- This article is about the event in Omni 01. For the version in Omni 02, see The Meeting (Omni 02).
...10 lightyears from Sius...
Captain Hermann Ernel surveyed the bridge of his destroyer, silently sipping his warm, colorless, sweet drink. Various bridge officers were hard at work, directing repair crews and bringing the ship back to full efficiency. ENS Harmony had just suffered through a punishing fight witha squadron of Harbinger raiders that had somehow bypassed the Omega-13 line. They were nothing more than converted picket vessels, but the lone Imperial Navy gunboat that had been with the Harmony on its patrol had already pulled back for repairs. The destroyer was alone.
"Captain... I'm picking up multiple unknown contacts coming in fast. Scanning... Numerous frigates confirmed, at least five frigates, sir!" A sensor officer reported nervously. Full damage reports had not yet come in, but it was obvious that the Harmony would have a tough time enduring another fight.
"Call general quarters! Bring us about to their expected attack angles! Put inactive gun crews on damage control, now!" Ernel barked, spilling his drink as he leapt from his chair.
Each bridge officer went furiously to work executing their captain's orders. Alarms rang out and a pulsating red light bathed the command deck.
"Crew to general quarters, general quarters. All hands to battle stations, all hands to battle stations."
Lieutenant II Niklaas Zawrenz stormed out of the ready room, helmet in hand, forcing other pilots aside and keeping on his feet despite the similar forcing of other pilots. The pilot weaved through the corridors of the wounded destroyer, in and about between the dirty veterans of the Harbinger War. At this point, many of them were relying on the chemicals of the Eteno mind to keep them on their feet.
"All pilots man your strike craft. All pilots to strike craft." Orders blared over the ship speakers still in working condition.
The lieutenant burst through a series of doors leading to the hangar bay, slogging through whatever crowds were in his way. He emerged on a horizontal catwalk parallel to the hangar wall, with smaller catwalks perpendicular to Niklaas helping to suspend rows of fighters and bombers. He wasted no time in rushing to the closest servicable Defender, pulling open the canopy, and nearly throwing himself in the cockpit. As he pulled the canopy down over his head while fastening himself to his seat, the entire destroyer rumbled. The oscillation was so great that one heavily damaged bomber fell from its suspended position at the end of the catwalk, crashing through two levels of strike craft and walkways as it plummeted to the deck.
"Sub-magazine eight has been destroyed, all starboard batteries exercise caution. Damage control teams, secure the magazine, repeat, damage control teams secure the magazine."
That was explanation enough. Niklaas was surprised that a blast encompassing a whole sub-magazine wouldn't cause more damage, at least in the hangar. As the pilot conducted emergency pre-flight checks, other pilots began manning their strike craft. Only a few moments later, as other canopies began to close, the hum of Niklaas' Defender's glowing white engines filled the pilot's ears.
"Engineering, status report!"
"All fires in the command deck's technical rooms are out, captain. Teams are moving to sub-magazine eight right now."
"Fighter control, how many are we launching?" Captain Ernel barked, his eyes busy absorbing the steady stream of data coming in to the bridge display.
"The starboard hangar just had a collapse, sir. They're launching at about three quarters capacity. If we deploy critically damaged strike craft, we may be able to launch at ninety. Pass down the order?"
"If we have the pilots to man them. We need full operational strength here, we can worry about damaged fighters if we live through this. Communications and sensors! Any news on reinforcements?"
"The 55th Cruiser Group is maybe an hour off. An unconfirmed number of friendly gunboats are also en route, expecting two hours."
"Time we don't have. Is that the best we can do?" A powerful blast sent Ernel and several other bridge officers staggering.
"Nobody expected a patrol this remote to be under such attack. We'll just have to... Captain, I'm picking up unknown vessels coming out of warp."
"More Harbingers..." Ernel hissed.
"Negative, captain. Different architecture. It looks like they're entering an attack formation."
"Main screen. Warn any batteries facing them."
The sensor officer nodded, and after a few quick button presses, a basic tactical map depicting the Harmony as a blue circle, the Harbinger frigates as small red circles, and the unknown ships as grey squares came up on the primary bridge display. Ernel and some other crew watched intently as the unknown vessels came around to the Harbingers' flank and began pouring fire on one of the less damaged frigates.
