"Hyperspace transition complete, Captain. We're holding exactly 100 AU from the star," thought Navigation Officer Michaels over the neural network.
The report was redundant. Captain Burke's own neural interface gathered the same information directly from the ship. Should it be necessary, he could direct all the major functions of the ship solely from his chair. However, having a senior staff freed up the Captain to direct tactics and coordinate the ship as a whole.
"Good. Sensors, analysis please." Despite receiving the data directing to his mind, that didn't mean the Captain understood everything being fed to him.
"I'm seeing a main sequence star of about 20 solar masses. Three orbiting planets, the second of which is terrestrial and in the habitable zone. Atmosphere is breathable if not a little heavy on the nitrogen. Temperature good, overall very habitable." As the officer was speaking, a holographic heads-up-display came to life infront of the Captain's eyes. It was much less mentally taxing that having the ship project a mental representation. Various reference lines and angles showed where the Atlas-class vessel was in respect to the star and its invariable plane. All the orbital state vectors conveniently displayed for the Captain to see. "Detecting artificial metals, electromagnetic radiation, fusion products typical of fusion engines, and gamma rays typical of matter-antimatter engines. Picking up... multiple anomalies."
"Multiple?" The long range sensors had only seen one. Command didn't think that fluctuating amounts of dark energy could be a natural phenomenal and had sent the stealth vessel to investigate.
"The original signature is from an object in an orbit 40 AU from the star. Designating A1 on tactical map. It's not emitting any heat, its superdense, and has an unknown element contained within," told the officer. "The rest are in geosynchronous orbit around the habitable planet, contained within ships of unknown make. Designating B1 through B29." That was a surprise, the long range sensors should have been sensitive enough to pick the ships up. Not to mention their hyperspace window should have been detected upon entrance to the system.
"Captain! Detecting a vessel on approach to the system at superluminal!" Called out the sensors officer. "Heading right for the large object A1. It's of the same type as the others, 87% profile match."
"Ah, so all of these ships only recently entered the system, and not by hyperspace," reasoned the Captain. "Reestablish connection to command and confirm." The communications systems established sensor fusion with the long range sensors of the rest of the fleet, which confirmed the Captain's suspicions that the alien ships were newly arrived.
"Details on these ships?"
"No subspace radiation, but they're flooding the system with EM," sensor officer Chambers replied. "No trinium, no potentium, no neutronium. Armor of ablative and composite layers including boron carbide, silicon carbide, and several carbon composites and nanotube structural enhancements. Primary antimatter engines acting as reactors, backup fusion. The dark energy readings are the only thing of note."
"Very Well. Michaels, prep the hyperdrive and plot a course for the first planet. Put it between us and them." Ordered Burke. "Tactical, ready the ship for silent running and go to condition 1."
A swirling maelstrom of green appeared as the dimensional barrier was breached. The hypnotizing whirlpool pulling the ship into its fathoms. No sooner did the ship enter did it leave. The hyper advanced, Alteran based, faster-than-light system taking seconds to travel millions of kilometers. The lumbering mass of a blue gas giant filled the enormous windows of the bridge. In truth the room had no windows and was within the ship, but you wouldn't be able to tell from the perfectly realistic projections.
"Tactical, go full stealth," commanded the Captain.
"Full stealth, aye Captain," replied the officer, "Phase cloak is online, graviton and subspace dampeners at full."
"Sensors to passive," called out Chambers.
"Communication at silent," confirmed the Comms station.
"Ion engines offline and switching to inertial generator," finished Michaels.
"Plot a course for high orbit of the habitable planet," ordered Burke. "And sensors and comms, bring subspace systems to active. If they don't use them, and we didn't detect any sensors, I doubt they'll give us away." A chorus of confirmations rang out to his orders.
The Captain prompted the computer to bring up a model of the unknown ships. They best way to describe them was avian. Thin wings sprouted from either side of the linear center section. Someone else might have been intimidated by the predatory craft, but Burke had seen much worse horrors. The subspace sensors of the Into the Night left nothing unknown, every section of the ship mapped to the individual atoms. Burke made note of the railgun lining the center of the vehicle, and the missile silos on the sides. The thick, spaced, sloping armor showed the kinds of weapons it was designed to go against.
