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Upon reaching engineering, Astrid was relieved to learn it was clear of any rodents. They couldn’t possibly be that stupid, could they? Why wouldn’t they try to seize engineering, which would allow them to cripple the ship, making it unable to escape or hammer their fleet while making boarding and subsequent capture easier? And with a ship like the Monroe, making the repairs would have been well worth it. Unless the boarding attempt has already been thwarted, Astrid assumed there were more on their way and promptly sealed the doors, confident that hydraulic doors with maglocks would hold them for some time, at least if the bridge situation was any indication, since the Satasi up front was still breathing.

Knowing she wasn’t of much use in a fight, Astrid chose to stay in engineering, take stock of damage and what was happening around the ship instead of going out and being a hinderance. One expected casualty for the day was bad enough, no need to go out and be in the way of people who actually knew what they were doing.

Dev’s transmission only served to further infuriate Astrid. In his defense, that wasn’t a hard thing to do. She thought of stealing and dismantling that grenade launcher so many times. If he wasn’t bathsit crazy, she’d have tried already. Then again, if that man wasn’t so far off the deep end, they wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place. “No, we can’t. You might think we can, but it’s not going to be you cleaning up your mess. The rats and other scoundrels are perfectly capable of messing this barge up, the last thing we need is an explosives maniac with a happy trigger finger. Hammering this out takes time and I have to sleep and eat too, you know? This time it may be just some lights or some metal plates in the corridor, but what’s next? A high-pressure oxygen tank? Some fuel cells? How about the armory?” How did that man even live to be 33 years old with all ten fingers given this lifestyle?
The engineer’s job wasn’t too demanding, largely due to the Monroe’s top shape, courtesy of government care. What plagued Astrid the most was the constant tension. Sure, nothing was broken now, but what would the next few minutes bring? She had already nearly died stranded in a nebula once, so when the order came to leave their posts, she didn’t have any intent of doing so, but changed her mind when a long yawn reminded her just how long this has been going on. Picking herself up, she scanned the engineering with her gaze to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be and made her way to her spartan quarters.

Upon reaching her cabin, she set her helmet down on her desk and more or less collapsed onto her bed, not bothering with taking off her armor, or boots for that matter. Minutes after, she was already out.

A strange voice from the public address system tore her away from her dreams. At first, she thought the PA speaker in her room was spazzing out. “Was zum Teufel?” she groaned, sitting up upon realizing it was English. Unfriendly English. Getting out of the bed, she leaned over the desk to reach for her helmet, only to be knocked onto it by an impact followed by a boarding alert. Sliding the helmet onto her head, she reached for the Diamondback, checking its functionality and put in a fresh magazine. It snapped into place with a quiet, reassuring click. As if the rifle was saying ‘I’ve got your back’.

According to reports, the Ulnar were already in the cargo bay, being dealt with by several crewmen. No point going there. The CIC was still under Marauder control with reinforcements on the way, and the bulkhead could hold a few pests for some time. That covered two out of three areas necessary to capture a ship, leaving just engineering. She was the grease queen and no filthy rat was going to mess with her domain. Rushing out of her quarters, Astrid locked the door and bolted toward the stern, soon coming upon a lone rodent messing with a door. Confirming he was alone, she took aim and fired two shots, one could never be sure. Approaching the door, she stepped over the corpse and growled in displeasure. The rat tried to open a locked door, frying the panel in the process. Cursing, she made a mental note to remember that door and turned around, forced to take a detour around the ship.

As she moved through the corridors closer to the cockpit, a faint squeal hit her ears. Screaming? No, too high-pitched. High pitched… “Oh, he didn’t.” she uttered as the realization struck her. Who in their right mind would use a grenade launcher in CQB anyway? Oh, right, that man was everything but right in the head. Another mental note to herself later, she was on her way to the engineering again.
CNCV Midnight, Vega - Beta Aquilae node

Now this was something new to Runa - meeting a species in an active warzone while at a state of war with yet another species whose 16 cruisers were still in the system. The men and women under Admiral Zorea’s command managed to hunt down four of the enemy cruisers, capturing two dozen-odd Vasudans and forcing the remaining cruisers to seek the safety of the asteroid belt, where they were hidden to most forms of conventional detection, within one day. Granted, it wasn’t a fair fight for the PVE crews.

Compared to meeting the Faira aboard the semi-complete Alchemist, she was put on a Lancer fleet Corvette and outfitted with armor of her own. It was decided the Midnight would hold the talks with this new species due to similar atmospheric demands, the Narix atmosphere having only 2% more oxygen than these ‘Terrans’ needed. Quite a weird name. The mud people of planet Soil, who in their right mind would name their homeworld ‘Earth’? Now that she was wearing more protection than a trench coat, she was actually looking forward to it. It was only a matter of time before the Terran envoy arrived.

As this was a warzone, Admiral Libra was for once not called to service, no doubt because the first contact was far from so uncertain as when the Faira have met the Narix. With the Terrans all receptive and a common enemy, this meeting was more about hammering the details of an alliance rather than a race to maintain neutrality and perhaps opening trade. As such, and having already pushed the Terran into doing her will once before with a mix of logic and intimidation, Admiral Cygnus was selected to talk on their part. “Ambassador, nice to see you again. How are things at home? Do we have any directions from the Council? The Admiralty is now unanimously backing a fight, although we are split on what to do, whether we should defeat the Vasudans into submission or into extinction.”

“Likewise, admiral. Lindros is coming along nicely, they are just about ready to start the first reactor of the power plant and flood damage in Ernoma is almost fixed. The Council has decided the best course of action would be to neutralize their military, put our boot on their throat and keep it there. Thralls are useful, corpses are not. Some protesters mentioned acting like the Relics, only to be promptly told to stuff it, since the Vasudans fired first. The revelation of their religious leanings is troubling, but this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve forcefully reeducated a nation. I heard you’ve managed to rack up an impressive tally already, including live captives and the leader of their fleet. Congratulations. They’re scheduled to be taken to New Frontier for a public trial. One for the history books. What can you tell me about these Terrans, anything we could use in the talks?”

“Not much. We have captured one of the Aten class cruisers intact and are working day and night on getting what intel we can from it, both Vasudan and Terran moves. The terrans, from what limited sample I met, seem like proud people, intelligent, if a bit egoistical, not knowing their strength or place. Optimistic and opportunistic. The navigational data has revealed that the fourth jump node out of Vega leads to a system where they intend to fund more than the one colony they already have there. It is thus likely they will downright lay claim to Vega. The admiralty is of the opúinion that we should well let them, for the small price of free movement through their systems, so we can gain new territories elsewhere, even if far detached from our own.” The admiral informed.

“Agreed, it’s not like there’s much use to this system anyway. We might be able to use their ego against them. That and our rescue of their destroyer, that must’ve blown a hole in their pride. I trust you will handle the military side of the talks?”

Just then, two Terran cruisers arrived. “This is the GTC Ravage to Confederate vessel, we are carrying the GTA diplomatic mission. Proceed to the Neptune’s port side docking port when ready, the delegates will then transfer to you.”

The Terran delegation was led by an elderly lady with the personality of a belt sander, who was not at all impressed by the Privateer’s layout. The airlocks led straight to the storage bays that stretched 300 meters from bow to midship, directly adjacent to the crew section. One of the breakrooms was cleared out, fitted with a large table and had its gravity lowered to Earth standard. By examining the food package given to Astra, they were able to determine what kinds of food the Terrans could safely eat, and a shipment of high-grade supplies was sent to the Midnight, only to have 90% of it marked as ‘spoiled’ by the ship’s quartermaster and stowed out of sight, leading to good crew morale and giving Runa something to laugh about.

“Good evening.” Runa started the introductions, “Please have a seat. I am Ambassador Taranis, this is admiral Cygnus.”

“Secretary General Sigrid Schreiber, shall we dispense with the introductions and get to it?”

“Yes, let’s, before the Vasudans decide that it is a good tactic to use their cruisers as relativistic kill vehicles.” Cygnus said, the two belt sanders coming to grind against each other. “I understand that one of your systems is neighboring the enemy capital. Do you have sufficient forces to hold the node, Secretary General?”

“Admiral Errinwright might have overcalculated, but that is a rare exception among our fleet commanders. The Vasudans haven’t broken through for fourteen years, though they’ve tried, they have much bigger worries elsewhere. The Typhon-class hasn’t been sighted before, leading me to believe it is a new type of ship. Your men might be responsible for the destruction of the sole vessel of this class. I would like to know whether there are other, perhaps yet unexplored nodes in your territory, nodes that could potentially allow us to strike deep in Vasudan territory where they don’t expect it?”

“And yet, neither were you able to break through to them. While I will admit it is a testament to the strength of your economy and the will of your people that your civilization have not bankrupted and your peoples revolted yet, a fourteen year old stalemate is just that: A stalemate. From what I understand, a very bloody and costly one.” Cygnus said in a level voice. “And I would hate to think that this new class of ship could break this stalemate in the advantage of autocratic evangelizing zealots.”

“Having spent several years scanning every system in detail, we can assure you that not only is our branch of the galaxy is not connected anywhere else, it is also a dead end. However, before we talk about taking the fight to the Vasudans, shall we ensure first that there are no accidents between our forces?”

“We are distributing the ship silhouettes you’ve provided to admiral Errinwright throughout our fleets.” she gestured at one of her companions, who handed Cygnus a drive the size of a football. “With the information we’ve learned from your drive, we’ve taken the liberty to convert these to your data standard, you can thank us later. After the Vasudan incident, our people are wary of aliens, but they’ll welcome a helping hand, as long as coming to an agreement with you isn’t half the battle. But now that we know about it, Errinwright’s mistake will not be repeated. I assume saying ‘hello’ in a slightly wrong way won’t spark a war with you?”

Giving a half-smile, Cygnus conceded a little: “No, I believe we are beyond that point. As well, it is logical to ally against the Vasudans. We want to give your attention to what comes afterwards. As I have shared, we are subspace-locked in our current systems. Before the Confederation was formed, my people and the Narix have developed this system for exploration and frictionless expansion of our peoples. It is our hope that you would be open to agreeing to function on a similar model.” Cygnus presented, displaying the visualization of the basic workings of the former Alliance, with the freedom of movement alongside the selected navigational ‘highways’ highlighted.

“We will happily talk about this following the Vasudan’s defeat. Until then, there is no reason for your presence in our systems, much like there’s no point for us to move through your systems if they are truly isolated. As for seized Vasudan systems, it’s best to treat them as jointly captured until the war ends. After the wars end, we can talk of further exploration and this system appears feasible. I am more interested in what you can bring to the table, or shall I say ‘War room’?”

“The fleets currently present in Vega are two of our attack fleets, and two of our exploration fleets that can be used in offense operations if need be. It seems that even in power saving mode of operation, our ships are capable of overpowering Vasudan equivalents one on one. That said, we were rather taken aback at how many destroyer class vessels the Vasudans were capable of fielding on moment’s notice. It suggests they have vast numbers on their disposal, although I believe you would be able to give us better number than we can guess?”

“At this time, we are aware of thirteen Vasudan destroyers of the Pharaoh class, seven of which are accounted for. Well, make that ten and four after yesterday. Their homeworld is two jumps away, of course they’ll have a large number of ships on station, and both Sirius and Deneb systems are important to the PVE, Deneb houses a large colony and medical stations and Sirius is half refinery, half repair yard. The only reason Sirius is still standing is the zealous fanaticism of the Vasudans. Perhaps the best example of their misguided barbarism is the destruction of the GTD Goliath by suicide attacks. If we could break through Deneb, we could strike at their medical facilities, cripple their fleet yards at Sirius and that would be the end of them.”

“I would forego any attempts at invasion until we are ready for one decisive strike. The NFC is not interested in a drawn out campaign, much less when far greater threats than the Vasudans exist in the universe. There is a project in the works back home that will be ready for deployment in about two years, that will make smashing any blockade the Vasudans can pose much easier and less costly.” Cygnus said, thinking of the Halcyon.

Being simpler in design from the get go and integrating much less Relic and Ancient technology, the Narix superdestroyer would actually be finished earlier than the Singularity. Just as well, since it was made to engage from broadsides, whereas the Faira ship was forward oriented. In-system, the Halcyon was more suited for defense and the Singularity could crush anything on the attack, but where node taking was concerned, it was the exact opposite. The Singularity could focus enough firepower on a node to destroy anything coming through, and the Halcyon was able to go through and then engage multiple blockading ships easily.

“But, until then, we could hamper their fleetbuilding process with hit and run strikes on their infrastructure. A tactical bomber wing should be able to run the blockade and proceed into the system. Faira pilots can then easily wait out the months it would take for the opportunity to return to arise.” The Vanguard’s admiral noted.

“Interesting proposal.” The human delegate scratched her chin, “How about this: We organize a little military exercise - your bombers attacking one of our cruisers set to be scrapped, then our bombers do the same. Then we decide what ships would be used for these harassing attacks AND it would let our pilots work together to see how it works. How does that sound to you?” the secretary general proposed “But you mentioned ‘greater threats’. What did you mean by that? Rogue elements of your nation? Or have you encountered more aliens?”

Runa summoned a holographic image of an Ancient, quickly becoming fond of the technology. Perhaps she should’ve warned the Terrans first, as some of them, quite understandably, jumped in their seats at the sight. “We had a few run-ins.” as she spoke, the projection cycled through the known Ancient ships, ending with the footage the Curious captured at the Beetle, especially focused on the Lilith. “Now our fleets have scored several victories, leading to what we believe to be the eradication of these aliens in our systems. But that is not to say there are no more around. Their destroyer managed to remain hidden from detection for months all the way until they deployed it. I suggest you thoroughly sweep your home system.” Getting an idea, she found the gun camera footage of the Claymore wing when it disabled the Demon. “What can your bombers do? This is the firepower the Confederation can provide.”

“The firepower of the Muon is not it’s main advantage though. The craft can accelerate to a kilometer per second in less than ten seconds, meaning that it can avoid all fire on the other side of the node until it can safely jump out. No other strikecraft we possess stands a higher chance of carrying this mission out. That said, the weapon you saw it deploy is the hypervelocity cannon, which is actually it’s primary means of engagement, requiring little in logistical support unlike conventional bombers relying on torpedoes. They can carry six a piece of those as well though, if needed.” Cygnus jumped in, filling them on the details. From what she saw on the Eisenhower and how well they fared in the battle with the Typhon, that alone stood a good chance of the Muon being the go-to craft, unless the Terrans had something hidden elsewhere.

That demonstration seemed to have put a finer belt onto the sander. “Yes… It would appear this Muon is best suited for this. You wouldn’t happen to have the drive signatures of these alien vessels available to you, would you?”

“We do, as well as multiple cannon signatures, just in case you found some alien wreckage and didn’t know who wrecked it. Chances are good it was the Ancients… Have you?” Cygnus fished, as she prepared the files to send over.

Schreiber remained silent, merely shaking her head. The GTI will want to see this, especially the R&D branch. “This will certainly help in our search. When can these bombers be deployed, and how many? The sooner the Vasudans are tied up, the sooner we can send some ships from patrol duties to sweep the systems.”

“I imagine a wing of three could be sent out as soon as the pilots volunteer. It will take some time to find a couple that would be willing to stay behind enemy lines for over twenty months and be ruthlessly engaging any target of opportunity regardless of the number of lives they take. I’d also equip them with the strongest torpedo we can shoehorn in, just in case the vasudan anti-fighter systems on some targets could keep up with the speed. I don’t think more would be needed, depending on how much intel you can supply on the potential targets. In that case, I’d send three wings, one pilot and two AI controlled bombers each.” Cygnus elaborated on her plan. Guerrilla warfare was not fought with armies.

“Very well, I will convey this to the GTA security council. Have you received the signatures of known Vasudan ships?”

“We have gotten them from the Aten we captured.” Cygnus nodded, “Although we do not know if they are complete, so I suggest we let our intelligence people compare notes. We can also bring them up to speed on the Ancients. If that’s is all for Military matters, I will let the Ambassador do the rest of the talking.”

