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I won't even comment, or edit, this is that pivical moment where you everyone eats you alive, and you learn your boundries in FF.

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*Cough* Ix would have Orbital Defenses. I hate to say it, but the mobilization and deployment of sixty thousand men would take a little while longer as well.... Anyway.

The Trebesian Ships in Orbit over Ix were not known to many. Mainly due to the secrecy in which they were therein stationed. In an effort to undercut any attempts to distrupt trade with the Ixians, the late Duke Trebeis had quietly ordered the movement of three groups of Assault Frigates into Orbit above Ix, off the Second moon. They were watching when the Invaders departed the Guild Highliner.

"Ixian Defense Forces. This is Commander Ahab De'Garious of the Trebesian Space Forces in Orbit above Ix. There is roughly one Corrino Battlegroup taking up posistions above Atmosphere. They are accompanying Dropships bearing Sardaukar Ensignia. Their current posistion is approximately three Kilometers from Ixian Defense Platform A-7. They will be in range of Said platform within 20 seconds. Advise."

The Ixians quickly scrambled back a Reply.

"Commander De'Garious. Present Situation is this. We will not be able to hold invadors in Orbit. We however, are capable, if given approximately two minutes to prepare, to meet the Sardukar Dropships below Atmosphere and scramble forces to meet surviving Invaders. As said, however. We can not hold and Entire Battle Group with the one Platform in the area-" The Message cut out. Looking up, Ahab watch grimly as the Corrino opened fire on the Platform. Explosions burst from several areas on the Platform, then the Ixians returned fire. Rockets, Torpedos and Missiles accompanied by Las and Projectile fire splattered against the Corrino craft. Several Blossomed into Explosions and dissapeared in clouds of debris. The Platform and invading Armada continued to trade fire. Then, the Connectionf re-istablished, the Ixians continued. "Ahem, as I was saying. Our time is short unless you engage the enemy. Our Platform has been reduced to 72% Operational Streangth by their assault and needs assistance. We have another Platform running on boosters to assist... However, it will take minutes to arrive. Please assist our Platform!"

"Understood." Ahab said Grimly. Turning to the Captain of the Flag-Ship, He ordered "All Wings form up. Delta Formations. Come withing Extreme Range of Corrino Craft and open with five Salvos of Torpedo and Missile Fire. Reform and present Starboard Weapons Gallerys. Open with Four Broadsides and Retreat to Reform." The Captain Nodded and spoke into a Com-unit. The Ships followed orders and Formed up into Delta Formations. The Assault frigates then exiquted the attack. The Three Trebesian Groups Charged down the Shocked enemy and opened up with thir Salvos. Corrino Ships Exploded with intensity. Others, Merely damaged, or untouched, Returned fire on the Charging Trebesians. Bothe Sides Continued firing, ships explodeding on both sides. Finally Finished with their Devestating Salvos, The Trebesian Craft Formed up for their Next attack. The Assault Frigates, having moved to present the smooth Starboard Hulls, seemed to pause. Then, The Huls lost their sleek appearance. Massive Armoured sections of the Hull, slid away to revael huge clusters of Projectile weapons, including heavy Repeater Cannons and Missile/Torpedo tubes. Panicing, the Corrino man ordered his ships to open fire. Two Trebesian Craft Lost Engine integrity and started to fall from Orbit. Two more were heavily Damaged. The Rest, on De'Garious's order, Opened up with their Broadsides. Torpedos, Missiles and Cannon fire lanced across the void and smashed into the Corrino Craft. The Sky was lit up with Tracer fire from the Cannons and Explosions- From both sides. Imperial Craft Popped like Fireworks, A few Trebesian Craft did the same. The Side exchanged fire in a masssive display of power. The Corrino had superior Training and experiance, The Trebesians had Numbers, Superior Ships and excellant Leadership. It looked like it would be a draw. Then, The Second Ixian Platform A-4 charged on it's boosters into view, and opened fire into the Corrino Forces. The Sardukar dropships, ignored for the most part, began to head into the Atmosphere.....

ARRAKIS: The Loading of Carth's entire organisation compleate and the ships containing the Bindar Organisation having Randevouzed with the Trebesian forces bound for Gehay, had entered Orbit. After Giving confirmation to the Massive force of orbiting Trebesian craft, they drew into Fromation to await the arrival of their Highliner.

Scrambling over the remians of Arsunt, the Nokker Guardsmen waved long, wand like instruments over the piles of scorched metal and Glass. Reaching a depressed region in the ground, a Guardsman gruffly yelled "I've got a contact!" Looking at his instrament, he read the report it gave. [Two Organic Heat signitures, Human. Several Inorganic, Generators or other Heavy Machinery.] Showing the report to his commander, he stepped aside as twenty more Ducial Guardsman stepped up. Moving forward, one placed a charge in the depressed area. Explodin downward, the charge revealed a large, command room. Looking dazed, sitting in one corner was a single Moratini Soldier. The Twenty Elete Ducial Guardsman dropped into the Room. Twenty more came up around the circumfrance of the hole.

"Soooo glad yoooou could join usssss." Issued a voice from the Darkness. Out stepped non other than the Famed Assasin and Sword Master, Wordsworth. Dropping To ground among the twenty other Nokkars, Wren Flanken Replied Quitely "I'm Glad we've found you. We've been looking for you and your companions for quaite awhile now." Stepping Forward, Flanken Activated his sheild and Drew his No'Kar'e sword and a long, slender, Evil looking Dagger. Wordswarth Followed suite. The Two deadly, expierianced kilers eyed eachother.....

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Two days. Just about enough time...

"The assault on Ix is underway, Lord." A minor aide reported to Hundro Moritani, as he examined the initial reports. "The Generals wish to know if they should scramble our forces?"

"What, move in?" The Viscount genuinely laughed, rare humour in his voice. "Oh dear me no. No, tell Grumman not to do a damned thing." He looked over at the display on his cabin wall. It showed a vast expanse of desert, all wrapped up in a ball. "Are we ready?"

"Yes, Lord." The aide replied, refilling the Viscount's chalice. "Your message will be dispatched immediately."

* * *

The shuttle itself caused a stir even as it circled the Arrakeen spaceport. Guards were thrown into action, orders were bellowed as the Moritani colours of burgundy and black slowly came to rest. If only for its audacity and complete lack of weaponry, the shuttle was not fired upon.

It was, however, surrounded. Several dozen heavily armed troops, at the order of Aleksandr Trebeis, covered the shuttle on all sides. The spaceport was evacuated, the surrounding area put under heavy guard. No chances. As the door opened, each man took aim.

A single figure stepped out. He was dressed in Moritani livery, but clearly weaponless. Or at least, he carried no visible weapons. He bowed ever so slightly to the soldiers, a slight smirk on his lips.

