: “ Komm süsser Tod ("COME SWEET DEATH")


Office of the Division Chief of TASC
The Corporate Tower

“What the hell do you mean gone?” a man with gray haired locks fumed as he blazed down on a young aide in his office. The aide, a woman with the same features as him, only a lot younger, did not stand down from his anger. Uncle Justin always had temper tantrums when things like this happened. The fact that she was his niece did not entitle her to any special privileges; in fact she had earned her position through hard work, but it did give a good indication of how bad it was. And it was bad. She stood at attention as she continued her report. Justin sat at his desk, his glass of whisky forgotten.

She parted her blond locks, cut pageboy style back as she continued. “Uncle, we’ve lost contact with the 256th New Maynah Homeguards, stationed at our Dakota repair facility, about fifteen minutes ago. The last message we had from them was that they were being attacked by unknown hostiles. After that, they were gone. Nothing. We’ve tried everything, scrambled line, hyperlink, lapsed burst transmission, everything short of throwing a damned messenger pigeon”

“Megan, an entire Homeguard squadron of twelve Thunderbolts, a recon Intruder, along with an entire orbital repair node, not to mention about a company worth of ground troops does not simply go on the blink or get pasted!”

Justin Bellamy knew that S’Hoon Hon would be just as pissed as he. Nothing. Nothing on this side of life would have dared to attack the Union Homeguard, not when that meant buying a fight not only with the Union, but with Confed as well. Whoever this bastard was, they, it, he, she, whatever it was had balls. Big ones at that. No one took out a starfighter squadron, its base and about a company of ground troops with impunity.

“What of other nearby Union HG units?”

“There’s been a strange system wide blackout since we’ve lost Recon Six. Our last three messenger ships have disappeared off our scopes after
they entered the no-com zone. Whatever it is, its jamming our signals.”

“Does Hon know of this?”

“Yes, Uncle, his own men appended a report to TSF about the same time I did to you.”

“And how's ISD doing on this?”

“I’ve had a report received a few minutes ago uncle, it had a priority override on it. Specific orders from the spooks were that it reach you first, not your aides.” She reached forward to place an optical disk on his table.

“Hmm, this had better damn well explain the crap that’s been happening.” Justin reached for the disk and slotted it into the tabletop player. He pressed play and watched through the message and appended film clip.

“Megan, I need you to see this.”

“What can it be, Unc…”

“By the blessed ancestors!”

“No shit, Marie dear.”

He stood up and grabbed his coat. The glass of whisky sat untouched. Forgotten.

“Get me S’Hoon Hon on the horn, then write up a report for EVE and TISD on those flying rutabaga. Inform TMMN that I’m requisitioning more courier ships. I need to get word to all my boys!,” he paused to button up his coat and slick his hair back,” and issue a limited order D-108 for all TASC units you can reach. And I mean all, Marie! I want the reserves to be on standby and ready to fly in half an hour's notice.”

“Yes, Uncle.”

“And get me a shuttle to the Gan estates. I need to see Schala.”

“Will do, Uncle Justin.”

Justin Bellamy knew that Schala had a lot of answering to do. So would Sue. He remembered an ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

It wasn’t as interesting as it was getting now, that much was sure.


Office of the Strategic Advisor
Gan Estates
New Maynah

First to come was Sue Yen. She was early. Always. Her long hair framed a beauty that went beyond words. She radiated a cool self assuredness along with that next door girl kind of feeling. An unusual and dangerous combination.

“I knew you would call. I was going to see you myself. Though I don’t normally place much stock in coincidence, events of late have been far too… unusual.”

“Agreed Sue, what happens now is not coincidence. Clichéd as it may be, it has been foreordained since the dawn of human civilization, as well as Kilrathi.”

Sue’s knowledge was encyclopedic. She reached the obvious conclusion of Schala’s implied statement. “You don’t mean the Apocalypse and Kn’Thrak?”

