Most Honorable Dwamak
- Aug 12, 2009
FSS Dmitri, Federal Security listening post, Churassix System.
Captain Murad walked up the stairs to the command bridge, his boots clanging against its metal surface. Low hums filled the dark chamber, and screens dimly lit the faces of the crew. Each control stations were occupied by the silent crew who stared nervously, and waited for their captain to begin. The station was particularly strange to him. It was barely automatic, and almost everything was analogue. If there were anything automatic, they were severely outdated; the whole concept was alien. He had to learn and get used to making his own coffee in the morning, which was the only enjoyment he found during his stay on the station.
It was just another day--349th day to be exact. Repetition, repetition. The usual, every single day. Wake and wash at 3AM Arcturus Time. Coffee and breakfast at 4AM. Receive code and brief the crew at 5AM. Transmission of the code at exactly 6:12AM. Though it was the same, he could never get used to it. Neither could the crewmen and crew women under his command. No, it wasn't the stress of the repetition. He was sure of it.
The mission was run under the guidance of the Naval Intelligence Service, though they rarely advised or contacted the station. Murad's duties included transmitting codes given to him by the NIS, over to another unknown listening post somewhere else in the stars. It was all a mystery, and he wondered why an AI couldn't perform these trivialities instead. In fact, it was so secret that not even the Federation Navy knew of its existence. Which meant that even the president and the senate was out of the loop. It wasn't an unknown fact that NIS was, unofficially highly autonomous, which made them seem almost like a private intelligence arm of the Terran Federation.
Before Murad took on the highly secretive mission, he was a proud man. And he was, for a few weeks after. However, the longer he and his crew remained on the station and carried out the mission, the more they grasped the concept of it all. It struck their nerves not knowing the full extent of the mission. The pride for Murad's military achievements took a blow, when he had learned that there were bodies lined up behind, waiting to replace him should he give up. The NIS labeled him the most stubborn, out of all other successor captains that came before him. His complaints, and almost daily questioning of the mission finally gave way to hints that NIS tried everything to hide, for the sake of morale. Why he was in such a remote station, along with a few hundred souls onboard, he wished to know. But upon discovering the hints, his resolve was emboldened as he vowed to himself: No one can know, and we cannot fail.
Murad leaned over to the screen at the center of the bridge and opened his comm.
He spoke into the comm, "Foxtrot. Delta. Echo. Zulu. Seven. Four. Nine. Copy?"
After a slight delay, a man replied from the comm, "Copy."
"Engage," Murad said, and the bridge crew turned back to their screens and watched. Captain Murad let out a sigh and rubbed his chin. All waited quietly. He hated this moment, and it was the moment no one could ever get used to.
The man spoke from the comm, "Negative effect." It broke the silence in the bridge. No one had heard this before. The chamber was now filled with panicked murmurs of the crew.
"Status report," Murad said anxiously.
"Stand by," the comm replied, and once again the bridge fell silent as they waited. Murad impatiently tapped his fingers on his lap.
"Subject's behavioral patterns are showing irregularities from the previous encounters. Analysis suggests the subject is showing a possible aggressive behavior against an unknown target," the comm said. "The unknown target is causing too much interference in the pacification efforts. Further engagements could be ineffective. Standing by for further orders."
Some of the crew turned to one another, confused.
Captain Murad switched his comm to private channels. "Serpent Six, requesting protocol three," he said, and waited for a moment. He spoke again, "Copy that."
He switched the comm back to the transmission channels and spoke, "Readjust frequency to zero thirty nine. Engage."
"Copy," the man on the comm replied. The crew turned back to their screens in their stations.
"Negative effect. Be advised, you've been spotted. Unknown target fast approaching your location with our subject. Go into phase bravo immediately. How copy?" the man said.
The crew stopped what they were doing and turned to their captain. Murad, wide-eyed, looked around at his crew.
"Sir?" a crewman directed at Murad with fear in his eyes. He stood, motionless.
"Dmitri, come in. Initiate phase bravo immediately. The window is closing, over!" the man on the comm spoke again.
Finally, snapping back to attention, Captain Murad ordered his crew, "Initiate phase bravo."
The crew, without hesitation, got up from their stations and scrambled across. Some chattered into their comms to notify the other crew members in the station. "Scrap the entire station!" Murad shouted over the chaos of the bridge.
