Andromeda Romano-Lax. For You Mom, Finally. Ruth Reichl. Fierce Pajamas. Paul Auster. Seeking Peace. Mary Pipher. Lee Smith. Essays After Eighty. Donald Hall. A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul. A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Marlo Thomas. This I Believe. Dan Gediman. Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul. Dream Catcher. Margaret A.
In the Fullness of Time. Emily W. Alice Steinbach. Andrew Blauner. Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom. Lois Frankel. Not Dead Yet. Herbert Gold. Ilena SIlverman. Essays that Worked for College Applications. Boykin Curry. Forward From Here.
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Mac Anderson. Seven Steps on the Writer's Path. Nancy Pickard. Madeline Dimaggio. Gail Johnston. Uphill Walkers. Madeleine Blais. It did not look believable on the scans - only the most powerful weapons in the Gigaquadrant were capable of such destructive measure. It was not long after this shift, did upon the other side of the planet, directly under the creature, a cavernous hole opened up underneath, sucking in all that was above it.
It moved further and wider, quicker than anything possibly could at that size. It only took a matter of seconds before the planet was enveloped in on itself - magma underneath the planet erupted at a velocity so great that it dried and froze underneath the monster's influence, and all life on Fadaj, from the hundred-kilometre high buildings that were shattered and flattened by this creature to the blades of grass thousands of miles away were rendered dead, motionless and ashen. The planet was no longer spherical, much like a warped cylindrical mass that was pulled apart by the monstrosity the UNO caught a sight of.
And only moments after, did the star the planet orbit suddenly went out like candlelight snuffed out in the dead of night itself. Far away from Ottzello, at the prosperous sector of Zoleia, a large draconic alien wore a great set of regal armor as he analyzed a small screen on the side of his throne, his eyes narrowing as he read the information relayed to him. In front of him appeared a pair of holographic screens, somewhat blurred at first before they took the clear shape of a pair of Zoles like himself, though evidently more on their prime than the elderly king.
Each of them saluted to the monarch before glancing to one another and giving a small nod of acknowledgement, implying they were aware of each other's presences in the conference. They were Vekaron Zankho and Asraels Austoth, two of the Great-Commandants of the Imperium, its most renowned and praised military leaders. The two Zoles commandants saluted their monarch again before their images disappeared from view, with Rebaris grumbling under his breath at the thought of his galactic arm coming under threat once again.
Reaching for his console, he initiated a new conference, contacting his people's allies to his cause. The Niaka were a divided race, their original empire now known as the Old Niaka Order who was one of the many allies of the Wranploer Legion, though the homeworld was under the control of rebels known as the Niaka Special Forces - a stratocracy created with the intent of becoming a galactic police, purging crime and unlawful activities, preferably with extreme prejudice.
Their leaders were known as the Chief Minors, led by a figure known as Chief Major, who served as the supreme commander of all Niaka forces in the empire. This Chief Major was Xerkea , a gruff, short-tempered and perpetually displeased woman who thought redemption through death was the only kind of redemption Borealis' criminals deserved. As she turned to her personal console to answer the call for a conference she had received, she was met to the sight of Rebaris' face appearing in her monitor.
With this, the two old aliens shared a goodbye before Xerkea closed the transmission, turning herself and letting out yells as to get her Chief Minors in her office. She had a new threat to combat, preferably with extreme prejudice. The UNO Leaders' biological forms may only be a front for their AIs from which they were controlled, but they still had the same biological needs.
So each of them still required a hibernation period of 8 hours every night to continue to function. Each of the Leaders slept for these eight hours at the same time, with the exception of the Tralkik Commander. At this point, they had heard of the attacks on their colonies at the far reaches of the sector, but had yet to track it to the source. They knew it was very likely that they would be awoken from this sleep.
What they didn't expect, however, was for it to be a nightmare, a vision, that would awaken them, and not an attack alert. They stood together in a desolate wasteland, devoid of any features save for a thick, black fog which blocked their view. They could hear sounds coming from it, familiar ones at that; the cries of help of an Ottzel.
Rushing into the fog, the sound became clearer until they could see its source: Dakster. Their old friend has a massive appendage wrapped around his body, dragging him into the fog as he tried to dig his hands into the earth to fight its hold, with no success. Before he could finish, another portion of the large appendage wrapped itself around the Ottzel's head, forcing his mouth shut as it continued to drag him.
Each of the Leaders were too nervous to walk towards, though Zr'Ahgloth stormed forward in frustration, trying to demand Dakster tell him what the "fate" was. As he approached, the fog cleared and revealed to them just what was dragging their friend: looking down at them was Kolossus, the demon's face contorted into a grin as they realized he was dragging Dakster away with his tail.
The Vyro'Ralza displayed humour by their confusion, his laughing filling their ears until it all came to a halt. At the point, each of the Leaders awoke simultaneously. There had been no alert, but their hibernation pods in their living quarters detected brain activity that was far beyond what it should be during hibernation, and woke them all up.
At that point, they realised that they must have all had the same dream. Tuolog stepped out of his own pod. Each of them realised that he had been absent from the dream completely. Immediately later, there was an actual alert set off. The sirens awoke every crew member on the Omega Commander and the Leaders were rushed into their command chamber. The Tralkik Commander was there to greet them with news.
Much like the first recorded attack, the world's environment began to dry up, before a seemingly invincible large figure formed, and everything was obliterated after that. Tuolog dropped his staff. The Leaders returned to their hibernation pods to finish their sleep, while the Tralkik Commander and every AI stayed on the lookout for the next Xi'Arazulha attack. It would pick it up immediately and plot a course for the Omega Commander even if they were still asleep at the time.