"I don't know who they are, but they're friendly. Looks like we just might survive this. Order all batteries to match their targets, we want the enemy guns out of action quickly. Can we hail them?" A faint smile pervaded the captain's features as he disseminated his orders, and this show of hope spread to his bridge crew, who began working at a somewhat faster pace.
"Yes captain. Hailing now. Expect a translation within twenty seconds."
"Status report!" King Rustiagon Karrel said.
"Status of ships:," a computerized voice replied. "Our Jumpship's Maj core has been damaged. We are unable to jump to inter-star cluster speeds."
"Are there any habitable planets nearby?"
"A planet with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere has been detected ten lightyears away orbitting a Class K star. Incoming transmission: An unidentified alien vessel is sending you both audio and video signals."
"Put it on screen," King Rustiagon Karrel said.
Upon receiving the signal, an image of a rather short, yellow creature appeared on screen. The creature had a brief moment of awe, and began to speak to him in an alien language. The awe had quickly turned to what seemed to be a serious, standardized protocol. The translator went to work attempting to decipher what the creature was saying to him. Finally, subtitles appeared in front of the screen with some text.
It read, "Unidentified ships, welcome to Eteno space. Pick your targets, and our batteries will support."
Karrel responded, "I have no intention to attack your ships. My name is King Rustiagon Karrel of the Heroic Bloodline. I am the warrior-king of the Karalian Empire, and the ships that follow me are the Secret Fleet, my personal guard. I have come pursuing the fleet of Harbingers that passed into this sector."
"Karalian Empire? I'm sorry, we'll have to discuss this later," The yellow figure paused as another blast rocked his ship, "Our hull can't take much more of this. If you are after the Harbingers, then give us hand. We need to destroy the frigates!"
Co-ordination between the destroyer and Vaikan vessels resulted in a quick defeat for the Harbingers, albiet costly. Vaikan strike craft surrounded and penned in the Harbinger forces, whose long-range raiding vessels lacked any substantial anti-fighter weaponry.
The Vaikan fighters, backed up by the few strike craft deployed by the Eteno destroyer, drove these lighter vessels into the field of fire of the Harmony, whose guns made short work of the pestered raiders. When half of the Harbinger vessels were destroyed or rendered inoperable, the attackers attempted to forge an avenue of retreat. They turned their anti-ship guns on the Vaikan, meeting only limited success in their desperate final attempt. Only a few of the fighters were damaged, but among them was the vessel of King Rustiagon Karrel.
Destroyed and inoperable Harbinger raider hulks soon littered the area around the Harmony, whose starboard side boasted a gaping puncture. This scar of battle emitted a small cloud of smoke, glowing a faint yellow from the electrical sparking at its interior.
Karrel's ship, his Secret Fleet, and the few Eteno fighters deployed gathered around the damaged and triumphant destroyer. The Harmony's captain hailed Karrel. On the king's viewscreen was the image of a battered and ailing ship. Exposed wall conduits were visible behind the destroyer's captain, bleeding bright sparks onto the floor.
"King Rustiagon Karrel... It's a... Pleasure. I'm Captain Hermann Ernel." The yellow alien turned his attention briefly to a minor explosion beyond the view of the camera, "We very well might've been dead without your aid. Where are you from? What are you doing out here?"
"We come from the Perseus Arm. The fleet of Harbingers we just killed off was headed towards our homeworld, when he flanked them, chasing them over to this sector. Then, you saw the rest."
The Eteno captain sported a visible frown, but replied neutrally, "Are you in need of repairs?"
Karrel received a message from several of his guards advising him on the situation. Some said that these Eteno could not be trusted. Others disagreed. Regardless, they had helped these aliens out, and they felt they deserved some compensation. Karrel quickly made up his mind and said, "Our largest ship, the jumpship, is exhausted and we are unable to leave this star cluster. We require some helium-3 to jumpstart its core again. My own ship, the Yoltox Prime, has been damaged. Engines are offline, and I am in need of some assistance."
Ernel was once again distracted by something off-screen. He frowned again, and returned his attention to Karrel. "Unfortunately, supply ships loaded with helium-3 aren't exactly a common sight, especially not for a destroyer and some fighters. I've requested a repair ship and it should arrive with a group of cruisers. I-"
A loud boom preceded the cut of the Eteno's feed to Yoltox Prime.