"Sir! Our data refractor... The signal from the subject..." a crewman at his station trailed off unable to get his eyes off the screen, but got Murad's attention.
"What is it lieutenant?"
"One of the scrambled signal was reflected. It's been caught!"
"How could this happen?"
"It seems like some observation array was focused into our location. It could be uh-uh-uh... a coincidence, sir."
"Where!?" Murad shouted and he rushed over to the lieutenant's station.
"It's been transmitted... into our space, sir."
Some of the crews nearby stopped what they were doing and stared at the lieutenant, mortified.
Theia System, Theia Prime, Theia Astrophysics Institute.
Dr. Archer put on the thick coat and entered the freezing warehouse. "Hey, I got you some... whatever the hell this drink is. The one you asked for!" Dr. Archer yelled as he entered with two cups in both hands, and a data pad held under his armpit. The large warehouse echoed his colleague's distant snores across the hall. After a minute of travel down the linear hallway on the maglev segway, Dr. Archer finally reached the monitoring station located at the end of the server farm, which was warmer. He took off his coat and looked around. His colleague was sound asleep with his feet on the desk.
"Wake up bud," Archer said, tapping on his colleague's shoe.
"Huh..." He groaned but continued to sleep. At least the snore is gone, Archer thought. He set down the cup far away from the feet as a precaution.
Archer took a sip of his synthetic coffee and winced. He sat at his desk and motioned at his screen to browse the latest news.
"Hello, Dr. Archer. How are you doing today?" an AI assistant spoke in an overly polite tone.
"Nothing much Sandra. Find anything new for me?" Archer asked, while shuffling through his bag of assorted baked goods. He took the one that appealed to his eyes and took a bite out of it, and began to study the gooey blue jelly that dripped out. He nodded in approval.
"Yes, doctor. An anomaly was detected precisely eleven minutes, thirty two seconds, seven microseconds and--"
"Yeah yeah. From where, exactly?" Archer cut off the AI.
"Hmm... This is quite strange doctor. I am unable to access the exact location of where this data came from. It is encrypted. However, I can decrypt most of the data for you, if you'd like."
"Doesn't matter. If it's an anomaly to you, then I suppose it's worth a look. Don't you think so, Sandra?"
"I am quite excited to study this new anomaly with you, doctor. Decrypting the data, now."
"Great, let's get down to it. While you do that, let me just finish this dough here. Mmm!"
After rubbing his hands, Dr. Archer swiped his screen and opened the data that was decrypted by Sandra. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Before him was the map of the entire galaxy, showing four different points of immense signal surges. They were unlike anything he had ever seen before. But what fascinated him more was the small signal and its point of origin, located not too far from Theia.
"What the hell is this?" He said to himself and looked around to make sure no one was watching him. He then worked on the computer to adjust the satellites in orbit of Theia, to identify and locate the exact point of origin of the strange signal.
"The satellites are locked, doctor," Sandra said. "It seems that the signal is still active, and is getting further away from Theia. It will soon be out of our range."
He had to know. In his entire career of studying xeno signals, he had never seen anything like it. He just had to send out a probe signal. But he paused his excitement for a moment, knowing that it was illegal. He also knew that this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to discover something new--a breakthrough perhaps.
Finally, however, he stayed his hand. Instead, he ordered Sandra to decipher the signal.
In a quick succession, the rows of the servers began shutting down, then eventually all systems and even the lights in the monitoring station shut down.
"Whoa, whoa!" Archer shouted, surprised. "Sandra!? Sandra!"
"Huh!? What!?" Archer's colleague, Dr. Jensen, was finally awake. "What the hell is going on!?"
"Someone must have hacked into Sandra!" Archer replied.
"I can't see a thing! Sandra, turn the lights back on!" Jensen shouted.
"It's no use, bud. She's gone..."
Dr. Jensen lightly slapped his cheeks and stretched his arms. He took out his data pad and squinted his eyes at it, and shook his head.
"What the hell did you do, bro?" Jensen asked.
"I had no control over our servers," Archer replied. "Sandra was deciphering a signal--"
"Dude, the servers overloaded," Jensen said, his face lit up by the data pad.
"You are telling me that the largest server farm in the entire sector just overloaded?" Archer argued.
"See for yourself," Jensen said, waving around the data pad in front of Archer, who snatched it away.
Suddenly, with a loud hum, the servers came back on row by row, then all systems in the monitoring station were back online. The two scientists froze and looked up, and then around the room.
