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T'el Shai: The War Continues

                                   Jonathon Pierce

The First Fleet had been devastated. Overconfidence and sheer stupidity had led Iffley to decide to attack the enemy head-on. The frontal assault had achieved little, except the destruction of half of the First Fleet. The remaining ships had retreated and regrouped, waiting for the Domain to make the next move. Iffley mentally kicked himself: How could he have been so stupid?

"Excuse me, Captain." It was Mr. Thorpe. He could be so annoying at times. Silently, Iffley gave the now-what-do-you-want? look. Mr. Thorpe proceeded with his question, "Captain, are you familiar with a game called poker?"

"Yes, Mr. Thorpe. Get to your point."

"Well, Captain, it seems that our enemy is playing poker with us. While we hold some of the high cards, he has all of the low cards. While we are trying for a royal flush, he is beating us with four-of-a-kind...."

"No, Mr. Thorpe. He is not playing poker. He is playing klitik. Are you familiar with it? Go down to my cabin and bring my set up here."

"Captain, the Nemesis is hailing." The communications officer touched a button, the screen shifted and showed an impetuous, young man.

"Captain Iffley, I am Captain Arthur Waite of the Nemesis. I was wondering when you were going to allow us to join the battle; you apparently are in a great need of help." He brushed back a lock of blonde hair that fell in front of his eyes. His red uniform was ruffled, as if he hurried had put it on.

"Captain Waite, I suggest that you follow orders, unless, of course, you wish to be court-martialed."

Captain Waite glared at Iffley, "Yes, SIR," he said with an exaggerated emphasis on the epithet. "Nemesis out."

Mr. Thorpe, carrying the klitik board, entered the bridge. He placed the game before Iffley. Iffley stared at the board. A circular base housed the first level of the game. Alternating bands of gold and silver seperated one territory from another. Four anti-gravity discs floated serenly above the board.

Iffley hurriedly set the game; he did not want this explanation to take any longer than possible. He placed the Infantry on their appropriate rows. These pieces were not only the most numerous, but also the least valuable. Next, he placed the Cavalry, knights on unicorns. The Cavalier, a knight on a winged horse, was positioned between the two pieces of the Cavalry. This was a very important piece, for it could utilize the floating Platforms. The Chaplain was placed perpendicular to the Cavalier. This piece moved in a circular path around the board. The Necromancer and Emperor were placed last. Each piece could occupy the Platforms, a most desirable position.

"Mr. Thorpe, the Domain is playing a game of klitik with us. He is using a tactic known as Fwo Cresso. This strategy involves overcoming a large force--here represented as an attacking Chaplain, Cavalier, Necromancer, and Cavalry--with a more numerous, smaller force. The end result is a victory for the Infantry." Andrew Thorpe nodded in agreement. Seeing his understanding, Iffley continued, "The four Platforms are the most important territories in the game. The most powerful pieces control these areas. One strategy, known as T'el Shai, has been very successful. It involves occupying the two Platforms behind your opponent's area." He demostrated this by placing the silver Necromancer and the Cavalier on the two Platforms behind the gold's line of defense. Thorpe could easily see how this strategy would be successful: a few well-planned moves would win the game. "By doing this we can by-pass their fighters and attack the carriers. The fighters will lose their base, and consequently will run out of energy. With all the carriers destroyed, we should have an easier time in this battle." He turned to the communications officer. "Hail the Phoenix, lieutenant. Tell Admiral Barrymore to bring the Second Fleet around Saturn and come up behind the enemy. They are to shoot the carriers, repeat, only the carriers." The lieutenant nodded and accomplished her task.

"Captain," Mr. Stone interrupted, "I have the figures on the scanner scramble you asked for earlier. The enemy cannot accurately scan any vessle in operating range. Any damage to a vessel will probably not show up on their scanners or sensors. Of course, they somehow may be able to break our electronic counter-measures, but as of yet, they don't seem to notice. Hopefully, the scrambler will last throughout the entire war."

Iffley thanked his navigations officer for his informative report." Mr. Thorpe, I have a little job for you. It's time we utilized the Rebellion for our advantage." He gave very specific instructions to his first officer. Andrew nodded, then left to accomplish his task.

"Captain, the Domain is advancing again!" Mr. Stone's eyes bulged out as he stared at the screen.

