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Goodbye, black sky
What’s the worst thing that can happen to a species? Extinction? A slow societal decline into barbarism? Genetic degeneration? How about all the above?
What would be the harshest fate one race could inflict on another? Enslavement? Death? To burn their worlds and strand them amongst the stars, or to take the sky away from them?
That was the question on everyone’s mind that day, a cold December in the year 2860. The day the sky was taken from us.
Let me start at the beginning. My name is not important. You can call me Z if you like. I will start with a history lesson, for context. Honestly, I’m not sure who I’m writing this for. Records of these events are public for everyone. Everyone that’s left. I just feel like I need to write them down myself, to help me cope.
Seven centuries ago, humanity was making its first steps into outer space. Small steps at first. A few little ships, a few space stations, a whole bunch of satellites. Keeping it mostly close to home. Then came more and more interest as launches got cheaper and potential profits came closer to reality rather than a sci-fi pipedream. Our first successful asteroid mining operation was the turning point. We’d managed to pin a small, primitive, self-contained mining robot to an asteroid passing between the Earth and Moon. The little robot would extract iron and nickel, package it, and send it on a trajectory to one of the newest orbital stations we’d set up just for this purpose. There, another robot would catch the package, bring it onboard and from there we would process it into material for a second mining robot. The constant thrust of the package launches gradually pushed the asteroid into a stable Earth orbit and we soon had a second very tiny, temporary moon.
That was the point where our space industry took off from. From there we grew ever outward, to the asteroid belt, to the Kuiper Belt, to comets and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Resource shortages on our mother planet soon became a thing of the past. We settled the Moon and Mars because we could, as if to fulfill a childhood dream. Conflicts died down for a time as people who didn’t get along with one another could just leave and set up their own colonies, out on the moons of Jupiter and the other gas giants, or even closer in, nearer the Sun, to take advantage of its light.
But, disagreeable beings that we are, humans couldn’t share even a whole solar system in peace. War with Earth was impossible, with its massive wealth and numbers. So people looked further out towards the stars. Seed ships left Sol with hundreds of thousands onboard for the slow sublight flight to other stars. The science of colonising solar systems was down to a routine procedure by now. Start with orbital infrastructure, set up a space industry, mine some asteroids, build a space habitat, then worry about settling any planets. So many of us had grown up on spinning metal monstrosities in space, landing on planets was a secondary concern. But land we did, eventually.
Out telescopes had gotten good by then. Extremely good. We found other Earth-like planets out there, though they were dozens and dozens of lightyears away and we settled them. Around the 25th century, we had finally cracked the impossibility of FTL travel. From then on the trickle of colonists became a flood. At about the same time, with so many widely distributed outposts, we finally picked up signals of a non-terrestrial, non-natural origin. Effectively, aliens. We couldn’t make sense of them at first. Actually, it took decades to decode them, so advanced was the encryption. But that actually came long after first physical contact. We had, of course, replied before we could understand them, sending our languages, depictions of our culture and science, and messages of peace, as best as we could write them.
We didn’t get the same in return. What we got in return was death. The first attack came against one of our outermost colonies, closest to the galactic core relative to Earth. An armada of spaceships, better and larger than any of ours, attacked our colony on Eta Eridae. It wasn’t really a fight. There was hardly any military presence in that system. They simply showed up and blasted the orbital infrastructure to pieces, then obliterated the planet side colony from orbit. The colony was so far away, the first message about its destruction was received from the destroyers themselves. They sent it in plain English. They had put our language files to good use, it seems. Too bad they didn’t pay attention to any of the other messages we had sent with them. The first intelligible communication we ever got from an alien civilisation was: “You are trespassing on our worlds. They are claimed by the League. You will be removed.”
That was it. Many more attacks followed, working their way inwards into human colonized space. They ignored any pleas for dialogue, any offers of peace and any messages of surender. More and more armadas began appearing, wiping out colony after colony, working from the galactic core towards Earth. They probably already knew where our mother world was, but they took their time methodically wiping out every colony in between. Any who could escape, did, only to be hunted down mercilessly. Fleets of desperate survivors scattered in all directions. We never heard from most of them ever again. We hoped some had reached safety beyond the League’s reach, but we just didn’t know.
