Posted By: Gordi<email@example.com>
Date: 2 October 2001, 11:20 am
Prologue - Our Introduction to the Cosmos
When man finally became dominant over Earth, he looked upwards to the Heavens, that inky darkness permeated only by the frosty twinkle of distant suns, their resplendent beauty looking down upon the young Earth from billions of light-years in the past. One can easily imagine paleolithic man staring space ward, wondering what it would be like to cross that inconceivable distance and bridge the gap between worlds, to what mysteries were held in the grasp of far planets. Time progressed, and paleolithic man died, his bones bleaching white in the sun, eventually turning to dust and becoming one with the hills, but the longing held deep within his breast to reach upwards to that empyrean world above never faltered, and was carried on by countless generations.
As things often go, imagination precedes technology, and space flight was no different. Hundreds, if not thousands of years before means had been realistically conceived to propel humankind into the Cosmos, writers, poets, and great thinkers had oft asked what the depths of the Universe would be like.
Then, in the middle of the 20th century A.D. man slowly waded off from his harboring sands on Earth, and into the shores of the interstellar ocean. Once more, time wound on , and slowly, ever so slowly, man made his entrance into the universe known. At first, small ships traversed relatively small distances between the planets of the solar system, carrying passengers, light cargos and information to newly developed colonies built on the inhospitable landscapes of dead worlds. The desolation surrounding these colonies did nothing to hamper the spirits of those brave souls who made these martian enclaves home, however, and soon the lanes between mans' worlds hummed with the sounds of humanity. At the center of this burgeoning stellar empire stood Terra Firma, Earth.
2322 will be a date remembered by mankind for as long as it endures. It was the year that saw the birth of the FTL drive, enabling us to traverse the vast distances between our worlds in tens of minutes, rather than years and those beyond the reach of our system in mere months. By warping the very fabric of space/time, the new drives allowed FTL equipped vessels to traverse inconceivable distances. The Colonization had begun.
Under the newly formed SolCore government, vast projects were undertaken to populate the first worlds outside the Universe, and in 2350, the first FTL equipped colony ships, led by SCS Hermes left Earths' orbiting space docks for the stellar system in proximity to the Triffid Nebula, some 2,400 light-years distant.
Outward we flew, leaving but a trail of ions to tell of our passing, a gossamer web spreading from the cradle of Humanity, stretched by the sum of our technology and ambitions into the unending night of space. So came we to the interstellar game, small, but destined to be key players. Our colonies grew, and soon they began to send forth ships of their own, to colonize yet more systems, and to search; for still, in the vastness of space, and the years and distances traveled, we were alone in the darkness.
How rapidly all of that changed. In 2802, as a new century was dawning , P-2091 , formally named 'Reach,' under the authority of the Antilles sector launched the SCS Percipere to explore near globular star cluster GC3211. At 2200 hours, August 13th, 2802, Percipere reported long range sensor contact with a metallic object, traveling roughly at her velocity, on a course that would bring the object on a dead collision with the vessel. At the time, Percipere was traveling at 1.19 the speed of light, or, roughly 20 percent over the speed of light. Barring any natural phenomenon, the object approaching the SolCore vessel was of otherworldly origin, intelligent in nature. The following is a transcript of the first encounter between the ships of man, and those who would be Covenant. Recently declassified by SolCore Internal Security, these recordings provide valuable information on the initial encounter between man and alien.
Chapter One - Pleased to meet you, too.
2213 hours, August 13, 2802. Coordinates -
Percipere: Antilles Command, long range DeltScan sensors picking up an object 48 light minutes out.
AntCom: Go ahead, Percipere.
Percipere: She's a burner, AntCom, speed is 1.19 light, matching ours. Computer's running analysis now, but if it keeps on that trajectory, it's going to run right into us.
AntCom: Percipere, continue monitoring, and slow to .45l. Request that you open relays and transmit realtime data to nearest monitoring post.
Percipere: Understood, AntCom, Percipere out.
The Comm. relays are silent for a moment, as the crew of Percipere scurry to carry out their new set of objectives. The FTL drive is idled down to a fraction of it's previous power, the newfound energy being diverted to her advanced sensor arrays, located in the bulbous Scanning Node, directly beneath the small command bridge. As more information becomes available, Percipere submits it directly to Science Station Erudition, in orbit with P-1880, an uninhabited lump of rock some 800 light years distant.