The fighters swarmed over the remnants of the First Fleet. The Scimitar rocked with the impact of several lasers. "Number-four shield down, the next hit will be internal!"Seconds later, a violent explosion echoed throughout the ship. "Seal off levels six through eight. Damage control to deck seven-bee!"

"Bring the ship around, protect our damaged side." Iffley ordered, his heart racing with the extra adrenaline.

"Mission accomplished, Captain." Andrew Thorpe said as he entered the bridge.

"Thank you, Mr. Thorpe. Mr. Stone, release the tractor beam." I hope this works, he thought.

*  * Infantry *  *

The Rebellion floated silently across the void. A squadron of fighters circled it, and fired at it. The shots, unable to penetrate its protection, bounced harmlessly away. More fighters converged on the ship. These, too, were unable to damage the vessel. Borers arrived on the scene, but these too accomplished nothing.

Suddenly, the Rebellion exploded. The hundreds of tons of explodents, placed by the crew of the Scimitar inside the wheelhouse, blew up. Since the Rebellion could not be damaged, the entire strength of the explosion was forced out of the open doorway. Two score and five fighters were instantaneously vaporized. Another score was severly damaged. Its job having been completed, the Rebellion drifted slowly into the distance.

The Enchantress, Cutlass, and Spectre opened fire on the lead ship, the TGTS Uruapan. In desperation, the Uruapan shot wildly; One shot missed completely; another hit the Enchantress, damaging her number-two sheild; the third struck a fighter directly in front of her, damaging her own front deflector. The Cutlass took immediate advantage of the fluctuating shield. The explosion impacted directly on the command center. The Enchantress and Spectre followed suit, completely disabling the vessel. The Uruapan rocked as a series of internal explosions errupted. Finally, the entire ship exploded in a fantastic array of color.

Iffley smiled to himself. They still could win the war; T'el Shai would be the deciding factor. He hoped it worked as well in reality as it did in theory.

*  * Platforms *  *

The Second Fleet moved into position behind the carriers. The Xanadu, newest, largest, and most powerful ship in the fleet led the way. She was flanked by the Phoenix, Troubadour, Labyrinth, and the Nemesis. Bringing up the rear were the smaller ships, the Aurora, Corona, Cygnus, Ambrosia, Sphinx, and the Centaur.

The TGTS Adena was the first to discover the dramatic move made by the Alarians. She hurried launched the remainder of her fighters and attacked the Phoenix. The Phoenix, commanded by the elusive Admiral Barrymore, ignored the attack, and retaliated. The TGTS Archie, Aven and the TGTS Aquamarine turned to join the fight.

Suddenly, the Nemesis broke from formation, drawing the fire from the three enemy ships. The Xanadu, Ambrosia, and Troubadour concentrated their attack on the Adena.  Unable to withstand the attack, the Adena exploded. The Ambrosia, however, had strayed too close. The explosion weakened her shields, and she retreated to the back of the fleet.

The Nemesis, Sphinx, and the Labyrinth directed their attack on the Aven. Several shots destroyed her shields. One precise laser destroyed her engines, sending her reeling toward the Aquamarine. Sensing the inevitable impact, the Aquamarine turned her attention from the enemy to the unstable ship. She continually fired at the other ship in attempt to destroy it before they collided. The attempt, however, was too little, and too late. The Aven impacted with the Aquamarine. The collision was more punishment than the damaged ship could withstand. When it exploded, the Aquamarine went with it, creating a gigantic conflagration.

The Act, holding its own at Greenpeace, was unable to help her sister ships. She fought like a cornered cat, striking again and again at the nearest ship.

An enormous ship zoomed into the battle. The word Madison was stenciled on its bow. She aimed at the Archie and fired. The energy arced into the air and struck the ship broadside. The Archie exploded and imploded simultaneously, as the energy ripped through her hull.

Aboard the Scimitar, Bronson's eager face stretched across the screen. "I thought you might need some help, 1ffley."

"Thank you, Bronson. I will appreciate any help that I can receive. Scimitar out." Iffley smiled again to himself, T'el Shai had worked even better than he had expected. He was confident that the war would soon be over. But he felt that the Domain had not given up yet. What would be their final move?

 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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