“In that case, I’ll be happy to talk. My name is John Blunt, speaker of the General Assembly for the Sol system.” A man from Schreiber’s group introduced himself.

“Very well. While we have our own reasons to want to see Vasuda Prime burn, all of these talks will be for nought if we can’t agree on a lasting non-aggression pact. We have already proposed a post-war system of travel through each other’s territories, one the secretary general agreed to, but that is just a small part of it. For obvious reasons, mutual defense is out of the question for the time being outside of the Vasudan War. On another note, fourteen years of war couldn’t have taken kindly to your economy. Although we have several large construction projects in the works, I’m sure we could bring useful resources to the table, provided your side has something in return.”

“Yest, the proposed system should be more or less acceptable as is, once the proper infrastructure is in place. Since you are locked in your region of space, I imagine we would have to come to some form of agreement on dividing any newly explored systems between us sooner or later or we’ll inevitably find ourselves in another war, am I correct?” the speaker said bluntly.

“Pretty much, and we’ve seen how our ships fare compared to your standards.” Runa commented, “As far as dividing new systems, that would apply to jointly discovered and explored systems. Otherwise, it’s finders-keepers, though trading systems for other systems or resources is on the table. At least the uninhabited ones if morality is a concern.”

“I would prefer to find none, nonsentient, primitive and susceptible and fully evolved inhabitants anywhere, in that order. After the Vasudans… Let us just say we are all very glad and relieved your views on matters align better with ours than theirs. Hopefully we’ll be finding a whole lot of empty systems. Regarding exploration though… What methods do you use to search for jump nodes? It takes us years to fully chart a system. I am a bit worried about possible entry points for these Ancients, as you call them.” Blunt inquired.

Somehow Runa had a feeling the Terrans didn’t need to know about the Faira mindspace capabilities. Not until much later. Fortunately, it looked like none of these people even knew the Ancients existed, which meant they had a bit more time. It also meant there was a friendly, reasonable buffer to one side and a hostile, fanatical one to the other.

“They may not even need entry points, they may already be in your systems. Detection varies from system to system. Some we can detect across an entire system, and some have evaded our attention until a few months ago despite being located in our home system.” She made a reference to the Naris - Transfer node, although that was an exception worth its own chapter, “The system itself also plays a huge role. As for the practical realisation of node detection, it involves the Scout Fleet, their corvettes and patience. Although there are ways of predicting where a node is likely to be, it’s still a coin toss whether it’s actually there.”

“Yes, our boffins are still puzzled about it as well, more or less. We have been missing nodes left and right, discovering them fifteen years after we colonized the system and moved on to another behind it. Then there was Talania. A system so rich that if we didn’t before, the Vasudans and us would have likely gone to war over it. Three garden words.Only after we moved in three fleets we noticed that the nodes were getting weaker. Turned out they were phasing, about 200 years stable, 500 years almost nonexistent repeating cycle. It was the only cease-fire during the war, when both us and the Zods joined forces to get everybody out before the nodes shut down. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.” The speaker summarized.

“Which only means that those Ancients can show up at any time in any place without warning. You aren’t giving me a whole lot of good news to bring home, Ambassador.” he sighed, “Back on track though-” he said, knowing now that he said it out loud that there probably was no point in inviting the NFC to help them scan their systems, “I do not know how much you were able to ascertain from the captured Aten, but our territory is rather vast - we do not have much need for any resources, not ones we know of though - whether you have some exotic materials in your part of space that our science didn’t describe yet, that remains to be seen and is potentially worthy to look at. We are more interested in some of the technologies you posses, but before we talk trade, alliance or anything beyond this one war, I would like to know who it is I am negotiating with. If you wouldn’t mind enlightening me to your nation’s history and philosophies?”

“Do you want the long answer, the compressed version, or the one propagandists would tell you?” Runa asked with a great deal of sarcasm. “We are two nations united: The Narix Republic and the Exiles of Faira. A democratic republic forged by a prolonged war and a military nation born of necessity respectively. We have encountered each other as we left our homes for the first time, quickly finding common ground and forming a loose alliance. It was the Faira knowledge of the Ancients existence and later encounters with them that pushed us to unification, giving birth to the Confederation you see today. As you may have noticed based on the fact the Cydonia’s survivors have been returned and not dissected for research purposes, we prefer a meeting to a sword, although as the Vasudans have learned, aren’t afraid to take up arms against anyone who would threaten us. Neither of our species has any religions at this time. If that doesn’t cover it, ask away. If it does, I’d like to know more about your alliance as well.”

“Your nations are… united? I mean, your individual nations, not the Confederation as a whole. That is interesting. The Galactic Terran Alliance is just that: An alliance of independent systems, and our homeworld, unlike the other planets and systems, is to this day divided between over a hundred nations, although they have one voice in the assembly. We have had many differences, and like you, have waged many wars between ourselves. Sometimes over reasons constructed by maniacs. I am not certain whether religious wars fit into that category, but they are nonews to us either.” Blunt shared. “How did the Faira come to know about the Ancients prior to any encounter with them?”

“Yes, our unification was in part made possible by the violent eradication of any religion from our society almost 1400 years prior to the Republic’s creation. What is the religious situation like among your kind?” She touched a sensitive topic. “As for the Ancient contact, I was referring to our first contact with them, as in seeing what they can do first hand. It’s one thing being told by your allies that they’d found some advanced debris a while back, it’s another being jumped by three ships while exploring a dead end system. Speaking of contact,” she summoned a projection of the strange probe the then-NSS Privateer and the ECR Durable found when first charting Naris, “Does this look familiar to you?”

“How?” Blunt said, pulling up an image of the Voyager in pristine condition off of the Extranet, “It’s ours alright, but it shouldn’t have been anywhere that far! What the hell happened to it?” he wondered aloud. “Well, I suppose our boffins would like to have a look at it, maybe something can be salvaged from it’s recording equipment. Back to your question though, I doubt we could get a count, but there are four dominant religions on Earth, only one of them mildly violent. You can imagine, that religions take a big hit once you reach into space and find no evidence of it. Most people nowadays keep them as a moral code more than anything, and we value the freedom of choice in the matter.” Blunt was a little bit disturbed by the fact that the Narix disposed of religion violently, that could probably cause problems somewhere down the line, once somebody would inevitably try to convert some of them. “What happened to the Faira that forced them into a military existence? You mentioned they called themselves Exiles?”

“Sadly, the probe seems to have passed through a dust cloud or a nebula, causing surface damage. Last I heard it was taken to a secure lab in my home system, but I do not know what became of it.”

“Mildly violent? And you tolerate them?” Damn, these people were stupid. “Where do you stand on the matter?” she posed a question of personal importance. “We will of course respect your decisions as long as you respect ours. But I will advise against sending emissaries to us, enough blood has been spilled over make-believe nonsense as it is. I would also like to be sent copies of whatever sacred texts these religions claim to follow.” Mr. Blunt probably wouldn’t be happy to know the Narix safety board would fill the shoes of the Spanish Inquisition.

“Firstly, don’t confuse a Faira exile and a Narix exile. Every Faira would call themselves an exile, whereas Narix exiles are criminals condemned to life outside of our society. It is also considered a grave insult among my people. I believe that question is best left for a Faira to answer anyway, as that is something only related to them.”

“Very well. The texts I can download for you from the net, although to put your mind at ease, no one sent an emissary anywhere in hundreds of years. These days, you have to go to a church, mosque, temple or what have you to sign up, if you can find one. Why do we allow for that religion to exist? About hundred thousand people follow it, and only few percent are the violent sort. It is easy to keep an eye on them, and every generation there is less of them, as the new generations do not take easily to those concepts. We give religions a few more hundred years to disappear completely. About 98% of our population is atheist, although phrases originally referring to a religion have been accepted into the common way of speaking, such as calling for god when a person is emotionally distressed. You should make nothing of it. Myself, I was born into a religious family, but like most of the children in my age, I just see nothing in it. I found that a money transfer gets a lot more done than a prayer.” he smiled. “Put your mind at ease though, the jump node to your systems will be well off-limits to our civilian traffic probably even after the whole Vasudan situation is solved. Your idea of a transfer station to act as customs and meeting point would work well.”
Hello. Although the Engineer's spot is marked as "reserved", The person who reserved it hasn't posted here since. I have therefore contacted them, asking if they were still interested and got a negative answer. Hence, here's another criminal to the group:

Historical archive

2182 / I - Narix ship classes and designations unified with the Faira to CNX (Corvette -> Cruiser, Frigate -> Corvette, Cruiser -> Frigate).
2182 / I - Narix fleets redesignated (First - Defender, Second - Lancer, Third - Inventor, Fourth - Worker, Fifth - Scout)
2182 / IV - All capital ships of the Strike fleet as well as replacement for the CFFG Curious complete.
2182 / IV - All of Scout Fleet’s Guardians retired and replaced by six Privateer-class corvettes.
2186 / I - Transfer’Juno and Exodus’Erea complete. Construction of Exodus’Dea harbor ship started. Faira resource stocks nearing depletion. Safety stocks defined, putting the completion of the harbor ship as far as 2189 / VII.
2186 / II - Transfer’Juno operational. Lancer Fleet relocated to Transfer.

Transfer outbound node

The years dragged on. Far someone with infinite lifespan, Cygnus was a Faira of little patience. The lack of will to move forward without a proper base in their backs was a nightmare, and Vanguard fleet was left with a patrol duty in Transfer and Garden. Well no more Sola! she thought bitterly at the thought of her main opponent. Before, there were three proponents in herself, Astra and Libra, with the opposition to progress being the civilian admirals with a single vote and Sola. Now that each civilian ship had its own vote, Libra cleverly using the Confederation talks to push her own agenda, they were six to four against. Only Merkur wanted to go forth.

Finally, the time came to go through, to see what was hiding beyond Transfer. With the ‘Juno station behind them that could take out a fleet coming through the node to the Unknown on its own, the conservatives’ main argument was removed, and Vanguard and Scout were lining up to make the trek. This time, they were going through as one, with Strike and Lancer ready to come and break everything in their path that would want to do them harm, be it Relics or Ancients. Astra was eager to see how the XD-5 compared to a Meteor, and while in their cores they knew no war was better than the other option, they were going into the unknown without fear, possibly for the first time.

“CFD Explorer to CNFG Latanos, all Vanguard ships are ready at your call.” The two exploration fleets have made it an unwritten law to trade command of the expeditions every now and then, and right now it was Captain Ascari’s turn at the helm, despite their ranking.

“Explorer, Latanos. Engaging drives in twenty seconds.” The rank, ship and fleet reforms have initially made quite a mess of things, but the new designation suited the ship. “Stay close together upon completing the jump should we run into rocks again.”

Unknown system

The fleet emerged on the outer edge of the system, alone in the void of empty space. In the distance and below them was a lone, bluish-white star.

“Decent call on the defensive formation. Massive debris disk between us and the star. No planets as far as astrogation can see.”

“That’s not the worst of it, Latanos.” Linsis called from the Crossbow, “Thermal signatures near the inner edge of the debris disc, about seventy degrees shifted. Captain Farsa, if you would?”

“Confirmed, it’s quite a bloom. Astrogation can’t get a decent look, the debris is blocking their view. Oracles are our only option here.”

The captain wasted no time getting to work. But unlike previously, she seemed to remain in her trance for long agonizing minutes. “I believe there are ships in the system other than our own. It is hard to even distinguish the gravitational anomaly among the rubble, but the rubble is on orbit. Some of the contacts change their trajectory far too often to be doing that under the power of gravity of the other objects alone.” She remained silent for a while then, before emerging from the trance. “I can not distinguish it as any known class. Potential first contact.” she reported.

“Another?! Faira, Ancients, Relics, now this, all under ten years, how?” Though there was nothing else that could explain the heat sources, Linsis in part still refused to believe it. “Latanos, shall we investigate? We can jump to an orbit with a smaller radius to keep our distance, give us time to act if they end up hostile.”

“I think we should wait, see if they noticed us. We may be in a system they consider their own. If they come to hail us, we’ll proceed to standard procedure. If they are oblivious of us and they vacate that area, we should go have a look. Other than that, send a message to the Admiral, notify her of the possibility, and tell her to send in the first logistics package for node defense. Whether the unknowns turn out to be friendly or hostile, we will want to fortify the node. Speaking of which…” Captain Ascari decided.

“There are three nodes other than which we came through leading from this system. Our understanding of Mindspace goes out the window with this. Honestly, other than calming the dimension down, gravity might as well not be related at all to the jump node formation.” Farsa grunted.

“Captain Zana, send the message please. Latanos, when you first jumped to Opportunity, the first thing you did upon noticing what was later revealed to be the Curious group was jump to a position that would give you a clear view of them. What’s different today? If we jump outside of the debris field in plain sight, I don’t think anyone would take it as hostile action, and even if, we’d be able to hold long enough to scram. And if there is a hostile species on this system, the sooner we know, the better.”

“It was more of both the Rear admiral and us noticing the other and inching closer to each other. These people, assuming that’s what they are, do not seem to know or be interested in us, that’s what is different. But, very well. Do you have a Muon on board? A bomber sensor suite will give us detailed enough readings of whatever is out there, and the Muon is fast enough to escape should it be fired upon.” Ascari retorted.

Linsis thought about the roster for a second before responding. “Yes, we do. We could sortie a pair flown by AI to get a short look with passive sensors and get back quickly. No contact yet, but no hiding either, does that sound right to you?”

“Authorized. If they notice and track them back to us, at least we will have the contact.” Ascari noted.

Just as the Muons were leaving, Farsa reported a jump distortion and vectored the unknown ships to one of the jump nodes. What the Muons found was a debris field, some of it still hot according to the sensors. “So… folks are either doing a military exercise, or they are not friendly at all. Sensors, can you investigate further?” Ascari inquired.

“Not without a closer look. The visual feed from the Muons shows debris that might belong to two species, but without detailed scan…”

“Very well, let us go have a look. Crossbow, follow us through. We’ll recover the debris faster if we have two hangars on site.”

“Right behind you, Latanos. Captain Tausi, you know our destination. All hands brace for jump.” The horn sounded and the ship left the node where the second wave was due to arrive soon and set up a resupply depot.

Unknown system, Investigation site

“Whatever happened here?” The hologram showed the general shape and positions of the debris, both natural and artificial. “Keep an eye on the shield. Squadron leader Endera, start getting ships out to secure the wreckage. If anyone’s willing to help and jump some smaller bits on board, they’re welcome.” He turned to his XO. “Can’t wait to see rear admiral Astra’s reaction when she hears of this.”

“Bodies.” Ascari radioed over, “Vented into space, bad way to go. Look at them though, so… disproportionate. I mean, we shouldn’t be surprised at slightly differing biped after meeting the Ancients, but still.”

“There is the other species, or what is left of the specimen…” Euris noted, pinging a frozen corpse missing some appendages on the screen. “Should we… recover them? And for study, or for burial?” She proposed an ethical question.

“Take only debris that doesn’t contain any large masses of organic material, and put them under quarantine. We do not know what kind of-”

“Captain! Destroyer-size signature just came through one of the nodes!” the Oracle shouted out of a sudden, “Oh stars! Smaller jump signatures, vectoring them ot the Transfer node and here!”

“Get a message to the Admiral, tell her she might have incoming! Recover all craft and head back to the node! Warm up the guns!” the Captain ordered.

"It's only painful for ten, twenty seconds, then it knocks you out. That's why you wear vac suits." Too soon perhaps, but true nonetheless. Then the destroyer appeared and it occurred to Linsis maybe it was a good thing his crew had them. Very few craft had made it out of the hangars and most were already back. “Helm, jump in forty seconds.”

Back at the node...

The commander was at a loss for words. He could clearly see debris of several cargo pods, at least two Plunderers and what appeared to be the gutted remains of a Nebula. An almost undamaged Swarmer turret could be seen, but the ship it belonged to was nowhere in sight.

