3 Days Later
– Mondia, Skydiath 20, 8034 –
“So this is the so-called ‘Capital of the Galaxy,’ huh?”
“Capital of the Galaxy?” Captain Krick echoed incredulously. “Oriciid’kas is the capital of the CSA, but I wouldn’t call it the capital of the whole damn galaxy.”
“It’s just a nickname,” Kievkenalis replied while maintaining his focus on the Genesis’s bridge window. “The CSA is the most culturally and politically influential entity in the galaxy. The Drakkars are just a threat, after all — they don’t have any real influence per se, and the Taizen races keep to themselves. So the CSA effectively runs the galaxy.”
“They like to think they run the galaxy,” Vélunis corrected, “but they don’t hold any real sway over us Nimalians. They had to ask for our help, after all.”
“Ideally, they wouldn’t need to…” Krick muttered as he observed a far-away space station, magnified as a hologram to allow the bridge inhabitants to inspect it more closely. Not much about its appearance was remarkable, as it looked to be little more than a series of cylinders jutting out from a central shaft, but it’s size… “Christ, that thing is huge! Each of those shafts looks like they’re tens of kilometers across… People live on that?”
“I’ve heard that a single station in this system can host millions,” Kievkenalis remarked, “and there’s a station sitting at every Lagrange point of the five terra planets. And then even more than that.”
“…This is ridiculous…” Wilkas frowned uneasily. “There’s so many people in this system. How the hell does the CSA plan to protect them all?”
“They don’t,” Krick replied. “They only have a vested interest in the planet of Oriciid’kas itself and Siionkagh, the local Fortress World. Why do you think those are the only planets they requested you help reinforce?”
“That’s only because Oriciid’kas and Siionkagh are the only planets with decent planetary shielding,” Kievkenalis countered. “There’s no way the other three can be protected from the Nanocreatures in any reasonable fashion, but surely the CSA is at least orchestrating a mass evacuation of the system?”
“Ha,” Vélunis snorted. “And where would they all go? There’s over a hundred billion people living in this system, that’s more than all of the Homeworlds in the galaxy combined. No other system could possibly handle taking in this many refugees.”
“Which is all the more reason to help out the CSA,” Krick stated. “…Your friends should already be on Oriciid’kas, right?”
Kievkenalis nodded. “They should be, yes. Kevérin, Kaoné, and Davídrius took the Ayas Mystryth with them through the Gate a couple days ago, so hopefully the Ayas is already plugged into the planet’s shields.”
“That leaves us to help reinforce Siionkagh,” Krick mused. “…I wonder if we can really make a difference.”
“That prototype FTL Drive should definitely help,” Wilkas remarked, “if the CSA can start mass-producing those, then that alone would help a whole lot.”
“Wilkas is right.” Kievkenalis nodded again. “That’s why we’re here anyways, isn’t it? To transport one of the prototype Drives. I don’t really think the Genesis itself would make a difference, since it is only one ship, albeit a massively advanced one…”
“I think you guys are overlooking the best systems of the Genesis,” Krick countered, “the Subspace Drive is great, sure, but the beaming systems are far more tactically useful. The CSA can hold out against the Nanocreatures for weeks in space, likely, but it’s all over once they make Planetfall. That’s how Bouy’Xis and Metorilis were lost. But the beaming systems — if the CSA had that, then they could’ve actually put up an effort on the ground. …Unfortunately, the beaming systems seem a lot harder to reverse-engineer than the Subspace Drive was.”
Vélunis frowned. “I dunno, would they really make that much of a difference?”
“They’re what saved us from Morcii back on Maasen,” Kievkenalis pointed out, “and I have a feeling that they’re going to be what saves us if we ever encounter Morcii again. Hopefully we won’t, but, well… you never know.”
“If you see Morcii planetside, then it means the planetary shields have failed, and we’ll have pulled you out long before then,” Krick stated. “…That said, he’ll probably show up at least on the space front. According to the battle reports I’ve read, he’s only appeared on battlefields three times since Maasen, and each time it was when the CSA almost seemed to be developing a steady defense. Seems like he lets his forces do most of the work, and then shows up himself to break any particularly strong defense. He was there for the fall of both Bouy’Xis and Metorilis, for example. So, given that…” The Captain paused to squint at a display toward the front of the bridge. “…And given how much military might is garrisoned in this system, I wouldn’t be surprised if the metallic bastard showed his face soon.”
“Huh?” Wilkas tried to find the display Krick was staring at. “…What do you mean?”
