This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

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Kiirgatt paced calmly in front of the large viewer dominating the ship’s bridge. As Overlord of his Leran, he watched the space battle with confidence. Although his ship rarely engaged in battle, this sneak attack by loyal Issgire allies was actually a blessing as his troops were placed under actual fighting conditions. A practice they needed more often as the war intensified with the Issgire. He never feared the outcome, his armies were more than capable of quelling such upstarts.

If there was anything disturbing in this attack it was that a non-Issgire controlled species orchestrated it. After eons of oppressing all those the Issgire viewed as inferior, the reptiles had changed tactics, matching the Leran’s as they offered greater autonomy to those worlds they possessed, turning the populace against the Leran and their message of peace. As the Leran extended their control through the galaxy, they were discovering more worlds turned by the Issgire, prepared to resist the offer to join the coalition of worlds led by the Leran. The damned reptiles were fighting fire with fire.

Kiirgatt was realistic and understood there was something disturbing about the Leran to other species, and the thought of being replaced by a replica of alien origin was more frightening than subjugation by a hostile reptilian species. The Issgire were exploiting this fact in a brilliant demonstration of their keen intellect. Their success in keeping the worlds they already possessed and recruiting new ones from the millions yet to enter the conflict was slowly turning the outcome of the war in their favor.

Kiirgatt shook his head, the motion elegant in the Dal body he typically created to move among his people. To many within their coalition, the Dal were the Leran. But the Dal were an old species the Leran had conquered billions of years before the war. The two species were so well integrated, very few real Dal survived. Kiigatt made sure the genetic line of the species was kept strong through careful breeding programs designed to strengthen the intellectual capabilities of the species while removing known genetic disorders. Several million actual Dals still existed within their ranks, but they were outnumbered by the billions of Leran that took their forms.

Every Dal knew of their Leran counterparts, accepting their conquest with humility and grace. The two had lived and loved together for too long for animosity to exist. Coupled with the backing of a god, Kiirgatt, the Dals were easy to control, providing the much needed face to the faceless Leran.

A large explosion off the port bow was abruptly followed by alarms throughout the ship as the damage caused a dangerous loss of atmosphere to that portion of the vessel. It was a minor incident, and Kiirgatt signaled the alarms to be silenced on the bridge. He watched as small ships swarmed the gash, quickly affecting repairs from the outside before those within the interior could patch the other side of the wound.

It was astonishing the small ship could penetrate their defenses and crash into a section of their vessel. He made a mental note to analyze the ship’s penetration to understand how it had got through their defensive network. A part of him wondered if it had been a suicide crash or simply a strafing run gone amok. Suicidal ships were not unknown but rarely did significant damage, certainly not enough to offset the cost of a trained pilot and tactical assets.

“Overlord, shall I pull our ship away from the fray while we make repairs?” His fleet Admiral offered.

“Nonsense, Admiral, we are perfectly safe where we are.” He said calmly. “Make sure we analyze the footage on how that ship got past our defenses. Clearly we have holes in our network.”

“Yes, Overlord.” The Admiral said deferentially.

“In fact,” Kiirgatt said ominously, “let’s move the ship closer to their home world, I want to see what they are fighting so viciously for.”

The Admiral relayed the orders with a lift of his brow. Kirrgatt smiled as the large engines came to life, the enormous ship moving forward towards the flash of lights illuminating the battle. The small blue disk of their home world grew in the viewer as he surveyed its tenuous atmosphere, something he could extinguish with only a thought. The planet’s significance to the Leran was location rather than resources. A permanent base on this world would be indispensible for their efforts in this region, and though he hoped to win that base through negotiations and treaties, he would take it with force if necessary.

“Overlord, we have received a preliminary analysis of the damage.” The Admiral said. “There were no life forms on board the ship.”

“Of course, that is how it escaped our network.” Kiirgatt replied. “Only robotic ships can evade our defenses so easily. This is a new threat we must consider. The rules of this war prevent the creation of robotic armies, but only if they are under the direct control of one of the competing species. Clearly they are exploiting a loophole as they form new alliances with other species who are not constrained in employing any army they choose.” He paused as he thought through the ramifications. “Brilliant.” He said in hushed tones.

“Overlord, are you certain we are safe at this distance?” The Admiral grew agitated as the thought of a robotic army made him nervous.