"In addition to the main core, dark energy fields are projecting from small emitters on the outside of the vessel. This results in extreme repulsive forces, a kinetic shield," whispered a hushed, seductive voice into Burkes mind.
"Minerva, how nice of you to join us," Burke greeted the ship's Intelligence. She was a human that had uploaded her consciousness; he still didn't understand why anyone would want to do that. Then again, she could always have a new body cloned and download back into it.
"I was busy reporting data to command." Burke got the mental picture that she had just flipped her virtual hair in a rather indignant manner. "Hopefully I don't need to tell you that they wish for us to observe and stay hidden."
"Alas, I was hoping to go in guns blazing," He always had a rather peculiar relationship with the flirtatious virtual personality. With any other member of the crew he would have called it unprofessional, but dealing with an Upload was always a little bit different.
"Captain! This is quite interesting," the sensors officer practically yelled into his mind. "The vessels are full of a new species; but there are humans on the planet!"
"Indeed, it looks like we just stumbled upon a little battle," informed Minerva. "Troops are being moved from orbit to the surface as we speak, thousands are already fighting on the ground. These vessels have established air superiority and are launching and recovering gunships. Based on what I see in terms of a defense garrison, this world will be occupied in weeks if not days."
"Humans are being attacked?" asked the communications officer.
"Let's not jump to any conclusions here. It is just as likely that they were the aggressors," the Captain interrupted. Many human worlds had been encountered before, some peaceful and some aggressive. It was strange to find humans here, but not unheard of and it didn't change their operating procedures.
"We'll find out for sure in a second," said Minerva, "but first; look at this." The AI streamed the subspace sensors directly into the Captain's mind. The advanced instruments created a 3D rendered video based on what was being detected. He watched, in his mind, as a smaller ship lined its main armament up with the planet. Minerva so helpfully provided a trajectory for their landing; directly into a city.
"Are their any civilians down there?"
"There are humans without weapons or armor," she replied. Captain Burke maintained silence for a few moments.
"Their view on non-combatants may differ from out own. We still need more information. What else do you have?"
"What about this?" The main viewing screens, which had been showing the approaching planet, changed to shadowed face. A dull orange light shown on the taut skin. The bridge in the background was quite different from the clean, geometric style that the Into the Night had inherited from the Alterans. A few thick rectangular pipes ran along the roof, orange holograms were in many corners. The room held an ergonomic characteristic, yet dull despite the plentiful lighting.
"This is Captain Winfield of the SSV Amiens. We've come under attack at Reay 3... Enemy is fleet strength. The exploration vessel has been destroyed. SSV A... been destroyed... We canno... Hostile contact, I repeat hostile fi..." The replay cutoff abruptly; no static or warning, just a cut to black.
"English?" Asked Burke in confusion. "These humans must be from this Earth..."
"Well, the ones that are still alive are," simmered the AI.
"You've sent this to command?" Burke expected she had. The ship intelligence managed the Combat Information Center, compiling and routing the information that the spy ship gathered.
"Yes, sir. They're willing to let you act on your own discretion. But, you have to stay undetected."
"Very well," thought the Captain. "You're really intent on getting involved, aren't you Minerva?"
"The remaining public and private networks on planet make it quite clear who the aggressors were," defended the AI.
"Any luck on the alien ships' networks?" Asked Burke.
"Pillaging at the moment. Helpfully similar to the architecture of these humans, making translation easier, but I'll still need some more refrences to make sense of anything. I'm currently trying to use any pictures or videos to piece together the language. Still hoping I'll run across a golden record."
Burke looked over the depiction of the alien battlegroup, "Tactical. Where are their army auxiliary vessels?"
"The three closest to the planet, currently loading shuttles with supplies. Take those out and you stop the invasion dead in its tracks." As armies got increasingly complex so did their logistical train. Once again, Alteran technology had eliminated most of these problems. The Into the Night could operate near indefinitely on its own. But these aliens didn't seem so lucky. Removing food, fuel, munitions, spare parts, construction materials, or even something as simple as spare clothing could devastate an offensive.
