Original Content Because Someone Had To, Chapter 2, Pt 2

#1
Chapter 2, pt 1 | Chapter 2, Pt 3

-----

An hour into the battle, and the Grand Admiral had begun to realize something.

A second and third Kelliant Consortium vessel was crippled in rapid succession, both struck and sunk by the human torpedoes. The weapons were too fast, too maneuverable. Alone, it would not have been such an issue, but they were also too small, too hard to detect and track, and there were so many of them seeded along the axis of his fleet's advance.

He had to admit that despite the fractured leadership and spineless natures of the Consortium's CEOs and Administrators, their fleet was conducting itself well. Far better than the Sheldanta, whose last three vessels were trying to outrun the four human warships that had pursued them. That the Sheldanta had drawn first blood was a moot point.

The Kelliant fleet had regrouped, perhaps relying upon strength in numbers as it circled about, trying to bring the four enemy warships hounding them to grips. Seventeen warships against four should have made for a quick, viciously one-sided battle. But those torpedoes...

Seventeen became fifteen before the two fleets met again, and as those two formations passed each other, the Kelliant ships had suddenly splintered again. Some broke off formation, others purposefully used their own allies as shields, or made disastrous course-corrections that forced their brethren upon the human guns.

Fifteen became twelve, while the four human warships flashed through their ranks disgustingly unscathed, their shields flashing fitfully from the few Kelliant Consortium weapons that found their marks. Only one of the four remaining human destroyers seemed to sustain any serious damage, breaking away from its companions to make its way back behind the main human fleet. And then those tiny manned crafts the humans had deployed took their own toll, as they followed the human warships through the formation.

Detonations. Dozens of high-yield warheads lit the darkness of space with the terrifyingly beautiful orbs of zero-gravity nuclear detonations. The spines of two more Kelliant warships were broken. Another was shattered from a series of internal detonations. It tore asunder. The aft section, its engines still powered, leapt ahead on an erratic course and into the path of two more Kelliant ships which had been jockeying each other as if to force one or the other to be destroyed by the humans. Both ships panicked to avoid the rapidly accelerating engine section, causing them to collide.

In one pass, half the Kelliant Consortium fleet was destroyed or disabled. An hour into the battle, the Punitive Fleet had lost twenty ships, and the humans only two, with two more damaged enough to quit the battle.

At least, that's what the intermittent communications were telling him. Sensors were telling him that the Kelliant Consortium was still engaged with the human ships. The communications from the Kelliant and Sheldanta were conflicting and awkward; reports arrived out of order or not at all, and the automated systems kept trying to tell him something different.

But one thing that was disturbingly clear was how easily the behemoth warship at the lead of the human formation had plowed through the long-range fire of his entire fleet. How it continued to approach undeterred.

The Grand Admiral spared a brief glance at the Councillor, only to conclude that he too was beginning to come to a realization.

-----

The Admiral studied the display, and glanced at Athena's image before jerking her chin towards two of the enemy fleet formations. “Tell Loki to focus on the Wourillia fleet. They're not panicking, and I don't feel like closing on them. Intelligence says they think too much like us.”

The Wourillia were a feline-like predator-evolved race. Their fleet had tightened its formation, despite whatever havoc Loki had been wreaking upon their sensors and communications systems. They were disciplined, organized, and clearly capable of independent thought and knew the importance of drill, judging by how well they had maintained order.

And they were dropping back, moving to join formation with the lone Xelliant hive ship. A massive craft that was a disturbing mix of organic and mechanical engineering, they were an insectoid species reported to operate with a hive-mind. Little better than cheap labour and disposable troops in the Council eyes, they would surely have much to gain from a successful campaign against a young upstart race like humanity.

“And ask Khonvoum to focus his efforts on keeping the Wourillia from reaching the hive ship. I want to keep that behemoth out of the fighting as long as possible. It's possible they'll surrender if we break up the rest of the Council fleet before they get here.” The massive semi-organic craft would be home to thousands of non-combatant families and workers, as much as a Xelliant bio-form could be considered non-combatant. They all lived for the betterment of their hive strain, but they were also capable of independent thought.

Humanity was fighting a war of ideals, and killing civilians would not help the human cause.

“Five minutes to primary engagement range, ma'am.” One of the Admiral's staff piped up, and she simply nodded as Athena turned her attention to communicating with Loki and Khonvoum.