"Noble Trebesians." He said, straightening once more. "My name is Valen. I am here as official envoy of the Viscount Moritani, of Grumman. My Lord requests an audience with Duke Atilian Trebeis. He is prepared to give his word that no harm will befall anyone on Arrakis during his visit, upon condition that Aleksandr Trebeis swears that no harm will come to the Viscount or his party. I carry the Viscount's message to that effect." He indicated the message cylinder at his waist. "It is in code, so you will probably need a mentat to translate it." He shrugged apologetically.

Message to the Duke Atilian Trebeis, of Arrakis (encrypted):[hide]

Greetings, Duke. Pardon me if I do not waste words with empty posturing, I doubt that you would appreciate it. I wish to discuss certain matters with you, in person. In privacy. I am prepared to surrender my guard and my weapons to your care during my stay here, as a gesture of good faith. I offer you my solemn vow that I shall not cause any harm to anybody during my stay on Arrakis. I ask in return that Aleksandr Trebeis swear no harm shall befall myself or my party, and permission to keep Valen as an aide and servent.

I await your reply in orbit above Arrakis. I express my sincere hope that you see fit to talk with me, Duke Trebeis. There is something I need to say that I believe is most vital.

With respect, Viscount Hundro Moritani, of Grumman. [/hide]

* * *

Wordsworth slowly, ever so slowly, raised a single eyebrow. He reached into his pocket with all the urgency of dripping tar. Leaning on a long, thick pole of wood, he examined the device that he had retrieved. He paid no attention to the men surrounding him. The eyebrow began to fall again.

"Yooouuuu aare, eeaarrrllyy." He breathed, his voice causing all those around him to be siezed by a sudden desire to clear their throats. Kostya choked from his position on the floor. Wordsworth replaced the device inside his grey robes, unconcerned at the fearsome array of weapons around him. "Thheeerre iis. A. Ffffrigaaaattte; iinn orrbit. Arrrouund Arrrakiissss." He breathed. "Aaaa shhhuuttllleee... Wiiillll. Beeee iinn, Arrrraaaakeeeennn, sooon. Iif noot nowwww.. I wissshhh tooo booaaarrrd iit. Taaakke me thhheeerrrree." He folded his arms. The quarterstaff, with nothing to support it, dropped slowly and ponderously to the floor.

* * *

"Think of it like this." Aleksandr tried once more to explain. "Ekaterina is a tiger. She doesn't really care about anyone but herself. She'll see to her immediate needs and comfort first, but after that she'll hunt things. She picks a target and she captures it, toying with it from a position of complete control. When she gets bored, she kills it. This thing may be a person, or a city. As long as she can do what she wants in what she considers to be 'her territory,' she's happy. She isn't subtle because she doesn't want to be.

Hundro, on the other hand, is a spider. He can appear harmless enough, but he had hidden motives. He doesn't hunt, he builds webs. He surrounds himself with plots and counter-plots, wheels within wheels. If his enemies escape a single strand of his web, there are thirty more waiting to entangle them. And once caught, they struggle, only succeeding in wrapping themselves all the more securely. He need do nothing but watch from a position of safety, tweaking a line here and there. Eventually, his foe has done the work for him, and he moves in for the kill."

"So... you're saying that having him here would be a bad idea?" Noitpo checked. She was midway through translating the message prior to handing it to Atilian. Valen, with two Nokkar on each side, stood nearby smiling brightly.

"No, now we've gone to the toher extreme..." Aleksandr sighed. "It;s my reccommendation that Hundro be allowed to visit. Unlike Ekaterina and Ranith, he keeps his word. He's probably the most honest one of the family. If he says he won't cause harm, he means that he won't cause harm. And it's unusual for him to say that, because it doesn't leave any avenue open for him. He can't hurt anybody, he can't pay someone else to hurt anybody, he can't even plant seeds of distrust here without breaking the promise he offers. It's very unlike him to commit to something like that. It either means that he's being honest... or that there's something here that neither you nor I can see."

"Sooo...." Noitpo left the word hanging.

"Oh, get Atilian to decide." Aleksandr huffed. "Just let him know that I trust Hundro's honesty, if not his motives."

'And he offered to give his word...' He thought as the mentat scuttled away. He turned to examine Valen, who was sniffing one of his guards in a childlike manner.

"Can you touch your nose with your tongue?" The messenger asked suddenly. The Nokkar gave him an odd look, but Valen did not appear to notice. "I can, see?" He stuck his tongue out and curled it upwards, where it did indeed touch the end of his nose. "He seemed elated at this, and bounced up and down on the spot until the other guard laid a heavy hand on his shoulder. The younger man looked up at the guard, who towered at least two feet above him. He began to chew playfully on the thick gauntlet that restrained him.

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OOC: Ever heard about shields? ::)

Due to the possibility of Las-weapons, ships rely on heavy armour instead of sheids. Simply because an entire force could be destroyed if a single ship using a sheild was fired upon with a Las-Weapon. The entire fleet would be destroyed in the ensuing reaction. Read your books son, they help. :P

The Ducial guardsman Slowly reached to their backs and pulled out a small kit. They quickly drew from it A Breathing Apperatus and placed it over their heads. Used in combonation with their PlusStill Suits, it created a seal between the outside world and their fragile selves. The Threat of poison or Audio devices gone, Flanken stepped towards Wordsworth again and said "If there is indeed a Frigate in Orbit, you will be allowed to board it. However, you must first join us to be debreifed. You will be required to be restrained now as well. It's your choice, end your rather well known career and life here, or come with us now...."

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(O.O.C. --> The way things are going, I could simply leave Factions entirely.  People seem more than eager to post about what I do.)

2 Days Before the Corrino Attack

Ixian comeyes on Salusa Secundus confirmed Relnev's fears.

"They plan to invade, eh?" he grinned.  "Amazing.  The Emperor is afraid."

Eemins, also witness to the reports, remained silent.  He, too, grinned.

"Prepare the GTO cannons and the Orbital Defence Platforms." Relnev commanded.  Eemins nodded and left the room.  Relnev stopped smiling and activated a comm link to the lower levels of Ix.

"Prepare the Suboids for potential use." he said.

"Aye, sir." came the anonymous reply.

Present Day

The battle above Ix was as close to a stalemate as it could possibly be.  The Sardaukar were desperately trying to fight back, having to choose between the two platforms and the Trebeisian Ships as targets.  Some were even trying to make a break for the surface, in the hope of somehow salvaging this mission.

On Ix, Relnev watched as some of these ships dodged the fire of the Trebeis, and moved closer to the planet.

"Fire the GTO cannons at will." he ordered.  Almost immediately, several locations on the surface of Ix - patches of ground, hill or mountain - sprouted large cannons.  The bulk of their construct was underground, with the rest of Ix... but now, their barrels were on the surface, and began to fire.

The rogue ships trying to reach the surface were destroyed within a few minutes.  The guns' range was then set to maximum, and the Ground-To-Orbit Cannons began firing upon the Sardaukar ships already engaged in battle.  There was no hope for them now.

