Author's note: It's finally out. It took me a while to finish it, and I can't say that I'm happy with the result, but after spending some time trying to improve it, I decided there was nothing that I could do. So, bear with the info dump about ships, production, and other stuff that doesn't make the story progress one iota. I wanted to write where the SGA was after the time skip, but I overdid it. Well, some might appreciate the info regarding their military strength.
Random Norwegian: I haven't spent much time thinking about the conspiracies and all. When a story encompasses the whole universe, with many places to write about, it becomes difficult to think about the minute stuff. Not that I have the time lately to think about the story in general. Work and all. If I have to say it, the situation on Earth pretty much calmed down after the Terran Federation's inception. Even bad guys with greed as their most prominent trait know when there's nothing they can do. They might try to shake things a little and get some benefits and concessions in one way or another, but nothing major. That's why I'm unsure if it's worth spending time (that I don't have) thinking and writing about it. Maybe if I get a sudden inspiration, I'll write something, but don't hold your breath. Jack is still a hero, though, as popular as ever :D
Garibaldi69: I also hope this isn't the end. Although my writing speed had fallen to abysmally low levels, I'm still trying to finish the story. It would leave a bad taste if I came this close to the end and suddenly left it incomplete. But, indeed, I don't have much free time.
Lukas: It's always great to hear people appreciate your work, especially those who like it so much that they read it more than once. It's not a short story that one can reread in a day. I would like to have some extra time to fix the writing in the previous stories, but I don't have it. Since it was first published, I haven't done any rewriting of the second book, and I know my writing and grammar have improved somewhat since then. After all, I started writing to learn English since it isn't my first language. Well, what can you do when you don't have the time. It will have to suffice the way it is right now.
EffervescentNova: Unfortunately, I'm stuck with the Destiny side of the story. From the beginning, I was dubious if it was a good idea to add it to the story because I didn't have any bright ideas about it, much less how to combine the Destiny arc with my overall plot and the fight against the Vargas. I still don't, and I'm unsure what to write that has any meaning. I'm not a fan of writing something irrelevant because I have nothing better up my sleeve. You know, like writing about some missions about the Destiny people, but that leads to nowhere. I will undoubtedly spend some time writing about the Destiny arc, but I don't expect it to impact the rest of the story.
gunzen: I'm thinking about bringing the Colonies to the main story, but it's not easy. First, I have to decide what their level of involvement would be. It's difficult to think they could become on par with other races in the Milky Way just in a few years, which limits how relevant they could be. Still, with the Terrans busy elsewhere and the Jaffa having their civil war, maybe I can bring the Colonials as yet another faction with internal strifes and complex foreign politics when meeting other races. At one point, I thought perhaps the Colonies and Galarans starting a war would be fun to write about. Send me a PM if you have any ideas.
loki98065: The Triangulum galaxy might get mentioned here and there, just like many other galaxies, but they will probably have no follow-up in this story. It would be writing about too many sides, then writing nothing of importance. The story must proceed and eventually end, and I think I need to focus on that right now.
Well, I hope I answered all the reviews here or through PMs. If I missed someone, sorry, it wasn't intentional.
Thanks to my beta, and I hope you'll enjoy the chapter.
"Don't put me in the same basket as the other me! Unlike him, I'm a man of action!" Jack, the one five minutes from the future, answered loudly.
Liam didn't know what to say. The two were identical in every conceivable way except in the experiences they gained in the last five years. Although, thanks to experiencing countless adventures while traveling through the past, the other Jack excelled in that field with an impressive lead of two hundred years of more experience! Otherwise, the two were like two peas in a pod, and as the one currently standing in front of him had loudly announced, one of them wasn't a man of action because he reluctantly had to become the High Councilor of the Terran Federation. He would have preferred to lead the Third Fleet in the fight against the Vargas, just like the other Jack did, but some close friends forced him to take a more demanding job instead.
Arguing with Jack was never a bright idea, and the only thing he could get out of it was a headache. He could barely remember what had shaken Jack to start the whole conversation. He remembered mentioning that the other Jack had acted like his usual sloth the last time he'd seen him. He then asked the present Jack how he spent his free time.
It was the trigger for his sudden outburst of unjustified rage.