“If I remember the briefings right, a typical, full-sized Siion fleet is five thousand ships, with a heavy skew towards Dreadnoughts and Battleships. Citan fleet sizes are about three thousand strong, with a skew more towards Carriers than Dreadnoughts, and Dra’kis are a little smaller, with a higher focus on Sub-Caps. Mixed CSA fleets sit around four thousand strong. …There are currently ten fleets stationed in this system. The 22nd Siion fleet, the 15th Citan fleet, and mixed fleets 1st through 8th. Over forty thousand spacecraft.”
“For reference, three Dra’kis fleets were lost at Bouy’Xis before the remaining two retreated, and four Citan fleets were lost at Metorilis before it was abandoned.”
“Is ten really enough, then?…” Kievkenalis commented warily.
“Maybe, maybe not, but you have to keep in mind that every fleet that’s sitting here is a fleet that isn’t helping to defend any of the planets currently under attack, not to mention that the CSA fleet reserves are in no way infinite,” Krick pointed out. “That’s not all there is, anyways; looks like the CSA are committing several Super-Caps to this system as well. Seven Motherships are stationed in the Tau’cen Kii system and are prepared to launch their full fighter squadrons through the Transpace, and… two Deathnoughts, a whole two Deathnoughts, are currently in system, right now. The Siion Dakonis Raath, in orbit around Siionkagh, and the Dra’kis On’esstin, in orbit around Oriciid’kas.” The Captain whistled in awe. “The CSA really are serious about protecting this system.”
Vélunis snorted. “Of course they are, it’s their capital.”
“All the more reason for us to help as much as we can,” Krick replied. “…Alright, we’re approaching Siionkagh. We’ll be in a stable middle orbit within the hour, and after that we can figure out how to deliver the prototype Drive, and how to get your Ayas to their shields.”
“Sounds good.” Kievkenalis nodded as he turned toward the bridge exit, signaling for Vélunis and Wilkas to follow. “C’mon, guys, let’s suit up.”
“Suit up?” Wilkas echoed incredulously. “We’re just here to reinforce the shields. We shouldn’t be doing any fighting; why bother with armor?”
“Better safe than sorry,” the Chaostechnic responded wearily. “…Though, against the Nanocreatures, we might not have the latter option.”
“For the supposed ‘Capital of the Galaxy,’ this place feels really desolate.”
“Well of course it does.” Kevérin rolled his eyes. “We’re at the North Pole. It’s not exactly a major population center.”
“I can certainly see why,” Davídrius deadpanned as he glared out the tower window at the vast swathes of tundra below. “…Man, why’d we have to come straight to the coldest damn place on the planet?”
“Because this is where the primary planetary shield generator is. If we want to get the largest boost possible from the Ayas, we have to plug it in to the primary generator.”
“…Bah. This better be fuckin’ worth it.”
Kevérin responded with silence as he looked up at the polar skies. Even in broad daylight, the polar skies of Oriciid’kas displayed fantastically colored aurorae due to the interaction of the planetary energy shielding and the planet’s own magnetic field. The sight led to the poles being highly-valued tourist destinations, but tourism had all but dried up completely in the face of Nanocreature attack. And even if citizens were willing to take trips at such a dangerous time, the CSA had shut down the poles to civilians — they now hosted only enough of a military garrison to protect the shield generators.
“…Looking at the skies?” Kaoné questioned as she slowly approached the two Chaotics.
“Mm,” Davídrius grunted, casually glancing upwards at the bright blue and green streaks through the night sky. “…I guess we at least got that goin’ for us.”
“It’s actually a point of weakness,” Kevérin muttered, “planetary shielding is always weakest over the magnetic poles due to interference from the planet’s own magnetic fields. It’s why the primary generator is built here, because if it wasn’t, then the shielding over the pole would be virtually non-existent.”
“Well thanks for ruinin’ the moment,” the Velocitechnic drawled.
“I’m just being cautious,” the Transfer Captain replied wearily. “We have to be ready for when the Nanocreatures attack. It could be at any time.”
“We’ll have at least some warning though, right?” Kaoné responded uneasily. “I mean, it’s not like they can break through the shields within minutes.”
“Not to mention they’re already spread over four planets and who knows how many more in Drakkar space,” Davídrius added.
“Not quite true…” Kevérin shook his head. “Lehmekarid fell two days ago.”
“What?!” Kaoné exclaimed, “but—! They only lasted five days! Wasn’t Lehmekarid supposed to be better reinforced than Bouy’Xis or Metorilis?”
