Chapter 1: Longnight
Longnight had come once again to Nilfeheim, the second planet in the Solken system. Nilfeheim was a water planet with only a few small islands. During Longnight, a winter period that could lat up to seven standard years the oceans would freeze over, except for a region called the Uhim grounds. Hot vents and underwater volcanoes kept the water temperature above freezing.
Nilfeheim had been settled by colonists from Earth almost 3000 years ago. The settlers belonging to the Viking Movement and the Church of Odin brought along their own brand of rigid traditions and cultural ideas based on both traditional and romantic sources.
The origins of these traditions brought from distant Earth had more or less been forgotten and had developed in a very unique society with anachronistic rituals and traditions of their own.
Much had happened on Nilfeheim during the last Short Summer.
My Grandfather, the representative of Nilfeheim had been murdered. His death was part of a plot conceived by an Off World company seeking to gain the planet for their client a large Seafood Company. Their plan was to start a clan war and it almost succeeded as they were aided by the greed and the misguided ambitions of local Clan lords and of course by the schemes of my step mother, Gretel Olafson. She was driven by her hatred towards the Olafsons and her plans of revenge.
The whole affair culminated in a planetary attack. A pirate attempted to drop a Planetary Incendiary bomb on Nilfeheim.
With the help of my friends I was able to stop the attack, virtually in the very last moment. We paid a very high price as my friend Astrid Mossberg had given her life while extinguishing a fire in the engine room of my space born ship, the Poseidon.
The boat was so heavily damaged it was not repaired but had been cast in a block of transparent Duranium and sat on a base of Duro-Crete in the former Aseir Park of Halstaad Fjord.
The Aseir Park was now known as Astrid Mossberg Park.
It was intended as a monument to Astrid and to remind everyone how close Nilfeheim came to be completely destroyed.
The street passing Astrid Mossberg Park once called Siegfried lane was now named Erik Gustav Ragnarsson Lane and I was told a statue of him was ordered and would be placed before the entrance of the space port.
I had spent a lot of time with Tyr, the White Tyranno riding on his back seeing or rather feeling a world completely unknown to the Nilfeheim Norse.
As little variety Nilfeheim showed on its surface, it was rich of breathtaking features below the surface of its ocean.
Tyr was the largest Tyranno Fin in our Oceans, a huge white being sentient and alive long before even the first settlers arrived. Tyr had vast Psionic abilities and spoke to me telepathically, but now as Longnight had arrived he the other Tyrannos had retreated into their sleep mountains and would spend the cold period in a state of suspended animation.
Father had changed, since he was no longer under the spell of the Psycho drugs his second wife had administered to him, but I had also learned that he was indeed responsible for the death of my mother and much of the torture he had put me through as this happened before Gretel got a hold of those drugs. I would never forgive him for this, but he tried to amend his ways by treating Elena like a real daughter.
My decision not to end his life was still tormenting me, and there was not a day going by I questioned it. My decision was founded in the council of Egill and Tyr and the fact that I did not want to be the next Clan Chief.
I hoped to leave the planet soon and apply at the Union Fleet academy. Killing my father would mean of course that I had to take the reins of the Clan and remain.
Elena was as it turned out, gifted with Psionic powers and Tyr had helped her to discover them. Or perhaps was the source of them.
She enjoyed her new role as first daughter greatly and father declared her to be the first Female clan chief in Nilfeheim's history and I would have to split my inheritance with her, which was more than alright with me. Elena had become like real a Sister to me just as if she would have born that way. I loved her very much.
I had married Sif in a pompous ceremony the day after Yuletide, but it was only a symbolic wedding and she had left with Egill to Pluribus, where she would complete Union school and then go to the University to study Political Sciences.
Egill the hermit had become Nilfeheim's planet representative at the Assembly and taken the post that had been vacant since the death of my grandfather.
Now in retrospect most everyone on Nilfeheim realized just how important a Planet Rep was. I too understood what my Grandfather had told me as he took me to Hasvik.
Sif and Egill had been gone now for almost four month.
At first she had called me every other day, then every other week and finally she told me that she still liked me, but she had found a woman she wanted to marry after she was a full Union citizen and then her calls stopped altogether.