So it was for ten years. Humanity rallied against this threat. If all the politics, diplomacy and the horrors of war cannot get us to make peace with each other, the threat of a powerful external enemy certainly can, and did. Sol’s mighty industrial base began churning out warships. We counterattacked, we raided and hit and ran and then we stood our ground. We even captured some of their technology. Our united, desperate scientists reverse -engineered their machinery and incorporated it into our own vessels. We struck back, and hard.
Twenty years we fought to defend our remaining colonies. Ten worlds out of fourty that we had spread to. We beat back fleet after fleet, until they stopped. There were celebrations everywhere. What followed was a year of relief and happiness that we had finally triumphed. Eyes were finally turning from survival to repairing our shattered star nation when we learned the awful truth.
We thought we were fighting all the aliens had to throw at us. We thought this was all their civilisation had to offer in terms of military threat. We had proclaimed ourselves victorious, but in fighting our desperate, defensive war, we didn’t think to find out just how large the enemy truly was. Part of the fault lied in the aliens’ efficiency at frying all their computer systems and databases if it looked like their vessels were about to be captured. In fact, none of the aliens, all of the same species, allowed themselves to be taken alive. Their physical appearance is not important. Their willingness to die rather than be captured is. Not a single one was taken for interrogation, and not a single one of their computers survived to be decoded and mined for data. All our vast telescopes had been abandoned in favor of dense FTL sensor perimeters around our surviving worlds and all scientific exploration ceased in favour of sustaining the massive war effort. So we didn’t, indeed couldn’t know.
We hadn’t been fighting the entirety of the alien civilisation. We had been fighting their border security. We’d been fighting their police. Their lightly armed, few in number border security. When we proved too much for their local “peacekeeping” forces to handle, their military stepped in. The vast fleets we had been fighting until now were nothing to the swarms of behemoths that came our way now. The “warships” we had been battling were nothing compared to the hundred-mile long engines of destruction that we now faced.
We tried to stand, much like a man might try to stand in a hurricane. When we couldn’t stand we pleaded for peace. When our pleas were ignored we begged. It was then that we found out the full name of our enemy. They told us, when our begging finally bought us a reprieve. The League of Ten Thousand Worlds. They made it clear when they came down to pass judgement on us that the name was literal. We, who had barely made our first steps into the stars with a handful of planets, were facing a civilisation orders of magnitude vaster than ours. The displays of hopelessness that followed were almost as tragic as the war itself. Mass suicides, religious zealotry, people just quitting their workplaces and going home to spend a few more moments with their family and a general feeling of hopelessness gripped everyone. Even the hardiest could only say “what’s the point anymore?”.
Their delegation, if you could call it that, arrived on Earth and demanded to see all our leaders assembled, military, scientific and political. We complied; we met them in the middle of Humanity Square, the miles wide square in the middle of the city of Nova Terra, Earth’s newest city and our capital, built from scratch in the middle of a reclaimed oasis in the Sahara desert, in Africa, humanity’s birth place.
They landed unopposed, our few remaining warships hanging back in pitiful clusters around our mother world, dwarfed by the enormity of the aliens’ own forces. There, our conquerors proclaimed their sentence, not just with words, but with images and actions. They showed us our remaining colonies, a mere five, being obliterated by atomic fire from orbit. Our own FTL communications showed the same thing. When our assembled leaders began protesting, they were gunned down by the army the aliens had brought down as an “honor guard”. When the assembled people protested, they too were gunned down, by the hundred and the thousand, until the survivors were left cowering in fear around the statues and columns of the gigantic square. Then we saw, in the sky above, the faint fireballs of our remaining warships being destroyed, nay, executed by the assembled alien fleets. Only then did they speak to us.