"Command and Control?" Asked the Captain.
"Their largest capital ship. It's sending, receiving, and routing a lot of comms from the fleet to the planet," answered sensors officer Chambers.
"Captain! Just found their first contact package. Picking apart the language sample, translating and decrypting their... got it. These aliens definitely started this school yard hustle. Even says so in their after-action reports. Their government has laws against using that object, apparently an FTL device, and see this as a justified policing action," informed Minerva.
"Ahh, so its like a supergate. Had the humans signed some treaty to abide by these laws?" asked Burke.
"No. This was first contact."
"That's... completely ignoring the sovereignty of another government. They must be pretty presumptuous to think they can impose their laws onto an independent entity," Burke said with unconcealed contempt.
"Maybe these aliens see it as a matter of international law," proposed Minerva with scorn, playing devil advocate.
"No. That would still need treaties to be established," said Burke. "These are warmongers."
"I see we've come to the same conclusion," remarked Minerva, sassily putting a virtual hand on her hip.
"We could use some Type-19s," the tactical officer suggested. "Remove their logistics and command ships."
The Type-19 Anglerfish was the modern anti-ship torpedo. Using very similar stealth systems to the Into the Night, it could move right up to its prey completely unnoticed. Its warhead harnessed the unpredictable and devastating exotic particles generated by an Arcturus device. It could even phase through the hull to deliver its payload directly into the heart of a ship.
"The alien fleet has conducted four more bombardments on the city as we've been talking." Minerva was already plotting the best path for the weapons to take. In the virtual-battlespace, a dotted red line stretched between their ship and the alien fleet.
"This is a terrible situation, but I can't justify the use of such a weapon on a civilization we've not even met. Not to mention the implications and political ramifications should we have future contact with this species and this were to come to light. Prepare four SQ-15s for launch, EMP payloads, target all logistics and C&C vessels," ordered the Captain. He simply couldn't order the death of people who had no qualms with him.
The SQ-15, nicknamed the Thornback, was a stealthy unmanned drone platform designed to carry payloads to the enemy and return undetected. When outfitted for EMP attacks, the drone's capacitors held enough energy to release a burst of microwaves near what you'd get from a coronal mass ejection hitting a planet's magnetosphere. A needed amount of power, as spaceships were heavily shielded to stop the run of the mill space radiation.
The Captain withdrew into the virtual battle-space. His neural interface placed him in a 3D representation of the area around his ship. The software giving him complete situational awareness, icons and data representing everything the ships sensors could see. Four dotted lines reached out from his ship toward the alien fleet, showing the projected weapon paths.
"Ready to fire, Captain." Stated the tactical officer.
"Turn off their lights."
"Firing, aye Captain."
On the outside of the Into the Night, four dark objects were ejected from the vessel. Once separated from the ship they returned to the universe from out of phase, but just as quickly activated their own cloaking. Small inertial generators pushed them along in the darkness of the void. Passive subspace and EM sensors, preplanned pathing data, and a supplemental tight-beam neutrino communications from the Into the Night ensured that the weapons were on the right trajectories.
The torpedos had to get right up next to their targets; as the strength of electromagnetic radiation decreased by the inverse square of the distance from its origin. And with the massive distances between ships in space, you could hardly expect to affect that many ships with one weapon.
The auxilary ships were first, their engines instantly shutting out. One began spinning about its end, having been in the middle of adjusting orbit with its maneuvering thrusters. A sparse number of backup systems came online inside, the emergency generators and life support systems being well protected enough to survive anything but near complete destruction of the ships.
The largest target, the command vessel, was a little more exciting to look at. A smaller vessel had been coming in to dock, and similarly disabled by the EMP. The collision of ships in space was silent, but beautiful in the slow trench being furrowed along the hull.
"Good hits. Four targets disabled," Called out the tactical officer. "All C4I support has ceased from the command vessel. Others are scrambling, detecting small interceptors performing expanding searches and rescue shuttles in route. Drones on return.."
Hope you liked this. Rewritten as of March 13