I’ve been hard at work again, this time on a short story: “Glimpsing Yggdrasill.” It is a tale of the Juxian Mythos, taking place during the New Dominican subjugation, about two hundred and fifty years after the events of the Jakken Trilogy. It has all you could ask for; war, space battles, kuvuthuses – and a terrible beast that drives a poor maintenance worker mad. The first draft is done, and the first part of the story is below. Enjoy!
62 AAJ, Subdateyn 12 – The New Dominican Subjugation
“Critical damage sustained. All crewmembers proceed immediately to lifepods.”
Daniel Keyes was more than happy to oblige. The automated emergency notification system rang loudly through the halls, carrying over the blaring klaxons filling the air.
Daniel was fortunately only one corridor away from the nearest lifepod collection when the fatal energy beam struck the hull of the Elkhound, taking advantage of the shield generators downed by enemy strikecraft swarming over the surface of the ship. As a member of the ship’s maintenance staff, he was not himself a soldier, and so had priority in obtaining an escape pod and had no responsibilities to carry out before he left. His charge was in its final death throes, and there was naught he could do but get as far away from it as possible before the dormant explosives laced throughout the ship’s core were activated.
Seeding explosives was a common practice among the warships of New Dominica, and yet the ships flying the colors of the Jalhalla Kingdom never seemed to learn from their mistakes. Indeed, a glimpse out a passing viewport showed the ambushing fleet rapidly closing in on the dying Elkhound, their silvery, stream-lined shapes causing Daniel to shudder.
Curses echoed in the overly-large halls of the ship as soldiers – some panicking and others grimly doing their best to maintain decorum and order – ran to and fro, finishing their final duties on board the ship they had known and loved. Most of the curses were directed at the “thrice-fucked Terrans” and their “pigdog shitters.”
The planet and system of New Dominica, as well as its four allied systems, had been free of the oppressive rule of kings for many years. Following the rise of Darien Servidos, First King of Man, New Dominica and its associated systems had managed to win independence from the newly established monarchy, at first through fighting a bloody war, and then when that looked about to fail, by direct negotiations with the Terrans and the Juxtani Congregation – a government of sorts that managed affairs between different interplanetary civilizations. The Juxtani – as Humans now called all aliens – had been discovered only recently by one of Darien’s fathers, Jakken Servidos, and the Human race was still adjusting to the idea of being part of something larger than themselves.
Had it not been for the discovery of that vast conglomeration of alien societies, New Dominica never would have been able to get its freedom. As it was, the rise of Darien came at a bad time for the Human Empire, seeing as the Humans were a newly inducted member of the Juxtani Congregation and had to look their best before the older alien races represented there. In order to avoid continuing the civil war against New Dominica and Eden – which reflected very badly on humanity, as no other civilized Juxtani race fought amongst themselves for so long – Darien had chosen to grant New Dominica and her allies independence, as well as the planet of Eden.
But Darien’s word was no longer valid. Though his reign had been long and – even New Dominicans will grudgingly admit this – prosperous, his heir had never been clearly named. When he died in 58 AAJ, his three sons had taken to squabbling, and the Kingdom of Man had been divided into three “autonomous but unified kingdoms”: Jalhalla, Paolos, and Andria. Almost immediately, it had become clear that the three new kingdoms did not consider decisions made by Darien’s government valid, and the Kingdom of Paolos had reconquered Eden, which had been granted its independence at the same time as New Dominica. Ever since that day, New Dominica had known that its turn was too coming, and had begun to prepare again for war.
The time for war had indeed come again, but only after two hundred years – or fifty Juxtani dateyns – of waiting. The largest of the three Human kingdoms – and the only Human government with a representative in the Juxtani Congregation, whose capital was Earth herself – the Kingdom of Jalhalla, had finally decided to take back New Dominica. But New Dominica had been ready, and when the Juxtani Congregation made no move to intervene – after all, the Juxtani consider each race to be its own sovereign civilization, and they do not generally interfere in the internal affairs of a member civilization, even if they might disapprove – New Dominica has defended itself from the invading Jalhalites. The war had lasted almost two years now, and was taking its toll.
The Elkhound was the last of its small fleet of three left intact – save for the massive gash Daniel could glimpse far down the hull that opened the boxy brown ship into empty space. The last vessel standing wouldn’t last much longer, either, as the emergency airlocks had failed, and the air was thinning rapidly. Daniel had only a short distance to go, and by the end of it he was already beginning to feel light-headed. That did not bode well for the soldiers still on board.
Five of the twenty escape pods in Daniel’s sector were gone by the time he arrived there. He didn’t waste any time in leaping into the nearest one, sealing the gleaming chrome door behind him, strapping himself in, and pressing the eject button. His stomach dropped as the escape pod disengaged from the Elkhound’s artificial gravity – it was a miracle that the gravity drive was still working when the airlocks had failed – and then we watched through a small viewport as he sped away from his drowning ship.
