The engineering crew that boarded the secured alien frigate found that its computers were similar to those found in the wreckage of the Khar-Toba. The similarities between the two systems allowed engineers to access non-protected files. This included footage of the alien assault on Kharak.
The computers had several language translators, including a language very close to ancient Kharakian. While the data files concerning this language were in protected areas of the ship’s computer, the computer was able to translate data into a language we could understand.
It is curious and disturbing that these aliens know our language.
Initial images revealed a couple of probes moving toward the Scaffolding and Kharak. It is likely the footage was from another probe launched in a spread pattern, similar to what we did to gather intelligence of the alien carrier back at the wreckage of the Khar-Selim. The alien probes are squat barrel-like devices lacking elegance or beauty. Their design appears fairly utilitarian but is for all practical purposes on par with our own probe technology.
Additional footage appeared from what were likely strikecraft involved in the assault. Footage includes corvettes from the Kharak Defense Fleet moving into defensive formations with a pair of Porter Mk. II corvettes. They were quickly destroyed. The strikecraft involved in the assault appear to range from light fast interceptors, a plasma-torpedo spaceplane, and an oddly-designed heavy interceptor that appears superior in maneuverability to current specs for the Blade Mk. 5.
There was also footage of the frigate Sandstrike, its fighter cover destroyed, surrounded by alien strikecraft, three frigates, and a larger ship. This ship easily outmassed the Sandstrike and the other frigates and possessed armor heavy enough to withstand a direct hit from the Sandstrike’s spinal-mounted mass driver. The last shots of the Sandstrike showed her burning, the engines half-severed and plasma leaking from its engines.
The Scaffolding itself retained its fighter cover, comprised of several Arrows and some Shield Mk. 1 defense fighters along with the older Dagger interceptor. The fighter cover was insufficient. Alien interceptors proceeded to draw off the Scaffolding’s fighter cover, allowing the torpedo spaceplanes to target structurally vulnerable sections of the Scaffolding. One of the shots must have struck something vulnerable… plasma appears to have poured through the interior of the Scaffolding, venting from several bulkheads and landing bays… finally, the Scaffolding collapsed in on itself. It’s doubtful anyone survived.
The last footage we recovered was of a large fleet of alien ships. One was obviously a carrier. Its escort consisted of numerous frigates and three larger vessels, including the ship that destroyed the Sandstrike. Missiles from Kharak Missile Defense penetrated their defenses and destroyed several frigates, one of the larger vessels, and causing considerable damage to the Carrier itself.
In retaliation… the carrier and its fleet moved toward Kharak and… something was launched from its primary hanger bay, a missile of some sort that targeted the northern hemisphere of Kharak. Fires… fires began to sweep across… the northern part of Kharak turned black in a matter of seconds. The aliens impassively reported casualty estimations and temperature readings.
That’s all we recovered.
These– these bastards killed our people. And then sent those frigates to eliminate the rest of us, to kill six hundred thousand men and women who were helpless, who don’t even know that Kharak… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t let my emotions get the best of me.
I’ve just received a report that the second alien frigate has been captured. It’s believed that we captured the ship’s captain, along with several members of the crew. Our own casualties include seven dead Sobani marines; I don’t have names for them yet, but I will request that information. Another fourteen marines are injured, several critically.
Rather than risk added loss of life, Karan S’jet has suggested we drill holes into the remaining frigate and flood the interior with superheated plasma. I think that would be an excellent method of exterminating the vermin who remain on the third frigate. The vessel will be torn apart with fusion torches and used to augment our limited resources.
The alien captain has been brought to a medical facility. I’ll be heading up the interrogation momentarily.
* * * * *
I never thought these aliens would look… it was startling to see the similarities between these aliens and the Kharakian people. Oh, there are significant differences like with the structure of the outer ears and flattened nasal structure, but fundamentally the aliens were like us; they had a bipedal structure, were warm-blooded, their eyes had a visual range similar to ours (though the iris is slitted)… and weaknesses to some of the same chemicals that Kiith Kaalel found useful for interrogations during the Heresy Wars.
If our translations are correct, then the alien Captain revealed his squadron of frigates was part of an advanced fleet for a huge galactic empire. They call themselves the Taiidan. The captain claimed that we broke a 4,000 year treaty which forbade our people from developing hyperspace technology. The consequence of breaking this treaty was the burning of Kharak.
The Taiidan Captain did not survive interrogation.
I suspect the autopsy will reveal the alien died as a result of the chemicals used to… encourage his cooperation. We took care to keep him alive as long as possible. Intelligence is far more valuable at this juncture than revenge.
The alien frigate was disassembled and science crews on the Illumination are working to reverse-engineer the ship’s weapon systems, superstructure, and engines. Working from what we learned with the Sandstrike and from initial examinations of the alien frigates, a prototype vessel was designed to test the various technologies. The Redemption-class frigate was also designed with two added purposes: docking facilities would enable the Redemption to hold resources gathered by small groups of Providence mining ships, while eight docking points would let the Redemption refuel up to six interceptors and two corvettes at one time.
The Sand Vortex also would allow testing of another technology that the Somtaaw mining station on one of Haarsuk’s inner moons has– had been testing; micro-wormholes for matter transference. A decade ago, our scientists were studying alternative methods of faster-than-light travel. We weren’t sure how common the rare earths required for hyperdrive modules are in the galaxy, and having an alternative method of entering hyperspace was both economical and strategically sound.