“Get on the line with the Admiral.” he finally hissed through his teeth. “Now they’ve done it. Start picking up the debris, maybe there’s something to be learned from it. Captain Farsa, any survivors at all? Anyone?”

“I… Negative. No mindspace signals other than our own. That… that was the CFCR Ascension… Engineering reports that the damage is consistent with nuclear blasts. Somebody bombed our ships, probably before they could raise the shields. They must have jumped right on top of them.” The Oracle said, her face twisted in a mixture of sadness and anger.

Moments later, the Explorer came through the node. “Captain Ascari, I want the jump navigation to the unknown Destroyer. Please oversee the recovery efforts. Strike fleet has been notified and the Warrior is on the way. We will hold the fort and gather intelligence while they hunt down whoever did this.” Cygnus said, her tone dark.

“Warpick 2 here,” one of the Plunderers called, “We’ve found debris of a Guardian, nameplate says CNCR Acria, several charred bodies in space, commencing retrieval.”

“Sensors, oracle, do we know anything about the enemy other than their subspace paths?” Ascari asked, sending the requested data to the Explorer. “We’re clearing refrigerated storage to recover the bodies. What of Lancer Fleet, are they holding the Transfer side of the corridor?”

“Admiral, I assume the Crossbow is to rejoin the Strike Fleet once they arrive?” Linsis inquired, thankful he didn’t know anyone aboard the unfortunate ships. “Is it better or worse these are not the Ancients? At least with them you expect it. Are we the only damn races in this galaxy that don’t want to be the only race in the galaxy, period?” he vented to no one in particular.

They were fighting someone. Perhaps that someone could be a friendly. Until then, stay sharp. They might be just as bad.” The admiral noted, “Lancer is done refueling and is undocking as we speak. They will come through as soon as we vacate the area. Crossbow, I have orders for you from the Rear admiral. You are to jump to the site of the battle and conduct a firing test against the larger chunks of debris. We could use knowing how effective our weapons would be before we pick a fight.”

The Crossbow started to move away from the node to give Vanguard a bit of space. “Squadron leader, prepare a few strike craft to take part in the firing tests, assign rookie pilots and relay the orders for them. Understood, admiral. How much time do we have until the Warrior arrives?”

“They are traveling from Garden, so about half an hour before they get here, forty five minutes before they are ready to engage. Admiral Zorea will likely be ready to engage sooner. I do not know if they intend to wait for Strike. In the meantime - Captain Ascari, we need the bodies of the unknowns studied. I want to know if there is a chemical or biological method of attack. All oracles, stay sharp, watch out for that destroyer - Especially you, Crossbow. They might not take kindly to their graveyard being picked and prodded. Studious group is available for you as reinforcements.”

“We’ll keep that in mind, thank you, we’re heading out now. Shall we pick up more of their dead while we are there?”

“Chief medical officer is about to start autopsy on one of the more intact bodies, the deformed freak one. We will let you know as soon as she is done.” the Latanos reported. “Suffice to say the suit is quite tough to crack, marines will examine and perform penetration tests on it when they get the whole thing off.”

“Burn them all for what I care, Commander. We already have enough, and if not, there will be plenty more. The admiralty has called for war, and I can’t imagine the councilors not agreeing, not after such unprovoked aggression.” Cygnus called over, her anger getting the better of her.

Meanwhile on the Vasudan ship, PVD Typhon

“Battlemaster, the flight has returned. The depot have been neutralized, however, the acolytes report that the defending ships did not look like any Terran or Vasudan ship seen before. They executed standing orders, to clear the system of unauthorized forces.” The flight leader reported to the Ship’s commander.

“Perhaps the Terrans have deployed new classes of ships, or perhaps used an aging design due to shipping shortage. No matter, we shall investigate the wreckage after we secure-”

“Battlemaster!” A technician ran into the debriefing room, “There is much activity around the depot site! An antire fleet has just jumped in, reading one large and several smaller destroyer level signatures! We have pointed subspace sensors in the area for a deep scan, there is an uncharted jump node!”

The battlemaster suddenly looked disturbed. “Launch Capricorn wing, flying Horus interceptors. We need an IFF on the vessels. If the Terrans found a new route into Vega and brought another fleet, we will need to call for reinforcements.” He had a gut feeling though that it would not be the case. And if not, then praise be all the Saints, he hoped they have not just murdered new species.

asudan debris fieldUnknown debris field

“Jump flash, consistent with Narix drive! Four strikecraft, heading on a parallel course. They are attempting to scan us, should we raise shields?” The Crossbow’s sector controller announced. “Visual on TacMap.”

“Yeah, about ten seconds ago, those aren’t ours. Shield up, abort weapons testing, hold fire, interceptors standby. What can you tell me about those ships?” Their appearance was consistent with some of the debris. Three engines, sleek profile, four guns. And a canopy? First weak spot identified, assuming one could land a hit. Their drives seemed to work in a similar manner to their own, which meant both sides likely wouldn’t have any trouble tracking each others jumps. The Faira drives might be an advantage here. No visual cues that would betray a shielding system either. “Do not fire.” he reminded the crew, “I know their crimes, but perhaps no more blood needs to be spilled.”

“The admiral did say ‘burn them’. Although I tend to agree with not aiming at them until they fire at us, I feel I must stress the importance of that weapon test. We will not get another opportunity like this before we actually engage them in battl-” Farsa fell silent, “Nevermind, they just turned tail. I doubt they could get through the shield, although now they might know we have them.” The XO said.

“Cowards. Wipe out a nearly defenseless depot and then hide. Captain Farsa, stay alert. Let’s continue with the weapons tests.” he switched channels. “Explorer, Crossbow, quick update: We’ve just encountered four unknown fighters visually consistent with some of this debris. The unknowns attempted to scan us and ran as soon as we put up our shield. We’re about to begin the weapons tests, out.”

“Same here, four apiece. We’ve mindjumped one into our hangar and shot it full of plasma bolts before it could blast away. The pilot is alive, we’re waiting for rear admiral Astra to conduct the interrogation. One way or the other, they’ll listen to what we have to say. There are plenty of wrathful sorrows that need to be conveyed onto their government. Continue with your test, and stand your ground if that destroyer moves against you. We are but a few seconds away, and ours will not run!” Cygnus shared the developments next to the Node.

If he wasn’t so furious at that moment, he would have applauded the admiral’s tactics. “If it doesn’t talk, I suggest half a bottle of Fersom. And if you decide to get physical, give him a good punch for me. What’s the status of the fighter, anything worth something left of it?”

“Will do, Commander. And no, I don’t think there is anything worth looking at. Lasers and missiles with chemical explosive warheads for weapons, no shield, armor… well, structural really, the Explorer’s crew brought it down with suit mounted weaponry and anti-intruder countermeasures. The foam seems to just be the end-all in these situations, in this case it disabled the engines. We’ll keep you posted if we make a breakthrough. Admiral Zorea will be through any second now.”

As if on cue, Lancer fleet arrived, complete with both of its carriers and several salvage ships. “What do we know, any new developments?” The whole fleet was tense, adopting a loose formation and heading away from the node to let them use their jump drives. Strike craft were fueled and loaded in their launch bays, their pilots sitting around them in full kit. “Strike fleet isn’t far behind. The assembly demands vengeance and as far as I heard, the people agree.”

“We have one of them captured waiting for questioning. Their strikecraft is as weak as our old drones, the Crossbow is about to tell us more about their ships. The destroyer seems to be guarding their node just like we are. Are you waiting for Strike, or do you want to go have a personal word with them immediately?” Cygnus shared and asked.

“Shall send an intelligence officer to help? I’m tempted to go right away, but I’d rather wait for the rear admiral. If they see they’ve pissed off not one, but two species united, they’ll think twice before doing anything stupid. More stupid than they already have, anyway. What do we know about their numbers in this system, aside from the destroyer?”

“Then the officer is unnecessary. We are having trouble deciphering anything from their language on our own, let’s see if the master of gizmos has a better luck with her association probe.” Cygnus admitted. The guttural, grunting sounds the prisoner made were indistinguishable from an angered growling to them, and while they had structure beyond doubt, they couldn’t be sure the sounds were the only component to the alien language.

“Regarding the enemy, there are four cruiser sized vessels accompanying it and judging by the number and speed of several smaller masses around, they have strikecraft escorts deployed. We believe they are still waiting on their logistics, likely until they secured the area.”

“Thank you, admiral, we’ll prepare accordingly.” The first two battlegroups started to reorganize, the first’s carrier joining a different battlegroup, first instead forming around the Ira. Second battlegroup was meant as reinforcements that would stay a bit further away should shots be fired. Such a shame Scout Fleet got priority for new Pivateers because re-equipping it was the cheapest. “Drives - check. Synchronisers - check. Weapons - check. Crew motivation - beyond measure.” Now just wait for Strike fleet and then for some answers.

]Fifteen minutes later

A massive mindspace vortex opened at the node and spewed out the Strike fleet minus Crossbow. “Strike fleet on station. Commander Linsis, I believe you have something for me?” Astra said as soon as the vortex closed behind them. The fleet unfolded from travel formation, the battlegroups splitting up and forming into their attack wedges, with corvettes flanking capital ships and cruisers covering the rears, improving strikecraft protection around the engines.

“Aye, rear admiral, we’ll be but a moment.” a few seconds later, the Crossbow arrived to rejoin her fleet. “We’ve done some homework while waiting for you. I’ll have my master engineer’s report circulated once she’s done picking the debris apart. Unfortunately, the armor of both of these species is tougher than their Ancient counterparts, especially when it comes to strike craft. That being said, they posses no shielding system, leveling the playing field. As for the capital ships, it’s hard determining the sizes of the ships from the debris. The armor itself seems more resilient, but we won’t know for sure unless we get a mostly intact ship for thorough tests. If you’d like we can prepare some intact examples for transport and ship them to you. The Explorer captured one of their fighters mostly intact, but don’t seem too impressed. Their jump signatures match Narix drives, so their FTL mobility might be high.”

“Well done.” Astra said as she reviewed the data that arrived already. “Seems like they use thick, dense plating. Depleted uranium in some areas. Expensive, but effective, the twins and P-5s would have tough time getting through to the subsystems, and even the P-15 beam might not pierce a destroyer armor in one shot. That said, that plating will accumulate heat quickly and spread it all around the ship. The quads might be enough to punch through, depending on the ammo and thickness variation on each ship class. I say our best bet is to go in with a disarm/disable tactic, since they appear to have no shield.” she summarized the findings. “Admiral Zorea, what are the orders? Any word from the council?”

“Rear admiral, how quickly do you think you could decypher enough of their language to let us make contact, assuming you had one live specimen? Because one such is currently located on the Explorer. I suggest we transfer it to the Warrior, letting you see what’s what and than take it with us. Having a living hostage could be useful. Maybe they’ll see we haven’t killed it yet and try to talk.”

“Very well, jump it over, I’ll see what I can do. We have ten minutes to cool down our drives anyway.” Astra noted, instructing her Master of Arms to set up a proper place for holding the VIP hostage. She hoped her probe would work as well as it did with Captain Ascari, but that probe worked on the assumption that there was an electrical nervous system in the organism. And after meeting the Ancients, Astra wasn’t sure that assumption held.

“As far as the assembly is concerned, it’s 11:9 for talking it out. But to quote Councilor Nyx: ‘They better be sorry, or our fleets will make them so.’ The general consensus is first start talking, then figure out what they have of use, then ask for it as reparations. But that all hinges on being able to communicate with them. At the risk of sounding like a tool: rear admiral, peace might be in your hands.”

Many, many hours later…

“I. Give. Up.” Astra growled as she entered the conference room, where Cygnus, Zorea and Ascari were waiting impatiently. “I swear, the prisoner keeps changing dialects every hour or so, and I have no idea what is governing their uses. Long story short, I’d need a year and multiple specimen to comprehend that abysmal unmitigated mess those things use as a language. If their reasoning is as convoluted as the language, they might actually have found a logical explanation for naked aggression against an unknown species.” Astra yelled exasperatedly as she stormed to her seat.

“I’d actually like to hear that thought process common tongue, that is. In Think the alien is doing it on purpose to make your job impossible?” Zoea wondered.

“At least we’re not the only ones who wasted a day.” Ascari sighed, “The aliens haven’t moved either, although we did pick up several signatures coming and going. We suspect they’re supply ships.”

“We could send a really big bomb into the jump node and just cut them from our space. There is another jump node leading out of here after all.” Cygnus spoke up. “We will in time copy the Ring, so we will be able to re-open the node on our terms.”

“I do not believe it is purposeful, would you give your fighter pilots such extensive counterintelligence training to cover fooling alien telepaths?” Astra said doubtfully. “Anyay, the unknowns are fortifying their position at the node, likely as a reaction to our massive traffic. Considering that they were engaged with another species in this system, it is likely that this system is contested, or being invaded by them, and not controlled by them. That lands some credibility to what Admiral Cygnus proposed. Despite our traffic though, they brought no other destroyer, suggesting that they might not have any readily available. We may not wish to close off such a path, and we have no guarantee that we will not encounter them in the future - after all, had the Relics not collapsed the Transfer - Terminus node, there would be looping routes even in our territory.”

“I can’t say, but I wouldn’t have my pilots talk like frequency scrambler radios either.” Zorea shook his head. “For better or worse, the other species doesn’t seem to be present in this system. And with a hostile destroyer around, I don’t like the idea of sending corvettes to look around.”

“Crossbow to Warrior. Captain Farsa seems to think she picked up a faint trace of a ship at the boneyard about two minutes ago, but it’s disappeared before we could confirm it. Oracle from the Longbow confirms this.”

Invidia here, it gets better. Unknown jump window, signature consistent with our drives, but significantly weaker, off our stern, heading towards us at a slow pace, we’re launching two Halberds to take a slow, close look.”

Indeed, a small ship was approaching. The fighters approached slowly, their noses pointed perpendicular to the tiny craft. Upon approaching, the lead fighter turned to face it, illuminating it with his landing lights.

“What’s that? I can see windows and doors on it. The top and bottom seem to have docking rings on them.”

Watching the pilot’s gun camera feed, Zorea got an idea. “We could launch a support Plunderer to dock with it. That will let us keep it away from the fleet in case somebody took notes from rear admiral Astra’s book of breaking node blockades.”

“I’d send an SAR Plunderer instead. If they are battle survivors, they might need help. Also, it is sterile environment and can likely match the atmosphere they require, if any.” Astra noted.

“Maybe the Warrior can launch one of your transports, since we’d be bringing them here anyway? Besides, your holographic interface has already proven itself once when trying to communicate without knowing each other’s language.”

Meanwhile outside the ship, one of the fighters managed to convince the alien craft to come to a halt by parking in front of them.

“I think it might be better to just have them board a cruiser. I can keep myself intact even if that thing is packed with nukes, and also control a cruiser on my own. I’ll make sure they are not a threat and then jump them to a location on the Warrior or Ira, depending on what their needs are. Is that acceptable?”

“Very well. We’ll recall the fighters upon your approach and keep an eye on the destroyer and its group. We will let you know if they do anything shifty. Don’t push your luck out there.”

On the Terran escape pod

Following the destruction of their cruiser, the eight survivors of the GTC Cydonia have been hiding among the debris of the battle under minimal power, hoping they could hold out long enough for the GTD Eisenhower to catch up to their vanguard and retrieve them. That plan took a big hit when a stray piece of rock hit their hull, creating a small leak. Venting atmosphere, they were just weighing their options when the unknown ship arrived. Black as the night and armed with weapons out of sci-fi, the crew watched them shooting random pieces of Terran and Vasudan debris for no apparent reason. It was then the survivors noticed a wing of Horus-class interceptors gunning for the ship. The unknown reacted by forming some sort of barrier around the ship, routing the Vasudans. Facing rapid loss of cabin pressure, the crew decided to try their luck with the aliens, using the Hermes’ limited processing power to vector their jump and follow.