The Leaders would have a troubled sleep ahead of them, as these were dark times. Each of Da Leedas and Da Warbosses gathered for a pizza party, in which they were filled with joy and amusement. They were celebrating what was happening to UNO's planets. The other Loron cheered at Fre'kloar's statement, and then laughed amongst themselves. Grak'tona then spoke up. The Rogue Boyz Leedas all scrambled and fought one another over who would put the ship's thrusters on full speed, until Fre'kloar eventually did. It was their job to protect the rest of the galaxy from the mysterious invaders who were massacring the Ottzelloans, and they would use this blockade to stop them from advancing further into their respective galactic arms.
Surely they were a species of undocumented alien from the unexplored sectors, Asraels thought, so they would logically use the Cold Relays for space travel. There were few threats, between Borealis and the distant ends of the Gigaquadrant that could have stepped through the blockade without much hindrance, and Asraels had gone through every measure, and then every measure a second time round to ensure that nothing, not even the slightest foreign presence would not come within a ten parsec reach of their firepower.
There was not much information on these attackers - the credibility of a single entity having twisted and turned a planet into death was so tenuous that many of the individuals stationed along this blockade thought it was merely a drill that Asraels had put them through - although the Grand-Commandant was privy to the information - something was out there.
The evidence left behind this trail of destruction; the death toll rising through the billions from all corners of the galaxy could not be ignored no matter how much the Imperium or the Special Forces had tried to downplay it within the media. The last report of this attacker - something that was not yet named - was viewed over a nearby world, Vayoket, that was destroyed in a similar light to all the planets that preceeded it. The stars that these planets had orbited also were sucked out of existence as if a singularity had passed straight through the system, with little to no explanation as to how.
Many of them thought it was perhaps a stellar engine of sorts that harvested these suns, although there was no visual evidence of it - just the unbelievable nature of a lone figure appearing, and disappearing along with countless lives. It was something many, if not all of them had refused to believe. There was nothing in the Borealis Galaxy that could have predicted a lone entity, or a number of lone entities devouring entire star systems with little to no pattern. Nevertheless, both the Zoles and the Niaka forces present had all sorts of scanners to ascertain what this was - if they were unfortunate enough to encounter this unknown attacker, they would at the very most die trying to find out what they were.
Upon their scanners, roughly a day into the blockade upon the galactic time scale they were using, an anomalous reading showed. It had originally presented itself as merely static on their scanners, with faint blips of a presence with a heat signature straight in front of them, although there was nothing visually there. The second sign of it was that multiple, other heat signatures began to show, all of them foreign in nature - they had almost swarmed their scanners past operating capacity, but before they completely overloaded their systems, they disappeared once more.
A surge of power rocked most of their ships, some of their smaller crafts immediately went into emergency power. A second surge of power, heavier than the last one further moved their way through the blockade. In the manner of where the ships were being moved out of position, the surge was originating from behind them. Many of them were pushed forward into the no-fly zone they created, and some of the larger craft began to lose communication systems. Asraels begun receiving signals from his fleet as their ships begun malfunctioning, and he begun running his scans, desperately trying to find the source of what was causing all of this.
Nothing seemed to be directly causing it, however. At best, it appeared as if the fleet's engines and cores were poorly maintained, or were rapidly wearing down. There was nothing within the vicinity that was causing this, unless it was sabotage. This was not the case however - in front of them, appeared an anomalous wave that had shut all of their systems down, leaving only the bare essentials so that they were merely sitting within their spacecraft motionlessly.
Nothing was there, however - their scanners went offline, and visuals became difficult as only the naked eye could discern so much. As their power slowly came back online, the scanners revealed one, single figure not too far from their blockade. There was no heat signal, however; it was only by the fact that it was drawing in heat from its surroundings were the Zoles and the Niaka able to detect it.
However, as their visuals had come back online, it revealed a colossal, monolithic figure floating in space. Its entire body was sharp angled, and it was oddly and terrifyingly remniscent of the Xhodocto bodies of Gigaquadrantic history. It was however taller, and its features were possibly more pointed than that of the Xhodocto's near mythological appearance, which made it all the more mesmerising to gaze upon through their systems. It was rather unexpected however that their systems remained intact - all other reports implied that electronics failed completely within their presence.
The lone figure stood there, as motionlessly as the ships did. Despite this, Asraels could sense a form of mockery coming from the creature before them, as if it was goading them to attack it. After recovering from the brief moment of confusion, Asraels's eyes narrowed as he pointed at the figure, ordering his ships to open fire upon it.
The vessels whose weapons were still operational bombarded the figure with a barrage of lasers. What they saw next was purely bizarre - what was expected as an explosive impact upon the monstrous entity's body was negated by its sheer presence - all of the lasers fired upon it seemed to be sucked into the nothingness surrounding its flesh, and the entity itself remained unchanged, unmoved and mostly unfazed.
Suddenly, the monster began to move. Its arms spread out from where they rested, and upturned its claw-like hands. Before long, the barrage of lasers unleashed upon it were soon re-ignited and unleashed upon the fleet, shot-for-shot. The shields of the vesels were ripped apart by their own weapons, many of them being torn apart while Asraels was forced to take hold of his chair to not be flung aside as his ship suffered heavy damage.
The Commandant's eyes widened, fear visible in his expression as he issued an order to the blockade. Before many of the ships alongside Asraels could turn, the entity pushed its right hand forward, and invisibly so, the ships to the Grand-Commandant's left immediately all shut down and withered to nothing. It was apparent that, despite the confusion and terror this thing created, its power was to merely reduce whatever it could to nothing but dead matter. The ships to the right were fortunate enough to turn in time, though not without a straying few falling victim to the same fate.
