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Coup De Main - Prologue

classifications: Science-Fiction / Space Opera / Heroic / Action

I decided to re-post this chapter by chapter. I really want you guys to be rough. I know this thing has holes everywhere, but give advice to fix them.

I want to know what you think, yes, but also what's wrong, and what's right.

More like this / More by this author

The war had begun rather suddenly, and without warning, for neither side had seen it coming. It all started with a rather serious incident of space piracy. It was determined later that an unknown party of smugglers had hijacked an Imperial Riptide-Class gunship that was being sent to the Ka'chin, an insectoid race with whom the Empire was trying to form an alliance.

The Empire blamed the Ka'chin Tetrarchy, saying it was an inside job, and the Ka'chin blamed Terran Imperial security forces. Neither government would accept the possibility of an outside force, or the possibility that they were in the wrong. The tension mounted, until finally an independent Terran freighter was attacked and destroyed by the Ka'chin, who said it was infringing the borders of the Ka'chin Tetrarchy. The freighter was obviously not within Ka'chin Tetrarchy borders, and the Terran Empire immediately declared a state of war against the Tetrarchy.

Each side saw itself in the right, and each thought the war would be over quickly. They were both wrong. The Terran Empire, with its 35 stars and over 10 races, had a vast amount of resources and vessels to call upon. The Ka'chin Tetrarchy, on the other hand, had only 8 stars and 4 races. This was more than made up for with the fact that the Ka'chin were a warlike and vicious race, and while they did not have the power of the Imperial ships, they were fast, and, more importantly, there were multitudes of them.

The war has been going on for 7 years now.

Both the Empire and Tetrarchy have been severely depleted, with neither side showing any advantage over the other. One year before our story begins, the Empire had launched a campaign that, if successful, would completely sterilize the Ka'chin homeworld, Cha'ak'chan. The Ka'chin, now fighting for their very lives, inflicted major damage to the Imperial fleet, while sustaining heavy losses themselves....

- - -

"Curse those blasted Xyrens!" Admiral Krushev Mykincha muttered, as another wave of Ka'chin warships passed rounded the bridge and started down the other side of the Dreadnought. "If we get more hits like that -" he broke off as a new alarm blared and startled shouts came from Navigation.

The Dreadnought, while the mightiest war vessel in the known galaxy, was not invincible. It only looked like it. Stretching a full 4 kilometers long, and at the widest point nearly 3, it was an awesome sight. The tubular main forepart, containing the quarters, mess, hospitals, etc, was topped by a dome that covered the bridge. This tube tapered to a thin neck about a third of the size of the bow, and was ringed with three docking ports for large vessels, then flattened to join with the stern. The stern contained the mighty engines, generators, and the primary hold and fighter bay. The stern fanned out on either side to form a fin that arched up in the direction of the bow, and the end of each fin was tipped with one the two poles that formed the main gun. Capable of supporting up to 10,000 fighters, with a crew of 300,000 and completely self-sufficient, it was the backbone of the Imperial war machine.

What now, he thought tiredly as he began to walk over to Navigation. This war has been going on for 7 zarking years, he reminded himself; I guess it can't get any worse than it already is.

He was wrong. Very.

Suddenly the ship shook with a huge explosion.

"Ensign Gury! I thought I told you to divert power from the tractor beams to the screens?" shouted the Admiral over the din of new alarms, as he picked himself off the floor.

"Yes, Sir, you did, Sir." came the nervous reply, "I did, Sir. The last hit didn't even bother our screens, Sir." "What?" Mykincha hastily ran back up the isle to the primary engineering console, "Xyrens don't have anything that can go through our -" He was again interrupted, this time by a shout from Navigation;

"Admiral, I think you had better look at this, Sir." He turned, and with a despairing sigh, quickly walked back to Navigation. A sudden thought hit him; the alarm, then the explosion... That blast hadn't come from the Ka'chin, the thought. As he arrived at the console, the lieutenant in charge snapped to attention and said,

"Sir, approximately 30 seconds before the blast, a group of 50 ships slid in 24 klicks from our position. They promptly chose targets, and fired. And, sir, the targets fired upon were both Imperial and Tetrarch."

"Are you sure? Both Imperial and Tetrarch vessels were fired on?"

"Yes, sir."

The Admiral turned, and thought a moment, then barked to Communications:

"I want a direct communications channel to the Ka'chin Tetrarchs and the Imperial High Counsel opened immediately!" and spinning back around to the lieutenant, who was still standing at attention, asked,

"Did you probe them?"

"No, sir. I wanted to see what you thought first."

"Well, you know now. I want all of those ships probed now, and with maximum detail," then turned and began bellowing orders: "I want all Sting and Manta Ray wings to check in. If any are low on anything, I want them to come back for refitting. Ensign Gury, I want you to bring the screens to three-quarters power, and bring our Ion-Pulse shields online at full power." There was a crisp chorus of acknowledgements as the respective crewmembers got to work. The powerful hum of the mighty generators altered, deepening, accompanying a flicker overhead as the screens went down and the shields came online.