Percipere: Erudition, initial scans complete. This thing in front of us is metallic in composition, with a basic pattern to it's design, and internal resonance detects a catacomb layout to the interior structure. We're looking at one highly unusual asteroid, or we're talking Directive 401B.
Directive 401B, for those unaccustomed to SolCore policy, is the plan designed to be implemented should contact with an object of alien origin be made. The directive, established during the 98th SolCore Legislative session, basically gave a set of directions that any ship or person operating under the authority of the SolCore government was to follow, during initial contact. Among them, were messages in all of Earths languages, those from the whales, and in the form of mathematics. Images of Earths leaders, and several recordings from the human experience. The directive was an extension of the gold LP's that were carried aboard the Voyager I and II spacecraft as they journeyed throughout the solar system.
Erudition: Percipere, we're forwarding data to AntCom now, you'll renewing direct contact with them throughout the rest of the operation. Good luck, and don't screw it up, boys.
Percipere: Received, Erudition. Thanks for the help, and don't worry, this is only a training flight for some of us.
At this point, AntCom breaks in on the frequency, as Erudition clears the waves for more pressing traffic.
AntCom: Percipere, authority granted to initiate Directive 401B, and take any reasonable actions necessary to carry them through. Continue submitting data through Station Erudition. We're sending the authorization now. Out.
AntCom, 2200 light-years away releases a coded burst of information, tuned directly to Percipere's onboard computer. The DatBurst contains required information that allows the computer to unlock protocol commands for Directive 401B. With 401B protocol activated, the Percipere's main relay dish aligns itself directly with the oncoming object, and begins broadcasting Earths' message of peace. This will not stop until AntCom overrides the signal with a second coded DatBurst that will shut down 401B.
Percipere, however, is not a civilian vessel, she is a ship of the SolCore military, and as such, more than adequately armed and armored to deal with a wide number of situations that might arise. She won't be going into anything unprepared. Minutes after AntCom initializes 401B, the call filters down the ranks that Percipere is at Defense Readiness Three, the highest state of alert during peacetime. Weapon stations are manned, and weapons are loaded, but they are not authorized 'free' yet. Shields are charged and holding just above 30%.
Tense minutes pass, the object is drawing closer. Soon, it will be in range for visual identification. At Contact minus 8, the bridge view screen is opened, and for the first time in thousands of years, man has come into contact with an artificial object not of his making.
The spacecraft, as no doubt remains now, is roughly 600 meters in length, oval in shape, except that it looks as if the rear has been flattened, and the curve of the lower hull flows seamlessly into a gentle upward slope, tapering off at the rearmost point of the vessel, where it resumes the curve towards the front of the ship. Flush with the rear surface are what can only be described as glowing green disks, possibly exhaust ports, except no heat can be discerned from scans. Dotting the outer surface are blisters, nearly 15 meters in size, and their purpose unknown, but judging by the placement, they could easily be weapon ports, giving the vessel a 360ƒ angle of attack, of course, they could also be observation decks. Beneath the vessel is a large opening, logically assumed to be a docking bay for smaller craft, and the size of the Percipere leaves no doubt in anyone's' mind that she could easily be swallowed whole by this unknown behemoth.
Cutting power to her engines, Percipere stops dead in space, rotating to face the alien vessel head on. Her inhuman counterpart does the same, and now, like a scene from an early American Western, these two strangers eye each other warily, not from 10 paces, but 40,000 kilometers, and the six-shooters of old have been replaced with fusion weapons capable of cutting through a planets crust.
"Sir, all sectors are reporting full readiness. Comms requests further information, seems that the alien vessel hasn't even tried to respond. Only traffic is incoming from AntCom. Should I tell them to keep trying?" Lieutenant Griers' eyes shift around nervously, as if someone might be listening.
