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Monday, November 28th 2011, 2:53pm

Dark Omen - by Lordadmiral Drake

DARK OMEN
Prologue:

“Personal Log: Jonathan Drake; 28th May 1204 A.S.
Exactly 10 years ago, the war with the Mrrshan Empire ended with the Taiwan peace treaty, after our victory in the battle of Kartan at the Mrrshan homeworld. Damages to in our territory had been minor, due to the excellent work of the USDF and the Vocron fleet.
We are now on route to the Horegon system near the Mrrshan border in order to take a look at the progress of the construction of the Horegon II outpost. My old friend Commodore Kronos wanted to come with me, as the ISU has only little to do now. He is also transporting some heavy construction machinery for the site.
End log entry”

"Xentor I, this is Toledo space control, you are cleared to warp out, over."

"Acknowledged space control, we´re just waiting for the Kronos III."

"Roger, good flight."

The Xentor just passed relay station K12-6 as the Kronos III came in from the Nessorcena system where it had taken over the cargo. Kronos called in immediately:

"Hey Drake, you don´t want to leave without me, do you?"

"We´re already 10 minutes over time Kronos. We´ve had been waiting for you."

"Then better tell the guys at Omras to be faster. And decrease the damn red tape. Cost me an hour."

"I´ll keep it in mind. But now we should go. They´re waiting at Horegon II"

"Yes Sire. Course is set. We go to hyperspace as soon as you do. Kronos out."

The image on the view screen disappeared and his laughter stopped immediately. I had to grin. I knew Kronos since he has been found in the wreckage of the Kronos in 925 A.S. We´ve been best friends ever since.

"Course lay in, Sir. Ready to jump." That was Mahiv, the helmsman. It was his first assignment.

"Fine, what are we waiting then? Energize!"

Mahiv entered the jump command on this console. The linear-drive, before being on standby, activated and accelerated the Xentor to several millions light speed, dragging us to the Horegon system. Everything good so far...


Chapter I: Premonitions

"Demeter!"

"Yes sir?", a soft and fine modulated voice answered.

"Give me a visualization of the Horegon system on the big screen."

"Ay, sir," replied the computer.

The big view screen on the left wall lit up and zoomed onto the Horegon system. Four planets, the first one almost molten, with average surface temperatures of over 1000°C. The third an the fourth frozen and with methane-hydrogen atmosphere. Only the second one could support life. There, on Horegon II our new outpost was under construction. It will be surveilling the border, but also was outfitted to repair small to medium ships. But due to its remote and exposed position it´s also equipped with the newest and most powerful planetary weapon systems. Construction was 90% complete. Most systems are already online. The rest is mostly outfitting the rooms with furniture, finishing the outside hull and synchronize some things such as scanners and the defense grid.
Suddenly the intercom beeped.

"Yes, what is it?"

"Yokida here, we´re approaching Horegon. ETA 10 minutes."

"Understood. Drake out."

I closed the connection and went to the next turbolift to get back to the bridge. A lot of things went through my mind. In the last weeks several deep space surveillance stations along our border had reported sightings of unidentified ship. But they had them on sensors only for a very short time. It reminded me of the beginning of the Nomad invasion around 800A.S. when "strange ships" had been sighted near the Sigma systems.
I walked onto the bridge and sat down on the captain’s chair. A countdown on the view screen showed the remaining time until reaching Horegon and just passed 2 minutes.

Simultaneously with the Kronos we fell back into the Einstein-continuum between Horegon II and III.

"Set course directly for the construction site, Mahiv."

"Aye, Sir. We´ll be there in no time."

As expected, we were soon hailed by the construction site:

"Horegon II to OSS Xentor H, welcome to the Horegon system. We already had been waiting. You and the Kronos have clearance for Landing pad A-2 and A-3. Horegon II out"

"Thank you, Xentor out."

What a warm welcome I thought and grinned. Well, we had some things in our cargo bays without which they couldn´t go on in several parts of the site.
Mahiv gently put us down at the landing pad in front of the outpost, the Kronos followed shortly after. It was quite filled with these large ships. While the ground personnel began unloading the cargo I already was on my way to the station commanders office to get a report on how things were going on.
As I reached it, I almost bumped into him as he walked through the office door.

"Whoa, careful," he said, the he recognized me. "Oh, it´s you Drake. I thought I´ll come meet you. Didn´t think you´ll be here that quick."

"I used the transmitter to get directly into your station." I laughed. "However, It´s good to see you, Mercant. How do you like this place?"

"Well, it´s nice and quiet, at least it will be when it´s finished and the construction machinery is gone. Nothing of concern so far."

I nodded. Then I remembered those unknown ships. I had to know if they were also active here.

"Have you noticed any of these unidentified ships sighted all along the border lately?"

He shook his head. "No, we haven´t detected anything like that. Not even a beep of a com signal. Everything we had on our sensors so far were the supply vessels and you. But the long range sensors aren´t fully configured yet and only partially operational. but the computer can give you a full report."

"I think I´ll have it sent to the Xentor. I´m thirsty, let´s go to the bar."

Mercant suddenly smiled at me.

"Good idea. I haven´t got things to do right now anyway. Let´s go."

The Bar was on the top floor and had a wonderful panoramic window. We went straight to the bartender.

"What can I get for you gentlemen?"

I looked at the shelf behind him, then I ordered a Sidewinder´s Fang.

He turned to Mercant: "And for you, General?"

"Just an apple juice, I´m in duty."

"All right sir."

While the bartender went to get our drinks, Mercant turned to me with a look of inquiry. Seemed he got something on his mind, but I wasn´t sure. But as I wanted to ask, he already gave me the explanation.

"Drake, something just came to my mind. When I came here in the first place, my ships sensors showed some strange ships I couldn´t identify. I wanted to consult Orthos but forgot about it. Your question before reminded me."

I wanted to reply, but in that moment the bartender came back with our drinks.

"That´s 1,10Cr for the apple juice and 3,60Cr for the Sidewinder´s Fang."

I gave him my card. "I pay both. Bill it on my private account."

"Thank you, have a nice day."

I nodded to him, and then turned back to Mercant: "Sorry Allan. To come back to your topic: Do you still have the sensor readings somewhere?"

"Sure, I had saved them to my ships computer. My Horus is in the underground hangar. I haven´t used it since I got here. You want to see them?"

"Yes, we should compare them with the other sightings. High Command has declared this topic as "of concern". But let´s finish the drinks first, we aren´t in a rush."

"Okay. Ah, one more thing. When you get back to Toledo, tell those responsible to send supplies for the bar with the next shipment. We´re running low."
I laughed. "For sure. I´ll keep it in mind."

We kept on talking for a while, having some more drinks. I and Mercant were good friends. We went way back. I met him while paying a visit to the Rockford Space Academy at Macau. He was a young, hopeful student, close to completing the final tests in command course. He passed them with grade A+ and was assigned to the UC Nightshade of the deep space explorers. During the last Nomad wars he gained several Medals. Now he had settled down to a white-collar job and some weeks ago he had had his 124th birthday. He had quite something to tell.

Suddenly his com beeped.

"General Mercant, please come to your office. There´s a priority 2 message on your channel."

He sighed. "Understood, I´ll be right there." He turned to me again: "Sorry Drake, duty calls."

I nodded. "I know this myself very good. Every time it gets comfortable, there´s some business to do popping up."

Allan finished his drink with one sip and went off to his office. I stayed for some more minutes, thinking about various things, and then I went to the nearest turbolift.

"Please specify floor desired," a familiar computer voice said.

"3rd downstairs, transmitter room!" I demanded and the system acknowledged it with a short melody.

I arrived at the transmitter room and went through a large bulkhead which could be closed to prevent enemies from using the stations transmitter connection. Some Ensign welcomed me.

"Get me to the Xentor, Ensign!"