Now, they were among a massive fleet made up of at least six ships that matched the Orion-class in size, flanked by two unknown fighters and being approached by a Fenris-sized ship. “You sure this was the right thing to do?” one of the survivors asked uncertainly. Before anyone could respond, the unknown cruiser stopped and one of the alien fighters shone its floodlights into the open bay. WIth the single-use drive burned out, there was nothing else left to do and when they hesitated, one of the fighters gave them a gentle nudge in that direction.

Once inside, the survivors donned their pressure suits and composed themselves to get out. Opening the straboard door, the highest-ranking among them, an NCO responsible for the Fusion mortar crew, got out slowly.

“Warrior, Nebula. The unknowns are coming out. They are equipped with a pressure suit of their own, although I can see no armoring or shield. The craft they used appears to be a shuttle type craft stripped down of everything unnecessary, my guess is an escape pod. It would match them coming from the debris field. Their craft is shot to hell and actually smoking.” Astra reported over. TIme to make more friends - it couldn’t go worse than it gone with Ascari, could it?

She slowly showing them her hands and turned them over, indicating she held no weapon, while her suit mounted weaponry, plentiful as it was, remained powered down and locked in the suit’s compartments, invisible to the almost naked eye the survivors had.

They were met with a lone alien standing in what could only be described as ‘emergency lighting’. The assumed cargo bay they were in had no air or gravity. Though they still weren’t out of the water yet, at least it was better than being found by the Vasudans. Or was it? After all, the War only started after initial peaceful contact.

The alien than raised its hands, as if surrendering. Or, given the circumstances, indicating it was unarmed. Given the appearance of the alien’s suit, there was no doubt the alien wouldn’t need weapons to kill them all. Which would indicate it didn’t want to kill them, since it hasn’t happened yet. The Chief Petty Officer mimicked the alien’s gesture, followed by the rest of his men.

To drive home the point of diminishing air supply, the CPO resorted to human hand signals - pointing at the pack on his back, the hose connecting it to his helmet, and showed three fingers and a closed fist - thirty minutes. Then pointed at himself and his crew and ran his index finger along his throat. He didn’t even hope the alien would understand, but he simply had no idea what else to do.

The hose was a giveaway, or at least Astra hoped. But how to get an atmosphere composition without actually cutting into those hoses and letting one of the poor saps die? Well, their craft was shown to leak atmosphere before, perhaps some was still in. summoning a control screen and closing the docking port, she waited a few minutes until the hull breaches leaked enough of the atmosphere through into the room to get an analysis. She had her screen display the atmosphere composition in a number of given gas molecules in a ration matching the sample for the aliens to see. Hopefully their chemistry and matter composition theories were the same, otherwise they would just have to take a leap of faith. Astra approached slowly, and then tapped the hose before pointing back to the screen, asking for confirmation.

Holographic screens, fancy. Much to the officer’s disbelief, the alien seemed to have figured it out. The only question was what the multicolored balls the hologram was showing were meant to represent. Before he could figure it out, one of his subordinates understood, pointing at the holographic display with one hand and tapping his air hose with the other at a rapid rate, hopefully conveying the urgency of the matter at hand.

Hoping that was a yes, Astra activated the life support system in the cargo hold with the altered parameters. Once more she could not help but to praise the universe the Faira did not actually need to breathe like these other species had to. Now that she had a look at the aliens, and taking into account the Unknown form the hostile species, either evolution tended to prefer the biped shape, or greater forces were at play. Once again the shadow of the Relics hung over her mind. Were they all scraps of that species the Ancients missed in their crusade against the genocidal species, left to evolve on their own, but with the same base?

Whatever the case, they would figure it out later. Right now, Astra was more concerned with the aliens on her hold living more than a few more minutes. She couldn’T replicate the atmosphere perfectly, and much like the Narix, they would probably find it a bit dry, but hopefully that wouldn’T be too much of a problem. At least the Nebula was a ship with pure Faira crew, so hopefully no contagion form Naris or Garden IV came aboard.

Not perfect, but close enough. With one volunteer taking off his helmet and not displaying any immediate problems, the rest of the crew also ditched their headgear, immediately confronted with the humidity, or lackthereof.

“Sorry, forgot to warn you about that.” the Volunteer apologised.

“You’re shit as canary in the coal mine, you know that?”

Turning their attention back to the alien, a question presented itself: what now? Perhaps an expression of gratitude at having their lives saved was in order? One of the Terrans slowly backed into the escape pod and reemerged shortly after, holding a yellow plastic package covered in black symbols and offered it to Astra.

Meal Ready to Eat

Whatever that was, Astra had it ran through her scanner. Wouldn’t want to put a bomb in her suit’s pocket, would she? The scanner spat out ‘Uncatalogued Narix food item’ on her. Could it be that these people could even eat similar stuff? The universe was getting suspiciously small. Regardless, she had little use for it either as food or anything else, but she took it slowly as a gesture of gratitude, hopefully… maybe?

In any event, she seemed no harm in revealing her face as well, and set her helmet to retract and fold to showing herself to the newcomers. Wanting to hear her speak to show she could communicate with spoken language, she used the time to call over to the Warrior: “Good news, these guys seem to breathe and even eat the same things the Narix do. They also didn’t try to put a plasma bolt in my head yet, or even gouge my eyes out like our other prisoner, so I suppose they are a more reasonable bunch. I am going to attempt using the probe.”

Figuring out exchanging gifts was as an opportunity as any, she took the language probe out of one of her suit compartments and slowly approached the Alien, wrapping the soft material around what would pass for an ear on a Narix. Remembering Ascari’s reaction, she took a few steps back before turning on the screen displaying the images, slowly this time with increasing pace, shield emitters primed just to be sure.

The alien seemed to be wary of the gift presented. Although they realized why, some of them still couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought that the bad reputation of the MREs was galaxy-wide. All chuckles subsided when the alien removed its helmet and, after talking to someone in a bizzare, almost childlike tone, produced a gift of its own.

A series of images appeared in front of the group, showing seemingly random images at an increasing rate, leaving the Terran crew mildly confused as to what just happened. Lacking Ascari’s intelligence background, knowledge critical to the defense of their species and perhaps most importantly his lack of trust, the officer’s reaction was merely a confused glance at the alien, no doubt this would be something Ascari’s detractors across both Confederate species would share a few hearty laughs over.

“Survival - check, gifts - sorted, confusing alien device - check, what now sir?” one of the crew asked. “Think they’d let us call the Eisenhower? Wishful thinking for even compatible communications, eh?”

“Actually, that has been solved.” Astra said, speaking somewhat broken english, a language all of the new aliens seemed to share, although she got another one supposedly called Russian. First multiple dialects, and now multiple languages altogether? What madhouse was this galaxy? “Can you understand me?” She hoped the improved image set for quicker translation was paying out.

The terrans were stunned. “H...How? It took us years to sort out basic Vasudan language. Even learning german took years, I don’t...” the confused Terran officer trailed off. It would appear the confusion was now complete. Somewhat recovering, the officer pointed to the translation device. “Who re you, and what is this?”

“A device that lets me associate impulses of your nervous system to the images you see. It allows me to learn your language on a fast rate. I am rear admiral Astra of the Narix-Faira Confederation. You are aboard the Faira cruiser Nebula. Do you require medical attention?” she asked first, before she went on intelligence gathering spree. After Ascari, Libra had taken it upon herself to drill into her the first contact protocols. Hard.

“No, but a dozen more minutes without air and it would’ve been a different story. I’m Chief Petty Officer Artyom Novikov, Galactic Terran Alliance. Once again, you have our thanks. Where did you come from all of a sudden? We had no idea there even was a node here.”

“There is, but before I say anymore - What is your situation? We are a peaceful people, but we will not hesitate to wipe out anyone who threatens us. The other species in this system has already made that mistake and the hammer will fall on them hard. Can you contact your people and tell them not to engage any ship on these coordinates? We want no… incidents.” the Faira hissed.

“We’ve been at war with those damn freaks for fourteen years.” one of the Terrans said dryly, as if tired. “At this point, we only welcome any semblance of peace. But if you intend to tussle with them, beware. They’ve fielded a new type of ship, one we haven’t seen before. About two thousand meters across, it swept through us and our escorts like we weren’t even there. But with this fleet, I doubt you will have any problems.” He withheld the fact the Eisenhower was coming. Just because the seemingly friendly alien said something didn’t make it true. “Just be careful around them. They attacked us over a botched welcoming ceremony, there’s no reasoning with these people.”

“While I hope you understand our wanting of the story from the second side, it is in my power to grant you asylum for the time being. Would you object to moving to my flagship? My engineers can work on contacting your nation form there. I imagine you and I both have burning questions that we want answered as well. First thing though - you obviously deciphered their strange language. It would be greatly appreciated if you could provide us with a translation matrix.”

“What we know has gone to hell along with the Cydonia and the rest of our group. But if you get us home and make a good impression, I’m certain the assembly will gladly let you sort through that mess. Since they’ve been quite keen on killing us on sight, we haven’t bothered to mount translators on escape pods. They usually don’t last long.”

“Very well.” Astra said and the scene around them shifted, confusing the brain out of the Terrans, as Astra jumped them to the Warrior’s briefing room, homing in on Cygnus. “Gentlemen, Admiral Zorea of the Narix Lancer fleet, Captain Ascari of the Narix Scout fleet, and Admiral Cygnus of the Faira Vanguard fleet. Admirals, Captain, Chief Petty Officer Novikov and his crew, Galactic Terran Alliance. I have uploaded their translation matrix into the FleetNet. They require a transport home to facilitate contact with their government. Can the Explorer arrange that?”

“I will take your people to the node, Chief. Do you have any way to ensure we are not shot on sight after we emerge from the node? Short of attempting to repair your ship, we have nothing that would survive much punishment and is unarmed. I will not send my people in in those odds, I hope you understand.”

Recovering from the shock took a while. The unexpected, albeit weak, pull of gravity caused a few to lose their footing.

“The sole problem with the Hermes is the hull breach. We don’t know where it is, bud judging by the loss of air, it shouldn’t be hard to repair. But that’s not necessary anyway, we can contact our ships from your hangar. I suggest we make haste, the longer you harbor us, the more likely it is the Zods will assume you are allied to us and come after you.”

“Let them. They only need to change two out of twenty votes to have a war declared on them. You have been granted asylum for the duration of your stay. If these brutes are not civilized enough to recognize that, or idiotic enough to fire on an overwhelming force, they deserve what they have coming. This way, gentlemen. Your ship has already been transferred to the Explorer.” Cygnus said, motioning to the door.

“Idiotic, you have no idea. Twelve years ago, they fragged one of our capital ships with suicide pilots.” one of the Terrans grunted as the group followed through the door, causing the two present Narix to share puzzled looks. One more reason to bring the hammer down.

Vega - Beta Aquilae jump node

“Whenever you are ready, gentlemen. The Explorer is no pushover, but no need to scare the wits out of your garrison.” Casei said, scanning over the pod.

“As soon as we make the jump, we’ll start broadcasting a message to avoid any problems. Just let us know a few seconds ahead.”

“Get to it then, jump in under a minute. Hold onto something, the ship might rattle a bit.” Casei said, magnetizing her suit’s peds.

Other side of the jump node

“What is wrong with their drives?”

“Any GTA forces, this is Chief Petty Officer Novikov, service number 04012304-125342, do NOT fire upon the unknown vessel. The Vasudans have destroyed the GTC Cydonia and GTC Midas, we are the only alive because of these aliens.”

Within thirty seconds, a ship of destroyer proportions jumped in. “Chief Officer Novikov, this is the GTD Eisenhower. It’s good to hear from you. Come on home for debriefing and a hot meal. Can the aliens hear us? I assume you’ve figured out a way to communicate.”

As far as Cygnus thought, the Terran ship was nothing impressive. It crawled so slowly it could be taken for a halt, and the heat readings it ventilated were far below anything the NFC had. Still, if the armor matched the Vasudan ships, it might last a while, and scarily enough, be ungodly easy and fast to make. The most heat came of from the massive engine required to accelerate that hunk of mass though, suggesting the weapons systems were either powered down, or severely underwhelming. Certainly nothing compared to Ancient equivalent.

“GTD Eisenhower, CFD Explorer. Your crew’s shuttle is preparing to leave the starboard hangar, feel free to send fighter escorts. I would however like to meet in person to discuss important matters.” Cygnus connected to the Terran destroyer, sending an audiovisual signal, using the codecs copied form the escape pod.

A human male with wrinkly skin was on the other side of the line. “CFD Explorer, this is Admiral Errinwright speaking. First of, thank you for taking care of my people. Their knowledge may save many lives. I welcome you aboard the Eisenhower. Our hangar is located on the starboard side.”

“Your crew was given a radio beacon, please set it into a cleared location and tell your security I will arrive at it’s location via FTL. I am taking two guards with me. If you are able, we would appreciate if you could lower your gravity by twenty percent.” Cygnus said, giving the ship to the XO and leaving to prepare for the visit.

GTD Eisenhower, Hangar bay

The hangar was, in a way, similar to the Faira ones. Strike craft, each of them even less impressive than the destroyer, were stowed away on racks along the walls with a retractable ladder leading to each craft. The lights shone bright white with some red ones here and there. The admiral stood some twenty meters from the beacon with armed guards to each side, waiting for the guests.

In a flash of red and white, two Faira Marines arrived and gauged the situation. Detecting no immediate danger, they spoke briefly into the commsuite and the Admiral arrived as well. The three slammed their fists on their chests in a salute. Despite them being of equal ranking, it was polite to do when visiting the others’ ship. “Admiral Errinwright. I am sorry to drop onto you thus suddenly, but time is of the essence. While we would have been happy to return your crew in any case, I want to call the favor in immediately. We are aware you have deciphered the Vasudan language. We would very much appreciate if you shared with us a translating software or hardware.” Cygnus went straight to business.

“Greetings, admiral. While both I and the survivors of the Cydonia ar grateful for your assistance, I am afraid sharing information regarding the Vasudan language is beyond my authority. I doubt it would do you much good anyway, as our attempts at peaceful relations ended in this. Perhaps there is something else we can do for you?”

“Admiral, let’s be clear on one thing. We are this close to a war with the Vasudans. ‘Ended in this’ could be over in a few months if our two nations join yours. Whether we are fighting as your allies, or resent you for eternity for not sparing us the chance to avoid that war or even one battle, is up to you. Make whatever calls you need to, or tell me to stop wasting my time and I’ll be on my way!” Cygnus said sternly, hoping to end any hopes of involving politics in this.

”If we make friends with these people, we’ll request this one to lead penal units.” the admiral thought. “And what is stopping you from talking your way out of this or even joining forces with them, especially after you’ve picked up the sole survivors of our unit eradicate by them? Aside from not knowing their language, not much, I imagine. But desperate times call for desperate measures.” he turned to one of his guards. “Corporal Harrison, get to a shipcom terminal and tell the communications officer to send the Vasudan language package to the Explorer. But bear in mind, admiral,” he said turning back to Cygnus, “that we are resilient people, who do not forgive betrayal. The language data will be delivered shortly. As for any potential future dealings between our peoples, I suggest we leave them to more qualified people.”

“Their cold blooded murder of two of our cruiser crews, Admiral. We need this to ask for an explanation and demand severe reparations. As I said, THIS close to war.” Cygnus answered, her voice most mild compared to before. “Thank you, we won’t forget this. Here is a drive with silhouettes of our ships and a neutral communication frequency and encryption codes to contact us.” she said, handing it over. “I know you will not likely confirm, but if you intend to move into Vega, there is one Vasudan destroyer and several cruisers holed out around their node. They are however weary of attacking us, given we jumped four fleets into the system. If you would like, we'll send ships to recover the bodies of Cydonia’s crew.” she offered sympathetically.

“Thank you, admiral. Your report more or less matches what the Cydonia’s survivors told us. Recovering the bodies won’t be necessary, we’ll take care of our own. Until we meet again, farewell.”

Confederate ultimatum to the PVE

”This is admiral Adrihen Zorea of the Narix-Faira Confederation. Yesterday at 09:26, Confederation System Time, a number of ships belonging to the Parliamentary Vasudan Navy attacked a Confederate depot without provocation, leading to loss of the CFCR Ascencion, CNCR Acria, two dropships and a large number of supplies. Worse, this attack cost over 400 lives of two species.