"Captain Ernel, are you there? Captain?" Karrel inquired to the destroyer's unresponsive bridge.
Yoltox Prime offered no audio or visual response from the alien destroyer. For a few tense moments, the Vaikan king merely sat there, unsure of what manner of response would be proper whe in the company of these Eteno. His attention was soon brought to his sensor display, where a pair of Eteno fighters were shown fast approaching his own craft. Without hesitation, some of Karrel's own escorts moved to intercept the fighters, but the king ordered them to halt when one of the snub craft opened up communication.
"Ah, King Rustiagon Karrel... The Harmony's bridge is experiencing power failure. Orders have been relayed to me to facilitate communication." One of the pilots stated, with only a faint hint of nervousness in his voice.
"I see you've taken a good deal of battle damage. Your ship seems to be in no better shape than our own jump vessel."
"I-it would appear so, King Karrel. One moment..." The yellow pilot's feed cut out for but a handful of seconds, "I've been told to tell you that a repair ship is confirmed heading to this location, and will take us to our capital."
"Your capital? What nation do you serve?" This was Karrel's opportunity to attain some sort of knowledge on these aliens before any further developments occured.
"We are a detachment of the Eteno Imperial Navy, of the Eteno Imperial Triumvirate. Our capital is located in the star system Sius." The pilot droned, as if what he was saying were some sort memorized drill.
"And you will be taking my fleet and me to your capital?"
"Aboard the repair vessel, sir. Most likely, we will be taken to Naval Station Mladenka."
Karrel ruminated over this. Being taken to a foreign naval station for repairs and refueling would mean being put at the mercy of the Eteno for at least a few days. On the other hand, forging some sort of alliance with another enemy of the Harbingers could prove useful to release some of the pressure put on the Vaikan military.
First Lieutenant Zawrenz couldn't believe he was getting such an important job. He flew slightly closer to the alien ship, to let the pilot know that he was leading the way to the mooring station. He then openned up communication with him.
"Sir, I will be leading you to mooring station seven, please link your navigation systems to mine and I'll get you there in no time. Sending you my bandwidth now." A strange electronic noise was heard over the radio, and a binary code appeared on his screen.
"Can you link to that, sir?"
"Yes I can. Computer, link to that bandwidth please." The last part almost wasn't heard by the Lieutenant.
"Alright sir, sit back and relax."
Three Gamma Squadron fighters along with Karrel's Secret Fleet began flying back to the Destroyer Harmony while Lieutenant Zawrenz began leading the Yoltox Prime to one of the mooring points on the Harmony. The Lieutenant didn't start further conversation, as he was contemplating what he could possibly say when and if they met face to face. He was amazed he could even speak when he was giving the King his bandwidth. When he finally figured out what to say, he had arrived at the mooring point. He flew slightly past it on purpose. A metal tube extended from a spot in the hull of the Harmony, and a thinner see-through airlock also extended below it.
"Sir, this may be quite the conondrum as this system was not designed for non-Eteno ships. Line up any sort of exterior link to the ship battery with the metal pipe, and your airlock with the see-through one."
The King said nothing as his computer guided the ship into a decent position, and he was slightly surpirsed that the ship was able to attach to both of the pipes.
"I just got the results of a scan, and it seems it will take a few hours to fully charge your battery, let alone repair all of that damage. We have some supply ships on their way with some helium-3 and they should arrive within the hour. You should probably come on board, if you would like. I'm sure the Admiral would like to meet you."
He opened up the radio output link.
"I will come on board. Thank you for your help, ahead of time."
"Anytime sir, I'll probably see you some time on the ship. Zawrenz out."
The Lieutenant flew into the hangar and berthed with the recovery system with stars in his eyes.
Regardless of the Eteno's hospitality, Karrel was still cautious. His sword was still sheathed as it always was and he was ready for armed combat at a moment's notice. A few mechs inside the ship joined him.
"Computer, would you do a quick analysis of the ship's artifiical environment?"
"Yes, Your Highness. Analyzing...51% nitrogen, 29% oxygen, 7% helium, 3% neon, 10% other gases. Temperature is 25 degrees Celsius. Temperature levels are comfortable. Pressure suit not required. Atmosphere will cause asphyxiation. Breath mask required."