“Order 1st and 2nd Destroyer groups to break contact and fall back to holding patterns. Carrier group is to hold fast. All other sub-formations are to assemble on the Georgios Averof and advance to contact. All fighter wings advance in support of their assigned ships.”

-----

The Councillor glared at the Grand Admiral's back, before turning his attention back to the displays. The pitiful display of the Kelliant Consortium had come as no surprise to him. They would gladly sacrifice each other, as each lost ship was that much less competition in the endless economic war they fought among themselves.

That the Grand Admiral had clearly been expecting more of them was a sign of how poorly he understood the Senate species.

The last three Sheldanta ships were racing away from the main battle even as their human pursuers broke off to return to the main fleet, and the Councillor wrote them off in his mind. The tiny creatures were good for little more than food and fodder, as proven yet again by their own poor display. That they had managed to destroy two human warships was little consolation.

His gaze shifted again to the ignored communications technician and his assistants as they struggled to clear errors from their communications. They had resorted to out-dated systems of stellar communications, using direct-beam communications lasers to try and re-establish some coherency in the Punitive Fleet.

They had done it without direction from the Grand Admiral. They had done it on their own initiative.

Low caste, barely functional menial staff were demonstrating an ability to adapt and problem-solve. It brought to mind some serious questions on the lineage of the lead communications technician that the Councillor would not waste his time finding answers for. He had people for that. And they would assure that the proper heads rolled for the travesty of proper high-born breeding with pond scum.

The two fleets were closing. He understood little of the intricacies of naval combat, but some things were obvious. For one, the human behemoth warship should not have still been advancing. It had been one of few clear sensor readings they had received since the battle had begun; multiple direct hits. Dozens. And its shields had simply flared and held.

He could tell from the taste of the air how unsettled the Grand Admiral and his crew were from that single display. And as such, knew that it had to have been some sort of trick. A sensors error, like those that continued to plague the fleet.

One moment the Wourillia fleet had been advancing at full speed, and the next the sensors registered a debris field. The communications technician and his team scrambled, reestablished communications, and the debris field reverted to a fleet of eleven warships, but their course had changed, slowing to close the gap between them and the Xelliant hive ship.

A disgusting species, useful for little beyond menial labour and disposable troops. They barely produced enough goods or mined resources to maintain their membership fees. They only stayed ahead of the Kelliant Consortium's loan-sharks and taxes through selling their own worker class into slave labour by the tens of thousands. A disgusting, hardly worthy race. But perhaps they would do better than the Sheldanta, at least.

The communications technician let out a pathetic display of triumph, before the Grand Admiral's sensors displays fluttered and refreshed. The triumph was quickly squashed, however, as the positions of the human fleet leapt far closer than the Grand Admiral had expected. The humans had accelerated without the Grand Admiral noticing.

A sudden spike of fear through the fleet, as indicators of hundreds of those small crafts filled the void between the two fleets, and the silhouette of the behemoth human warship visibly changed. What had appeared as little more than flat disks along its hull suddenly grew outwards, and were suddenly identified as weapon systems as their barrels extended from their armoured turret rings.

“All fleets, fire! Close and fire!” The Grand Admiral all but screamed like a panicking female, taloned hands thrashing at his own controls as the human fleet's weapons began to flash with pulses of light.

-----

The Georgios Averof was the largest ship-of-the-line the human Navy had put to sail. A crew of three thousand, a full battalion of Marines, seven dedicated wings of fighters, it had taken half a decade to build, and the crew had been tasked to run the ship hard to find and work out the inevitable bugs and problems that any new design was sure to be plagued with.

Along its hull, three rows of three retractable turret rings housing some of the most powerful weapons human science had produced to date. Each turret ring was powered by its own dedicated reactors, protected by layers of armour and energy shields, the guns served by arrays of generators.

Captain Andrews sat calmly in the command seat, supervising as her crew executed a dance of organized chaos as target solutions were plotted, telemetry data from the dedicated fighter squadrons were tracked, and myriad systems were checked and checked again.

Not only was it to be the first time the Georgios Averof brought its guns to bear on hostile ships, but it was the first time she went through battle operations without Athena looking over their shoulders. That the powerful combat AI had entrusted what amounted to her own body to her human crew was a point of pride, and not something they were interested in fouling up.