Schala nodded grimly, “The very same. Now, sit down and tell me all you’ve seen and heard. Everything. I must know the extent of the spread of evil.”

Sue took a look at her. Schala was dead serious. “Everything I speak of afterwards does not officially happen, you understand?”

“Perfectly. Please, hurry.”

Time went by quickly. Schala nodded as she heard the end of Sue’s tale.

“Pardon me for asking Sue, but does UIS know of this?”

“They do, but not the prophetic aspect. They realize the threat. We’re compiling our gathered data, a case of a jigsaw with too many pieces missing unfortunately, and forming an intelligence report to be sent to the Senate and to the Board.”

That was when Justin and S’Hoon Hon walked in at about the same time. Gendou Tan, his normally sedate self complete with his tinted glasses and long coat came in last.

Schala stood up and faced them.

“Gentlemen, have you been of late been unable to communicate with your people in the Tartarus and Dakota systems due to some sort of unusual EM interference?”

Both looked at her in a strange way. Exactly. Gendou nodded agreement. Schala thought to herself of the relevant part of the Kilrathi prophecies, “… obscuring the stars in a veil of darkness…”

“Leng lui, you have a lot of explaining to do,” Bellamy uttered and drew a chair.

Schala normally took his jokes in a jovial way. Not this time. Her face was more stiff than a dreadnaught's armour plating.

“It’s that serious, is it?”

“Yes, Bellamy, what I tell you now is important.”

And he listened then reported what he knew.

At the end of it, Hon asked, “Wait, Schal, you’re telling me you want the Corp to plan future actions on a prophecy?”

“Not just any prophecy. It is the prophecy. One that is spoken of in every major religion since the dawn of time. Including the Kilrathi.”

“You’re dragging Krajhai and his pals into this?”

He spoke of the small group of Kilrathi refugees the Corp harbored. Refugees from their own kind.

“Even their Hrai Prophet agrees that something has changed in the stars.”

Sue sat quietly and finally added her opinion in, “I am the most skeptical of you all, yet I do seem to think of there being a correlation in what Schala has said, and what has happened lately. You have all seen my reports concerning the loss of the 256th, the Dakota repair nexus and the 405th Laifen Homeguard.”

Hon rubbed his jaw ruefully, “That clip… I won’t ask how you got it Sue.” He took a gulp of coffee and continued, “But from my own experience, even a damned Confederation-class keel cannon couldn’t cause that much mayhem on Dakota.”

“Correct, S’Hoon. What you have seen is far beyond the technological capabilities of anyone we know of in this universe”

“And what of this growing sensor blackout spreading from Tartarus?” asked Gendou.

“I’ve lost contact with a mining ship, as well as several freighters carrying goods bound for Dakota and Tartarus,” he added.

“Unknown though presumably the...” she hesitated at the word since it can all to often become a catch word for what could be an elaborate hoax, “... aliens have comm jamming capabilities that can encompass whole systems and planets.”

Sue leaned on the table while steepling her fingers, “Seeing how they devastate entire worlds without a thought, I assume we have lost those

Bellamy snorted his understanding. Gendou merely nodded. There always was a percentage factored in for losses in shipment. It was still within the Corps tolerances for overwriting.

Schala realized something. “Sue, how is TPRO and TISD handling this problem? What of the panic it may cause? The riots? The people?”

Sue leaned back in her chair, “We’ve been asked by the UIS to keep it secret. A complete media blackout for now. Unfortunately, TCN got one live
feed out, but Confed is trying to contain the damage.”

“What of those in the path of this invasion?”