Being reassured, Karrel opened the hatch and stepped out into the Harmony wearing a breath mask. If he didn't wear it, his voice would get high pitched and squeaky, but he would faint only moments later. At first he didn't see any Eteno. He looked around for a little bit searching them, until he decided to look down. The Eteno were short compared to him.
Zawrenz approached him slightly awed by Karrel's height. "Sir, I was sent here to escort you to the Admiral."
"Thank you," he replied. "A meeting with one of your superiors would be appropriate after what just took place. However, as per protocol, I cannot travel alone aboard an alien vessel. I must have a few members of my personal guard present."
"Very well then," Zawrenz said. "Bring a few of your units with you if you like, since we have to take our own security precautions anyway." Karrel tapped a few buttons on his wristcomputer, and two synthetic bodyguards made their way out of the Yoltox Prime standing behind Karrel.
Zawrenz led Karrel and his mechs to a luxurious room where the admiral was waiting. Karrel deduced that the Eteno were quite advanced, almost as much as the Vaikan themselves. Karrel was greeted by the admiral. "Welcome aboard the Harmony. I am Admiral Hermann Ernel. It is an honor to meet you."
"Pleased to meet you as well, Admiral." Karrel quickly raised his right arm, bringing his hand to his left shoulder; the official Vaikan salute. "King Rustiagon Karrel, or Karrel for short. These are my guard mechs."
"Wow," the admiral said. "I must say, it's always fascinating to meet a new race. But protocol for the discovery of another alien race calls for a standardized interview with their ambassador, which I would assume would be you. We just want to confirm where exactly you are from as well as what kind of people you are."
"Certainly, then. Ask away," Karrel replied.
"Take a seat, then, and get yourself comfortable."
Karrel knelt down trying to fit himself on the chair. It was wide, but not tall, almost like a bench for him, but a chair for the Eteno. Eventually, he managed to relax by spreading his arms out. Zawrenz waited in the room to oversee the interview.
"So the first question for the standardized interview is: What are the Vaikan like?" Ernel asked.
"Well, that's a broad question," Karrel said. "It's difficult to describe my entire race in just a few sentences."
"A summary of your history will do."
"That's also very broad. Our recorded history goes back 30,000 years."
"Ah, you like details, don't you? I'm starting to like you already," Ernel replied.
"Well, I suppose I can give you this: Vaikan greatly value strength in the individual. Being able to achieve a goal as a single individual is just as important as achieving the same goal in groups. Throughout history, that's been our centralized goal - to understand the meaning of the mortal mind. Some agreed, while others such as the infamous Altus Banya did not. That cruel man was defeated by one of my ancestors 7,000 years ago, and he, Rustiagon Dralla, made our society to what it is today. Now, as we expand, we've been at war almost all the time, and we are on the constant struggle to maintain our borders. I could keep going for hours about the details. There's so much to talk about."
"Perhaps I'll come across one of your history texts sometime. You have those, right?"
"Of course. Documents and documents. I'll give you one for free later as token of appreciation for your hospitality."
"Thanks. Now, the next question is what is the extent of the Vaikan's influence?"
"Well, if you are referring to how large the Federal Monarchy is, then that would be about 40,000 star systems spread across the Perseus Arm."
"Wow, so you are a fairly large empire then?" Ernel asked.
"Well, not to boast, but the Eteno have over 120,000 systems."
"We've been in space for over 7,000 years. What about you?" Karrel asked.
"You spread quickly. I'm impressed!"
"Thank you. Now, last question. Well, I'm sure we all have more for a newly discoverd alien race, but the last official question is this:" Karrel leaned in slightly, listening intently. "What do you think of us as a species and an empire. Please be honest, this information is invaluable. I also just want your personal opinion, because I think it would be very interesting to hear."
Karrel cleared his throat and began. "Well, as I mentioned earlier, it's hard to judge a species in only a few sentences. But my first impression is that your kind has been the friendliest we've encountered to date. Sure, we've met some other friendly sentient races such as the Sarkakion, but the hospitality you are providing - I never thought an alien would do something like that. For the time being, I think our two races should get along especially when both of us are fighting off the Harbingers."