"Uh... Sandra?" Jensen asked and waited, his blank stare still fixated towards the ceiling.
"Oh no," Archer said as he looked at the data on the screen. "Sandra, what did you do?"
"What happened?" Jensen asked, rushing over to Archer, who sat silently.
Both pored over the data on the screen and realized that a blank signal was sent from their network to the strange signal.
"We have to go to the military," Archer said.
"Are you insane?" Jensen shouted, walking back to his own desk. "We are in enough trouble as it is!"
Archer leaned closer to the screen and suddenly got up from his chair, shaken.
"What is it now?" Jensen asked, irritated.
"We really need to go to the military. I saw it... I... I saw it move... It's moving!"
"What's moving? What are you talking about?"
"The... The signal. It changed course! It's coming here!"
"You don't know that!" Jensen urged.
"I know what I saw! What the hell did you do Sandra!?" Archer panicked.
"Hello, Dr. Archer. Hello, Dr. Jensen. I was instructed to guide the anomaly back to Theia," Sandra spoke, startling the men. "As I was instructed to find the signal with our orbital probe arrays."
"Wait... What?" Archer took a few steps back, confused.
"On whose authority?" Jensen asked.
"Good bye," Sandra said. With a low hum, the AI turned itself off.
"Come back!" Jensen yelled.
"We have to go to the military--"
"Look, settle down and think for a sec. Whatever that thing is, the military probably already knows!" Jensen pleaded.
"Indeed. They do now, thanks to you," a voice echoed from the entrance of the monitoring station. A man in a suit quietly approached the two scientists, escorted by two more in black military uniforms.
Jensen turned around quickly and said, "Who the hell are you? You can't come in here without--"
Dr. Archer squinted his eyes in pain from the sharp ringing in his ears. He opened them and saw Jensen squirming in the pool of his own blood on the white floor. Archer looked back up at the men.
"No. No wait, please--"
Dr. Archer fell to the ground. The man in suit walked over the Dr. Jensen's now still body and look around the desks.
"Destroy everything," he said, before casually walking back to the entrance where more men in black uniforms rushed in with rifles. The silent hallways of the Theia Astrophysics Institute were littered with bodies and blood.
Sol System, Undisclosed location, Earth.
There were twelve men and women in a dim room, faces shrouded by shadow and their voices masked. Some appeared as holograms blurred with static.
"You double-crossed us," a man spoke and slammed his fist on the large round table where the meeting was held. "We've all made a pact together, risking our lives to prepare for the Chosen's inevitable arrival, but we also have a duty to safeguard our nation and our species. How could you keep this pertinent information from this council?"
A woman then cleared her throat and began, "You were to be informed, I assure you. Someone else got to it first due to a petty mistake on our part, and you happened to have intercepted it before we could inform you."
The room was filled with low grunts. But the woman raised her hand to reassure her colleagues and continued.
"Though I might add, your containment were brutish and messy," she said, her hologram blurred by static.
"Don't you dare redirect your mistake on me and my department, Four," the disgruntled man retorted.
The woman, known as Four, brushed him aside and continued to speak, "Our failure have not jeopardized our plans. It has merely shortened our schedule. We are in it to secure the guarantee of safety for our people, just like you. Do not for a second doubt our organization's motives. Now is not the time to ostracize one another."
The room nodded and fell silent in approval.
"Yes. It was quite unfortunate that the subject had encountered a lone Lox patrol craft. Our usual pacification attempts had failed due to their presence. Good news is that we can continue to hide the subject's existence and elude them whole," a man known as Two spoke, his navy uniform partially visible.
"Now, tell us, doctor," Four began, signaling towards Eleven. "The artifact. We have heard the news. I assume it was a success?"
Eleven nodded and replied, "Indeed. The infusion was a success. Even now, it is reacting. If all else fails, we may need the help of the Order of Curators. But for now, the artifact is ready for transport."
"Very good. If all else fails, we shall authorize such course of action. Our organization will provide escort for you and the artifact back to Earth," One said. "It is our only hope. Our only leverage for the security of our species. Or if need be, a weapon."
"Director," Four spoke again. "Prepare a narrative for Theia and contain any leaks. Blame the Lox. We will leak the information when the time is right. And do alert the colony for evacuation. Save as many people as you can. I fear that it's almost time."