"Anyway, let's continue with why we came here," Liam said.
"You're right. We came to see your ship," Jack said.
They continued to walk through several long corridors, each separated by a series of thick doors that automatically parted as they approached. Finally, the last and largest door allowed the two access to the massive hangar where Liam's ship laid dormant. The vessel was two miles long and weighed close to two hundred million tons, yet the hangar still seemed half empty.
"If nothing else, the Sphere has a lot of room to spare," Jack said.
"It's not even the biggest hangar this monster has," he said, referring to the largest hangar he had visited earlier. It could easily accommodate ships the size of Atlantis.
"And that's a good thing because not all ships can fit through a Supergate," Jack said.
"It's a damn big limiting factor," he said, thinking about how, unfortunately, his ship was too big to pass through. It could only travel to the farthest reaches of space on its power through hyperspace or within the Sphere. "We need to bring more city-ships to the farthest reaches, and the inability to use the supergate network makes it a nightmarish task."
"Using the Anomalies that we took from the Vargas helps," Jack said.
The Anomalies had giant mouths that could not only swallow a ship the size of a Wraith Hive but could do the same with a fleet of such ships. Ever since the IC-1001 came under their control, all the Anomalies within the Laniakea Supercluster de facto became theirs to use as they saw fit. However, they were outside Laniakea, where city ships could only make that second portion of the journey if the Sphere brought them. Liam's ship was in the same predicament, making the Sphere an extremely sought-after commodity.
Unfortunately, they had only one Sphere.
"It's good to have these Anomalies. It makes it easier to cross even ridiculous distances, regardless of the fleet's size. Too bad we still don't understand how to make new ones," he said.
"I listened to Rodney's explanation after he'd finished researching the underlying theory. At first, I thought I was too dumb to understand his explanation. But after seeing Sam's face, I realized that McKay was talking gibberish and had no idea how it worked," Jack said.
"I lost interest in researching it when I realized there were only two ways to learn how to make them," he said, starting to count with his fingers. "First, to spend the next century working in solitude on extradimensional physics—an unrealistic goal—or second, we steal the knowledge from the Vargas. I rejected the first possibility after realizing how long it would take, and I'm unsure if the second is even possible. We already know that the Vargas don't hold knowledge of their creations inside their ships. Otherwise, we would have already found some clues after boarding several."
The Vargas were billions of years old, and they weren't even the leading mind behind all the crap going on. They knew the Vargas never changed or evolved, which meant they were designed that way. Someone incredibly competent who has been working on it for a long time was behind everything. Given their longevity, spending hundreds or even thousands of years researching Anomalies shouldn't have meant much. What did a meager century mean to creatures who had lived billions of years?
"Ah, who cares for the Anomalies. It is already enough that we can use them inside Laniakea. For the rest, we will somehow manage, as always. More importantly, let's finally see what the finished ship looks like. It took damn long to fix it, didn't it?" Jack said.
"Too long," Liam replied.
Thanks to its unique alloy that could dissipate abnormal amounts of energy, the ship was hard to damage. It was better than anything the Vargas made, both in energy dissipation and hardness. But the ship had one major drawback. The material was damn tough to make. A synthesizer couldn't make the material because the required energy would dissipate during the creation process, failing to create the desired alloy halfway through.
Melting was also not a possibility. As with any form of energy, the alloy would dissipate the heat. The only way to do this was to create the required material in a separate dimension with different laws where the material couldn't dissipate all that energy. After flooding the pocket dimension with massive radiation, the material would finally become flexible. Then the nanites made of an even tougher material would carefully shape the armor. The cycle would repeat until the desired hull armor plates were obtained.
The toughness of the material also pointed to something else. Even after losing portions of his memories, Liam was confident that the Vargas didn't have a weapon capable of harming his ship. Their weapon was great at draining shields, but it was nearly useless against energy-dispersive materials like their armor. That meant that whoever he fought had to have used a different weapon capable of melting away even the tough alloy the Alterran had researched but seldom used because of how hard it was to make.
He would have to think of what kind of weapon the enemy had to have caused such extensive damage.
It took him twenty years to finish the ship, and the Sphere managed to fix it in just five. It was a fantastic achievement, especially since the current material was stronger than the original—no wonder the Furlings were known as the best builders in the known universe.