“It was, but that didn’t stop the Nanocreatures. Dramantis will probably fall any day now, as well. So for all we know, the Nanocreatures are already on their way here, and Morcii himself could show up at a moment’s notice. We do have an Ayas here, after all.”
“Yeah, but he’d still have to break through the shields,” Davídrius pointed out. “Powerful as he is, that’ll at least take some time, won’t it?”
Kevérin paused for a moment to sigh before responding, “I hope so.”
“…How long do you think we’ll last?” Kaoné questioned quietly.
“This system has a larger garrison than any of the others that have fallen, we have a better idea of how the Nanocreatures work, and we have Ayas reinforcing the shields of both Oriciid’kas and Siionkagh,” the Transfer Captain mused. “…Assuming the Nanocreatures don’t suddenly focus all of their forces on this system, which is a distinct possibility, I think we might be able to hold out for at least several weeks. The space fleets definitely can, at least — but whether or not we hold the system relies on preventing the Nanocreatures from making Planetfall. And to do that, we have to maintain the shields, and to do that, the fleets have to somehow draw the Nanocreatures away and into empty space. That’s the hard part.”
“Can they do that?”
“That’s the big question…” Kevérin frowned and sighed wearily. “…The Genesis might be able to help. It has enough advanced tech that it might draw some attention to itself and away from the planets. The CSA might also be planning to use the non-shielded terra planets and some of the space stations as bait, as morally ambiguous as that may seem… but the thing is, we have an Ayas here. I know it’s supposed to reinforce the shields, and it certainly did — I don’t think I’ve ever heard of planetary shielding strength jumping into or above the petaton range — but we know Morcii wants the Ayas. It’s why Nikéyin made sure none of them sat on a single planet for longer than two days ever since the Nanocreatures showed up. So… it’s possible that they’ll just carve a path straight to the Ayas… straight to right here.”
“Alright.” Davídrius crossed his arms as he turned away from the window to face Kevérin straight-on. “What do we do if that happens?”
“The Genesis is orbiting Siionkagh, so we can’t count on them to save us…” Kevérin mused, “if worst comes to worst, we need to take the Ayas, engage the Chaos State so Morcii can’t steal it, and then high-tail it back to the Interstellar Gate.”
“What!?” Kaoné exclaimed, “but then you’d be leaving behind everyone on this planet! You’d doom billions of people!”
“And I’m sure billions more would be lost if the Nanocreatures got another Ayas,” the Transfer Captain countered, “I talked to Arcán about this a couple days ago, and if he’s right, then these things are far more powerful than we ever imagined. We can’t afford to lose it.”
“But we can’t afford to lose Oriciid’kas, either…”
“Alright, here’s an idea,” Davídrius cut in, “if the Ayas are as powerful as you say they are, then why the hell don’t we just fight Morcii and end it all here?”
“One Ayas isn’t enough,” Kevérin responded impatiently, “I used the First Tier Chaos State back on Earth, and while it was certainly powerful, there’s no way it’s enough to counter Morcii. We’d have to use the Third or Fourth Tier at least to stand up to him.”
“We only need one Ayas Weapon though,” Davídrius pointed out. “I think everyone’s forgettin’ about Subspatial storage, here. Y’all saw me use it back on Kotak, didn’t you? I think that could be useful!”
“What, so we can store Morcii’s luggage for him?” Kevérin snorted. “We don’t even know how to get something out of Subspace once it’s in there. And besides, the Ayas are too powerful for us to just use them as storage devices.”
“What? The fuck are you talkin’ about?” The Velocitechnic scowled. “We don’t need to know how to get shit out, gettin’ it in is all that matters.”
“Huh?…” The Transfer Captain stared at Davídrius blankly for several moments before realization slowly dawned on his features. “…Oooh, you want to Subspatially store Morcii!”
“That’d work, wouldn’t it? Stuff the bastard into who-knows-wherever-that-is and he can’t bother us anymore.”
“That might work…” Kevérin nodded in approval. “But it requires getting into a direct fight with Morcii, which we should still try to avoid.”
“We all know what happened the first time, after all…” Kaoné muttered.
“The first time we weren’t expectin’ him to pull a Dues Ex Machina out of his ass.” Davídrius rolled his eyes, and then chortled. “…Get it? ‘Cause he’s a machine, and he was claimin’ to be a god?”
Kevérin and Kaoné both gave the Velocitechnic flat stares of disapproval before the Transfer Captain turned back to the tower window. “…If it really does come down to a fight, I’ll take the Ayas and engage the Chaos State, and then I’ll try the Subspatial storage thing on Morcii. If we can’t lay a hit on him, though, then we need to get out of here. Davídrius, can you carry both of us?”
