Kharak is a desert planet on the outer rim of the galaxy. The main governing body of Kharak is known as the Diamid. Inside the Diamid is where all the important decisions are made. The Diamid is comprised of the Kiith’sa, or leader, of each Kiith. The ‘Kiith’ is a lose family, much like a fraternity, but with power, and much larger. The first Kiith is not known, but they have existed for most of Kharakian recorded history. There are hundreds upon hundreds of Kiiths spread across the planet surface. Some are large and powerful, with thousands of members. Others are small and weak, consisting of less than one hundred members. However, this story only includes some of the major Kiiths:
Somtaaw: Somtaaw is one of the more religious Kiiths. They make their homes in the Kohntala mountain range. Under the leadership of Teigor Somtaaw, thousands of painters, masons, and architects were hired. Teigor had commissioned the building of 33 temples on the slope of the mountain ‘Lungma Jiin’. Lungma Jiin, translated to mean “the roof of the world” was, at the time, the tallest known mountain on Kharak. Together, the 33 temples formed the Shimmering Path, a religious pilgrimage that most Kharakians tried to attempt at least once in their life. Starting from the first temple, the pilgrims had to walk a difficult, and sometime dangerous, path to reach each temple. Most stopped the pilgrimage at the seventh temple, the Dome of Heaven. However, at the very peak of Lungma Jiin was the greatest prize to any religiously inclined Kharakian: The Temple of Mysteries. It is the most inaccessible temple of all 33. It is told in legend that the Somtaaw’s most sacred relic, the Star Metal Scrolls, are kept in that temple, and anyone who reaches the final temple is permitted to touch them.
Naabal: The Naabal were the first technologically advanced Kiith of the time, though they kept their technology a secret for more than 100 years. The Naabal are self-declared pacifists. During the Heresy Wars, long before the Diamid was established, the Naabal withdrew to their secret city, Tiir, which was blasted into the small northern Kharakian ice cap. However, under the leadership of Ifriit Naabal, an army was put together. The Naabal could take no more of hiding away, though they were fighting the rest of the planet, the Naabal were the only Kiith with gunpowder and steam engines. Using this to their advantage the Naabal swept over Kharak, taking on armies 20 times their size, and winning. However, unlike other Kiith, who in victory demand that the loser join their Kiith or die, they seemed only interested in stopping the war. Instead of the ‘join or die’ choice laid down by other Kiith, the Naabal offered all of their science and knowledge to the losing Kiith, in exchange for the one thing the Naabal wanted: an end to the Heresy Wars. After the war was ended, Ifriit, before stepping down as Kiith’sa, established the Diamid in the ancient city of Tiir.
Soban: The Soban are not really a Kiith, but a group of mercenaries under the same colors and with a Kiith’sa. The Sobani first appeared when a vassal Kiith – a smaller Kiith under the flag of a larger one, and receiving support from the larger Kiith’s military – was attacked. The inhabitants of the town fought back brutally and killed a large number of Invaders. For their insolence the townspeople were punished severely. The Invaders violated many of the basic taboos of Kharakian warfare. They killed civilians in the streets, and killed the leader of every household, man or woman. Those who survived ran across the ‘Sparkling Desert’ to their Kiith’sa. The leader of these survivors was Soban. He requested that an army be sent to take back the city, he even said that he would lead the army personally. He was denied his request, and instead the Kiith his was vassal to became vassal to the Invaders. Soban, when he heard this, was outraged. He and his followers tore their Kiith colors from their clothing, which was, at the time, the sign of ultimate – and unheard of – rebellion. Kiith Soban, named for its leader, adopted blood red as their Kiith color. They then returned to their former home. When they arrived, though small in numbers, were driven on by their immense hate for the Invaders. When Kiith Soban left not one block was sitting on top of another, and not one blade of grass was left green.
FTL (Faster than light/Hyperspace) Drives: The FTL drives in this book work on the principle of the Quantum Theory. The Quantum Theory states that every thousandth of a second our universe is replaced by another, in which time flows faster. By entering this universe and exiting it at the right times, you can traverse great distances extremely quickly.
Star Metal Scrolls: The Star Metal Scrolls are the most precious relic that the Somtaaw posses. Strange artifacts written in a language no living man can read. Ever since the discovery of the Khar-Toba scholars have been pushing for the ability to study these relics.
One hundred years ago a navigation error in a satellite caused it to turn and scan the planet surface. What it found, rocked the entire planet…
An ancient starship, buried in the sand and left there for over 4000 years.
Ifriit Naabal awoke to the sound of his commander’s shouting. He had been assigned to help study the latest discovery, know to the researchers as the Khar-Toba, meaning Gritty Hulk. None of the researchers actually enjoyed their work, it was almost all guesswork, with nothing special happening. An obscure language, unknown markings and designations, the kinds of things Ifriit hated. But he worked and worked, no matter how dreary the job was. He was the kind of person who was commited to the objective, and that’s what his superiors admired.