"Yes, Sir!" he replied pushed some buttons on his console. The transmitter arch began to glow and only moments later could look just into the Xentors transmitter room as the connection was established. I walked right through the arch. As I arrived someone called in and told me that a message had been sent to my room from the station, so I went right to the next turbolift and pressed "Deck 22 - Officers’ Quarters". As I arrived I walked into my cabin and sat down at the desk.

I had the computer display the message. It was a data file with Allan’s sensor readings. What he has had on his scanners looked quite similar to the unidentified ships we had talked about on the station. They looked surprisingly familiar, but I couldn´t remember having seen them somewhere before.


Meanwhile, dozens of Light-years away, at the Deep Space Sensor Station KX-D52H:

Captain Foster, the commanding officer, entered the bridge, holding a cup of coffee. He looked tired, although he had slept for 8 hours. But duty out here was boring, as nothing had happened for months. The crewmembers were staring on their monitors, absentmindedly.

"Anything new?" he asked, but without too much hope.

"Not even a beep," replied Lt. Conai

Foster looked on the main view screen, which showed an overview of the system the station was located in. KX-D52H orbited the third planet of four and it was outfitted with the best sensors available. In addition, 12 small automated sensor arrays were placed all over the system.
Suddenly Lt. Mone turned around.

"Captain, sensors show several ships entering the nearby Denaia system. Type unknown, they are not in the database."

"How many?" Foster was suddenly broad-awake.

"There are still ships jumping in, countless ships, you could say an armada."

"Where are they heading?"

"With that many objects, calculations are very complex. But the trajectory of the fleet points roughly to the Horegon system and the surrounding space."

"Horegon, are you sure?"

"As sure as the sensors are precise."

"We have to warn Drake and the outpost! Kanomi, give me a Hypercom link to the Horegon II outpost."

Lt. Kanomi plied his console, then he shook his head: "I can´t, there´s too much interference. I´ll try to send the signal over a relay chain. OK, got it."

The system overview on the screen disappeared and was replaced by the command center of the Horegon II outpost.

"Mercant, this is KX-D52H, captain Foster. We´ve detected a large number of unidentified ships heading for your direction, sending you the sensor data now."

"Confirmative. One of our patrol has just encountered a scouting fighter wing. The ships didn´t match any database entries. But they do match the data you´ve just sent."

"I see. We´ll keep our eyes open."

"Good. Whenever you see any more of these ships, inform the HQ directly. Orillion will be very interested."

"Ok, Foster out."

The screen went blank. Mercant sighed. He noticed that it was noticeably quieter in the command center. He turned around to Lt. Inai, the outposts’ com officer.

"Inai, inform Drake about that and transfer him all the data we have received from Foster. That’s a priority one issue. And report it to the HQ too."

Inai nodded to him and called Drake. "He´ll know what to do", Mercant thought.

Drake was in his cabin, dozing on his bed, as the Intercom beeped. He groped for the keypad on the wall and reached the answer button.

"Who´s disturbing”, he asked, looking at the clock above the door,” it´s 22:30!? I hope it´s important!"

"Sorry for the disturbance, Sir. Mercant just called in and he wants to speak to you. He sounds worried."

"Okay, patch him through."

The other one pressed some buttons and the image of Allan Mercant appeared on a small screen. You could see on his face that he had something urgent to tell.

"Allan, what do you have on your mind? What´s so important for calling me," Drake looked on the watch above the door, "at that time?"

"Jonathan, we have received a priority 1 message from KX-D52H. Their sensors have detected a massive unknown fleet in the Denaia system. They match the data I´ve sent you earlier today. Trajectory indicates that they are heading for Horegon."

"How many units?"

"Unknown, but such a fleet hasn´t been seen since the second nomad war. There are countless ships."

He paused. Drakes mind was whirling. He already had seen such ships before, but couldn´t remember where and when. These ships were a serious threat.
"We have to inform High Command immediately. Thanks for the heads up Allan. I´ll talk to Orillion."

"Okay Drake. Let’s hope it just passes by. Later."

The screen went blank. Drake pressed a button to contact the Xentors communications officer.

"Sir?"

"I need a link to the Order HQ. It´s urgent!"

"Just a moment."

Shortly the screen displayed the USDF logo to show that the Intercom was waiting for a response. Then a young woman appeared.

"The Order HQ. I´m at your service."

"Hello Mara, is Orillion somewhere around?"

"He should be in his office. Give me a second, I´ll patch you through."

Again the image changed and you could see Orillion sitting at his desk, reading something.

"Hello Drake. Can you call again later? I´m kind of busy at the moment."

"Sorry Caspar, but this can´t wait. Mercant just had informed me that KX-D52H has detected an enormous fleet of unknown origin heading for the Horegon system. The ships match those >phantoms< we are trying to get for weeks."

"I see. Can you pass on the data?"

"Sending now. That’s the original message from Cpt. Foster and the info from Mercant."

The transmission took some time due to the amount of data and some interference. Orillion took a look on the fleet stats and suddenly became pale.

"Good god, by the great Gre'Thor. I've never seen a fleet that big before.

"I'll keep you up to date as the situation develops Caspar. Though I think that it can only get worse."

"Let's hope for the best Jonathan. I'll send more ships over to Horegon. It's the only thing we can do now. I just want to know who they are."

"Somehow those ships remind me of something, but i don't know where from. As if I've seen them somewhere already.”

Orillion looked skeptical. It just didn’t want to fit into his mind.

"Then how come I don’t know about them?"

"Sorry Caspar, I have no clue. But you can feed that info I gave you into Orthos. Maybe the superpositronic has got something in its databanks."

Orillion paused. He didn’t really seem convinced. It was just too much for the moment.

"Jonathan, we've already given Orthos the 'phantom' readings, without success. I doubt this will help."

"We should at least try. In a situation like ours, every little shred may help. This fleet poses a massive threat. I'll also take a look in my personal archives."

"Understood. Good luck."

"To you too Caspar. Drake out."

The screen went blank. Drake just sat there, at his desk. He was confused. How could he know this ships, if neither Orillion nor Orthos knows them. Did he miss something. Finally he decided to go to sleep for now, and search his personal archives tomorrow. He didn’t sleep well though. Too many things were going through his mind....
As he woke up the next day, the sun was already shining. Looking at his Terminal he noticed that Orillion had tried to contact him earlier. He had left a note as he didn’t get through. Drake looked up the file. It was a search report of Orthos. As he somewhat expected, the supercomputer hadn't found any leads. Like all the others, he was only able to link the new data to the 'phantoms'. Orillion also noted that he had looked up his own archives, with the same lack of success.
As there was no new info, and he had no clue what to do, Drake went on to inspect the construction site. It was almost finished. The remaining work was little more than cosmetic. Attaching panels to conduit ducts and such.
Just as he arrived at the main reactor his com beeped. It was Captain Trent, calling in from Macau.

"Trent, old friend. I haven't heard from you a long time. What's up?"

"I had a talk with Caspar last evening, and he told me of his search for data. That gave me an idea, and I searched through my own personal files. And found something. This is big Jonathan, if my data is correct."

Drake was both skeptical and alerted. If Trent says it was big, then there's something behind that. He doesn’t say such things likely.

"What did your search turn up?"

Trent called up some files on another console.

"Do you remember the Xentor Prototype C? The one you tested the hyperdrive on?"

"Yea, I don't even want to think about it. That was such a disaster that I still wonder why we didn't call the whole Xentor program off.

Trent nodded: "Me too. You were thrown about 5000 years into the future. But that’s not my point. When you came back you told me about some very advanced and quite aggressive alien you encountered. Which you could only finally evade by finding the time portal."

"Hmm, yea, I remember, but not their name though. They were afraid of time travellers. But what has that to do with our situation?"

Trent slightly shook his head.