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I admit that the invasion was a bit too fast. Sorry for my below-average RPing. But what's done is done. And I have realised one thing: This is probably the first war RP to "finish" and not ide off. Kool. :)

Ships were dropping fast. Frigates, destroyers,dropships. Burseg Halfat sighed and shook his head. Everything was falling apart. Their only hope lied in the agile dropships, many of whihc were making a break for the surface but being cut down ruthlessly. Going over to the control deck, Halfat spat into the intercom:

"All personnel and soldiers get into dropships and evacuate ship! Only necessary skeleton crew to man weapons and ship remains. Go!"

The evacuation started. Klaxons got up to their loudest, shouts and yells of commanders were heard as they ordered their troops. People were running everywhere, heading for the dropships.

20 minutes later...

Everyone necessary for the invasion of Ix were in the dropships and ready to go. At the same time, the clamps holding the dropships in place were released and the dropships floated off. For about one minute they banded together and then, as one, sped towards Ix. Many were dropped by fighters, platforms, and Trebesian ships, but the Sardaukar had also brought along fighters, who concentrated on keeping as many enemy ships away as possible. Left and right, the fighters dodged and shot thousands of autocannon and chain-gun rounds at the enemies. Bombers let loose mines and high-yield warheads on the platforms and Trebesian ships.

The skeleton crews who had stayed behind were ferociously firing at the Trebesian ships, with the smaller frigates concentrating fire on the two platforms...

Burseg Halfat cursed as he was thrown off his feet when a fellow dropship bumped into his. There  were hundreds of dropships, holding  a little less than 60,000 men or 2 legions of Sardaukar in all. Surely most of them would make it to the planet's surface. Once again he was thrown off of his feet as a stray round struck his ship. Scrambling to his feet once again, he made his way through the dimly lit dropship until he found who he was looking for: a communications techhie.

Clasping the man on his shoulder, he gritted his teeth.

"Send the message to the Cruiser, tell them to start up the orbital bombardment. Aim for the rough position of those G.T.O guns the Ixians have."

The techie nodded and started to establish a com-link. Hlafat turned away and went back to behind the pilot's seat, and looked out of the window. He saw a few more ships go down, but there were many left; above him, below him, to the sides. And thousands of men would land on Ix, to at least TRY and take over the technological homeworld. But the military brilliance of the Sardaukar ensured victory on the ground. Along with the troops, several specially modified dropships containing support units had been sent out along with the whole group. Tanks, lastanks, artillery,  scouts, humvees...

The world was getting closer and closer. Soon, Halfats' ship would enter the atmosphere along with  many others, and then they would see who was the better...

Meanwhile, on a small frigate enagaged in the space battle above, everything seemed to happen in slow-mo. A techie sent off his battle report to Kaitan, just as a volley of missiles impacted the fusion reactors.

"WARNING! REACTOR LEVEL: CRITICAL. IMMEDIATE EVACUATION URGED"

And the ship was enevloped in a bright, bright flame. But the damage had been done. The battle report was flying silently throughout space...

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"Iiieee wwillll. Suuuubmiit. Too yoouuurrr, ressstraainnnntssss." Wordsworth nodded, speedy as a mountain. "Taaake me... tooooo. Aaarrrraaakeeen."

* * *

"The ultimate decision is yours." Aleksandr shrugged. "Hundro won't lie to you, but he will find incredibly deceptive uses for the truth."

"He's the enemy, the leader." Atilian muttered, once more reading the letter from the Viscount. "And he wants to talk? Why?" He shot this last comment at Noitpo, who closed her eyes.

"There is not enough data." She replied at last. "I cannot make a computation with any accuracy without more infomation."

"Hundro may have something to say." Aleksandr put forward. "Whatever his reasons, he believes that he has something to gain from this action."

"Then we turn him away." Atilian said definately.

"Wait, don't be so hasty." Aleksandr held up a hand. "It may be that he wishes to be sent away. By not meeting with him, we may be doing exactly as he wishes. At least by talking with him we might resolve the issue of whether he has something to offer us or not."

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't..." Noitpo murmured.

"Also, there's a clue in his choice of messenger." Aleksandr went on. "I know Valen. He was just a teenager back on Grumman of course, but he's been Hundro's favoured aide and personal servent for most of his life. Hundro trusts him implicitly, and I know that he would be very upset if Valen were to be harmed, or endangered."

"So why would he send such a precious commodity into the very base of his enemy?!" Atilian fumed.

"As a gesture of faith." Aleksandr replied. "He knows that I am aware of how important Valen is to him, and he will have calculated that I would tell you. He sent Valen, I believe, in order to show that he is willing to trust us with something important to him. This of course implies that he wishes to be trusted himself."

"Mentat." Atilian muttered. "Aleksandr. What do you advise?"

"Extreme caution." Noitpo said at once. "My studies of the Viscount Moritani indicate that he is a devious man, but in all the records I have found, he has never been caught in a direct falsehood. In other words," she rephrased at Atilian's expression, "I advise that you entertain the Viscount in Arrakeen, but use maximum security. He will not lie, but that does not make him any less dangerous."

"Sending him away would mean that we had no oppertunity to gain infomation from him." Aleksandr agreed. "The decision is yours, but I advise you to meet the Viscount."

Atilian scowled.

OOC: In case you hadn't noticed Barbarossa, I'm trying to get a decision out of you. ;)

* * *

"The invasion of Ix proceeds, Lord." The same aide reported. Hundro found that he was already missing Valen's little jokes and comments. He frowned.

"Who's winning?" He asked bluntly.

"There is no clear indication, Lord." The aide stated boringly. "There are, however, indications that the current invasion force will not be sufficient."

"Hmm." The Viscount mused. "To move, or not to move..."

"Lord?"

"Nothing. Inform Grumman that they are to remain in place, but prepare for moving out sometime in the next few days. Target is to remain unspecified."

"Yes, Lord." The aide bowed out, leaving the Viscount staring at the map of Arrakis on his cabin wall.

'Damn you Trebeis, answer me!' He thought to himself. He realised that he was more concerned for his favourite servent than anything else. This only annoyed him more.

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As the official news rolled in, Carth departed for the surface of Arrakis to discuss with Atilian and Alexandr the last developements.

- Take the convoy to Gehay and accomodate the men. Then man the ships the Trebis gave us. I think we'll need them.

- But we don't know how to fight in space.

- LEARN! I think time if very unpacianet with us right now.

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"Retract the GTO cannons." Relnev ordered.  The huge barrels could be seen slowly returning to their housing, underground or behind walls of natural rock.

"The Sardaukar are making their way towards the surface, Chancellor." a battle co-ordinator reported.  "Several hundred dropships, containing a variety of artillery and over 50,000 troops, according to our sensor arrays."