However, as they learned, when he got a break, he was unwilling to give that break up. Today was one of his few days off, so why was he being roused? And so early too. It might be important, but he didn’t care, that’s just how he was. He wanted sleep, and that’s what he wanted to be sure he got.
But his commander would not stand for it. He knelt down and shouted, as loud as he could, into Ifriit’s ear. Instinctively, he sat bolt upright, only to smash his head against the bunk above. As he slumped back onto his mattress, he heard his commander cackling to himself. He felt a throbbing pain in his forehead.
Determined not to let his commander get the best of him, he got out of bed. The pain in his head was horrible, but he ignored it. He walked past the table and grabbed a hard biscuit and took a bite, it was cold and hard but he was used to it by now. He followed his commander out of the camp and into the bowls of the ship.
He was taken to the Engine room, a place he had never been before. He noticed on the ground that several floor plates had been removed. He was lowered down into the hole along with his commander and several others. When they turned on their lights Ifriit saw a strange stone with a galaxy map imprinted onto it. But that wasn’t what interested him.
As his eyes wandered past the stone he noticed a large sphere. He wasn’t sure what it was, and the rest of the team seemed just as amazed. He walked past the stone and touched the sphere, it was cold and made of metal. At first he thought it was a storage container, maybe to store fuel. But later when they scanned the room they discovered strange energy readings coming from it. That fact alone prompted study.
As the studies progressed more facts were learned about both the Sphere and the Stone. The Sphere seemed to have a strange distortion field around it. Ifriit found this out first hand, after working on the Sphere for a long time. He had gone off daydreaming for what felt to him like a minute. He was then jostled by his commander, who told him he had been sitting there for almost two hours.
They soon found that the Sphere had the capability of expanding the wormholes in the quantum foam that surrounds everything. After more extensive studies, the ancient computer systems were interfaced with the current ones and a containment unit was built. The unit was then taken, by rocket, into the shipyard located in low orbit around the planet.
Listed on the stone was a set of coordinates, along with two points on the galaxy map. One, past the outer rim, was obviously Kharak. The other was marked with a word more ancient than the Kiiths themselves: Hiigara, Home.
This news hushed every voice on the planet, Kharak wasn’t their home.
For 60 years the orbiting shipyard had concentrated all of its efforts on the construction of a ship to take them across the galaxy to their homeworld, Hiigara. Every resource available was consumed in the construction of the great ship. 60 years later it was finished and its launch proceeded as scheduled.
The very day after the launch of the Mothership, as it was called, a strange fleet emerged from hyperspace and entered orbit with the planet. Without even attempting to open communications, they opened fire. The shipyard was the first thing to be destroyed. As the pieces began to enter the atmosphere the missiles started to fall.
The Kharak Missile Defense System fired back but, site by site, it was destroyed. The severely damaged fleet established a cordon around the equator of the planet, and waited.
Debates between the Naabal and Somtaaw had been raging for decades already. The famed Star Metal Scrolls, one of the Somtaaw’s most prized artifacts, was the item every Naabal researcher wanted to get their hands on. As soon as the missiles began to fall the Naabal sent out an expedition lead by Major Oniir Naabal, Ifriit’s son.
As the expedition approached the top of Lungma Jiin, they noticed that the rain of missiles ceased. Something’s wrong here, he thought, why would they stop so suddenly. There are still people here. He figured these worries could wait, he was on a mission, and that was all he was supposed to focus on. As they approached the peak of Lungma Jiin the pilot brought their aircraft into a hover while Oniir and his team descended on ropes. They looked up at the ancient stone temple. If it had been taken care of better, it would have been a magnificent sight.
They raised their weapons to their shoulders and proceeded, only a handful of people had been up here, they didn’t know what could be in store for them. Oniir pressed himself against the crumbling door frame. He cleared the room and waved his team in.
There was only one room in the temple. Oniir walked to the altar at the center of the room. It only reached up to his waist, so he could easily see over it. When he looked down he saw an old man. His forehead had a bleeding cut on it and he appeared to be unconscious. He walked around the altar and waved his team’s medic, Taal, over.
Taal knelt down next to the man and bandaged the wound on his forehead. After a minute the man grunted and his eyes opened, forming even more wrinkles on his forehead. Then Oniir recognized him, he was the Kiith’sa of the Somtaaw.
While Taal worked on the man one of his soldiers called to him. As Oniir turned his arm swept over the altar and knocked several objects off of it. They hit the ground with a metallic clatter. As he knelt to pick them up he noticed they gave way a little under his hand, like paper. He hit one with the barrel of his weapon, it rang like metal. Strange, he thought. But he pushed this aside as Taal told him the man was now fully conscious.