“Inform all gunnery officers to focus their fire on the Silliunce fleet. Those old lizards are due for a rude awakening.” Captain Andrews studied the Silliunce fleet's formation. Most had forged ahead, and had clearly realized just in time how close they were to the human fleet as the entire Council fleet began to change course and power their own primary weapons.

Four Silliunce ships had hung back. Likely the fleet commander's flagship and escort. Too far back for the Georgios Averof to engage without powering up its main gun, which would have required most of the power generation the ship was capable of. Not a weapon meant to be used while in the midst of ship-to-ship action.

Three dozen human warships closed to weapons range with the Council's Punitive Fleet, and across the fleet weapons systems surged with power before sending lances of light flashing across the void of space. In return, the Punitive Fleet returned fire, and across both fleets shields flashed and sparked.

The Georgios Averof took the brunt of that opening salvo. A battleship's job was to take those hits, to draw the enemy's attention. To close with the enemy, to tear and bite and claw its way through. And every hit to the Georgios Averof's shields was one less shot at the less armoured and protected ships of the fleet. One less salvo that the fleet needed to try and outmaneuver, allowing them to hold formation. A few more seconds that they could focus their own fire on easier targets, and start to whittle the larger Punitive Fleet down.

Captain Andrews smiled as the Georgios Averof's shields flashed and reports came in. No spot-failures, no failed systems, no damage. At her nod, the main guns finally fired, flashing with the light of suns, and two Silliunce ships vanished into clouds of rapidly cooling debris, a third listing hard and dropping out of formation with the rest of the Silliunce fleet.

To a casual observer, those ships were cut down by the guns of the Georgios Averof. The sheer power displayed, the overwhelming might of those cannons, overshadowed everything else in comparison. Including the coordinated fire from other ships of the human fleet. Where the battleship smashed through the Silliunce shields, the other vessels tore into their hulls to land the killing blows.

-----

Detonations and flashes of light lit the void on the system's edge. Three dozen human warships were cutting a swath through the Punitive Fleet, giving far more than they got. It became clear far too late that the difference in military sciences and technology between the 'young upstarts' and the millennia-old Silliunce was almost insurmountable.

Even without being hampered by spotty sensors and intermittent communications failures, the Punitive Fleet couldn't have offered a coordinated resistance. They were eight separate fleets, each smaller than the combined human fleet, each with their own motivations and tactics, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The human fleet was a sole entity, a single coordinated monster of a thousand arms and eyes.

Gathering-Party Leader Ferrianse visibly shook with an odd mixture of rage and loss. Most of his clan was dead. Generations of cousins and brothers and sisters consigned to the cold void of space. Many hadn't even known when death had come for them, so sudden had it been. The humans had torn them apart, shredded Sheldantan ships that had been lovingly scavenged over dozens of generations. Each piece of every ship had a story of its origin. For all that was lost, he wept.

The clan would never recover. Their sacrifice would go unnoticed to the Silliunce Councillor whom had joined the Punitive Fleet. They had drawn first blood. His father's sacrifice had seen the first human loss of the battle. And it would go ignored. His cousin's guns had brought down one of their impossibly fast ships in that first assault. And it would go unaccounted. The Grand Admiral had declared his displeasure, had labelled his clan coward and failure. The Sheldanta had held its Senate seat by a mere hair's width for decades, and that tenuous hold was surely lost.

For that, he raged. Both at his own failures and the cold disdain of the Grand Admiral and the Counsellor.

Three ships remained of the dozen that had made up his clan. They had not been among the strongest of the Sheldanta clan fleets, but they had taken the risk for their people. A good showing in front of the Silliunce would have earned them respect, political allies, wealth. A stronger position on the Senate, protection from the Kelliant Consortium's fees and dealings. And a poor showing would simply tear away what little they had, see them thrown to the mud, stomped upon and forgotten, used as little more than commodities and trade goods.

“Cousins. Our clan is dead, but it shall not be forgotten. Come about and make haste. We've drawn human blood, and will do so again. By any means necessary.” They might fail, the Councillor likely wouldn't even notice their pending sacrifice. But at least he and his own would not know the result of their evident failure, and what would come of the Sheldanta in the wake of the death of his clan.

Three ramshackle Sheldanta scavenge-ships changed course, returning to the fray as the human and Council-led fleets exchanged blows. Death was certain, but it was better than what they would face when the war was over, the humans enslaved, and the Council free to turn its attention to those that had failed them.