Much had changed on Ragnarsson Rock, our Burg as well.
We still had Tanneries and we still manufactured leather the traditional way since it fetched higher prices and the quality so I was told was superior to any modern process, but the stinking, revolting process was now done by machines and we even had twelve S-10 robots.
The bots didn't mind the smells and worked around the clock. Taking a page out of Brunar Bendixen's book, the Olafson clan was run much more like a business now and we exported leather, pearls and crab meat.
Father still insisted that we hunted for Tyrannos but it was no longer the main focus and no hunting was done during Longnight anyway.
Elena so it turned out had a keen sense of business and loved helping active in that clan activity. The Olafson Clan was the first who abolished the class of Low men and those families were raised to the level of Freemen and received fair salaries.
It was one late Friday afternoon; father was in town drinking with other Clan Chiefs at Hogun's Inn...
Carl, the outcast and mercenary friend of Hogun now was an Olafson warrior, wore Clan red and lived in our Burg. He had not stopped but intensified my training and advanced me to real fencing and with the more elegant rapier. This sword was much lighter than the traditional Nilfeheim broadsword, but it was much faster and when used in concert with the Main Gauche, a left handed dagger type weapon, it was very deadly. A fencing master could easily defeat a trained warrior with broad sword and shield. Carl was an expert and this way of fighting was quite different from the hack and slash technique used with the broad sword. Every stance, every move had a name and a counter move. To a Neo Viking it looked almost like dancing and caused much laughter and ridicule. It however changed quickly when the razor sharp tip of the rapier hovered before their eyes while the broadsword attack was still in full swing.
Of course a skilled broadsword fighter was not defenseless, and a heavy blade had its advantages as well.
Today I was fighting with my new sister in the snow covered yard before the High Hall. We wore protective lather but used real steel weapons. Elena was learning fast and fencing with her was great fun. After an extended conversation (back and forth play of the blades) I attempted a successful "attack au fer" meaning I deflected her blade in the opposite direction of her attack and moved in and landed the coup lancé. My blade point sliced a little in the tough leather armor she was wearing and she stepped back curtsied and took of her fencing mask. She caught her breath and smiled." You are becoming a real master, Eric. I would be dead now! You were playing with me the whole time!"
Even though it was bitter cold, I felt warm and bowed to her."Don't sell yourself short, dear sister. Your skills improve daily and I doubt there are many fighters on Nilfeheim who would stand a chance against you now."
Her face lit up with her charming smile that made her eyes sparkle."There is no one left on Nilfeheim who could best you. Even Carl said that."
"Let's go to Midril and see if we can score some hot chocolate."
She agreed and then said as she walked beside me," Besides you are not as handicapped as am."
"I sure didn't notice any handicaps."
She touched her breasts. "I am talking about these. They bounce around a lot and it is not very comfortable I tell you. It actually hurts sometimes! I bet you be half as good having a pair of these."
I sighed and lowered my voice "You know my secret and sometimes I wish I had, but I am sure there has to be some sort of support. I remember Sif telling me something about Bra's and maybe there is something like that for doing exercises or friend Siegfrida has a hard leather armor shaped for women. She fights like a true Aseir,. I ask her if she can spare one or make you one."
She kissed me on the cheek."Lucky me, I have a brother that knows more about these things than most girls."
We entered the kitchen and Midril, who had raised Elena like her own, smiled at us warmly. "It is amazing what you two do out there. Everyone coming in telling me about you two slicing good Nilfeheim air. I bet it got even too cold for you two out there. Go sit down I get Elena some Hot Chocolate and for Eric I make some coffee. If you wait a little I got fresh sweet rolls in the oven as well."
She left us alone after she had served the drinks as she was busy to prepare dinner. Many things had changed on the Burg. Midril's kitchen however remained the same and she was the undisputed queen in her own little realm. Elena watched her with a warm smile on her face."I do remember Gudrun my real mother, but she hated me because I reminded her of the things Harkun had done to her. Midril raised me after mother died."
