Unbeknownst to the Kelsor, Federation THORCOM sent a formal request for assistance in hindering or halting the Voulgenathi that arrived at Republic Persean Rift Operations Command, or PROCOM. Acting on that request from their ally, Captain Vonel of the Republic battleship Retributor stood on the bridge dressed in his gray uniform. Somewhere aboard his ship was the contingent of Revenants of the squad Quietus of Hiracet. His battleship was about to attempt another jump to move them further away from the Persean Rift and its never-ceasing Invisible War, toward the direction of the Saraian Range far coreward.
“You can’t expect me to make jumps greater than eighty lightyears,” said Vonel.
“You’re right,” the admiral told him. “We can’t risk it for the Retributor or Quietus. That’s why we’re sending a patrol ship to intercept the Voulgenathi in Onen. It will perform a routine ‘inspection’ of the ship which may buy you a day at most.”
“Thank you, admiral,” said Vonel.
“I am Captain Gorgin of the Republic frigate Basilisk,” the bridge crew heard aboard the Voulgenathi. “You have entered Zone Seven, a district of Onen under the protection of the Republic. You are ordered to disengage your warp system, drop your shields, and yield to a full internal and external inspection of your vessel. Any actions you take contrary to these orders will be considered an act of war against the People of the Republic and we will use interdiction. You have thirty seconds to comply.”
“Where is the emperor?” asked the captain of the Voulgenathi.
One of his lieutenants said, “He is asleep, sir. Should I awaken him?” The captain shuddered at the thought.
“No!” the captain shouted. “Let him sleep. I can handle this myself. Disengage our hyperwarp.”
The Voulgenathi stopped somewhere deep in interstellar space. Within twenty minutes, a wormhole opened near the ship and out came a Republic frigate which situated itself on the Voulgenathi’s starboard side. Two more ships—corvettes—exited the wormhole behind the frigate and took to orbiting the pair of larger ships. All of them had their weapons trained on the large, Alliance-built vessel. When the Republic dropship landed in one of the Voulgenathi’s hangar bays, the Voulgenathi’s captain was there to meet the inspection team.
“I am Captain Fala,” the elsheem captain said as the slate gray-uniformed inspector stepped off of the dropship accompanied by his guards clad in slate Type-M. “Welcome aboard the Voulgenathi.” The captain was projecting all the confidence he could muster.
“I am Commander Mallin of the People’s Navy,” said the stern Republic officer. “I will be leading today’s inspection.” He swiveled his head, seeing all of the pairs of pointed auricles. So much elsheem filth. He could barely tolerate it. But he had his orders: delay them as much as possible, and it would be his pleasure to. “How… many of your compliment can speak Miri?”
“Uhh…,” thought Captain Fala. “Not many. Most know a few phrases, but less than a fifth are fluent.”
“In that case, my lieutenants and I will be using translators.” Commander Mallin gestured toward a group of four Republic officers dressed in slate Navy uniform emerging from the dropship—three male and one female. They walked over and stood behind the commander, chests out and hands behind their backs, as he continued talking to the Voulgenathi’s captain. Commander Mallin turned to his lieutenants and said “Activate your translators and follow us.” The officers pulled back the sleeves of their uniforms, revealing arm-mounted, lumionic interfaces. Each of the officers had an earpiece for communication that would also be feeding them Miri from the translator. The job of translation was performed by the Basilisk’s computer: Rellia’s adjunct.
The Republic officers and Marines moved slowly through the ship’s innards, using drones, specialized Type-M modules, and hand-held devices to carry out their scans. A large party of weary elsheem trailed behind them wherever they went.
“How long are they going to be here?” the first officer whispered to Captain Fala in Avenathi. Both were on the bridge now. The Republic had been aboard for four hours. “The emperor could awaken any moment. He’ll be furious!” Fala’s hairless skin began to sweat.
“Tell the ship’s medical officer,” Fala said with his hand near his mouth, “tell him to keep His Majesty sleeping soundly.”
“You’re going to drug the emperor?” the officer asked, whispering loudly. Fala grabbed the officer’s mouth, muffling him.
“Do you want to die?”
The medical officer reported to the emperor’s quarters where Taretes was sound asleep on his bed surrounded by his five naked elshi concubines. After he injected Taretes with the sedative—being careful to use minute amounts that wouldn’t harm an elsheem—he gave some to each of the elshi. As he leaned over the last female, the medical officer scanned her body with his eyes; her brown hair, pretty face, attractive bosom, flat abdomen, sleek legs. He doubted he had seen a fairer female in the entire Empire. The elsheem doctor gave her an injection, and then departed from the emperor’s quarters.
“Another Republic frigate just jumped in, captain,” said an elsheem lieutenant a few hours later.
