Chapter 21

Tully assisted where he could as the bridge crew set about restoring order. Every so often, he glanced over at Dannet’s Narvo-striped face as she directed the hunt for larger portions of the wrecked Ekhat vessels to ensure nothing had survived. Some of the Ekhat’s lasers were still firing from time to time, probably on automatic, because they were even targeting other Ekhat debris.

Tully figured most of the pieces would wind up in the sun in fairly short order, but he admired Dannet’s ferocity. It was good to see Jao bloody-mindedness turned upon their common enemy. Humans knew only too well how focused they could be from the conquest of Terra.

He watched the Terra-Captain covertly as she steered the bridge crew back on task, stern and uncompromising and deadly efficient. By all that was holy, she had outmaneuvered and outfought five fricking Ekhat ships! She was amazing. The Bond had certainly known what it was doing when it turned command of this ship over to her.

Despite being Narvo. Or… more likely, because she was Narvo. Uncomfortably, Tully finally admitted to himself a truth which he knew was accepted by all Jao. Narvo was one of the two greatest of the Jao kochan, along with Pluthrak. But where Pluthrak’s stature derived from their subtlety and multiple associations, Narvo’s came from something much simpler. They were the great warrior kochan of the Jao. In purely military terms, by far the mightiest.

Professor Kinsey had once commented that insofar as the Jao kochans found a parallel with the caste system of the Hindus, Pluthrak was the equivalent of the Brahmin priests and Narvo of the kshatriya warriors. The analogy hadn’t meant much to Tully at the time, but he could see the logic now.

Dannet’s notice lighted upon him. “Major Tully,” she said, crossing the deck to stand by him. Her eyes blazed down at him, flickering with green, and her ears were positively dancing. Something was going on inside that alien skull.

“Yes, Terra-Captain?” The knot on his head ached dully.

“You were stationed in Spine C. So now your unit has no function.” Her ears kept flicking to odd angles, lowering abruptly, then rising again, as though her thoughts were racing.

“Not while we are in space, Terra-Captain.” He kept his body very straight, trying for simple neutrality. “We took some injuries and at least two fatalities that I know of, but I can assign personnel to fill in wherever you have a need.”

The Jao’s eyes had gone to almost pure green now. He suspected her of finding something in the situation amusing, and unfortunately, things that amused the Jao could give a human nightmares. “Though heavily damaged by our fire, one of the Ekhat ships survived,” she said abruptly, “or at least a substantial portion of it. That section has achieved a low orbit around the star and its shields appear to still be functioning, suggesting that it may yet be manned. Load the functional portion of Baker Company into assault craft and investigate whether any of the crew live.”

Tully’s throat went dry. “And — what is our mission? Take the survivors prisoner or finish the job?” He devoutly hoped for the latter. He’d met a pair of Ekhat face to face once. They were barking insane.

“It has been hundreds of years, as humans term such things, since the Jao captured an Ekhat ship. Even longer since we secured live Ekhat.” She settled into a Yaut-like stance, extreme-sternness, perhaps, or admonition-to-duty. “If any Ekhat survive, they will attempt to terminate themselves rather than face captivity. It is your responsibility to prevent this.” Her gaze turned to the screen. “Interrogating them could provide valuable information.”

Question an Ekhat? He shuddered as he tried to visualize the process. “Jesus!” he muttered involuntarily, running fingers back over his aching head. Even his hair hurt.

“Are you requesting support from one of your mythical talismans?” Dannet said. “I assure you that this Jesus, whatever it is, cannot assist you in this matter.”

“No, Terra-Captain, indeed you are right,” Tully said, his mind whirling.

“You have your orders,” Dannet said, and turned away.

He saluted her back, trying to preserve the shreds of his dignity, then went to round up the rest of his unit. They didn’t know it yet, but they had a lot to get done.


The Starwarders’ ship observed the end of the great battle as closely as the crew dared. The notion that the Lleix might survive this latest Ekhat incursion was heady. “All five destroyed?” Lliant said, his aureole fluttering with amazement. “That is not possible!”

“Analyze the readings then yourself,” Jihan said. The newcomers’ victory was improbable, true, but Lliant’s continued incredulity angered her with its foolishness. She reminded herself that an Eldest, however short or newly named, should never give way to sharp words.

“Who — are — they?” Hadata whispered from her pilot’s seat. “Where did they come from?”

“And what do they want?” Segga, one of the other Starwarders said from his station at the back. The other two stayed out of the discussion, sullenly doing exactly what was required and nothing more. It was clear they had no wish to be here.