"All our plans, and our duties which we have upheld for centuries as the guiding hand of humanity, are now drawing to a close. Annuit cœptis," One said and the others followed suit.
Below the tall towers of the Theian capital, the masses were organized in groups with military vehicles guiding them towards the massive spaceports. Lines of civilian vehicles stretched out across, over the skyline of the city like veins, all leading towards the spaceports on the outskirts of the city. An exodus out of the metropolis. Beyond the massive dome-like structure of the spaceports, transport ships lifted off one by one, and occasionally obscured the bright local star.
Maintenance Unit 631, or "Mu" for short as its Terran counterparts used to call it, looked down with curiosity atop a railing of the flying broadcast drone. The synth felt fear and urgency to flee with the rest, but was determined to complete the new task given to it by its new master from the stars.
"Liberator comes," Mu whispered. "They shall know what is to come."
It eventually took its cold gaze off of the masses fleeing below, opened the maintenance console of the broadcast drone and began hacking its security systems.
The civilians were divided in groups, even as they arrived near the spaceport on foot. Some complained, some were confused, but most cooperated with the instructions of the military.
A woman among the crowd, looked up at the sky towards the screen of the broadcast drone. The product advertisement had gone and turned pitch black. It was as if there was a dark patch in the sky. The drone was now broadcasting the footage being captured by the military's orbital laserscopes. The woman looked closely and with a flash of light, a single object appeared in the screen. The object was adorned with various lights, and its golden hulls glistened in the dark surrounding. She gasped, though, when after the flashes of lights, revealed hundreds of more objects emerging from the dark behind the golden object. These ones had menacing red glows and its hulls were as dark as space itself. Somehow, her instincts screamed at her to run but continued to watch with bated breath. At least until beams of red light stretched out from the dark objects and consumed the golden object in brief but intensely bright light. Pieces of what was left of the magnificent and alien space craft floated away into the dark. She finally pointed at the screen in the sky and screamed, "Look!"
"Liberator comes," Mu said and jumped off the railing.
An officer of the Planetary Guard shouted into her comm, over the waves of cries and screams coming from outside the spaceport, "I'm sorry, sir! We don't have enough transports. We have to follow procedure!"
Only thing stopping the masses from rushing towards the entrances of the spaceport were lines of energy riot barricades set up by the soldiers, which were already overheating with thousands of people violently crashing against it.
"Let us in!"
"Look at what's happening! Where is the navy!?"
"Yes. Right away, sir," the officer concluded her call with her superior officer and let out a sigh.
A soldier approached the officer. "What do we do, ma'am? The shields won't hold for long," he said.
"Shut down the shields. Let the people in. We are retreating to the forts. Withdraw all troops," she replied.
"But ma'am, what do we do with the civies?"
"We have orders to let them be. God help these people. Let's pack it up and move out!"
On the launch pads, the transport ship crews and security officers tried in vain to clear the area, as the civilians rushed towards the last remaining ship en masse.
"Please get back! You are in the blasting zone!" a security officer shouted.
"You dare try to leave with MY ship!?" an oligarch in the crowd shouted.
"We will be back for you! Remain calm!"
From the crowd a woman emerged, with a little girl in her arms.
"Take my baby! Take her!" she cried out as she held up the baby in the air. A crewman spotted them and hesitated. He turned to the security officers and pointed at the girl. Together, they pushed through the wailing crowd and reached for the child. Another guard fired his sonic gun to push the crowds away, before the rest of the crew climbed up into the transport and sealed the hatch. When the ground began to shake and the spooling of the engines became loud enough to drown the cries, people scattered to stay clear of the blast zone.
After hours of flying in sublight speed, the passengers all but calmed down to the level of whispers. The seats were rough as it was a military transport instead of a passenger craft, but they made due with what they had. A woman sat next to the child that was rescued at the last minute, and comforted her. She looked out the window at the tiny blue dot - Theia. The woman tapped the window to zoom in on the visual of her home planet and gasped. Bright flames engulfed the continents and slowly turned the blue planet red.
The view was soon obscured by a large navy escort ship closing in on the transport, flying in the same direction and speed. But it soon slowed down, turning its heading towards Theia. On its hull was painted in writing, "Pegasus 311".