The two walked along the promenade that led to the ship. They could have teleported, but the point was to see the vessel in all its glory. It was majestic, and it looked just as he remembered it. However, he knew that the Sphere had repaired most of its exterior.
When he saw the improvements, he had no choice but to be envious of the ideas the Furlings thought of. It drove him mad what they managed to carry out even without being present. They preset what to do to the ship, and the Sphere did it automatically thousands of years later. Their ability to see future events even millions of years in advance was astounding, and their ability to use that knowledge to shape the future was even more so.
"I don't remember what the ship had before, so I'm unsure what changed," Jack said while looking around. "It looks pretty neat, though."
"Almost everything. For example, the Sphere added a singularity that now serves as the main power source," Liam said.
"Is that better than a ZPM?" Jack asked.
"Yes, in many ways," he said. Seeing that Jack wanted to know more, he continued. "ZPMs are a great energy source, but only because they are rechargeable batteries. The larger the subspace pocket into which you pump energy, the greater the energy supply you'll later have. In theory, we could make a subspace pocket the size of the universe and then flood it with hard radiation. Then we would have a pocket universe as our source of energy. That would be like saying we have unlimited energy."
"Wicked! Can we make one?" Jack asked.
The other Jack spent time with the Repository of Knowledge. Unfortunately, the Jack in front of him used his copy only to hold his evening beer. He would have to explain everything. "Of course not. First, creating such a massive subspace pocket wouldn't be different from creating another universe, and it would have to be just as complex as our universe to prevent it from breaking down. Second, it would take a damn long time to push all that energy in, even if you somehow found a good enough source, and that could only be something on the scale of the universe itself."
"Is that why a singularity is better?" Jack asked.
"Yes, a singularity can directly convert matter into energy. Thanks to the Furlings, it's easier to extract energy from it than to release it out of a ZPM," Liam explained but noticed Jack's frowning face. "That means we can get more juice out of a singularity."
"Oh! That's fantastic! So, does that mean your ship doesn't need ZPMs anymore?" Jack asked.
"No, it's not like that," he replied.
"It's not?" Jack asked, deflated. He thought he understood something but was wrong.
"Because even though we can get more from a singularity, we can only have one on a single ship," he said. "Having two singularities would be incredibly dangerous. On the other hand, my ship has six Type IV ZPMs, and they are working flawlessly. Its small size and stable nature make it the best source to have on ships where space is a limiting factor."
"That makes sense. So, besides the new singularity, you also have six ZPMs, and nothing less than the latest model! Are you planning to set planets on fire with your primary weapon?" Jack asked, mocking the amount of energy the ship could deliver. "Can conduits handle it?"
"Barely, and yes, since I lost the last fight, I plan to have enough firepower to burn everything in my path," Liam growled.
Not only did he lose, but he had trouble remembering how it all went down. He remembered many things that had happened on his way into the unknown, but he could not recall the most important parts. He vaguely remembered a strange blue creature with horns towering at least half a meter above him. And he wasn't short by any standards, meaning the creature was at least eight feet tall. He couldn't remember anything else, only that the very thought of that guy caused a sharp feeling of dread to appear deep down in the pit of his stomach.
He wanted to be ready this time, so he was glad to learn that the Sphere was improving his ship. Of course, with a new power source, all other systems, such as weapons, conduits, shield generators, and engines, had to be enhanced to take advantage of the power the ship could now deliver. But what the Sphere worked on the most wasn't any of the ship's central systems but its very essence, William.
"The weapons have been improved, as have the shields, armor, sublight engines, and hyperdrive, among the more important ones. But what makes me the happiest is that William is up and running again. I was afraid the Sphere wouldn't be able to restore his VI matrix. Still, fortunately, I was just fretting unnecessarily," he said.
"But William also doesn't remember what happened," Jack asked.
Both Liam and William were in a similar boat concerning their memories.
"It is even more complicated for William. I have a tough time remembering because I ascended shortly after. But for William, it is different. He suffered attacks tailored to erase the memory stored in his quantum crystals. They were run over with random bits of data through a subspace attack in a way I've never seen before.
