Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Drazi Arrive

In an obscure system hundreds of light years from the rim of known space an ancient jump gate comes to life.

Though it has been dormant for over a thousand years it obediently responds to an incoming signal. Deep within the gate, engines harness vast reserves of energy and release them - punching a hole in the fabric of reality. Through this conduit a tiny ship slowly emerges.

The craft looks much like an insect; sharp nose, wide wings, bulbous abdomen. But its abdomen glows like a minature sun propelling the ship on a trail of bright plasma. The slender vessel makes an ever widening circle, spiraling away from the angry wound held open by the gate. It finally comes to a stop and extends electormagnetic tendrils through nearby space. Sensing no immediate danger the ship sends a signal into the gate.

Moments later a score of very similar craft pour through the gate in ragged formation. Most of them look nearly identical to the original craft except in minor aspects of detail or size. Even the largest of the craft still looks like a larger member of the same species. Their makers found a form that worked and felt no need to change.

Many of the ships vent small white jets of gas in several places, bleeding atmosphere through ruptured hulls and broken pipes. A few are even missing a wing. The entire formation appears as if it barely survived a high speed race through a class-10 asteoid field.

The gate shuts down once again, patiently waiting for the next signal to activate whether it be days or millenia.

On board the largest of the new visitors to this obscure system, one beleagured creature tries to bring order back to the chaos that surrounds him. This takes a great deal of effort and will, for the Drazi are very much creatures of chaos.

"Tell the esteemed Captain that he can either assist Fencer in patching its coolant tank or he can turn around and try and find his way home!" The command staff tried to hide their grins as they worked busily around the Admiral. Captain Shaar had been dragging his feet ever since he was passed over for command of this expidition. He was overdue for one of the Admiral's famous 'private talks' which frequently resulted in a visit to sick bay. Such was tradition in the Drazi navy.

Admiral Jok barked orders rapid fire with the tone of one at ease with command, "Set up a perimiter and deploy damage control crews. First priority to the advanced cruisers." Reading over the damage reports, Jok sighed, "We're in no shape to fight."

The journey through hyperspace to reach this gate had been harrowing. Many ships and many good soldiers did not make it this far. Such a waste to die on the journey rather than in a standup fight.

Time to see what we have to work with. "Sensors, report!"

A stream of data poured in from the scouts that had raced ahead and begun to survey the system.

Admiral Jok considered the strategic map dominating the center of the Command & Control room in the heart of his flagship, Fist of Beaurocracy. Drazi forces would quickly spread throughout the system, claiming anything that would be of materiel use in this campaign. Sadly, it was precious little.

They were in a small system on the very edge of this "pocket galaxy" the First Ones had built for themselves. Eyehawk scouts were reporting two viable jump routes from this system to unknown gates deeper within the sector. The entire isolated region consisted of several systems connected by a local jump network. What the other systems contained would remain unknown until scouts could be dispatched.

As yet no resistance had been encountered.

The supply situation was far from ideal. Even though they now had posession of a jump gate, its beacon was sporadic and difficult to follow from the outside. Freighters could only arrive when the 'weather' in hyperspace allowed safe passage of freighters. Reinforcements and replacements would no doubt be as difficult to acquire.

Somewhere out there, if the ISA probes were to be believed, were the First Ones and their servants. Why they chose to establish a base here at the rim, he didn't know. It had been blind luck that had allowed his fleet to survive the gauntlet of hyperspace anomalies and grvity wells that guarded this pocket of space. Whatever the Vorlons and Shadows were up to in this region, they were determined to do so in privacy.

"Too bad for them.", he mused aloud, "This isn't their house any more."

His adjutant handed him a cup of hot jala and regarded him with a curious expression. "Sir?"

"These old ones. They stay far past their welcome. It is our job to remind them of that." Jok regarded the young leutenant, Shellia. She had managed to defeat three other officers in personal combat to win her position as his aide. She was still sporting an angry scar on her forehead plate which served as a warning to any prospective challengers. Very promising. He looked forward to fighting her when the next rank assessment was due.

"Admiral, your orders have arrived via purple channel."

Jok nodded to the leutenant and went to his quarters to read the orders. As usual for the Drazi navy, they were short and to the point:

The orders were clear enough. He was to capture the First One outpost at the center of the cluster and, as important, prevent all other galactic forces from doing the same. Jok wondered at the politics behind such an agressive stance. But for now such questions weren't his concern. He was a soldier. It would be many years before his fists would be bloodied in the political arena. Perhaps sooner, he mused, if this mission was a success.

He read the rest of the briefing and what little useful information it contained. Acording to Drazi intelligence there were two other forces who survived the harrowing journey through hyperspace and established beachheads in the sector.

The first fleet was the...Narn? Jok found it suprising that they had managed to navigate the hyperspace gauntlet successfully. The Narn were still new to space travel and were not known for their grasp of the higher sciences. Still, they were tough opponents in battle. Particularly, their fondness for energy mines was a problem for the fragile hulls of Drazi warships. The Drazi depended on speed and agility to avoid enemy fire. But one cannot outrun or dodge a fusion explosion. On the plus side, the legendary toughness of Narn hulls was of little concern to a well-aimed solar cannon. And their ships were so sluggish that you knew where they would be a week in advance. Easy enough to set up killing zones.

The other fleet that arrived was the Earth Alliance. These humans were a conundrum. One one hand the alliance was a founding member of the ISA. John Sheridan, the president, was a human. On the other hand Earthforce had seemingly sided with the Shadows in the great war. It was said that they still used shadow technology in their warships. Humans, too, were new to space. But they took to intergalactic warfare with a natural skill and relish that made them seem almost Drazi. Their ships were almost as tough and sluggish as the Narn, but they compensated with great variety and flexibility. And their fighters were unmatched among the younger races. One never knew exactly what would be faced when an EA fleet was in the field: sometimes a hail of laser fire from a line of the ubiquitous Omegas, sometimes an angry swarm of Starfuries organized by the massive fleet carriers humans were so fond of. Jok made it a high priority to get a roster of what ships the humans bad brought to the sector.

Jok reviewed the Drazi order of battle. His fleet had been scraped together in haste from all over the Freehold. It was an eclectic mix but still a powerful strike force.

Fireraptor Battleship: Fist of Beaurocracy (Jok's personal command)

Stormfalcon Heavy Cruiser: Shuggie
Nightfalcon Heavy Carrier: Pack Hunter

Firehawk Advanced Cruiser: Smasher, Striker, Slammer, Stabber, Slasher, Fencer

Jumphawk Command Cruiser: Alpha, Pack Leader
Solarhawk Battlecruiser: Spotlight
Darkhawk Missile Cruiser: Far Fist, Spear
Warbird Cruiser: Brawler, Scrapper
Strikehawk Battle Carrier: Marcus Cole, Atlatl

Eyehawk Scout Cruiser: Sneak, Snitch
Sleekbird Assault Cruiser: Party Crasher, Invitation
Guardhawk Battle Escort: Flyswatter
Sunhawk Battlecruiser: Tal's Fury

More would be needed to accomplish his final mission, to be sure. But it was a good start. Jok began to smile as he plotted out the first moves for his fleet. He hoped that someone would try to stop him soon. The focus brought by battle would help shake off the unease his crews still felt from their hellish journey through hyperspace. And the Drazi were always spoiling for a good fight.

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