Asraels and the survivors rushed to the nearest Cold Relay as soon as they could, the ships blasting through hyperspace as they fled the monster without any intention of looking back; what was killing the Ottzelloans really was as bad as it sounded, and they experienced it first hand. All they could hear however, sounded like the abyssal and thunderous laughter of the creature. It did not follow them, but instead turned its back on the Relay, and looked elsewhere.
As the Omega Commander made its way through Cold Relays to scout out the next planet hit by the Xi'Arazulha, the Leaders immediately received a transmission on their way to the third Relay they passed through in Ottzello space. Ignoring the other Leaders, Zr'Ahgloth jumped out of his usual spot and hit the button on the console in the centre of the room. A holographic transmission of Fre'kloar and the other Rogue Leedas appeared.
The Traklik Commander further examined the area and displayed a separate hologram of the Relay from the outside. The Omega Commander closed transmissions, as it set its course looking for any entry to the Cold Relay. Its crew was aware that if they entered within a certain range, they could possibly be fired upon, but if the Rogue Boyz had made it through, there was no reason to suspect they could not do it. Each of them was frustrated, but also horrified for the people on planets being destroyed by the Xi'Arazulha.
They were effectively being held hostage, unable to help their people. Meanwhile, on board the Relay, and as of yet not met by any Caretakers, Da Rogue Leedas bickered amongst themselves over who would get to fight Zr'Ahgloth. Despite Fre'kloar being a higher ranking Loron than them, their narcissism, and sense of entitlement, still led to an endless argument that would likely continue until Zr'Ahgloth arrived.
Not one of them, other than Rel'larutina who had boarded in her Smasha, was even paying attention to the fact that their ship was crashed and now incapable of flight. Fre'kloar coughed loudly, and then for a brief moment, entered a sophisticated, calmer but still inspiring tone of voice as he began to lay out his reasoning. The other Loron applauded, almost surprised at this new Fre'kloar. However, for the rest of Da Leedas, it was only an invitation to outdo him. Each of the Loron applauded the others. Funnily enough, even Rel'larutina received applause. However, as narcisstic as usual, Grak'tona had to announce his speech before delivering it.
The Loron continued to squabble for several more hours. Not once was the issue of their ship brought up again, except for Kal'kuir, who spent the entire time screaming. As soon as the Omega Commander approached the Cold Relay, reaching a few hundred kilometers away, there was an immediate warning sent to the ship by transmission. A Caretaker appeared on communications. There was a brief pause, as the Caretaker processed an alternate response. While they were biological, they functioned almost like robots.
The Omega Commander continued forward regardless, and the Caretaker's warnings grew sharper, as its voice raised. As they continued to approach further, immediately several beams were fired from the Relay. The Omega Commander was halted in its tracks, now floating in space unable to move, as if it had been hit by an EMP blast. The Caretakers had frozen the ship, as a tractor beam now pulled it in closer. There was a brief pause. A small robot teleported onto their ship. It scanned each of them, before it teleported them all to a room inside the Relay.
The Relay room inside was a large and open space, metallic and grey. It had very few Caretakers in it, suggesting it was a room where ships normally board the Relay, or would have boarded if there were a point in the Relay's history where they were open to outsiders. But now it appeared to solely be used to testify threats against it. The Leaders were left alone in the room for a while, and no Loron showed up. However, each of them was completely frozen in place, unable to move their bodies.
While they waited, eventually a single Caretaker walked towards them from the distance. It was larger than the others, and had a much less robotic movement. While it was still slow, its mechanical arms also moved far quicker and more energetically, presumably throwing its arms around in annoyance. The Caretaker spoke, with a very different, higher pitched but also crankier voice than the other Caretakers. The Caretaker suddenly stopped in his tracks, then glared over at Tuolog. He walked forward more slowly.
The other Leaders fell over, as their invisible restraints were deactivated and they were allowed to move once again. The Caretaker lifted Tuolog up and then embraced him in a hug before letting him down again. The Mechanic turned around. Right in front of him, each of Da Leedas and Da Warbosses teleported, landing face first on the ground, as the Mechanic stood over them menacingly and angry.
As Jol'kiar attempted to stomp on the Mechanic, he fired a portable turbolaser cannon on his metallic arm around to scare him off, and then grabbed him by the throat with his other, and tossed him aside. The other Loron all stepped back by the seemingly tiny Mechanic's surprising show of strength as Jol'kiar crashed into a wall, falling into the floor. While they were distracted with their bickering, they had not noticed Thr'aloy and Ray'loth going at each other in the background, exchanging punches, slaps, kicks and bites while rolling around the room.
The Mechanic paused for a moment. He still couldn't hear Thr'aloy and Ray'loth's fighting over his own thoughts, but eventually he sighed and dropped his arms. At the back of the room, Thr'aloy and Ray'loth suddenly froze in place halfway through their wrestling moves.
Their eyes widened as they suddenly appeared very nervous. At that point, the others began to take notice of them, and glare over to the other corner of the room. The Mechanic scratched his head. As Thr'aloy and Ray'loth each formed their own cocoon around them, the Mechanic shooed the Rogue Boyz away. Several Caretakers escorted them back to their ship, and would help repair some of the damage for it to be fixed. The Mechanic brought up a hologram with one of his metal arms, picturing the Borealis Galaxy from millions of years ago. The Mechanic eventually warped them back to the Omega Commander.
They had had quite an experience, but it had worked out in their favour. They had gained a very powerful ally. Meanwhile, the Mechanic turned around and displayed a different hologram. This entity was far different, possessing a sly smirk on his face which would send a chill down the spine of the usual man. His voice was suave and calm, yet commanding and threatening.