I put my hand on hers. "When I was at the Pillar Burg Egill or maybe Tyr gave me a glimpse of what it is like to be raped, while I was spared the actual act, to this day it has not left my mind and I can smell Harkun's breath to this day. Don't hate your real mother for it. She died trying to defend you"
She turned with her eyes glittering with moisture."I do not hate my mother but she hated me, sometimes I wish she would have been able to tell me otherwise. Harkun is dead and before he died he lived through every crime he committed."
For a while we sat there simply looking at each other then she said. "Come let us go to the space port tonight.
A girl's night out. I like to go shopping and I would like to have Freya with me and we can remember the good times we had with Sif, Hedda and Astrid."
I sighed. "While I try so hard to suppress it I want to be Freya again so bad, yet I hoped this sickness would leave me! I promised myself to go to the clinic and have it checked out."
She got up.
"I think it is part of what makes you the person you are and I would be sad if you eliminate that part of you somehow. Neither Tyr nor Egill asked you to change. I am sure they would have."
I sighed and got up as well." Well one time more could not hurt I guess."
Elena smiled." I don't think we are too old for Retro Emo either! Let's go Sister!"
After we had our hot beverages and enjoyed the piping hot, sweet rolls. We went to the High Halls, no longer was I denied access and Elena was now living in what used to be Gretel's rooms. It was completely re-decorated. Elena did not have any hand maidens either.
As always I got deeply excited when I shed my male persona and slipped into my female alter ego. I had not done so ever since we left the Bredeberg Burg.
Elena returned to her old looks just like when I met her at the space, with the wild red pig tail wig.She had chosen a skintight black shiny mini-dress with a dangerous plunging laced neckline and a matching black jacket. Her legs encased in black fishnets and high heeled boots." How do I look?" She asked turning once around.
"Like a New Age Vampire on the prowls for male victims, the other word that comes to mind has four letter and starts with an S and ends with a T."
"Perfect! That's exactly what I was aiming for! Now it's your turn and don't be jealous we can make you look just as slutty!'
"I am not jealous!"
"Oh yes you are! Remember I can read minds now. Not very good but yours is very familiar to me."
"You know that is illegal. I wish folks would stay out of my mind."
"Since you can read minds, you know the answer!"
She went to her closet and leaved through her things." To demur, to small, to long ... ah just perfect. Try this on!"
"You are not serious?" I said looking at the red patent leather dress she held up.
Huddled in long hooded fur cloaks with the hoods drawn deep we rushed to the roof hangar and I prayed that no one would spot us. I relaxed as my red Opel flyer was in the air and then I said." I don't think I take of the coat. I can't barley sit down in this."
"Oh don't be such a sissy. You look gorgeous and just as slutty as I do."
Again I could not fight the feeling and started to enjoyed to be Freya. It was as always as if I stepped out of a cage and into a palace and somehow felt free.
It was Friday evening and the Space Port and Shopping mall was very busy. The Space bus had arrived and also the weekend shuttle of the Miners from the mining Colony on Balder. Elena insisted and I did leave the cloak behind. I felt very exposed and kept tugging on the way to short skirt and hoped it would not ride up to far. Yet it was this idea of doing something forbidden, that electrified me to the core. Elena had hooked her arm into mine and we strutted down the main concourse. We weren't the only girls of course. The Space Port was still the meeting point of most women and girls, and on a weekend the more modern minded Neo Viking Families and couples of Halstaad Fjord came here to visit the Virtu Theater or go to have dinner at one of the two fine restaurants that opened at the mall only recently. Groups of miners gave us cat calls and I could not help but enjoy every one of them. Elena leaned closer." See I knew you would get pleasure from this!"
"I should not, but I do!"
We shopped and while it was perfect, I was reminded of the others and of Astrid who was no longer with us.
She nodded."I miss her too, but wherever she is now, I bet she would want us to have fun."
Elena purchased a neat little device called a shape field bra. The sales woman praised it as truly invisible and perfect for sports as well. I had to decline of course as the sales girl wanted to fit me one as well.
I had no care in the world and just as we planned to go to the Coffee shop, Elena suddenly cramped her hand around mine, her legs buckled and she fell! The black shiny material of her back had a small burning circle! A woman screamed and I turned and saw Tyr holding the silvery weapon I had seen his mother use. He aimed at me and fired!