The lieutenant tapped him on the shoulder, "Admiral, the lead ship, the one that fired on us, is a Riptide-class gunship. And sir, the registration number is the same as the one that was stolen."

- - -

The Admiral got his direct channel, and in about 5 minutes had a temporary truce with the Ka'chin. This truce made all Terran and Ka'chin ships unwilling allies, and it made the newcomers their common enemy. Finally, after about 4 days of fierce combat, the last enemy ship was destroyed, but not before the Ka'chin hackers got the location of the intruders base.

The damages were dreadful. In the Imperial fleet: 1 Dreadnought, 4 Battle Cruisers, 5 Missile Frigates, 17 light combat vessels, and over 5000 fighters destroyed, and over twice that number damaged severely. On the Tetrarch's side, however, the losses were much greater. Estimates state that they lost over 200 Banshee, 800 Xyrens, 600 Fenix Assault Bombers, and 2000 Skreem Light fighters.

After about 4 months of negotiations, it was decided that neither the Empire nor Tetrarchy was at fault, that the unknown group was now their common enemy, and preparations were made to send a joint strike force and destroy the enemy base. When the strike force arrived at the coordinates, they were shocked to see another large fleet of ships waiting for them.

These ships were not the same type as had attacked with the first group, and no one knew their origin. What everyone did know was that they were very powerful, and a few navigational officers noted some strange readings, but dismissed it as an equipment error. A mad scramble ensued, as each ship launched fighters and brought shields and weapon systems online.

A call was made for backup, but in the 30 minutes it took the backup fleet to get there, 3/4 of the strike force had been destroyed or disabled, with less than half of the unknown fleet out of commission. Just before the backup fleet arrived, a rather startling discovery was made...

- - -

"Ch'inta! You've a demon on your tail." Pilot Ki'ngda said, as he spun his Xyren around to clean his wingman's tail off. The thing had been named, as usual, by the Terran pilots who always seemed to have a name for everything unknown. Ki'ngda had always assumed it was in response to some subconscious human need, but that was just his opinion. The vessels were about 3 1/2 meters long, with two fins sprouting horizontally from a small tapered body, ending in a tail that split three ways. It had two smaller fins, about 20 cm high at the greatest point, on the top and bottom that ran to the end of the body. The fin on top was flanked by two ridges, and the two "wings" went from a smooth leading edge to a jagged -to the point of looking torn- trailing edge.

"Ki'ngda?" Came the worried reply, "Can you help me? I have taken damage to both my engines, and cannot get enough speed to out run it, and my turret has been disabled. I fear my gunner is dead."

"I am onto him...there!" Ki'ngda said as he targeted and destroyed the thing.

The weapons of the demons were rather esoteric bolts of what looked like purple electricity coated in thick goo of the same color, but when they hit the target they exploded in a wash of blue flames that scrambled electronics and melted armor like an ordinary petroleum-based polymer. The Tetrarchy fighters and warships were having a hard time holding ground with the strange things, and it did not look like the Imperial fighters, or the capital ships, for that matter, were doing much better.

"Look, Ch'inta, why don't I escort you back to the Imperial supply vessel before they send us back to attack those big ships? You will only get yourself killed needlessly in you current state, and besides, you need to have your gunner looked at."

"Very well," came the tired, discouraged-sounding reply, "but I don't like leaving the battle." Ki'ngda attached a tractor beam to Ch'inta's ship, and pushed his throttle to full power.

"It is not cowardly to stop for repairs. Only fools fight themselves to the ground. Once your ship is disabled to the point where yours is, you will simply drag the rest of us down as we try to protect you." Remembering something, he switched to playback mode on his battle recorder, and scanned the results of his sensor probe on the demon. Hmmm, he thought to himself, it looks like those things are alive! Ki'ngda, you are letting the battle get to you, he reprimanded himself. But yet the thought would not leave him. "Ch'inta? What channel do the Imperial Command vessels use?"

"Umm, let me see... Ah. 1984."

"Thanks." Ok, he thought, let's see what the Imperials have to say about this... "[This is Advanced Pilot Ki'ngda, calling Imperial Dreadnought Adamant. I wish to speak with Admiral Mason.]"

There was a pause, a crackle of static, then; "Admiral Mason is very busy. What do you need?" The comm. officer sounded harried.

"[I need him to authorize a sensor probe on the alien vessels. I got some strange results from mine, and I want you to check them out with your more powerful sensors.]"

"One moment, please."

I'm glad that I'm outside the war zone, Ki'ngda thought, I would hate to have to do this under fire.