"Don't you see the point yet? I searched my old databases, which also contains a bit about those aliens you gave me. And this data tells me that they and our Phantoms are one and the same. That's the damn point."

Drake suddenly looked a little pale. That was definitely what he had expected.

"How come we didn't notice that? The Xentor P-C had gathered so much info on them. Orthos should have been able to find that out. At least when we finally got some scans of the 'phantoms'."

"Apparently the data of Xentors computer core wasn't transferred to Orthos after your return. And to the best of my knowledge the ship was dumped at the Shanikar space junkyard not long after."

"Oh my god. That was centuries ago. Most likely the Xentor has already been dismantled. That would mean the data is lost forever. But it may be vital for us. We should get to the junkyard ASAP and see if it's still there."

"Exactly my thoughts. It's quite a distance from the Horegon system though, and you are needed in the area in case something happens."
"So what do you suggest Trent?"

"Shanikar is not far from here. I'll take care of that and inform you as soon as I know something. I'll also transfer the data to Orthos and to you if I find it."
"Sound's good, we'll do it that way. You better leave right away Trent, we may not have much time."

"Aye. I'll tell the Tekanor to stand by for departure. Goodbye Drake."

"See you Trent, until soon."

Drake switched the com off and left the reactor control room immediately, heading for Mercants office.

He just wanted to enter it, as Mercant came out, and bumped into him.

"Hey Mercant, be careful when you exit rooms."

"I just wanted to make a break and go for the bar, you wanna join?"

Drake shook his head.

"No Allan, your break has to wait. I've got most important news. Trent just called me round and gave me some precious info."

Mercant sighed.

"Gah, no break again Drake? This better be good. I'm so overstuffed with work lately. All this bureaucracy is killing me, now that we finally get this station up to full operation."

"I'm sorry Allan, but this can't wait. I got new info on the phantoms. We finally know who they are."

"Okay, I see, this could take some time, let’s get into the office and have a seat."

The two went back into the office and sat down at the desk. Mercant orders 2 cups of coffee.

"So, what do we know now that we didn't know before?"

"You won't remember it personally; this was before your time. But I assume that you know about the Xentor P-C disaster?"

"The time travel incident? Yea, I've heard about it. You were lucky to get back."

"True, but in more ways than just the time travel. In the far future, we encountered an very advanced and quite aggressive alien species. They call themselves Darakos and are afraid of species that can time travel because such once tried to exterminate them in the past. We barely managed to evade them."

"But you did make it back into our time, so what’s your point?

"Don't you see? The Darakos and the phantoms, they're one and the same. This is big Allan. If they move to an all-out assault, our odds will stand very poor. Trent is currently trying to find the Xentor P-C, as we missed to transferred our gathered data to Orthos back than and not long after the ship was decommissioned. We hope it hasn't been scrapped yet. In that case all data would be permanently lost, and that would be a major disadvantage for us."
Allan looked shocked.

"By the great Gre’Thor. This is a horrifying idea. But how did Trent manage to find that out when, as you just said, the data wasn't transferred from the Xentor?"

"I met up with him shortly after and we had a talk about this. He still has some of the data in his personal archives. But it's only bits and pieces. Just enough to identify the phantoms as Darakos. For now, all we can do is hope that Trent finds the rest of the files."

"Hmm, I hate to say that, but I have to agree to that. Just..."

Allans intercom sounded an alarm signal. He interrupted himself and went over to it."

"Allan Mercant here, what's going on?"

"Outpost Horegon II, this is DX-K52H. We're under attack by an unknown enemy and suffer heavy damage. Requesting immediate assistance. I repeat this is DX-K52H, we are under.... (static)"

The signal broke down.

"DX-K52H come in. Captain Foster do you read?"

"(static)"

"Damnit Drake. I guess it has started now. But I don't have any ships available for dispatch."

"I don't think it would change anything. Nevertheless, I'll get straight back to the Xentor and head for that station. Wish me luck Allan."

"Yea, you'll need it. I'll transmit you the coordinates. Good flight."

Drake left the office and headed for the spaceport. On the way he informed Orillion and the Xentor crew. As he arrived on the bridge the ship was already good to go.

"We've finished pre-launch checks and are ready to go Drake. We're just waiting for your order."

Drake exited the turbolift and sat next to the captain.

"I know I can rely on you Ben. We head straight out. I want all weapons, shields and cloak fully powered before we arrive. We don't know if they're still there or how strong their presence is."

"Roger, all systems R.L. 1. Helm, get us to KX-D52H ASAP."

"Affirmative. Stand by for launch."

"Check. All systems set to R.L. 1."

The Xentor performed an emergency launch and entered hyperspace as soon as it cleared the planetary safe-zone. DX-K52H was only a few dozen light years away."

"What are our orders Drake?"

"If we encounter enemy ships we try to disable one of them for later capture and study. If now our only task is to look for survivors and analyze the damage. Too bad this happed so soon. If we had the data Trent is looking for already, this would be a great advantage for us. For now, we just have to rely on the Xentor’s enormous firepower and multilayer shields."

"Noted."

Both stared on the main view screen. Who knew what they will find.....


Meanwhile, at the Shanikar spaceship cemetery:

“Sir, we’ve got a vessel inbound. No scheduled arrivals listed for now.”

“Hail them.”

“Aye.”

The Tekanor had just entered the system. Trent was sitting in the captain’s chair, looking at the main view screen. The image of Shanikar always brought up old memories. All the wreckage reminded him of wars. Like remnants, warning signs or whatsoever.

“Trent, we’re being hailed.”

“I expected that, we didn’t announce ourselves. On screen.”

“This is Shanikar Junkyard. Your arrival was not scheduled. Our defense grid is armed and tracking you. State your business.”

“Shanikar, this is the UC Tekanor, Captain Trent. We’ve got an urgent mission and didn’t have the time to announce us. Drake sent us.”

“ID confirmed, Tekanor, you may proceed. Good to see you Trent, it’s been a while.”

“I know, but I don’t have no time for chit-chat.”

“I see, I see. So whatya here for?”

“First we need an info. Is the Xentor Prototype C still here, or has it already been scrapped?”

The Shanikar operator paused.

“The Xentor P-C you said? You sure they took it here?”

Trent was visibly annoyed.

“Dead sure. Listen up. Drake and I dumped it here personally. Now if you please would be so kind as to look it up.”

“Alright alright, I see you’re in a hurry. One sec….”

The operator called up a file at his terminal and started up the search mode.

“It could take a little time Trent, we just had transferred the files due to a system upgrade and it hasn’t been indexed yet.”

“(sigh) I see I can’t rush you. But still, you better make it fast.”

“I’ll do what I can Trent. But I’m no miracle worker. Just hold on.”

Trent sighed again, but didn’t say anything. He knew the operator was right. Besides, it was he himself who ordered that upgrade. As the operator was searching through his list, Trent thought back to when Drake managed to get back from the future with the Xentor, trying to remember whatever Drake had said to him about the Darakos back then. But it’s been centuries and Trent didn’t have Drakes photographic memory. It was all blurry, unclear. He had those files he mentioned to Drake before, but those were only splinters. Only the old Xentor held the whole info.

„Trent“ … „Hey, Trent!“

“Oh, yea, sorry. I was trying to get some info out of my memory,” Trent said, pointing to his head.

“No problem Trent, as long as you don’t fall asleep. But now to the important point. I got what you came for. I found the Xentor P-C in the list. And the very good news: It hasn’t been touched yet. I can scratch it from that list, then you can take it along.”

“That’s the best news I’ve ever heard in a long time. We gonna check her out right now.”

“I’ll send you the coordinates. Good luck Trent.”

“Thanks. Captain Trent out.”