As reparations for this despicable act, we demand:
The individuals executing the attack, the officers in charge and the official issuing the order be handed over to us.
Resources detailed in attachments

Failure to respond within one hour and to comply within one week will lead to the declaration of war. Any jump of a warship anywhere but out of this system or to the Confederate-held node will likewise result in military action being taken.”

PVD Typhon, some time before

The Vasudan CnC was alive with pilot chatter.

“Capricorn one one, we have the small destroyer in visual range.”

“Capricorn two one here, the fleet at the uncharted node is massive, reading six destroyers, close to a dozen of the smaller capital ships and large number of lineships, about a third above cruiser specification.”

“The small capital ship just vanished from sensors for a moment… Command! The ship appears to have raised a protective barrier around itself!”

The Battlemaster’s worries came through then. By the gods, what have we woken up? Capricorn wing, both flights return to base! Do not provoke them!”

“Capricorn two two! Command the flight leader just disappeared in a flash of light, we are withdrawing!”

The XO of the Typhon approached the Battlemaster: “Could they be the Destroyers the scrolls speak about? ‘Jet black engines of tireless war, glowing red into the night, infinite in number and silent mystery…’?”

The old Vasudan shuddered at the thought: “I pray they are not, but even if the gods hear my plea, their fleet is massive. If they attack, we can not hold.”

Present time…

The command staff has been gazing haplessly at the note that was sent from the Alien fleet. No doubt the treacherous Terrans gave them a language file.

Perhaps some good could come from this though. The misunderstanding that was the attack could be smoothed out if they could communicate. “Notify the Parliament immediately. And hope they heed our warning to pay the price. I will give myself to them if it saves us from a war.”

30 minutes later

The peace and quiet of the Vega - Beta Aquilae jump node was disturbed by the arrival of the Eisenhower, flanked by six cruisers and numerous fighter escorts. It would appear the Terran admiral decided to heed the warnings and take a larger force through. No doubt the fleet was noticed by everyone in the system, but it would take up to ten minutes for all their drives to recover, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

The Vasudan battlemaster was on his wit’s end. To stay put was to invite an attack from the Terrans, that could lead to them establishing a beachhead in Deneb. Worse, going on the offensive or calling in reinforcements could provoke the new aliens into attacking. Thus far it seemed like the best option was to fall back through the node and blockade the other end.

Desperate times called for desperate measures though. “XO, contact the Confederate admiral, and prepare to take over command.”

It wasn’t surprising the Vasudans took long to respond. After all, the choice between sending your men to uncertain fate or sending your nation to a war on two fronts was not an easy one. And yet minutes went by, the Vasudan’s time dwindling.

“Incoming transmission.” The Ira’s communications officers perked up at the sound of the alert, having previously used the ultimatum time to rest. “What do you know, it’s the Vasudans! Decoding their mess, standby a moment.”

“Admiral Zorea, this is Battlemaster HaDo of the PVD Typhon. I have not yet received an official response to your ultimatum form my government, however I am prepared to surrender the pilots responsible and myself as a commanding officer to your custody regardless of their decision. I would ask you however to allow my fleet to defend our home in accordance to your stated requirements on equal measures from the Terran fleet that has entered the system, and summon two cruisers to reinforce the node to match the Terran numbers. I and my pilots have made a grave error in judgement, and we will face the consequences. I plead that my countrymen do not have to pay for our mistakes as well.” the Battlemaster messaged over, ignoring the disapproving looks from his XO.

“So it was an accident, or so they claim. I say we have no reason to get involved in their war. Forward the message to admiral Cygnus. She’s had contact with the Terrans, let’s hear her opinion.”

“The Terrans claim the Vasudans attacked over a botched protocol. From what we seen of them, I’m inclined to believe it, even if it was just a means to start a war of conquest. However, I see no point to get involved if they do not fail to meet our demands. Let them have their cruisers, and us a few of them to recondition at Cape Exile. I say we grant the request.” Cygnus said pragmatically.

“Communications, send message: PVD Typhon, CND Ira. Request granted. We expect you and your pilots to arrive at the node by means of a transport vessel with no escort within the remaining time of the ultimatum. I’m sure I don’t have to explain what failing to appear would entail. Further damage to the Confederation at any point in time will be dealt with much more severely.“

“Thank you, Admiral. We are sending a silhouette of a ship you should expect.” HaDo ended, signing off the command of the fleet to Shipmaster BagNir and leaving to join the pilots in the hangar.

Zorea pulled the ships back away from the point the Vasudans were to jump to, still not trusting of the race. Four Flails were sent out to guide the incoming transport and the Warrior was notified, as it would be the ship to receive them since they already housed the captured pilot.

The transport the Terrans designated Isis class arrived into the Explorer’s hangar without incident. Inside, a numerous guard of Faira and Narix marines were waiting to take them into holding. The pilot they captured before that was supposedly not taking part in the massacre was then marshalled into the ship and the pilot told to head back to his fleet.

“What do you intend to do with us?” The Battlemaster asked, once they were seated under guard in the briefing room with admiral Cygnus getting a look at them.

“If you ask me, we should just toss you out into space. You can thank the Narix for their legal system, you are likely facing labor camps on a developing colony. They are not luxurious, but to my knowledge they do not work prisoners to death there.” Cygnus said without a speck of sympathy.

“Thank the gods, then.” one of the pilots noted as Cygnus left.

“Did you hear what he said at the end?” She asked into the radio, having patched Zorea in on the conversation.

“I did. Thank the gods,” Zorea spat out the word with disdain, “thank Ramses Verrikan for coming up with the three-tier system in the first place, you ungrateful bastard. I agree with labor camps for the pilots, following drastic reeducation that is, they’re just grunts, but the flight leader and the commander had authority in that attack and went through with it regardless. I recommend a public trial followed by the execution of these two. The public is livid as it is. And after what he just said? You get the picture. Maybe we should call Inventor fleet if they need to test some neurotoxins, see what they’re made of?”

“Those vectors of attack should be developed even against the Terrans, until we have a treaty signed.” the Faira admiral said darkly. “You should share the recent discovery about their faith with the council, see if any votes are swayed. My XO will continue gathering intel, especially about their war with the Terrans. I will give you the data as it comes in.

“We don’t have Terran specimen. We had some, but I think buying some goodwill with them and getting the Vasudan language files was the better choice. Special Activities Division might at least stop complaining about having nothing to do. I’ll leave the Ira to my XO and update the intelligence report. If you or rear admiral Astra have anything you’d like to add, send it over. Has any of the fleets moved yet?”

Vega - Deneb node

Indeed they have. Admiral Errinwright, expecting the transport to be a negotiator, launched his attack, using the cruisers as forward fighter defense, assisted by his Apollos. The Eisenhower jumped behind them, keeping the Vasudan destroyer on its 10 o’clock high to shield their fighterbay from fire. The Vasudans responded by scrambling their fighters, revealing one of the Typohn’s strengths as over 100 craft, including Osiris bombers, streamed out of its hangars. Still, the Terrans had the upper hand so far as the Vsudans only had a dozen fighters on patrol while the Terrans had launched all of their fighters prior to the jump. The GTC Fenris was at an advantage over the PVC Aten, even without their numerical superiority. But the Vasudans were not as disorganized as the Terrans thought, despite the battlemaster’s absence, and the battle soon turned into a bloody skirmish. The Typhon and its cruisers started to move, circling the Eisenhower from the right, with the Terran destroyer turning to keep it at its 10. As the destroyer turned, followed by its screening cruisers, the two reinforcement Atens arrived, targeting the Eisenhower’s engines opposed by a pair of straggling Apollos that couldn’t do much to stop them.

The NFC forces held their word and didn’t join the fight for now. The one hour limit was closing in though. Good for the Eisenhower, that was now standing alone, alongside with the only Leviathan class cruiser they brought. The Typhon had fared little better, it’s Atens wiped out, but all strikecraft remaining in the area, including two wings of bombers, belonged to the Vasudan battlegroup.

“CFD Warrior to PVD Typhon, your time is up. What is your answer?” Astra asked, waiting a few seconds. The answer was not coming from the destroyer, but rather from outside the system via a comm buoy:

“High speaker DirAk of the Vasudan Imperial Parliament to the Confederate fleet: Your demands are out of order with the damages caused by an unsanctioned attack by the thirteenth battlegroup. You have the personnel responsible in your custody and you will be reimbursed for the cost of the ships destroyed. No more. Furthermore, you will cease your unwarranted invasion of the Vega system and withdraw any and all armed f-”

Astra has had enough, cutting the transmission. She was sublimating with anger. A mindstorm enveloped her and the Ascendant let out a horrifying shriek, that could be heard in the mind of every being with the system. This feeling would have been alien, and yet everyone would understand the reason and aim of the anger it conveyed. “Admiral Zorea, permission tu blockade the Deneb jump node and assist the Eisenhower!”

Throughout the Narix fleet, the Vasudan message was routed throughout the PA system for everyone to hear. In the aft mess hall where admiral Zorea was finishing his lunch, the message created a loud cacophony of disapproving voices, curses from several cultural backgrounds and more. Standing up and heading to the CIC, Zorea sent a suit message to the XO on duty to relay to the rest of the fleet: “All ships, admiral Adrihen Zorea speaking. Seconds ago, the Vasudan parliament decided to trample the memory of our fallen comrades in arms. This insult will not be tolerated, certainly not from a nation that claims to be guided by deities. Rear admiral Astra, alert your battlegroup, the Warrior, the Ira and their respective battlegroups are going to explain to the Vasudans that our terms are not negotiable. Admiral Cygnus has command of the system until our return. Invidia, her battlegroup and both carriers are on twenty second alert should we need reinforcements.”

“Oracle, plot a jump exit on danger close parallel course to the Eisenhower. Prepare to expand the shield over both ships. Protect the Terran destroyer. Fighters prioritize Vasudan bombs and bombers. Frigates, engage the Typhon, keep the P-15s in pulse mode, no need to reveal our hand any further. Corvettes, engage the remaining cruisers, sending target lists now. Jump in thirty seconds.” Astra sent out the orders. “Admiral Errinwright, help in on the way. Hold on a minute longer!”

The Eisenhower was in a bad spot prior to the Confederate intervention. The ship was crippled, albeit reparable, and many of her turrets were history. With the Warrior now shielding it, the crew could breathe freely again. The species that referred to themselves as “Faira” were engaging the Vasudans up close while another ship, its design philosophy much closer to that of his own, jumped to the other side of the Typhon, keeping it at its 10 and slightly below. Errinwright could see at least 15 turrets biting into the Typhon, not to mention the Faira energy weaponry the Cydonia survivors described. The Vasudan fighters, now faced with an overwhelming fighter force and anti fighter screens from two sides, collapsed as an effective fighting force.

Pretty soon the Typhon crumpled under the barrage of fire from the Sword, Spear, Longbow and Crossbow. The larger corvettes had no trouble dispatching the cruisers, and the fighters fell in droves to the many ASBs and Swarmers.

“Admiral, as of a few moments ago, what Admiral Cygnus told you came to pass. NFC has declared war on PVE. As such, we are very interested in talking to your nation. Before that though, what assistance can we give you?” Astra radioed over.

“You’ve already done quite enough, but our engines have had it and the GTC Lonewolf will spend a few months in a berth. But if you’ve declared war, we’d appreciate a node blockade to deter those pesky Zods from coming back. I will notify my government as soon as we resolve the most pressing issues on board. They will no doubt be glad to hear this. On behalf of the crew of the GTD Eisenhower, you have our sincerest thanks.”

“That goes without saying, admiral. Strike fleet will guard the Vega - Deneb node-”

“Incoming node traffic! Massive node Traffic!” her oracle shouted suddenly.

“Damn it! Alright, gloves are off. Warrior engaging siege mode, all ships stand clear of the node! Helm, put us between the node and the Eisenhower! Corvettes, withdraw back to Transfer node! Sword, Spear, Longbow, Independence, flanking positions. Crossbow, shield the Lonewolf!” Astra ordered a change in tactics. The Warrior maneuvered in front of the Terran destroyer, and they could see it’s engines powering down, and shield fading everywhere but the front, where it seemed to glow ever brighter and bleed into the void. At the same time, the heat emissions from the main and secondary heavy cannons increased dramatically.

Half a minute later, three Vasudan destroyers of older design emerged from the node. “We are the Argent Flotilla. All hostile forces, this system is under PVE jurisdiction. Vacate the system or power down and surrender.” The Vasudan said arrogantly.

“Argent Flotilla, this is Rear Admiral Astra of the Strike fleet. Here is a message to your parliament.” the Faira said, and the sieged Warrior let loose with beam-mode P-5s and P-15s against two of the destroyers, while the frigates on the flak targeted the third one. Within two minutes, the three capital ships were turned into an expanding debris field and molten metal. The cruisers gathered their wits and crash jumped further into the system. “Admiral Zorea, about twenty cruisers have slipped the blockade. I am sending their jump vectors. I wish you good hunting. Eisenhower, call for your command chain to send you the necessary spare parts.”
Historical archive

2181 / II - First permanent city, Lindros, founded on Garden IV (mountain north of Outpost D).
2181 / III - Second and Strike Fleet relocated to Garden system.
2181 / IV - XD-5 Warrior launched for OpEval.
2181 / IV - Opportunity Station completed following redesign. Opportunity, Terminus and Exodus systems now open to civilians. Home fleet cruiser is stationed here for ferrying travellers to the Nebula
2181 / XII - Construction of a fortress installation in Transfer proposed by the Faira.
2182 / I - Decommissioning of the Guardian-class ships begins. Free berths on Faira’Karte used to speed up building additional Privateer-class replacements.

Opportunity system

The last few years have been quite eventful, despite the lack of progress on the Exploration front, or so Rear Admiral Libra thought. With most resources from the Narix side being diverted to upgrading their fleet and building Lindros and the Faira focusing on completing the Strike fleet and the Singularity, it was thought best to fortify Transfer for now and wait. Finally, they have also gotten the head nod to go ahead with the construction of a fortress in the system, as it made for a perfect choke point against any invading force.

Today though, Libra had a very different proposal for Runa, one that she has been preparing for years to make. The admiralty thought that it was time to remind their allies to take a step up from the Alliance. And Libra was happy to bring it up. For years now they have been one nation in all but name. The Faira have even acquired enough of the Narix currency and launched a few government owned corporations that worked on the free market. With the settlement of Garden and possibly more systems in the future, it was also high time they started thinking about a less centralized government system.

Sending the invite, Libra recalled the time when her counterpart was inhabiting a rickety old ship. Obviously, time moved forward, she thought as she looked at the footage of Opportunity station.

The Opportunity station had many advantages over the Alchemist, but the little old ship had it beaten in one area: mobility. Whenever they needed to meet, the ‘Hexus now either had to navigate the civilian ships and dock with the station, which caused some delays despite its diplomatic status and docking priority, or she had to shuttle over through the same mess. Having received the invitation, Runa notified her pilot and headed to the docking bay where the diplomatic shuttle was landed.

Having intensified their trade relations on top of everything, the Faira had equipped their diplomatic hub with a few amenities of the other species. As such, there was a mug of fresh iced Fersom waiting when Runa arrived, the aroma spread throughout the room - something the Faira used as well, as they found the smell quite lovely. Libra busied herself in the meantime by ‘examining‘ the fresh batch of Narix musical productions she has grown quite fond of. Their marches were rather inspiring.

Upon arriving, Runa immediately noticed the mug and its content. “So that’s why the income from liquor taxes is reaching the stars lately. No wonder minister Ertanax is in such joyous mindset these days.” she greeted her Faira counterpart. “So, admiral, when are you getting an upgrade?” Runa grinned, referring to the station.

“As soon as we find a suitable planet for us. Until then, my place is here.” Libra smiled, beckoning for Runa to sit down. “I’ve called you here to update my overlook an how our peoples stand. What’s the mood on the homeworld, did the numbers for ‘burn them all’ sway in any direction?” the rear admiral asked.

