Peace War

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Chapter 1

Ovaap Resrek gazed at the sight opening before him through a thick plexiglass window. Under a thick, white, almost milky alien sky, an imposing dark figure loomed next to a snowy mountain range. He was looking at a piece of what was to be the hull superstructure of the United Orcs Starfleet vessel HemmoCruiser III. Numerous smaller craft buzzed around it like metallic insects, the tiny white flashes from their onboard welders revealing them as construction drones tirelessly building the giant frame piece by piece. They'd been at it for weeks now, but the structure still resembled nothing like the self-sustaining space colony it was supposed to become. Ovaap Resrek, like everyone else in the Refuge, wondered whether it would ever be finished before the Bacterians located the outpost.

The accursed Bacterians! The alien invaders had destroyed his home, all of their homes, forcing what was left of the United Orcs to flee into space in a desperate search for a hiding place. Everything was happening like it had before, so many years ago, during the Great Cataclysm of Orceron... First their birthplace had been destroyed, and now their new home was gone too, infested with Bacterian monstrosities and occupied by their armies. All he and his comrades had worked so hard to rebuild over the years had vanished in an instant, and no-one even knew why the Bacterians were doing it. It didn't make any sense.

His long life, Ovaap reflected, was not at all a blessing... It was a cruel burden, being forced to witness history repeating its greatest tragedies over and over again. Generations changed and entire civilizations rose and fell, but nothing ever truly changed...

Suddenly a holoscreen embedded into the table flashed to life, bathing the room in a green glow and waking up Ovaap from his thoughts. Like everything else in the base, the holoemitter was quickly put together and barely working, the image flickering irregularly.

Ovaap Resrek to Command Control ... Ovaap Resrek to Command Control ...

Ovaap stood up, straightening the knertty he had bought on Reel 5. He approached the door of his quarters and keyed the controls, but the mass of metal remained silent. He activated his cranial implant.

"Resrek to Maintenance, my door is malfunctioning again."

A crackling voice responded inside his head.

"Just a minute ... We're powering it up."

The stained red light mounted on the door frame lit up, and the pressure seal opened with a cheerless rattle. Ovaap stepped into the corridor, a hastily welded together construction with a red floor and unpainted gray, hexagonal walls; it had been thrown together only recently to connect the two base complexes on the planet. Ovaap stumbled as he made his way over the doorsteps and exposed pipes that littered the floor.

Suddenly he heard a computerized voice echoing throughout the metallic passageway.

Base wide alert: Ionic storm approaching. Repeat: Ionic storm approaching. Seek shelter immediately.

Ovaap accelerated his pace towards Command. The planet's low gravity helped, but he was still way too far from the secure areas. Resrek had seen the destruction the lightning storms of this miserable world could cause; the third base complex had been devastated completely by one. The entire upper levels of the structure had been torn apart, exposing everyone inside to the deadly atmosphere.

He could already hear the rumbling. Ovaap moved as fast as he could. Just a couple more meters ... Passing a large observation window, he saw massive blue bolts of lightning striking the planet's carbon-based soil. The hallway started to shake and felt like it could be coming apart any second, with ominous hissing emanating from gaskets.

Just then, Ovaap felt a flood of relief - he had made it inside the junction airlock. Immediately, he slammed the button labelled CLOSE. and the heavy metal door responded with a clang as it rolled from the ceiling towards the floor, until suddenly, it screeched to a halt. For a second that felt like an eternity, Ovaap couldn't believe his eyes. He reached for the red button again, frantically pushing it down again and again, but there was no response.

"Work damn you, work!" he shouted, his voice discolored by panic.

At the same time he saw freezing white gas starting to pour into the trembling hallway, so cold it froze the methane around it, turning it into snowy ice. The hallway had been breached. As he stared into the deadly cloud, suddenly in his mind he was back on Aldaain, buried under snow, freezing to death... The sound of power systems restarting interrupted the visions of his past. Another clang sounded from the door and it was sealed shut, like there had never been anything wrong with it.

