To Morzan, the planet of Alkyr Two was a refuge, a hiding place. His was the invincible species, or so his kind had thought. At the last battle, seeing his own kind doomed by the futility of their decisions, he betrayed them, turning a super-weapon on his own and fleeing into uncharted space. Has he any hope of absolution or redemption when his kind killed by the billions?
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Last of his kind. Traitor. Fugitive.
To Morzan, the planet of Alkyr Two was a refuge, a hiding place. His was the invincible species, or so his kind had thought. Conquest after conquest brought only victory until an ancient enemy awakened. Then, overwhelming numbers and a unified pool of thought combined with a matchless biotech physiology were suddenly not enough. Whole battle fleets would just disappear, and he witnessed reality itself ripped apart in front of him by this terrible foe. He tried to reason with his own to stop the war, but they compelled him to build a weapon to rival the powers of their enemies and lay waste to them. At the last battle, seeing his own kind doomed by the futility of their decisions, he betrayed them, turning the weapon on his own and fleeing into uncharted space.
To humanity, it was known as the “Planet of the Werewolves.” Nearly forgotten at the distant edge of their sector of space lay a fertile but dangerous world – a world where fierce beasts like those from myth and legend savagely defended their territory. It was a declining species to observe only from the safety of orbital space, until now. Where the ruins of a stair-stepped temple once stood crumbling in an overgrown jungle, the land has now been cleared. The ancient temple has been fully restored! A thriving and sophisticated village rests nearby! For the crew of the ISTO starship Pioneer, and for Lieutenant Satsuki Kyoko especially, it is an enthralling mystery that must be unraveled!
This was the last battle. Morzan knew that as a mathematical certainty beyond refutation, and he knew they would not win. His kind, the Capellates, would be utterly erased from existence by their arch enemies, the Allarrae.
It was the war to cleanse the universe and remake it in the Capellate image, to forever end the appalling chaos of the cosmos that left some planets desolate while others were wastelands of random biodiversity. Every planet was to be populated with their kind – stony moons with no atmosphere, gas giants, and infested biospheres would be reshaped and even repositioned to meet their needs. There would be only one kind, and it was to have been the Capellate.
They had initiated the cleansing with a sneak attack against one of their more powerful rivals. Subsequent attacks were also successful, but the word had clearly spread about the new Capellate threat. Still, at each adaptation by the defenders, the combined will and intellect of their kind would out-think their opponents. Each victory added to their holdings and increased their ability to overcome the next adversary. The battles were not easy, but every fight made them stronger, smarter, and more difficult to defeat.
To a point…
Not long into the war, their space fleet had moved to encircle and blockade a populated planet, rich with resources and teaming with useful bio-matter. As the fleet of sixty-four ships was about to break into their war groups, a fast-moving black hole winked into existence and destroyed all but two of the Capellate strike force. The severely-damaged ships limping away were stunned to see that the planet had somehow been protected from the perturbations of the high-gravity event. Thus, the Capellate attack had been rebuffed with no measurable success – not even one life lost on the opposing side.
Morzan had been with his peer, Kheran, during that battle and remained as one of the few survivors from the very first campaign. Morzan was true-born, and although he had been copied and re-designated time and time again, he was the only surviving Capellate besides Kheran to have witnessed all with his own senses.
They did not even know the name of their enemy, at first. This unknown kind were masters of misdirection, subtlety, and variety, able to make the universe simply appear to conspire against them. Sometimes, there were no visible enemy ships to fight, only a solar flare that swallowed their craft hiding in the high corona of a supposedly stable sun. An inter-dimensional channel simply opened wide its maw and swallowed a much-improved battle group, the sheering forces rending them into nearly microscopic pieces scattered amongst a distant asteroid field. An attempt to use other dimensions and realities to shield another Capellate fleet had ended in disaster where, again, Morzan was one of the few survivors. That time, he had caught a glimpse of their enemy, a ship like a great winged predator ripping the threads of reality in such a way that it tore at his Capellate resolve. Reason demanded his kind reconsider.
What Morzan had learned from that encounter he tried to share with his kind in the unending continuum of their thoughts. They had immediately detached him from that link, then – partly because his vision disturbed them so and because they wanted him to pursue weapons of the same type. It had been difficult to be alone – the distance and the loss of not knowing what Kheran and the others were thinking. As Morzan dutifully worked to replicate and perfect some aspect of what he had observed, his work was interrupted by the recognition his own now considered him defective, to some degree. It was an incomplete assessment, he surmised. He simply possessed information they did not. His only confusion was not being in full apprehension of exactly why the information he possessed caused them to ostracize him.
That had led him to these, the last moments of the Capellate kind. He had created a weapon which would shatter the bonds of reality and existence, laying waste to a wide swath of space before it. It was a cylindrical shape of dark black with two large emitters circling both ends. By retracting his flattened oval of a head to lay flush with his own similarly shaped body and folding his four spiked legs close in, he could enter the device via the same conveyors the others used to traverse the ship. There was just enough room for him, with the padding placing little weight on his four pairs of sheaths that contained the tentacles, feelers, and antennae he used to experience sensations other than sight. Once snugly ensconced in the control center, the shielding prevented even his own from knowing what he was doing, contemplating if they or he would have an existence beyond these next few moments. Morzan weighed the last strategy of the Capellates in absolute isolation.