As UNO left the Relay and the Mechanic moved on to get the hole left by the Propa Big Rogue Krooza fixed, the Loron were left to their own devices - that is, to yell and complain to each other over whose fault it was that they did not manage to beat UNO up in the end. Ray'loth had been encased in a large cocoon, where he went through the metamorphosis which would transform him into an adult Betta Loron at long last, while all the others merely sat around in a circle, bored and unsure of what to do.
As they laid around, waiting for anything interesting to happen, a light flashed before them as someone materialized; it was Tuolog, though he was alone this time. The Loron all looked at him in confusion. As that name was said, it was as if time had stopped for all the Loron - save for Grak'tona and Drizz'pyrokirk, who had no idea who that was.
Fre'kloar and Jol'kiar immediately leaned forward, their expressions showing great confusion and apprehension, while some of the others outright cowered at the sound of the name. The Palace of Old Kings was the heart of the Wranploer society, the largest building in their capital at their homeworld of Vijaha, at the fringes of the Eastern Arm. It was the throne of the old Wranploer Legion , and was now the throne of the new Borealis Consortium Network , the revitalized and empowered empire of General Volim.
The gigantic Wranploer sat upon his throne of gold, guarded by elite guards equipped with the best technology the Consortium had to offer, as he awaited the arrival of his partner, who wanted to talk to him. The thought of Volim having a 'partner' in itself would be considered ridiculous, were it not for the fact it caused his influence to almost double in the galactic arm.
As Volim sat on his throne, Falrik Zaarkhun arrived, completely punctual. He walked confidently and proudly, unlike many others who would enter Volim's throne room full of anxiety and fear at the Wranploer who towered above them. Zaarkhun arrived with his usual smug look, his presence very commanding as he stood tall.
Behind him were his partners in crime, Genrai Nal and Sollow , who almost always accompanied him as bodyguards. Together, the three made for an intimidating group of criminals, who could slice apart any foe they set their eyes on. As Zaarkhun approached, his eyes lit up, as he became almost excited. Genrai Nal stepped forward.
He brought out one of his blades, and took it off. He waved his hand over it, chanting under his breath. Suddenly, it rusted rapidly, as if time were being sped up by hundreds of years. Then, he stopped it. He waved his hand the opposite direction, and it returned to normal. Not only that, but any of the blood and scratches from it were wiped away. He then placed his blade back on his elbow, and stepped back again. Falrik Zaarkhun paused for a moment.
In his mind, he was creating dozens of possibilities for how to achieve his goal, eliminating each one until only a few remained, and then calculating just how probable his success would be, before finally presenting something to Volim within a matter of seconds. As the Omega Commander continued to patrol around space while preparations were being made to launch an offense against the Devourer's Chosen, each of the Leaders were spent as they were giving out orders.
However, Tuolog was not looking after the military. Instead, he was continuing to examine space and the Essence let off by the Xi'Arazulha. Trying to find some possible way that they could be weakened or damaged. As of yet, he had no ideas, but he was not losing faith in his ability to find at least some hope. Some way to stop the bleeding of colonies as more fell to the Xi'Arazulha across the galaxy.
Tuolog was held up in the command chambers alone. The cylindrical, metallic room was normally lively, but with everyone bar him and the Tralkik Commander computer absent, it was largely void, allowing Tuolog plenty of space to meditate and concentrate on the space he was examining. The galaxy had felt like it had been wounded with the presence of the Xi'Arazulha - each planet, star and life lost felt as if the galaxy was being attacked and torn apart with a blade, and it indeed felt as if the Xi'Arazulha were leaving a bloody trail behind wherever they tread.
Little did Tuolog know - or perhaps he did - that spreading his mind across the galactic plane was not a presence the Xi'Arazulha wanted. It was only a matter of time that his meditation invited a Xi'Arazulha to him, as he caused them some interest. As he remained in his meditative position, eye shut and motionless, the lights within his chamber began to falter - static-like interference caused them to shut off, and the metallic sheen from the walls began to rust away as if some vicious fog had ate them away. It was clear then, that in Tuolog's meditative stance, he had invited a Xi'Arazulha in.
It had sensed the Ioketa's presence, much like the faint waft of a meal on the wind, and sniffed it out to reveal the meditating sage on this ship. Tuolog had predicted this as a possible outcome. With a Xi'Arazulha in his mind, it was now his chance to communicate with it. To find out what it was doing in Borealis. Tuolog communicated with his mind. The Xi'Arazulha itself appeared, although as if it were phasing into the room through the wall.
Its colossal stature, only half of it for that matter, peered through the rusted edifice. It was not exactly a solid, stone like entity that was reported, as it seemed that touching the consistency of this particular Xi'Arazulha may have caused a thick residue or mass to run off onto their fingers. So much so, that blackness was seeping off its figure as if it were some monstrosity from underwater - although the gelatinous mess it left behind did not seem to corrode into the metalwork. It was strange to see such a being like that - it did not seem too far removed from a physical being as bones and innards were partially visible underneath the mass of liquidated flesh.
Nevertheless, it began to speak. The voice of a Xi'Arazulha was not known, although it was not too far from the spacious and heavy nature of a Vi'Navitum's, although it seemed some malformity had occurred to its voice as much as it did to its being overall. It sounded dissonant to say the least, like a swarm of insects trying to make a unified voice. Tuolog was normally not moved during his meditation by anything. But this Xi'Arazulha took him aback. He had not been prepared, even by his centuries of practicing Essence and communicating with Essentials, for this encounter before.