Understandable. Thinks Captain Ricter. He isn't part of the standard crew...where is he from...Rear Command? I doubt it, he doesn't have that cocky attitude the deskies all seem to share. Tactical..no, wait! Training, that's right. He's from SolCore training, we're running a 20% green crew, fresh out of basic. The thought of having 25 men with no previous experience makes Ricter just a little nervous. The academy does an excellent job, I've seen the stats, but still.. His thoughts are drawn away from the issue by Griers' voice.
"Sir, what do I tell Communications? They want to know if they should keep at it," Griers' voice shook just a little less, but he still looked ready to evacuate his bladder at the slightest provocation.
"Yes, yes, tell them to keep trying. Cycle through frequency's, if they aren't already, and let's bring ourselves in a little closer, no more than 10,000 klicks,"
"Is that wise, sir? I mean, we don't exactly know their intentions yet."
"No, but they came to us. We have no reason to believe they're on a mission of anything but peace. Relay those orders, and go help Lieutenant Nece check the water recyclers," Ricters' distaste for being questioned was poorly masked, and Grier looked as if he had been slapped. A small price, the man had to learn not to question 35 years of experience with SolCore Surveillance Corp., especially right out of the academy.
Turning, Ricter reminded himself to keep an eye on Grier, the man showed potential, and, after all, he was just following procedure that had been drilled into him.
His adjacent, Major Huang, who had remained silent until this point, turned to follow his commander.
"If you don't mind me asking, Sir, why did AntCom choose US to baby-sit the rookies?"
"Because, Tom, we're exploring a cluster of stars, that, according to all previous probes, scans and tests, contains no life, intelligent or otherwise. Why NOT send the rookies on a mission like this?"
"Point made, Sir," Huang smiled, he had always had a good relationship with the Captain, ever since their first mission on Vega, all those years back.
As Percipere closes the distance towards the alien vessel, the sensor crew, sitting deep within her interior, surrounded by the diffused glow of a hundred different dials and gauges watches as each one of their readouts slowly began to register increasing levels of activity coming from the unknown ship.
"Someone get Skipper on the horn, tell him we're starting to read critical levels of just about every-fuckin'-thing from that damn alien ship out there. She's about to pull somethin' nasty, I can tell," Sensor Chief D'errico motions to one of the recruits, who scurries off towards the internal comm. relay, to, no doubt give word to the bridge that something indeed is about to happen, albeit in a much more politically correct way.
"Ok, gentlemen, it seems as if our friends out there aren't taking too kindly to our approach. Let's back off to about Three-One-Zero-Zero-Zero klicks, slowly, mind you," Ricter is glad Grier isn't on the bridge anymore, he no doubt would have emptied into his uniform when he heard the object hanging in front of them was doing -- the Captain was again cut off from his thoughts, instead of the Lieutenant, however, the events unfolding on the main view screen now held his full attention.
The alien vessel is suddenly aglow with a hundred points of light, emanating from each of the blisters on it's hull, and beneath, 20 lights, slightly larger in size begin to drop down from what has been named 'the docking bay'.
"COMMS! GET ANTCOM ON THE PIPE, TELL 'EM SOMETHING'S HAPPENING, SOMETHING BIG. ALIEN VESSEL RELEASING ROUGHLY 20 SMALLER VESSELS, AND THE WHOLE DAMN THING IS LIT UP LIKE A CHRISTMAS TREE," Ricter reacts quickly, instinct taking over, he races to his position on the bridge.
"Shields to 70 percent frontal grid. Reverse full impulse to One-Zero-Zero-Zero-Zero-Zero klicks, divert power from the long range scanner arrays to to boost fusion batteries four, seven, and nine, and bring up the tactical overlay. Set Defense Readiness Two."
"Aye, Sir. OverTac up, targeting computer is plotting points now. Shields are warming, and the grid is buffering to accept the additional capacity to weapons."
"Skipper, AntCom wants to know what's going on over here, what do I tell 'em?"
"Route AntCom through to my station, NOW!" Ricter snaps, not one to do so, but this is an emergency.
"AntCom, this is Captain Ricter, SCS Percipere. Alien vessel is doing something, I can't tell you what yet, 'cause I don't know. Setting Defense Readiness Two, and backing to One hundred thousand kilometers. Request you advise our next move, and it'd be nice if we weren't the only ones out here."
