The Sword and the Spear No. 4

The next day, Morana pulled into orbit above Abila Lysaniou. At sixty stadia—twenty kilometers, in the newfangled Gallic measure—he dwarfed every other ship there. The gigantic doors over her hangar bays rolled back, and four ships emerged: Perun, a battleship, eight stadia long in his own right, and three of Varouforos’ frigates. Long and narrow, built for speed, toughness, and strength, they took up parade formation around Morana‘s wedge-shaped bulk.

After the warships cleared the hangars, merchantmen of every size and shape issued forth. Morana was a jump ship, a void-craft large enough to generate and store the tremendous power required for jump travel between the stars. No vessel of ordinary size could fit such equipment, so when they traveled from system to system, they did so in the hangars of craft like Morana.

Some of the merchants dipped into Abila Lysaniou’s upper atmosphere. The rest followed Morana and her escorts to one of the larger void stations Varouforos had ever seen, a disc three hundred stadia across. Abila Lysaniou was a gas planet, which didn’t bother the kraken, but did present some obstacles to other species. Per the notes in Morana‘s databanks, the void station—Abila Lysaniou Proti, which the locals simply called Proti—housed the largest concentration of terrestrial sapients in the Confederation.

From Morana‘s vast command deck, Varouforos watched the sensor scopes. Arrayed around Proti were about a dozen yashcherit raiders, large, bulbous voidship, only a bit smaller than Perun. They flowed in smooth lines fore to aft, interrupted with blisters holding God only knew what. Though lightly armed for their size, much of their internal space given over to barracks and docking bays for landing barges, they still made a formidable fleet. For an alleged day of peace, it was a disquieting show of force.

Two hours later, some time after the little flotilla hove to near the void station, a shuttle left the hangar, crossing the distance between Morana and Proti in the space of a few minutes. The shuttle skimmed over the surface of the station, sometimes only a few dozen paces above the high towers rising toward the stars.

Soon, the shuttle approached an enormous spire, twenty stadia tall at least, at the center of the station. At its top was a many-faceted armor crystal dome, perhaps six stadia across, scintillating in Abila’s light.

The shuttle pulled into a docking bay in the spire, just below the dome. Varouforos and Ippocampos disembarked together, between a double line of humans wearing Confederation uniforms. Varouforos’ personal guards, ten in total, followed them into an elevator at the far end of the bay. They ascended for half a minute, and the doors opened.

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