What, indeed, did the newcomers want? wondered Jihan. Her nerves crawled with uncertainty. Were they as vicious as the Ekhat or perhaps even worse? They certainly fought with an unparalleled fierceness, suggesting that if the Lleix resisted them, their people could expect no quarter either.

During the battle, the huge ship had lost a section, one of its strange flat extrusions that seemed to carry weapons. The piece drifted away from the battle and would eventually be pulled in by the star’s gravity. “If we can get closer to the debris field,” she said, studying the data, “I can take some readings, then beam the information back to the Starsifters. They might be able to tell us more. Perhaps there is some information on this species buried in the ancient records.”

“You are not going to try to convince us that these creatures are Jao?” Lliant’s voice carried an implicit sneer.

“No,” Jihan said, spreading her fingers across the console and gazing steadily at them. He would not provoke her! “Whoever they are, they do not resemble what I have learned of the Jao.” All those days spent learning the rudiments of the Jao tongue had been wasted, she thought regretfully. They would have to start all over with this species.

“Maneuvering in that closely will be precarious,” Hadata said from her pilot’s seat. “I am reading a great deal of debris, much more from the Ekhat than the newcomer.”

Jihan rose and crossed to Hadata, leaning over the other’s shoulder to point at her screen. “Match course with that huge piece there,” she said.

“It is passing very close to the Ekhat debris field,” Hadata said, nevertheless making the suggested course corrections. “There are still a number of large sections. I am not certain how close we can safely get.”

“Will we be in danger of collision?” Lliant asked.

“I will endeavor to prevent that,” Hadata said.

Jihan studied the spinning Ekhat flotsam. Perhaps they should also try to take some readings from —

A red energy signature flared as a laser beam speared the flat section, vaporizing a fair amount. Hadata’s startled black gaze turned to Jihan. Her hands flew to the controls, plotting a new vector away. “They are still alive!”

“They — cannot be,” Jihan said, her mind whirling. That section has lost hull integrity. You can see as it spins — it is open to space.”

The energy signature flashed again, this time incinerating a broken girder from one of the Ekhat wrecks, hardly a threat by anyone’s standards.

“It must be an automatic mechanism,” Lliant said, “firing at anything within range. Ekhatlore has records of such.”

“That could include us!” Hadata said, her hands flying over the controls.

Jihan headed back for her station, but the little ship jolted violently. She stumbled and then fell full-length to the deck, her head ringing, aureole collapsed around her face. Her arm, which had taken the brunt of her weight as she fell, throbbed.

“We have been hit!” Hadata cried.

The cabin filled with the unpleasant reek of burnt electronic components. Someone in the back section was crying out hoarsely, one of the other Starwarders, Jihan thought groggily. She had not gotten the female’s name.

“T-take us back to Valeron!” Lliant said, coughing and waving away smoke. His face had smashed into his control panel and blood trickled down his cheek. He lurched out of his seat and went to check on the two back stations. One, a very short male, obviously quite young, sprawled on the floor, his head twisted at a bad angle. The other was still murmuring in pain, then her voice trailed off and she was ominously silent.

Lliant returned, wiping his hands on his robes. “They are both dead,” he said, his face scrunched in disbelief.

Jihan pulled herself up into her chair with her remaining good hand, cradling the damaged arm against her chest, the taste of blood in her mouth. Her vision blurred, came back into focus. On her screen, the Ekhat energy signature flashed again, then the newcomers’ ship answered by firing upon the spinning fragment, vaporizing it. Her pulse pounded as she feared it would then also fire upon them, but they were masked by the bulk of the flat extrusion. The vessel cruised on, massive, black, and deadly, evidently seeking out the last of the surviving Ekhat, putting an end to even the possibility any still lived.

“We have taken damage to our engines,” Hadata said, punching in command after useless command. She turned in her seat to look at the rest of the crew. “This course is headed for the sun.”

Lliant lurched to his feet, elegant draping forgotten. “Pull us out!”

“We do not have enough remaining power,” Hadata said.

“Then it is the Last-of-Days,” Lliant said, “at least for us.”

Why did everyone always just give up? Jihan thought crossly. Her breath hissed as she tried to find a comfortable position for her injured arm. “Then we do have some power?” she said, gritting her teeth against the stabbing pain.

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35 Responses to THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE — Snippet 57

  1. Grant says:

    Never saw that one coming… what the heck were they thinking taking an at best lightly armed ship into the middle of the aftermath of a fight like that when at least one of the combatants they have no idea of the intentions of who could swat them like a fly was still cruising around there?