-----

Three Senate-race fleets converged with the Silliunce against the brunt of the human fleet. They arrived in staggered intervals, as their own technicians and crews fought and struggled with the constant stream of errors, lag, and conflicting reports in their communications and sensors systems.

In raw tonnage, they outclassed the humans. In cohesion and tactics, even had Loki not been ripping through their systems, leaving them half-blind and deaf to each other, the Punitive Fleet would not have found a fair fight.

Guided by four separate combat AIs, crewed by thousands of well drilled and disciplined crews, captained by experienced officers capable of independent thought and supported by dedicated staffs, the human fleet was deadly.

A Telhauss saucer, a large disk-shaped ship of disturbingly eel-like aliens...if eels had a half-dozen legs and four primary manipulators...landed the Punitive Fleet's second tiny victory. It was never entirely certain if their maneuver was intentional, or the result of the constant barrage of sensor ghosts Loki wrought, but the massive vessel bobbed and weaved through a squadron of the Herme's fighters. It came up and into the path of a human cruiser too late for either crew to adjust.

Even Athena was unable to predict or warn of the pending collision, considering speeds at which both fleets were moving. Despite more powerful shielding and heavily reinforced superstructure, the cruiser was shattered by the impact, then further torn as sunder as the Telhauss saucer detonated.

A crippled Silliunce warship was next. Perhaps already blinded and rutterless, it plowed on into the human formation to collide with a second cruiser. The two ships' hulls were deeply gouged as their shields failed and armour was sheered away. Partially fused by the impact, they tore apart into rapidly widening fields of debris.

The human formations executed a series of sharp maneuvers, changing course to keep the Council fleet in range. They moved as a single entity, while the various species of the Punitive Fleet fought as small clusters or individual ships, hammering away at the nearest target rather than focusing their efforts.

-----

“Admiral. The Sheldanta have changed course and are returning to the engagement area.” Athena spoke softly as much of her attention was on coordinating the squadrons of fighter craft that were harassing the Punitive Fleet, while also liaising with the other combat AIs of the fleet.

The Admiral turned her attention to the large holographic display and the three contact markers of the remaining Sheldanta ships. They were racing through the debris fields where they had met the 1st Destroyer group, plunging straight towards the heart of the battle.

Straight towards the Georgios Averof.

It was almost painful to watch, more so when she pulled up their communications logs, copied and forwarded by the many viruses Loki had seeded throughout the Council fleet. Their reasoning was laid bare in the surviving captain's brief statement.

They didn't fight for loyalty to the cause. No duty or oath to the Council. They fought so their children might not be slaves or food for the more powerful races. They fought so their people might not be made property, not be cast out from the Senate. They would throw themselves on her ships just so they would not survive to see the horrors that the Council would put the Sheldanta through after the battle was over.

“Ask Loki to start compiling every communication like this among the Council fleet. Every time one of these ships voice dissent or displeasure with their peoples lot in the Senate. Every curse aimed at the Council races. The propaganda department will want it later.” She was silent a moment as Athena saw to the request.

“Athena. Scramble rescue ships to the Sheldanta wrecks. And ask their surviving ships to quit the battle while they still can. Give them a chance to save themselves.” It was all she could offer. It was up to races like the Sheldanta to cast aside their own chains, to want a better way for themselves. To cast aside everything they had been taught of how the universe had to work, and see that there was a better way out there.

Because if races like the Sheldanta didn't, then humanity would just be seen as invaders, an enemy, and the entire war would be for nothing. The change had to start from within.

Her gaze shifted again as the status icon of another of her destroyers flashed and turned red than a dull grey. Another ship lost. No escape pods launched. No time for the crew to have reached them.

-----

Upwards of a third of his fleet was gone, and the humans were still pressing the assault. It was a guess, at least, as to how many of the Senate and member-race fleet ships that had been lost. Of the Silliunce fleet itself, three, maybe four ships had been destroyed or too badly damaged to continue the battle, and even that was more guess then certainty.

His sensors operator had resorted to visual dat, high-magnification capable cameras, forgoing the ships advanced sensors and communications networks for something that, while painfully limited in what data it could provide, would at least allow an accurate view of what had happened in the battle minutes or hours prior.