“You have committed grave acts of trespass and murder upon the citizens and soldiers of the League of Ten Thousand Worlds.” the alien voice boomed in perfect English. “You have been found guilty of soiling our holy heritage with your presence and have been cleansed in a righteous, legal and proper manner.” You could feel the palpable revulsion we felt at these words. You’re probably thinking the same things right now, reading this. “How could we have known?” “We didn’t mean any offence!” “We didn’t even know you were out there!”. Well, those words were spoken, by an outraged stupid few. They died too. The alien emissary continued. “We are not interested in your empty words. You are alive because WE, in OUR infinite mercy, consider all life worth preserving! WE allow you to continue to exist, but you will never again set foot outside your solar system. You will not contaminate the worlds claimed by the League of Ten Thousand now, or ever again! You may praise us for our mercy!” when nobody stepped forth to offer any such praise, the alien soldiers began firing again and their emissary screamed. “I SAID, YOU MAY PRAISE US FOR OUR MERCY!”
Slowly, one by one, the survivors of what would henceforth be known as the Peace Massacre, stepped forth and began issuing half-hearted “praises” to our destroyers. When this proved insufficient, the aliens killed a few more people. We shouted our praises with the sincerity of the abjectly terrified. We shouted all right, long, hard and with vigor. I said we, for I was there. I shouted with the rest of them. I shouted my lungs out, thanking the aliens for their mercy in not slaughtering every single one of us and I cannot for the life of me be ashamed I did.
The days that followed were long and filled with terror. The alien fleets hung around for a few more months. They did not interfere with any of our activities, as we slowly began to pick up the pieces. They did not destroy anything else. Then, four months after, they simply left. We were left baffled and confused, every eye and surviving sensor turned to the sky to follow them on their way out. We watched them exit our solar system and warp away. Some of us even began to hope that their threats were empty. We thought they meant to blockade us permanently with their fleets. Then the stars began winking out.
We soon learned why the League fleets had departed, seemingly leaving us in peace, as whole sections of the star-filled sky began turning black. It was best seen from space or at night, away from city lights; more and more hexagonal sections of the starfields of the galaxy were being blocked out. First, a few a day, then dozens and hour, then, twelve weeks after, all of them. It was then that we received the last message we would ever get from the League.
“You may have your solar system, but the stars and sky are ours. You may not see the stars ever again, and none will see you. You may rejoice in knowing that you serve as a lesson and example, so that none other may ever overstep their bounds and suffer your fate.”
That was it. In the following frantic, panicked months our remaining scientists probed the phenomenon. Every remaining ship we had investigated what had blocked out the stars from us. It was a barrier. A colossal barrier engulfing our solar system to just beyond the Oort cloud in a shell of warped spacetime. Nothing we tried could pierce it. Not weapons, nor engines could drive anything past it. Any transmission was reflected back at us. What we had been seeing in the months before were titanic barrier generators coming online. Tens of millions, spaced light-weeks apart, all interlinked to seal our home system away from the rest of the galaxy.
So, dear unknown reader. What do you think is worst? Having your lands and seas burned and be scattered amongst the stars, maybe even exterminated? Or to have the very sky taken away from you? To be put in a box, an eternal prison. This is what I ask myself now. I, Z, the most senior survivor of the Terran Alliance Government, Chief Scientific Officer of Luna, and the first in our surviving chain of command ask myself. I go now to answer the call of a shattered humanity trapped within our own solar system. I go now to try and salvage what’s left.
Part two; Black Sky.
Grand Admiral of Termination Fleet number 831 stood upon his command deck aboard the Righteous Action. He surveyed his ship’s readouts as they approached the great spacetime barrier enclosing this lonely, sealed system. He couldn’t help but to marvel at his ancestors’ ingenuity in designing this literally astronomical construction, 30 thousand years ago. So very long ago and it still stood, millions of stationary space warping engines sealing off an entire solar system.
His orders were fresh in his mind. The ruling council of the League of Forty Thousand required his fleet, numbering a hundred thousand ships, to visit this remote and ancient monument to League decisiveness and mercy, and complete a task begun at the dawn of his great civilisation. The solar system trapped within the ancient marvel had served its purpose, time and again, throughout the millennia. The purpose of reminding every newly encountered barbarian civilisation what would happen if they resisted the League’s Purpose and Mercy. A bottled up solar system to remind everyone of the fate of those who opposed the League and its most holy goal of claiming every world they could settle or terraform.