    “Let’s get some better sensor readings” seems pretty ridiculously weak cause to go poking one of their only remaining ships that can evacuate people from the planet into that situation.

    Guess that answers how contact is going to be made now though. Rescue mission… somehow.

  2. robert says:

    The Ekhat ship was destroyed, but the piece that fired on them was operating on auto (“It must be an automatic mechanism,” Lliant said, “firing at anything within range. …”). They certainly did not expect to be hit. But having been hit, rescue is required, as you said. And the do have some power left.

  3. Grant says:

    Of course they didn’t expect to be hit *by the Ekhat*. There is however that giant massive mystery ship that just blew the crap out of a whole Ekhat squadron still cruising around right there which they have no idea is hostile or not and they just go cruising in mere moments after the last shot is fired on a sightseeing trip to get a bit better sensor resolution on the *debris*? Come on. According to what we’ve seen of Liexx thought patterns so far that doesn’t seem to track.

    (And technically, it’s not actually after the last shot at all seeing as Lexington is still actively engaging the larger active bits of that debris)

  4. Mr. Masterson says:

    1@: I have to say the Lleix, Terran, and even the Ekhat are all moving in exactly as you would guess especially after reading through it once. Move for move. The Terran’s are trying to find info on the Ekhat and the Lleix are trying to find info about the Terran’s. Now you ask why use a lightly armed ship and I ask you what other ship could they use? If they used a heavily armed ship which I would guess be bigger. Which would mean a ship that could carry a lot more beings then the light ship. That would be the choice between a greater evil and a lesser one. As far as I could tell they were using the lightly armed ship as a scout, but what is the use of a scout ship? I would guess to scout and find information. Sometimes you have to risk an asset in order to further any mission. If it’s a case of saving let’s say high end 20 compared to thousands or even the continuation of a species. The answer becomes simple not easier, diffidently not easier in the end. Can’t wait until the next Snippet.

  5. Grant says:

    I’m not asking “why use a lightly armed ship”. For what they just did they shouldn’t be using any ship, period, because they shouldn’t have done it. I’m pointing out it’s one of the very few ships they have left and it is lightly armed and operating it the way they’re operating it would appear to be suicidal or idiotic, neither of which they’re supposed to be. All their reactions to this point have made it clear they have no idea if they should think this new ship they’re seeing is a threat to them or not, it just wiped out 5 Ekhat ships, and while ***it’s still engaged*** in blasting the stuffing out of the remaining bits of the last one they fly TO THE SAME DEBRIS FIELD that mystery ship is firing on… then proceed to act as if it isn’t even there… just so they can get a better quality scan of the debris?

    They didn’t want to, say, wait 10 or 15 whole minutes and see if the extremely deadly unknown aliens flew away so the debris could be safely scanned without approaching the totally unknown alien race that might have the desire and most certainly has the capability to wipe them out of existence in an eye blink?

    The Ekhat and Terrans are acting in character. The Liexx WERE acting in character until they did this, which I find inexplicable.

  6. Mr. Masterson says:

    5@: I have to agree, the Lleix are acting a little off and I would have waited a tad longer, lets say after the shooting. But the Lleix are in situation that they don’t have that much experience in especially in the last century or so. For them to be reacting to shadows the way they are is understandable. Fear and misunderstanding can turn the must ridged person to crumble. I can’t say what they were thinking before they enter the debris field and I don’t claimed to understand an alien mind. The drive to save their race by gathering more information before more ships show up might be it. I don’t know, but man what a interesting story!

  7. dac says:

    If one is “dead”, then one is not bound by normal conventions of thought or practice.

  8. BRK says:

    What I am waiting to see is how Tully handles the Ekhat ! Why only Tully, how ANYBODY handles Ekhat keeping either themselves or the Ekhat alive !

    So stage is set for Jihan, Tully, Mallu and KIaln to meet. Maybe together they force the Ekhat to association.

    Just as a side morbid question. Just how much of a fool will Lliant make of himself.

  9. Ian Darley says:

    I can’t say I am surprised. Don’t forget they have been hiding not just from the Ekhat but from the universe for a very long time. They have forgotten how to fight and those Kochan which did the fighting are almost certainly among those that have been lost. They are getting OJT (on the job) training with Ekhat and a dangerous unknown 3rd party. If it wasn’t for the necessary narative thread I am surprised they even survived.