“That is not for me to decide. That is for the heads of the Families and the Board, though I see not why we should do anything. In fact, it may even help business. Sales for spare parts and expendable munitions sky-rocketed 17.5% in the last hour”

Schala gave a bitter nod. That was the reality of Tanfen. One doesn’t do anything unless it fulfilled one of two criteria. It benefited Tanfen or second, it hurt Porhen. Saving civilians couldn’t be quantified on a balance sheet, no matter how good it would be in the PR books. Bellamy raised his hand, “Alright, I’ve known you since you were sitting on my lap Schala, so I’ll take it as a given some ugly bastards raising a ruckus in the neighborhood. But why are they doing that?”

“I don’t know, Bel, I really don’t know. Does a locust have purpose when it raids a farmer? Does the wolf have reason other than base instinct to hunt prey? I know not”

Hon gave a wry laugh, “Right, so we’re having technologically advanced homicidal maniacs up our back door that we know absolutely nothing about?”

Bellamy sighed. Hon always was sarcastic when he was angry. More so when his own men were involved. “That about sums it up, my boy.

Schala stood up, “I have heard all of your stories, and have told you mine. Do you all see the need at least to warn the Families?”

Sue nodded. Bellamy and Hon followed. Gendou sat and though deeply before nodding. He was always quiet, sparing little words unless absolutely necessary. Schala secretly believed (though she never dared tell anyone) that Gendou was chosen to lead TMMN because it didn’t require PR skills to a large degree. He did however have drive, loyalty and ambition in large quantities.

She looked at the door as a servant nodded at her. “The members of the Board have arrived, let us tell them of the threat.”

She walked out and went to the large meeting hall in the Gan manor, able to seat hundreds. The Division Chiefs went in first and sat at their respective tables at the left and right hand of the President respectively. Schala waited by the door.

The full Gan contingent of the Board came in, lead by their Patriarch. Schala gave a smile and curtseyed to her grandfather as he took his seat at the Gan section of the table. The Tan’s came next, though only about half of them were present. Their Patriarch, and current President of the Corporation gave a gentlemanly bow and kissed her proffered hand. “Lady Schala, it is always a pleasure to see you.”

She gave a warm smile. “You as well, Mr. President. Please, take your seats.”

The Tans sat at their seats, about half of them empty. Some of them were still in full body armor from field training with their own Honour Guards. The Tans always were a martial sort.

The Lais came last and were the least. The call came on such short notice that only a few could arrive. “Members of the Board, I bring to you all dire news of the gravest sort...”

There was a hush as her words were confirmed by the Division Chiefs. Sue’s statement nearly sent the Tan’s into a frenzy. The first thing on their minds was retaliation. There were several cousins in positions near Tartarus and Dakota. Lesser cousins they may have been, but they were still Tan. If some bastard other than Porhen wanted to start a Blood Vendetta, the Tan’s were more than happy to oblige in kind, with interest. The President and Patriarch of the Tan’s raised a halting hand.

“Let her finish”

The meeting room quieted down immediately after that.

“It has been proven that such an event is likely. That is not in doubt. However, one must question the relevance of the entire matter to the Families and to Tanfen,” a Lai put forth.

A Gan answered her, “Milady, if the end of the universe is nigh, we would be well short of customers, no?”

“True, but that is for the Governments to solve. Is that not why we pay the sum price of several planets worth of taxes to them for?” a Tan put in.

“But this would put us in a very favorable PR position with the public,” a Lai conjectured.

“If such an event were to come to pass, it may well mean the end of everything. Us included. Even the ancestors have made deliberate mention of it in their writings.”

“That is why our beloved governments have all their toys and the armaments we sell them. The cost in lives is theirs to pay. Not ours.”

A lone voice cut in through the bickering. “This does not accomplish anything, ladies and gentlemen.”

The President sat as he took in all the opinions offered.

“Very well ladies and gentlemen. As of now, I approve the resolution for all Tanfen facilities within a two sectors radius of Tartarus to have an upgraded security status of Condition Three by Executive Order D-108. Due to the disruption in communications, I am authorizing the control of the first available courier ships in the schedule to warn our personnel there. In addition, information concerning this event is top secret-to be divulged to only UIS.

