View character profile for: Winteroak
What does it take to shatter a planet? Not just to shatter its body, but to fracture its spirit? Whatever it is, the Armada had it.
I had to make the long, dark journey through realspace to the edge of the Tangaqimaq system because my jump fuel had run out half way between Alukimaq and there.
I had been told that the fourth planet, Hahnuda, possessed resources and a jump-capable station that would allow me to resume my spiral toward the Galactic Core.
But what I found was like nothing I had seen, or ever hope to see again.
As I approached the outer planets, I cursed the old man who had given me the information about the system. Either he had lied, or he knew less than he claimed about Tangaqimaq and her planets.
He had said I would find eight planets orbiting the star, but I only counted six. A large asteroid belt he failed to mention blanketed the region inside the orbit of the fifth planet.
It took me hours to navigate through the belt without getting dinged up. I approached the fourth planet and swore, my luck was all bad. I ran through a systems check to re-calibrate the instruments. The ranging sensor was bouncing up and down like a fat girl at a blanket toss. Even after the system check it was still wonky. It was as if the planet was wobbling on its axis or something. As I got closer my eyes began to agree with the sensors.
The planet was wobbling visibly, unstable on its axis of rotation. As I passed over the terminator, my cockpit was bathed in a hellish red glow. This side of the planet bore a gaping rent in its mantle, exposing the angry molten core. Great clouds of smoke and ash plumed upward from the surface, blotting out the rest of the hemisphere.
I cautiously descended to try to get beneath the layer of ash and dust. There was no bottom to it, and I nearly crashed into a mountain that suddenly reared up out of the ocean of dirty gray air.
I returned to a high orbit and scanned the vicinity for any detectable vessels. I got a signature from spinward and lower. I dropped down to find the remains of two vessels twisted together in a death dance. The smaller vessel was impaling the larger warship. It looked like a last desperate murder-suicide. The larger warship was emblazoned with a symbol in purple that sent chills down my spine. The badge of the Armada.
I spent the next two days flying over the visible surface, looking for anything that survived. Swaths of scorched earth, relieved only by piles of rubble that once were a civilization. The oceans were fouled with ash and the corpses of sea creatures.
It would have been less horrific if the Armada had blown up this planet as I realized they must have done to what used to be the fifth and sixth planets that now formed the asteroid belt. Instead they had raped and mortally wounded it. I understood why Sunlion had warned us to stay clear.
There was no one and nothing left here to render assistance to.
First the Armada had been as busy as a swarm of space wasps in their general hunting grounds out by the rim of the Galaxy. They had begun to move, but not just raiding parties in a dozen ships or so, but a large proportion of their whole fleet. They had cut a swathe through space, picking up the scum of those systems they passed as they went. Their forces began to grow over time until they were spread out like a deadly snake, raiding systems as they went. At one point their influence was up to 500 light years wide as they continued to press forwards, pulling in more scum as they went.
At the same time something profound had happened. The Sentinel's had gone quiet. None had been seen anywhere since the Armada had left the rim systems. That in itself was one of the most disturbing things that Crylic had seen, beyond the destruction the Armada was creating. Then the Ubank had fallen. The complete collapse of the universal digital Units system. This would devastate the galaxy's infrastructure for decades to come. many system already used trade as commerce, and they would be the ones to lead the new way out of this darkness where he was concerned, and, indeed much of the Bedouin Cartographers trade was generally in terms of resources, knowledge and tech. But many many more relied upon the Unit. It did not bode well for anyone.
Now the head of the snake was in motion again, yet the body was in repose.
~What the hell was going on?~ Thought Crylic.
The PotA were mobilizing also, but the Protectors looked to be outnumbered so far as as he could tell from the chatter coming in. There were hundreds of military and law-enforcer groups out in this neck of the woods, but they appear mysteriously absent or afraid to confront an enemy rising from the deep myths of the Galaxy.
They could not all be mopping up the rag tag of corsairs and thugs that was the snakes body. Only the Guardians and some PotA where in the eye of the storm as far as Crylic could tell.
Time was standing still, the hairs on his tanned arms stood up on end. He felt like he was sat in the eye of an hurricane. His body felt like it did when the ozone and the static builds before a storm, a comforting yet at the same time ominous stillness.
He knew he could not leave as yet. He had to know what would form out of the mist's of potential ahead of him. He had to bear witness as close to the heart of the storm as possible, if he was to be informed enough to warn his brothers and sisters, should the storm move direction.
Sunlion received Nivekisroms's report. He contacted Nivek and voiced his thoughts.
'Thanks for the information Brother, you already know my concerns and confusion from our past conversations concerning the current events unfolding throughout the Galaxy'.
'The silence of the Sentinels, and the fact that the actions of the Armada fly in the face of their normal activity. The fact they are holding and managing vast swathes of systems through several regions in such an organised manner for one'.
'What Pirate faction do you know of becomes involved in politics, trade and organisation on such a scale? None!'
The Armada had a reputation of hitting hard and going off radar for cycles at a time, spending years in one region or another attacking a trade route here, a caravan there. And now?
'They strike half way across a galaxy, unstoppable!' Nivek said. 'They pull in all the riff raff they can find, and use them as a scythe to cut though systems and as a shield against any organised resistance'. That same rabble is then left in charge of whole systems, no doubt funneling resources to the main Armada fleet along the way in order to keep it fully equipped!', 'Makes no sense'.