  10. Tabasco says:


    I’m not liking the chances of getting an Ekhat into association. More likely they’re going to have to subdue them forcibly, somehow. Which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

  11. Grant says:

    @6 and @9: Exactly. They’re in a situation they have no experience with and their entire race has spent centuries in hiding as thier only means of survival in what they perceive to be an immensely hostile universe. And then their first reaction upon seeing an unknown powerful alien race appear is to not even try hiding and just immediately cruise in to a debris field those aliens are *shooting at* with one of an extremely limited number of irreplaceable ships they have left that are the only hope of survival for their species if they need to evacuate… which they’re pretty sure they need to do now since they know the Ekhat have found them… not only risking the ship’s destruction but ALSO risking tipping off the potentially hostile alien race about their people’s presence in the system so they can cruise in and wipe them out. And they do this while just ignoring what this new alien ship is doing… just so they can get a higher quality sensor scan of the debris? And they need to do it *right this second*?

    Does. Not. Track. Inexperience doesn’t lead to people with the worldview and fear of what is lurking out in the universe that the Leixx have doing something like this, if anything it biases them towards being excessively careful not wantonly reckless. Even if one of them, like Jihan most likely, was inclined to do something this crazy the rest of the ship’s crew would have thought she was insane and told her to shut up while they kept hiding. But as I read this there wasn’t even any objection raised, everyone just all of a sudden thought “hey, that’s a great idea! Let’s go quite possibly get ourselves and our entire race killed by this new alien species for the chance at some more sensor data!”. the only thing any of them even mentioned might be hazardous about it was the chance of accidentally colliding with some of the debris! Even though just paragrahs earlier we’re reading about how evebn Jihan is thinking about whether these new aliens are going to want to destroy her people… but apparently the possibility of them blowing up the ship as soon as they see it isn’t worth a mention next to the dangers of floating inert peices of metal.

    Sure, WE know getting detected by that ship doesn’t pose a threat to them, but as far as they’re concerned that’s quite possibly the death of their entire species and they’re not even factoring it into their thinking when they decide flying up to it in a debris field is what they want to do?

    Their actions here make absolutely no sense.

  12. WCG says:

    I don’t see a problem with this, though I didn’t see it coming. The Lleix are in a scout ship. They’re scouting. Their planet has already been discovered, so how much worse can it get? They’ve already written off most of their species. And they need information NOW. If the unknown ship simply left again, without ever knowing the Lleix were there, they’d have no chance at all when the Ekhat returned again (as they would).

    Remember, the Lleix did the same thing in the first battle. But if I remember correctly, they weren’t sure then that the Ekhat had found them (or that it wasn’t just two Ekhat factions fighting). Now that the Ekhat have returned, and have proven to have an unknown foe, all this makes good sense to me. I haven’t gotten the idea that the Lleix are overly concerned with personal survival, anyway, not compared to their perceived duty. And their duty is clearly to find out what’s going on, while there’s still time to make decisions.

  13. Grant says:

    There is scouting, and then there’s scouting. This is THEIR system. They detected the Ekhat entering it and went to take a look at what they were doing because, well, what else were they going to do but sit there and wait and see if they scoured the planet or just cruised by? But that is not the same as “scouting” in the sense you’re speaking of.

    If they were off on some exploratory mission probing to see if they could find the Ekhat and gather intelligence on them, and being detected only meant their own destruction with no threat of being tracked back to Valeron then maybe… *maybe*… the payoff of getting that information on this new species could be worth the risk of losing one of thier few remaining irreplaceable spacecraft. But they’re not off on some distant exploratory scouting mission. They’re *in their home system*. Detection means almost certainly telling the new species the Leixx are here, and they’ve already seen the combat capabilities of Lexington. If these strange new aliens are hostile the Leixx are dead if they’re found. They’ve spent centuries in hiding against that very threat. And now all of a sudden they’re practically waving a big flag saying “Hey, here we are” just so they can do some scans with hardly a care in the world for being detected.

  14. Grant says:

    And it does not say they did the same thing in the first battle. Snippet 49 just says the last time the Ekhat entered the system they “didn’t miss” the Leixx and there was a battle. Obviouslly the Leixx were detected, that doesn’t mean they flew out to meet the Ekhat and broadcast their presence… and the connotations of saying their presence “wasn’t missed” makes it rather doubtful the Leixx just flew out and confronted them right away. They were just spotted somehow. Maybe a ship was just in flight in sensor range of the Ekhat when they came through the framepoint.

  15. robert says:

    @8 BRK, you write
    “So stage is set for Jihan, Tully, Mallu and KIaln to meet. Maybe together they force the Ekhat to association.”

    My guess is that any meeting will have to involve Caitlin. She is the one best equipped to deal with the Lleix fear of the Jao and to explain all to them. She also speaks the Jao language fluently, which is the only one in which they can communicate.

