5 Days Later
– Isdia, Solith 25, 8034 –
“Less than half an hour until arrival, sir.”
“Alright.” Chief Captain Peter Krick nodded in response. “This is it, folks. We don’t know what to expect when we reach the system, but that’s why we’re here — to find out! The moment we exit Subspace, I want full power to all battle systems — shields, weapons, engines. All weapon systems prepped and prepared to retaliate immediately; all fighters prepped for launch, prepared to launch immediately! The moment we’ve secured our ground, boost power to the sensors and begin scanning for the Riaxen ship profile in the logs! Understood?”
The bridge crew of the Earthian Battlecruiser Genesis responded with a resounding “yes, sir!”, to which Krick smiled proudly. “This could be our first real space battle, both for the ship, and for SERRCom! Don’t let me down!”
Standing in the back of the bridge, Hero Machina looked on in mild fascination.
“They don’t even know what they’re getting into,” Kaoné remarked, “but… they’re so excited!”
“Don’t underestimate us Earthians,” Krick replied as he stood up from his captain’s chair and approached the eight passengers of the ship. He looked each in the eye briefly, his gaze passing over Hero Machina and then lingering momentarily on the huge, dark-skinned, bearded man who accompanied them: Master General Brennon Greant, of the Black Suns. The Earthian Captain then added, “we won’t let you down!”
“I can appreciate enthusiasm, Captain,” Greant replied, “in fact, I’m very much a fan of it myself! But you’d still do well to be careful.”
Krick nodded. “I’m aware, but thanks for the warning.”
“What exactly are we doin’ here, anyways?” Davídrius scowled. “Why do we need to be here?”
Kevérin sighed impatiently. “Where have you been these past five days?”
“Wonderin’ the same thing the whole time.”
“We’re here ‘cause we’re the only ones the Earthians would let on their ship,” Christeané retorted.
“We’re actually here because we lost contact with Tyrnaus,” Rebehka interjected as she shook her head in disapproval. “We can’t contact the system… and we can’t connect to its Transpace.”
“The situation is worse than that,” Kievkenalis added, “the loss of contact was preceded by two full days of Riaxen siege on the system. We need to learn what happened to the defending fleet, and we need to investigate this Riaxen supership that was reported to have appeared. I mean, it’s a Deathnought-class ship, augmented by a Chaos Ayas. That’s pretty serious.”
“And that’s why we’re here,” Kevérin remarked.
“…Are we just the Ayas retrieval squad, now?” Davídrius deadpanned. “Everywhere we go, there’s an Ayas!”
“Ahahaha!” Greant guffawed. “That’s hardly anything to complain about! Would only the Black Suns be so lucky!”
“That’s… not why you’re here?” Kevérin responded uneasily.
“No… no, the Black Suns have little use for the Ayas. We don’t have the right tech, and assigning them to individuals is a waste. Nor do we want the CSA breathing down our neck. Your Commander negotiated a contract to claim the Ayas anyways; I’m just here to confirm what happened to the Black Suns portion of the defending fleet.” The General’s expression quickly turned solemn. “Supreme Commander Jeran and Master General Regek were both with the fleet. If Jeran were to die now, it could mean… interesting things for us. ‘Us’ being the Black Suns, of course.”
“I’m surprised no one’s asked the obvious question, already,” Christeané spoke up, “but… if the Ayas is on a Deathnought, then what the hell are we supposed to do about it?!”
“We’ll address that on arrival,” Captain Krick remarked, “our mission is only to investigate the fate of the system. If there’s something we can do about the Ayas, then we’ll do it, otherwise we’re in and out within a day. All of the prepping I just ordered is for the worst case scenario where we’re forced to engage. Right now, this ship is the only ship in existence with a Subspace Drive, meaning we’re the only ones who can reach Tyrnaus and return in under a week. That makes us the fastest scout ship in the galaxy, and that’s what we need right now — a scout, not a fleet. If even we fail to escape the Riaxen, then the rest of the galaxy has no choice but to assume the worst and prepare for an attack.”
“Watch your claims, there, Captain!” Greant countered, “the Drakkars have had similarly speedy FTL drives for ages.”
“…You know what I meant,” Krick responded flatly. “Transpace-to-Transpace in two days. Two days! For a trip that would take any other ship a month! No CSA, Nimalian, Black Suns, or even Syraus ship can come close to touching us!”