“I could barely carry both of you fatasses at once without your armor, there ain’t no way I’m doin’ it with armor. Why don’t I take the Ayas? Then I can just Subspatially store y’all and run back to the Gate easy.”
“Did you not hear me when I said that we don’t know how to retrieve objects from Subspace?” Kevérin deadpanned.
“Can’t be much harder than stickin’ ‘em in…” Davídrius frowned. “Just… think about it or somethin’, I dunno.”
“Exactly. No one knows. That’s not even considering what happens to stored objects. Do they go into stasis? Do they just float in Subspace? If you stored a person, would they get exposed to Subspace and die, or would they come out exactly as they went in? What even is Subspace? …There’s just too many things we don’t know; using Subspatial storage now is too risky.”
“Regardless…” Kevérin sighed. “It’ll take the Nanocreatures at least a day to break through the shields, hopefully. So once they show up, we’ll still have a window to plan contingencies.”
“Now we just have to sit tight and wait for them to actually show up…” Kaoné muttered.
Davídrius scowled. “I wonder how long that’ll be. Hmph. I really don’t like the idea of stayin’ here for much longer.”
“Neither do I…” Kevérin responded, “but against the Nanocreatures… we don’t really have a choice.”
1 Day Later
“The prototype Subspace Drive has been unloaded to the research station, and the Ayas is secured in and powering Siionkagh’s planetary shield generator. We’re clear, sir.”
“Alright…” Krick leaned forward expectantly. “Finally. I never dreamt it could take so long just to drop off a couple objects… Hold position and request sitrep-level data-connection access with the CSA fleets, and query their fleet control for a formation position. Once we know what we’re doing, well… we’ll be doing that.”
After waiting for the bridge officers to acknowledge his order, Krick stood up and stretched. He then crossed his arms and glanced to his right toward a redheaded woman not much younger nor shorter than himself.
“…’We’ll be doing that?’” She echoed incredulously when she realized she had his attention.
“Don’t get flippant with me, Bourne.” Krick smirked, but quickly removed it as he sighed warily. “I hate to do this to you on your first real mission with the Genesis, Captain, but we’re fixin’ to be in a full-on engagement soon, and as the XO, you’ll have to switch out with me every twelve hours to command the ship. We could very well be here for a full week, or even longer. Understand?”
Bourne nodded. “I do, sir. But don’t worry about me; I’ve studied the Genesis’s specs, so I know how to handle the ship.”
“That’s all well and good, but you won’t really know how to handle the ship until you’re sitting in this chair right here.” Krick patted the arm of the commander’s chair. “…Though with your record, I hope you already realize that.”
“I was second just after you in the Captain candidate list for this ship.”
“Yes you were, but don’t let it get to your head. We’re about to enter battle with an enemy that even the CSA has little experience fighting, and while this ship can handle more than any other ship in its class, it is, in the end, still just a Battlecruiser. You’d do well to remember that.”
Krick nodded. “Good… In eight hours, you take over from me; at that point we’ll start switching every twelve until we’re no longer in a state of battle readiness. When the Nanocreatures first attack, though, I want us both on the bridge, regardless of who’s already here. I’ll take command for the first two hours of the battle while you observe, and then we’ll resume shift switches after that. But while you’re off, you need to get as much rest as possible, you hear me?”
“Yes sir, and I’d like to say the same to you.”
“Heh, I’m sure you would. Now, it’s about time you actually got that rest. We can’t afford to stand around and chat—”
“Sir! Picking up signals on the long-range sensors!”
“How many?” Krick immediately redirected his attention to the sensor readouts at the front of the bridge as he sat down in the commander’s chair. Bourne quickly moved to stand at attention by his side.
“It’s… thousands! …Incoming from Lehmekarid, but none of them match CSA, Nimalian, or Black Sun signatures!”
“So the Nanocreatures are finally here,” the Captain muttered. “Broadcast an emergency alert! Our sensor suites are more advanced than the CSA’s, they may not have picked up on the Nanocreatures yet! And prepare to engage!”
Krick sat back in his chair warily as the rest of the bridge responded with a united “Yes sir!” He continued staring at the bridge displays, his expression grim.
“…This is it.” He eventually glanced toward Bourne. “Forget what I said about the initial time line of the shifts; observe for two hours, and then replace me in nine.”
“Yes, sir, understood!”
“Good. Now keep your wits about you — we can’t afford to panic.” Krick turned back to face the bridge window and the many holographic displays in front of it. “…Because the defense of the Oriciid’kas system begins now.”