Challenges Of The Deeps – Chapter 15

Challenges Of The Deeps – Chapter 15

Chapter 15.

“Leader, an urgent communication for you.”

Dajzail looked up from his meal, seeing Kanjstall the Salutant waiting. “That urgent?”

“It is from Fleet Master Alztanza, Leader.”

Home and Hive, that is urgent. With only seven Fleet Masters in the entire One Civilization (that the undercreatures mistakenly called an “empire”), communications from them were rare and always important; and Alztanza himself had been one of Dajzail’s friends since they were young. “I will take it now, then.”

Kanjstall dipped his respect, came forward, and gave him the message crystal. Without being told, Kanjstall dipped again and left. That is why he is my Salutant. I can rely on him utterly.

Placing the crystal in the reader, he was immediately faced by the Fleet Master.

“Dajzail, the Wise and Compassionate,” the Fleet Master began, and Dajzail rippled his manipulators in annoyance. I am not some Hive vaingroom, to be foolishly flattered, especially by a friend. But he reminded himself that the last Leader, Alethkand, had been far less tolerant, and the Fleet Master had learned his communications protocol in those days, well before Dajzail had ascended. Fleet Master Alztanza continued, “the Strong and Just, I greet you. We have vital news for you.”

As he listened, Dajzail forgot entirely about his meal, and felt his manipulators and entire body vibrating for an entirely different reason: fierce joy. Once the message was concluded, he spoke. “Kanjstall,” he said, the green-light ball of Arena communication instantly appearing, “send a message to the Fleet Master, the complete text to be: Report here at once. Then join me in the conferral chamber with the Master of Forces, Master of Homes, and Master of Trade as swiftly as may be.”

Dajzail finished his meal, leaving the bones to be cleaned up later, but he barely noticed the sensation of fullness or savored the taste — a shame, he noted distantly, as Tensari was difficult to come by without inciting difficulty with the undercreatures and should not be treated as mere fuel for a day. But his mind was far too occupied to pay attention to anything else.

The other four Molothos were waiting for him in the conferral chamber as he entered. Kanjstall, small but quick on his claws, dark carapace showing the touch of that green peculiar to those from the original homeworld; Malvchait, Master of Forces, massive, almost completely red with highlights of space-black, a warrior and strategist without equal; Elshuti, Master of Homes, mediant sex currently, a steel gray, hir eye damaged across nearly a quarter of its circle but the rest shining clear and sharp; and Master of Trade Peryntik, fresh from her latest molt, her regenerated forelimb still white-soft.

The four dipped low, their lower carapaces touching the floor; he gestured impatiently with one claw and they rose and locked legs for comfort. “What matter is so urgent, Leader?” asked Malvchait.

“The War of Purity moves forward,” Dajzail said simply.

The others froze momentarily, and then a great hungry screech of fierce joy rose from all four. “We have word, then?”

“Fleet Master Alztanza finally broke the mystery, yes. His analysts sifted all of the data gathered from the high colonies, and finally discovered that the Twinscabbard-class vessel Blessing of Fire had failed to report back after more than four full revolutions. This was of course only one of several lost in that general period, but the timing was good; it would have been out more than one and a quarter revolutions and due to turn back, thus well out into the Deeps on exploration. Fortunately, there were records for the gene-codes for the Masters and Salutants on Blessing of Fire, and once Alztanza had received them, he was able to match them with the body the undercreature DuQuesne taunted us with.”

“We do not know their home-star’s exact location, then?”

Dajzail’s laugh rippled around the room, a sound he knew would sound far from pleasant to most undercreatures. “Oh, but we do, Elshuti. We know — to within a very small degree — the time at which the conflict must have taken place. Thus, Alztanza was able to determine, within an equally small margin of error, how far Blessing of Fire could have traveled in that time, and what the general planned heading of Blessing of Fire was.

“This leaves only one candidate star, a green-central single-unit star not drastically different from our own, which fits with the human-undercreatures’ known illuminance preferences.”

“Are there Forces available on the nearest high colony?” asked Peryntik.

“A Seventh-Force is stationed there.”

Malvchait bobbed up than down, obviously pleased. “Three hundred forty-three warships? That should be more than sufficient for this. I will take control personally, if you so order, Leader.”

“I do wish you, and Alztanza — since it was his discovery — to direct this operation militarily. I will, myself, take command of the Master warship of the operation. However, I do not agree with your initial assessment.”

The leader of the Molothos’ military forces scissored his claws in apologetic confusion. “Truly? I know they have gained some warships –”

“I have watched these undercreatures very carefully,” Dajzail said, and rapped his own fighting claws hard on the table to reinforce his emphasis. “They are dangerous animals. Fortune has favored them multiple times. The warships they were given are from the Survivor, and he is not one to take lightly. The Arena’s announcement showed that two of them managed, in some manner, to defeat the entire complement of Blessing of Fire, perhaps even to destroy the ship itself. That may be — almost certainly was — an event that involved great fortune as well as, or even in place of, great skill, but we cannot know that.