The ancient generators were failing and running out of their antimatter fuel. Soon, the solar system encased within would be free of its confinement. Whatever had been left behind within it needed to be mopped up. The Grand Admiral knew that this task, while not practically very important, was a symbolically crucial step, like a capstone on a great monument. The system in question had been pointed to generation after generation as an example of what happened when one defied the League, and as a shining example of the League’s mercy, even in the direst circumstances. However, that purpose was not worth the cost of refueling and repairing the ancient barrier. Still it’s significance needed a fitting end, a glorious last chapter that would be both final and impactful.
Thus, the Grand Admiral of the 831st was dispatched with all the armed might of his fleet, to finish off once and for all the worlds of the solar system trapped behind that failing barrier.
His flagship approached one of the barrier generators, a thousand-mile long structure poking out of either end of the great spacetime shield it created. He had been given ancient codes to deactivate it. Then, his fleet would proceed past the opening and obliterate everything that lay behind. Every world was to be scorched bare, any surviving structures destroyed, any life cleansed. A final, deadly spectacle to be recorded and broadcast across the League as a testament to the limited nature of the League’s mercy. The message was to be clear: “We will show you mercy, but not forever”. A more cynical mind might have considered his mission a cost-saving move so that the League wouldn’t have to pay to replenish the barrier generators, but the Grand Admiral was not prey to such low suspicions. His mission’s purpose was both noble and for the greater good of the League and all its subject species.
His flagship took center position, a billion miles from their assigned generator, and the Grand Admiral prepared to send the ancient deactivation codes. He never got that chance.
The barrier generator simply exploded. For a few seconds his ship’s sensors were inundated with radiation spanning the EM spectrum. The Grand Admiral could sense his crews’ confusion through their mental link. He sent a calming pulse of Authority to quieten them down and waited for the radiation storm to subside. When it finally did, what greeted them was a lightweek-wide gap in the barrier, the generator they were supposed to deactivate by command entirely vaporised, and a transmission repeating itself. The ship’s computers identified it as an ancient language spoken by the inhabitants of this solar system back when it had been sealed. It spoke thus, and the words made the Grand Admiral’s blood run cold.
“We welcome you to Sol. Our designation is Admiral Super-Entity Zhaasz, Commander of One Billion, Fleet-Master of the 1st Terran Warfleet. We request that you and your ships accompany us to our homeworld of MegaTerra. The Supreme Commanding Entity has requested your presence for peaceful talks. Your ships may maintain full sensors, but we politely request that you power down your weapons.”
Before the message could be fully translated, reports started coming in. Terrifying reports. All ships in sensor range, by which meant all ships in his fleet, reported detecting millions upon millions of ships just behind where the warp barrier had once stood. In a flash of computer-downloaded data, the Grand Admiral of the 831st Termination fleet knew he was face to face with a fleet that outnumbered his own by orders of magnitude.
Millions of thoughts raced through the 831st’ crews minds. Confusion and fear were felt everywhere and it took all of the Grand Admiral’s will to impose Authority upon them. As of yet, nobody was shooting at anyone. That left the Grand Admiral time to think. He could not retreat, but neither could he attack such a ridiculously overwhelming opposing force. He needed more information. He answered.
“Admiral Zhaasz, who are you and what is your purpose here?”
“WE are here to direct you to the Supreme Commanding Entity. They wish to speak with you. I offer every assurance possible that you will not be harmed unless you open fire first. You may proceed with one ship or all of them. I’m sure you have many questions and the Supreme Commanding Entity is eager to answer them. If you choose to run, we will destroy you.”
That last sentence was delivered with the same flat, vaguely amicable tone as the rest of this Admiral Zhaasz’ message, but it struck terror into the integrated crew of the 831st. The Grand Admiral suppressed it savagely with Authority. Information was the mission now. This was not something anyone in the League Intelligence Corps predicted. All projections indicated a most likely desolate and abandoned star system, with a few primitive enclaves of survivors clinging on to life. No species could have survived being locked inside one single solar system. It was effectively impossible. Yet here stood bang on a billion craft, and the threat of them destroying his tiny fleet if he did not comply with Admiral Zhaasz’ request.