"Advanced Pilot Ki'ngda? This is Lieutenant Deckard." Deckard was from Texas, and his drawl made it hard for Ki'ngda to understand him; "The sensor probe has been authorized and run. What do you want us to look for?"

"[Scan for life forms.]"

"What in tarnation - Uh, Ki'ngda, did your probe return that the entire ship is...alive?"

"[Yes, and I could not believe it. But it would explain why the ships and their weapons are so strange, and why my targeting computer has been acting like it has.]"

"I've got to tell this to Admiral Mason, but thank you for your pointer. Adamant out."

Well, Ki'ngda thought as he slowly maneuvered Ch'intas' disabled Xyren into the supply vessel docking bay, this could prove interesting.

- - -

He was right. When the backup force slid in, the aliens began to leave. A quick-witted Imperial had the presence of mind to attach a homing beacon to one of the vessels before it left the system. Judging by the movements of the homing beacon, it was assumed that they used a now archaic type of warp propulsion. When the beacon finally stopped moving 2 months later, the Empire-Tetrarch Alliance sent another strike force to the system. This time however, they were ready for the aliens, and the battle was soon over.

As our story begins, the Galaxy is in a state of panic. This war, and the previous one, has been very costly to both the Empire and Tetrarchy, and both are now fighting these strange organic ships.

The aliens have begun warping into key systems and wreaking havoc on the defenses. Large defensive fleets slide around, intercepting and destroying the attackers, only to be called off to some other system to help. As it was looking as if the war could drag on forever, it was decided to attack the homeworld of these aliens, Skeff.

Surprisingly, it turned out to be light on population and defenses. The only known defense was a planetary shield that prevented bombardment, but allowed passage of smaller ships. And the only signs of life (besides animals), were about 500 of what appeared to be hatcheries and a very large and very well defended compound.

While the war rages on in the galaxy, preparations are being made to attack...

Repeating myself :P

cruise (June 24th, 2002, 10:10 am)

As I said on DA, and when you posted this before, the opening sucks :P

Well, not sucks, but is way too brief and hurried. The introduction you had in one of the other versions that I read in your oeuvre was immeasurably better. Use that instead. Read my tutorial if you don't know why. :P

Couple of other little niggles.

"The Ka'chin Tetrarchy,...had only 8 stars and 4 races. ...the Ka'chin were a warlike and vicious race..."

So are they four races or one?

And write out numbers in full unless they're very large. :P

Pedantic enough for ya?

Repeating myself :P

Semirrahge (June 25th, 2002, 3:12 am)

Gah, yes... I hate this intro... Actually, I was going to delete it, but I forgot that withdrawing stuff just left it in the submissions area.

However, now that it's done, unless anyone has any special gripes about it, I'm going to post each segment here for feedback. Not fast, but maybe every couple of days.

Oh, yeah...

Semirrahge (June 25th, 2002, 3:14 am)

And thanks for the feedback. I knew it was pretty shoddy... But I thought it was the general problem of having a prologue. :) This hard and fast and light overview approach does not ever work.

the thing with this is, ...

Narainsbrain (June 25th, 2002, 6:23 am)

it's got too much discussion and not enough 'story'. the explanation parts make up half of the prose - it's like a history lesson. ...but you know all that, and you hate it, right?

my idea of a prologue is something like those two-minute scenes that come before the opening titles of action/detective TV series. show an example of the thing the episode is going to deal with, like the antagonists making another of their attacks that the heroes must stop. sets the scene and the atmosphere, and also makes for good storytelling.

in this case, you could detail just the battle with the demon, thus introducing the races involved in the war and their various means of fighting. all the hassle with the wars that went before the demons were discovered isn't really essential and could be condensed to a few paras right now or later on in the story. i know you like that part, it is a pretty cool idea, but it doesn't really add much to the story in my view. you don't start twisting the plot in the prologue.

To shreds, to shreds!

oddlyaromatic (September 12th, 2002, 1:02 am)

You asked for wrong stuff, I'll pick out everything I see. I'm just that nice :).

First line pissed me off. "rather suddenly, and without warning" Three words there whose photons never should have impacted on my eyes causing insignificant tissue damage that doesn't really matter (see how you like it). Both of these have the same meaning. Pick one.

The same niggle about the race(s) and the numbers. "One-thousand-five-hundred-and-fifty-eight" (Robinson Crueso-style) we don't need. But "ten" is okay :). There's one other point which is unclear - one race had vast amounts of vessels, while the other had multitudes of them? I don't think this is what you meant to say, but bear in mind that multitudes of *beings* are just targets without a motherfuckload of ships to carry 'em.

You don't need the first sentence in the last paragraph before the first "--". It's implied by the last one, see. You make it too basic. Allow for the intelligence of the reader.

I'll get to the next bits when I feel like. Lemme know how I'm doing. This what you want?

against the common oppinion!

drd (March 24th, 2003, 11:58 pm)

I likes! MORE!!! NOW!!!

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