A Tan raised his hand.

“Yes, Paul?”

“Mr. President, what of this threat, what efforts are being made to learn more of it?”

He gave a steely smile. Paul Tan gave a nervous smile and sat deeper in his chair.

“I was getting to that. As of now, I am authorizing a special task force, for now, under the code name, Bewahrer von Geheimnissen, with personnel hand-picked from any division at Division Chief Sue Yen’s choice and lead by her to lead the investigation. This task force will have a new line of credit, similar to TISD to study the alien threat and ascertain ways of controlling it to Tanfen’s benefit or if not to eliminate and minimize the damage.”

Schala raised her hand. The president nodded and she stood up.

“I must advise you Mr. President that I have not fully interpreted the Prophecy. That will take time. Its existence and the implications of it however are without doubt.”

“Use any resources at your disposal, find out as fast as you can what the future holds in store for us”

The President then turned to the Board members.

“Are we all in agreement then ladies and gentlemen?”

The Division Chiefs nodded.

“Is the Board of Directors in agreement?”

The Families ayed with a majority, with some Gans abstaining. They all nodded. There was no doubt. A threat was abroad. Something dangerous enough to be noticed by Tanfen.

“Then, it is by the agreement of the Division Chiefs and the Board that I invoke Executive Order G-808 unanimously for all available Tanfen members to inform them of the threat.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this meeting is adjourned. Please, hurry.”


The Hall
Fortress Home
2240 hours

The Hall itself was gigantic, reaching high into the ceiling, buttressed by solid permacrete pillars inlaid with century upon century of history. In the cathedral like hall, on each wall was inscribed a complete and growing family tree of each of the Families-the Tan’s, the Gan’s and the Lai’s-each beginning from the first ancestor on Ancient Earth back in the home provinces of Funan, Canton and Hainan, way up in the high rafters where darkness shrouded everything, down to the youngest child and cousin of the Family. The walls were both a historical account and work of art in itself; millions upon millions of intricate script graced the walls-telling the rise and ebb of the Families and their long history; history that may just about to end if something were not done now. Though the script filled a large part of the walls, a large branch of each of the Families was missing and gave the image of it being stunted. As if part of the tree of life itself was hacked and destroyed; murdered. The effect of the Betrayal and the Feud against Porhen, now become Porhen Industries. All the Families knew the reason for the Blood Vendetta and believed utterly in it. They had all learned from their mistakes in the past-the only acceptable outcome to all of Tanfen was the absolute annihilation of all who bore the name of Porhen. But that was a goal to be realized in the fruition of centuries. The Feud had lasted for centuries, it would last for far more. That could wait-more important matters were at hand.

In the Hall itself, filling the floor was every possible member of the Families that could attend, from the youngest daughter to the highest Patriarch of the Family-all together to listen to the words of the Families’ Strategic Advisor.

The three noble Families of the Tan’s, the Gan’s and the Lai’s stood in three rough columns facing the large stand where a speaker addressed the gathered ranks. Though there was no division among them all; no partition, the Families did it unconsciously. The way the Families organized themselves bespoke their traditions and way of life. The Tan’s stood in semi-organized regimented rows in order of importance. The eldest and the greatest sons stood in front in order, behind their patriarch and the current President of the Corporation. Behind the sons stood the greatest and most successful of the Tan’s daughters. And behind them still in lesser order were other men and women, and their children, both sons and daughters. Those too young stood by their mothers as they waited for the Mystic’s address. They fidgeted little, and talked in curt sentences, wasting little in conversation.

The Lai’s stood apart from one another, leaving large personal spaces between each other, though they too organized themselves in social importance. They all were haughty, and beautiful to behold, statues of ice and alabaster. The Lai’s talked little, but their appearances spoke volumes. Their Matriarch was still beautiful at her age, and she led her coterie with a firm hand. The Lai’s talked amongst themselves in cultured elegance, smiling frigidly, like beautiful sculptures as they socialized with the rest. Their eyes both revealed and hid many secrets.