“The ‘burn them all’ was just a part of the four percent. It’s dying down. Slowly, but it is. It’s been quite a while since any public protest was organized, nobody’s heard from them since the Hammerhead got up and found the node for us. Would you believe lord-commander Eudorian was in the ‘keep them out of the system’ part of the four percent until that happened? Not to mention your mining fleet played a big part in catching the Ring asteroid debris. Some people just overreacted, some idiots realized you weren’t a burden, some can be chalked up to people voting that way because they thought it would be funny and the rest we’ll simply have to put up with until they do something outside of law. Then, Ardor. Those that got a little too deep into their protests have painted a target on their forehead already.”

“Good, good. What about your military personnel? I know the OEP was a success, have you heard anything from those that downright entered our service?” Libra inquired further. She of course conducted research herself among those crews, but she was wondering whether those Narix sang the same song back home.

“Those that entered your service permanently are either former OEP or have done their research. This isn’t the kind of thing you’d rush, and they wouldn’t have gone back if they had problems with it. Some find it hard to handle the Nebula. I can relate. Of course there are minor scuffles on a personal level here and there, but that was to be expected and should be handled by the people themselves or their COs if it gets in the way of their work. Initially, there were some complaints of supply shortages, mainly food variety, but trade and Opportunity station itself have helped to remedy that. As far as people outside your service, some are a little bitter over the outcomes of some exercises. Pride is a fragile thing. Second and Fifth have fully accepted you as their sisters in arms, some as far back as the Battle of Beetle. Boffins seem to enjoy working with you. You make things easy, as I heard one put it.”

“Good to hear. The reason I’m asking is that the outcries for unification have reached peak after a large number of people got their shore leaves following Operation Boredom. With the stories they brought, the Admiralty is hard pressed keeping them on the leash and from sending a petition to your government. It is with that that I am on behalf of the Admiralty and the Exiles of Faira proposing we have another round of talks regarding the unification of our nations.” Libra said, handing over an official looking paper letter.

“Stories, eh? Pick some example?” Runa examined the paper for a few moments before responding. “This has been coming for a while now, hasn’t it? Even we are starting to see it, though isolationists still remain. Just merging the governments will be a nightmare.”

“A nightmare that, when we wake up, should afford us to have a very nice day. As you said, this has been coming, and even if we fail this time, I have no doubt that our peoples will make us try and try again until we get it right. The Alliance has been a good first step, perhaps we should keep the approach and not try to make a final solution just yet. That is talk for the meeting though. As for stories on our side? The engagement with the Ancients seems to be the favorite. With more and more exaggeration being thrown in every time it is told of course. Sometimes it reminds me of your NNN!” Libra smirked, “But even the civilians have their own stories. The massive game of tag after the Hammerhead incident had the most impact, as ours and yours had to cooperate on a massive scale. And everyone saw it work. No preparation, just nations helping each other in an uncertain age. And even if cooler heads prevailed, there is no question when it comes to choosing a side. It is either being annihilated by the Ancients when we stand against them alone, being annihilated or possibly made subservient to the Relics when we stand against them alone, or to work with you, and possibly be annihilated or made subservient together anyway, but the likelihood is somewhat diminished. It doesn’t take a genius to see which option is preferable.”

“Say what you will, but you have to admit the NNN has a way of extracting the best out of the worst, it keeps spirits So, when and where do we set the meeting? Opportunity, New Frontiers? How about Garden, have you been there yet? New settlement, new union? Would save the NNN some work with a title and coming up with symbolism.” she grinned.

“Opportunity would be more comfortable, but for the sake of security alone, Naris sees to be the primary candidate. Your government is far more numerous and moving all of them safely would be a nightmare. If the fanatics wanted to make a move against this union, that would be their best time. We can get five admirals in there with relative ease. But, if you feel confident about your security measures, I would like to see how the construction is progressing in Lindros.”

“Your admiralty would have to pass through Naris on their way to Lindros. If they’re willing to move, why drag them there unnecessarily. We could meet halfway, but as you said, Opportunity is somewhat lacking in security measures. New Frontiers station is the same. And unless you want to meet in a power plant, hospital o a mess hall, Lindros might not be the best option after all. If you came to Naris, it would deny the remaining xenophobes the argument of ‘we’re bending to their will’, but can you lead effective negotiations in Naris’ gravity for prolonged time periods?”

“It will be of no concern. We will likely come via the Warden and it will be stationed in orbit during the negotiations. We can go easily for a day and retire to the ship for the night to refresh. Very well, that’S place, check. Now, date? It will take two days or so of reorganization on our side. I imagine you will need a little more?”

“As I said earlier, we’ve seen this coming. Some time to formulate a unified point of view will be necessary. We will disclose the place to you a day before the meetings start to reduce the probability of the location being discovered by potential troublemakers. Three, maybe four days, I’ll get back to you the moment I know for sure. Will you be mindjumping between surface and the Warden or do we arrange escort fighters?”

“We’ll take care of our transportation, no sense introducing any unnecessary hazard.” Libra said, “That said a room with a beacon and do not enter sign would be appreciated. We wouldn’t want a hapless clerk to be torn apart by a spatial vortex. How much… publicity… would this meeting gather? Can you keep this behind closed doors or would statements be expected and how often?”

“We will of course announce the talks are taking place and what is their intention. The citizens have the right to know what’s happening. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m personally not in favor of publicising it, news crews only introduce security issues into the mix. Statements would be handled by the council’s spokesman… or me. I hope for the former. Whoever ends up doing it would take care of that issue completely unless there is something specific someone wants everyone to know. In that case, tell the spokesperson directly, the Councilors and Admirals will be able to fully focus on the talks. The complex where these talks are most likely to be held is several dozen meters below the surface, I believe that’s not going to be a problem, no claustrophobic admirals or any other special needs?”

“If we were claustrophobic, we would be an extinct species. The less we have to tell before the deal is finalized the better. You’ll excuse me for not wanting any… inaccurate or incomplete information leaking out.” Libra said, silently thinking fabricated and omitted on purpose. And she knew the other person in the room knew that.

“I’d argue ships and subterranean structures are different. Dying due to vacuum exposure is completely different to being crushed by tonnes of soil and rock.” Runa jested, “If that’s all, we’d better get to it. No point wasting time.”

Council chambers, somewhere on Naris

Fortunately, the Faira have chosen to jump straight into the complex. Fortunately for them, as the start of the year brought torrential rain, the clouds no doubt visible from the orbit, where the Warden now lay. The lifeline to and from the ship was a small room, four by four meters, turned into a ‘Faira space’ to give them a more homely feeling, save for the gravity of course. But since this was a complex secret to even most of the Narix population, any step beyond this room would be under guard or, at the very least, watchful eye of the security systems. Following confirmation of the Faira admirality’s arrival, an armed escort, accompanied by Runa, waited in the hall outside.

“So, this is new. All of us in one place that is not one of the most heavily defended ships in the largest fleet. This better be worth it.” Sola noted, and all the admirals marched through the concrete hallways, all wearing a uniform for the occasion, although most of them worn a nanomesh suit underneath. There was still about 4% chance of encountering the assassin, and all but Libra and Astra thought the danger too high. Libra didn’t believe anyone would attack them. Astra didn’t care either, as anyone attacking them on her watch would be promptly cut down by forces unknown to him.

“Ambassador.” Libra greeted for the group, “Let us get to it. I imagine we will be here for a while.”

NNN, Several days later....

A step forward: Narix Council and the Faira Admiralty announce the shape of a confederate governing system!
Over the past few days, The Council and the Admiralty have been in session at an undisclosed location discussing the future of the alliance. The result of their talks came as a staggering surprise to some: The Narix-Faira Confederation! The inner workings of this new confederation have been released to us a few hours ago.

Domestic policy: Both nations decide their own for their worlds, fleets and installations.
Foreign policy: Both nations will have equal number of representatives which would then vote on the course of action. Who these representatives are is decided by the individual nations.

Laws: Each nation creates it own laws effective on their territory (worlds/fleets/stations)
Courts: Crimes will be handled by the nation on which territory the crime was committed.
Enforcement: Armed forces of both nations police space and ships. Narix Civic Guard will be responsible for planets (Naris and Garden IV).

Civilian: All civilian assets will adopt the Narix Republic Numisma as currency as well as the taxes and market. Faira citizens in active service permanently residing on Narix worlds or stations will be eligible for tax benefits.
Military: Military fleets of both nations will adopt the Faira requisition system.

The military is commanded by the Faira Admiralty and individual Narix fleet commanders. Ground-based operations will be handled by commanders appointed by the Military council and the Admiralty.
Narix commanders take orders from the Council, Faira commanders are the Admiralty.

This new system leaves a large degree of independence to both nations, yet makes defense, trade and travel much easier with unified command structure, currency, market and eliminating much of the current travel paperwork. Councilor Ayna has also informed us that Dr. Hadrian Ragaros, former administrator of the Blackhole Outpost, has been selected as Garden IVs first governor. Garden’s governors, subservient to the Council, will be appointed by the Council until a Garden attains a sufficient number of permanent residents following the completion of Lindros’ core. The governor is expected to be a part of the decision making proccess of the Confederation along with Faira civilian admirals.

Transfer system fortifications
Construction of a Fortress-class installation has started in the Transfer system to better secure this sole gateway to our home systems. The installation, Transfer'Juno, is expected to begin operations in early 2186. The station is likely to become the permanent home of the Second and Fifth Fleets upon its completion.
Garden system, a week later

Not long after landing, one of the ground teams found what was very close to being described as ‘the ideal place’. Now, seven days later, the mountain meadow was specked with several raised prefabs, three hardened landing sites for dropships and shelters for survey vehicles, all walled off by a razorwire-topped fence with several hundred ampera going through it. Six raised platforms, enthusiastically called ‘towers’, were fitted with twin-linked 20 mm AA autocannons that have proven quite useful on night two when a winged creature took interest in the outpost. Said creature lay gutted on a trailer, swarmed by biologists.

Over the past week, five nearly identical outposts designated ‘A’ to ‘E’ were established - A and B in the mountainous area, C in the lowlands on the current shore, D in the desert area and E, the smallest and most disliked, on the ice cap.

Aside from the winged creature, later identified by its teeth and the way its jaw was built to be a herbivore, earning the gunner the moniker ‘First murderer of Garden IV’ by his squad, very few examples of local flora were encountered. The most commonly sighted animal was a knee-height quadruped dwelling in the lowland forests, but no specimen was captured yet. Just a day ago, a towed sonar buoy, deployed by a Faira trainee pilot, briefly detected some aquatic animal the size of a small vehicle before it devoured said buoy, halting all study of it for the time being.

Despite being native forest dwellers, the woods of this planet were, figuratively and literally, alien to the Narix. Where the woods of Naris had thick undergrowth and conifers, Garden featured forests with bare floor and trees with leaved canopies that in most places formed a homogenous layer, blocking most sunlight from entering the dense woods. Almost miraculously, atmospheric makeup, pressure and temperature allowed for operation of their engines without a hitch as well as supported life without sealed suits, but care was being exercised until it was known what plants were dangerous and native viruses and bacteria could be studied.

Outpost ‘F’ on the other hand changed location frequently. The ECR Enlightenment has been modified with makeshift landing struts, now serving as a Faira operations base and as a mindspace powered space elevator along with the ECR Visionary above it on geosynchronous orbit. The Faira were conducting far different research, the Strike fleet and elements of the Second fleet running drills on the ground. The entertainment consisted of an arena set up in the area, where anyone could issue a challenge to someone else in a one one one duel. The Narix were in for a shock when Virgo requested and successfully defeated a Patriarch tank as her opponent, and the block B Positron fighter held against it surprisingly well.

Inside, a collection on engineers were working day and night on a truly multipurpose strikecraft, resulting in a modified Faira transport armed with the short version of the HYVEL cannon in dorsal and ventral turrets, VLS for the missiles, a plasma cannon turret on each side, engines modified to accept water as a plasmatizable medium and a shield system taken from the Baryon heavy bomber. The craft was hastily assembled on the Explorer and now was conducting flight tests of it’s modified engine pylons with lifting surfaces. Already the data gathered was giving shape to a dedicated hull design, rather than a filled up transporter. On the airstrip built on one of the deserts, a band of hangar workers was fitting a new delta wing and vertical stabilizers to a block B Muon bomber to test if the beloved tool could be used against planet-side targets as well.

At the Star node, the Vanguard fleet was preparing to lead another expedition through to the unknown, leaving the Strike fleet to guard the Garden system while it ran it’s drills.

Garden IV, Outpost ‘Asteroid’

“So… You like this cold and humidity?” Commander Mirai on shore leave asked of her second in command. “Although I suppose it counts as ‘open space no ceiling’, so it must be heaven for you.” the Faira smiled cheekily.

“Veeery funny.” Auraxis shook her head. Now even aliens were making fun of her stature. “Temperature’s fine enough, but the humidity could use to go up another twenty percent. And on the subject of height, ask some of our shorter comrades how they feel, running around in this.” she pointed at a picture from Outpost C, showing a rolling plain consumed by shoulder-height weeds. “Someone should get Ascari in the middle of all that, we’d need a week to find him.”

“Assuming we’d search.” Mirai snorted. “You want more humid? Yuck. Now I officially lost all desire to go see your capital.” the Faira groaned, “I can’t get this mess out of my antennae, you know how sensitive those are? You try to dry that with a towel. Most of us are going helmet-on all the time.”

Auraxis tapped her helmet. “As are most of us. Most of us don’t want to be the first to catch some weird alien plague. Some keep the suits sealed, I trust the filtration pack. And come on. Sure, whenever fighting starts in the simulators, Ascari can’t tell his arse from his elbow, but he did broker the peace. Alright, he kept the tensions as low as possible until more qualified people arrived. That doesn’t mean I want to be a part of his fleet, no thank you. And if by some unthinkable way he makes it to the Council, I’ll erase my documents and head for the Nebula.” Auraxis laughed. “Although having Ascari in the council would mean Fifth would get a different commander, every coin has two sides.”

“I suppose. So, picked a construction site for your weekend home yet?” Mirai grinned, “There are talks in our fleets of an underground base on Garden I. I don’t know how to feel about that. We’d still have no sun, but at this point, any place to expand the population might be preferable. It does help that the resources for it are not even at the site of construction, they are literally the construction site. We could blow up a hole under the surface and mine out form there. The rear admiral said it could even be undetectable and resistant to a Lucifer attack. She was quick to boast that the Singularity would still slag it, but hey.”

“No, I’m saving up for an apartment on New Frontier to retire to one day. Don’t have to bother with bad weather on stations. You don’t like the humidity here? I dare you to visit Naris during either rain season. If the Singularity points its guns at any Faira or Narix, something’s fucked already. And I’d be careful about underground bases before thorough geological surveys are complete, remember the Quake Island? And the expected flooding when the planet starts heating up? But if you go through with it, don’t forget to ask, we happen to be quite good at that. Maybe we could start selling spent mines to you for cheap?” she teased her commanding officer.

“No, thanks. So, any plans for the shore leave? I’m thinking of going to the Airfield and pulling rank to get to fly the delta-Muon around for a while. Total forty Faira alive right now flown an atmospheric strikecraft of any type. I’d like to get that one on my have-flown list.” the Commander asked.

“Sounds fun. Sadly, not a thing for me. First year of national service, they tried to make me an APC driver, except when I finally got myself to the seat, my head was sticking out of the hatch so I couldn’t close it. I’m not joking, I cannot physically fit into the cockpit of any strike craft we have available. I heard they are organizing a hunt for the sea monster that ate one of our sonar buoys, think I’m going to watch. Apparently, their existence is confirmed all over the equatorial seas.”