"More than I expected..." Relnev said, impressed with the Sardaukar's ability.  They were living up to their boasted proficiency, at least.  "Deploy the SAM turrets and chain-gun towers, and launch the remote-controlled Las-Drones."

"Aye, sir."


Above Ix, the dropships continued their plunge towards the planet's surface.  A moment of relief was experienced as the GTO cannons stopped their relentless bombardment... until another dropship exploded.  Then another, then another, as the SAM sites began launching heat-seeking salvos of missiles towards the invaders.  Chain-guns began firing, too, inaccurate at such long range, but still peppering the Sardaukar carriers with hull-piercing rounds.

From concealed enclosures around the area the Sardaukar were headed towards, came hundreds of sleek, silver craft.  No bigger than an average person, the Ixian Las-Drones were quick, accurate and deadly in great numbers... and there were great numbers.  Each came equipped with an enlarged and modified Lasgun, which it could fire with deadly accuracy.  Scanners on board the drone could identify people, machinery and potential stress-points or blatant holes in the dropships.  They swarmed like steel insects around the invading fleet, moving faster than they could ever hope to, arriving just as the Sardaukar passed half-mile altitude.  They opened fire.

The combined firepower of the drones, the missiles and the chain-guns was too much.  The fleet had no hope of reaching the surface with anything more than debris.


"How is the defence effort proceeding?" Relnev asked, re-entering the command centre.  He had left for a few minutes, checking that the suboids were prepared.

"We are succeeding, sir." the same co-ordinator replied.  "The dropships are defencless against our combined defence force."

"Any losses?" Relnev enquired.

"Some drones have fallen foul of chain-gun fire; our operators can't anticipate every bullet.  Other than that, we anticipate a maximum of 30 dropships making it to the surface."

"Maximum?"

"If all our drones were to spontaneously explode."

"Good.  Keep the defence force going; teach the Emperor that the might of Ix is not to be trifled with."

"But sir... this is nowhere near our full defensive capability!" the co-ordinator asked, failing to see the obvious.

"Exactly."

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(O.O.C --> I'll save Barbarossa the bother of telling you, Beowulf, that your last post is out of line.  You bribe the Guild to get a heighliner, use it to go to Ix, with no warning or signal that you are doing so, deploy 10 ornithopters that carry enough mines to destroy the entire remaining Trebeis fleet, and are now heading back to the heighliner to foldspace away.

No, I didn't think so.  Edit or remove the post, please.)

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OOC: Actually, I asked Dante to look at it, to make sure it was fine. He didn't complain. But I will change so you're happy. Still, Barbarossa could easily have had more ships if he had

Numbers, Superior Ships and excellant Leadership.

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(O.O.C. --> Again, Beowulf, your post is out of line.  Now you bring more ornithopters designed for space, which still destroy the Trebeisian fleet.  I never said I'd bribed the Guild, nor would I, so another argument gone.  Also, where did you say that the 'thopters (which should be useless in normal atmospheres) have enough homing missiles to stop the Las-Drones?  Or the SAM turrets?  Or the chain-gun towers?  Or any homing missiles at all?

You cannot just jump in to a battle like this, and expect to somehow be more successful than someone who has planned this attack, and is failing.  You did not land on Ix, and you did not start magically transforming your space-adapted ornithopters into land vehicles (something else you neglected to mention was part of their ever-increasing inventory).  Remove the post entirely, and think of something different.)

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OOC: Let's stop fighting, shall we? We need to keep it together if we want this RP to "finish".Also, I assume the Las-Drones have light armor?

Plans do not always go as planned.Computations are not always accurate.Statistics and the "likelihood" does not make it so. Such proved the case with the Sardaukar invasion, for good and for bad. The bad had already happened. They had been almost totally overpowered in orbit, and now they were desperatley racing to the surface, being picked off one by one by hordes of laser-wielding drones.

But there was also the good. The dropships had 3 light autocannons on each side, and these, while not the most powerful, could take out the lightly-armored drones with relative ease. On all of the 625 dropships(80 men per dropship, 50,000 men in all. Also, the number is a bit less due to the drones), all four guns were occupied and going whumpwhumpwhump at the drones, who too started falling. Bullets at first went spang! against the drones' armor, but as the barrage became heavier, bullets pierced the outer layer of armor and scrambled the delicate wires nestled inside, paralyzing the drones and making them drop to their doom.

Halfat didn't dare activate shields for fear that the drones would fire their lasguns and wipe out the entire landing fleet. So they had to rely on the autocannons and the few AirtoAir missiles the newer dropship models had.

Our numbers are decreasing, but so are theirs. We only have a few kilometers to go...

Halfat thought. More dropships dropped. The dropship was heating up.

Come on, come on...

More dropships dropped. 370 left, number dropping fast...

THUMPTHUMPTHUMP!

The ground was looming up. Halfat could make out the individual trees...

SLAM!

He was thrown forward viciously, his nose slamming the back of the pilot's seat. Halfat felt it crack. On top of him, more men fell on him, limiting his breathing. However, after a few seconds of moaning and shock, everyone started scrambling out of the dropship. Halfat, too, ignored his nose and climbed over the opening on top of him(They had crashed almost vertically), with a sharp pain in his leg.

Must have ripped some tendons... Halfat thought. He hobbled over to the egde of a forest, and watched as the remaining dropships landed. Some weren't as lucky as Halfat's. One crashed into  cliff, bursting into flame and exploding a second later. Another, into a dark ravine. However, many landed succesfully.

We have to get out of here..in the forest!

"Into the forest! We'll be protected there. Bring the thermal-cloakers. Gogogo!"

He and the remaining Sardaukar tramped into the forest, wet and cold from a previous night's rain.

They had to hide...

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Carth entered the Arrakeen palace with the news that Ix was under attack. The Trebeisans were fighting off the Sardaukar. The Sardaukar...

For Carth, this episode meant only one thing: another war. This time much more destructive and deadly... Against the Emperor, the sardaukar, the Moritani, the Harkonnen, the Richesse.

On the other side were the Trebeis, Ix, his small faction, and eventually the Atreides.

"We're doomed, but curse if I won't go down fith a figh worth talking about for centuries to come!"

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The two forces continued blasting each other to pieces. Then a rather unexpected change overtook the Corrino fleet. "Bloody hell, they are all retreating to Drop ships!

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(O.O.C. --> I'm trying to be as realistic and understanding as possible here, but you seem to have neglected to mention any damage due to the SAM turrets and chain-gun towers, Clemenza.  Yes, the Las-Drones have light armour, but are also extremely fast.  There is no way in hell that any sizeable force would have been able to land on Ix during that battle, but I'll let this one go.)


"This is Chancellor Relnev responding to Commander De'Garious of the Trebeisian fleet." Relnev spoke into a communicator.  "Congratulations on your victory up there; let me extend to you my gratitude for your assistance, on behalf of the entire planet."

"Acknowledged, Chancellor," replied De'Garious.  "What are your plans regarding the Sardaukar landing team?"