The Grand Admiral took the decision:
“I will meet with your Commanding Entity.”
“Supreme Commanding Entity.” corrected Zhaasz, his, its tone just as even and amiable. “I reiterate, you may scan all you wish, and communicate, but weapons’ powerup will result in your immediate deaths.”
With that last warning, the Grand Admiral ordered most of his fleet to remain here and keep watch, while he flew alone with a dozen escorts into the unknown.
Calling up ancient astro-survey charts of the system they were now entering, the Sol System, as the natives called it, the Grand Admiral was astonished to find out quite how inaccurate those charts were. There were entire planets missing! No, this wasn’t inaccuracy. No matter how long ago the charts had been made, not even ancient League fleets could miss cataloguing entire planets. They were actually gone. The planets Uranus, Neptune, Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury, as the locals labelled them, were simply not there anymore. Only the giant planet Jupiter was still roughly where it had been charted to be. Neither was there an Oort cloud, Kuiper belt or any other asteroid belt. Where there should have been billions of loosely associated pieces of rock in space, none were to be found.
There was no time to wonder about that. The Grand Admiral’s fleet was to approach via the orbital plane of this solar system, to more efficiently sweep away any colonies or stations around this star’s planets. Their escort, the entire fleet of Admiral-Entity Zhaasz, escorted them towards this system’s primary star. That star was far dimmer than it should have been. They were too far out to tell why, but an early encounter gave the Grand Admiral a bone-deep uneasy feeling.
They were passing by the gas giant Jupiter. The ancient records of this world showed only a faint planetary ring and dozens of moons around it. Now, there were no moons at all and the planet sported a massive ring, a disc almost as broad as the planet was wide. Upon closer inspection, the Grand Admiral felt a shiver of terror run down his spines. The ring was composed entirely of nearly-identical orbital stations forming a titanic disc around the gas giant. 230 million of them, every single one over two hundred miles across. All at once they each disgorged a single star ship. Each one of those immense stations had just released a vessel from their bowels. 230 million ships then began acceleration toward the system’s primary and only star.
That display might have been enough to overawe him, but as they approached, the Grand Admiral was treated to the truly awe-inspiring reason that the human’s star was so much dimmer than it should have been. Instead of 8 planets and associated moon asteroids, this star, the Sun, was orbited by 200 million plates. The Grand Admiral double and triple checked his readings from each and every one of his accompanying starships. They all read the same. The Sun was orbited at the distance of roughly 92 million miles by a sphere of 200 million metallic plates each with a surface area of these human’s own homeworld, the now-missing Earth. The surfaces facing the Sun were covered in a myriad of patterns of continents and seas and blanketed by thick atmospheres rich with patterns of white clouds. The surfaces facing away were a dull metallic grey, desolate and dark.
The Grand Admiral felt an overwhelming wave of terror and anxiety wash through his fleet’s crews. He had not the strength to crush it with Authority. His fleet’s sensors told the story. Almost every one of those plates, at least the ones not hidden by the star they orbited, were inhabited, with a few notable exceptions. Roughly one in twenty did not bear continents and seas on its starward side. Instead, they had solar collector panels across their entire, planet-sized sun-facing surfaces. Their other surfaces, opposite the Sun, were covered in continent-sized laser arrays of apocalyptic power. The Grand Admiral knew this, for some were still emitting.
Brilliant flashes of light came in on his ships’ sensors from where the ancient warp barrier was. These impossibly large lasers had propelled relativistic kill vehicles towards each and every one of the barrier generators the League had installed thirty thousand years ago. Some of these lasers were still active, delivering the last boost of velocity to those far away near lightspeed missiles. With so many, the entire barrier would be down before the day was out. By all the Hells, given the distances and lightspeed sensor lag, the entire barrier was probably already down, exposing the galaxy and the Holy League of Forty Thousand to the monstrosity that had been growing inside.
The Holy League of Forty Thousand Worlds. It had seemed so grand and impressive once. Unconquerable. So vast it boggles the mind. Yet here stood this swarm of artificial flat planets, most of them bearing life, orbiting one single star. Human life. Uncountable octillions of them. Now the Grand Admiral understood where all those missing planets had gone. Into building this, this obscene swarm that blotted out their Sun. In the center of that swarm sat a gigantic sphere almost the size of one of the lost gas giants. I spun there, around the Sun’s equator, like a baleful eye. That is where their escort was leading them to.