“Well, I’d be hesitant to call them seas, compared to Naris. With the ice caps sucking most of the water available here, they are pathetic little lakes. You could walk the entire circumference of this rock with a dry foot right now. Wait ten thousand years, then it will be a sea.” Mirai snickered, “It’s still not dry enough though for our tastes. Speaking of Strikecraft, they put together the mother of all uglies to test some of the concepts, but it looks like it could pull a few Gs and cause havoc to ground forces with those HYVEL turrets. You could fit into that, that cockpit is made for long haul transports, it is sizeable and comfy.” she suggested.

“Maybe, but I’d prefer not to break something. Aside from three years as a paratrooper, I don’t have any experience with flying. Though it’d certainly be nice to see the lakes from high up. It’s so weird, there’s so little iron in the water it’s not blood red. Almost tempted to go for a swim once that beast is gone, but who knows how many centuries worth of fishcrap are dissolved in it.”

“And now I have that image in my head. Thank you!” Mirai groaned. “Seriously though, they made that overhauled transport sub-surface worthy. I think they all have a major case of The Casei. That one I do not want to test. Stuck in a metal coffin that is slowly sinking into crushing depth is not my idea of fun time. Did you hear what M of A Virgo did to the Patriarch?”

“You’re welcome, sir. Yes, anytime a tank is alone, it’s crew is asking to get killed. Wait, Casei? That name sounds familiar. What was it…? It’s not the madwoman that created the fighter/walker hybrid, is it?”

“Yes, but with bare hands? Well, okay, suited. And that’s the one. I mean they changed it to treads now, but it’s holding out against the Patriarchs in groups five against four. Not bad for what is basically a strikecraft with a kickass landing gear.” Mirai shrugged, “I still prefer a Frigate, don’t get me wrong.”

“I served with a few tanks during my infantry years. How many casualties can the whatsitcalled evacuate? How long can it operate without support, as in ‘how much food and other equipment can it carry with it’? Where does the crew sleep on or in it? Can you make repairs it in the field? Maybe mark those down to improve it in the future. And on a personal level, very few experiences beat jumping out of a transport plane at several thousand meters, accompanied by a tank on a loading palette being flung out of it.”

“Well, I’ll give you the troop compartment, that is a good thought and not doable on the Positron. But if you take into account that it is designed mostly for our use, the food and sleeping space aren’t important. Regarding repairs, probably easier than the Patriarch, considering it is one of the modular fighter designs. And no offense, I’d rather have a tank that can fly itself to orbit than needing a pallet and flimsy pieces of cloth and string.” Mirai hated on the parachute. “Well, here’s my stop.” the commander said as they came to a ring on the ground marked for the Faira jumpers, “The boffins found some kind of sweet fruit on this rock and are now fashioning a still and bar at the outpost ‘C’ biolab. Want to meet there to see what they make before we leave?”

“Flimsy pieces of cloth and string are multiuse. Unless you have one of the older, silk ones and drop it into a puddle of engine oil, that’s a certain recipe for untimely death.” Somehow, Auraxis wasn’t surprised that was the first thing on their mind upon confirming the fruit wasn’t harmful. “Drinking before returning to duty? Now there’s something you don’t see every day.” she laughed. “Don’t get lost up there, not many airstrips around yet.”

”Worst case scenario, I’ll just need to head for the frigate.” Mirai waved off before she was jumped away.
2179 / IV - Six month later, the Ring

“The journalists must be having a field day with this.” Cygnus frowned, seeing the flock of civilian ships near the Relic portal, looking over the assembled Vanguard and Fifth fleets. She supposed it wasn’t often the Naris system would be hosting four expansion fleets. Minister Ertanax must have been silently thanking evolution for making the Faira species so low maintenance, les his work would triple rather than doubling. Combine that with the attempt at traversing an artificial jump node, and well, even the cold admiral could understand the sensation.

The Explorer stood still in front of the gate. After Terminus, she decided that a destroyer would lead the first expedition rather than a frigate, even if they were Curious class. One never knew when a wing of Muons might be needed, and if the worst case scenario happened, a detonation of the Explorer in the jump corridor would seal it shut, and the Ring then hopefully used to stabilize the Naris-Opportunity node. The probes that were sent through though didn’t report anything unusual. Of course, there was the initial screw up where the Ring refused to allow any ship through, until they figured out the Hammerhead was an IFF key to its use, likely a precaution used by the Relics against the Ancients returning to this part of space.

“Ring control, Explorer. All ready on our part.” she called over, waiting for the red light. The Curious, Studious and Latanos were waiting behind the Explorer to follow through quickly if needed. The Second and Strike fleets were also in the system, ready to start filing to the Ring once the system was declared without contact or with hostile one. She felt a pang of pride as she remembered the Roster of the Strike fleet, having grown into an effective fighting force, albeit with just three capital ships, two of them Curious class and one Studious. Astra called her a while ago, sharing that the interim Sword group would be left behind this time, still in training. Most of the Narix, OEP or citizens have left for that fleet, which made sense - the new ships have amenities for them built into the design rather than an add-on. She did like to see fresh recruits who she could mold though.

The rear admiral’s decision to make her the Longbow’s Master Engineer came an unexpected surprise to Tarith. After some persuasion on the account of commander Linsis and adept Nihlus, possibly a ploy devised by them in conjunction with the rear admiral, she accepted and now was standing in the frigate’s engineering section, responsible for the whole clockwork that made the ship tick, just behind the spearhead. Despite spending countless hours on both Faira and narix simulators, it was only thanks to the powered suit her hands weren’t shaking.

“How long do you think we have until they need us? Thirty minutes, an hour?” she asked her fellow grease monkeys to pass the time.

“ED Explorer, Ring Control, all gr- red- clear on our end.” Damn it, this would lead to problems one day. “Stars guide your way and try not to annoy any potential neighbors.” the Ring controller bode them farewell, signalling the Hammerhead to unlock the portal. “Lockdown lifted, you may proceed.”

Well, the Rear admiral and Primarch are now in wave two, hopefully that’s taken care of. Cygnus winced. Astra had a streak of bad luck, first time she makes contact she has to deal with Ascari, and the next time an Ancient remnant shows up. She crossed her fingers and hoped for an empty, rich system. “Helm, take us through.”

A window like they have not seen before opened, similar to the Narix FTL but apparently an a different channel from it and Mindspace still. The vortex was tinted green, and seemed to be warping at speeds between the other two. The probe shown that using that channel of subspace, the travel was quite fast and yet smooth. No wonder the Hammerhead could outrun everything they had.

The trek was indeed smooth sailing and over before long, the Explorer emerging near a gas giant in the unknown system. “Perfect. Fuel station right at the highway exit. Oracles, get to it. Corvettes, take defensive positions around the node. Enlightenment, attempt a return jump.” the admiral set up tasks, and immediately found a hitch.

“Uh, ma’am, we can not jump back. The drives won’t engage.” The Enlightenment’s CO reported, “We can get a signal through though.”

“We expected as much. Ring control, Explorer. We have made it through safely, but are unable to jump in the other direction. Send the Hammerhead through.”

A while later, the Relic ship emerged from the Node, and immediately the Enlightenment engaged her drives successfully. “Ring control, Explorer. It appears the Hammerhead’s presence is required to travel in both directions. It really is a key to the gate. We’ll send it back as soon as it’s drives recharge. It would seem the Relics were very thorough in protecting us.” Cygnus smiled. Finally a little fortune smiled on them.

“I would very much like to have a look at the Hammerhead’s guts. Stranded in an Oort cloud for thousands of years, yet it still works. It will be that much worse when it inevitably breaks down one day.” Tarith thought as the Hammerhead came back, not at all happy about the idea of her or anyone else being stranded somewhere, just like the Ancients they’ve encountered so far.

“Explorer, Ring Control. Do we start sending the others through, or do we stand them down for now?”

“Negative, Ring Control. We’ll scan the systems with what we have for now. If somebody is living here, we don’t want them to mistake us for an invasion fleet.” Cygnus answered, before linking on a private channel to the Amare: “Eudorian, I need you to promise me - If there are Ancients here, and they make it into the node despite not having the Hammerhead, you’ll blow it up and the ring along with it.” she asked, foregoing the rank. It seemed proper with a request this grave. “Save the Homeworlds.”

The admiral’s transmission was a little unexpected. “No offense, admiral, but I would’ve done that even if you pleaded me not to.” He then continued on a more lighter note. “But let’s focus on what we know is there for now. Let us know as soon your survey is done. We’ll keep our fingers crossed here and hope the only red and black ships beyond the node are yours.” Ideally, what remained of the Ancients, if anything at all, was permanently sealed away beyond the collapsed Terminus-X node. “Just don’t forget you have friends back here should trouble find you.”

“Good to hear. Thank you. We’ll send you a postcard once we find a new paradise to settle. Explorer out.” Cygnus smirked. “Alright, people, let’s get this done. Oracles, what do you have for me?”

“It looks promising, ma’am. Seven planets, four inner, three outer, likely gas giants. We are at the sixth, which appears to be the largest, some hundred thousand kilometers in diameter. There are signs of one exit node near the star itself.”

“Very well. I want one cruiser scanning each of the inner planets and one at the node, The rest will have to wait a while.”

Half an hour later

“Ring control, Explorer. Send through the first element form the Fifth. We need them to take a look at the fourth planet. I think they’re going to like what we found.” Cygnus called over, not wanting to spoil the surprise. It was not Naris, but it was closer than anything else they found yet. The planet had similar composition, albeit it appeared to be going through a mild ice age, with the polar caps reaching all the way to the tropical circles. What wasn’t on ice though was only slightly colder than their homeworld, and the ice meant that there would be no problem with freshwater.

The Latanos and her group lay in orbit of the planet, mouths collectively agape at the probe readings, eagerly waiting for the atmospheric composition results to be sent.

“I’ve never seen so much natural ice before.”

“Are we absolutely sure that’s water ice?” A planet covered in solid carbon dioxide was everything but habitable. Finally, the probes sent the results and the Latanos’ CIC erupted with loud cheers.

“Ring Control, Latanos. Pack your warm coats. 21% oxygen, most nitrogen, some other gases, but nothing harmful as far as we can tell. A little dry, but that’s probably a result of the suspected ice age. Pack the Asgypus with ground surveying equipment.”

But first the system itself would have to be secured. “Explorer, Latanos, how much do you know about the node? Is it stable enough for transit and can unshielded ships even get to it?”

The admiral pulled up the feeds from the cruisers. “It seems like the rest of the rocks are not as pleasant. The innermost has a nice temperature and composition for us, but again, no atmosphere. Still, the resource shortage has been averted for another thousand years with that one. The three gas giants are a welcome logistical relief as well. As for the node, there’s some solar wind, but it’s far enough for even a Guardian to go through if they do not hang around too long. Thus far, no Ancients or Relics, and there is no asteroid belt, only an Oort cloud to map out. I think we are safe to send the rest of Vanguard and Fifth through to start the searching. I believe Strike will want to take it as training time, Second is welcome to help unless they think it too boring.” Cygnus smiled.

“If they get bored, they can play Opfor for Strike Fleet.” the Ring controller laughed, “Sending them through. Fifth’s second battlegroup will be delayed three hours on account of loading additional supplies to explore the planet. Third Fleet has provided several Type VII Discoveries fitted for long-range recon and two for geological surveys. I know they’re not in the original plan, but they’ll make it faster.”

“Copy that, we’ll keep looking around until then. Note that I’m parking the Explorer and it’s corvettes at the Star node, just in case something wanted to come through. The Ira will need to take over blockade at this node.” Cygnus shared and terminated the link, instructing her battlegroup to make the jump and re-routing the cruisers to scan moons and large asteroids in the system.

A minute later, the lot of Strike fleet minus the Sword group has emerged from the node. “Strike fleet, reporting in. You needed to take a look at some comets?” Astra called over, promptly receiving patrol paths form the Explorer. “All group commanders, attend briefing on board Longbow in ten minutes.” she sent to her ships as they vacated the space around the node for the Fifth to land in. “It looks like all this has finally paid off, chieftain. Look.” Astra noted as she downloaded the intel package on the planet from the Explorer’s FleetNet and put it on display on the CnC TacMap. The OEP part of her crew had it’s shift, but the room was packed, the off-shift taking time out of their recharge to go have a look at what would possibly be the first planet the alliance settled.

“I reckon land is going to be cheap. Once at least some basic settlements are in place. Can’t wait to see footage from the surface.” the chieftain commented before pointing to an icy peninsula. “Cape Exile, right there?”

Astra laughed, “Really? You find a starsend new planet and the first thing you want to build is a prison?” she scratched her chin then. “Hm. We are an attack fleet. It’s reasonably possible our people would need to be deployed to ground operations sometime in the future. Forget videos, I think I can get our boots on the ground.” she nodded, already liking the idea of running some combat drills with the Faira shift. “However, look. Island, about half the size of Ardor. No volcanoes, but three fault lines joining right below it. That should be called Quake Isle.”

“Not just a prison, a labor camp. A lot of work will have to be done. If we could move the exiles here to help set up and populate Ardor with citizens, that would be ideal. And if they do a good job setting up here, the Council might even free some of them as reward for their service. Up until now, the only way off the island and back to society was being exiled military and surviving a suicide mission.”

“Boots on the ground will be a learning experience for both of our species. In theory, deep snow behaves similar to fine sand, but is somehow even worse. But you can’t thaw sand and drink it, so there’s that.”

Just then the group commanders arrived. “Ah, here we go. Helm, you have the ship.” Astra gave command and moved to the briefing room. “Commanders, Captains.” She greeted. She was happy that Linsis followed her to Strike fleet. She didn’t know whether the Lord-Commander told him of the option to be promoted to destroyer CO eventually, so she kept her mouth shut- it wasn’t like it wouldn’t be her flag until the Singularity was complete anyhow, but she could start preparing him for the role. Hence why she officially made the Crossbow the lead ship of the group, with the Longbow being a sole operating flagship with no other assets attached to it. Captain Zana has proven herself a capable XO when Aurigae left to the Latanos during the first phase of the OEP, and now served the role permanently on the Crossbow.

The other group commanders were also a favorable pick. The EFG Independence and her battlegroup were commanded by none other than Commander Mirai and Captain Auraxis. She wondered what her crew would achieve now that they had another way forward. With their luck, it was small wonder they didn’t find something of importance upon jumping into the system. “How are you settling in to your new roles?”

“Less turrets and abysmal sublight maneuverability took some getting used to.” Auraxis recalled her woeful first simulator experiences. “It’s a good thing it took us a while to figure out how to access the Ring, it gave me a lot of time to practice.”

“All is well on the Crossbow. With Captain Zana taking on some of the administrative work, the crew got their break room back without a fight. So, where do they need us?” Linsis inquired. “Planet satellites or Oort cloud?”

“Oort cloud, please don’t clobber me to death you two.” Astra shot an amused glance to the Independence’s commanders. Pulling up the patrol sectors the Explorer designated for them, Astra colored them two shades of orange in proportion to the size of the Independence and Crossbow battlegroups. “Here are the sectors that we need to scan. How you deploy your ships along which routes I’ll leave to you. Thus far, we have encountered no debris at either of the nodes, so chances are the Ancients purposefully cleaned up after themselves. That means if we are to make contact, it is more likely to be Ancient than Relic, so keep your shields up. Taking a note form the Terminus book, I want you to have your corvette crews run fire drills. There will be plenty of comets for target practice, and if there are Ancients here, they might draw them out. I’ll leave it to you whether to include the cruisers in this, but I’d advise against it due to their survivability. I’ll also leave it to you whether to deploy your frigates or leave them in reserve should any contacts engage the Pulsars, do keep in mind that we have a lot of ships in the systems and reinforcements are readily available. I’ll leave the Longbow at the node ready to jump to an assist in case a Lilith shows up. The extra cannon will be decisive in that engagement. Questions and notes?”

Auraxis spoke up. “If we encounter any debris, are we to pick it up immediately or simply log it’s coordinates and resume the patrol?”

“If the debris is small enough, we’ll could send the cruisers to get it.” Zana noted, waiting for the rear admiral’s opinion.

“Maybe have all ships send periodic reports every X minutes? If someone would be unlucky enough to end up like the NSS Independence, it’s best if we know as soon as possible.” Linsis touched upon another issue.