"Barely 100 dropships have landed successfully; a skeleton force, with little to no artillery." Relnev said, examining a battle report.  "Our outer defences are all on full alert, so there's no chance of them getting in.  However, we would be grateful if you could lend your assistance once again to ensure their capture or demise."

"We'll begin mobilising forces now, Chancellor." De'Garious affirmed.

"Many thanks, Commander.  We shall prepare ourselves here, too."


In low orbit around Ix, several GPS positioning satellites came into view of the widespread Sardaukar landing site.  Each equipped with high-resolution cameras, infra-red imaging and bio-sensing equipment, they were originally desiged for purely scientific purposes.  It occurred to Eemins, however, that they could also be used to track the invaders, no matter where they hid.

"They'll stay hidden, and use heat shields I'll wager," Eemins had predicted.  "These satellites have the benefit of being able to spot individual biological signatures, however."

"What if they use other biological organisms to mask the signature?" Relnev had asked.

"The satellites themselves are linked to database containing all known life-signatures on Ix; we screen them out, and we are left with only foreign entities."

"Excellent.  They cannot hide."

Concurrently, the Ixian air-defence emplacements slowly retracted into their housing, and the holding chambers flooded with coolant, in case they were required again soon.  At the same time, multiple Las-Pillboxes - camoflauged in Ix's greenery - silently activated.  More overtly, the remaining Las-Drones began to circle the area, their sensors linked to the satellites above; they scanned the area, searching for anything to shoot.  It wasn't long before they found several troops who were slow in exiting their dropships.  One by one the invaders fell to the relentless Lasgun fire, and several items of artillery and troop transport were destroyed in the process.  Then the drones moved on, their next targets already in sight...


The Trebeisian troops and vehicles began their descent towards a designated safe-spot, near to the "Hot-Spot" that the Sardaukar were in.  A dedicated communications line was soon set up between themselves and Ixian Command, which provided the Trebeis with access to the data supplied by the satellites.  Ix was defended, and the troops that had survived the onslaught in the space above the planet were as good as dead.


(O.O.C. --> Please, take the hint.  I don't like posting that I've destroyed something entirely, but you're not really leaving me much of an option.  You're outgunned, outnumbered, out-everythinged.) :-

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OOC: I understand. They'll be killed off, but remember the battle report that was sent to the Emperor... Also, 100 dropships, which can hold 80 men each, amounts to 8000 Sardaukar. Skeleton force, eh? ;)

Halfat stepped outside of the hastily constructed base camp. It was barely an hour after landing, but the remaining army was being organised quickly and efficiently.They were, after all, Sardaukar. And besides, many vehicles had successfully made it down, despite fire being concentrated on them during the landing.

An aide walked up to him. "Burseg, the capitol of Ix is about 140 kilometers to the west."

"A three day march..." Halfat murmured. It was a crazy plan, trying to get 8000 men to the capitol of Ix without them all being killed. But would they stay here, trying to hide while the Ixian forces inevitably whittled down their numbers with those flying robots and that hellish artillery.

NO THEY WOULD NOT!

And besides, they had brought down all the weapons they could carry, with many lasguns and rocket launchers. They could, with good planning, hold the enemy at bay for some while, until backup arrived or they were killed.

"Death before dishonor..."

He straightened and looked at his aid with a serious face.

"We march. Gather the men."

And so, the Sardaukar left the protective enclave of the forest, guns barking, lasguns going zewzewzew!, Las-Drones being hit and blowing up or dropping to the ground. Sardaukar dropped, too. Good men, strong men. But this was what they were bred for.

"DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR!" Halfat roared as he blasted away at the las-Drones, while at the same time moving slowly towards the capitol...

OOC: Do whatever you wish to them. Bomb them, etc. Or let them reach the capitol if you would like a more interesting Rp. More ships are coming anyway...

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With a dark expression, the Viscount Moritani stalked from the private chamber where he had met with Atilian Trebeis. The guards assigned to watch him quickly surrounded his person, but he walked on unphased.

"The nerve of that man..." He muttered to himself. "When I get back to Kaitan..." The Nokkar's exchanged stern glances, but their orders had been clear enough. The Viscount was allowed wherever he wished, provided the Nokkar were with him at all times.

'And all the time never suspecting. Never even guessing...' Hundro thought to himself, keeping his face thunderous even as he smiled inwardly.

* * *

"Thhhiiiiisss isss no.... waaaayyy. Tooo trreaaat, a... maaaaannn of myyyy. Aaaaaagee." Wordsworth commented. Wrapped in shigawire still, he stood bolt-upright at the Arrakeen starport. His guards ignored him.

* * *

Several hours pass

* * *

"Wait outside the door. He won't attack me." Aleksandr nodded to the corridor outside his offices. Reluctantly, the Nokkar guardsmen shuffled from the room. Aleksandr closed the door behind them. He sighed, leaning on the wood. "Well done." He said, without turning around.

"Praise? From you? My, how things have changed." Hundro said behind him. The usual sly tones in the Viscount's voice were strangely absent, replaced by an almost wistful note.

"We've both changed." Aleksandr answered, turning from the door but unwilling to meet his genetic brother's eyes. He walked further into the room, where Aleron waited with a decanter of wine. Valen crouched nearby. Having arrived with his master, the red-haired man was now peering with fascination at Aleksandr's old sword, which hung on the wall.

"Can I offer you a drink?" Aleksandr asked carefully, indicating the decanter.

"You can, but I won't accept." Hundro said sharply. "Look at me Aleks, I'm not Katerina." He waited impatiently while Aleksandr stared at the floor. "Oh for the love of- What's wrong with you? When have I ever given you reason to fear me?"

"I don't fear you." Aleksandr muttered, putting a hand to his head. "It's just... I don't know if I like you. You've grown so adept at putting on faces, at manipulating those around you to suit your own ends. You were the only sibling I had who didn't try to murder me, I might even hazard that we were close for a while." He turned in another direction. "But you're so callous! You use people as if they were tools, to be exploited while useful and discarded once broken. You did the same thing to Ekaterina, and you're still doing it now." He had walked out to the balcony by now, and leaned against the stonework as the sun set in the distance. "I trust your word, but you give it so rarely. To be honest, I wonder if I ever knew you."

"You're just so full of yourself, aren't you?" Hundro commented from inside.

"What?" Aleksandr responded, shocked more than angry.

"Ever since our mother left you alone it's been angst angst angst, whine whine whine. 'I'm so misunderstood,' 'I have doubts about our foreign policy,' 'my family is evil.' Wake up Aleks! You've been so wrapped up in your conviction that you're the only one who cares that you can't even notice when someone tries to do something right!" He stalked out onto the balcony, glaring at the sun. "Yes, I use people. Yes, I used Ekaterina, I used Ranith, I used you. I wanted our house to gain influence with House Harkonnen. I wanted what was best for House Moritani, something that our father never understood. I sent you away with her in the hope that you would adapt, grow stronger Aleks! I sent Ekaterina away so that she would stop killing our staff! But no, you had to act all heartbroken when you left, and you didn't even give me a chance to explain anything. ... Yes, I use people and on occasion I kill people. But I don't take any pleasure in it. Unlike Ekaterina, there is no thrill in hurting others."