Tuolog pondered the Xi'Arazulha's statements. At first, things were becoming clearer to him. But now, they were starting to make less sense. With that, the Xi'Arazulha slowly melted away, as if it pulled away into the wall it emerged from. All was left of its trace was the fog-like residue of its body upon the wall, and the rusted metal around Tuolog. The lights within the room switched back on, and heat slowly returned as the dark god's presence diminished into nothing.
The homeworld of the Devourer's Chosen was located deep within a nebula of entropic energy which destroyed any ship not also ridden with the demonic essence of nightmares. The planet itself was a fiery wasteland, seas of magma running through its surface as the land itself was little more than charred stone.
A great black temple dominated the capital, once a proud city of the Indoctrinate Collective now turned into a twisted amalgamation of shrines dedicated to their gods. Seated upon a black throne was Geltastra , the Dark Apostle of Shu'wokerama and leader of the great cult of the Devourer, her eyes closed as she meditated, while she was surrounded by Radeon cultists which let out constant, quiet prayers.
For Durzhan, he was right at home here. Having being used to being surrounded by demon cultists due to his time with the Blyro'Tralzorca , Durzhan arrived surrounded by the toxic planet and the demonic imagery, and felt far more comfortable in this environment than he had in thousands of years. There was a slight grin on his face as he flew in to speak to Geltastra. He had a proposition for her. As he approached, he calmed himself down a little.
source He remembered how his idol, Zargoth, would act in this situation, and dropped any emotion from his tone as he approached Geltastra as a business partner. His arrival was met with violent surprise by her Radeon priests, who rose their hands preparing to blast him with his essence - they did not accept strangers in the holy temple - though they were stopped once the Dark Apostle opened her eyes to gaze upon him, and the priests immediately stood down, as if signalled to let him approach. Durzhan approached until he was a few feet away from her throne.
He was unfazed by the shocked reaction of the other priests. Then he spoke to her. Durzhan grinned, as he left the world satisfied about their partnership. Little did he know that he understood far less of Zargoth's plan than he knew, and what he little of it he had told the Devourer's Chosen may have been completely inaccurate. And yet, their common desire for vengeance and power fueled their faith in it, and would make this, at least in the short run, a successful deal.
As the Western Arm was ravaged by the Xi'Arazulha, life went on at the other side of the galaxy, where a meeting between the Wranploer general Volim and a representative of the Imalmah Hegemony took place. The Imalmah, a vile race of slavers with one of the most corrupt governments in the galaxy's modern history, was an occasional trading partner of the old Wranploer Legion and the new Borealis Consortium Network, though Volim found them an especially annoying kind due to one simple reason: they refused to accept the authority of the Wranploer. As much as he would rather see them dominated, the Hegemony held too much influence in their home region, and hostility towards them would lead to warfare, something the Wranploer general would rather not waste on them.
The meeting took place in neutral ground, at a wild world at the fringes of the Demolidus Sector. Volim was flanked by Wranploer troopers equipped with highly advanced rifles, and he watched the arrival of the Imalmah representative with some impatience. Slowly walking up to the meeting with his own escort was Fleet Commander Bakarl , one of the higher military authorities of the Hegemony and a well known terrorist across the Western Arm. Volim rose a hand, displaying a data pad for the Imalmah soldiers to see.
A grin grew on Bakarl's face as he crossed his hands. Perhaps out of amusement for the Imalmah's courage, the massive Wranploer threw the data pad to Bakarl, who inspected it before nodding to himself repeatedly. He reached two fingers to his ear, yelling an order in the tongue of his people before Volim witnessed smaller Imalmah vessels carrying large containers making their way to the surface; handing over hordes of slaves to work in mineral mines and other forms of manual labour. At this moment, however, Volim and Bakarl both noticed the arrival of another vessel which loomed over his own and that of the Imalmah forces.
The skies appeared to darken as fire was opened, barrages of laser blasts raining down at the meeting area and delivering heavy damage to Volim's personal shuttle, rendering it inoperational. The skies over the meeting darkened as it slowly turned from a vibrant blue to a deep purple, and Volim and Bakarl's forces opened fire as they suddenly found themselves jumped by creatures, who attacked them in a furious frenzy; Malcaeum demons.
The Wranploer general turned to see Bakarl running away into his own shuttle, which quickly took flight, abandoning the Wranploer forces behind with the money of their meeting - Volim clenched his fist and growled in anger over Bakarl's cowardice before taking out his own custom-made rifle and opening fire towards the demon horde, while the Wranploer ships in space fought the invader; the Devourer's Chosen.
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It was the first time Volim witnessed the Corruptus up-front, and he quickly realized the gravity of the situation as he watched the demons of nightmare fight back against his men despite their complete lack of equipment, bisecting them or ripping them to shreds with their claws. Amidst the chaos, a cloud of dark energies manifested in the battlefield, revealing the form of a tall Bonio whose eyes shone a terrible red colour, and as he arrived, he let out a cry of fury as he charged the Wranploer troopers, tearing them apart with his energy blades as if they were made of paper despite only standing at half thir side.
On his back, he carried a rack decorated with skulls of many races, including Dracogonarious, Spinker, Zoles and Wranploer, as well as some that Volim could not recognized. As the troopers tried to fire at him, their shots were absorbed by a barrier of entropic energy which enveloped his being like a shield. Arberkul opened the full span of his wings, letting out a terrible, demonic roar as tendrils of flesh erupted from his back, thrusting themselves into the bodies of Volim's soldiers before pumping them with entropic energies, burning through their tissues and reducing them to ashes in mere seconds.