The UC Tekanor fired up the engines and departed from the Shanikar control station, heading for the actual scrap field. They head to maneuver carefully, as the space between the decommissioned ships was filled with scrap hunks of various size and they had to keep an eye on the shield load, though diverting 90% of the shield power to the bow to be able to speed up. It still took 3 hours to get to the target as the field gets denser close to the center. The history of Shanikar reached back to the 2nd Nomad war, which was around 400 years ago, and it was nowadays also used by the colonies.

“Trent, we’ve finally got the Xentor on our sensors. Straight ahead about 5400 kilometers.”

“Good, get us alongside as close as you can. We’ve got to get her back up to basic operation and get to Toledo.”

“Aye, ETA 4 minutes.”

“Good, Kozani, scanner analysis.”

“Ship is fully intact as expected. All systems off-line, thrusters are cold, showing not even the faintest emissions. Nothing unusual. Should be easy to get her started up again and back to Toledo, as long as there is still fuel aboard.”

“We’ll find that out. Marina, assemble a team an meet me in the secondary shuttle hangar. Be ready as we reach target.”

“Understood.”

Trent hushed to the hangar, picking up a space suit and equipment on the way, preparing a small shuttle for departure. Just as the helm reported the arrival at the final destination Marina arrived with some engineers plus escort.

“Marina, do you really think we need those guns over there? We’re in a top security zone.”

“Just following standard procedures Trent. Never send out an away team unarmed. Besides, we may need to cut or blast through stuff.”

“I see, you always think of everything. I guess my mind is just too busy with the Darakos problem to do that.”

“Good, then we better get going. Everyone onto the shuttle.”

Marina piloted the shuttle with the away team to the Xentors hangar which was still open. But as the power station was shut down there was no containment field to keep in atmosphere, nor was there artificial gravity. They anchored the shuttle to the hangar floor magnetically so it didn’t drift away.
“So, here we are. First priority is to get the power back online. I’ve transferred a plan of the ship to all of your suits. But before we get started we better find out if there’s still air in the corridors. I don’t wanna be blown out the hangar door.”

Marina took a scan with her suit systems.

“Corridors are under pressure. We better set up the portable force field generator and then seal the door behind us until we can set up a containment field for the hangar or at least close its door.”

“Engineer Adams, you’ve got the generator. Set it up in front of the hangar exit, with a radius that just is big enough for us to keep the decompression minimal.”

“Roger, shouldn’t take long.”

The away team gathered around the door, then Adams activated the force field. Air flushed out of the corridor into the force field area as Adams opened the door with the emergency lever. They sealed the door behind them after exiting the hangar, but kept the force field online just as a security measure. The away team just was halfway to main engineering as the Tekanor called in.

“Trent, this is the Tekanor, do you read?”

“Loud and clear Tekanor. What’s the matter?”

“We’re picking up unusual fluctuations of tachyon radiation. As far as we know the same pattern showed up just before that surveillance station near Horegon was attacked. We probably got Darakos forces nearby. We have to consider aborting this operation.”

“Not yet. This is just too important. Just keep an eye on that fluctuation and its point of origin.”

“Trent, there’s more, we also picked up faint energy signatures that somewhat resemble our transporters. There are now possibly enemy units on the Xentor.”

“Thanks for the heads up. We’ll keep an eye out.”

“Just watch yourself out there. Tekanor out.”

Trent turned to his team again.

“You heard the man. We have enemies in the area, maybe even here on the ship. We have to be double careful from now on. When we have the power back online we turn on the internal security systems and set up force fields at critical locations to keep them from immobilizing us or so. Understood?”

"Understood."

“Okay, then let’s not waste any more time. Move out.”

They doubled down the corridors, always keeping an eye on the scanners. Good thing that ship was much smaller than ships nowadays so they reached main engineering fast. Surprisingly without meeting or even picking up any enemy forces.

“So, that went better than expected so far. Still, I wonder we didn’t run into anyone.”

“Not that I’m sorry about that. Now let’s get that fusion plant running.”

Adams went over to a console. It was responsible for the emergency power systems, which were formed by H-Fuel cells back then. From there they could get the power to start up the main reactor.

“We’ve got luck Trent. The emergency power cells still got power. Just enough to initiate the main power start up. I’ll check the Deuterium tanks now.”

“Doesn’t look so bad huh Trent?”

“We’ll see when we know about the D tanks Marina. If they’re empty we have to get fuel over from the Tekanor. That would make it complicated. Adams, found anything?”

“Just a second – Yes, we have fuel in the tanks. But to get to Toledo we have to fuel up somewhere or we’ll be dead in space halfway.”

“Well, that’s a minor issue. Next fuel supply depot is not far from here, at Omicron Kappa.”

“Okay, we’ve got enough to get there. Now, let’s start up the reactor. But I’ll need a hand on this one. Kenneth, keep an eye on the systems monitoring and open the fuel valves.”

“Aye,” he replied and walked over to the main systems control.”

“Main controls online. Fuels lines active. Waiting for your command in initiate injection.”

“Routing emergency power to reactor assembly. Containment fields active and stable. Secondary controls powered. Ready to inject.”

“Roger, activating fuel injection – running.”

The reactor lit up as systems powered up and the containment field was built. Adams initiated the fusion reaction.

“Reactor fully powered. Fusion initiated. All values nominal. System running on idle. Power output stable at 50MW. I’ll now slowly increase the reaction to get to operation levels. H-Fuel cells disabled. We’re all set here.”

“Fuel flow stable. We can safely increase reactor output to 50%. Should be enough to power all required systems.”

“Reactor output increasing to 45%. We still need to build power reserves to get higher – output now stable. Routing power to drive system, main computer, life support, bridge systems – done. Trent, we’re ready to go.”

“Understood. Let’s head up to the bridge and seal engineering with force fields and activate the automated defenses.”

“Child’s play Trent,” Adams pressed some buttons, “done. We can move out.”

Trent nodded. The team left main engineering, remotely activating bulkheads and force fields, then heading for the bridge.”

“The Bridge isn’t far from here. Two decks up and down the corridor,” he looked at his scanner, “still not picking up any life signs, apart from us.”
Now with power back online getting along the ship was much easier as the turbolifts were now operational and they didn’t have to crawl through the maintenance ducts. Bridge was reached within minutes.

“Consoles are lit, that’s a good sign. Adams, engineering station. Marina to security. I’ll take the helm. The rest man stations as you see fit. All clear?”
Common nodding.

“Good, let’s do it. Com, hail the Tekanor and tell them we’re ready to head out. We’ll lead the way out, they follow.”

The Thrusters heated up and the nozzles lit as the fusion engine came online. The Xentor turned around to take the same way out they came in and headed for the Shanikar control station with the Tekanor following right outside the danger zone of engine exhaust.

“I still wonder that nothing happened. Maybe it was false alarm.”

“Maybe, Marina. But we’ve got to keep our eyes open.”

The two ships reached the control station without any incidents. On the way they checked the old hyperdrive. Thinking back to the time travel incident they weren’t too comfortable about using it. But everything was green.

“Tekanor, link up navigation. We’ll jump to Omicron Kappa first; we have to fuel up before going to Toledo.”

“Understood Trent. Link set up.”

The Xentor powered up the hyperdrive and everyone took a deep breath, hoping for everything to run smooth. After all, this ship had been out of service for centuries.

“Everyone ready?”

“Ready.”

“Initiating hyperjump in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… go!”

Simultaneously both ships jumped out of the Jekan system, heading for the supply depot in Omicron Kappa. To everyone’s relief the transition went smooth. The Xentor refilled the Deuterium tanks, than they went on to Toledo, awaited by Orillion.

“Toledo control to Xentor P-C: We’ve been expecting you. You’re cleared for Landing Pad Delta 7.”

“Thanks Toledo control, we’ll land immediately.”

The Xentor touched down at the landing pad while the Tekanor remained in orbit. Engineers set up a high bandwidth data link from it directly to Orthos and started transferring all data related to the Darakos. Orillion was informed about the safe arrival of the ship and that the data mining was already in progress.