As the Grand Admiral and his escorts approached that monstrous world, they saw its metallic gray surface open, a pair of titanic gates revealing a tunnel beyond them, large enough to accommodate his flagship. Admira-Entity Zhaasz hailed him.
“Grand Admiral, you may proceed into MegaTerra. Follow that tunnel to its end. There, meet with the Supreme Entity. They will explain everything to your satisfaction. We remind you to refrain from violence. That tunnel, as is all of MegaTerra, is impervious to your vessel’s weapons.”
With that, silence. Drawing in deep breaths, the Grand Admiral issued orders to his ships to await his return, or flee if he did not come back within a standard day and motioned his ship down into the gullet of the enemy’s homeworld.
The vista that greeted them inside the tunnel was spectacular. The walls of the passage were transparent and beyond, under the exterior shell of the world, lay vast swaths of pristine lands and oceans, stretching far to the very distant horizon. The inside surface of this world’s outermost shell was dotted with stars, mirroring the stars in the heavens outside, and in the distance a synthetic sun was rising, as their real sun would have risen outside.
As the flagship continued down the tunnel, they approached another gate and when it opened the Grand Admiral had a sudden sense of deja vu. Under the surface of this world, lay another surface, another ceiling full of stars and a rising sun and yet more lands and oceans stretching from horizon to horizon. This continued for a dozen layers, one shell world inside the other. Now the Grand Admiral understood. They had hollowed out their birthworld and used it to build layers upon layers over it, each larger than the other and held up by spin and massive support pillars. His suspicion was confirmed as the last, innermost layer’s surface was exactly the surface of the Human’s home planet as was recorded 30 thousand years before.
But the tunnel did not stop there. They continued further down. And down, until at last they reached the heart of this layered world. The black, spinning quantum singularity heart that lay at the center. A miniature black hole that was slowly being fed with gas in a bright accretion disc that lit up the interior of the innermost shell of this world. At this, the Grand Admiral’s composure finally broke. If these humans could leash such cataclysmic stellar phenomena and turn them into docile power generators, what hope was there for the League?
His attention was re-captured by a transmission. A navigational beacon lit up, pointing them to a station orbiting the miniature black hole. A message read:
“Welcome, representative of the League. WE are the Supreme Commanding Entity of the empire of Sol Invictus. Please dock.”
Numbly, the Grand Admiral ordered his flagship to proceed. Once ensconced in their berth, the Grand Admiral was invited to disembark and meet the Supreme Entity in their assembly hall. Met by an honour guard at his ship’s docking tube, the Admiral surveyed his hosts. His hearts lurched. He had seen the recordings of the Human’s final declaration of surrender. He had seen the League Arbiter and his Holy Escort punish the impudent, ungrateful, criminal leaders of the humans in their Humanity Square, 30 millenia back. His hearts had swelled with pride at the precision and decisiveness with which the Arbiter’s troops had driven home submission into the stupid barbaric humans who had dared to protest the fairness and justness of the League’s Holy Mission and Purpose. Now, he stared at the reverse of that, and on a much, much more massive scale. Nearly a million human soldiers in bright golden powered armor lined the enormous cavern that his ship had docked next to. Their weapons gleamed in the warm artificial sunlight.
A massive, ornate chariot on magnetic rails awaited him. The nearest of his welcoming committee pointed him in unison to step aboard. He did. He transited fast past the seemingly endless, perfectly poised human soldiers, until at last, to his great unspoken relief, he exited the docking cavern. Only to enter an even larger one. Along it’s curving walls, stretching for miles in every direction, were row upon rows of seats. Endless, well illuminated rows of seats as far as his eyes could see. Each one held a person. Each person spoke at once, as one. Each voice was soft, but together they boomed so lowd the Grand Admiral was driven to the floor, clutching his ears.