“Your enthusiasm is turning into pride,” Greant replied, his voice low. “It is true that your ship is the fastest in allied space, but if I’m to understand correctly, it’s not by your own doing. This ship was created by the Master Ayas, was it not?”
“Wait, this is the ship from Sunova?” Davídrius questioned, to which Kevérin responded with a facepalm.
“You really haven’t been paying attention at all, have you,” the Pyrotechnic replied flatly.
“…Alright, no, I haven’t,” Davídrius admitted. “But I think I got it. We’re here to… uh… steal the Ayas from the Riaxen. Right?”
Kevérin sighed irately. “Maybe. Allow me to explain… a little over a month ago, a massive Riaxen fleet suddenly appeared at the Taizen DMZ world, Tzinck. The fleet then used the Transpace there to jump to the Syraus Transpace World of Ulinah, where they disappeared into FTL. In response, the Syraus, CSA, RPF, Tekdecénians, and Black Suns set up a defending fleet in the boundary system of Tyrnaus, which is the last Transpace World in Syraus space, as well as one of the two systems that Nimalia’s Transpace connects to. A week ago, the Riaxen fleet appeared in Tyrnaus and battle broke out, with their Deathnought wreaking havoc. The RPF fleet, as well as many CSA ships, picked up energy spikes from the Deathnought that can only be described by an Ayas, hence our belief that the Riaxen have one. Two days later, all contact with the system was lost. That was three days before we showed up on Rossindon. Now, we’re going to Tyrnaus with the help of the Earthians and their super-fast new ship to check out what happened. We might attempt to take the Ayas from the Riaxen, but only if their Deathnought has been adequately incapacitated. Now does that make sense?”
“Uh… sure. Yeah. I think.”
“If you don’t understand that, then there’s no use trying. His synopsis was completely correct!” Greant remarked, “I don’t think I could have explained it better myself!”
Davídrius turned to look at the General, who towered over even the tall Velocitechnic. “…You seem really energetic for someone your age.”
“Davídrius!” Kaoné glared at him disapprovingly, but the General simply laughed in response.
“Lack of energy is a choice, m’boy!” Greant replied as he stroked his massive graying beard. “Just because I can’t use Chaos Energy doesn’t mean I can’t be full of life! There’s more to the universe than fighting, after all!”
“If you say so.” The Velocitechnic crossed his arms, his expression one of disbelief. He then turned back to Kevérin. “Oh, I got one more question.”
“What is it?” the Pyrotechnic replied flatly.
“…What’s a Deathnought?”
Kevérin responded with a blank stare before finally droning out, “humongous ship. Fifty kilometers long. Really really strong. Really really powerful. Really really hard to beat.”
“Don’t talk like that to me.”
“Just making sure that you understood.”
“Cut the chatter,” Captain Krick ordered as he returned to his chair at the top of the bridge. “We’re approaching the Tyrnaus system.” He redirected his attention to the rest of the bridge, shouting, “ready, men? Battle stations!”
Greant grinned. “I’m looking forward to this.”
“…You’re looking forward to a massive space battle?” Christeané deadpanned.
“Or potentially a massive graveyard?” Kevérin added, “it has been a week.”
“No, I’m interested in this vessel,” Greant replied. “Even without access to the specs, everything I’ve seen suggests this ship is far more advanced than anything else I’ve ever seen! I’m interested in seeing how it’ll hold up.”
“While on it?”
“Life is never fun if you don’t take any risks!”
“…If you don’t mind me asking,” Kevérin responded, “how did someone like you become the Sector 1 Master General?”
The General’s grin shrunk into a smirk. “You’d do well to learn that appearances are everything, boy.”
“What does that even mean—?” Kevérin began to ask, but was interrupted as the Genesis exited Subspace. Immediately, black space replaced the gray scale gradient outside the bridge window. A planet lay below — relative to the ship’s positioning, of course — but most noticeable of all were the many flashes of light in the distance, as if someone were hosting a light show in high orbit.
“It’s the Riaxen and Syraus fleets, sir,” someone shouted, “the Syraus are a hundred kilometers out. The Riaxen are a thousand kilometers farther back.”
“Hold our ground. Initiate the cloaking systems and start scanning,” Krick ordered. “Start with the Transpace. Where’s the Transpace?”