Out of his mouth, a breath of demonic flames was launched at Volim which knocked the massive Wranploer backwards several feet, causing him to gasp in pain as he crashed against the ground. As he struggled to get back up, the could see his ships in orbit falling to the Chosen's dreadnought as Arberkul walked up to him menacingly, brandishing his blade in order to deliver the final blow.
As Arberkul was about to slay Volim, his arm stopped as it was suddenly pierced by several thrown blades. Volim looked to his left, and saw Sollow tossing his knives to Arberkul, briefly slowing him. As he looked back to Arberkul, Genrai Nal arrived with his own two blades. He kicked Arberkul back, as he prepared to duel. The Wranploer was surprised by the sudden arrival of the two, though Arberkul himself only showed annoyance. The Bonio charged at Genrai Nal in a maddened frenzy, swinging his blades at him with the intent of teaching him manners.
Genrai responded in turn, blocking every attack, before kicking back at him, while Sollow continued to throw knives. Despite the Inalton's strength, the Champion proved to be a match, while Sollow's knives did little but disintegrate in his entropic aura. Volim got up, meanwhile, and looked to the sky at the Chosen dreadnought. He saw it come under heavy fire from a ship that he did not recognise. It appeared to be made with Borealan metal, decorated in rare jewels found only in the Eastern Arm, and equipped with weaponry considered illegal in the Western Arm.
It could only have been Wranploer Legion design, except it was far too prestigious, almost too well decorated, to have been one of the Legion's ships. Could it have been Zaarkhun's design? Arberkul found himself attacked by Sollow in-between Genrai Nal's blows, though he managed to sent one of his clawed hand at the Heeyorian's head; pumping him with his essence, Arberkul exploded Sollow's head, causing him to slump into the ground, twitching.
However, as he noticed his dreadnought coming under damage, he stepped back, growling towards Genrai Nal. Genrai Nal continued to attack Arberkul. Though he was physically weaker, his technique was more robust, as was his speed. However, before he reached him, the Champion's form was engulfed in demonic energies as he teleported away from the battlefield, with the weakened Dreadnought activating its FTL drives as it fled the planet.
Genrai groaned a little, disappointed at the brief encounter, and turned towards Volim. On the ground, Sollow's body stopped twitching as he rose to his feet, his head slowly reforming to back to how it was, and he let out an annoyed groan as he passed his hands through his neck. The ship which had damaged the Chosen dreadnought flew over above their location. From the loudspeakers, the voice of Zaarkhun boomed to the planet surface.
A small shuttle arrived to pick the three of them up, alongside the survivors of Volim's escort. It flew up to the ship, and dropped the survivors into the hangar. However, the other three were instead escorted to another part of the ship, much higher up. The shuttle dropped them inside the command bridge. The command bridge was unlike anything Volim had seen before. The cielings and the floor were completely gold slated, with diamond decorations and pieces of exquisite Borealis art found across the walls.
It was well lit, with a red carpet leading towards the throne at the centre which overlooked the windows. The throne was much like the one in Volim's palace, as the commanding bridge was not like most other ships filled with computer terminals, but instead only a single holographic communicator, as the rest mostly contained more gold plated plaques and diamond chairs for the other commanders. It was a luxurious bridge, with most of the technical details largely hidden away, not because they weren't in use, but so that they didn't spoil the view.
Volim looked around, a grin in his fang-filled mouth before he decided to speak again, turning his eyes to Zaarkhun. Grumbling under his breath, Sollow walked away from the chamber while Volim appeared to contemplate for a couple of moments. Zaarkhun proceeded to take Volim around to see its interior.
While half the ship contained an on-board barracks and several places for Legion commanders to congregate and discuss battle plans, the other half was practically a cruise ship. It contained plenty of bars, casinos and even an arena for illegal sports. It was everything a Wranploer could desire.
While everything on sale was pricey, a man like Volim could afford to pay up. The Iron Fist would soon become the ship of the Borealis elites. A few days after receiving the Iron Fist , Volim and Zaarkhun now felt more powerful than ever. They were surprisingly friendly with one another, as they had a newfound trust for one another.
The ship was an incredible display of their might, and already many around the galaxy were beginning to take notice of a ship made of such exquisite parts and with such deadly weaponry. The Wranploer Legion already had a reputation of extreme power, now Volim had a reputation of extreme power and extreme wealth. However, as brilliant a strategist as Zaarkhun was, he was about to come to terms with one of his greatest weaknesses: his own arrogance in the face of success. Zaarkhun normally overprepared every single plan thoroughly, but after long streaks of success, could make the most foolish mistake that could dearly cost him a mission.
This would be one such time. Sitting in their thrones, Zaarkhun stood up and prepared holographic plans to present an idea to Volim. Volim begun growing annoyed at Zaarkhun's insistence, clenching on the sides of his throne as he raised his voice. Falrik Zaarkhun gave the orders to the AI on the ship, and immediately it set course for the Inner Core. It did not use the Cold Relays, as Zaarkhun knew they would see him coming that way. Instead, Zaarkhun used the ship to create a wormhole just a few parsecs away from the Inner Core, and then activate a spacetime cloaking device to presumably sneak through Grox territory unaffected.
As they arrived on the other end of the wormhole, the ship cloaked. Its crew were mostly unaware that they were in Grox territory, as Zaarkhun had not even announced it. Volim was extremely anxious, but Zaarkhun grinned to himself. Little did he know, however, that Volim was correct; he had done very little research into the Borealis Grox, and was assuming they were the same as other Grox he had previously encountered.