Captain Dennis Miguel of the USS Hamilton had been called to Union Fleet Headquarters Annapolis City on Arsenal IV. His ship was currently refitted and would be in dock for a few weeks.
While it was not uncommon for a ship commander to receive such orders, he still wondered what the reason was to be called there. Especially since he wanted to meet with Lt. Commander Anya Cruse, he knew her since the academy. Even while they were lovers they never gotten into a tight relationship, partially due to the fact that he was a Starship captain and she was the Main weapon Officer aboard the USS Devastator. Neither one really wanted to give up the career they had. It was very rare they both found themselves in the same quadrant, much less in the same system. It was sheer luck that the Devi was on Arsenal IV as well. While the Hamilton was in space dock and tied up for six month, the Devi would leave in a few days.
There weren't many reasons a Captain was called to Fleet HQ. One of them was to be stripped of the command due to some grave errors; another was to be transferred to a new command or to receive a promotion. He could not think of a reason why they would strip him of his command, and he was fairly certain he was not in line for a Rear Admiral Star. He would hate to lose the Command over the Hamilton. Even though she was only a Merrimac Class Destroyer, she was his first Command, on the other hand if they would offer him the command chair of a Cruiser or even a Super Cruiser he would certainly not decline. The chances to get command over a real battle ship or a Carrier were slim at this point of his career, but one never knew. He did hear the scuttlebutt about the four brand new Battle ships that would be delivered any day now to Arsenal IV.
He walked into the cool marble and brass lobby, with the warm wooden paneling. It was an impressive place in a very subdued elegant way. To the left a wall with the golden name plates of every ship ever lost. Like a giant conveyor belt the plates kept slowly moving up, it had to be many thousand names. To the right a floor to ceiling field screen listing all ships currently in service along with the name of the Commanding Officer. Against all hope he paused for a moment and wondered if the Hamilton would scroll by. The listing was alphabetically sorted and currently at Letter K. It would take many months before it reached H again. The ceiling was a projection of the M-0 Galaxy displaying the Union territory in blue. He stepped up to the horseshoe shaped reception desk and a Kilonian with Lieutenant rank bars wiggled its antennae and greeted him. Good Morning Captain Miguel, the Admiral of the Fleet is expecting you, please take IBT 4 it is dedicated and will drop you of at the top floor."
Captain Miguel thanked the Centipede and went to the designated IBT. He did feel more than a little nervous. Being called by the Admiral of the Fleet was very much like being called by God. Admiral McElligott was an immortal and in charge of the Fleet ever since it all began. Over 3000 years old.
First only Admiral of United Earth but after the Union was founded, he became the highest authority in the Union Fleet and had remained in that post ever since.
Dennis had never seen or talked to the Immortal Admiral and as he rode the Inter Building Transport up to the top floor of this gargantuan building of 12,000 meters height he thought hard if he had done something that would warrant the interest of this legendary, almost mystical Flag Officer.
An officer of Commander Rank greeted him and said." Please step right on through. The Admiral knows you are here.
Dennis saluted and went through a set of wooden doors in an austere furnished office with a modest old fashioned wooden desk. The Union flag in one corner and the Flag of the Fleet in the other. He snapped into attention. The Admiral of the Fleet stood by the windows that gave a spectacular view over the sprawling modern town below and the austere cold desert beyond. The admiral turned. "At ease, Captain Miguel and good morning."
Dennis relaxed only a fraction and said."Good Morning Sir."
The Admiral was not very tall and a little on the chubby side. He had almost completely white hair and the face of someone looking between hundred fifty and two hundred years of age, but made a very vital and healthy impression otherwise. He wore a simple black uniform with the five star cluster rings on his sleeves and collar and a skirt exposing his stubby knees. Of course everyone in the fleet knew, this was really a skirt but a kilt. The traditional dress of the Admirals home region on Earth.
As he looked into the Admirals Eyes he knew this man was far beyond the age of any normal human being and there was more to this man than just a very long life span.