“Gone?!” Kevérin exclaimed as a holographic display appeared to the upper right of the bridge. On it was an image of the system’s Transpace, reduced to a debris field covering hundreds of kilometers.
“Someone destroyed the Transpace?!” Kaoné gasped. “But—! I thought they were supposed to be nigh impossible to destroy!”
“I suppose this supports the theory that the Riaxen have an Ayas,” Krick muttered.
Greant shook his head. “No, that isn’t it. The Riaxen wouldn’t destroy the Transpace — it’s the easiest and quickest way to access the rest of the galaxy. Setting up a reliable supply line without it would be incredibly difficult. It must have been the defending fleet who destroyed it.”
“Why would they…?” Kevérin trailed off as he realized what the General was suggesting. “You think they did it to prevent the Riaxen from jumping to Nimalia?”
“It’s the only answer,” Greant affirmed, “their hand must have been forced. Destroying a Transpace is no trivial matter, considering we still have no idea how to even begin to build one.”
“Still doesn’t explain having no contact,” Krick muttered, and then ordered, “check our input stream. Are we receiving any data from the system’s Relay Points?”
“Scan the system for Relay Points. Can we find any?”
“…No, sir. Scans aren’t picking up any Relay Points.”
“They must’ve been destroyed, too.” Krick scowled. “Tyrnaus is completely isolated from the rest of the galaxy, now…”
“And the opposing fleets are still fighting,” Kevérin remarked, “what happened?”
Krick remained silent for a few moments, staring out the bridge display at the distant battle. “…Scan the planet,” he eventually ordered, “look for the Riaxen Deathnought. It might be a wreck at this point. If the scan turns up negative, then scan the entire system.”
“No need, sir!” someone replied, “the scan found the ship in local space. The wreck is on the planet below, and it seems that there are ground forces fighting over it as we speak. The entire area is covered by orbital bombardment shielding.”
“So the Deathnought was destroyed, then.”
“Is the Ayas down there?” Kievkenalis questioned.
“I guarantee it is,” Greant declared. “The Riaxen must be attempting to extract the Ayas. It’s the only reason they wouldn’t have obliterated the wreck the moment the ship was destroyed.”
“I agree with your reasoning, but we still need to be sure,” Krick replied as he turned back to the rest of the bridge. “Scan for any Chaos Energy anomalies on the planet. Also, request access to the allied fleet’s data connection!”
“We aren’t going to join the battle?” Siyuakén questioned.
“We’d accomplish nothing by jumping into the battle head-first,” Kevérin replied. “The number of ships in those fleets lies in the thousands. I don’t care if this ship is more advanced than anything we’ve seen, there’s no way adding a single Battlecruiser to the allied forces will impact the battle in any significant manner.”
Greant nodded. “The man’s right. The Deathnought’s out of the picture and we didn’t come out of FTL in the middle of the fight; there’s no reason for us to engage. Our best bet now is to go after the Ayas, which itself is sure to draw fire.”
“Not if we’re careful,” Captain Krick refuted, “The Genesis has incredible cloaking technology — it cloaks us from every kind of sensor we’ve tested it against. We’re undetectable, as long as we don’t use our weapons or launch fighters.” The Captain turned his attention back to the bridge window as a second holographic display appeared, giving an overview of the data being exchanged over the allied fleet’s data connection. “Looks like they haven’t actually been fighting all week long,” Krick remarked after several seconds of reading, “the first two days were straight battles, until the CSA fleet eventually took out the Transpace. The Riaxen took out the system’s Relay Points in retaliation, and then their Deathnought took out the Syraus Deathnought and half of the CSA and RPF fleets. The allied fleets retreated to recoup, but the Riaxen began chasing them around the system. So the allied fleet eventually mounted an offensive two days ago, sending in a Black Suns infiltration team to take down the Riaxen Deathnought from the inside. They managed to take out the core… the Deathnought then crash-landed on the planet below. Only some of the Black Suns were able to make it out… those left on board include Supreme Commander Jeran and Master General Regek.”
“So, they both died, then…” Greant muttered.
“The current battle has been raging since the initial strike that took down the Deathnought, it would seem. Riaxen casualties are estimated to be around fifty percent, Allied casualties… sixty.” Krick frowned. “Thousands of ships destroyed… millions dead.”
The bridge fell into a sobering silence for several moments.
“…What about the planet below?” Kevérin eventually questioned, “what’s going on down there?”