His underestimating of Borealis's Grox Empire would become evident once the ship shook violently, its systems going offline and forced into emergency power sources as soon as they arrived. Almost as if out of nowhere, another ship was right by the side of the Iron Fist - it made the ship of the Consortium look like an ant in comparison. Through the entire ship, every monitor begun displaying the image of a creature, startling the crew who was so far unaware of what was happening.
It was a Marinox , but unlike those Falrik Zaarkhun had encountered at Ottzello, it possessed a light blue coat of fur and snow-white stripes across its body. The Marinox raised one hand, which slowly split itself into various wire-like tendrils which he seemed to use to operate something offscreen. Zaarkhun was puzzled at first, and looked visibly confused and distressed.
His face soon turned back to a confident and smug face, as he turned to Khensu, with his hands on the terminals of his ships. Falrik Zaarkhun slammed his fist on the weaponised warp bubble plasma cannon, hoping it would eat at the Grox from inside. As it could not legally be purchased anywhere in the galaxy, he assumed that the Grox would have no defense for it. But he was wrong. As Khensu had pointed out, the weapon had jammed completely. He continued to slam his fast down, looking more visibly irritated each time. The Marinox's eyes suddenly begun shining an intense white light as his voice changed completely, almost as if someone else was speaking.
The voice was unsettling to the crew, with many soldiers having to cover their ears. With this, the entire ship shook once again as Volim and Zaarkhun watched it be seemingly thrown into the closest Cold Relay, eventually coming to a halt in an entire different star system at the Outer Core.
The two returned to their space and were silent for most of the journey. Zaarkhun was annoyed, but at first, he was not annoyed at himself. It couldn't be his fault. He was too good at planning. How could this be his mistake? There was no way in his mind. Volim, however, was clearly infuriated with Zaarkhun, not speaking out of the annoyance he felt for him at that moment. Eventually, he spoke up. Zaarkhun looked at Volim's infuriated face for a few moments, before his own expression sunk.
He had to admit that he was in the wrong. He'd been far too arrogant this time. It would be a few hours before he would bring himself to apologise, but until then, he left the room to try and recouperate any losses. Perhaps a few successful racketeering operations would make him feel better about this embarassing defeat. Grenzaar was the last place UNO were expecting an attack. The golden space station just orbiting the star at the centre of the Ottzello Sector was a place of prosperity in Ottzello and a sign of its solidarity together. It was a symbol of war-torn races coming together as one.
It was the one place that had never been touched by conflict, and the one place where Ottzelloans could escape it. Inside its outer shell, the space station felt like a planet, and was at least twice the size of one. It was full of artificial greenery, and golden metropolises, as the very wealthy Ottzelloans who could afford to live there or to take a vacation there went about their lives without concern for the Xi'Arazulha. In fact, it was almost impossible to see a single weapon, a single gun turret or a single defensive drone from a glance as it was so far away from the conflict and turmoil in Borealis outside.
To Ottzelloans, it was their utopia that they had won for themselves. As surrounding systems were extremely well defended, there was a very bold assumption that no one would choose to attack there. To UNO, doing so seemed like suicide, and seemed unthinkable. It was however, the one place the Xi'Arazulha themselves actually wanted to attack.
The planets in their previous massacres were merely obstacles that the Xi'Arazulha destroyed on a whim, although they knew that the centrepiece of the UNO - Grenzaar, was sure to elicit a reaction from the Vyro'Narza or even the Vyro'Razla - the Xi'Arazulha deemed both of them as equally viable nourishment for their ever devouring war machine, and Grenzaar was valuable to more than just those who lived on it. Suicide it may have been to anyone else that wished to attack it, although the Xi'Arazulha were beyond death - in fact, they themselves were the very incarnation of death itself.
Within orbit of Grenzaar, manifested a blackened entity - not too far inclined towards a solid mass nor a liquid one. It did not initially pick up on the surveillance surrounding the construct, although it began to show up as the typcial presence of a Xi'Arazulha - a severe drop in heat signature around the area it formed, and appeared as if this blot on the radar was slowly spreading outwards.
Normally, the UNO response was to send everyone into an immediate but controlled alert. But they could not respond as quickly as usual, as it was a completely unprecendented and unexpected attack. Just as the computers realised that the radars were not, in fact, bluffing, they summoned hundreds of ships and went into a full alert. It was not the typical controlled reaction, it was a complete panic.
Many of those in Grenzaar, once informed that the station was under attack, immediately rushed not for weapons to defend themselves with, but to the spaceport just in case the shell of the space station was destroyed and they lost either their homes or their lives. If the hull cracked open, and they truly believed the Xi'Arazulha could do that, it would take months of recovery, and would destroy the life support systems in whichever sector they had attacked.
As it manifested, it became clear that this was indeed the form of a Xi'Arazulha, although not as they knew it. The creature was somewhat akin to their shape, although it seemed to be made out of crawling objects - whether it looked like snakes, a swarm of locusts or a flight bats were interpreted by their individuals, but no interpretation deemed it benevolent. It did not appear to move however; as more and more of the fleet came to engage the monstrosity, they saw that this was a kind of Xi'Arazulha that was even worse than those that preceded it.
A Kralgon fleet commander and an Inalton fleet commander, leading the two defensive fleets called upon to engage the threat, communicated to one another. The fleets waited in silence for the Xi'Arazulha's first move. Unfortunately, they knew that the tension - as thick as it was, could have only been broken if they moved first. The last encounter this close to a Xi'Arazulha only ended in the Xi'Arazulha's retaliation, and they were not certain as to whether this one in particular would ever move.