"Friendly, you say? Well, honestly, I never called our race friendly. We've conquered many smaller empires and taken their resources just so that we could expand our own empire."
"I meant friendly as in not trying to kill us at first sight," Karrel said. "We had that problem with the Sinister Hegemony when the Vaikan first entered space."
"Sinister Hegemony? Are they still around?"
"No, they're all dead. Every last one of them hunted to extinction. We did that because they had enslaved all Vaikan at one point."
"Ah, that's understandable." the admiral chuckled. "By the way, I've been meaning to ask. How old are you?"
"One hundred and five."
"Really?" he replied surprised. "You look quite young."
"Of course. We just age slowly, and because of that, we can't replenish our numbers as quickly. That's why we have mechs such as those behind me."
Suddenly, the alarms wailed. Karrel's mechs went onto alert mode in response to the alarms going off. "Admiral! More Harbinger ships have arrived!" said an Ensign on deck.
"Not again..." the Admiral said. "They just don't give up!" Meanwhile, the Harmony began to fire back as the Harbinger fleets approached. However, there was too many of them. The ship rocked violently for a second.
"Hull breach on starboard side!" the Ensign said. "It's deploying Harbinger troops into the cargo hold!"
"And we just repainted that side of the ship, too," the Admiral said. "Well, sorry for dragging you into this, Karrel."
"Don't worry about it," Karrel said. "It would be nice if I got a stretch break. I'll order my men and mechs to provide some backup."
"Thank you, Karrel. Alright, Lieutenant, round up some men and take care of that hull breach!"
"Sir, yes, sir!" Zawrenz said.
From the Harmony's docking bay arrived a whole platoon of mechs and Vaikan soldiers who were part of Karrel's Secret Fleet. They were dressed in green and wore plexiglass facemasks. They followed Karrel as he double-timed to the hull breach along with the plenty of Eteno marines. Along the way, they discussed a quick plan of attack. Both the Eteno and Vaikan had been in these kinds of situations, though this was their first battle together.
The hull breach was in the cargo bay, and a small group of Harbingers was waiting for them inside. Quickly, Karrel's men took some cover behind large metallic crates, while Zawrenz carried out his orders from his commander. He eagerly kept an eye on the Vaikan to see how they attacked.
Karrel peeked out of cover and manifested a blue transparent sphere in his hand. Then he hurled it at the group of Harbingers - it exploded sending them flying and knocking them over.
The Eteno soldiers were in awe at what he just did. They had not seen anything like it. But there was no time to wonder, the Harbingers quickly got back up. The Eteno continued firing upon the Harbingers. Karrel waved his hand towards the mechs to draw a diversion, so that he could get inside the enemy ship that had attached itself to the Harmony.
"Engaging hostiles," a mech said. From its arm, it fired a concentrated laser blast at the enemy. It succeeded in melting one of the Harbingers to a pile of molten iron. While the Harbingers were distracted by the flanking mech force, Karrel's men as well as the Eteno peeked out of cover and engaged fire. Karrel managed to gun down a few with his pistol, moving as close as he can, while the Eteno kept their distance.
"Go, go, go! Into the Harbinger ship!" said an Eteno officer. After everyone put on some breath masks, he took his squadron into the hull breach and into the Harbinger ship, and Karrel and his men followed. From this point, they split up. Karrel went for the engines while Zawrenz's commander led them to the bridge.
The architecture of the other ship was vastly different from the Harmony. For one, the ship's inner walls were an oily, obsidian hue with spike-shaped supports. A daunting, terrible atmosphere was in the toxic air, but this was nothing neither of them had seen before. Harbinger after Harbinger came into Karrel's way. He had yet to lose any men, but some of his mechs were gunned down.
Soon, Karrel arrived at a large floating sphere connected by two pillars. A JOTUN mech in his platoon fired heavy blasts at the pillars. Lobs of energy pelted the pillars until both had eventually collapsed in on themselves. The great sphere dropped to the ground and shattered. The Harbinger ship was disabled.
"Alright," Karrel said through a communicator. "Engines down! Let's get off this piece of junk!"
"Hold on!" Zawrenz replied back through his radio. The sound of gunfire could easily be heard through it. "We found something huge on the bridge! Some kind of data module, we're bringing it back, but we still got a few hostiles up here."
-more to come