The Gan’s stood in large clumps by family as they talked amongst themselves and with the other Families, smiling all the while. Wives and children and husbands stood next to their dependents, smiling and talking openly. Kinship was shown openly among them. They had little to hide. They did not divide themselves by importance, all were equal in their eyes.

Those who were the product of marriage between Families stood next to their patron Family of origin, unless they were female, in which case they stood next to their husbands. The one exception was the Lai’s, whose line was determined matrineally. Both Tan and Gan were patrilineal.

And so it was. The Tans were soldiers at heart, loyalty and discipline the song of their hearts. The Lais sung to the harp of beauty and intrigue. The Gans listened to honesty and family. Thus was harmony and unity maintained throughout the Corporation.

In older times, she would be called a Mystic-a guide to the realm beyond. In a world of high technology and increasing cynicism, such a position would be derided; not so Tanfen. The world beyond held answers-valuable ones if one were to listen.

The hall was filled with the silent murmuring of conversation. "What was so important to issue a convocation?" Millions of credits could be lost by the lack of business alone today itself. "What was so important to issue Executive Order D-108?" That meant that all available Tanfen members, both Family and non-Family, as well as all Tanfen facilities abroad and personnel on tour were to upgrade their security status to Condition C. That meant to be on guard. An enemy was afoot. That order in itself cost millions as guards were doubled and extra preventive measures were taken. Freighter convoys and all Tanfen bases and installations had double fighter escorts. That in itself signaled something of far reaching importance. Tanfen never reached its present status by burning money for nothing. Executive Order G-808 only made it more confusing. All Family members were to attend an emergency meeting in the Hall at Fortress Home. Only those with grievous illness or in charge of critical business and too far away offworld were excused. The Hall quieted down as a silent figure entered it. An expectant hust filled the hall as Schala Gan strode to the tall podium at one end, and begun addressing the gathered Families.

“Mr. President, Lords and Ladies of the Families, Ladies and Gentlemen -- I bring you grave news in haste,” she paused as the full impact of her words sunk in, “the beginning of the Prophecy has come through.” The Hall exploded in a roaring susurrus of exclamation.

"It cannot be true!"

"It’s a legend, right? The stuff of fairy tales!"

Schala held her hand up for silence. “We will not make so extreme an Executive Order if it was not true. The dark times have come upon us. It was this that our ancestors have warned us to beware. What I speak of is nothing less than The End of All Things. Armageddon. Not by fire or sword, but by a force so unlike us that they are an abomination unto God and all that is holy. The signs have all come to pass.”

She ushered Sue , Hon and Justin in. “I have coordinated with all the relevant Chiefs and have correlated my findings. The foe have already struck their first blow in Tartarus and have just about annihilated Dakota. They will inform you of the level of threat involved.”

And tell them all they did.

The Hall quieted down.

“Thank you, Justin. Now, ladies and gentlemen, kinsmen and kinswomen, I bring this to you all in warning of the days to come. The Dark Day itself may not come to pass. Humanity itself has gained and learned much these past few centuries. The fact that our technology is so advanced now is proof in itself that disaster can be averted.”

“As such, the Board and the Lords and Ladies of the Families have convened and have decided that this new alien threat as well as the prophecy have a tangible connection. To that end, we all have formed a new organization within TISD itself -- Bewahrer von Geheimnissen. This agency’s sole task is to monitor the alien threat and to find a ways and means of defeating them, or to at least minimize the damage to Tanfen and to all its allies.”

“I know that all of you have Family near the site of the invasion and we are doing our best to get word to them and to evacuate our personnel. Please be patient. The Divisions are doing their best.”

“I have forwarded self deleting copies of the reports to all your terminals. If you have any further questions, please contact me or TPRO. Now, my kinsmen and kinswomen, go with God.”