"To maintain essential functionality, William had to rewrite his core subroutines, constantly checking for inconsistencies between the data and the copies he was forced to create. What's worse, what he had to prioritize were the navigational subroutines essential for the ship to travel home. William had to prioritize navigational data over his personality, which must have sucked!" Liam said, dissatisfied.
It was hard to categorize what William was. Was it just a program, or was he a living being? Nonetheless, he knew William sacrificed what he was to complete the mission even though it meant sacrificing his individuality. However, the Sphere came to the rescue again. Using never-before-seen algorithms, it restored William's core to its original state. Since the Furlings never excelled at algorithms, he was incredibly curious about where they acquired them. Unfortunately, no one could quench his curiosity.
But no one could be one hundred percent certain there weren't minor deviations in William's restored matrix. Today was the day he would talk to him for the first time, so he was eager to get on the ship.
"By the way, will we install singularities on our other ships?" Jack asked.
It was a question worth a billion T-credits. "I know you'd like that, but it's not going to happen, at least not to the scale that you hope."
"Why not?" Jack asked.
"To be safe during combat conditions, the singularity is placed inside a separate dimension. For example, my ship now has a special door that leads to that other dimension, which is bigger than the ship itself," he said.
"Oh! Bigger on the inside than the outside!" Jack exclaimed, for some reason quite excited about it.
"Yeah, whatever. Anyway, since the singularity is safely tucked inside a separate dimension and only connected through one door no larger than ten meters, it is unlikely that it could harm the rest of the ship even if something goes wrong. Even the strong gravitational force it produces doesn't affect the rest of the ship as much," he explained. "Gravity passes through all dimensions, but the field strength in those other dimensions is only a fraction of what it is in the originating. And most importantly, in case of a catastrophic failure, a ship can dump the entire dimension. If not, the whole ship would go down with it. As you may have already guessed, building a ship that is, as you said, 'bigger on the inside than the outside', isn't something that we can do on every ship produced. The cost would overwhelm us."
"That's sucks! You know how much I love big honking' space guns. And a considerable part in having them is related to having a powerful energy source," Jack said.
"I love big guns too, just like the next guy, but for now, we're going to have to work with what we have and believe that's enough. Our races have increased our technological superiority over the Vargas, and we've worked extremely hard in improving our ships' offensive and defensive capabilities," he said.
"I know. We are constantly upgrading our ships, and more are currently inside shipyards getting retrofitted than we are building new ones," said Jack. "But we do have plans to make a big ship, something like a mothership capable of traveling throughout the entire universe on its own. This singularity seems like a great fit. But that ship is still in the conceptual phase, and we plan to make them only after the war's over. For now, we must focus on what's best to increase our strength."
As much as they increased their productivity, it was uncertain whether ten times as many ships would be enough to win the war. No one knew the right approach on how to end it. How could they hope to match a race that has existed for more than a billion years—a race that has had time to spread throughout the entire universe? Just thinking about the enormous task ahead of them made him feel dizzy. Have they finally met an enemy they couldn't defeat? Were they against an unstoppable opponent?
"Enough depressing conversations!" Liam said, quickening his pace. "Let's get on the bridge and see if we can get this ship moving."
"We're going to take it for a spin?" said Jack.
"Of course we are. What's the point of a ship sitting in a dock?" he said.
They wouldn't go far, but he yearned to see what the retrofitted ship could do. A modest trip of one or two hours should be enough to check the capabilities of the newly installed systems.
Many corridors had to be crossed to reach the bridge if they didn't use a teleportation booth. Still, the point of today's survey was to see the whole ship, every nook and cranny. Hence a nice walk was in order.
As he moved down another identical corridor, more than anything, he felt Jack's growing crankiness. A little confusing since the man shouldn't have anything against a leisurely walk.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I'm not against walking, but when the hallway looks the same as all the previous ones, I just have to draw the line," said Jack, in a voice filled with irritation. "Why don't we use a teleportation booth? That's why they're here!"
"This is my first time on this ship after a long time, and my memories still haven't fully returned. It helps me remember the times I spent in these corridors, whether I was checking something somewhere on the ship or simply jogging aimlessly through them," he explained.