Chapter 1: PoliticsYear 2620
"311", the grazed painting read, upon the burned piece of the large ship hull that was displayed in the lobby as a monument to the unsung heroes of the final rescue crews of Theia. Admiral Moreau stared at it for a while, then paced herself down the great marble hallway of the presidential palace decorated with preserved ancient artifacts and arts of the xenos long forgotten. It was ironic to say the least. The very foundation of the Terran Federation is deep-rooted on the basis that aliens are inferior and a threat, after all. But they eventually led to the discovery of Fen Habbanis, an ancient xeno world in ruins, some 200 years ago. It was the greatest archaeological discovery in human history, and the scientists then were the luckiest generations so far.
Ahead of the admiral, guiding her to the president's office, was the president's personal advisor who sided with the admiral's urgency of the new situations that were unfolding across the entire galaxy. No one, not a single Terran civilian, was aware of what was happening besides the senate and the military. The fact that the senate knew about it angered the admiral. The president was her last hope.
They at last reached the president's office. The marines, genetically enhanced for combat, seemed to dwarf the grand double doors of the office they guarded. Without a word, they opened the doors so the admiral could pass.
"Admiral, I suggest you not rush the president. He is rather easily swayed by the senate's excuses," the advisor whispered as he grabbed her shoulder.
"I can see it written all over your face. You want this as much as I do," the admiral said and brushed past him.
President Sato sat at his large desk, surrounded by old paintings of the past Terran presidents on the walls. Behind him were large panels of windows overlooking the dense and busy capital of the Terran Federation, with columns of the skyscrapers that hid themselves in the clouds. All were apparatuses of the byzantine bureaucracy, the engine of the federated planets.
The president looked up surprised as the admiral drew closer.
"I was told you'd come by, admiral," the president said, leaning back in his chair, relaxed and uninterested. "I know why you are here. I've already been briefed by the general staff."
Without a word, the admiral motioned at her comm on her palm. The large windows dimmed, and the office darkened. A moving image was projected onto the windows, along with some static. The entire office menacingly reddened.
The president turned around hesitantly and said, "What am I looking at? What is this?" He turned back to the admiral, irritated. "What the hell is that thing?"
"It calls itself the Contingency. Translated," the admiral replied. "Apparently it knows our language, too."
"Is that what caused the energy spikes on all quadrants? Why wasn't I shown this?"
"President, sir. This signal was received three hours ago, Arcturus Time, from one of the sources of the energy spikes."
"My god, what is that thing?" the president mumbled to himself, staring back at the image behind him.
"Sir, a comm transcript has been sent to you. Please review them," the admiral motioned at her comm again. "We need to act quickly."
The contingency in the image seemed to ominously stare at them both, with its red energy particles in the center.
The white light from the computer projection reflected on the president's paled face. He spoke without leaving his gaze off the screen, "I will immediately assemble the senators. I assume the chiefs are already informed of this."
"Sir, we don't have time to involve the senate. You of all people should know where they stand." The admiral leaned forwards against the desk.
"I can't bypass the senate with a matter as big as this. Are you insane? It'll blow up on our faces," he chortled.
"That... politics is exactly why we can't involve the senate!" the admiral slammed her fist on the desk. "Next thing you know, they'll be debating about this for years and nothing will get done. By then, it'll all be too late! We need to contain this thing now, sir!"
"I have seen the map of the energy spikes, admiral. They are thousands of lightyears away, with dozens of xenos in between them and us," the president retorted as he got up from the chair. "Stand down, now."
"With all due respect, sir, it was the senate's fault we missed our chances to contain the Lox 40 years ago. I am not going to sit idly by while we make the same mistakes--"
"Not this again Alex!" he blared. "Damn it, I said stand down!"
"You will be expecting my resignation soon, sir," the admiral said quietly.
The president sighed and looked down. "Do you know why, you Military Association types never get the majority in the senate?"
"Please, enlighten me," the admiral said with sarcasm in her voice.
The president leaned closer to the admiral and answered, "despite all the stars you travel, despite all the worlds you visit, you still don't understand how the galaxy works. You still don't understand that, without due process of our constitution, we will no longer be who we are. We will be less and as ugly as our neighbors and their barbaric ways."
"Damn it. You were one of us, sir. You were," she said and turned around to leave.
Idealism. Xenophobia. These couldn't be what's holding him back, she thought with disbelief. Her heart sank as reality set in.
At a near-empty staff bar at the base of the presidential palace, Admiral Moreau was halfway through her drink when she was joined by her old mentor, Senator Dugalle. A former admiral who retired at age 130 and took up the mantle of politics. Despite that, he hadn't lost her respect.