It appeared the Xi'Arazulha thrived upon the futility of those in front of them. They didn't mean to damage it, they meant only to provoke it. To try and have it focus its firepower on the ships. Most of its occupants were artificial intelligences, so unlike the space station, they were unafraid of losing ships. The Kralgon admiral sighed, and commanded his own fleet to fire on the Xi'Arazulha as well. The biological crew members did so knowing their efforts would be futile, and their lives were not going to last much longer.
Their futility was correct; although it did not seem to immediately retaliate, however. It became further apparent that this creature was beyond the other Xi'Arazulha, as its very presence began to drain the very vivacity of the light surrounding the planet, and the star of the system suddenly went dark. It was replaced by a crepuscular and ominous light, not too far removed from the fog-like miasma the Corruptus emanated from their being.
However, all of their senses were truly drowned out from the encroaching buzzing sound that came from the Xi'Arazulha. It suddenly exploded in a tumult of insect-like aberrants; none of them could ascertain the shape of these creatures as they seemed to be part of the very dense air that polluted the space around Grenzaar itself. Nevertheless, a colossal swarm beat down upon the fleet - both artificial and organic alike, devouring them of all that may have been deemed as resourceful.
Several UNO Fighter-Bombers attempted to combat the swarm with coilguns, aware that even if they did little damage, they could at least shake apart the swarm of locust-like beings and reduce the impact on the hulls of the larger ships. As the swarm enveloped their fleet, a voice came from the scramble of the abhorred insects, and spoke not exactly in unison - a great dissonance came from the voice as it seemed to shake Grenzaar underneath it. Out of desperation, the Blastships and Warships unloaded every single one of their spacetime distortion weapons, and in some cases, called to any Ioketa on their ships to fire Chronoscopic-charged blasts at the Xi'Arazulha.
Anything to deal the slightest bit of damage. They knew there was no hope for them, but if they could save a single child, if they could slow things down enough to allow a single ship to evacuate the station safely first, then they would have succeeded. A single column of the swarm, forever moving in its chaotic state, pierced straight through one of the command vessles of the fleet, as effortlessly as it was to have cut wood apart with an axe. Nothing upon contact of the swarm appeared to rust away however; instead, it purely disintegrated into nothingness.
It seemed that the swarm was coalescing its number towards Grenzaar's shell, ready to strike it in such a way that the planet-like space station would be pierced in two. The desperate admirals began to slam their fists on every single weapon they could. Even the artificial intelligences commanding the unmanned ships entered a panic mode as they immediately summoned as many as they could, fired as many spacetime warheads as they had against the Xi'Arazulha's arm. But not a single thing. Not a single weapon penetrated it, nothing dealt the slightest bit of damage to it.
It was clear that within seconds, any Grenzaar citizen that hadn't made it to a ship yet would lose their life. And all of them would lose their home. Grenzaar, the symbol of prosperity, solidarity and peace, had just been split in two. This was more than just billions of lives lost to UNOL. It was a sign of the solidarity of UNO being torn apart right before their eyes. And more than that, it served as a serious reminder as to how helpless they were to defend themselves against this threat.
They had to summon the Taldar. And they had to do it immediately. UNOL made a call to their allies, the Zoles and the Niaka, urging them that it was extremely important. At first, no response came back. The thought that the Xi'Arazulha had completely severed their link with the rest of the galaxy crossed their minds for a moment, until they detected the arrival of a flotilla of various fighters, who begun responding to Valzo's signal. Zoles and Niaka ships.
The world was a charred wasteland, its skies blackened in smoke and its oceans a shadow of their former self, having largely evaporated. A fleet of Indoctrinate Collective ships, their forms twisted and shaded in black purple, was the first thing the allies encountered as they arrived, and the Zoles and Niaka were startled as their communications suddenly turned on, revealing the hologram of a fearsome-looking Duletha in black armor.
The Chosen and allied fleet opened fire on one another, the Zoles taking on the cultists head-on while the Niaka ships maneuvered themselves to begin the orbital bombardment of the planet. As they were made from the designs of the Indoctrinate Collective, the fleet of the Chosen was formidable, more than a match for even the dreadnought of Commandant Vekaron. In response, the Emperor laughed, as several Kralgon Land Destructors teleported down to the planet, and many other Loron and Tralkik armies landed through Kralgon Pods.
He, Valza and Feldosia stood on top of a larger Destructor, which began aiming its cannons towards the Chosen, as the swarms of soldiers arrived. Ships fell into the planet's atmosphere as the battle raged on, the Niaka beginning to blast the more densely populated parts of the planet as hordes of cultists armed themselves to fight the invaders, and Corruptus Demons begun materializing, eager to destroy whoever it was who dared enter their world uninvited.
The ships attempted to make room for Tuolog to land on the world and be able to meditate for long enough. The fleets proved very difficult, but the more pressure they applied on the Chosen, the better chances they would get. From his flagship, the Acolyte chanted as his body was enveloped by an aura of entropic essence, and the fleet could see the Chosen's very ships being covered by auras of demonic energy which aided in absorbing their shots. They had not yet met the leaders of the Chosen, but the Acolytes were some of the most trusted servants of the Dark Apostle, each a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, in the planet, the demons could sense Tuolog attempting to harness his essence, making him their prime target as they attempted to rush at him. Dozens of Ioketa on the Omega Commander, and dozens others landing on the planet, began to focus their efforts. Each of them entered a meditative stance, focusing their efforts solely on combating the Essence on the Chosen warships.
They could not remove them outright, but they could fight them hard enough to allow several UNO blasts to get through. The cultists within the fleet begun struggling to maintain their defensive barriers, including Yagaran himself who growled in anger, though the Duletha's emotions led him to lose his focus - the allied fleet could see his flagship's shield waning.