others, sticking knives in the scum of the universe for personal luxuries. Were it not for the existence of the Metafleet you'd be sticking knives in the rest of us as well!"
- Rikken: "Perhaps if you hadn't followed Orsik into those silly skirmishes in Mirus, the Gigaquadrant would be more open to befriending you."
- Pravis: "You criticize him for following someone whom you are no better than."
Rikken shot her a disgusted look.
- Rikken: "I am not Orsik. He may want a new place for our species as well, but he is mad in his methods, as you so often say."
- ???: "Mad, am I?"
The voice came from the door. A familiar figure clad in black and red stepped forth, flanked by a pair of strangely armored Saviki who remained behind, in the shadows. His form appeared to ripple slightly, as if it was not entirely physical, but the other Chrills overlooked the fact for the unease his presence brought by default.
- Rikken: "The Blood Combine was not invited to join this war, Orsik. We need none of your recklessness in this conflict."
- Orsik: "You should respect the counsel of one who is well-versed in war, Rikken. While I have no desire to enter this squabble, out of my compassionate hearts I have come to advise you on what is means to wage war."
- Pravis: "Save your breathe; none of us will be joining this fool and the Republic his Combine is in bed with."
Rikken grunted angrily. Orsik circled the table and came to a stop beside Pravis.
- Orsik: "My dear Pravis, I would never expect you do anything more than scavenge from the decaying corpses of former civilizations. But as for you, Rikken, my generous counsel: never let others, even your partners in war, completely rule your actions. You are at war for a reason, and you must not let the chittering of your allies lure your gaze away. For if you are not completely steadfast, if you fail to do all that is necessary to achieve your endgame, you will fall and become wormfood. Whatever the Republic, or the Pact, or the Descendants, or any of the others ask of you, you must only do if it brings you closer to that which you desire. But if their design is for your mind to stray... rebuke them."
- Pravis: "You're certainly fond of hearing yourself vomit pointless advice to the gullible."
- Orsik: "I speak a truth which all would do well to remember. What you do with it is irrelevant to me."
And with that, he departed. Though whether he walked out or simply disappeared, none of the Chrills could accurately recall, to their discomfort.
- Rikken: "So then, none of you will join me?"
- Pravis: "What do you think?"
Rikken let out a sigh of defeat.
- Rikken: "Very well then. But know that I do this for all our people. Even if you do not join me, you will be welcome in whatever permanent state I am able to build."
Pravis and Dedrin left without a word, with Vekin remaining for a breath longer, a hint of empathy in his eyes, before following them. Rikken looked down at his four hands.
- Rikken: "I am sorry, my Architect. I cannot make them understand what you have whispered to me. With our current forces, the fate of our people remains uncertain."
An observation window opened. A massive, mechanical sphere, its lone indigo eye unblinking, looked down at the Void Chrill.
- Rikken: "Metix, I swear I will give my Combine to carry out your design, but... I fear I do not have enough to do it."
The glow of the machine god's gaze shifted from Rikken. His eyes followed the light to a small console, which suddenly whirred to life. He approached it, and it projected a hologram. It displayed a single arkship, along with coordinates leading to the empty space just outside the Plazith Rim.
Emblazoned on its hull was a distinct symbol: the emblem of the long-dead Cloud Combine.
Rikken's eyes widened when he realize what this meant. He turned back to Metix.
- Rikken: "Thank you, my god. Your Great Design will be made reality."