Kiirgatt ignored the question. The Admiral was a real Dal and inherently a coward. “Admiral, take us to their moon and shift our assets to the capture of it. Ignore the planet and focus on the moon.”

“But Overlord, the battle above its surface is far too dangerous for our ship.” The Admiral pleaded.

Although Kiirgatt knew the Admiral spoke some truth, he had to see what facility was producing the robotic fighters. If there was any connection to the Issgire, he could use that to force the hand of Watherful. “Admiral, I want that facility taken at all costs. Is that understood?”

The Admiral bowed as he relayed the appropriate orders to change tactics and targets. Kiirgatt smiled as he watched their assets disengage the planet’s defense system and move towards the moon. Only the moon provided the logical resources for such an operation. Easy to launch from, plentiful raw materials, and few civilian assets made it the ideal base from which to create a robotic army. Even the facility could be completely automated.

However, if they were using any Issgire technology on that base, it would be enough to cry foul on Danirdan. It might cause a forfeiture of the system, but would award Kiirgatt the right to create another world nearby, thus securing the base he needed in this region. He needed that base, intact if possible.

“Admiral, I want ground troops deployed as soon as our carriers are close enough!” He ordered with authority.

“But Overlord, we have not suppressed enough of their defenses to move troops onto the surface.” He protested. “We will lose a great deal of assets if we proceed too quickly.”

Although Kiirgatt was generally calm and level headed, his desire to prevent the destruction of that base overrode his normal demeanor. “Admiral, while I appreciate your tactical capabilities under normal battle conditions, this is not a normal battle situation and we must not allow that base to be destroyed either through our actions or our inactions. If that is too difficult for you to fathom, I will replace you!”

The man realized what replacement meant, a Leran duplicating his DNA, disposing of his body when complete. The Admiral shook his head and issued the orders with haste and authority. If they were lucky, they could stop the base’s self-destruction as the locals realized they could not withstand Leran troops. It was evident they had not created too many of the robotic vessels to have a meaningful impact, but the question remained, did the Issgire help them construct the facility, and if so, did they make sure it could not be captured?

Within minutes, their ship took up a position orbiting the moon. It was frenzied chaos below them as the smaller, outgunned locals put up an impressive defense of their base. Unfortunately, they would lose the battle. Kiirgatt watched as several drop ships disengaged from their carriers and headed to the moon’s surface. The base was visible below them, powerful guns peppering the space above it with hostile fire as they attempted to repel the invaders.

At least a dozen drop ships descended as one of them exploded in a fantastic fireball that knocked another off course and into one of the carriers. The damage to the carrier was too much as the ship split in half and began its slow spiral to the moon below. Damn! Kiirgatt swore under his breath as the Admiral’s predictions began to unfurl. It was an expensive blow, but he held onto his belief the capture of the base would be worth it.
He felt the vibrations as his own ship’s powerful guns were brought online to take out enemy emplacements on the surface. He could already see several of the drop ships landing, their troops rapidly deploying to protect the other ships following close behind. Kiirgatt smiled, they were going to succeed.

Another explosion sounded alarms as another robotic ship pierced their defenses and inflicted more damage to their hull. It was also minor, but they couldn’t withstand an infinite number of such strikes. He ignored the alarms, content to let them ring as the pitch of the battle intensified. The sound would rally his troops to battle, ensuring they stayed on their game to acquire their god’s prize.

He watched the monitor as ground forces mounted an attack of the base’s perimeter. Although most of the troops were neither Dal nor Leran, they were a loyal and powerful species that never failed to acquire their targets once dug into a world. He watched as a phalanx of the units broke through the perimeter and made their way into the guts of the base. He would soon travel to the surface to survey his hard won conquest.

A blinding light erupted from the position of the base, a monstrous fire ball clawing its way into space as if to grasp his ship in its deadly embrace. As the explosion subsided, only a blackened scar stretched for hundreds of miles across the moon’s surface. Millions of his troops were annihilated as the base was permanently cleansed. They were too late, but it confirmed what he had suspected. The Issgire were helping to build the facilities, covering their tracks with self-destructive devices that vaporized all evidence. He would talk to Watherful about this deceit, but without proof, it might be in vain.

He shook his head in disgust for the assets they had spent in the valiant attempt. “Admiral, please contact their home world and begin negotiations.” He said quietly. “We have both lost enough for today.”

“Yes, Overlord.”