'Normally they would be fighting each other for territory, not allying with one another in order to gain organisation, something every single one of them, man, woman and child hates with a vengeance'.
'If they have liberated the penal colonies, that answers the question as to why the military channles are so quiet', 'But why the colonies?'
'Okay more scum to the mix, but that alone is expensive in terms of equipping those prisoner's, though no doubt many will still have contacts and resources of their own'
'My guess is they were after specific individuals for some other reason, after all, they have plenty of scum already serving them in the wake of their destruction so far, so no real need for more bodies in the fray!'
'Smells of overkill if you ask me'. silence.
'If they are going after the High Council, why? Even that makes no sense! Since when have the Armada ever give a damn about the common citizen, and even less so the oppressed, after all they themselves are oppressors of a kind.' Sunlion mused
'If you ask me, something even bigger is afoot, something that all these other targets are but a prelude to'.
'If the Sentnals are silent, the law enforcers and militia's unable to respond beyond fighting the rabble that the Armada has pulled in, and I think that is why they have been pulled in, as a shield to hold back any organised resistance. After all of that, the Council may as well be toothless. There is no way they could organise an effective response against such numbers, so why would they be a target? They have no forces beyond their own fleets to respond to such a wide ranging emergency, and you can bet your last unit, if they were worth anything anymore, that the Council will just close up shop behind fortifications and let us all rot in hell anyway.'
'There must be more to this. There has to be another powerful player in this, that does not have the a future of the galaxy at the heart of it's motivation, and if you ask me, the Armada are being used as spear to it's very heart.'
The big questions then have to be what is at the heart, why are the Archangels going along with this, even they must smell a rat, and whoever is orchestrating this certainly does not value life. The galaxy as it stands even now, will take many generations to recover even if no more comes of this. But the snake is still headed to the heart, and that worries me even more now'. Sunlion concluded
'I have not been able to raise Jaegger, I hope he is okay out there. I think we should head further in to the center, that is of course if you feel that is something you would wish to do, as it may possibly not end well for us, but then it may not end well for anyone in the long run anyway depending what the real motive for all of this is'.
'Okay I will head to the station you are docked at, refuel, and we can discuss where we go from there'.
Arkady studied the results of his scanning and his mind drifted back to those past events once again.
Crylic in company of Nivek had returned to the lone planet in the dead system when news had began to filter in about what was happening at the center during the unfolding events.
Sunlion at that time had all but given up on any hope of any good news from the crisis that was ongoing in the next region. All channels were abuzz with conflicting information but the main points of interest pointed to destruction on a wide scale. Crylic had foreseen some of what was slowly coming true on com's, but not in a way that he had expected.
Somehow, the High council had been decimated, and on top of that news was coming through that the Elder Council had also met a similar end.
It would be many Sol cycles, as news came through in pieces, that a clear picture would emerge.
Over time as Crylic began his slow journey back out to the rim he managed to piece together scraps of information.
Stories of deceit and deception, bravery and heroism, tyranny and turmoil.
The Protectors of the Abyss had been decimated from within by an inside assailant. The Foxes had had a hand in saving a form of technology that may prove useful in the galactic cycles to come.
The Guardians had left the field of play at a crucial time in the conflict and no news as to why that had been the case. Some speculated they knew something the rest of us did not and had gone to ground. Thankfully total galactic annihilation had not been the outcome.
The loss of the Elder and High councils created a power vacuum, that many over time would try and fill. The lawless and the would be lawful. Not to mention the large trade cartels.
The destruction and splintering of the Atlas which even today resulted in a galaxy wide search for the shards. The shards were reported to have power and data that could aid the power hungry. Many an explorer, pirate, military group were abroad searching for such artefacts.
Trade became the norm and greed again became a driving force for the power hungry. Some things change, some stay the same.
New factions evolved, new military groups formed to police the many regions of space. New groups of Explorers and traders travelled the back roads of the galaxy looking for information, truth, riches and fame.
The high Council no longer ruled the galaxy with an iron fist, controlling the Unitary currency and hence the trade routes. Now it was survival at ones own hands should one wish, freedom at a price for those bold enough. New alliances formed.
Maybe time will tell and the whole truth will out one day far into the dark future ahead.
The riff raff of would be pirates that had followed the Armada splintered, and even now still prey on the commerce routes, but the surviving Armada's ships had headed back to the Rim Systems where they carried on where they had left off before all these events unfolded and there drive to the Center of the galaxy in a campaign of unparalleled conquest and destruction in eons of recorded history. Crylic was sure he had not heard the last of the Armanda by any means.
There were many tales, some myth, many exaggerations or tales from the bottom of a bottle that emerge and muddied the real story that emerged over time.
Tales of a mad genius dwarf who was deemed to control sentinels. Of dragons and shape shifter's. Tales of heroic rogues and cowardly law men.
Of pirate leaders rising from the dead.
A story that the double Helix had powered into a moon.
An Elder that had somehow survived and had the technology to live for generations.
So many tales that it was hard to pick fact from fiction.
Crylic gave a wry smile. 'Ah,' he thought, 'to live in interesting times. It surely was a blessing and a curse.'
He pulled out his flask of Dark spiced rum, and raised a toast to nobody in particular and drank to the future.