He sat beside her with a chuckle and said, "I knew you'd be here, Alex. Your rigid posture is unmistakable."
"I assume you are coming back from the meeting with the president, then?" she asked and took a sip of the drink. "It's pointless."
"Well, he did explain how pissed off you were. But don't you worry, he did you a favor just now."
"Oh? How's that?" she asked with sarcasm, uninterested.
"He didn't call a single senator from the TCC, or the TPF. Just the goold old reps of the TMA and the Intelligentsia."
Terran Constitutional Congress--or "The Congress" for short--have been the majority in the federation for over a hundred years, as well as in the senate. Terran Preservation Front, the xenophobic vanguards have always been the close second, and both more or less collaborated. That left the Terran Military Association and National Intelligentsia Technocrats as younger minorities.
"How does that work? TMA is only 12 percent, let alone the Intelligentsia is only 5," Admiral Moreau said after downing her drink and motioning to the synth bartender for a second.
"Well, we can make quite a compelling case to the other 83 percent. That's the beauty of it. There are still hundreds of us in the senate," Dugalle explained.
"And thousands of them. There's nothing beautiful about politics," she replied bluntly.
"Your liver still work, old man?" she asked.
"This is my third liver, but screw it. I ain't buying though, you hear?" he said.
"That old timer welfare joke is as old as you," she chuckled. Then her expression became serious again as she continued to spin her glass on the bar. "But why the intelligentsia?" she asked with sudden interest. "I thought all they cared about is maintenance of the synth population."
"It's all about the tech they say. They handed their findings over to the Federal Research Agency. According to those eggheads, even if we move against them now, we won't be able to contain them," the old man answered. He coughed and frowned as he sipped on the drink.
"That's the same damn case they made with the Lox 40 years ago. I swear, I sometimes think they are working for the Congress." The admiral shook her head in bitterness and took another sip.
"You talk about that like you were around to see it," the old senator said.
Alex's expression darkened and her gaze was no longer on her drink. She spoke softly, "Theia incident. Or has your career in politics made you forget?"
"While you were reading about that off data-drives in school, I've actually seen the Lox for myself... as well as those darned machines," he replied bitterly.
"What machines?" Admiral Moreau asked.
"Oh. Nothing," Dugalle shook his head and took a sip.
"You never told me this," the admiral said, surprised. "After all the years I've known you."
"Well, you brought it up. We were always so caught up with our work, it never came to me I guess," he said. Staring blankly at the bottles on the shelves, he continued, "The Lox war was over before it even began. We had no choice but to stand by and watch. It was the best course of action for our survival. Actually declaring war against them would have been suicide. They were subjugating billions on all sections of the galaxy, all for their own amusement. I don't know about the xenos, but we Terrans must retain dignity."
"You sound just like those fear preachers from TPF," she said and took another sip. "Is this why you are into politics now? To laud them?" she asked rhetorically.
After some silence, she began.
"Here's something I never told anyone. My genetic parents were on Theia Prime, during the time of the incident. My memories are blurry, but it felt like deep inside, I always knew." The senator stared, puzzled. "I looked for them after the fleet academy to confirm my suspicions. My foster mother wouldn't tell me anything, so..."
"Ah, I see now. It's personal, then. I'm sorry to hear that," Dugalle studied his drink before proceeding with it.
"So, how are you going to make a compelling case if the researchers are saying we can't beat them?" she cleared her throat and lightened up with a smile.
"They didn't say we couldn't beat them. They said we wouldn't be able to contain them."
"Sounds same to me," she said and shrugged. "So what are they proposing?" Moreau asked.
"Operation Prometheus. It's part of a bill we prepared together. The Emergency Securities Act," he explained.
"Scary name. It'll catch the Congress off guard for sure," she joked.
Senator Dugalle turned and waited for some people to pass by and continued, "It's serious. It's more serious than we thought... this Contingency problem." He sighed. "The current problem is the price tag of this bill. And I'm not just talking about money and resources. It's the constitution itself."
"I'm not a politician, but if you are meddling with the constitution, that's a politically suicidal move. You guys don't stand a chance on the senate floor," Moreau replied. "So, care to let me in on what the project is about at least?"