“WE are the Supreme Commanding Entity of the Empire of Sol invictus. Thirty millenia ago, your ancestors made war upon us, mercilessly wiping out our fledgling civilisation without mercy or negotiation. When at last you had driven us back to our homeworld, you took the extra step of murdering yet more of our people who had come there to end hostilities. Now, you come again.”
At last the voices stopped and the Grand Admiral could take his arms off his ears and rise. Silence for a few moments, then he saw one of the seats gliding down slowly from directly above, from the cavern’s ceiling. The figure upon it was more machine than man, elegant and gleaming metal covering most of his four meter tall body. The figure stepped down from its seat and strode towards the Admiral, stopped a few meters away, and motioned for the Admiral to speak.
“Who are you?”
“I am an individual member of the Supreme Entity. All our voices are not necessary for this next conversation. I wish to tell you the story of what you have seen here and to give you a message for your leaders.”
“Wait! How did you know we would be here, now? The barrier…” the Grand Admiral didn’t finish as the being answered him.
“The barrier was breached by us three centuries ago. We managed to slip probes out through it ever since. We must thank you. It’s structure taught us much about warping space. We learned much about your League since then. Your subject races, those you used us as an example to quell, hate you as much as anyone could hate anything; they were delighted to tell us all about you.” a smile creased the Entity’s face. “We watched your fleet approach. We timed the barrier’s collapse for your arrival.”
This information shook the Grand Admiral even further. The humans had been expecting him. The League’s loyal subjects, allowed to exist under the League’s Mercy, had betrayed their sacred trust! Worse, they humans were amply, apocalyptically prepared. And he couldn’t help think that he had been paraded past a stage theater show of cosmic proportions. He asked:
“That display at Jupiter? Was that for our benefit, too?”
“Partially. What you saw was the last batch of ships mighty Jupiter and it’s forges had produced for us. Last of many batches. Jupiter, ancient god of gods, sacrificed much of his body for that, and we tore up the entirety of Mars too, to produce our fleets.” the Entity’s representative’s face turned from a vaguely amiable expression to a sardonic smile. “Appropriate, we think, considering Mars was an ancient war god of ours. Now it has gifted us with billions of warships.” that smile turned to disgust as it towered above the Grand Admiral.
“You see, Grand Admiral, when your ancestors locked us in our solar system they told us that the stars were theirs. But they left us one. Only one and that was all we needed.” The figure’s voice boomed all on it’s own now. It reached down one huge hand and with blinding speed, grasped the Grand Admiral’s neck and lifted the whole half ton on him clear off the ground to stand eye to eye. Then it’s voice snarled.
“I have been anticipating this day for a very, very long time, Grand Admiral.” it said, spitting the title into his face. “We know why you’ve returned. We know your masters sent you here to finish us off. We expect you thought to find, if anything, either an overcrowded handful of planets scraping and fighting for the last dregs of resources left in our solar system, or a handful of primitive enclaves as we gradually fell apart and back into the stone age. But we are a species of survivors, Admiral, and you left us the SUN!” that last world was a shout. The Grand Admiral couldn’t even choke out a reply. The Entity continued, more softly:
“You never imagined this could be done, did you? The League, with its obsession to grasp every world it could reach, leaving none for anyone else, could not imagine what could be built out of just a handful.”
The Entity’s representative finally dropped the Grand Admiral to the floor. Through choking gasps he managed to say:
“You said we were not to be harmed if we came.”
“Indeed you shall not be. We need you to go back to the League. We need all of your ships to return, with all their sensor readings. Inform the League of what you have seen here. In a few weeks those warships you saw at Jupiter will be fitted out and crewed. There are many times that dispersed in their thousands to each habitat plate. In a few months they will leave, escorting the colony ships we have built. We need you to tell the League that we’re taking the sky back. They may keep their planets, if they do not interfere, but” and for these last words it bent down, eye to eye once more with the Grand Admiral “the stars are OURS. Go now.”
The Entity straightened and turned its back to the Grand Admira, then waited there as he recovered his composure and began making his way to the rail-chariot that had brought him from his ship to this chamber. The Entity’s representative turned around and spoke one more time.
“Oh, and Grand Admiral? Tell them, on a more personal note, that they may praise me, Z, for our mercy.”