“Yes my Lord. But definitely not official. The ship’s sensor stealthing system is definitely some pirate jury-rigged system. So I do not believe this is an official Shinran ship. Likely purchased from Shinran space.”
Things were falling into place. “Those damn midgets below have sympathizers.”
“It would appear so, My Lord.”
“My Lord, I have to warn you, the ship started drifting off during the last power failure. Apparently, one of the thrusters malfunctioned and exploded, sending us on a course to the neutral zone.”
It took a bit of effort, but the shuttle almost fully loaded with motorcycles, giant swords, atrophied micro-organism vials of unknown type. At that moment, the communication module in the shuttle roared with a Bragulan voice. “Byzantinian ships! Explain yourselves.”
“I hate it when these damn xeno bears call us Byzantinians,” muttered Beltayn, Jaunt’s adjutant. Switching on the set, he said, “This is trooper Beltayn of the 81st Tanith Reconnaissance, we are in the midst of a pirate investigation. We are just getting ready to disembark, over.”
“We don’t care. You are entering the neutral zone. Prepare to be eliminated.”
The ship rolled about the neutral zone for 2 weeks, a complete wreck. Yet, it contained some members of the pirate crew, who managed to somehow hide themselves in some sensor shielded compartments... When the ship finally drifted into the Bragulan territory, the Bragulans then began to take notice and board the ship...
The wrecked ship floated over to the other side of Jenova, which was the seared sun-baked face of the Mother World. The detonations of the SPUD missiles altered the doomed ship's trajectory, sending it in a hitherto unexpected direction. After secondary explosions, and a few more SPUD strikes, the wreck's course finally settled and eventually, fourteen days later, it arrived at the planet's sunny hemisphere that so happened to be under Bragulan jurisdiction. It was then, and only then, that the Bragulans finally bothered to inspect the vessel they had wrecked. If it had been in the Byzantine side, then the prize would've been the Byzantinians'. If it had been in the neutral zone between each side's territories, then the hulk would've been annihilated by either party, as per the unwritten rules of Jenova honored (and dishonored) between the Bragulans and Byzantinians.
"Why hasn't that ship been excavated yet?!" the Colonel Commissar of the local Space Fleet patrol force roared to his subordinates.
"Because it was in the neutral side!" whined his lieutenant.
"Then you should've used the space harpoons to drag it to OUR side!" the Commissar rebuked his subordinate with his mailed fist of superior Byzonist authority. "I want an autopsy report of that space hulk on my table, now!"
"Sir, yes sir!" the lieutenant snapped a salute and jogged off, quietly mumbling curses under his breath.
"WHAT WAS THAT?!" Bragulan Commissars had auditory implants precisely for this reason, to listen to any hint of whispered insubordination amongst the masses of troops. The Commissar released the safety catch of his field execution pistol. He roared again, to make sure he had heard his subordinate right. "DID I HEAR YOU WHISPER SOMETHING?! SPEAK UP SO I CAN HEAR YOU BETTER, COMRADE."
"Uh, I said nothing sir! Nothing at all!" the subordinate gulped and turned his jog into a run worthy of the racetracks of the Sovereignty-Bragulan Peace Race.
"That's right. Nothing!" the Commissar holstered his weapon. In ordinary occasions, he would not have hesitated to use it, but the day was nearly over and he was out of ammunition. That tended to happen on Jenova, where Commissars were sent for their on-the-job training. The Commissar reminded himself to requisition more bullets later, and some tsvagna for a relaxing drink as well.
Meanwhile, fearing for his life, the lieutenant boarded the nearest patrol boat posthaste and with a group of naval troops boarded the drifted remains of the space hulk. The vessel had been most thoroughly slagged by the SPUDs, but a third of its main fuselage had remained intact - though the hull was partially melted, forcing them to use monomolecular chainsaws to rip the nuke-welded hatches open.
It was their luck that the intact portion of fuselage happened to be the cargo hold. Many good old-fashioned vessels designed the cargo compartments to be the most durable portions of the ship, more so than even the living quarters, for while shipping companies often abided by 'crew expendable', such was not the case with the cargo. Bragulans thought that was reasonable, as they considered inanimate objects worth more than human lives. For them, even shit had more value than human life, for unlike most humans it could be used as fertilizer for the planet-spanning agriworlds of the Bragulan Star Empire.
What they found on board the hulk was most surprising. They already knew that the Byzantinians had scoured the vessel two weeks ago. In fact, the Bragulans had launched their SPUD strike immediately after intercepting Byzantine comm-signals and learning that an Imperium Inquisitor was on board inspecting the hulk. Such a target was too tempting, but unfortunately the local IBGV agents later found out that the Inquisitor had narrowly escaped and survived (when the IBGV agent went to a local watering hole in the middle of the Re-Militarized Zone for some tsvagna and found the Inquisitor in question enjoying a glass of amasec in the same establishment, which was an awkward situation).