"Then why do you do it?" Aleksandr muttered into his sleeve. Hundro paused, leaning on the balcony next to him.

"Because it's the most efficient way to lead our House - ahem, my House - to a position of power. I could do great things, I could make the system work." The Viscount sighed. "A few casualties along the way are inevitable."

"Human life is not so valueless." Aleksandr mumbled, but he was beginning to sound uncertain.

Back inside, Aleron had slid a thin shutter across the balcony exit, in order to give the two noble some privacy.

"I can only imagine what their childhood was like..." He muttered to himself.

"One-sided." Valen said simply, exhaling the air from his attempt to hold his breath until he passed out. He frowned for a moment, before remembering that he never had managed to lick his elbow. Aleron watched him try again.

"One sided in what way?" He asked eventually.

"Hundro was the focus of the whole family." Valen said casually, between weird tongue noises. "His father had him trained as the heir, his mother taught him everything she knew, he was surrounded by the expectation that he would grow up to inherit. Aleksandr was the direct opposite. He was treated as the runt, ignored by the adults and tortured by the children. Except for Hundro. He was so busy learning to be an effective leader that he didn't have time for anyting else. He never played games, he never spoke to the others. He ignored Aleksandr. But compared to the treatment from Ekaterina and Ranith, that was almost like loving praise. So Aleks followed Hundro whenever he could. He adored his older brother; not because Hundro liked him but because he didn't hate him. It was only when they were older that they began to talk, and actually got on very well." He stopped trying to lick his elbow, and flipped over to stand on his head, all the while talking as if he were discussing something perfectly ordinary. "Then of course their father made the mistake of upsetting their mother. He was a very bad man. She wasn't hurt, she wasn't publically insulted, but he made her cry. Hundro was furious, and poisoned his father. Not enough to kill him, but enough to make him very sick. Hundro stepped up as heir, with his mother as regent as his father Viscount in name only. Ekaterina, who loved her father, became even more violent at this point. Hundro married her off to a Harkonnen, and sent Aleks with her in an attempt to give him some backbone. Say, have you ever wondered if colours have tastes?"

"No, but letters have colours." Aleron replied. He sat down on the floor, watching Valen try to spell things with his toes.

"Valen... who are you?" He asked.

"I'm me." Valen replied happily.

"I mean... what do you do?" Aleron tried again.

"Wheeeee!" Valen toppled over backwards into a roll. He sat up again, looking dazed. "I tell the truth." He smiled happily.

"...Will you keep your promise?" Aleksandr asked, lokking directly at Hundro's eyes. The older man sniffed.

"You don't have to ask-"

"Don't play words with me!" Aleksandr interrupted. "You made a promise to me. I won't allow the people I love to be hurt." He glared up at Hundro, who was significantly taller than him.

"...Very well." The Viscount nodded stiffly. "I will abide by my word. Do not forget your half of the bargain."

"No... I won't." Aleksandr sighed. In a moment of pity, his ex-brother put his arm around the younger man's shoulders.

"Don't fret, Aleks." He said warmly. "I may not see eye to eye with your new family, but everything will turn out for the best. You'll see." As he exited the balcony, he snapped his fingers. "Valen! We're leaving!"

More later. As in, several hours later. I had planned to write more plot-driven stuff, but when I'm tired I tend to just wander into storyland. And I'm very, very tired.

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"We are ready for takeoff, sir." Some aide or other said blandly. The Viscount Moritani hardly listened. He was deep in thought. And watching Valen try to turn cartwheels.

The negotiations with the Trebeis were over. For better or worse. Hundro was not entirely surprised at the way things had gone. But he had felt compelled to try, even if there had been a high possibility of failure.

'And I did not come away entirely empty-handed...' He thought to himself. A flash of reflected light caught his eye, drawing attention to Wordsworth, standing in a corner. Still wrapped with shigawire, the aging assassin said nothing, but looked as unamused as always.

"You don't need my permission to free yourself, you know." The Viscount said pointedly. Wordsworth's expression did not change, but subtle movements beneath his cloak indicated that he was moving. With an effort, he seemed to contract, grow visibly thinner. Exhaling wheezily, the assassin drew himself upright and into himself. The wire bonds, now far too loose, slipped off and fell to the floor. Wordsworth stepped over them without a word, breathing in once more. He seated himself further back in the shuttle, his eyes never once showing any emotion.

'Creepy old man.' The Viscount thought to himself. Turning back to his console, he flipped a few appropriate switches.

"Take this down." He snapped at the aide behind him. "When we get back into orbit, I want an immediate message dispatched to Grumman. Generals Nathyrr and Deeki' are to take their respective forces to Kaitan. I will meet them in orbit and brief them there personally. I am expecting hostilities from Arrakis soon, and the Emperor must be under our protection." He continued as the aide scribbled. "There will be no landing on the imperial planet, I wish to co-ordinate our forces myself.

"Also dispatch this message to my sister on Athalon." He handed a short note to the aide. "She may come in handy for once." The Viscount sat back, and began to launch his shuttle.

'Soon, Trebeis. Soon...' He promised.

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"QAPMOC!" The Duke Thundered. Heavy Boot-steps were heard approaching the Duke's Office. The Large Ducial Guard Slid into view. "What is it, Sir?" The man exhaled. "Mobilize every asset at our disposal. Men and equipment are to rendezvous at the two Arrakeen Starport. Inform the Space Forces that they are to prepare to load in upwards of 80,000 men, with full Ornithopter, Artillery and support compliments. You and Senhica are to command this force. Once in orbit, await further orders. Also, have Commander De'Garious send the Destroyers and Cruisers he captured. We will need them." The Nokker Guardsman nodded and sped off. Atillian sat and thought If this works, no longer will the Trebesian name be disrespected. I very well might return to us all of our former power and then some!