"Percipere, acknowledged. Proceed as you see fit, we're dispatching Diurnus and Jornee to your position from Erudition, ETA 50 standard minutes. Weapons limitations are in effect. Do not fire unless fired upon, and you are NOT to destroy the vessel unless to protect your own, DO NOT destroy the vessel unless absolutely necessary."
"Roger, AntCom, thanks for the help, we'll be here if you need us,"
I hope, anyway, thinks Ricter, thankfully keeping the words to himself. All we need now is to have me relieved..
"Maybe we should get out of here, Sir. The chances of us beating something like that.." Tactical officer Wills voice slowly dies, as he gestures towards the monstrosity filling the viewscreen.
"No way in Hell am I leading that thing back to a SolCore base. We've got two more ships due in no more than 40 minutes from now, I think we can do this ourselves," he looks at his watch, noticing the minutes seem to be ticking by all too slowly. At least I'm not the only one a little bit nervous.
"Incoming, Sir! The larger ship is moving, and the little ones are breaking formation, heading towards us at vector zero-one-eight. They'll be here in a little under a minute," Wills looks like he's going to vomit all over the console.
"Fire a warning shot over their bow, continue the 401 protocol, but let them know we mean business, and that they're to keep a reasonable distance."
Percipere bucks ever so slightly, as 4000 megawatts of pure energy sizzle out of her forward fusion cannons. Scorching through the cold vacuum of space, they fly silently above the alien ship, passing a mere 500 yards from the upper superstructure. The aliens do not stop, and two more warning shots let loose from the batteries.
"Sir, they're not stopping, range is now 20,000 kilometers.."
"Begin auto tracking those fighters, shields to 80% fore. Bring us back another 20,000 klicks"
"Yes, Sir. Opening range."
Perciperes' thrusters being pushing her back, in an attempt to distance the ship from the approaching alien vessels. Being considerably smaller, and having the advantage of less momentum to overcome, Percipere is successful, the alien cruiser slips slowly backward. The approaching fighters, however, continue to close, and as the crew watches in horror, they begin to attack.
Vaguely resembling a wing, with a structure reminiscent of a cockpit in the center, curving off to a tapered wing tip on either side, and a gently arcing bottom surface, the fighters climb 'above' Percipere, and engage a graceful inverted dive towards the ship.
Perciperes' fast tracking turrets, firing explosive, depleted uranium shells open up, at a rate of 4,000 rounds a minute. Two of the fighters are caught in the hail of lead, and silently explode in a burst of green light. The remaining eighteen continue to dive, at a dangerously close 1500 meters, they begin to fire. Large bolts of green energy crackle through space, impacting against the shielding of the SolCore scoutship. Percipere is an exploration vessel, not intended for a lengthy engagement, she won't be able to hold up for very long, and with running out of the possibility, her only hope for survival is to wait for the two SolCore ships approaching some twenty minutes off.
When the energy from the alien weapons comes into contact with the energy from the SolCore shielding, it is a simple matter of who has more power. If the aliens are stronger, then the SolCore shielding is penetrated, and the ship suffers damage, should her shielding hold, however, the aliens are virtually harmless. One major drawback is that it requires many times the power to STOP a bolt, than it does to produce it, and eventually something within Percipere is going to overheat and give.
This happens a little over eight minutes into the engagement. The auto turrets have managed to shoot down six more fighters, drawing their number down to twelve. The downside is that they have figured out that her turrets have a limited arc of fire, and a glaring oversight is that the fusion ports are almost defenseless, with only two turrets capable of fully covering the area. Then it happens. Three of the alien ships come in, flying a tightly packed 'V'. At 2,200 meters, they open fire, with several salvos per ship before they bank upwards, nearly smashing head on into the invisible barrier . The first green bolts disappear against the shielding, but with so many coming into such a small area, the capacitors supplying power to the rear overheat and melt. Within seconds, a dozen or so bolts impact against the hull, energy sizzling as it melts through hardened carbon titanium steel. Ripping apart the cooling tunnels on fusion port two, the bolts send a backlash of energy through the vent system, and back onto number two reactor, scramming the core before it can explode. The loss of number two reactor, and the additional damage now being inflicted on the aft portion of the SolCore ship causes the shields protecting Percipere to falter, and from here the conflict is basically over.