In the meantime, on the other end of USDF space, in the Kedragon system:

The UD Xentor arrived at the edge of the system, which was completely engulfed in a particle cloud captured by the suns gravity. This specific feature made the system a key point for deep space surveillance as it allowed hiding sensor arrays inside while they have a good view outside. That’s why DX-K52H was built there, apart from its proximity to Mrrshan space. Kedragon was considered a safe-zone, until now…

“Drake, we have arrived at Kedragon, just outside the defense perimeter. Stealth systems engaged, shields up, all weapons ready.”

“Understood, bring us inside the system, nice and quiet. We can’t see anything from the outside anyways. I still wonder how those damn phantoms managed to find the station.”

“Triangulation of its com signals maybe?”

“Unless using emergency channels the stations com system always operates in directional mode.”

“Hmm, I guess we won’t know anything until we arrive.”

“True, that‘s why we’re going in. Set a course to the last known coordinates of the station. Maximum intersystem speed.”

KX-D52H was placed in the L1 point of Kedragon III, connected to several multispectral sensor arrays at the system border covering a radius of 200 light years around it. Such surveillance stations were placed all over USDF space where planetary and other station-based sensors don’t have enough range.
With all stealth systems engaged, shields up an weapons ready the Xentor dove into the nebula engulfing the Kedragon system. Everyone was on edge. So far the “phantoms” had appeared superior to any defenses and hard to detect. There was a fear that the ship would just bump into one of their vessels inside the systems. All stations were double-manned, critical ones even triple to be able to react to any threat as quickly as possible. Jonathan just stared at the main viewscreen, displaying the space in front of them, though he could barely see anything as the nebula drastically reduced the range of view.

“Drake, I’m picking up something, fluctuations of tachyon radiation. Source somewhere on the other side of the system. Could be some phantoms, but it’s very faint so I can’t get a clear analysis .”

“Keep an eye on that one Berkov, I don’t plan to get surprised by them.”

Helmsman Mahiv turned around to Drake.

“Any new orders, given those sensor readings?”

“No, proceed to the anchor point of KX-D52H as fast as you deem possible without giving ourselves away. But keep your eyes open. In the event of danger you have to get us out of here ASAP.”

“Understood, proceeding to Kedragon III”

The Xentor now passed by Kedragon IV, whose orbit was not much bigger as the one of number III. But III was currently on opposition to IV, requiring the Xentor to fly halfway through the system. From time to time additional tachyon radiation fluctuations appeared on the sensors, but unlike the first one disappeared short after detection. Despite all this they arrived at destination without any incident…


Chapter 2: Been too obvious to see?

“Drake, we’re arriving at the last known coordinates of the station. Commencing sensor scan on target area.”

“Roger. Put the scan result on the main screen. Now let’s see what those phantoms left us behind.”

The officers at the scientific station pushed some buttons and the view screen image changed from nebula gas to a wire mesh image of the station, or rather, what was left of it. The view was horrifying. Large parts were torn apart, surrounded by smaller debris. All marked by massive impact craters. Whatever weapon had done this would also have easy play with ships up to light cruisers.

“My god, what a sight,” Drake mumbled shocked.

“Now that’s what I call overkill. I wouldn’t even have taken half that weapon to take the station out.

Drake for seconds just sat there, staring on the scanner image.

“Scan for life signs. Though seeing this destructions makes me doubt that anyone has survived.”

“Aye, starting scan.” – “Hey, seems someone got lucky. I’ve detecting weak life signs in the lower engineering section. We better get that person over here fast.”

“Afaik we can’t use the transmitter now, right?”

“No, that would require a working transmitter over at the station. But nothing over there gonna run anytime again. And even if, we can’t transmit when shielded or cloaked, and we are both.”

*sigh* “So we have to use the good old shuttling method. I’ll have one prepared.”

Drake shook his head.

“No, a shuttle might already be too much of a giveaway. We use the gravopacks of our combat suits, to keep the sensor image at an absolute minimum, as well as the structural gap in the shield we need to exit. Helm, get us as close to the wreckage as possible.”

“Aye, aye.”

Lt. Mahiv carefully maneuvered the Xentor closer to the station wreckage, trying to avoid hitting the debris floating around it. Drake assembled a team at the tertiary hangar, aware the phantoms might already be lingering just around the planet. Lt. Careena kept an eye on the tachyon radiation fluctuations but so far the source remained stationary. What were they up to? Did they just destroy the station to lure us in? Drake, together with the others, hoped they just moved on after the fight.

“We’re all set here Drake. What are our objectives? “

“Two main points. Too look for any information we can find about the attackers, and to retrieve the survivor from lower engineering. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious. The phantoms can effectively hide their ships from our sensors, so they may as well be able to do the same with their troops. Any more questions?”

“No questions here.”

“Then let’s get going. Close the suits and move out. Open the hangar door.”

The bulkhead sealing the hangar from open space slid open and the squad left the ship, heading for the station wreckage, maneuvering carefully through the cloud of debris, while the Xentor remained fully cloaked and ready to render assistance if necessary.

“Where do we go in?”

Drake took a look at his scanner, then pointed to a hole where the station had taken a heavy broadside.

“There’s a major hull breach in upper engineering. We go in there first to get that survivor to safety ASAP. Then we move on to the command section. Maybe we can get some of the final sensor readings out of the data banks.”

He looked at his sensor readings again.

“All parts of the station took heavy damage, we have to be careful not to remove the air in lower engineering.”

“Portable forcefields will do the trick if necessary. I think we have to blast through most doors. Though I recommend minimal use due to the power signature.”

“Scanners show an atmosphere of 71 percent normal level at the survivor. Minor leak likely. We better get there fast before he suffocates. Move out.”

The squad proceeded through the hull breach, finding themselves in the storage hold of engineering. As a result of the impacts and the loss of artificial gravity loose crates and parts were floating around.

“Total failure of all systems as expected. Let’s see if the emergency door releases still work. This door seems to be intact.”

As a matter of security all doors can be opened manually with a lever in case of power loss. At first they worked seamless. But as they came closer to lower engineering the damage became more and more severe.

Ensign Kizashi tried to open the door from upper to lower engineering. But it was bent and twisted too much for the mechanism to work.

“No chance Drake. We have to get heavy on this one.”

“The section behind this bulkhead is depressurized. No security measures required. Let’s get to it.”

Engineer Donnel grabbed a plasma cutter from his back.

“Stand clear, I’m gonna crack this can open.”

Being damaged already the bulkhead wasn’t much of resistance for the cutter. Soon a man-sized hole was cut.

“Careful now. This part of engineering holds the power storages and emergency power systems. Keep an eye on the radiation levels. The amounts stored in there can easily roast us.”

“Life signs of the survivor are stable but weak. Air pressure down to 70% in that section. Can you show us a safe path?”

“Doubtful. Engineering has taken quite a beating. Sensors show power leaks and broken plasma conduits throughout the section. Maybe we can vent the storages. But the probability is low.”

“I see, that will be anything but a walk in the park. Move on.”

The squad carefully walked through engineering, moving around power sinks, plasma conduits and other dangerous high-power equipment, finally arriving at a still pressurized section.

“Beyond this door we have atmospheric pressure Drake. I recommend putting up a forcefield.”

“Yes, we don’t know how airtight the section is internally.”

Using the forcefield they entered the section without pressure loss and quickly reached target.

“He must be somewhere in this room,” Drake said, looking at his scanner, „under this pile of junk.”

“I’m hearing voices, I’m not all alone,” a faint voice could be heard from under the pile, “hey, I’m over here!”

“We’re on our way, just hold on.”

Drake and Donnel tore apart the pile of junk, wall parts and cables.

“Thanks, I already though I’m gonna end here,” the survivor said. Then he recognized Drake.

“Drake, is that you? Haha, you came for me personally, how ironic.”