“He’s the Kiith’sa of Somtaaw, sir.” Taal told him.
Oniir shot him a stare that would have stopped a bullet in mid air. Did Taal think he didn’t know that, the Somtaaw’sa was one of the best-known men on all of Kharak.
Then he turned his attention back to the man, “What are you doing here” he asked.
He seemed annoyed, “You think I should not be allowed access to my own temple?”
“Either way, I knew you would come. Do you think I never realized that the Naabal were drooling over the Scrolls?”
Still Oniir waited.
Finally the man got the picture, “If you want the scrolls…you can have them.”
Oniir withdrew, shocked.
“Under one condition, I am coming with you, along with the other Somtaaw survivors.”
The man stood up and grunted with pain, Taal assisted with his arm.
Oniir reached and grabbed the scrolls, he noticed once again that they gave-way under the pressure from his hand, and stuffed them into his pack.
They made their way to the aircraft, now circling the summit of Lungma Jiin. He waved to the pilot, signaling him to land so that they could get in.
The Somtaaw and Naabal gathered around two of the last carriers remaining on the planet. It was one of the few cooperative efforts between the Naabal and Somtaaw besides the building of the Mothership.
Oniir walked up to the captain of one of the carriers. “So, how are we getting out of here anyway?”
“We’ve reverse engineered the hyperspace drive on the Mothership, if you can believe it.” He seemed tense.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’m not confident in our ability to make it out of here.
“Oh…” Oniir responded, a little discouraged.
Only ten minutes passed before they were given the go-ahead. The carriers’ engines roared to life and spit orange plasma from the funnels at the back. The ground shook as the massive ships rose off the ground. Oniir had never been on a starship before. He was smiling, and no one could figure out why.
The two great ships broke the planets gravity and sailed off into space. They had to clear the massive gravity-well generated by the planet before they could engage the hyperspace drive. If they didn’t they conflicting forces wanting to pull them toward the planet and the other into the hyperspace window would tear the ships apart.
But they had been detected and a detachment of the enemy fleet was moving in to engage them. At the same time a hyperspace signature was detected just outside the planets gravity-well 90 degrees from where they left.
They all turned their heads, and for a moment everything was forgotten. One massive starfish-shaped object dominated the side view port. It completely dwarfed everything else but the planet, including the enormous heavy cruisers, which only moments ago were the largest objects they had ever seen. Its massive arms began to swing forward toward the planet.
10 seconds until they were clear.
Balls of blue plasma began to gather around the center of the structure.
Suddenly a beam that could swallow their carrier whole burst forth from the center. It struck the planet and the surface began to melt. Then the beam burst out the other side. The enemy ships began to jump to hyperspace. The planet ruptured and collapsed on itself, then burst outward.
“Get us out of here!” shouted the captain, and not a second later they were torn in hyperspace.
“So, how do these things work” asked Oniir, messaging the scrolls lying on the table.
The old man immediately walked over and touched both ends of the scroll. Bright white lines began to trace across the cylinder until the entire object was covered in small diamond shapes. He lifted the glowing cylinder into the air. Suddenly it burst outward, the glowing white diamond shaped fragments suspended in mid air. The Somtaaw’sa pulled his hands away. The fragments began arranging themselves on the table until they had formed a perfect square. They all stared open mouthed as more white lines traces along the square, only this time they were odd characters, like nothing they had ever seen before.
“Amazing…” whispered one of the men who was with them.
The Somtaaw’a ignored him and waved his hand over the square. The letters bubbled away and new lines began to trace along the surface, like another page. Then he ran his fingers along all four edges. One again the letters bubbled away, but this time the now familiar diamond shapes retraced along the surface. They began to lift from the table one at a time, then in groups, until finally they were all airborne above the table once more. Then they clumped together into the cylinder, and clattered to the table.
Oniir and several other men uttered prayers under their breaths. The old man grinned, seeming pleased and their dumbfounded-ness.
Almost an entire day passed before the captain gave the order to disengage the hyperdrive. As they returned to normal space a planet dominated the forward windows. They all stared with wonder at the blue oceans, none of them had ever seen so much water in one place. It was a beautiful sight to those who knew only vast wastelands of sand.
In a moment of weakness the captain plotted a course for the planet. They had just entered orbit when they detected something approaching them. Now they were too far in the gravity well of the planet to make an escape through hyperspace.
The monitors above them crackled and fizzed out. The ship began to wheel around toward a massive object, powered by no visible engines. It was like a giant half circle, buckled to the breaking point. And they were being pulled toward it.
“Who are you?” demanded the loudspeaker on the bridge.
“Who…” the captain began to respond.
“We are the Bentusi. Who are you?”