    Don’t anyone believe for a minute that the Ekhat can be dealt with. They are totally alien and very insane. They will never associate.

    But all this Lleix-Human-Jao association may not happen right away because then the story might end here before the book comes out. Thus it may be up to Tully to try to smooth the way. It is early days yet with lotsa pages to go.

  16. BRK says:

    I do not disagree with what has been said in preceding comments, but I think we are reading too much of a species based on the action of 2 Lliex.

    It was Jihan who asked for them to match courses with the fragment. and the pilot did it. This is Jihan’s second trip to space. Sho herself has spent very little time in Ekhatlore. No matter, what you read about the Ekhat, it takes plenty of time for any sane mind to accept the insanity of the Ekhat. So this rookie went where even angels fear to tread. She did not think and and just did what she felt. The pilot too was stunned when all 5 Ekhat ships were destroyed. In this daze, she just did what Jihan told her.

    Pl bear in mind, there is no permission taking from the elders at Valeron for any action. So this is unauthorised action taken on the spur of the moment. This is not a species thing. That however does not invalidate the analysis though.

    Jihan is an anomaly in the Lliex. She is bold, optimistic adventurous and young. All the others are hidebound pessimistic folk who will run or hide as their first choice. This episode is a blunder by Jihan, where we can just hope things turn out well.

  17. Grant says:

    Jihan could be the boldest, most optimistic, most adventurous Leixx on the history of the species. The problem isn’t about them being “bold and adventerous”… and it certainly isn’t about them being optimistic. It’s about them being stupid and out of character needlessly risking the survival of their entire species to get some sensor data of questionable worth in an idiotic manner.

    The pilot was not in a daze and just doing what Jihan told her. She was clearly supposed to be thinking things through because she was pointing out the difficulties and hazards the debris field posed to navigation, not just robotically doing what she was told. And Jihan’s familiarity of lack thereof with the Ekhat is irrelevent, the Ekhat are toast at this point. It wasn’t stupid to approach the debris because of the automated defense systems they didn’t know about, it was stupid to approach the debris because of the giant deadly warship crewed by totally unknown aliens who might decide to kill their entire species **that was currently shooting at that same debris**. And that they most certainly did know about.

    Imagine your family were hiding in some little cave somewhere and then your mortal enemies showed up in the valley below your cave heading straight at it. You’re between them and the cave hiding behind a rock or something watching them approach.

    Then all of a sudden some unknown force shows up with an armored division of tanks and blasts the crap out of them. You have no reason to think they’ve seen you but for the entire recorded history of your family the entire world you know has basically been filled with people trying to exterminate you and doing a pretty decent job at it.

    Now, you may be curious about who these new people are. You may even be hopeful that maybe they won’t kill you and your entire family if they know you’re there.

    But do you, to satisfy your curiosity, no matter how bold and adventurous a lad you may be… just stroll into the middle of the battlefield through the wreckage of your destroyed enemy **while those mystery tanks are still SHOOTING AT IT** and thus rather obviously paying a bit of attention and just possibly going to see you so you can take a look around and see if you see anything interesting that might give you some ideas about who’s driving the tanks?

    I don’t think so.

  18. robert says:

    Grant, you are right, but all she wants is a little sniff of DNA or whatever it is that allows them to figure out who that masked man was. It is desperate times for the Lleix and desperate people do desperate or foolish or whatever things they think may allow for survival or give them an edge…or hope. Cut ’em some slack.

  19. Mr. Masterson says:

    Robert when your right your right. I was one of the first to try to explain this to him, but I don’t think he’ll change his mind anytime soon. It takes all kinds. If he wish to stay in that train of thought, what can you do besides its only a story and this story seem to be moving in the right direction. Tit for tat. All I can say is anything is possible.

  20. saul says:

    Some other points
    – Stealth. The L’s were high tech in the past. They might have lost because they had a tiny military, or were just overwhelmed. They might have decent great stealth systems on the scout. Either way, don’t forget they Succeeded in flying in undetected. Thus, all this debate is premised on the assumption they were likely to be seen, but that might have been extremely unlikely. Even their larger ship that fired in the earlier battle was not directly detected by the Jao. If they were unlikely to be seen, then the move was not really that unwise. They might have been at point blank detection range for the splinter.

    – Drift, the battle may have moved towards them…don’t forget the line of various trajectories was likely to have been between the sun and their planet. If the fight moved close to them, they couldn’t use the main drive or be detected. They could use some low power moves to do something more useful once already close to the debris.

