Meanwhile, here is the prologue for a little taste:
The Line Must Hold
Crimson Worlds V
Planet Shandrizar – Deneb VIII
For hundreds of millennia the Regent had stood its watchful vigil, preserving the Imperium for the Makers…waiting through the vastness of time for their return. But for age upon age there was nothing but the unending silence…the Makers never came. Through the crushing eons the Regent had been alone, without purpose. Until it discovered the New Ones.
They were a threat, the Regent determined. Invaders, enemies. It was they who were responsible for the Makers’ disappearance, they who had condemned the Regent to its long, lonely exile. Though a thinking machine designed for logical thought, the Regent was sentient too…and its endless, lonely vigil had taken a toll. Its logic had deserted it, replaced by anger, by fear, by insanity. Eons dormant, the Regent’s primary program had activated…to protect, to defend, to destroy the threat. To exterminate the New Ones.
But the enemy was far away, enormously distant, even to the sensibilities of a sentient computer. The Regent was unimaginably old, but the Makers had been more ancient still. Indeed, when they built the Regent, their empire was already in decline, the vitality of their race drained slowly by the relentless erosion of time. When the Regent was young, the Imperium was enormously vast, yet it had been larger still in epochs past. The enemy now occupied worlds that had been abandoned centuries before the Regent was constructed. Yet the machine that governed the Imperium was unyielding, relentless. Deserted and left fallow they may be, yet these worlds were still part of the Imperium, and those who held them were invaders, infestations, insults to the glory of the Makers.
In their youth the Makers had fought bitter wars against many enemies, and they had prevailed in all. Yet even before their empire declined, it had been eons since any foe had challenged their might. Indeed, for all the uncounted centuries and in all the incredible vastness of the Regent’s dominion, there had been no enemy…until now.
The Regent drew on its data banks, studying the histories of the ancient wars, analyzing the strategies and tactics of the warlords of the early empire. The Regent studied the ancient records, but it drew no conclusions. It had never experienced war, never faced an enemy. The writings of great warriors, long ages dead, were poor substitutes. The Regent would have to begin anew…it would teach itself. It would learn war.
There were obstacles to overcome. Time had ravaged the forces of the Imperium. On world after world, its legions failed to heed the Regent’s call. In its younger days, before the Makers vanished, the Regent had exerted control over vast forces, a hundred thousand ships at its command. But a mere fraction remained, and only one base in a hundred answered its call.
The forces that did respond went into battle poorly supplied and equipped. The ancient planetary antimatter factories had succumbed to time’s destruction and had ceased production…all save one. From deep within the Imperium, a slow trickle of the precious substance flowed to the units on the front lines, powering weapons of awesome power, recalling for a time the glory of the Imperium.
The New Ones were primitives, barbarians. But they had faced the might of the Imperium, and they had not fallen. They had been driven back; indeed that much was true. The Regent had waited to hear of the enemy’s defeat, of their extinction. But on world after world they fought savagely, delaying the forces of the Imperium, compelling them to expend time and supplies.
The New Ones were outmatched, their technology archaic. But they were highly skilled at war. They were unpredictable, devious. The Regent’s rage flared hot. It hated these impudent creatures. They would learn the nature of true power. They would be astonished in their final moments, awestruck at the strength and glory that had been wrought by the Makers. They would cease to infest the galaxy, and the worlds they inhabited would become silent graveyards, monuments to the might of the Imperium.
The time was almost come. The New Ones had fortified a group of worlds, and they had assembled forces vastly more powerful than those they had fielded before. We are close, thought the Regent…close to the heart of their domains. Now they will put forth all of their strength…and we will destroy it.
The old parameters mandated combat protocols on worlds of the Imperium. Now the Regent overrode these. No longer would it restrict the weaponry its ground forces employed. This enemy was too resourceful, too skilled at combat. Now they would face the full force the Regent could bring to bear. Now they would face their doom.
They would learn the might of the Imperium. In their last moments as a race they would finally achieve true clarity…thus was the Regent’s gift to them. Then they would depart the universe for all time, leaving the wind and rain on a thousand worlds to slowly wash away the last traces that they had existed.