“Foster old friend. Good to see you alive. Guess that makes us even now. How are you feeling.

“Not that bad actually, but my suit has administered a lot of painkillers. I think I’ve broken some bones.”

“Doctor, take a scan. Can we get him back to the ship?”

“Just a second - Both legs broken, a fractured rip. Looking at the chaos around here I can say he was really damn lucky. Being in a 0-grav environment I’d say we can safely transport him.”

“Okay doc, take Foster over to the Xentor. Lance and Roland, you escort them.”

“Aye.”

The four disappeared into the darkness of halls and corridors. Drake brought up a scan of the station, looking for a path to the command section, pushing buttons on the holointerface. Finally the computer came up with a result.

“We’re lucky, there’s an exit at the other end of the section. We don’t have to go through power storage. And it’s a shortcut too as we can climb through a turbolift shaft going through the stations main axis.”

“What about the turbolift cabin? I don’t want that thing suddenly coming down when we’re in there.”

“The cabin already hit ‘groundside’ and nearly breached the weakened lower hull. No Damocles Sword to take care of. Move out.”

The squad proceeded through engineering towards the central turbolift. The enemy weapons hadn’t caused so much damage here deep inside the station but heavy energy cascades of damaged systems had wreaked havoc instead. Large parts of the wall plating was loose and ruptured cables and conductors hung around. Here the zero-gravity environment was an advantage as it prevented them from falling down. Coolants and other liquids covered the floor though, but the antigrav propulsion system of the combat suits made this a minor issue.

“I don’t trust that peace in here. I got a bad feeling, like these phantoms could be lurking behind any corner.”

“Come on Williams, you’re too superstitious. If that were true we would have already run into them. Plus, why should they care about some soldiers nosing around.”

“Exactly because we’re nosing around Jake. They seem to care a lot about staying hidden and revealing as little as possible about them. Much more than someone who’s at war does anyway.”

“You’ve heard too many mystery stories….”

“Jake, Williams, cut the com chatter. I don’t feel so comfortable too here, but speculations aren’t helping a bit. Now come on, we’ve got a job to do.”

“Understood Drake. Going silent.”

Williams didn’t seem calmed, but an order was an order, and the mission was too important to get distracted by chatter. His theory was thwarted by the fact that they reached the shaft without anything happening.

“This is it, according to the scans the shaft reaches though the entire station from the top to the bottom. Command is on deck 6. The decks are numbered inside the shaft so we can’t miss it. I go ahead, the rest follows in line.”

The station had 30 decks in total, measuring 110 meters in total, no problem for an antigrav. As they floated upwards suddenly the Xentor called in:

“Drake, this is Carter, do you read.”

“Loud and clear, why do you break radio silence?”

“We thought we needed to forward this to you. As you entered the shaft our sensors shortly picked up a faint energy signature from command, somewhat similar to our transporters. In the same moment they picked up something that could be interpreted as lifesigns. But the signal disappeared too fast to say for sure. Just watch yourself out there.”

“Understood. Keep a transporter lock on us and be ready to beam us out on my signal. Drake out. Squad, ready weapons, we may have company up there.”

“My suit sensor pick up some strange readings, I can’t make any sense of it. Do you see it too Drake?”

“Positive. Looks like tachyon-based distortions.”

They exited the shaft on command deck, which was in surprisingly good shape. Most terminals and consoles were intact but offline due to lack of power.

“Looks pretty good here. We need to get the emergency power cells online to retrieve any relevant data. The controls are over there at the engineering console. Kenneth, it’s your turn.”

“Hmm, let’s take a look – power cells are good, but activating them won’t be easy. Someone disabled the entire console and burned out the circuits.”

“Someone? You mean the phantoms have done this?”

“Yes. This is an independent system. It can’t be damaged from elsewhere. Neither by forced overload nor by an energy cascade. And this sort of damage only appears here at this console.”

“Drake, I get this readings again. Outside command and coming closer. That direction,” he pointed to the main door.

“All soldiers secure the entries of this room,” Drake began, but was then interrupted as a massive blast breached the main door.”

“The phantoms are attacking. Suppressing fire, don’t let anyone through that door. We have to buy Kenneth time.”

Suddenly peace turned into hell as they tried to push through the destroyed door. It seemed like an endless stream. No matter how many were shot down, they just kept coming. Bolts of plasma and laser beams filled the room.

“Damnit, where are they coming from? They couldn’t have hidden such big numbers here.”

He didn’t get an answer. The defenders kept the phantom soldiers busy, but it was just a matter of time until they were overwhelmed.

“Okay, I got power. Beginning download from computer core.”

“Make it fast Kenneth. We won’t be able to hold the off much longer.”

Williams shouted some heavy swears through the com as he grabbed a rocket launcher from his back and blasted a bunch of attackers into oblivion.

“BAM, how do you like that you sons of bitches?”

“Download at 40%”

“Drake, they just keep bringing in more and more soldiers. I don’t know how much longer we can hold this position.”

“Download at 60%

The defenders threw heavy crossfire at the attackers. The bodies began to pile up, the air was filled with fog from missile explosions and high-energetic beams.

“Hey, they won’t be able to get through that door anymore soon. They already have to climb over the bodies of their comrades.”

“Download at 90%, just a few more seconds.”

“Damn, my shields are down. Aaaarghh…..”

“Goddamnit, they got Francis. They’ll pay for this!”

“Download complete, let’s get out of here.”

“Williams, forget about Francis, we have to leave. Drake to Xentor, beam us out.”

The Darakos pushed into the room but their shots just hit the walls as the squad dematerialized. Kenneth got the data to the lab for analysis while Drake rushed up to the bridge.

“Mahiv, get us back to Horegon, fast. They must have a ship nearby.”

“Understood, course lay in, activating Hyperdrive.”

“Status of defensive systems?”

“All shields and stealth systems online. And no sign of enemy vessels.”

The Xentors engines fired up and the ship performed a hard turn away from the station wreckage, entering Hyperspace.

“What about the squad escorting captain Foster?”

“No casualties Drake, we gave Foster a quarter on the deck below, number 127. We’ve interrogated him, but that didn’t turn up anything of interest.”

“So we have to wait for the analysis and for Trents findings. Alastair you have the bridge, I go to see Foster.”

Drake took the turbolift one deck down. Quarter 127 was close by. He felt somewhat relieved. Captain Anthony Foster was an old friend of him; he had led USDF forces in various battles with big success. Drake pushed the doorbell.

“Come in,” Foster turned to the door, he was sitting on the bed, having his legs in plaster, “ah, Jonathan, it’s you. I got to say I’m so happy to see you. Though that pile of scrap that covered me was the last thing I’m gonna see in my life. Have a seat.”

Drake sat down next to him on the bed.

“Likewise, Anthony. When I heard your distress call I though I’ll never see you again. Damn phantom bastards.”

“Yea, blew us to hell and gone. Must have had a whole company of guardian angels back there. Plus a big portion of luck. I heard no one else made it out alive.”

“They nearly got us too. When we were up in command downloading the final sensor readings and stuff their soldiers suddenly came out of nowhere. We made it out, but one fine man lost his live.”

“Motherfuckers are really getting me on edge. One day it’s gonna be payback, and we make all those deaths mean something. Man, all those brave people. You think it’s the soldiers’ job to make himself superfluous, but it just never stops. Gah, what am I lamenting. Man can’t change the past, can’t change the way the universe works.”

“Sadly. All those wars we’ve endured. All those people, soldiers and civilians that lost their lives for senseless violence. But right now the phantoms are our concern. We’re on route to Horegon II now and will inform Orillion and the vocron Majorek once we arrive.”

“And the data you recovered?”

“Will be sent to the Lambda research station. Seneca is the best supercomputer we have. We will be at Horegon II in about 3 hours. You better take a rest Anthony. I’ll come around later.”