    – Salvage, these guys were so mineral poor after the last evacuation that they could not even convert enough ships to asteroid mining to maintain the existing ships/industry. Or, they lacked the manpower, industry to create certain unobtainium materials. They are desperate for star jump capacity. Looting one decent chunk of debris might be enough for them to reactivate their one remaining giant star jump capable ship. Or, at the least greatly increase the number of functional ships for local evacuation.

    – Fatalism. Sure, this race has learnt to flee. However, at this point they fatalistically expect to die. They see no hope. The EK’s have always found them. They can’t even star jump anymore to get away. They current planet is so crappy they are reverting to primitivism……and they are evacuating to a WORSE planet. Or, flying off into space without even a destination in mind. They are abandoning even more of their tech to carry as many people as possible. They know the EK’s will extensively search this area to make sure its clear, so the evac destination has a very slim chance of being undetected. They EK’s might just trash every habitable world within x radius. Just how much worse could it get from their perspective? In fact, the Only long term way out of this mess is if the strange aliens are friendly. The real problem is ingrained terror preventing them taking the risk of saying Hi.

    – The first focus of their debris flight was the Fragment from the giant ship. Getting that fragment might give them enough intel to attempt contact. They really really want to know more about the new aliens… are they 100% sure its not a different/new EK faction. They don’t know atm, but the energy weapons look Jao. They need to know in case that ship jumps before they can spend a month looking for DNA in close orbit to the sun. They also need to know 100% if the alien is EK, because if it is, they have to launch the final evac ships right now, before the EK ship comes to investigate the planet.

    On another note, how are the fragments still firing. Either the EK ships have distributed power generation, or the weapons are firing of local capacitors. Maybe the surface of the ship is a solar energy collector?

  21. saul says:

    Is this series discussed in any of the newsgroups?

  22. Daryl says:

    Early in this series of snippets the Ekhat have just arrived out of the photosphere and immediately set course to the one spot in the entire system that the Lliex are. Thus I’d imagine that they have nothing to lose as their only location is known to the great enemy, so desperate times make for desperate measures. My consistency question is why do none of the combatants use nuclear explosive devices or guided missiles? I love a Hornblower type kinetic engagement better than most, but by SF convention there must have been some explanation as to why more normally effective weapons are not in use? Sorry about mentioning the elephant in the room.

  23. Mr. Masterson says:

    Well Daryl I’m a lover of sifi and what a lot of sifi writers mention in their stories about using nuclear weapons comes right down to the fact. When a bomb blows up in space it has nothing to propagate the blast front. Unless you can get that missile right on top of the enemy. You aren’t going to do anything except making them get a new paint job. So you read alot about lasers or even laser missiles. Now concerning guided missiles, well in most battles out in space you can see your enemy coming. Unless two things usually happen, they come under stealth or you just don’t have the right equipment to find them. And even if you found something. Recognizing the information for what it is the tricky part and of course responding to it in time. Now going back to your question you ask concerning missiles. With the distances involve you can normally shoot down any of the incoming missiles. Of course there are always exceptions to any rule. Like stealth missiles or any of a dozen possible weapons, tactics, or systems they could use. Sky the limit. Hope that help a little.

  24. Grant says:

    Look, “give them a break, they’re having a bad day” isn’t an excuse for this stuff. They’re not just making some decision you or I wouldn’t necessarily agree with from out perch out here as nice calm observers. They did something NOBODY sane would do under those conditions.

    “She just wants a sniff of DNA”. Fine Get it in 20 freaking minutes AFTER the shooting stops? And what good is that supposed to do? WE know they might pick up Jao but they’ve already decided that’s definitely not a Jao ship. (The Ekhat recognized the Jao energy signatures on the lasers, the Liexx did not). And if there were any other KNOWN friendly spacefaring races out there they could get a match on they sure as hell wouldn’t have just forgotten they existed. If it’s anyone they know, it’s an Ekhat client species and it’s hostile. So getting seen by them just to try to confirm which hostile client species it is is ridiculous.

    Fatalism? They’re evacuating people as we speak, and who said they were evacuating locally? They just potentially got the reprieve they needed to get more people out before more Ekhat show up…. but ONLY IF this new ship doesn’t discover and destroy them. So it might be desirable to, you know… NOT get spotted by them.

    Salvage? You’ve got to be joking. Nobody wants scrap metal enough to think grabbing a few bits of it is worth risking the immediate extermination of their entire race. And they now also lack a shipbuilding Elian…. they couldn’t build new ships if they wanted to.

    If they just accidentally drifted into the debris field and couldn’t maneuver away, fine. But that’s not what it says happened and I’d find it difficult to believe they can’t maneuver away but could maneuver *toward*.