THUMPTHUMPTHUMP SWISHSWISHSWISH The sounds of the Trebesian Artillery and Rockets Echoed for miles around. The remaining Sadukar, numbering around 8,000 had charged out of their forest hiding places and were streaming toward the nearest entrance to the Ixian under-ground cities. Fortunately they had been observed, and the Trebesians had zeroed in with their long-ranged weapons immediately. Following up with the devastating barrages, the Trebesian Ornithopters had moved in as well. Launching Missiles and firing chain guns and Las weapons, the Orni's wreaked havoc among the Sadukar force. And this was just the beginning. Lying in wait, in advance of the Imperial troops, was a cold, calculating monster. A De-Mek. Tracking the Sadukar's advance, the Mek locked on and loaded its long-range launchers. WHUMPWHUMP thundered the weapons as two huge canisters were fired. The Imperials did not know what hit them. Quickly spreading, the De-Meks most devastating weapon, the Neuro gas, was inhaled by the invaders. The damage was soon complete. The surviving Sadukar quickly came upon the lifeless bodies of their comrades. Reorganizing, Halfat gathered his men for a charge on what they thought was only a solitary Mek. However, what they encounter was much more. Closing on the crest on which the Mek stood, the Imperials were suddenly confronted by Ixian Las-Turrets and 1,000 Trebesian troops. The Mek and Turrets opened fire on the Sadukar and the Trebesians closed in on the survivors. It was a blood-bath. The dazed Imperial Shock-Troops were cut apart by the Trebesian Troopers and Ducial Guardsman. De'Garious, fighting off and killing a Sadukar, looked up to spy a familiar face. Pulling his blade out of the chest of a Trebesian Trooper was Halfat. De'Garious quietly picked up a Las-Rifle and aimed. Halfat looked up in time to take notice of Ahab. De'Garious fired.

"The Sadukar have been defeated, Sir." De'Garious Said simply to Relnev. "However, they will be back. I suggest you begin preparations now. I however, must return to orbit. The Defense above orbit must be maintained."

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"Commanders." The Viscount Moritani nodded to his foremost Generals as he stepped silently into the command centre of his flagship, the Grizelda. Generals Nathyrr and Deeki' stood to attention on the other side of the large room. Valen crawled in behind his master. Examining the room, he found nothing to play with. With a huffing noise, he curled up next to Deeki''s chair. The Viscount rolled his eyes, and indicated that the two Generals could sit.

"Did you manage to bring everything that we planned?" He asked, leaning forward and steepling his fingers.

"The Grizelda is fully equipped, as ordered." Nathyrr nodded, pressing a button on his console. A small schematic of the battleship hovered between the three men, glowing slightly in the darkened chamber. "Heavy arms and armour have been reinstalled. Long-range weapons have been improved, at the cost of short-range. We have several hundred large shells, some of which contain the toxic gases. As you know, these have been designed to kill quickly and then disperse, being completely undetectable in a matter of minutes. We shouldn't have any trouble with them.

"Other equipment and resources are as discussed. No variations at this time."

"Good." The Viscount nodded. "I may have some adjustments for those figures later, but this is good for the moment. General Deeki'?"

"One hundred Moritani swordmasters." Deeki' nodded with a smile. "More than enough to guard the Emperor's person."

"Indeed." The Viscount nodded. "You may know that I paid a visit to Athalon IV on my way here. I have obtained some additional resources that I wish to put under your command, Deeki'. The specifics are in your personal briefing, but I want you to put them as close to the Emperor as possible; their usefullness cannot be overstated."

"Yes Lord." Deeki' nodded.

"Good." The Viscount stood up. The Generals followed suit. "Have our forces concentrated above the Imperial Palace, that's where I expect the strike to be. Negotiate with the Sardaukar and get them further out into orbit, their heavy defences are better than ours."

"Yes Lord." Nathyrr saluted.

"Good. Dismissed, gentlemen." The Viscount saluted, as did the Generals. The military men exited from one side of the room, leaving the Viscount alone with Valen. The nobleman walked around the table to where Deeki' had sat, where his servent was sucking his thumb. Hundro nudged him with a foot. "Come on Valen, we're done here."

"Meeeeeurp." Valen muttered, blinking as he was awoken. "Mrrrr..." He trailed after the Viscount as he left the room, making his way back to his quarters. The corridors were empty in this part of the Grizelda. The Viscount had no need for guards. Entering his chambers aboard ship, he picked up a ball of wool and tossed it to Valen, who caught it with a shout of glee and began to bat it across the floor.

"Have fun." Hundro said over his shoulder, as he stepped into his bathroom.

Valen was engrossed for the next ten minutes, staring at the ball of wool as it slowly unravelled in his games. He spent a while lying on his back, throwing it up and catching it. When that lost excitement, he tried to balance it on his nose. He was absently chewing the end of the wool when the Viscount re-entered the room, wearing a towel. He made a half-hearted effort to trip his master by lying in his path, but the Viscount just stepped over him with a smile.

Pressing a panel on the wall, the Viscount stepped aside as a section slid aside, revealing his selection of on-board clothing. Without rushing, he located and put on his formal military uniform. Black with burgundy trimming and the crest of the Moritani on the left breast, it was a plain but elegant outfit. It also came with certain responsibilities. Closing the wall panel, the Viscount pulled his hair back into its customary ponytail, affixing it with a plain black band. Examining his face in the mirror, he nodded in apparant satisfaction, though he did not smile. Making his way over to his bed, the Viscount sat down on the end. It might have surprised those who knew him that the Viscount's bed aboard the Grizelda was little more than a plain, military affair with a thin blanket and uncomfortable mattress. Like the rest of his chamber, it was black.

Valen ambled lazily over to his master's feet, sitting down and purring softly as the Viscount scratched behind his ears. Looking up, the Viscount stared ahead of himself.

"You can come out now." He addressed the empty air. Several seconds passed. "I said, you can come out now." He repeated. Again, the silence stretched. Valen looked about with an expression of confusion.

"Do not make me repeat myself again." The Viscount said testily. Slowly, another section of the wall slid aside. A starved-looking woman with dirty blonde hair stepped slowly from her place of concealment, her eyes shifting about the room.

"How did you know?" She asked.

"By not being an idiot." The Viscount told her. Valen had moved closer to him at the sight of the woman, and was whimpering quietly. "Ssh, she won't hurt you." He looked up again. "I knew you were with us almost as soon as you slipped aboard in Arrakeen."

"Then why didn't you reveal me?" The woman asked angrily.

"Because there was no need." The Viscount said curtly. "I assume that you had intended to disembark when we reached Athalon. But our... deliveries from that planet made you think twice. Yes, Orianna?"

"...Correct." The woman admitted reluctantly.

"You'll find them in briefing room 7V." The Viscount indicated the door. "Your explanations can be found there." Orianna glared at him for a moment longer, before disappearing from the Viscount's chambers. Valen whined, and hugged the Viscount's legs.

"Careful." Hundro smoothed the fabric down. "I have to meet the Emperor in these, try not to crease them." He stood up, straightening his sash. "We'll be leaving in about two hours for the Imperial Palace. If you want to take a nap, now would be a good time."

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"Acknowledged, De'Garious," Relnev replied.  "We've lost two orbital defence platforms already.  More are being produced with all due speed, but I fear that they will not be ready in time for another attack."

"That is unfortunate." De'Garious commented, running battle statistics over in his head.

"However, defences on-planet have taken minimal damage.  What little repairs are required will be completed within a day." Relnev informed.  "We are also in the process of salvaging any and all useful equipment from the Sardaukar dropships, and planting several minefields in key locations to stop any ground troops from advancing as quickly."