“See ya Jonathan. And if you ever find the ones responsible for the destruction of my station present them my bill, with the biggest gun you have.”

“I promise. See you around.”

Drake went back up to the bridge and sat down. Those phantoms had been an annoyance before, but this attack just made it personal. An attack on Foster was like an attack on Toledo itself. It felt like an insult.

“I’ll be in my ready room. Sendar, you have the bridge.”

“Aye Drake.”

Drake stood up from the CO seat again and went over into the ready room. He liked to retreat to its calmness when things got tense. A good place to think. He opened his personal log on the terminal.

“Personal log: Jonathan Drake; 30th of May 1204 A.S.

We found the wreckage of the attacked station and were able to retrieve its sensor recordings as well as my old friend Anthony Foster, though we almost didn’t make it. The phantoms had just waited for us to enter command. We lost one good man over there. I just hope the trouble was worth it. You could see this attack as an isolated incident, but my experience and the info from Trent tells me that there’s more behind it. The Xentor P-C incident certainly made those possibly paranoid aliens an enemy to us.

End log entry”

For a while Drake just sat there, staring at his terminal as if the information he needed would just pop up if he just stared at it long enough. Then the doorbell beeped.”

“Come in.”

Magnus Sendar, the Xentors captain entered the room.

“Drake, I wanted to inform you that we just entered the Horegon system. We will touch down at Horegon II in 35 minutes.”

“Good, now get the data we gathered transferred over to Lambda. And get me a com link to the HQ.”

“Aye, anything else?”

“Not for now. I’ll inform you if necessary. Dismissed.”

Just a minute later the requested com link was established and Orillions face appeared on the terminal screen.

“Ah Drake, what can I do for you?”

“KX-D52H near Horegon has been destroyed in a phantom surprise attack. We managed to retrieve the final sensor recordings and sent them to Lambda for analysis. Has Trent returned yet?”

“As far as I know he is just arriving. You will hear from him soon I guess. Did you find any survivors on the wreckage?”

“Surprisingly we did find one survivor. My old friend Anthony Foster who commanded that station. We’ll drop him off at Horegon II for further medical treatment.”

Orillion was visibly shocked about the news.

“I see. When will you return?”

“Not that soon. The phantoms are somewhere out there near Horegon, and this is a strategically important position. We can’t afford to lose that outpost if there’s a full-scale war coming up.”

“Understood Drake – Hang on, I just got a message. Trent has just landed with the Xentor P-C.”

“Okay. Leave our com link open and just relay him when he calls in.”

“Which he just does. I’m redirecting him to you.”

Orillion disappeared from the screen and was replaced by Trent. He seemed awfully worried.

“Trent, good to see you. I heard you managed to get the old ship.”

“Indeed Jonathan. We got the ship and the data. I recommend we put the fleet on full readiness. This one’s gonna get ugly.”

“Is it that bad, Trent?”

“I can’t think of how it could get worse. The files in the computer core confirm that the phantom are actually the aliens you encountered in the time travel incident. There’s no doubt about it. And they call themselves Darakos.”

“The Darakos, of course. How come I didn’t remember that? As if it had just been too obvious to see.”

“Maybe you just didn’t want to see that. Even though you’re a realist you’re not safe of such behavior.”

“Indeed. I’ll come to Toledo. Orillion shall assemble all our Fleet Admirals and all high politicians at the HQ. We need to discuss which measures we take to counter the imminent threat. And I want you to assemble a fleet at Toledo as guard force.”

“Anything else?”

“No, that’s it for now Trent. I will depart with the Xentor right now. See you at the HQ.”

“You can count on me, Drake. Trent out.”

Drake closed the com terminal. It all began to become clear. He remembered that the Darakos were once almost eliminated by a time travelling race and have since developed a paranoia about all sorts of temporal manipulations. The Xentor time travel incident must have put them on alert. It was quite possible that they saw the Xentor P-C as a spy spearhead to an invasion and were now taking measures to remove the human “threat”. Drake rushed up to the bridge and gave the order to head out for Toledo. He knew that they didn’t have any time to loose. With multimillion lightspeed the Xentor rushed to the Omicron Minor system.


Meanwhile at the Order HQ, Toledo City:

Orillion was sitting in a conference room, together with Fleet Admirals Hakkera and von Claussen, as well as Captain Trent, Doctor Sinclair and Professor Quintaine. Everyone was on edge since they got confirmation on the identity of the enemy. The Darakos were not that big in numbers but their extremely advanced technology was more than compensating for that.

“The Darakos it is. I never thought we’d see those again. The devil must be really bored for sending them to us.”

“Though I don’t share your believe in higher powers von Claussen, I have to say that this is a more than appropriate metaphor. And that’s why we are here. We need to decide what steps to take.”

“Where are the rest of us Orillion? We need everyone involved.”

“I know, Kendra. King and Hovis are scheduled to arrive in an hour. Drake will be here not much later as well as Harrison and Cobo. President Takeno is inbound from Vocron and will arrive any minute with the vocron Majorek.”

The door com beeps. As the door opens just mentioned Takeno and Majorek Tresann walked into the room and sat down opposite to Orillion.

“We came as fast as we could after we got your message Caspar. Good thing it’s only a short jump from Vocron to here. You sounded very worried.”

Orillion nodded almost unnoticeable.

“Indeed, and I’ve got a good reason for that. Mankind is facing the biggest threat since the first nomad war. As soon as we’re completely assembled Drake will give a full briefing on the situation.”

“Speaking of which, where is Drake?”

“He was investigating the destruction of a space station in the proximity of the Horegon system, our most distant outpost and is now on the way here. He will arrive in about 50 minutes. Until then I transfer all the data I currently have to your terminals. Take a good look.”

“Like looking into the mouth of a gun, ready to blow your head off…”

50 minutes later aboard the Xentor:

“We’ve entered the Omicron Minor system and are approaching Toledo.”

“Good. Give me the com.”

“Aye.”

“Drake to Toledo space port. I order priority clearance to land for the UD Xentor H.”

“Confirmed. You have clearance to land on pad A-2. Space control out.”

Several ships and shuttles quickly pulled aside as the Xentor entered Toledos atmosphere, exceeding the normal approach speed. Encased in superheated gas and shaken by the break thrusters and atmospheric resistance the ship closed in on Toledos main spaceport at Toledo City and finally touched down. When Drake had reached the HQ, the thrusters were still glowing.

“Drake, there you are, finally.”

“I came as fast as I could Caspar. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. But that’s why we’re here. As I see we’re complete.”

Drake set down next to Orillion and opened a file.

“I assume you all have received this file already. That data is what we know about our opponent. Fortunately Captain Trent was able to retrieve this from our old flagship, the Xentor P-C. Our first encounter with the Darakos now lies over 300 years back, but it appears that our time travel has gotten their attention and their fear. As you can read from the file they were once almost wiped out by time travellers and have since developed a big paranoia about any temporal distortions and manipulations.”

“Do you have a plan Drake? I mean, from what I’ve read here those guys are so technically advanced that they are superior to everyone we know.”

“Wait Kendra, what about our good friends, the Dom Ko’Vosh? They pose a formidable force, much more than our own fleet.”

Kendra looked back at Takeno, but didn’t say anything. This was outside her expertise.”

“I think that we will need their aid against the Darakos. I’ve seen them in person. They span – they will span an enormous empire with technology that can easily compete with today’s Dom Ko’Vosh. Also we don’t know how strong their presence is, nor their base of operations or how and where they got into our time.”

“But we know one thing Drake. They’re here, and we have to strengthen our position. I’ve sent additional ships to our strategical outpost at Horegon II. Additionally, fleets have assembled at all key planets and facilities. The guard force here at Toledo is now 3 times stronger.”

“What about the houses?”