"Sir! Engineering reports number two reactor has been shut down, and tactical reports a shield level drop of 82 percent!"
Another direct hit rocks the boat, and the lights flicker, and die. Darkness is complete, as the crew scramble to find the chemical glowbars beneath their stations. The emergency lights, however, kick in as they should, and the bridge is bathed in eerie red glow, the pulsing of the beams creating a near strobe effect. Communications and life support are backed to a different system, however, and the Communications officer, Major Greene begins an emergency distress call.
"Mayday, mayday, AntCom and anyone on this frequency. This is SCS Percipere, we have been attacked by a vessel of unknown, presumably alien origin. Our ship has suffered severe structural damage, and our reactors are off-line. We are drifting, and helpless. Mayday, mayday, AntCom, this is SCS..." he is cut off as the alien cruiser opens fire, her fore batteries releasing a barrage of green fire. Percipere rolls end over end, her artificial gravity and stabilization systems destroyed. As she begins her stately pinwheel, the fighters let loose a barrage of fire, striking her aft section, above the ports. A wrenching explosion, caused by the collapse of fusion cores two and three engulf the rear of the ship, and for a minute it looks as if the entire thing may go in one massive detonation, but Percipere isn't finished yet.
Drawing over the shattered, and dying SolCore vessel, the mammoth alien cruiser slowly begins to pull Percipere up into it's giant docking bay, her hull turning green in the eerie glow of the ships interior. The bridge command crew, watching in terror through the transparent titanium viewports as they are sucked into the belly of the proverbial beast. Captain Ricter, wincing from cracked ribs, and a broken nose, slowly stands, and turns to his crew.
"Boys, I want every one of you here to know that there is not a better command crew I could have asked for. I don't know what this thing is, or where it came from, but we gave it a good run," tired cheers come from the crew, as he continues.
"But we're not going to let these bastards get off scot free, are we?" he turns to his adjacent.
"Tom, your key?" as he pulls a transparent green disk from beneath his tunic, dancing it across his knuckles while waiting for Major Huang to produce his.
"It's been a pleasure serving with you, Sir. To the rest of you, lads, we've been the first of many things, today..first contact with a new species, first engagement of a war, and inflicted the first casualties against this new enemy..you're all going down in the history books." he hands his key to Ricter, slowly, reverently.
Ricter punches a seven digit code into his console, and rising from the floor directly in front of him is a small, black kiosk. The majority dominated by a small screen, and just below that, two near invisible slots, exactly cut to fit the optical disks. Inserting them, he punches the timer and sits back, as the seconds slowly begin to tick back from sixty.
Erudition followed quickly by Jornee jump into the system, and are witness to a horrific sight. Drifting chunks of debris swirl through space, expanding outward from what was once Perciperes' aft quarters, still flickering as the reactor cores cook off against the vacuum of space. The alien vessel, dominating their viewscreen is hovering motionless, aloof from the destruction surrounding it.
"AntCom, this is Erudition, it looks like there's been one helluva fight down here, Percipere's aft quarters are floating some 2,000 klicks from us now, the command bridge seems to have up and disappeared. That big fucker of a ship is just sittin' there, like nothin-" an explosion rips through the heart of the cruiser, fiery hot gas expanding outward from the bottom of the docking port. Slowly, at first, the alien ship loses all motion stabilization, and rapidly tumbles out of control. Seconds later, gouts of burning gas being to erupt from the hull, starting aft, and working forward,until, in one massive explosion the entire ship disintegrates, nothing left but an expanding ring of debris and 'fire'.
Silently, the SolCore ships watch, as do thousands more in Antilles Command, as the expanding halo of debris flies silently outward, all that is left of 125 men and women of the SolCore navy, in addition to an unknown alien vessel, the first and only extraterrestrial contact with man by any species in thousands of years. The time for mourning is brief, as the tactical sector map begins to light up with thousands of red triangles, as unknown ships begin to enter the sector. As each contact is registered, it recieves a number, and a string of letters, denoting it's location, time of contact, and the computer tallies all of these into a summary for the hour. At sixty minutes end, over ten thousand registers have been entered, but by that time, no one is left alive to take count.