"Uh sorry, we got a bit of trouble with them door systems in there. Are yous alright?" Ovaap heard a distorted voice say through his computer implant.

He took a moment to exhale.

"No worries. Send maintenance to the junction hallway. There's... a leak."

Chapter 2

The Command Center seemed to be the only place on the planet with proper heating, although it too was a quick and dirty makeshift arrangement and looked unfinished; wires hung from the ceiling and the floor was covered in ductwork. In typical fashion, a large viewscreen had been placed on one wall, currently displaying a detailed simulation of the starship being constructed outside.

Ovaap straightened his posture and entered the room, performing an old-fashioned salute in the general direction of Päähemmo that went largely unnoticed, and sat down on a chair that looked like it had been removed from an old personal transporter.

"You have been invited here for a situation report."

The idle rotating image of the main display changed into a simplistic map of the last lines of defense the United Orcs had against the Bacterians. Päähemmo's expression darkened, his eyes studying the diagram.

"The last communication of our outermost remaining outpost reported thousands of Bacterian vessels on approach. Therefore we may safely assume it no longer exists."

A green dot on the screen disappeared.

"Since then, contact has been lost with thirty other bases in the region; all are presumed to be destroyed or taken over by the enemy."

This time, almost a half of the remaining dots vanished.

"As before, our efforts at comprehending the Bacterian propulsion systems have been fruitless. Simply put, they appear to violate known physical laws with abandon. Obviously, our scientific knowledge is woefully lacking compared to theirs, despite Mr. Baasegnar's laudable work."
"What we do know for certain is that their vessels are vastly faster than ours, and the more we learn of their capabilities, the clearer it becomes that they could reach our location at any given time. We think the only reason we are still alive is because they are thorough. Every colony, outpost, station we have established - systematically wiped out, conquered or seeded with unspeakable biological weapons one at a time. What we are facing here is a campaign of total extermination."

The Päähemmo and most of his entourage seemed horrified. Ovaap didn't feel any better.

"The general evacuation is still in effect and the refugee fleets are on the move. We are trying to coordinate the evacuation through relays but it is proving to be increasingly difficult - The network has suffered extensive damage and large regions of colonized space are simply unreachable. Direct subspace broadcasts are out of the question; they would reveal this system immediately as the primary staging ground."
"Even with subspace radio silence, it is only a matter of time before the enemy finds this base, as pointed out earlier. We can only hope all convoys have reached us by then ... and that the project is finished on schedule. Once HemmoCruiser reaches operational capability we depart immediately towards the Rim."

The screen now displayed a rotating schematic of the finished HemmoCruiser.

"This concludes the general situation report. Department heads will be briefed at eleven hundred hours."

The Päähemmo remained silent. He had never been this depressed in his life. When he had been elected, the United Orcs was still struggling to get through the Great Chaos, but he had never lost his resolve. There had always been a future to look forward to, something to fight for. Now his partner was dead, the Union was about to collapse completely, and he himself could be dead in three cycles. And in the middle of this utter hopelessness, they were still facing an internal enemy.

"Any news on the New Rebellion?" he finally asked.
"None, but Intel/Counterintel suspects they have been able to place several spies in the base. They knew your location earlier and we're certain some of the refugees who came with your fleet were New Rebellion operatives."

The Päähemmo looked like he wamted tp sink into his chair and disappear. The New Rebellion Alliance was a group of radical Orcish nationalist-speciesists who wanted to "free the Orcs from Hemmoian enslavement" by abolishing the UO government; their favorite method for accomplishing this was high explosives. It seemed amazing to him that even when they all faced extinction, they couldn't see past their hatred and petty political agendas.

"As before, maintain absolute discretion concerning this meeting," said the Päähemmo, struggling to keep his voice calm. Ovaap finished the implication in his mind: The spy could be anywhere, even in the administrative staff. He could even be in this room right now!

Chapter 3

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