That information still showed the Sheldanta fleeing, the remnant Kelliant Consortium's fleet moving away from the battle area, and the Wourillia fleet changing course to engage those swift but unshielded warships that had first torn through the Sheldanta. At least that did indeed confirm that they were still alive, at least an hour ago.

By the Ancestors, it still showed that two of the sub-fleets were still minutes from entering the main fray. They were all much further apart than he had thought, based off what he had been able to glean from the sensors.

It was infuriating, trying to command the largest fleet the Council had fielded in centuries, only to be plagued by constant technical failures. A result of trying to combine the tactical information of such lesser species, his sensors operator and technicians assured him. The result of human interference, his communications technicians worried. The result of his own personal incompetence, the Councillor surely believed.

Not only his reputation was on the line, but his life as well. The lives of his entire lineage, he suspected; the Councillor was not known for being lenient or forgiving, and his anger could be far-reaching.

“The Xelliant Hive is to make all speed towards the main engagement. Leave those human skirmishers to the Wourillia. When they are done, they are to advance and enter the main engagement from between the two human formations. Telhauss are to shield our advanced formation. The remainder are to inflict all possible damage upon the human ships! We break them here!” Bold words, bold orders, and bold hope that at least some of those orders would reach the right formations.

-----

“Stop! Next target!” The crippled Telhauss saucer spiraled past the Destined, and Captain Albertson flashed a grim smile as it tumbled away. It was too badly damaged to fight, and could barely maneuver. No longer a viable target, no longer a threat, so it was time to find fresh prey.

Maybe the crew would abandon ship, or struggle to stabilize their systems and try to navigate clear of the battle area. But without weapons, they were out of the fight, and he had no interest in slaughtering the defenseless ship and its crew.

“Shield spot-failures starboard! Transferring reserve power. 703rd Squadron is breaking contact, returning to Hermes to refuel and rearm. 705th is no longer combat-effective and will return to Hermes. 701st, 2nd, 4th are remaining in contact and are reforming on our lead.” The crewman at the secondary tactical station, dubbed 'the Tower' by the five squadrons of strike-craft assigned to the Destined, delivered his report before returning to the task of tracking and watching over them.

“Target locked. The Founder just did a run along a Silliunce vessel and chased it onto our heading. Engines and primary weapons are down, permission to engage?” Primary tactical, in charge of weapons and targeting, already knew what the answer for the fire-order request would be.

“Fire at will, Tactical. Nav, bring us up alongside.” A nod from the navigations station, and the Destined leapt ahead to gain on the staggered Silliunce warship. The main guns flashed once, twice, and the far older alien warship's shields flashed and shattered, a pair of ragged gouges burned into its armoured hull.

“Telhauss on collision course! Starboard low!” Sensors piped up suddenly, and navigation responded quickly. The Destined rolled aft, over the damaged Silliunce ship and away from a Telhauss saucer that passed through the space the Destined had previously occupied.

The crew were rattled, despite the inertial dampeners and gravity control systems, but crash harnesses held them in their seats, and their environment suits included g-suit components to prevent black-out from such sudden and violent course corrections.

Captain Anderson glanced at his tactical display, nodding in approval of the quick and independent actions of his crew, grinning with pride. “Well done. Another salvo into those lizards, then bring us around on that...”

Before he could finish, his tactical display showed that same Telhauss saucer crashing into the Founder, the Destined's sister ship and one of the last cruisers in the formation. The disk-shaped vessel's forward edge vanished as it contacted the Founder's powerful shields, but then the energy barrier gave way and the two ships impacted.

Armoured hulls gave way, great gouts of energy tore across the Telhauss ship's hull and scoured the Founder. The two ships further ground into each other, clouds of debris cast off either ship, before the Telhauss disk's engines flared brightly and detonated.

“God damn it...” The battle was quickly entering a new phase that he didn't want to contemplate.

-----

“Hello, Gathering-Party Leader Ferrianse.”

An unfamiliar voice, without any regional accent that he could identify, chirped through the bridge of his scavenge-ship. Ferrianse glanced at his nearest crew member, one of his sons, who shared the glance before looking towards a monitor at Ferrianse's side.

An unfamiliar face appeared on the screen. As with any race, many in the Senate species felt that humans all looked the same. It certainly didn't help that few had seen more than one or two, as they were exceedingly rare in Council space even before war had been declared. The Sheldanta could at least appreciate that they were indeed individuals, although he had never seen that face before.