"It's a 10 year plan. Massive build up of orbital habitats across Terran space in strategic locations. Locking down the systems with bastion starbases, FTL inhibitors, forts and ground troops. Lots of them. And for that to work, we may have to overturn the 37th and the 40th amendments. Conscription of able-bodied citizens, and their eventual forced relocation to the fort habitats. Yes it's a tall order," he continued after clearing his throat. "The best part of it all, though--you'll like this one--organize an expeditionary fleet in a few years."
After a pause, Admiral Moreau bursted out in laughter.
"Oh man, the TCC will destroy you all. You don't stand a chance!" she said as she continued to laugh, grabbing some attention of the other staff members. Dugalle could be seen motioning at her to quiet down, which she ignored. "And ground troops? Really? I mean is that the best you guys can come up with? So we can what, wait for the bombs or whatever the hell those things have to drop on our heads? Expedition? Does the TMA think this is a joke?"
The admiral's laughter ceased and her face was flushed red with alcohol and sudden anger. She ranted on. At one point the synth bartender attempted to calm her down, but without success.
The old man nodded and waited until she finished her rant, and the others to get back to their own business.
"Are you done? Because I wasn't finished," he said. She waved her hand for him to continue.
"I'm sure you've heard about the former Lox star fort isolated in the Daraan system, currently being held by their rivals, the Estwani?"
"What about it?"
"The Sentry Array Service suggests that the Estwani have not fully disposed of the Lox technologies in the starbase, and it is largely unattended. The Estwani fleets are too busy with the Lox on the other side of the galaxy. The new expeditionary fleet will escort the scientists there and engage the base. We may not be able to reverse engineer the Estwani's psionic technologies, but the Research Agency is confident they can reverse engineer Lox's dark matter shields and reactors."
Admiral Moreau slowly straightened her back and smiled. "And then we outfit our own ships with their tech," the admiral interjected.
"I like the sound of that. But I'm not sure about the others," she said.
"Oh don't worry. They'll be convinced," he chuckled and finished his drink.
"Wait, what aren't you telling me? Did the SAS feed you something the navy doesn't know about?"
"You'll see. Tune in to the news tomorrow. Thanks for the drink," the senator smiled and got up to leave.
The Federal Senate
The entire senate stadium echoed with laughter and mockery. Hundreds of senators, some projected via holograms, seemed to joke among themselves after a brief moment of discussion.
"Order, please. Senate leader of the TCC faction has the floor as requested," the AI core in the center of the spire instructed. The entire stadium fell silent, and only few minorities threw barely audible insults at the Congress members.
Up on the giant screens around the center spire displayed Senator Brandt, leader of the TCC and governor of Sol Administration Sector.
"This is clearly an elaborate plot of the militarist takeover of our government! There is no doubt about it!" His voice echoed from the loudspeakers, followed by the various murmurs and agreements of the senators.
"This bill is an insult to our democracy. It violates multiple provisions of our constitution that we worked so hard to build through unification of our species, which took millennia of sacrifices to achieve. If you look at our ancient history of violence and divisions, they were all caused by the militaristic dictators' rise to power, violating individual rights, dragging people into unnecessary wars. This bill does exactly that!"
Admiral Moreau, in her guest room at the presidential palace, her head ringing from the alcohol, watched the humiliation unfold on the screen with frustration.
"This is not looking so well for us," her colleague, Admiral Nadir spoke from Moreau's comm.
"Can't we do something?" she asked.
"The board of admiralty agrees," Nadir replied. "The risk against the Contingency is too great. The navy's hands are tied, especially when the Congress just branded the TMA as conspirators in front of the entire worlds. We have to remain neutral. This is all politics from here on out. I'm sorry."
"Yeah. I'm sorry too."
There is no difference between TCC majority and dictatorship," a TMA senator argued. There was silence.
"Would that be your closing argument?" the AI core asked. The TMA senator sat down without a word.
"We safeguard the constitutional rights of our citizens. That's the difference. It's no wonder it can't be helped for the TCC to be the majority, because of elements like you!"
The senate thundered with applause.
"Damn! Bunch of children..." Moreau said to herself.
"Something's wrong. I'm getting reports from my staff that we just lost a corvette," Admiral Nadir said with urgency.
"Which fleet?" Admiral Moreau quickly rose up.
"4th fleet. It seems to be a training accident. Something about uhh... combat AI malfunction on USS Mercury, causing friendly fire."
"That's a first. How odd," she replied and sat back down. "Casualty count?"
