Date: 19 October 2007, 5:22 am
But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be inhabited? . . .
Are we or they Lords of the World? . . .
And how are all things made for man?—
Prologue to War.
Like all Sundays, it was generally time to rest, both physically and emotionally. He had woken up after good eight hour's sleep, ate a bucket of icecream still in his boxers and then made his way into his study. Rituals were to be followed religiously after all. He sat in his leather chair which cost him nearly his entire Captain Gig salary, and turned on his computer. Hmm, a message from her sister, the wedding had gone without a hitch. The photos were actually pretty good, though certainly Pops was getting old.
He opened the nearby WRITESCAN module, grabbed the inkless pen he always used, and began to write back, good and gentle words to her baby sister which had tied the knot after so long. A perfect Sunday in the Hot Spot on intra UNSC politics, the Outer Colonies.
The only thing that would ruin the moment, something every Sunday he thought no he knew-would happen, came into life after a short, sudden beep in his PC. The message immediately popped into the screen, something that only occurred when a message from FADC Farmer Aerospace Defense Command- was forwarded to this PC, he had configured it so.
TO: MAG-336 TOC FARMER
Contact with unknown object, range one thousand clicks bearing 127-300, quadrant THETA 606. Spectroscopic and telemetric scans inconclusive at this time, further studies are to be conducted speedily. Harvest NAS scrambled QRA flight to intercept, inbound to object at this time, ETA to intercept is 45:00. Tonnage of said object may lead us to believe we are dealing with a Cruiser type vessel of unknown origins; FLEETCOM, CNO and EMP FLASH-transmissions emitted. Advise MAG-336 to scramble and deploy QRA flights all the way here.
-Captain Marco Ron, SEW-1118, UNSC NAVY.
FEB 3, 2525. 1432h.
UNSC (Military) Calendar
Press ENT to close encryp. transmission.
Colonel Abimbola Hakim immediately dialed the green SP-PHONE button on his phone desk and pressed the Quick Reaction Alert speed-dial button.
"Sir?" replied a gentle female voice.
"Yes Janine, got that message too?"
"Aye sir," replied the pilot now excited, a good sign. "Fighter 314 is already up there; Lieutenant Colonel Higgins was on CAP with an eight ship around Farmer and Acorn."
"Roger, are you ready to deploy too?"
"Air raid sounded, crews are mustering though we have an eight-ship already in the ORBPLAT, and we can scramble them now too."
"Negative Eagle," he said, calling her by her callsing. "Let's get everyone ready before we do anything I know what the message said but I don't want to send my people over there unprep -"
The computer beeped again. The Lance Corporal on call that Sunday afternoon forwarded the message as soon as it had arrived to Farmer MCAS COMLINK. This was marked red, which caused him to stop cold, it was on the encrypted channel but it certainly wasn't encrypted, there were just two audio files attached to a single header message.
Press ENT to play attached files
He pressed the button automatically; a static tune was the only thing to be heard with only a loud repeated electric beep he knew very well, it was a Longsword cockpit warning tone of a nuclear blast in the vicinity. "Damn it!" he heard a man shout whom he knew really well, he was Captain Marco "Topgun" Ron, the SPIS Space Pioneer Idiot Sailor, an acronym given to the Navy guys by the Marines- in command of the Navy Wing based at Harvest.
"No effect-No effect!" called another pilot, or maybe his WSNO, it was too damn confusing even for a veteran zoomie like him.
"Roger, follow me in, another pass, go for guns for the bridge!"
"Which is the bridge!"
"Stay on my lead, I'll make the first pass, range is one hundred Watch those goddamn plasma -"
"Shit! Three is down!" called another pilot.
"Gunssss!" bellowed nearly a dozen pilots at the same time immediately, they were right on top of it. Something was getting tens of thousands of one-one-zero mike-mike shells, not even a Cruiser could sustain so much concentrated firepower without some serious local hull damage.
"Allright!" bellowed Topgun as he inhaled fast and hard, he got close to the damn thing, close enough for some Gs to hammer his body.
"We lost four and nine!"
"Shit! We didn't hit it at all! Some kind of shields they " a obscenely loud static burst silenced everything else in the system, it continued for the next ten seconds.
"This is Communication Specialist's Mate Carlos Zambrano, that was the last transmission to be received from Naval Space Expeditionary Wing One-One-One-Eight. I don't know if this message will arrive to any UNSC forces in the area, they might get the Orbital COMLINK. Harvest is under attack and all orbiting vessels had made emergency jumps. Send help, we will hold until relief gets here. Out."
Even with the nearly 16Cº of the artificial atmosphere of his office thick drops of sweat descended from his bald head to his ears, eyebrows and his hands slightly trembled. He wiped the sweat with a nearby sheet of paper; he still had the phone on speaker.
"Sir did I heard that right?"
"Roger," replied Abimbola. "I want everything up and running. General Alert, muster everyone to the flightline. Launch the alert fighters, on every airfield. Call an alert status to the MPs at the gate and get the AAA batteries up and running. I'll be there in ten."
"Anything wrong?" asked a young woman at the doorway.
"Yeah honey, suit up. We have to get to the flight line."
Farmer Aerospace Defense Command
Ministry of Defense of Colonial Military Administration FARMER
Saint Philippe, Farmer
When they, anyone in this case, thought the word Marine they thought of a tough, mean SOB which only shoot and saluted his way in life. That might have been the case for most of the guys in the Corps, but he was certainly not in that stereotype. He was a Zoomie, a Marine whose life was not in the mud but in the air, and yet he wasn't the one behind the controls of a Katana or Longsword fighter, or even a Broadsword strategic bomber. He was the one who was in the inside of a Kiteshield AEWC bird, orbiting silently while directing the pounders to their targets. A far less glamorous job but, as any zoomie would tell you, a greater combat multiplier. He was a Battle Manager.