Kheran had made the plan clear to him. In several of the earlier battles, their adversaries had issued pleas for a “cease fire” and for this thing called “mercy.” Their fleet would do the same, luring the Allarrae into the open. Morzan would then fire the weapon at the space the enemy fleet occupied, ripping it apart and destroying them. The Capellates would then set upon the wreckage and any survivors to acquire Allarrae weapons. With this bolstering of their technology, the victory would unblock their stymied campaign. There had been no doubts from Kheran. There had been no doubts from any of them.
Doubts abounded for Morzan, especially regarding his own people, as the final preparations for launch occurred. Now protected from sight, he looked for signs of treachery within this duplicitous strategy, and he found it. If Morzan was unwilling or unable to fire the weapon, the others had added remote controls that would do so. They had also added commands for the weapon to fire on its own region of space, an attack and a self-destruct that would kill him in the process of obliterating the weapon and any surrounding ships. At the moment of this realization, they launched him and his vessel into a field of tumbling debris behind the retreating Capellate fleet. A sense of isolation and betrayal that he had never before experienced welled up in him and set him into action.
In only a few moments, he disabled their override controls – primary, secondary, and tertiary – adding in a layer of security and obfuscation to keep them fooled. He completely disabled their ability to control the weapon or destroy it. Morzan was resolved not to allow his kind to choose when he would cease to exist. Such was normally acceptable amongst the Capellates. Morzan had large numbers of replicants operating in his stead, still connected to the Capellate mental link, the great continuum of thought. In these moments, however, that assurance of his longevity via descendants was insufficient. Morzan had understood the truth of their enemy; no other Capellate had. The grand stratagems surrounding the use of the weapon were formulated from the observations he had provided, true, but they had not seen what he had seen. They did not know what he knew. Even more, his own had cut him off, willingly blinding their eyes and minds to what he had learned. It was likely even one of his own replicants that had inserted the override controls into the weapon.
As the signal wavefront trundled across him into the area where it was thought the Allarrae lay in wait, he listened to the pleas for peace and mercy rebroadcast from those recorded early in the war. There was an aspect of not using their own voice for this action that compromised it – its effectiveness, its sustainability as a strategy. While this, in and of itself, wasn’t a reason to fault the plan’s possible success, it was conclusive against the fate of the Capellates. The reasoning proceeded in the following manner:
Postulate 1: The Capellates are using pre-recorded pleas for surrender and mercy to lure the Allarrae and allied forces into a trap.
Postulate 2: While potentially effective as a lure, the disruption beam can only be fired in one direction against a specific region of defined space along that vector.
Postulate 3: The Allarrae have not revealed their full capabilities and may elect to observe before engaging or split their forces.
Postulate 4: Falsifying surrender will mean that requesting actual surrender at a later date will have a near zero percent success rate.
Postulate 5: Locating viable advantage-bearing technology before Allarrae reinforcements arrive is of limited success as the Allarrae have been shown to use time travel as both a tool and a weapon.
Postulate 6: The Capellates lack both the time and resources to exploit any random technology recovered from the attack.
Summation: The Capellates will not survive.
“I … will not survive,” Morzan thought, and a whole host of other alternatives rushed into his mind, alternatives rendered unreachable because those of his own kind had cut him off. These thoughts stunned and disabled him, overwhelming him with confusion until detectors within the weapon signaled the arrival of new craft in the area. “The … Allarrae.”
Indeed, the first ship to materialize was called the Tashar. That name had been gathered from the captured records of the destroyed species. His own called it the Ship of Death. The leader of the Allarrae was aboard that ship, but it was not alone. Thousands of ships were distributed across a wide arc of space around the Capellates. Morzan knew the truth at that moment. There was now no way to win. There was only one way to survive. The false surrender had to be made real, but he could not do it. His weapon had no transmitter of any kind. “Surrender!” he tried to call out to his brothers sitting behind the shields that his mental abilities could not penetrate. “Surrender! It is the only logical path remaining!” Instead, chilling words came back to him – words clipped together from other recordings, words meant to taunt their enemy at the last.
“This … rescue is now … your … destruction,” five different voices issued, pre-recorded from those who had fallen before the Capellates. It was the order to fire. Although Morzan wished he could have died in that moment, his logic and reason directed him to press a control, attenuate the dimensional gateway focus, insert time and location warp parameters, set a vector within a bi-fold tear, and commence the end of his own people. The Capellate fleet was concentrated together in a failed attempt to draw the Allarrae into a specific direction of approach.
Of anything in this region of space, they were the only good target, and target them he did. What he planned would kill every one of them, they who were already dead by their own choice. The calamity the weapon would create would seem to suck him into their midst, but amongst the shielding maelstrom of destruction and death, there would be one, small path forward through which he would be quickly injected. The chaos left in his wake would allow him to escape and make him impossible to track. The pressing of one final control would set all of this into motion, but Morzan hesitated. Perhaps his own would realize their weapon had malfunctioned and be forced to truly surrender, at last.
They did not. They armed their weapons and prepared to go down fighting. At that moment, the Allarrae ships revealed a new ability – a weapon of phased multi-dimensional energies that had massive destructive potential, and nearly every ship gathered had such a weapon. The Tashar had four. Before their energies could reach full power, Morzan swung the weapon towards his own fleet and triggered the event. Only a massive sense of acceleration was perceptible at first, but then he was in the heart of his detonating fleet, every ship ripped and torn as if they were made of thin film blowing in a solar storm. The weapon emitters of his ship then detached, and his perfect cylinder slid through them, disappearing inter-dimensionally moments before the charged emitters collided, wiping the Capellates from existence.
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