The fleet admirals nodded to each other and then Hakkera brought up a holomap displaying the Sirius sector and surrounding areas. Red, blue, green and yellow dots were scattered all among the projection.

“Take a look at this, Drake. These are the locations and strengths of our forces in duty normally.”

He pressed some more buttons. The dots changed their positions and increased their size.

“And this is the current situation. We’ve drawn together the ships patrolling unimportant systems and placed them in important positions throughout our area of influence. Key military and industrial positions such as Cairo, Alexandria, most of Leeds, etc. have received additional protection to ensure that the Darakos will have a hard time trying to break our supply lines. This means we have to leave many systems without or with little protection. But we’ve placed additional forces strategically so they can intervene quickly if these come under attack.”

“Excellent. Now another thing: Orillion, what’s the status of our shipyards? Against the Darakos we’ll need to march in masses.”

The spoken to Orillion plied his console and the holomap vanished. Instead, the projector now displayed some statistics.

“Every shipyard is represented in this graph. Currently it displays normal production. And now,” he pushes a button, “it is overlaid with current status. We have increased the production output by 70 to 134% and still haven’t reached the limit. In total we will be able to have about 8900 new vessels of all classes per week. Note that this number does not include the Vocron Empire. Do you have your numbers Tresann?”

The Majorek took an OSD out of his pocket and slid it into his console.

“Sure, I’ll just add them to this graph. Our shipyards have increased their output by 300%. Fleet strength has already risen by 27%. We will be ready whenever the Darakos strike.”

“Okay, with this taken care of let’s move to the next topic. Kendra and Quintaine, you’ve been give the data gathered from the destroyed station. Could you make any sense of it?”

They looked at each other shortly and then Quintaine rose to speak.

“Indeed. It seems they have to disengage their stealth systems to attack. The stations sensors managed to get a short scan of some vessels before they were destroyed. This data is anything but accurate but there are some things we can tell. First of all it seems like they origin roughly from the period of time Drake has accidentally visited, which backs his theory. Also we’ve got some info on their armor material which we dub xentronium. This strange alloy is more robust against all kinds of weapons than anything else we know. Several scientists on Lambda are now working on a method to reproduce this material.”

“Sorry to interrupt you, but how long do you think this will take to complete?”

“I seriously can’t tell Orillion. It’s an extremely complex alloy with additions of hyperenergetic particles that further reinforce it.”

“I see, go on.”

“One remarkable thing about their ships is that they don’t have any distinctive engine room, power station, sensor array, etc. All functions are spread throughout the entire vessel. This allows them to continue operation even with large parts destroyed.”

“Do you have more specific information on this one?”

“Well, we estimate that their vessels remain operational with up to 78% of their structure destroyed. To make a critical hit would mean to destroy the entire ship at once, which, as you all know, is pretty much impossible with our weaponry, save for the Armageddon torpedoes.”

“Using them would be impractical though. We only have a few of them, and only on our heaviest frontline combat ships. We need to find something better against their xentronium armor.”

Drake, as well as everyone else looked skeptical. They knew about the extreme durability of xentronium. No one could imagine a weapon that could break it in a reasonable amount of time.

“Do you have an idea, Quintaine,” Orillion asked him.

“Not by myself. But I’ve heard of a project in development at Centaur Research. They call it the transform cannon. As far as I know it uses a modified transmitter to deploy high-yield explosive charges directly into the target, bypassing most defenses.”

Orillion didn’t really seem convinced.

“The transform cannon project? We’ve started that 2 decades ago. And with no significant results so far. It requires an enormous amount of power to achieve firing distances high enough for efficient use.”

“Maybe you should just call Centaur and ask them about the current status.”

“Sorry to interrupt you Quintaine, but you’re maybe a bit too excited about this. Even if this cannon would work now. It would take too long to upgrade the fleet, even partially. Not to mention the required ammo.”

“Yea, you’re possibly right Drake. It was just an idea. But just so you know. The Dom Ko’Vosh have introduced something similar to their fleet recently. Maybe they can help out.”

“Quintaine’s right. We should ask them for support. I’m not sure if we can handle the Darakos alone.”

Common nodding around the table. Drake looked at an imaginary point at the far end of the room, thinking.

“Yes, we really should do this. I propose we interrupt this meeting for 2 hours. I’ll contact Naloon De’Keresh. That we didn’t think of this before. Okay, then until 13:40. I suggest we all also get a meal.”

One by one they stood up from their seats and left the room. Drake went directly for the main turbolift and went to the 42nd floor, where his office was. The room was small, but functional and the glass front provided an excellent view over the skyline of Toledo City. He sat down at the desk and opened the terminal to call the com-center.

“Communications here, what today Drake?”

“Hello Katsumi. Sorry, I have no time to chit-chat now. I need a connection to Naloon De’Keresh on Tarmineras, double-quick.”

“No problem, just a moment.”

The call signal went out into space, across the Barrier and the crow nebula, over several relay satellites, halfway across the galaxy to the Dom Ko’Vosh capitol. Even with Hypercom it took a little time to bridge the distance.

Naloon was just about to get home from work as his com beeped, displaying the symbol of the planets Hypercom station. He sighed.

“Naloon here, who’s disturbing?”

“Sorry sir. But we have a priority alpha transmission for you. It’s coming from Lordadmiral Drake on Toledo.”

“Drake, are you sure?”

“As sure as our systems are exact Naloon. We triple-checked the signal ID. It’s genuine.”

“Okay, if he is calling me directly it must be something of great importance. Relay the signal to me.”

Shortly the com showed the USDF logo, then Drakes face. He seemed worried.

“Drake, it’s good to see you. It’s been a while. But I can tell from your face that there is something going on. What’s bugging you?”

“Indeed, there is something. But first, is this channel secure?”

“Sorry, no. You just got me on my personal com. But I’m still at my workplace. Hang on a second and I’ll set up a secure connection here.”

He went back into the building and into his office.

“Computer, implement security protocol Naloon gamma 6.”

“Acknowledged. Security protocols active.”

He forwarded Drakes signal to his own terminal, then opened it again.

“Okay, the connection is now secure Drake. What is happening over there?”

Drake made a noticeable pause, while he pulled up some data at his console. Naloon was a wise man, but far too young to know about the encounter with the Darakos.

“I’m sending some background info to you. You’ll need that to understand what I’m saying now.”

Naloon looked at the files Drake sent. Most of it was unknown to him, but one thing struck him.

“Hmm. This data is largely unknown to me. But there’s one set of coordinates that seem familiar to me. The point where your timejump occurred. Several years ago an exploration vessel came by that area of space and encountered a temporal anomaly. But it wasn’t of natural origin.”

“Let me guess, someone was tampering with time deliberately.”

“Indeed. A species not known before apparently was performing elementary experiments on temporal technology. Our vessel was discovered and barely made it out in one piece. We haven’t gone there ever since. I think it’s likely that whatever they’ve done there may have affected past and future alike and therefore caused your accident back then.”

PolarBear

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Monday, November 28th 2011, 6:07pm

I smell a good storyline mod!

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Monday, November 28th 2011, 7:32pm

I don't think so. I don't have the capability to do that. Also, in the time the story is set in, combat is mostly done by large capships. There are other changes too. Such as the House fleets and The Order have been merged together to form the United Space Defense Force, while humanity has spread far beyond the Sirius sector and the Nomads are almost nonexistent as they have been beaten in 3 more wars since their 800 A.S. infiltration of Sirius. Additionally I have taken up one of the core concepts of the Perry Rhodan series in order to keep some key characters from the game alive

etc. etc...

P.S. The text above in the OP is currently 32 pages in MS Word

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Monday, November 28th 2011, 7:42pm

32 Pages O_O

Anyway, if it was a storyline it would be a very good one. You know, its not such a big problem to make it. Mission scripts are easier then they seem.

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Tuesday, November 29th 2011, 9:52am

well, i like it

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