"If you say so. It all looks the same to me. You've seen one hallway; you've seen them all. The walls are completely devoid of any decorations and are of the dullest gray shade I've ever seen. It would be best if you thought of hiring a decent decorator," Jack continued.
"Okay, I get it! Let's go to the nearest booth!" Jack could be quite bothersome at times, especially when bored.
"Don't be mad. I think it's pointless not to use those high-tech devices that can instantly take you anywhere on the ship," Jack replied.
"You just think walking is a pain!" he replied.
"I think that too. However, I also believe that one can determine how advanced a civilization is by counting how fewer steps their people need to make regularly during a day," Jack replied.
Liam looked at Jack from head to toe. "I see."
"See what?" said Jack, sounding irritated.
"There are a few pounds more around your waist," he deadpanned.
"There's no way that's true!" Jack replied but then inspected his waist. "I may have gained a little, a pound at the most!"
"I realize you have booths on your ships and stations now. From the increase in your belly's circumference, I'd say you use them regularly," Liam said, smiling devilishly. "You know, he's in better shape than you."
"Impossible! He spends most of his time behind the desk doing whatever a High Councilor does these days. I'm confident he has a bigger belly!"
"Nope, he's leaner, probably because of everything he experienced while traveling through the past. Judging by his appearance, he also exercises quite regularly," he kept on teasing.
"I will let you know that I exercise properly in the gym, at least three times a week!" Jack replied angrily.
"Perhaps, but you did not deny my earlier statement. Do you go to the gym walking or enjoy using the first booth you come across?" he scoffed, knowing the answer in advance.
"Let's stop talking about booths—and my waist—and focus on finding the bridge!" exclaimed Jack. He was obviously unwilling to continue the current debate that had gone (for him) in a terrible direction.
Moving quickly, Liam led them to the nearest teleportation booth. After getting inside, the booth delivered them in front of the bridge. It was usual for the bridge to be empty. Although, it seemed like a waste of space to not have a crew. But Liam only occasionally found usefulness in having people crewing the fully automated ship. When he went deep into Vargas's territory, he preferred not to drag others to such a dangerous undertaking, especially knowing that Aenea would have asked to participate. Now that he knew how his two-year-long journey into enemy territory ended, he was glad she didn't follow. She, and anyone else who went, would have died on the last day when the ship had to flee.
"I'm watching the bridge, and I know I've spent countless hours here, but the memories are still hazy," he said, feeling a little sad.
"I'd like to tell you to give it more time, but it's already been years, and you still haven't remembered everything. Maybe some memories are gone, and no matter the effort you put in, they won't come back," Jack said.
"I am aware of it, and I agree with you. But what I'm dissatisfied with is that I'm missing some crucial parts that could help us," he said.
The memories of when the Alterrans were living in the Milky Way five million years ago, he could remember them easily. He was also familiar with the time when he was an Ascended. Not all, because remembering everything would have caused his brain to explode, but he could still remember every detail but at a subconscious level. He could bring back the desired memories to the forefront with proper meditation.
But the closer the memories were to present times, the less he could remember. Even the memories of his time in the Andromeda Galaxy—the time he spent creating the Edenian race—were fractured. The last decade has been the hardest to remember. Pieces here and there, slowly building an image of the past ten years. The time he spent in the territory under the Vargas has been the worst to remember.
However, he wasn't the only one having problems remembering that period.
"You finally came," William said as he materialized.
Liam glanced at the hologram that had suddenly appeared. "I thought you'd come in your new body."
"It's not ready yet," William replied.
"That's because you're too demanding. If not for your nitpicking, the Sphere would've made you a new body within a single day," Liam said.
"I want more than the body of an ordinary android. Something more durable and able to keep most, if not all, of my personality subroutines," William replied.
"What is he talking about?" Jack added.
"According to the specifications, he is trying to create an uber body. And I don't only mean physically invincible, but also capable of perfectly shielding his mind," Liam said.
"Can you blame me?" said William.
"I cannot," Liam replied.
During events that neither William nor he could fully recall, William's VI's Core was targeted by an attack via subspace that was capable of disrupting his memories. His body at the time did not fare any better as an explosion on the bridge destroyed him during the ensuing battle.