"Anything else?"

"We have other contingincies..." Relnev mused.  "We have re-inforced all entrances to our planet, and steps are being taken towards organising localised shielding to trap any force that does make it through."

"You still sound as if you're hiding something." De'Garious said, a smile in his tone.

"The Ix are always prepared." Relnev grinned.


Message to Aleksandr Trebeis:

[hide]Greetings, friend.

I fear it has been long since we last spoke properly, and my situation - as I'm sure you can appreciate - is far from adequate for arranging a meeting.  Regardless, I thought it best that we all stop for a moment, and remember how this all began; on Arrakis, what seems so long ago.  The sacrifices we made there, the resolution to fight for a cause we knew to be right... I continue this fight from here on Ix, as Atilian and yourself continue from Arrakis.

It is important that we do not lose sight of what we set out to do.  Ekaterina has murdered thousands upon thousands of people on Athalon IV, and she had almost enslaved Arrakis before we took a stand.  We won Arrakis, defeating Ekaterina - she holds sway there no longer.  Now, the stakes are larger; to stop Ekaterina is to stop a section of House Moritani themselves.  I know of your recent visit from Hundro, and how he must have made you feel.  Regardless of your name, they are your family.  I can only pray that you remain resolute in your determination to end Ekaterina's rampage.

The involvement of the Imperial House is unexpected and a great threat to Ix itself; but I would see Ix fall into the hands of the Tleilaxu once again before I abandoned our principles.  I cannot help but feel that all of this - ever since the attack on the Atreides on Arrakis - might never have happened, had it not been for Ekaterina.  But she was the one ruler who squeezed too hard, and you the saviour.

I have the allegiance of tens of Houses Minor, and silent assertations from several Houses Major that they would join our cause, should it seem that we are likely to succeed.  I tell you now that we can succeed.  Our goal is - and always has been - to stop Ekaterina from hurting anyone else.  By involving themselves, the Corrino have exposed corruption beyond my expectations.  We have begun something, and I believe it is right that we see it through to its end.  Ix is on your side, Aleksandr... I am on your side.

Relnev.[/hide]

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"My liege." The Viscount Moritani strode into the imperial throne room. Performing a cursory bow, he pushed aside various other nobles to stand directly in front of the throne. Behind him, the doorway was filled with massing men and women.

"The Trebeis will be attacking soon. Perhaps in hours, perhaps in a matter of days." The Viscount reported without preamble. "I have reason to believe that they will be focusing their attacks directly above this city."

"What? Are they mad?" A voice from the crowd called.

"Renegade." The Viscount replied, turning to address the crowd. "I have met with the Duke Trebeis, and I am certain of his intentions! He plans to land his forces on Kaitan, pitting them directly against the Sardaukar." Gasps from the audience.

"What is the danger?" The Emperor asked from his position behind the Viscount.

"Too great." The Viscount replied. "I suggest that all representatives and ambassadors return to their respective planets at once. The embassies will not be safe, who knows how these madmen will act?" One or two people started to file from the room. "My liege, I am reliably informed that the danger will be focused on yourself. To that end I advise that the bulk of the sardaukar be arranged elsewhere, perhaps in further orbit. This will give the impression that your royal person is elsewhere. I have brought a considerable army to guard this location, but being Moritani they will be taken for guards of a lesser treasure."

"Could we retreat to Salusa?" Someone, perhaps one of the Emperor's servents, suggested quietly.

"I doubt there is time." The Viscount dismissed the issue. "Preparations were already underway when I left Arrakis. The fleet could be heading for us even now. To be caught while fleeing would be even more disastrous. We must buckle down and endure."

"Viscount." The Emperor finally got a word in edgeways. "What do they hope to achieve?"

"Complete dominance." The nobleman shrugged. "They would hold Arrakis and Kaitan.

"I have one hundred and six Master Swordsmen and Guards to protect your imperial person." He indicated the doorway, where stood the massed guard. "Your Sardaukar would be better employed elsewhere. We must hurry."

* * *

"Ah, but there is so much more to consider." Aleksandr sighed, holding the message from the Ixian Chancellor. "Ekaterina is only a part of the story now, not the villain on her own."

"She tore out your eye with her bare hands." Aleron muttered. "Anyone would think that you didn't hate her."

"That's just it, I don't." Aleksandr threw up his hands. "I can't hate her, even though I know that she's a monster. She's family. And so is Hundro."

"...What are you planning?" Aleron asked.

"I'm not." The other man shrugged. "Relnev insists that we stand together against my sister, but in truth she is no longer a threat to us. She has what she wants. But she is still murdering people, and I can't condone that. Of course, we have involved ourselves in a much larger plan this time. Hundro is really reaching for the stars."

"Doesn't it bother you that you've become involved in your old family's plots, even though you changed your name to escape them?" Aleron asked.

"Yes, in a way." Aleksandr nodded. "But I didn't have much choice in the matter. It was go along with his plans, or allow people I care about to suffer. That was always his way, he can play on weaknesses like no other."

"Empathy is not a weakness." Aleron pointed out.

"Yes, yes..." Aleksandr looked out over Arrakeen, at the furious preparations for battle. "I just hope he doesn't see it coming."

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The Emperor was experienced enough to know that even the closest ally may be a backstabber.

He clasped his hands together and thought for a moment.

"Very well, Hundro. We shall send many Sardaukar into orbit, but - I hope you do not take offense at this - I am experienced enough to know that even the closest of allies may stab you in the back one day. If, you by any chance, are with the enemy, and I send out the bulk of my forces into space, I am effectively dead.

"SO!" Shaddam continued, raising a finger. "I will keep on Kaitan several thousand Sardaukar for the protection of this city and my preson, and the rest shall be sent out into space to combat the Trebesian fleet. Agreed?"

The Viscount agreed without any hesitation.

"Why, of course, Emperor. You don't need to ask me permission to keep your forces on your planet."

Shaddam smiled.

"Good. Then preparations shall begin immediatley. Hundro, you may go. I need to consult with my mentat and advisors about this attack." Shaddam motioned that he should leave. The Viscount bowed out, getting the message. Once he had gone, Shaddam called over his mentat, who seemed uneasy about sending so many Sardaukar out into space. Shaddam motioned that the man should lean in close.

"What do you think, mentat?" Shaddam murmured quietly.

"I cannot make a reliable prediction based on the current data, sire, but my view is that we keep some more Sardaukar unoficially hidden here on Kaitan, if things take a turn for the worse."

Shaddam nodded his head.

"I completley agree. It's not that I don't trust Hundro, but we must be careful in this time of troubles."

The mentat nodded, and walked off to the Operations Chamber.

Shaddam leaned back in his throne.

Is it time to finally bring out the Golden Lions? he mused quietly.

Perhaps it is. We shall see. After all, only time would tell.

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