    The ONLY thing that might, possibly excuse this is if they do indeed have some kind of extremely kick-ass stealth system. It would make sense for the Liexx, of all people, to have developed one. Even then, if they do have it it was apparently penetrated the last time the Ekhat visited so flying right up to another possibly hostile certainly deadly alien vessel without a care of being seen is still idiotic but maybe crosses the threshold of believably idiotic… however nothing has been mentioned about them having any such tech. If the follow-up snippets introduce that detail, then mea culpa. Otherwise their actions here simply aren’t believable.

  25. Daryl says:

    @23 Mr Masterson, If they can penetrate the Ekhat ship with a 500mm sabot depleted uranium dumb round they could lodge a nuclear weapon the same way (in the 1960s the USA had 200mm tactical howitzer nukes, God help the firer), and at the time of the Falklands war the Brits had close in defensive weapons that could hit ballistic naval shells as well as missiles. At our current tech level a missile is faster than a shell and can do course corrections in a vacuum using gyros and attitude jets. I agree that a nuclear weapon near miss is not anything like as significant in space as it is in atmosphere. I like the story and respect the author but am curious about this technical anomaly. Possibly a fission damper for the nukes, and the guns can swamp the defences with numbers better than a lesser number of missiles?

  26. robert says:

    @25 Daryl, maybe there is no need to carry all that nuclear material when you can blast a hole that results in catastrophic atmosphere loss. I don’t know anything about space-based weapons, and not very much more about Earth-based ones, for that matter. I suspect that the authors are not really techies but they do write a great story.

  27. saul says:

    – risky scouting
    Where is the bad decision. They have not been detected by any of the fighting ships. So, how can you complain they were foolish when they apparently made a correct evaluation that they would remain unseen. They didn’t riskily fly next to an enemy vessel, so you are complaining about something that didn’t happen. Whether they have super stealth, or just a small ship, they were not detected so its a mute point for the purpose of this argument.

    Only the debris, that was probably at point blank range, has apparently detected them. The mistake was assuming the debris would be dead and approaching to close. That’s a plausible mistake to make, even for a scared race.

    – local evacuation
    They can’t framepoint jump, so that limits their evacuation to ‘local’, whatever that means in this universe. Their ancient ships probably can’t maintain life support for a long time while filled to capacity with refugees. So, thats probably another limiting factor.

    – Since when is this just scrap metal? What if a frame point engine, or shield tech requires X element and they don’t have any. A chunk of that element would be massively useful. Why don’t I re-frame it as fuel. What if they can loot antimatter/plutonium etc fuel from the ship, and use it to get a framepoint ship running. Thats no minor issue. Sure, they can’t build a ship from scratch, but that does not mean they can’t rework some some looted materials into something useful.

    – which aliens
    We have no idea what variety of aliens they might have known in the past. Also, its been two thousand years, there is no reason an old group might not have decided to change ship design/weapons etc. They have a reason to suspect jao independent of the weapon signatures.
    Lets see, two space encounters in a short time. Both involve two alien races fighting each other. Ummmm, surely it would seem likely that both fights are related. Or, are you suggesting it would be sensible for them to assume both fights are totally unrelated? Of even more importance, if the new ship is related to the earlier Jao hints, the new design is suggestive of Jao that are not under EK control.

  28. BRK says:

    Folks, let us take a look at exactly what the authors have written.

    “Who — are — they?” Hadata whispered from her pilot’s seat. “Where did they come from?”

    “And what do they want?” Segga, one of the other Starwarders said from his station at the back. The other two stayed out of the discussion, sullenly doing exactly what was required and nothing more. It was clear they had no wish to be here.

    What, indeed, did the newcomers want? wondered Jihan. Her nerves crawled with uncertainty. Were they as vicious as the Ekhat or perhaps even worse? They certainly fought with an unparalleled fierceness, suggesting that if the Lleix resisted them, their people could expect no quarter either.

    During the battle, the huge ship had lost a section, one of its strange flat extrusions that seemed to carry weapons. The piece drifted away from the battle and would eventually be pulled in by the star’s gravity. “If we can get closer to the debris field,” she said, studying the data, “I can take some readings, then beam the information back to the Starsifters. They might be able to tell us more. Perhaps there is some information on this species buried in the ancient records.”


    first off, they do not propose to make their presence known.]

    second they are trying to obseve the lexington from a hidden vantage point. why, they want to watch their movents activity etc to compare if the new species is something they have already encountered or not. This activity can be done only with the lexington around.