The micro-wormhole uses some form of quantum tunneling using two charged quantum plates which are separated. I don’t know how to put it in Kharakian, and only understand part of the math behind it. All I know is that it creates a hole in space allowing for instantaneous matter transference. The problem is that matter traveling through the wormhole is reduced to undifferentiated molecules (atomic dust). In addition, even the largest fusion reactors on the Scaffolding could only create a wormhole approximately 8 cm in diameter. This makes it fairly useless as a weapons platform or the like, but had applications for instantaneous communications and the transfer of materials over long distances.
My one problem with the Sand Vortex is the lack of even anti-fighter weapons. Turrets such as those on the Cavalier corvette is a proven technology and would allow the Sand Vortex to help protect mining craft from any possible threats the ships encounter. Karan suggested that added weapon systems would make the ship a military target, and Tactical nominally agreed with her.
Another shortfall of the Redemption is its lack of multiple docking points for mining ships. Chief Engineer Maren Somtaaw voiced the initial complaint on this lack and I agree with her on this. Multiple dock points would increase the efficiency of mining operations and allow for mining ships to continue their job uninterrupted should a docking port malfunction. Hopefully a next-generation resource control vessel will compensate for these shortcomings.
Manufacturing bays were able to build the larger vessel without difficulty. Trial runs of the Sand Vortex were successful; I did not ask the crew of the Dreamscape where they found resources. I know they did not harvest any wreckage from the debris field over Kharak, and it was decided early on to leave the Scaffolding alone. It is a floating tomb now, holding over 20,000 of the best scientists and engineers Kharak had to offer. It also floats as a monument to Kharak itself… to a people who dared to reach out and touch the stars.
* * ** *
Rescue and recovery efforts have been completed. The Quiltwork was recovered; engineer Eleai Somtaaw was still alive, though she has suffered from burns across much of her body. It is believed she will recover eventually.
Another unexpected rescue was of pilot Jenalle Soban; her Arrow had crashed into the first frigate we captured. She has suffered multiple contusions and doctors are working to try and save her legs, which were crushed when her cockpit collapsed during the impact. Even if they save her, I’m not sure if she’ll ever be able to fly again. I wonder if it might almost be more merciful if she dies on the operating table; her personnel file shows she loves to fly.
Finally, we had one last unexpected rescue; Lieutenant Jaana Somtaaw managed to lift off from Kharak’s surface; she and Captain T’amin Somtaaw had descended to the tallest mountain, Lungma Jiin. If I remember correctly, it’s the location of the Somtaaw Temple of the Mysteries. As per my orders, Chief Engineer Maren Somtaaw had her isolated until I could interrogate her.
She was rather subdued. She said that Captain T’amin ordered her to pilot him to Lungma Jiin, claiming that it was the one place where survivors were most likely as the other mountains shielded it from the initial air blast from the Taiidani weapon. She was able to descend to the mountain; considering the turbulence from the atmosphere boiling off, I have to admit to some surprise they were able to safely land.
Upon reaching the Temple of the Mysteries, she said they donned oxygen masks and disembarked the shuttle, going into the temple itself. They found no survivors. Captain T’amin ordered her back to the ship and remained behind.
Naturally she was withholding information. Her story was too full of holes. She finally admitted under further questioning that Captain T’amin… ordered her from the Temple at gunpoint. He turned the gun on himself once she had closed the doors to the shuttle. She begged me not to add that to his record so that his death could be considered honorable.
I have stricken the remarks concerning his actions from the official records.
Lieutenant Jaana agreed to keep what she saw to herself. I have also ordered her to undergo a psychological evaluation. Only a half dozen people even know she went to the surface, and I have ordered them to remain silent on this. Karan has talked several people out of committing suicide already. We only– we only were going to be gone for several years. And now… we’re all that’s left.
There are 51,323 men and women on the Mothership, not including the Kharakians in cold storage. Which reminds me, I’ve received reports that damage to Cryotray #3 is bad enough that we will have to remove some of the people from cryogenic suspension. We’re still determining total casualties from the Cryotrays; it is probable that we’ve lost over 30,000 people. We’ve had to remove over 3,600 people from cryogenic suspension. They are being kept in isolation from the rest of the crew until their condition stabilizes; all they know is that there was a catastrophic failure in their Cryotray and that they had to be woken prematurely. I don’t know how we’re going to break it to them.
Chief Engineer Maren tells me that they were able to reconstruct one of the alien fighters from the wreckage we gathered at the Khar-Selim, along with the alien missile corvette. We don’t understand enough of the technology to replicate it for our own use, but it will be a useful supplement to our own defenses. In addition, the alien fighter will be of use in reconnaissance. It’s unknown if the IFF beacon we installed will be detected by alien sensors, but hopefully the aliens won’t fire on their own ships.
The last alien frigate has been renamed Death’s Redeption, and will be crewed by Sobani volunteers. There is a faction in Fleet Intelligence that wants this ship torn apart for its components as well, and that using one of the ships that helped destroy Kharak is an abomination. I can understand the sentiment, but our situation is critical. We do not sufficiently understand this technology at this point to replicate it efficiently. For now, the Death’s Redemption will remain part of our forces. And much like the alien fighter we rebuilt, it may be of use in ambushing these aliens or in scouting out their position.
All ships have returned to the Mothership, and we are preparing to enter hyperspace. There is nothing left for us here. Kharak is no more. All we have left are bitter memories and “what if” scenarios. It is time to say goodbye to Kaali, to my parents… to the friends I left behind.
The Mothership will emerge at the edge of the Oort cloud, in a patch where astronomers believe harvestable asteroids are located. The waveform is engulfing the ship… we emerge from hyperspace in eight minutes.