“All we do know is that the human undercreatures have won every single challenge they have faced thus far, defeating the True People, the Blessed to Serve, the Vengeance, and the Warpers of Reality, the Shadeweavers themselves.” He vibrated in violent negation. “No, we shall take no chances. Assemble a full Force at Zeshezan-Katrill, Master of Forces, all seven Sevenths. No, two full Forces. At the same time, assemble a complete Fleet for quick deployment to lowspace. We will not permit them the luxury of safety anywhere. We will assault and take their Upper Sphere. We will secure their Sky Gates for our own use. We shall bring an entire Fleet thence.”

The others rose higher in anticipation.

“And then we will — regardless of cost or time — send that Fleet through their own Sky Gates, come to their very home system, and crush their worlds, and make these undercreatures either the slaves of the True People… or one final, cautionary tale in the history of those who have insulted us!”


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35 Responses to Challenges Of The Deeps – Chapter 15

  1. Joel says:

    Dun, dun, DUUUHHNNNNNN!

  2. laclongquan says:

    Oh poops! I thought the corpses brought to the Arena were disposed of by Humanity. But I suppose even if they didnt get given back to Molothos, there’s still body traces on the ground, and they can work from that.

    Carp! 343*14= 4802 ships for Arena battlefield and whatever else they may reserve for Solar invasion~ Forty eight hundred ships!

    Talk about overwhelming odd!

    • Joseph Arnaud says:

      I am going to take a stab at 7 forces to a fleet? 16807 ship for the in-system assault ? Unless they have another division between force and fleet.

      Also nice to see a leap to antagonist POV.

      • Many more than that for a Fleet. There are seven Fleet Masters, as Dajzail notes, for the ENTIRE MOLOTHOS CIVILIZATION, thus seven Fleets. How many ships are there in one-seventh the military capacity of the largest and most warlike Faction in all the universe? You’re talking something at least three orders of magnitude larger than the Forces — if their numbering pattern holds, at least 5,700,000. (possibly seven or even forty-nine times that)

        • Andreas Klostermann says:

          Technically I don’t know how large the Molothos civilization is, and how much of their “GDP” they are “investing” in military ships. So I don’t suspect a reader can be expected to estimate the size of the entire Molothos “Navy” within a couple of order of Magnitudes.

          • Previous discussions have implied that the major Factions have *tens of thousands* of Spheres, and the Molothos’ habit of settling the Upper Spheres when there’s no one to defend them implies they probably have at least that many more Arenaspace colonies. So tens of thousands of solar systems plus Arenaspace colonies equals incredible numbers of resources of all types.

    • Andreas Klostermann says:

      Yeah, this spells game over for Humanity.

      But probably we will learn about a couple of new Arena rules or Simon/Ariane Capabilities just in time to save the day.

      • Ric says:

        If only there were that dark haired woman with an eyepatch from chapter 11 available.

        Weren’t there references in the first book to some aspects of humanities’ Sphere being a little atypical? I wonder if there’s anything useful there.

        • Or the guy in red and blue could have been useful, too.

          • Mike says:

            You are the author, so let me ask you … they couldn’t give these Hyperions completely impossible powers, could they?

            For instance, there is a mention of “Telzey” as being one of the Hyperions who chose to stay in a simulation and was later killed. Without her psi powers, she would have been basically your average genius who finishes law school by the time she’s 16. Inside the computer simulation, she could have her psi powers (simulated). But in the real world, either she wouldn’t have them or else it would be known how to grant psi powers with genetic mods and then many people would have them. (In fact, it seems like the same thing should be true of her intelligence, too. If they could just dial up intelligence at will, surely that would be common in the normal human population.)

            So I can only assume that things like the power to fly, physical immunity to all harm except kryptonite, etc. must only be simulated aspects of the Hyperions. And thus, if there were a Superman Hyperion, he still wouldn’t be able to help fight off the Molos.

            • Drak Bibliophile says:

              A Hyperion Kal-El wouldn’t have all his powers if he had survived the Fall of Hyperion, at least within the Solar System.

              However, Wu Kung’s victory in Chapter Ten does seem to imply that a Hyperion Kal-El would have his “full powers” in the Arena.

              • Mike says:

                I didn’t read things that way. I read it as he had carbon-reinforced bones, artificially augmented muscles and tail, and had been trained from “birth” to a fighting style that made use of them. It was previously mentioned that his staff is artificially powered to be able to extend with great force, even if he’s not using it. (Airiane used it in her fight against the shadeweaver.)

                My interpretation of what I read was that these abilities are not powered by the Arena, just allowed by the Arena as legal modifications because they were “natural” for the only world he knew until the fall of Hyperion.