Anyway, finding dead human bodies and spent bolter casings was no surprise to the Bragulan team. But the makeup of the corpses, that was something. They were albinos, fairly androgynous ones for the Brags had difficulty telling which gender they were. Which meant that the dead humans the Byzantinians killed were Jenovans, or at least androgynous and albino enough to be similar to the Jenovans. They also found some cryostasis pods with more albino corpses inside. But still, interesting but not surprising or unheard of, since Byzantinians liked killing their other fellow humans a lot (which was what made them such good humans from the Bragulan perspective.). No, it was not the corpses, not their human subspecies, not even the fact that they had died in battle. It was the weapons they had with them. The Bragulan team opened some of the boxes and crates in the cargo hold and found similar weapons. Unusual ones. Not Bragulan K-bolt, not Byzantine bolter or lasgun.
But swordguns, plasma rifles and ridiculously huge swords. The Bragulans blanched at this. What manner of weapons were these? Where in the galaxy had they come from? Who? What? Where? How? And why?
They searched deeper into the cargo holds and found even more disturbing sights. Enormous motorcycles, incredibly large ones that even a Bragulan could ride. Then, there was something else, something far worse. The Bragulan quadrucorders detected atrophied micro-organism vials of unknown type. They opened the refrigerated casing and saw the clear fluids in glass containers. They were labeled in human heiroglyphs.
The lieutenant had some knowledge of the human languages, so he read the bizarre calligraphies.
"P-p-pol... poliomye... vac... cin... e..." he stopped and suddenly, a horrible realization struck him. He had heard of things, rumors, information gleaned from the Byzantinains supposedly and passed on amongst the ranks of Bragulan troops through the Bragvine, as well as officer gossip and even speculations by the Commissars. Something about the Jenovans, those sorry pale albino wretches. Something about this very world, buried within its wretched history. A curse. An ancient plague from the humans' Age of Obscurity. Something even the Byzantinians uttered with hushed tones. He gasped, the color draining away from his face.
On their way deeper to the hold, they found more bodies. The albino flesh seemed to glow eerily under the torchlight. At first, the Bragulans thought the prevalence of bodies was just because the Byzantinians were being thorough in their work, as they usually were, and had killed all the "herryticks" or "blasphoriters" or whatever term they called the fellow humans they wanted to kill. But the Bragulan team began noticing something else. The Shinrans hadn't died by bolter or lasfire, and their wounds were too messy to have been inflicted by Byzantinian power weapons - though why the Byzantinians ran around with space swords still remained a mystery to even the IBGV. No, the Shinran deathwounds were reminiscent of bite marks and scratches.
The Bragulans stiffened and collectively clenched their sphincters. A space hulk boarded by Byzantinian Imperium soldiers and Inquisitors, then abandoned, and now with half-eaten carcasses. That could only mean one thing.
Though the Karlacks were allies of the Bragulans, that didn't mean the creatures were any less monstrous. While their Aspects were imbued with inbragulan intelligences and could be reasoned with and talked to, their bioforms and warrior strains were far from thinking, reasoning beings - all the sentience and thought in them discarded to create complete biomechanical killing machines. In some of the battles they had waged together against Byzantinian forces in the past, though both Bragulans and Karlacks fought as one, that still hadn't stopped the creatures from eating a few Bragulans in supposed 'friendly fire' incidents. The Bragulan superiors were discomfited, of course, but word from even higher up compelled them to continue working with those things. On the ground, the realities were different, and Bragulan soldiers used to shitting on their enemies out of spite and mockery had ended up shitting in fear - and Bragulans almost never shitted themselves in fear. Such was the extent of the Karlacks' armamentations.
The prospect of encountering acid-blooded Karlack xenogauntlinglisks was a terrifying one. But the Bragulans in the team were professional. They unpacked their nuclear flamethrowers. Just because they were allies didn't mean they were unprepared for certain contingencies. Bragulans had war plans for just about anyone and everyone in the galaxy. Being horrifying monstrosities didn't exclude anyone from this, or else then the humans would be exempted too. Furless creatures reproducing like mutant hares and filling nearly the entire galaxy with their smelly kind were every bit as horrifying as endless swarms of insectoid Karlack hydraloids. The Bragulans let their ideologically correct training set in, and soon they sublimated their fears of freaky gene-eaters with their much more intense and powerful hatred for humankind. They imagined their boots stamping on the face of humanity, forever. That made them feel better.
Their quadrucorders and thermal sights picked up a faint heat signature and lifesigns, previously obscured by the lingering radiation of the nuke-sponged shipwreck. But now the signals were clear and they followed it deeper and deeper into the bowels of the ship. The claustrophobic interiors were small and crammed, not built for Bragulan sizes. Dark, dank and reeking with the rotten carcasses of the humans. It wasn't a nice place to be.
They rounded a corner, kicked a hatch open, and stormed in with weapons raised. Expecting to find a den of gene-eaters, instead what they found were the ship's survivors.