“Damn it all,” Fala whispered in Avenathi. “This is taking too long. Hail the Basilisk,” he demanded. Captain Gorgin appeared as a lumigraph near where Fala and his first officer were standing. “Captain Gorgin,” Fala said calmly, “how is the inspection coming?”
“My officers are halfway through with their scans,” Gorgin told him.
“My crew and I would like to get underway soon,” Fala stated.
“You will be underway once we have completed our inspection and not a minute sooner. Now, is there anything else I can help you with, Captain Fala?” Gorgin finished with a smile. Fala could tell the Republic captain was enjoying himself, and it made Fala sick.
“That is all, sir,” Fala said, and terminated the link. The Republic had cycled through two inspection teams and was now on its third. Fala couldn’t sleep, eat, or even sit down. He stared through the slanted windows of the ventrally-located bridge of the Alliance-designed ship at the starscape before him. Twenty-nine hours had passed.
Eventually, the Republic inspection team arrived at the last place they had not scanned. As they approached the large set of decadent doors, the group of elsheem soldiers who were following them—eight in all—ran in front of the Republic officers and Marines to stand in front of the doors.
“What do you think you’re doing?” said Commander Mallin, his Miri being muffled and Avenathi being broadcast to the elsheem.
“Captain Fala,” said Gorgin, stepping toward the elsheem as his image was resolved. “I have good news. There is one last compartment of your ship that we must scan; however, my men tell me that your people are preventing them from doing so. Please tell your crew to stand down.” Fala nodded to his first officer who, grunting, turned to a lieutenant and passed the order along. Seeing the action, Gorgin said “Thank you, captain,” and then disappeared. Fala said nothing.
With the elsheem out of the way, Commander Mallin opened the double doors. Amid the luxurious decorations of all sorts was the large velvet bed upon which the mound of elsheem flesh rested, partially obscured by a thin golden veil.
“Disgusting,” Mallin stated. “Search everything, including them.” He pointed to the naked elsheem. The inspectors tried rousing them but quickly gave up. The other elsheem of the crew stood within the large room and watched as the Marines in their slate Type-M gently hauled the elshi to the ground, then stepped away to allow the officers to take their scans. Many of the crew gasped when it was the emperor’s turn to be carried down from the bed.
“You’ve scanned them,” said Fala in Miri, walking into the room, “now put them back.”
“Very well,” said Mallin, and he helped the Marines lift the elshe and his mistresses back upon the silk sheets. One of the Republic officers had wandered into a side room and returned with an odd container from which he was getting strange scanner data. The officer explained the find and gave the container to Mallin. The Akkain Corporation logo was printed on its side.
“What is this?” the commander asked Fala.
“I don’t know. One of the emperor’s belongings.” Beads of sweat had been forming on Fala’s face since the inspectors arrived at the emperor’s suite. The inside of his uniform was saturated with moisture.
“You wouldn’t mind if we looked inside, then?” Mallin asked. Fala kept silent. Using a tiny screen on the cylinder, Mallin changed the walls of the container from opaque to transparent, revealing the black crystal within. “Amazing,” he whispered, at once drawn into its beauty. “This matches something we’ve been on the lookout for for some time. Under the authority of the People’s Interstellar Republic, I hereby confiscate this item as contraband in the sovereign State of Onen.” Fala blinked once and led them out of the emperor’s quarters.
Somewhere between there and the hangar, Fala, voice trembling, said, “I’m sorry, but I cannot let you part with that crystal.” The elshe raised a sidearm. Republic and Elsheem weapons pointed toward each other in an instant. Guns and shields hummed softly yet menacingly throughout that corridor. More elsheem soldiers in black armor were pouring into the corridor from both sides, weapons ready to fire. Mallin smirked.
“You have no idea,” Mallin said. “For each of us that falls, there are twenty more of us willing to stand. Thus is the nature of the Republic. Kill us, and you face the endless wrath of the People.”
“Your People can die in hell,” Fala spat. The dark corridor erupted, and it became a thunderstorm of plasma charges and bullets. The Republic inspection team was reduced to several smoking corpses, as were many more of the elsheem. An injured Fala was assisted to the bridge, and he gave the order to engage the hyperwarp drive and escape from Onen. The Republic witnessed the signature change within the Voulgenathi’s drive core and opened fire on the battleship, inflicting some damage on the unshielded ship before it disappeared toward Alliance space.
The door to the Voulgenathi’s bridge opened.
“Captain Fala!” growled the elshe who entered. The captain knew who he was when he spoke. Taretes grabbed the captain’s hair when he turned around, and with a quick slice, separated Fala’s head from his shoulders with a plasma blade. Fala’s body stood for a few seconds before becoming limp and crashing to the ground. Taretes threw the head away—Fala’s consciousness quickly fading—and to the commander said, “Congratulations on your promotion.”