Therefore, he couldn't entirely blame William for wanting an improved body capable of withstanding a similar attack. But looking at the specifications of the body he coveted, he thought William was asking for a miracle. It had to be near indestructible, partly made from nanites that could repair it even if severely damaged, and containing an internal storage system with plenty of spare nanites and whatever else he thought necessary placed inside.
But none of that was impossible to make. However, the defenses he wanted his body to have so that no one could hack his virtual brain were a newly designed protective system that owned a quantum connection between the mind in his new body and the ship's central core. He wanted a self-defense system capable of ensuring that attacks on one the other could negate. No one had thought of that kind of entanglement at the quantum level simply because no one expected they would ever need it.
As if out of spite, even the Furlings did not expect such a request. Even those capable of predicting the future millions of years in advance couldn't prepare thoroughly for William's whimsical demands.
As if to imitate his thoughts, William began to explain. "This nasty attack could disable not only me but any computer system, no matter how advanced or rudimentary. For now, no known protection can stop it from intruding."
"A strange signal that can randomly change data bits within memory crystals; that's how it was explained to me," Jack butted in, not fully versed in the subject.
"Not just memory crystals, but any known type of storage system our ships might have. The worst is that we don't know how the Vargas can bypass our shields and pinpoint the ship's memory banks in so little time and with such accuracy," William replied.
Breaking through the defenses of Liam's ship wasn't an easy feat. Its protections were near impenetrable, and the outer hull should have blocked the signal from entering the vessel. But from the little data they managed to save, the Vargas managed to do it with ease, breaking through all the defenses within seconds.
"But I think it's wrong to mention the Vargas as the perpetrator. If they had such a system, the Battle of Eden would have ended differently," Jack said.
"You're right. Whoever I faced had weapons that the Vargas didn't have. The damage to my ship was far worse than anything any Vargas ship could have done," Liam said.
"The remaining energy on the hull suggests it was like the energy-absorbing weapon the Vargas extensively use, but it was also different. It was able to negate the energy-dispersing properties of my armor plating," said William, clearly upset.
That last piece of information held some crucial revelation. It confirmed that the Vargas weren't at the top of the food chain; instead, they were just someone's creations. It is then understandable to think their creator would have weapons capable of destroying them if the Vargas decided to revolt. Whoever was behind them certainly had many weapons capable of denying the Vargas ships' ability to dissipate energy or target computer systems' memory banks, including the Vargas' brains. Those were all great weapons to have during battles against the Vargas, more than against any other race. Unfortunately, these weapons were also highly effective against Liam's ship.
"So, there's someone above the Vargas, and he created some insurance if they went berserk," Jack said, mimicking his thoughts.
"Wouldn't you?" Liam asked. "In the same situation, I'd never have created a mechanical race and expanded it throughout the universe in countless numbers without first preparing a couple of nasty tricks in case one day they decide to turn independent."
That was the problem in creating a race of intelligent machines. If you did a mediocre job, fearing that they might turn rebellious if made too autonomous and intelligent, their abilities wouldn't be extremely high. But suppose you made them extremely intelligent and adaptable. In that case, you run the risk of one day becoming their prey with no way to oppose them. Such thinking would force anyone to prepare necessary insurance to stop their creation if they lost control over them.
"So, the Vargas doesn't have everything our latest enemy has—an enemy that we know nothing about," Jack said. "It would be beneficial to know at least what kind of weapons they have before we must confront them in battle. We already have trouble with the Vargas and their servants as it is."
"You don't have to mention it. Rest assured that both William and I want nothing more than to recall everything that happened during our years of absence," Liam said, with a hint of frustration present in those spoken words.
"That's right! I can't describe how frustrating it is to be unable to remember something so important. In contrast, I could lightly remember all the stupid things Liam did during his long life!" William added. "If there was something I wouldn't mind having lost, those memories would be a perfect candidate."
"Don't be silly. If you forgot that, you wouldn't know how to retort back to me every day. You'd turn miserable."
"Now that you've mentioned it, those memories give me some good ammunition during our conversations," William replied thoughtfully.
"Guys, you're getting off-topic!" said Jack.
Liam had to agree. "You are right, of course. We came here to test the ship. William, are you sure all systems are ready?"