Jonah Ibanez was in charge that Sunday of the Tactical Operations Center of the Aerospace Defense Command, the Center which monitored and commanded every vessel position and action in the Farmer Free Trade Zone.
That Sunday, which had started as any other, was now turning into a very tense an active day, which had no end in sight. His Navy homologue in Harvest had initiated first contact protocols with a UFO which had exited the slipstream nearly eighty million kilometers outside the Harvest Free Trade Zone, away from the UNSC controlled space. That thing, for lack of a better term, had appeared where no man had ever gone.
He sat on a chair that was on the center of the room, two keyboards were on the armchairs, he could rotate completely around the room to see every workstation and screen above it. He had ATMCON, the Command and Control station that monitored the atmospheric traffic within the Colonies, SATCOM, DECON and Missile Control. All of the stations which were suddenly awoken to full activity were being filled with fresh techies arriving from Barracks, Home or directly form their Saturday's social engagements.
"Sir, we have General Farias on the COMCAM, he says to take it in your office." Lieutenant Colonel Ibanez nodded at his secretary, not the stereotypical as he was a tough looking Jarhead, stood up from the chair and walked to the southern side of the circular room which was bristling with activity; he turned the knob of his ordinary office, revealing a far less ordinary workplace. Dozens of pictures of aircraft, from the first supersonic fighter the F-86 Sabre- to the first true Starfighter, the Chinese J-25 "Yak," were posted on the walls. Ten framed diplomas, from High school to OCS, hung randomly between the pictures of relatives and odd pictures taken during his career. He was an office rat for the unknown.
Over his desk was a scale model of the aircraft he had spent so many years lurking around, tracking and pinpointing targets for the Honchos of the fighter wings. The bird was basically an oval with rear nozzles, it was half the size of a prowler and it had a crew of only six people, all whom could fly the damned thing. Ancient history for some, even for him.
He sat on the chair, a small screen popping out of the smooth surface of his desk. In it was the face of Generalisimo Farias, the commander of the one-six-eight Marine Expeditionary Unit, colloquially known as the Death Rattlers.
"Good for you to take the time to see me," the General uttered as annoying as he tended to be in situations of stress, that was, maybe, why such a brilliant man got stuck in a shithole in the horizon of the Galaxy. "There was another message to arrive from Harvest," he said as his face was replaced by an encrypted message from Harvest.
Ranged of UFO estimated at nearly one hundred and fifty million kilometers from Harvest at 1435 (UNSC Military Calendar). Contact with object at forty million kilometers at 1436. Twenty smaller crafts now headed from UFO towards Harvest, Navy is heading to intercept. Object has, to our best interpretation, made an intersystem slipspace jump.
XIAN PROTOCOL enacted.
UNSC (Military) Calendar
Press ENT to close encryp. transmission.
"Xian Protocol is named after its creator, Rear Admiral Izoruku Xian, the one who would be elected to lead the UEG in 2198. It is a series of procedures of communication, both visual and electronic, in order to communicate with an unknown race or technology. This thing is Alien," he said as if he was revealing something to the veteran zoomie that much he had figured out. "What followed next is unclear; there was no report to follow the last audio transmission."
Ibanez did not move, something told him that there was something more, that something was the confused gaze on the General's eyes. "We have civilian contractors here in the planet, some of the think-tanks that work with the UNSC for the deep space scans, looking for any incoming asteroids so we can knock them out if they are headed to somewhere important," he finished with a sigh. "Pretty interesting stuff."
Several slides, which were deep telemetry scans by MDSS systems, were fitted into several grids ordered chronologically. They were all taken in the same set of coordinates 44.527.876.947.D, located away from the farthest place any man had ever gone, a Navy Prowler whose skipper wanted to set some kind of record, a fact he knew because Navy Prowler types bragged about it, as stupid as it might seem to regular people.
A purple vessel, of odd design, appeared on a background of black void. It was a still shot, though the ship was moving, on the rear nozzles hot gasses were propelling the vessel towards the photographer, possibly a nearby human vessel. Two disks were joined by a small structure that looked like a tube, they were so tightly packed that they looked like a single purple oval with random irregularities on its surface, weapons and sensors for sure.
"This guy found something, but he is a civvie. What do you see?"
The still shots revealed something so trivial that only a trained eye could pick up. A distant star could be seen on each shot, it was the same coordinate, thought it didn't look the same on each. In every shot its figure was cut by a dozen different shapes, all black. Each still frame was taken on an average of 3.13 hours according to the framework, sporadically showing the full star, typical sunflower type of light which resembled every other star at distance. Something was passing by that star every 3.13 hours, something nature had not put there.
"UNSC standard procedure dictates that we scan space in every new discovered system as far as the sensor's range allows, this thing moved there after we got here"
"A cross check of mass and light reflection on the object through a equation might give us the -"
"Already done Ibanez. We have the approximate silhouette of the intruder, which I will upload to your TOC immediately. If Harvest, which garrison was smaller than this one, had one of those spooks checking out their moves there are certainly one of those, maybe more than one, here. It's your job to find it."
The General, as Ibanez had expected, flashed out of sight from the screen. There were about a million thoughts bouncing in his mind before his office door burst open, his assistant was at the door. "Sir, we have new data input from the General Staff, you better come and see."
Ibanez stood up, he had nothing to think but finding that thing now, everything else, including his family, was a far second.