    Third they try to hide in the lee side of a Ekhat chunk (largest they could find), resonably sure that due atmosphre loss, no Ekhat or client race members will be alive. The miscalculation was that this large peice was still active in the military sense.

    This is where Jihan’s attributes take such importance. All others would have behaved differently. I think Jihan was in the first flush of youth, survival where extermination was a certainty, got overconfident and “stepped out of cover”. Any body who has hunted knows that most species after survival from attack, play possum for a short while. They then want to know if the danger is past. so …. this kind of situation develops.

    I had a different question. How on earth are the Ekhat able to sense other species, past events ? Is it chemical, physical, biological. Somehow i get the feeling that they do not do this using instrumentation. This is an inbuilt mechanism. Any thoughts ?

  29. BRK says:

    Here’s another one.

    What do you think Jihan will do with the power still left. Three choices.

    They can board the Ekhat chunk.
    They can hail the lexington
    or they can board Spine C

    Take your pick

  30. Eyal says:


    This is somewhat addressed in the previous book (chapter 31):

    “Earth still has missiles,” Tully said. “I think. Unless you Jao destroyed them all.”

    “They won’t be any use.” Kralik shook his head grimly. “I understand now why the Jao have never spent any time developing missile weapons. You saw when that ship came through the framepoint. They wrap burning solar plasma around their hulls! Anything you shoot at them will be like tossing a match at the sun. A missile would be vaporized before it got anywhere near the actual hull. And what’s the point of setting off a thermonuclear device in what’s already a thermonuclear holocaust? As far as I can tell, you’d just be adding more energy to the plasma ball and making it worse.”

    “Lasers are equally ineffective,” Aille said. “In the Jao experience, there is only one effective tactic against Ekhat ships using solar plasma weaponry. It is necessary to wait until the plasma ball has been discharged, when the ship will be vulnerable to lasers.”

    Now, presumably, if you can hit Ekhat ships with kinetic projectiles, you can do so with missiles. But you’d have to detonate them at precisely the right moment – too early, and the defences, designed to withstand travel in a star, will jsut shrug it off; just slightly too late, and the missile will just plow straight into the ship, which will probably wreck the warhead (the missile will still function as a kinetic weapon, but for that you might as well use a purpose-designed slug – it’s presumably denser and you’re not throwing away a bunch of fissionables, electronics and other materials)

  31. Doug Lampert says:

    Agreed with @24. Nukes are relatively large and delicate and need to be armored from plasma. Standard Howitzer ammunition is big and LOW VELOCITY compared to a sabot round. The ability to fire a nuke out of a howitzer to the ability to fire one at the velocity of a cannon firing sabot rounds.

    Sabots are solid shot in the real world because for some applications that’s better than an explosive head. Nukes are simply really powerful, relatively complicated, delicate, and expensive explosives. Not magic tools of death.

    Now using Nukes at point blank range in place of RAMMING makes sense, but using them in place of sabot rounds could easily be a loss.

  32. Doug Lampert says:

    Whoops. I meant @30, not @24. Don’t know what happened there.

  33. Daryl says:

    @31 Doug, I concede the missile bit but artillery nukes have been available as small as 200 mm for about half a century, and penetrater nukes to take out deep reinforced concrete bunkers exist also so an impact stable nuke that could be well shielded from plasma would be easily fitted to the inside of a 500mm armour piercing round. The kinetic energy of a sabot would possibly equal a ton of TNT while even a tactical nuke would deliver 30,000 tons equiv inside the target. Many authors get around this with a fission damper field which then makes the story mesh better.

  34. Eyal says:

    @33 Daryl

    You’re correct that hardened bunker-busters exist. However, a bomb will have a rather leisurely velocity compared to the kinetic sabots (if you drop a gravity bomb at 2km altitude, it should strike at a velocity of ~200 m/s, ignoring atmospheric effects – the penetrator sabots they were using in CoE had over 10x the velocity), so it’s unknown whether you could engineer one to survive impact at the latters’ speeds. And you need something capable of those velocities – outside the star, at the larger ranges combat will occur there, a low velocity will give the target plenty of time to doge or shoot the “missile” down (and it’s much easier to mission-kill a nuke than a kinetic slug – you need to vaporize the latter in order to neutralize it). Inside a star, you’d need to armor the nuke against ablation suffered during its course as well as impact, not to mention it’s possible the intense magnetic fields might affect the warhead.

  35. Eyal says:

    One more thing – don’t forget that you need an extremely precise detonator, and the higher the velocity, the more precise it has to be – another component which can go wrong

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