The Bragulans were immediately relieved, and they displayed their relief by smashing the emaciated survivors' faces in with their rifle butts. The albinos were so much like the Jenovans, perhaps they were of similar human subspecies. The heat signature they had found was from a tiny fire the albinos had started. They were cooking morsels of food, pieces of meat. Two weeks of isolation would've caused humans to die of starvation, the Bragulans knew this because they had to study the various ways humans could die (and the various ways to make humans die) during basic training. So this was what was keeping them alive. It was strange, for the cargoes they inspected were all composed of ridiculous sword guns, plasma rifles, and outrageous motorcycles. Where did they get their food from? They must've had an alternate source...
...like the albino carcasses the Bragulans had seen, the ones with bite marks and scratches on them. The albino survivors snarled at them, and though the team had disarmed them of their swordguns, some of them were armed with the least likely of weapons. Bones taken from the skeletons of corpses, sharpened into spears or used as simple clubs. Some of the albinos tried to attack them, but it was not in self-defense or in any military-minded offensive move, but out of sheer desperation. Sheer starvation. They had degenerated into cannibalism, and instead of seeing Bragulan soldiers decked out in wargear, in their famishment and emaciation they only saw walking, talking, barking pieces of furry meat that their deranged brains compelled them to kill and cook and eat.
The Shinrans shrieked and blubbered about 'Mother' and 'One Winged Angels', they cried for more 'Materia' and that they wanted to drink some 'Lifestream', that they needed these things. They lunged at the Bragulans in sheer desperation. The ordeal they had experienced, of surviving by killing and eating the flesh of their fellowmen and crewmates, had driven their brains over the edge of madness.
The Bragulans resolved all of that. For in pity at their sad states (and Bragulans never felt pity towards humans), the team decided to spare the albinos. Instead of shooting them, they merely applied prophylactic stick-beatings to their heads. Then they dragged the screaming, crying, bruised and bloodied albinos back into the patrol boat.
The Commissar judged that the prisoners were too valuable to be placed in the prison camps on Jenova. Besides, the camps were full of Byzantinian POWs and they weren't due to be executed en masse until the end of the month. So they placed the albino prisoners, along with all the swordguns and motorbikes, on board a prison ship bound for one of the IBGV's gulags. Care had been placed in securing the atrophied micro-organism vials of unknown type, which they suspected to be bioweapons of some kind. Perhaps even the geostigma. The IBGV would definitely take a close look at it, once it was delivered to the appropriate facilities.
So the prison ship set sail, launching off the Mother World and exiting the system. It was said that the only ones who could ever leave Jenova were the dead, or those bound to suffer a fate worse than death.
That was true.
On board the prison ship, the Bragulan wardens were highly bemused by their new albino captives. The Bragulans used the enormous swordguns as toothpicks, while taking note of the albinos' special dietary preferences. The albinos were said eat human flesh exclusively, and so they were to be fed human flesh exclusively (for special prisoners of the IBGV were given special privileges). This was repulsive, for cannibalism was indeed a most ideologically reprehensible act, and the feeding habits of the albinos only confirmed the sheer depths of degeneration the filthy humans could be capable of. To slake the cannibalistic lusts of their prisoners, the Bragulans did not feed them meat from the dead Byzantinians, for that was too different from their kind. Instead, the Bragulans fed them Jenovan meats, from their fellow albinos, reasoning that degenerate cannibals preferred eating the flesh of creatures most similar to them. It was disgusting, and the perversion of the albinos only made the outraged Bragulans' treatment of them harsher.
The trip was long and arduous, they had to pass through Karlack space, and so the Bragulans eventually forgave the albinos for the sin of cannibalism and being human (two very terrible things!). When prisoner and captor bonded together, it was called the Bragholm syndrome.
So the Bragulans allowed some of the albinos to leave their cells. They even played games with them. The one who won the game would gain privileges. So the albinos played the game. They rode their enormous motorbikes and were made to race against each other through the corridors of the prison ship. Whoever reached the finish line would win.
The albinos rode their bikes, riding them like they did back in Midgar Space, they raced against each other, each of them hoping to be first, each one wishing to win the prize. The Bragulan wardens and crew cheered them on, waved and hooted and barked.
The enormous motorcycles streaked through the corridors. One of them was ahead of the rest, so far ahead that victory was assured for the albino driving that lead bike. He tore through the finish line and pumped his fist in victory. Finally, he would win a prize. Maybe the Bragulans would finally stop the horror of feeding him human meat! The Bragulans cheered and applauded.
Then they opened the airlock, which was located right after the finish line.
The victorious albino's cry of joy turned into a scream of horror, but he was sucked into space and everyone knew in space no one could hear you scream.
The Bragulans closed the airlock, but a few of the late albino motorcyclists got sucked out into space as well. The survivors were horrified and wept for their spaced friends. But before they could get back on their bikes, the Bragulans began clubbing them with sticks and then they were dragged back into their cells.
As they did so, the Bragulans laughed.
They fucking laughed.