He bid his love farewell as he took the controls and directed the pod towards the nearest large gravitational well. The Elkhound and her sister ships – the Deerfish and the Steel Caribou – had been carrying reinforcements – including the ships themselves – from the Blackfrost system to New Dominica, having run the blockade at Blackfrost and taken a circuitous route to the center of the alliance. They had been so close to their destination when the Jalhalite warships struck; another day would have seen them at the edge of the New Dominica system.
But they would never reach their goal now. Daniel watched sadly as the Elkhound exploded in a dazzling array of very short-lived light, the only one of the fleet to successfully detonate itself. The maintenance man smiled cynically as he counted the damage done to the Jalhalites by the explosion. He counted at least seven small craft severely damaged, and at least two mediums destroyed, not to mention a horde of strikecraft. It hadn’t been bad. But how many New Dominicans had died? How many of our strikecraft were destroyed? How many escaped?
The Jalhalites had been waiting for them; doubtless the Terrans had posted defenses at all systems near New Dominica that could be used for fueling. The attacking fleet had been a large one – two large battleships, four medium battlecruisers, and about twenty smaller vessels. Over twenty-five Jalhalite ships to the New Dominican’s three – and the Jalhalite ships were more advanced and better-armed, having been outfitted with the best Juxtani and Human technology, while the New Dominican ships were old, bulky, slow, and under-armed. Daniel and his fellows had never stood a chance.
The Terrans had jumped out from behind an asteroid cluster when the New Dominican fleet had been forced to stop in the orbit of an uninhabited system to recharge their fuel cells. The Steel Caribou had gone down before anyone knew what was going on, vaporized at the center of a web of concentrated energy-fire. Daniel was glad he hadn’t been on board.
The Deerfish had managed to open fire before she went down, and it was those few precious moments of weaponfire that had allowed the Elkhound to survive for as long as it did. In its few moments of battle, the Deerfish had managed to cripple one of the larger vessels and destroy four of the smaller ones, as well as severely damage one of the medium ships. Then it, too, succumbed to energy-fire, leaving the Elkhound all alone.
Even then, the last ship had put up a brave fight, finishing off the damaged medium-sized ship and destroyed another five small ships. The energy beam that spelled doom for the Elkhound had been from the undamaged large vessel, which even now was directing the efforts to regroup the fleet and capture any enemy strikecraft remaining.
It would be a while before the lifepod reached the nearest gravity well of sufficient size – New Dominica itself. Daniel had no hopes about actually surviving uncaptured once he reached the Jalhalite blockade, but he might as well try. Besides, they might keep him alive as a prisoner. Daniel was no soldier; for him, imprisonment was better than death. He might believe that freedom and independence were worth dying for in the abstract, but when it came down to his own personal survival, he would rather be a living slave than a dead freeman.
Behind Daniel, the Jalhalite strikecraft began to scour the area for any lifepods. Daniel didn’t even bother to hide from them at first; he didn’t care how or where he was captured, but just wanted to remain alive. He quickly noticed, however, that the strikecraft weren’t capturing most of the pods; many of them were simply being destroyed en masse. Bloody Jalhalites, Daniel thought, praying that he was too far away to be caught. At least if I make it to New Dominica, my lifepod will pose enough of a mystery that they’ll immediately take me on board.
Fortunately, Daniel was well out of the sweep’s range, and his pod soared at an astonishing speed out of the asteroid belt. It would take him quite a while to reach New Dominica; it had been a day’s ride away using the Elkhound’s engines, and the pitiful things in the lifepod couldn’t go half as fast. Normally, lifepods had slower-than-light engines, which would have meant that Daniel was stranded forever. However, the New Dominicans had made a very covert deal with the pseudo-civilization of Gorano-Banditry, and so had acquired experimental technology allowing vessels as small as lifepods to travel for brief distances through the Interstices – what Humans still sometimes called the Ethyr – an alternate dimension that one could enter, travel in, and then emerge back into real space and be in a totally different location; similar to the pre-Juxtani idea of hyperspace. Ships traveled through the vastness of space by frequently flitting between the two dimensions, abusing the laws of physics in the Ethyr to travel fast than the speed of light.
The engines on the lifepod were much slower than those on most ships, of course. The pod’s computer informed Daniel that the journey to New Dominica – if that was indeed the source of the gravity well, which Daniel was very sure it was, seeing as the current system did not register as it had no planets, only asteroids and comets – would take about five days. It can only go one-fifth as fast, Daniel mused, strangely calm in the face of almost-certain death. No Human had ever made a lifepod journey of that length successfully. Maybe a Juxtani had; who knew?
But it was either try that or die. Daniel set the autopilot to direct him towards New Dominica and then activated the machine that would put him into a state of suspended animation, leaving instructions for it to wake him shortly before arrival or if something unusual happened. Gas began to hiss out the sides of the cockpit as needles gently pricked his skin.
Daniel thought of his wife as the emptiness took him.