Homeworld (Odyssey One) (8 page)

Images of the Dyson Cloud loomed over every waking moment of his life now, and a good chunk of his nightmares. If the Block was showing their flag outside the Sol System, all the better. They’d have to fight alongside everyone else unless they wanted it burned to the ground by the Drasin and whoever was behind them.

“Alright, I’ll keep an eye out. We can detour the
Odyssey
through some high-probability locations, just to see if they’re around,” he said finally. “But I don’t see the problem. The Block is a lot of things, but they’re not crazy enough to start another war now. We’ve got enough tech edges against them to make the outcome wildly uncertain from their point of view, and now there are the Drasin to deal with.”

“The Block leadership isn’t certain that the Drasin are real, Captain,” Gordon said, shaking his head. “A significant group believe it’s all just propaganda.”

“Oh for crying out….” Eric spat, annoyed.

Honestly, he had no idea why he was even remotely surprised, but it still pissed him off that his word on this was being questioned. It wasn’t like they had any reason to believe him, but it was still irksome.

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said.

“No, not really.” Gordon chuckled. “But look at the bright side. If they’ve developed decent FTL, they’ll soon find out for themselves.”

“Assuming they survive to report back,” Gracen reminded them both. “The Block doesn’t have cam-plate technology anywhere near our own, and without a decent laser defense they’re not likely to have as enjoyable a time as the
Odyssey
had.”

“There is that,” Gordon said with a sigh.

“Do I have orders if I find them in dire straits?”

“Law of the sea, Captain. We’re not at war with the Block at the moment. Rescue if possible.”

“Aye, aye, ma’am.”

“That should be everything we need to cover personally,” Gracen said. “Official orders and background will be in your dossier before the
Odyssey
ships out again. Just keep this conversation in the back of your mind, if you will?”

“Understood, Admiral.” Eric rose to his feet. He saluted, then nodded to the spy. “Mr. Gordon.”

“I’ll be seeing you, Captain.”

Eric didn’t
quite
glare at the man as he left, bringing a smile to the spy’s face.

“That man wouldn’t survive a day in the Agency.”

“Possibly not,” Gracen shrugged. “However he does make a very nice flag Captain.”

“Everyone does pay attention when he shows up, don’t they?” Gordon chuckled lightly. “He practically oozes sincerity
and honor, at that. I could wish for someone a little more underhanded in command of the
Odyssey
, but he’ll do.”

“Someone more underhanded might not have passed muster with the Priminae, let alone this Central character,” Gracen reminded him.

“True, but they might not have gotten us involved in an interstellar war either.”

“I originally thought that, but no,” Gracen said and shook her head. “I fear this was coming regardless. He just accelerated the program a little. It’s not a perfect situation, by any means. I could have wished that he’d gotten the intel and got the hell out…but given the newest intel the
Odyssey
brought back, saving the Priminae may well have been the best of all possible worlds for us.”

Gordon grunted, but didn’t deny the possibility. Pacifists though they might be, the Prims were well equipped and clearly capable of building on an accelerated schedule. He wasn’t sure it would matter, not given the deplorable numbers that the Drasin seemed capable of fielding, but any ally was better than none.

CHAPTER TWO

Interstellar Space, Near Formerly Uncharted Dyson Construct

“THE BIOLOGICALS ARE entirely out of control, Prohuer. If we do not shut them down soon, we’ll entirely lose any semblance of guidance.”

“You should relax, Ivanth,” the man in the dark uniform said, seated casually behind a metal desk. “I’ve read the reports, and you’re exaggerating the situation.”

“The reports are only half of it,” the younger man said earnestly, desperately trying to get his point across without disrespect. “They’ve begun annihilating non-Priminae worlds!”

“Uninhabited worlds, barely of any interest to us.”

“My Prohuer,” Ivanth said softly, “life-bearing planets are not so common in the galaxy as to be disposable.”

The man behind the desk chuckled lightly, smiling with an ease that belied the subject of their conversation. “This is a minor sector of an otherwise unimportant galactic arm, Ivanth. The Priminae are the only threat in the area, and they don’t even know their own history. We’ll have this cleaned up shortly and be back to civilization. Let the Biologicals have their fun.”

“Yes, my Prohuer.” Ivanth gave in, sighing. “What of the unknown?”

That caused the man to sit forward, templing his hands in front of him. “Yes, the unknown. I’ve reviewed the combat data we recovered from the Biologicals. They all match the ship that escaped us at the Hive.”

“It doesn’t match any Priminae ship on record. A new design?”

“No, I think not. The Priminae ships match records precisely,” the Prohuer said simply. “We’re looking at another source.”

“Our scans were conclusive,” Ivanth objected. “They were people.”

“Yes, yes of that I’m aware, and that is the only thing on this mission that troubles me,” the Prohuer admitted. “Obviously the Prim have allied themselves with another splinter faction of the People. We never learned why the Prim retreated into this back world sector of the galaxy, but apparently someone came with them.”

“That ship is clearly an example of a combatant species,” Ivanth said, confused. “That is clearly unlike the Priminae, and it seems odd that they would ally.”

The Prohuer sighed, shaking his head. “We have tracked the Prim across the lights of ten thousand stars and I am no closer to understanding them now than I was in the beginning. They are cowards who hide behind their pretty words. It is not much different to see them hide behind another people’s ship.”

“Perhaps,” Ivanth admitted, “but only
one
? One ship, against many times its number of the Biologicals, and even several of our own in the Hive, and it either escaped or triumphed each time. Our own best could not easily match it.”

“I know, and that troubles me more than anything else,” the Proheur admitted. “It barely registers on our threat
boards, at best. Within the Hive, the vessel remained entirely hidden from every scan save the space-time warping it caused in passing. For all that, these people obviously maintained sufficient military power to pose a credible threat. They are an unknown, and that makes them worrisome. Bu so far we’ve only seen one ship. And one ship, even one a thousand-fold more powerful, will not…cannot, blunt the edge of our assault.”

Ivanth nodded.

There was truth in that. Even a fleet of such warships couldn’t hope to hold a line in space against the full weight of the Biologicals. They could choke a star system with their dead and still come on unabated.

By legend, they had once. The Biologicals had waged an insane war against the Progenitors, beating them back system by system, until they were encamped behind the defenses of the Homeworld. Waves upon waves of the Biologicals descended, only to be battered to dust and shards by the defenses.

Waves upon waves.

Eventually, so the story went, the sheer warping of space by their mass alone inverted the local star and sucked everything for a stellar cycle into the newly formed black hole.

It was a legend, of course. Fanciful, nightmarish, and logically impossible.

For all that, however, Ivanth knew more than anyone alive just how high the numbers of the Biologicals were and could become. He didn’t tell that story to his children. It frightened him far too much.

IN THE BLACK BETWEEN STARS

P.L.A.S.F.
Weifang

“SOMEONE VENT THIS smoke!” Sun ordered as he swung into the aft section of main engineering. “We need you people alive or the
Weifang
will never reach home!”

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