Everyone was startled, a third race? Everything was being turned upside down.
“What’s going on here?” asked the captain.
“We are the Bentusi. Who are you?” they repeated.
The captain looked around the bridge, and then replied, “We are the Kushan.”
“Yes…we thought so. The destruction of your planet by the Taiidan has disgusted the Galactic Council, yet they are too afraid to do anything against the Taiidan Empire. And we…swore against violence four thousand years ago after we set in motion the downfall of you ancestors on Hiigara…”
“Long ago we, the Bentusi, discovered the Great Core. Our ancestors then journeyed across the galaxy, giving other races that we found the plans for our hyperdrive, for a price that is. Yet no others could parallel our capabilities. Thus, we became a great trading race, charging across the galaxy faster than anyone else could. However, peace would not last. The hundreds of other races who had developed hyperdrive technology engaged in a massive war. At the end vast empires emerged, with the Hiigarans and the Taiidan having two of the greatest. In order to prevent more war, we established the Council, and we assumed a secondary role as police.
“The two greatest empires in the galaxy were also neighbors, a recipe for disaster, as time proved. The border worlds of the two empires were constantly engaged in war. Finally a peace treaty was signed between the Hiigarans and the Taiidan. However, it favored the Taiidan greatly. Eventually the Hiigaran border worlds would be effected by the Taiidan, economically if not militarily.
“That is when your ancestors discovered the Second Core in the Great Wastelands. They decided to use this advantage to strike against the Taiidan. With their old technology they would have to stop after a certain distance, but with this new Core they could jump past the Taiidan fleet patrolling the borders, and right into the heart of the Empire.
“A massive fleet was assembled, lead by a newly constructed flagship, Sajuuk’s Rath. With this new fleet the Hiigarans launched a massive offensive against the Taiidan. Their ships tore through hyperspace, right past the border forces, and into the heart of the Taiidan Empire. They easily dispatched the small formal guard around the planet and moved into position to bombard the surface.
“The Taiidan took their grief to the Council. After a long period of deliberation the Council, which was controlled by the Taiidan, declared that the Hiiigarans must demilitarize and turn over the Core to the Council within 10 days. Debate raged for several days in the Hiigaran Diamid. On the final allotted day your ancestors declared that they would comply, but that they would only turn over the Core to the Bentusi. The Council accepted this.
“In orbit around Hiigara lay your ancestors’ fleet, seemingly derelict, with the Sajuuk’s Rath in the center, with the core exposed for extraction by us. Then as we drew near to your flagship the Fleet began to power up. They opened fire on us and we did the only thing we could.
“As your Admiral’s fleet was destroyed, he knew he could not survive and retain his honor. We desperately wished to preserve the Core, so we ruined the engines of your flagship and maneuvered to dock. However, the Admiral jumped to hyperspace, directly into the moon. The ship of course was destroyed.
There was silence while the crew absorbed this new information.
The Bentusi grew tired of waiting. The Voice once again boomed over the loudspeaker,
“We had wandered the stars for eons, looking for another who could rival our capabilities, another race that was truely…unbound. After all that time we had finally found you, and then we destroyed you…
“However, it appears the jump your Admiral made was not a vain suicide move. The Core survived, and was apparently smuggled along with you to Kharak.
“We began a time of formal mourning. At the end, all of our ships were disarmed and dematerialized. We informed the Council that we would withdraw all martial support, and that we hoped peace could continue without us.
“But it was not to be. After this the Taiidan admiral Riesstiu declared war on your ancestors with the remaining Taiidan fleet. They roared through your colony worlds, some were destroyed, others assimilated. The Council pleaded for us to help you, but our oath was in earnest, as much as we desired to, we could not help. Riestius’s Revenge, as the campaign became known, ended at Hiigara.
“We, however, tried to help by mediating negotiations. The Admiral’s demands were simple. All Hiigaran worlds would belong to the Taiidan. Hiigara itself would serve as the site for the new imperial palace, and all native Hiigarans would be killed or enslaved.
“We desperately tried to find a middleground. But the Admiral would not listen. Your ancestors were full of pride, and would never accept slavery. So they braced for the end.
“Shamed by our part in your downfall we continued to negotiate. Finally we succeeded and found a compromised acceptable to the Council, the Taiidan, Riesstiu, and your ancestors. You were given a single month to board a sub-light transport headed for the galactic fringes. Those willing to go would be exiled to an unoccupied desert planet, called Kharak. All those remaining would be enslaved…or executed.
“Over time, Hiigara became a memory, then a legend, until it finally faded from memory.
“And so your exile began. We are greatly shamed at our role in this. We hope that we can mend our relationship, we will bring your plight to the Council. But first, you must come with us.”
And with that, they were once again torn into hyperspace.