              • Well, Wu Kung could talk to the animals of the Arena and get them to work for him in a way that apparently made no sense to anyone else…

              • Mike says:

                Yeah, I did think of that “talk to the animals” thing. We don’t know if he can do it on Earth or not.

                But I suppose if Arena powers work in real space anyway….

                On the other hand, maybe nobody else ever tried talking to the animals. Maybe everybody could do it.

  3. Summercat says:

    There’s a bottleneck for getting into their home system though, isn’t there?

    • The bottleneck is securing the Sky Gates. But the Sky Gates can handle traffic of almost any size.

      The Molothos won’t be using the Harbor, as that’s closed to them unless and until they’ve actually claimed the Solar System successfully.

      • Assuming my prior number of about 5.7 million ships in the Fleet, and knowing they have 8 Sky Gates to use and could pass multiple ships at once with proper spacing, they could move the entire Fleet to normal space within about 10-15 hours.

        • Summercat says:


          That’s a fast enough transition even for a Starfire fleet running into pretty strong defenses, even without SBMHAWKs…

          • There is a reason that the Molothos have been generally successful, and that there have been very, very few people ever reporting back from a Molothos assault. Remember also that such vessels will be carefully tailored for normal-space operations, and they are *very* experienced in all the nastiness that an entrenched species can get up to in defending their worlds.

            We *might*, possibly, win such a battle, but there’s no one in the Arena who’d give odds for us on it, and the cost would be prodigious in any case.

            • Joel says:

              Can they mobilize such a fleet without some spy in the Arena noticing?

              It sounds like it’s time for Simon to get over his hangups about using his special power.

              • They may well be able to do it without being noticed, partly due to the Arena’s own stricture that military movements are *not* permitted through Nexus Arena’s space.

  4. Terranovan says:

    Just an idea that I hope the Molothos never hear…
    Could they Hyperion up some storm troopers and rely on their biological species-loyalty to keep them loyal? Or would the Hyperioned Molothos consider the rest of the Molothos the same way the rest of them consider aliens i.e. unusually smart animals? As a separate question, would they consider their Hyperions to be Molothos?

    • Hyperion, as discussed before, had some very particular circumstances associated with it. Any species that successfully replicates it is not likely to have produced Hyperions that are going to want to work WITH the people that made them.

      • Terranovan says:

        So, offense at the treatment of Hyperions would be strong enough to override the Molothos species-loyalty? Or would they seek justice in the Molothos courts against their creators?

        • Joe Arnaud says:

          Well, Compassion, Mercy and Justice were used alongside strength as virtues to flatter the Leader. Which says something about their cultural traits vis a vis how acceptable a ‘Hyperion’ would be to the Molothos as a whole. Also, my reading is that the Hyperion abilities work because the Hyperions were bred for an environment that was intended to be there the whole world. There was no intent to let them ‘into the wild’, so the normal solar system wasn’t their world. If that’s correct then creating a Hyperion environment with the intent of letting the ‘subjects’ out to be your arena champions wouldn’t work since they would simply be an augmented part of your normal population rather than be belonging to a different ‘world.’

          • Joe Arnaud says:

            Eh I meant wisdom, not mercy and Wisdom says don’t set up a bunch of super AIs programmed to think of themselves as the worse villains you can conceive of and pit them against super engineered beings, whom you systematically deceive about the nature of reality to play games with ( or to turn into living weapons to advance your political agenda).

        • You can think of the Molothos within-species as being not that different from humans in terms of how they think they should treat each other and how they would react to Hyperion.

          What made Hyperion WORK was that those fictional universes were the “real universe” for the Hyperion and their AI companions. From the PoV of BOTH the Hyperion AND their corresponding “researchers”, who were completely focused on trying to bring something they loved or that inspired them to “life”.

          So anyone trying to duplicate Hyperion would still end up with a bunch of superbeings discovering they were made purely for the entertainment of other beings — even if those “other beings” had been carefully manipulated into doing it. The latter won’t help you in the Hyperions’ eyes.

    • Andreas Klostermann says:

      The entire Hyperion situation gives me headaches…

  5. Mike says:

    No matter how much they are the good guys, a relative handful of humans are not going to be able to fight off a species with the resources of 10,000 star systems in a fair fight. But this is space opera (of the “humans are really special!” variety), so one way or another the humans will win.

    That implies that they will cheat. My guess is that they will cheat by using something they bring back from the expedition. But I wouldn’t even want to try to predict what it will be.

  6. Erik T says:

    Why do I have a feeling that their cleverness will be the cause of their loss?
    Gathering extra ships and sending a full fleet is smart and safe – but it will take extra time. Extra time means more chances for humanity to find out what is happening and come up with some counter – as well as extra time for Ariane and DuQuesne to come back from their trip.

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