Krick scanned the displays before responded, “combination Black Suns and Syraus ground forces are trying to capture the wreck, and appear to be putting enough stress on the Riaxen that they can’t fully investigate it themselves. They’ve been in on-and-off fighting for the past two days, no progress on either side…”
“Then let us down there.”
“Wait, what?!” Rebehka interjected, “you want to go down there? In the middle of a massive battle? Are you suicidal?!”
“We need to get the Ayas!” Kevérin countered, “we can’t leave it in the hands of the Riaxen! It’s the fastest way to stop the ground battle, anyways.”
Greant eyed the Pyrotechnic warily. “What makes you think you can do what the entire allied force couldn’t, boy?”
“It’s not that. I don’t think that we’re better than the allied force. It’s just that it’s our job to get the Ayas.”
“Shit, man, I was just jokin’ about the Ayas retrieval squad thing.” Davídrius scowled.
“But we can do it,” Kevérin insisted, “the Genesis has cloaking tech, and they also have beaming tech. We used it back on Sunova, remember? We just need to be beamed into the wreck, where we can search for the Ayas, find it, and then get beamed out!”
“That’s… that’s actually not a bad idea,” Siyuakén mused.
“Wait, beaming tech?” Christeané exclaimed incredulously, “you’re not talking about — you mean, like the Drakkars? The teleportation stuff?”
“He’s right.” Krick nodded in affirmation. “We have beaming technology. ‘Instantaneous Subspace Transfer.’ Our sensors are strong enough to penetrate the bombardment shielding, too, so we can get precise beaming coordinates, but the wreck itself is a mess. Sensors and comms can’t seem to get through it. So if we’re going through with this beaming plan, I’ll have to beam you down near the wreck, rather than in it. Can you handle that?”
“It’s just fighting through the Riaxen,” Kevérin replied nonchalantly. “The Taizen civilizations don’t have many Chaotics, right? That means we can handle them, no problem.”
“Alright, this is starting to sound like a plan I can get behind!” Christeané grinned as he cracked his knuckles in anticipation.
“Wait, but… doesn’t this…” Kaoné spoke up warily, “…doesn’t this mean we’ll have to… have to fight the Riaxen?”
“Is that a problem?” Krick responded, clearly confused.
“You’re not seriously gonna throw a fit over this, are you?” Davídrius glared at the Materiatechnic.
“W-well, I mean…”
“We’ll be fine,” Kevérin interjected. He then turned to face Captain Krick. “Just beam the seven of us down. We can handle it.”
Kaoné opened her mouth to speak, but decided to remain silent. Her expression wasn’t lost on the Earthian Captain, but he merely shook his head and turned back to Kevérin.
“Alright, I’ll give this plan the go-ahead,” he replied, “…but your current armor won’t cut it.”
“What? Why not?” Kevérin glanced down at his Chaos Armor, and then back at the rest of Hero Machina. “Chaos Armor is the most advanced armor we have.”
“Is it certified for atmosphereless action?”
“…Oh,” the Transfer Captain replied meekly as he glanced at the planet outside the bridge window. It was a lifeless chunk of rock on the outer edge of the Tyrnaus system; the Chaos Armor would have been perfectly fine on the planet of Tyrnaus itself, but it wasn’t equipped to handle the extra requirements of an atmosphereless outer planet.
“We’ll have to see about getting appropriate armor from the allied fleet,” Krick remarked. “They should have sets to spare; I’d be rather surprised if they didn’t. However, depending on whether or not the host ship is willing to tag the sets for beaming, we might have to cease cloaking in order to temporarily dock with another ship. We can cloak again afterward, but the Riaxen will know we’re here then; in all likelihood, it’ll accelerate their efforts to extract the Ayas once they realize there’s a ship they can’t track. You’ll have to act quickly.”
“Act quickly? No problem,” Davídrius declared. “Speed happens to be my specialty.”
“Hahaha! Such self-confidence!” Greant suddenly burst into laughter. “What I wouldn’t give to be young again! It’s a shame that I can’t join you!”
“I’ll take that as an endorsement,” Krick replied. “Very well. I’ll get those armor sets, and then the seven of you can suit up. Meet back here in four hours and we’ll start the op. That sound good?”
“Perfect.” Kevérin nodded, and then turned toward the bridge exit. “C’mon, Hero Machina. Let’s head out!”