"According to the AI, 72 life monitors of the crew officers went offline. The rest are being retrieved from escape pods right now. Expect a rise in injured. From what I can see, the damage is extensive. It was a direct hit from a kinetic battery, and the corvette's shields were down. The core must have exploded. Shredded the entire hull. It would be a miracle if the ship is reparable," Nadir explained. "The AIs have been acting up lately, after the reported energy spikes. The Research Agency is reporting that their research AI supercomputers are malfunctioning as well. They are working on a hotfix as we speak."
"Right now, the Lox encompasses almost half of the entire galaxy, with dozens of fleets. We need the necessary infrastructure and manpower to level the playing field. We must pour all our energy into safeguarding our space and planetary defenses," Senator Dugalle spoke this time. He hesitated to speak the next words and turned to the leader of the TMA, who then gave him the approval with a nod. "Furthermore, the Federal Navy and the SAS have detected energy spikes on all four quadrants of the galaxy."
The old senator motioned at his colleague, who then uploaded the broadcast of the Contingency to the screens. The stadium reddened, and its loudspeakers blared with low vibrating hums. The machine voice spoke.
"No way. Are you seeing this, Nadir?" Moreau said, caught off guard by the reveal of the classified information.
"Maybe they got the president's authorization," Nadir replied.
"Dugalle you son of a--"
Gasps and murmuring ensued among the senators.
"This is the Terran Navy. We are receiving your signal. Identify yourself," an officer's recorded voice spoke through the loudspeakers. After a pause, he spoke again. "What is your purpose, where are you from?"
"Query received. Calculating appropriate response..." the mysterious mechanism spoke with thunderous voice, which vibrated throughout the stadium.
"Why are you transmitting the ghost signal?" the officer said.
The senators gasped once again and debated among themselves for several minutes, and ultimately requested a recess. Until now, they did not know the energy spikes were 'alive', and with intent to wipe out all life in the galaxy.
Suddenly, the leader of the Terran Preservation Front rose up from his seat, followed by more than half of his fellow representatives, including some from TCC.
"We must fight," he simply said, along with standing ovation from his faction.
"That's it then. It's over. If that doesn't send chills down the TCC cowards, I don't know what will," Admiral Moreau said and let out a sigh of relief. But at the same time, she was concerned for the future of the Terran civilization.
"Are you coming back to Arcturus?" Nadir asked.
"Yeah, my job here is done. I came all this way for nothing. All for just a formality," she said.
"Cheer up. At least the old man got it through the president's head. Besides, you did sway the president with our findings. If it weren't for you, the old man might not have succeeded."
"I guess you are right."
"Get some sleep, Arcturus is a long flight away."
"You don't say," Moreau said and leaned back in her chair, looking out at the city. "Ugh, I already miss it," she replied with sarcasm.
"Oh and bring some of those Martian wine too, why don't you? Our officers could use some celebration before the big one."
Admiral Moreau awoke from her nap, disturbed by the small irking noises of sirens coming from behind the dimmed window of her room. She groaned, walked over and pressed her hand against the window to withdraw the shade. The room brightened, and then her eyes.
Like the grains of sand, people packed the streets and alleys, and whichever space was available in between the buildings. They faced towards the presidential palace, and seemed pissed off from what she could gather. From their slogans against the TCC, it became clear to her. It was WAR.
President Sato sat quietly before the board of admiralty. The holograms broadcasted from Arcturus of old guard admirals--the armchair politicians more like--scolded the president for allowing the classified information to be publicized. When they finished their reasoning, the president began.
"Gentlemen, let's not deny that this is urgent, and that the senate was under gridlock. If I am to receive emergency powers as the Commander of the Navy, and the necessary funds to expand it, what better way to do so than to mobilize the help of our citizens?"
"Yes, we understand, sir. However, this could have turned a lot worse for us and your administration. If the people find out we've been witholding this information from them, it could've resulted in riots and other public crises across dozens of worlds," one of the admirals said. "Let alone invigorate the TCC even further," another admiral pointed out.
"Just be glad they didn't put us on the pedestal," the president replied with a smile and dismissed them.
President Sato looked out the window towards the white star, which dwarfed the starbase and the Strategic Coordination Center that synchroniously orbited the star in the distance. Arcturus, it was the beating heart of the Terran Navy.
"So, what's our next move?" the president asked, staring blankly at the star. Admiral Moreau's reflection emerged on the window.
"Now we prepare."