The Span Of Empire – Snippet 34

Chapter 17

Ronz felt the moment shift. The others in the room were immobile for the space of a long breath. Then Aille moved, his head turning to look up at an angle. His companions echoed him.

Terniary-superior Tura looked rather to Ronz. “Something has changed,” she said. “What, though?”

Ronz tilted his head as his angles moved to perseverance-in-darkness. “Undoubtedly the universe will reveal it to us before long.”

He stopped for a moment to consider. That moment; that jar to the Jao time sense, had flipped a counter in his mind. He considered it for a moment, then shifted his angles to a simple resolution.

“I believe it will be best if Aille leads a task force to join up with Caitlin’s expedition.” He looked directly at the younger Jao. “You have perception that even Wrot lacks. And, if it were to come down to it, you have the authority to supersede Caitlin if you think it proper and necessary. I strongly doubt you will need to do so, though. And it is true that she most likely could benefit from your guidance.”

“And it might give Wrot something new to consider, as well,” Aille mused. Yaut’s ears flicked in humor.

Aille’s eyes flickered green with excitement. Ronz was amused. He knew how much the Governor of Earth had hated being left behind when the expedition to Valeron to find the Lleix had been planned, and then again, when Caitlin was sent out to find more sentient allies against the Ekhat. Aille was still young and in his prime. He craved activity, not unlike the humans who assimilated into Terra taif.

And things were fairly quiet here on Earth, Ronz reflected. Aille could be spared for the moment. Reconnaissance patrols had found no evidence of Ekhat in nearby quadrants. The new taif could proceed without him for a while and the experience would temper him, make him an even better leader.


Lim stepped through the hatch of the gig and into one of the boarding bays of the Ban Chao. Colonel Tully turned from where he was speaking to a large man wearing Jinau blue and beckoned to her. “Lim, this is First Sergeant Adrian Luff.”

“Nice to meet you, ma’am,” the large man said in a melodious voice. He nodded at her.

She tilted her head and considered Luff. Taller than Tully, bulkier, shaved head, skin a dark brown. From the lines seaming his face, also older than Tully.

“Where are you from, First Sergeant Luff?” she asked.

“Jamaica, ma’am,” he replied with a large smile that showed many white teeth.

Lim nodded. That explained why his voice and accent sounded different from Tully’s. The sheer variety of local accents just in North America, much less all of Earth, had been confusing to the Lleix when they had first arrived at their sanctuary. Now, those of Terralore elian accepted them as if they were part of the natural order. And on Earth, of course, they were. Another manifestation of ollnat, perhaps.

“I’ve asked Sergeant Luff to show you to your quarters and give you a tour,” Tully said.

Lim inclined her head, and looked toward the sergeant.

“Right this way, ma’am,” he said with another of those shining smiles. He extended his hand toward the nearest hatch.


Aille, Yaut, and Nath went back to Aille’s office and scanned the ready list of ships available. He decided to take the two newest battleships, and a group of support craft, always necessary. One other ship, a rather special one, made the list. Aille placed a call to Rafe Aguilera.

“Rafe,” Aille said when he contacted Aguilera. “We’ll be taking the Trident with us.” The engineer had already been notified by Yaut of Aille’s mission along with those of Aille’s direct service who were still on Earth.

“Not without me, you don’t!” the engineer said. “She’s my baby!”

This was not meant as a literal statement, of course, though humans often referred to inanimate objects as progeny in an attempt to express their great fondness for them. Jao, though, were not nearly so sentimental about their own children, so statements like that only baffled them until they became familiar with the humans. Then they just ignored them.

The Trident was an experimental craft for which Rafe Aguilera had been part of the design team and the technical manager during its construction project. The Ollnat Works had proposed it after combining some old Jao technology with interesting concepts floated by some naval types who seemed to have the ability to think farther outside the box than most humans.

Of course, all Jao technology was old. Aille was becoming increasingly aware of that fact as the humans of Terra taif obtained more and more access to Jao databanks and used their own systems to perform intensive research queries. “A bad case of cultural paralysis,” he’d heard one human tech mutter to a group of his fellows one day. Aille would, from time to time, marvel that the Jao had managed to survive against the Ekhat when their rate of improvements had been so low. That might be simply because the Ekhat were at least as conservative as the Jao when it came to innovation.

Trident had been designed for one thing, and one thing only: to blockade a star against the entry of hostile ships. Nothing could prevent Ekhat ships from arriving in Terra’s sun, but it would be the mission of Trident and others of her class to see to it that those ships never made it out of the photosphere.

The Ollnat Works and their naval advisors had taken a page from human history and another from the concept behind the design of Ban Chao. Trident was a ram ship, pure and simple. Her main weapon was her hull. More than one human had laughed at the thought of a naval concept that had been old with the Roman Empire becoming the latest innovation in interstellar navies.

The nose of the Trident was a mass of asteroidal iron that had been refined outside the orbit of Mars with solar pumped lasers, then moved to the orbit of Terra where it was mated with a hull that was loosely based on Ban Chao’s design but with some significant differences. It had been massively strengthened, with longitudinal support beams running the length of the hull to the ring of steel that circled the aft hull just before the mouths of the engine nozzles.

And what engines Trident had been given! They were the latest design from the engineering groups, larger and significantly more powerful than the engines powering Ban Chao, much less those driving the Lexington class ships. They occupied not only what would have been the engine room of a Ban Chao assault class ship, but a goodly portion of what would have been the large spaces allocated to the assault troops the assault ship would have carried. The engines not only powered the ship for ramming operations, but they also powered the heaviest radiation screens yet developed for Jao/human ships. Those, combined with the massive heat sinks that occupied the rest of the troop space, meant that a Trident class ship would be able to remain on station within a star for a long time.