"No reason to be alarmed. Richard and I were just discussing your response to that planetary attack incident a year ago." The Admiral pointed his flat hand to a person sitting in a leather couch he only now noticed. Dennis could not help but swallow. The man so casually introduced as Richard, was none other than Admiral Richard Stahl, another Immortal and Terran Human, made immortal during the same time as McElligott.
Admiral Stahl was known the galaxy over, respected by friends and enemy alike. Also known as the Eternal Warrior.
Physically he appeared much younger than McElligott. Muscular and tall. He had short blonde hair cut into an extreme short Marine Corps style hair cut. His face could best be described as heroic, with a hard distinctive pronounced jaw line, piercing blue eyes and a scar from under his left eye to his mouth. Stahl nodded a greeting and pointed at a free visitor's comfortable looking visitor's chair.
Dennis could actually feel the authority emitting from this man.
Elligott sat down behind his desk and a printout appeared floating above his desk. "As I said Captain we just came across your report and I am sorry it took so long. The attempted destruction of a Union world with a Fleet Weapon is nothing that should have been simply filed away, but raised many alarm bells." He spread his arms in an apologetic gesture and added. "We are currently upgrading our Computronic Main System, but it will be a while till NELSON II our new system will be online."
Captain Miguel was not sure what they wanted him to say but he decided to be candid. "That is a problem we facing for a while Sir. The Information processing is taking too long and goes over to many desks without anyone having enough authority or the guts to escalate some of them. I expected a hearing, an Investigation and the Assembly going nuts. Yet nothing appeared to happen.
Stahl cleared his throat in a theatrical way and Elligott agreed.
"Yes Captain Miguel we are aware of that and that is why we are implementing Project Nelson II in the first place. Our Union is growing faster than anyone really anticipated and so does our fleet.
At no point in the history of any society known to us has an organization as big as our fleet existed. All time proven methods of administration are simply inadequate. Everyone lauds the battle and combat victories of my esteemed colleague, but no one really has any idea what it means to keep it all working. Do you know how many personnel transfers we are processing every day? How many promotions?" McElligott sighed. "However this is neither here nor there We asked you to come here to clarify a few things in your report and since you were in the system we thought we ask you in person."
Stahl interrupted." Did you really write submarine in your report?"
"Yes Sir. It was an old SII Mil Tech Product for the Markan Wars. Designed to be a Submarine and fight primarily in and under the oceans of these twin planets, but it was Space flight enabled to go between those planets."
Stahl looked in the distance."Ah yes the Markan Conflict I remember it well. Nulofan the Fourth was finally arrested but only after he nuked the daylights out of Markan II."
He refocused on Miguel."We got the reasons and the outcome out of your report. I am more interested in the details of this little engagement of Submarine versus Space Bus. That has to be a first!"
Dennis actually laughed."Yes Sir, I am sure it was a first, but the young Commander of that boat has my deepest respect, Sir. The space bus was armed and carried a P Bomb. The Sub had only very rudimentary sensors, no ISAH pods and much of its space systems had not been used in 550 years and was on the verge of giving out. Yet the guy and his all female crew of three managed to shot the P Bomb, manual targeting I might add, survive a direct double blast of a Class four FTL. Then without weapons or shields left rammed that space bus head on and basically plowed right through it. No hesitation, no fear about their own safety they did save their planet and over 2 million inhabitants. The boat lost one of its crew, a girl fixing the busted fuel lines after extinguishing a fire and dying as a hull fracture sucked the air out of engineering."
"Nilfeheim you say? Never really heard of that planet." Stahl said.
Elligott responded before Miguel could. "It is an ocean world, P191 Culture, very restrictive on tech and very little contact to the rest of the Union compared to other old Colonies. Remember the Neo Viking Pirates? They came from there!"
"Oh right now I remember. They actually tried to board a battle ship, If I recall correctly."
Elligott looked at a read out." You know they have their very first Academy applicant. He signed up in the Pre Pool program at the age of 15 and renewed every year. He should be ready to join this year and if I read that right he is the same name as the commander of that Sub, Eric Olafson."
Stahl leaned forward with a sudden glitter in his eyes."What did the recruiter write he is interested in?"
Obrock McElligott also smiled knowing his old friend well." It says here. He wants to become a Starship Captain."
"I think I will keep an eye on this Olafson!"