Pale hairless skin of its face, slim facial features, dark hair on its head and above its dangerous eyes. How a human could be speaking to him, in perfect Sheldantan common, was perhaps a question for another day. “Who are you?”

The human smiled, a tooth-bearing curl of the lips, and Sheldanta shuddered involuntarily at the display. “I am Loki, the combat-AI of the Hermes super-carrier, and the one that has been spending the last few hours running amuck across all the ships of the Purgatory Fleet.” That smile was entirely too amused with the admission to comfort Ferrianse, and his hair prickled in response.

Tiny barbs rose in the hair at of his neck and shoulders, meant to ward off his people's ancient predators. A mostly useless evolutionary trait that his people had yet to fully cast off, and an embarrassingly easy to observe sign of fear and discomfort in his people.

“I've come to offer you a chance to stand down. The Admiral, my Admiral, is scrambling rescue ships to the wreckage of your clan's ships.” The exact translation of the wording implied that this Loki was aware of what Ferrianse's choice would be. Was aware of what surrender would mean for his people, aware of what duty would require of the Sheldanta leader.

He was silent for a moment, as his three ships, full of family both close and distantly related, charged into the fray. They flew in a column, the ships of his two eldest sons leading with his in the rear. They would shield him with their bodies, so he might have a chance to strike and win his people at least some merit in the eyes of the Silliunce Councillor.

He glanced at the sensors display, and Loki followed his gaze before smirking and nodding his head towards it. The display changed drastically, from the confusing mess of contradictions and ghosts to a new image. A true display of the battle, of dozens of Senate and member-race ships shattered and dead, of Silliunce warships limping towards the system's far edge, intent on fleeing back to safer systems.

Of dozens of tiny crafts racing from what Loki had named as the Hermes, towards the remnants of not only his clan-mate's ships, but the wreckage of the Kelliant Consortium, and of other species ships that were far enough from the bulk of the fighting to be safe to reach.

Rescue operations, even as the battle raged. The humans would seek to rescue their enemy before even knowing if they would win the battle. To take prisoners perhaps. To gain information, to learn of how the fleet...but no. They had no need to. Loki was an artificial intelligence, one powerful enough to have wreaked havoc throughout the entire fleet from the moment the battle had begun. They had no need for prisoners.

“Why? Why save them?”

Loki smiled sadly, and offered a shrug. He was named after a god of mischief and trickery, but wasn't the cold-hearted and self-absorbed deity of his name-sake. “Because someone has to. It's a strange thing to say, at least for anyone well versed on human history, but they don't want war. But change is a painful thing, and sometimes force is required to make it, even when it's the right thing to do. So they will show you the truth of their intentions through their actions. Do you and your crews have any messages for your clan-mates, Gathering-Party Leader Ferrianse? I will deliver it for you, when this battle is over.”

Ferrianse was silent for a moment, glancing at his nearest son, then towards the display of the battle. He could not surrender, despite the fact that he wanted to trust the humans, through the demeanour of their AI. If he did, his people would suffer long and hard under the Silliunce's rage. Change was slow to come, it was true, slower still when generation after generation of a hundred races had been taught time and again that the way of things was simply the way they had to be. That there could be no better way, that the only chance for anything better was over the corpses of those you cheated and killed to best.

“That I am sorry, and that I do this for our people. That the clan lives on with them.” His barbs lowered, a weight lifted from his chest. Aboard the three Sheldanta ships, similar messages were offered. Final words to loved ones that may or may not yet live.

Perhaps he shouldn't have believed Loki. It could have been all lies. Perhaps they would pick up the survivors from the Sheldanta wrecks. But how would those survivors be treated? Slaves? Prisoners, certainly. Perhaps better than the rest of his species would be treated by the Council races, or the Senate species once their membership was revoked for failure. Perhaps not.

But they had chosen to speak to him. Offered him an out, despite knowing he would not...could not accept it. What did they have to gain from doing so?

The three Sheldanta ships made way at best speed towards the human battleship, intent on their course and racing to deliver a blow that would afford his people some respect in the Councillor's eyes. The survivors of his clan might be safe in the hands of the humans, but his people were still under the claws of the Silliunce and other Council races, and it was the only way he could hope to protect them, for a time at least.

-----

Chapter 2, Pt 1 | Chapter 2, Pt 3
 
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