“The cloud in this system is relatively thin to the one in Terminus, we should be able to read IFF or thermal and there will be far less subspace noise. But yes, have the ships report in on a five minute basis. If anyone has a problem on hardware like the Halberdier in Terminus, please do not wait half an hour for somebody to notice you.” Astra nodded. “If you encounter Ancient or Relic debris and can scoop it up, log it’s trajectory and mass and pick it up. Anything bigger, holler to the Explorer or Latanos to send a specialized team.”

“Finally, I know your Narix crewmen will be curious about the new planet. I’ll be contacting Lord-Commander Zorea about the option of getting our boots and fighters on there to participate in the survey, it would be a good training opportunity and it should boost the morale.

“Also, start marking land you’d like. I imagine the good spots will be spoken for fairly quickly. Sorry to disappoint you if you like mountain views, this rock appears to be rather flat and forested. Three large desert areas if you want to go play in the sand.” the admiral smiled, “I’d pick some high up though, because when that ice age eventually ends, a lot of that ice is going to become ocean. I suppose determining future shape of the continents will be part of the surveyor’s jobs.”

“We’ll be sure to tell the crews, the chance to get down there will be a huge boost. If that’s all, we best get going. There’s a lot of junk to sift through, even with the frigates and Discoveries helping out. I assume the Fifth is going to help? Or do we get sent to the middle of bloody nowhere while they do the interesting stuff?”

“They have their own patrol paths assigned, the masters should have real-time navigation updates courtesy of the Vanguard already having dropped FTL comm relays. Very well, keep me posted if something interesting happens.” Astra let them off the hook.
Two hours of cards later

“Lights are coming on!”

Astra got up from the FleetNet News and looked over the control consoles. “The engineers examining the Beetle were right. Bitch of a warmup. I’m glad we kept cables alongside the goo.” she snickered, looking at the screen in front of her as it started loading the control software. “What in the universe?” She asked as she looked at the letters that popped up on it.

“What do you have?”

“Contact rear admiral Libra immediately, have her and her linguistic team get here ASAP. This… this is an old dialect of our language.”

“Get out.” one of the Narix yelped in disbelief, “Sir!”

“Don’t tell me this is some lost Faira tribe.”

“Enough!” Astra shouted at them. “Who are you, scientists or mystery writers? For what we know the ship could be learning our language form us just as I did with yours. Until we know for certain, keep your speculations to yourself!” And then the world vanished from her senses.

“Admiral! Sir!” somebody was shaking her up. “I… I’m here. Did anyone see that?”

“Yes, you froze on the spot, looking like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you alright? Maybe some rest?”

“No, I- I’m fine. Something took over me, the ship I think. I saw a… what? History log? Captain’s diary? I don’t know, but I want to see more. Continue with the powerup. And get another inventor in here, in case they can see too.”

“Not to second-guess your judgement, but letting unknown technology mess with your head doesn’t sound too safe.” the Narix looked worried, “What exactly did you see? Images, or text...?”

“It’s… more like a memory? Like I recalled an event or a thought that wasn’t mine. I didn’t see what they were talking about, just what they were thinking about, or possibly looking at at the time? The visual memory didn’t seem related. It was a Relic, describing the first steps their people took to space… They were monsters. Conquerors who either subdued or destroyed races that were technologically inferior to them. I’m starting to think the Ancients did them justice.” The admiral related the memory to the others.

“Right, that rules out peaceful contact. Warn the teams mapping the ship, just in case the old tenants are still around. If they think to ‘subdue or destroy’ us, we’ll give the bastards a good hammering. Who knows what kind of hibernation technology they could possess.” Already, finding the ship was proving to be a sulfur mine. Ancient history and warning? What more was there?

“I think… AW!”

“Damn it! That hurt. I think I should get the hell away from here.” Astra growled, holding her head. “For what it’s worth, apparently they stumbled upon the Ancients and attacked them, only the Ancients have been more than they could chew.” she related the memory quickly. “Jumper! Get me to the Warden!” A while later Astra was jumped off, not trusting herself to do it at the moment.

Several hours later

“You look like you’ve been through a food processor. Are you certain your head is fine?” Libra said, rushing to the room Astra was being looked after in.

“Yeah. Whatever mindspace interface they have is rudimentary, that’s all. It has trouble even connecting. I suppose me being what I am is why it works in the first place. I just need some time to recover, according to all the scans ours and theirs medics ran on me, it just sucked my power really quickly, and my head started heating up more than healthy. One at time, I will be able to view the rest of the archive. How is the progress on the ship?” Astra shared.

“Some additional instruments in the CNC came to life a little while ago, but several doors have gone out in a firework of sparks and electrical fires. Engineers advise against further raising the output until we can look them over in detail. For now, we are going over the CNC to make sure we won’t break anything here. Marines have found what may very well be crew quarters and some sort of device one of the engineers thinks could be a mass data storage device. The linguistic team is making slow progress, but the more they know, the faster it will be.”

“Have you noticed? It’s our language. Ancient dialect, but it’s ours.” Astra said, not yet to her usual speed of thinking.

“Yeah,” Libra nodded, “But it’s so pre-exodus it might as well be called alien language. Even half the letters are not in use anymore. Still, we have gotten the power grid under control. No more fires, but the conduits are mostly damaged. It will take months to repair just those. Fortunately, the key systems can be accessed and powered individually, regardless of the main distribution system. We’ll get a node map, you just don’t take risks with that ship. Do try to remember the Ancients might still be out there, and now the Relics per your own findings are genocidal maniacs. We’ll need the Singularity and you yet. Then perhaps we can look if the ship has any historical data that might explain the connection between us and them. But that’s not important now.”

The next day...

“Great. One more vision I got and then the ship’s pathetic warning device burns out. Well, we know the Ancients wiped out the homeworld of these guys, and that’s it. At least I don’t have to worry about my head cooking.” Astra growled in frustration, looking at the charred console in the command center. “Where are we on the navigation system?”

“Almost there. These guys have taken the concept of a context menu and put it through a cubic power. There’s lists within lists!” Libra groaned, her eyes sore. “Aha! Maybe… Oh stars DAMN IT!” she shoved off of the console, disgruntled. “It shows us the collapsed Terminus node, and one node in Naris that we know is not there! In fact, there’s a chunk of rock now in its place!”

“What? Where? Which one?” there was a lot of rocks in Naris, but maybe there was hope. “Not that it matters that much, since the Durable hasn’t detected any jump corridor anyway. Unless… Let me guess: It’s near the shipyards in orbit of Artorias, where we didn’t want the oracles to look?”

“It doesn’t matter. The node would be felt like a tunnel in mindspace. We wouldn’t need to find it’s exact origin point to find it. There is no sign of anything like that in the system, other than the node to Opportunity.” Astra said gloomily. Libra brought up the node position on her own suit’s display. “There. It’s a pathetic little rock, but… could it’s small gravity has destabilized the node over time? It is stuck in a lagrangian point after all.”

“Well, there’s that, then. Generation ships?” one of the technicians growled.

“No!” Astra slammed her hand onto the console, “There must be more!”

“Uh… sir! The ship is coming alive!”

All around them, the consoles started booting up, and the engineers reported the main power unit starting to cycle into life. “We’ve got to get off the bus!” Astra panicked a little.

“Too late! The jump drive is spooling! It’!s heading to Opportunity!”

Outside, a massive blue vortex swallowed the Hammerhead, with the Ira and Warden following behind it as soon as their crews and commanders shook off the surprise.


The Warden was the first to arrive, followed shortly by the Hammerhead. “Hammerhead, Warden! What is your status!” Lira boomed over the comms.

“We’re here, the ship held! It jumps so smoothly!” Astra reported over, just as the Ira followed into the system. “Lord commander! Clear a path! The Hammerhead has set course for Naris! Let it through, please!” Astra called over.

“Kill it’s armaments as soon as you can, I’m not taking chances with my homeworld.” Zorea relayed before he started marshalling the fleet guarding the Opportunity-naris node on one channel and Eudorian’s First Fleet through subspace comms, trying to explain the situation.

“Can you give us a firing solution for it’s sublight drives in case it tries to start start another genocidal crusade?”

“Weapons are not active, they can’t. The conduits that far outside to the hull are severed. It’s using a gravimetric engine contained inside the ship, that’s the only reason it’s even able to move. You might want to tell the First not to shoot us down though. It seems we are going to outrun both of you though!” Astra called over just before the Hammerhead executed another jump, faster than the Warden could recharge, and at far greater speed than the Ira was capable of.

Opportunity - Naris jump node

As the Hammerhead appeared at the Node, it was met by two Narix battlegroups. “All ships, rear admiral Astra. Hold your fire and clear the way!” The ascendant called over frantically when she saw the mass of ships. She didn’t care for the Relic armor, if they opened fire, the Hammerhead would be shredded. “Libra! Where is it taking us!”

“The rock! Oh stars, if it doesn’t know the node is dead, it’s going to fly straight into it! We need to get off!”

“Alright, gather everyone! Lord Commander, do you copy? We will need a pickup on the Naris side of the node!” Astra called over the system-wide.

“Eudorian himself is waiting there, I’ve got him on the wire. R Verrikan is scrambling all of its shuttles, setting up targeting beacons in its hangars for mindjumpers and Eudorian’s sending another Warlord to the rock in case we have to evacuate someone on that side. I just hope it won’t jump straight to the rock.”

“Thanks. We’ll get off as soon as we can, those mind jump beacons will be a starsend. Libra, everyone needs to get to the hangar, stat!”


“Damn it, how is this thing jumping so fast!” Libra grunted as she stumbled into the hangar. “This is everyone, can you jump them all?”

“I’ll try my damndest! Every jumper that can, get your own group, as many as you can! This monorail only stops two more times tops before Eternity! We’re coming out of the node, now!”

As soon as the Hammerhead emerged into normal space, the Faira started evacuating the staff, not waiting on the orders. The hangars of the Partisans and Warlord present were fortunately large enough places to target the landings.

“Rear admiral, this is Amare Actual, report once you can.” a voice neither of the Faira have heard so far sounded over the comms. “Did everyone make it off in time?”

“Yeah… All but the jumpers themselves. We have no more power to jump out, and the ship will go any second again, sooner than the shuttles will get here. We’ll be riding this one out. Libra said, having Shoved Astra into the last jump against her will, knowing she would have stayed behind as well otherwise. “We’ll try to jump the ship, our suits are EVA grade, it would be nice to have some pickup, assuming we don’t emerge in that asteroid. Hammerhead, signing off.”

Naris, L1

The Hammerhead emerged close to the rock, but not in it, mercifully. What was strange then was that the ship came close to the asteroid and stopped. The Faira didn’t wait to see what was going on though, bolting out the docking port on RCS as far as they possibly could, emergency beacons broadcasting.

“We’re out, the Hammerhead is just sitting in front of the rock. Maybe it detected the node missing and stopped it’s voyage?” the rear admiral noted. “O-oh…”

The rescue destroyer lay some distance off the asteroid, Plunderers already in space. “We’ve got your crisis beacons, shuttles inbound.” a young voice sounded on the comms, “What? What is it, admiral, what’s going on out there?”

“See for yourselves! And get us out of here before some of that debris hit us!” Libra shouted as she noticed the rock breaking up, sending chunks of rock the size of a cruiser into space. “And track those rock, it would be a disaster if one of them hit a celestial body, even if it’s not Naris, any of the inner planets could create an asteroid ring that would eclipse it’s sunlight!”

The whole ordeal was an unexpected test of the First fleet. As the cursing pilots raced to the stranded Faira, putting their ships between any debris and them to pick them up, the First awoke throughout the system.

Three kilometers away, the Fiduciam’s torpedo tubes flung open, gunners tracking the rocks, waiting for them to get away from anything they could damage. Once they would be far away enough, the volley of torpedoes would break them up into smaller pieces that would be intercepted by the rest of the fleet, hopefully breaking them into small enough pieces to minimize the damage. On the other hand, it would create a buckshot of rocks, speeding through the system along only partially-predictable trajectories.

“Is everyone safe aboard the transports?” the young chieftain-commander inquired.

“We’re here, but what on the world is going on here?” Libra said incredulously as the mere presence of the Hammerhead seemed to be destroying the asteroid. “Is it using it’s engine to do that?”

“No.” Came Astra’s response, wherever she landed, she has made her way to a sensors station. “It’s sending a signal to it! There must be something insid-”

Then with a massive crack and spray of rocks, the asteroid broke apart into three large chunks.

“What… is that?”

“I don’t know, but it’s flooding subspace sensors with all manner of junk. It’s oddly similar to what the Fifth picked up in Terminus. Less intense and… not irregular. It’s not noise.”

The Ramses Verrikan, carrying the recovered research crews, arrived. “No idea what that is, but I believe we have a few dozen unexpected passengers that stand the best chance of figuring out. And the Third doesn’t have to send anyone too far out like this.” The Plunderers changed course for the carrier.

“I think you dropped something.” one of the pilots referred to the jumpers.

Faira FleetNet News

A way out?

Last night, the RD Hammerhead unexpectedly came to life. The ship has left with all hands aboard, heading to a location where it’s navigation systems shown a node out of the local cluster - an asteroid trapped in an L1 point of the system. After a hasty action for evacuating the personnel aboard, the relic destroyer activated what appears to be a Mindspace portal generating an artificial jump node. The node is not stable enough yet for travel, but scientists predict it will stabilize enough in ten years to allow Destroyer sized vessels through.

Largest cleanup in history

The Narix mining fleets and Faira’Capra have collaborated to clear up the asteroid debris in the Naris system caused by the above event in an unprecedented operation. Hundreds of ships had to be coordinated to catch up to and capture debris of various size to be processed before an important world could be hit. The operation is still in progress, but our colleagues from NNN report it looks like it will be successful.

Mysteries of the Relics

There are reports that the Relic ship used an ancient variant of our language in its operating systems. It has been confirmed that the ship possessed no means of learning it from the Faira on board, suggesting our species is somehow connected to the Relics. How is still a subject of study and speculation.

Admiral Astra received visions while residing on the ship, dealing with the history of the Relics. Apparently a genocidal, imperial species, they thought to leave us a message as a warning about the Ancients and their might. If the message is to be believed, the Ancients managed to wipe out the Relic empire which at the time spanned most of the galaxy. The Admiralty is now looking to create a contingency plan to stop an Ancient invasion should we encounter them on the other side of the Node.

Narix National Newscast


Yesterday, the RD Hammerhead was inadvertently activated by the joint research teams. Equipped with an apparently sophisticated AI, the rogue ship took the puzzled scientists and engineers onto a wild ride all the way to Naris before coming to a halt at its L1 point. Thanks to the quick reactions of several admirals, commanders and the First fleet, all of the research personnel were evacuated safely.

The rogue hammer proceeded to shatter an asteroid first documented in 1806 and stripped clean of resources in 2143. How did the prospectors and miners miss a Relic device thought by the Faira to be a subspace portal is yet unknown. The spokesperson for Metallum Ausira, the company that mined the asteroid, refused to comment.

Unsung heroes of the Fourth and ‘Capra

The Narix people owe their endless thanks to the personnel of the two mining fleets as they scrambled to intercept the asteroid debris. Despite missing some, most of the system is safe. While the New Frontier station suffered minor damage and several injuries ranging from bruises to brief vacuum exposure are reported, there were no fatalities.

Hope reignited

The appearance of the subspace portal, unofficially known as “the Ring” has been the much needed blow that fueled the dying embers of hope. In ten years, there may be a way out. Third and Second fleets have moved in on the Ring, keen on studying it and resuming the studies of the Hammerhead.

Opportunity Station

Councilor Acastus Nyx has revealed plans for constructing a small outpost at the Opportuunity-Naris jump node to act as a transit station and communications relay. Once complete, this station will make non-official transit between Opportunity and Naris much easier, finally allowing civilians and private companies to move to Opportunity. Several transport companies have already expressed the desire to set up regular flights to and from Opportunity upon the station’s completion. Construction is expected to start next month.
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