"Yes, the ship is finally in top shape. We can be on our way and do anything better than ever before. No system hasn't been improved," William replied, obviously pleased with how the ship's improvements worked.
"Then let's go," Liam said, knowing William knew what to do.
The ship suddenly began to feel differently. That was because the primary systems were coming back online. With the singularity and inertial dampeners powering up, he could feel a slight tingling sensation through his whole body. It was barely perceptible, and he doubted Jack could even feel it. Somehow he felt the ship was full of power; it was the best description he could give.
The newly installed gravitic drive also came to life. It was a marvel of technology capable of collecting the strong gravitational waves the installed singularity created, then using them to push the ship in any direction. Of course, the designed system would apply the strongest force when pressing the vessel forward, thus giving it the ability to achieve more than a thousand gees of acceleration regardless of its bulky mass. But the propulsion could also create a decent lateral thrust, allowing the ship to move sideways. Such an ability provided the vessel with many tactical options during battle conditions. It would improve its maneuverability and, most importantly, its ability to evade incoming attacks.
The giant ship kept rising as the massive door on the hangar roof opened. The powerful gravitic drive made Liam's ship seem the size of an ordinary frigate. Deftly, the vessel headed gently toward space, pushing increasingly faster through the tens of miles long corridor.
"After so long, the ship is traveling through space under its thrust," Liam said after the ship left the protective confines of the Sphere.
"It was about time, I'd say," Jack replied. "Do you have any specific direction in mind?"
"Well, as it's often the case in space when you don't have an exact destination in mind, one direction is as good as any other," Liam said. "We'll keep going in the same direction."
The hyperdrive happily hummed as it received copious amounts of energy. Soon, the ship stored enough in its internal capacitors to allow the opening of a sufficiently large hyperspace window for the ship to slip through, thus disappearing from normal space.
"Somehow, even though I don't feel the acceleration we're under due to the inertial dampeners, I still know that we're accelerating ridiculously hard!" said Jack.
"William is not one to save on the engines. He'd jumped us to the highest band and pushed the gravitic drive into the red," Liam said, a little worried. That wasn't the way to handle a freshly restored ship. They should have pushed more moderately, at least the first few times they took it for a spin.
"Of course, I'll push it all the way! If it must break, let it happen right here and now! But if the ship couldn't endure this much, it would be too miserable," William replied.
"Let's not talk about the ship falling apart, at least not while I'm on it," Jack retorted.
Here he had to side with Jack. William, however, overdid it a bit with the revamped hyperdrive and newly installed sublight engines. But he was sure there was still a safety margin to what the ship could handle, or at least he hoped. Looking at the console in front of him, he could see that William's VI was busy calculating hyper-spatial coordinates, indispensable if they didn't want to drop back into normal space. While in the Lambda hyperband accelerating like a madman, William needed all the processing power he could squeeze out of his central core.
But the speed was impressive. To think that they could cross (in theory) a hundred billion light-years within one year was astounding. It was an achievement no one else could claim to have reached, at least as he knew. Of course, traveling in the Lambda hyperband near the speed of light wasn't something his ship could do longer than two hours. Something would inevitably melt, be it the conduits, the hyperdrive, or any other system vital for the vessel to travel at such speed.
He wanted to suggest to William that they enter the lower Kappa hyperband. However, his console beeped, informing him that a message had arrived. "We seem to have received a call for help."
"Here?" Jack fired.
It was a valid question since they were in a galaxy billions of light-years from their territory, the Laniakea supercluster. Yet, someone still managed to get in trouble even here, as announced in the message.
"It's from Admiral Sheppard. His task force has engaged in battle," Liam explained.
"Here?" Jack repeated the last question, clearly not convinced how Sheppard had managed to find opponents in this place where everyone else had failed.
So far, there had been no hostile encounters in this or any of the neighboring galaxies. So, Jack's statement wasn't unjustified. Sheppard's mission was to look for a race that opposed the Vargas but was currently hiding somewhere within this remote galaxy where the Vargas's presence was minimal. Sheppard had already spent more than a month with no luck finding them. They wanted to help these aliens secure their region and, in turn, for them to join their ever-growing alliance.
"Yes, Sheppard seems to have found the aliens we were seeking," Liam explained.
"Wait! Are they attacking them?" Jack said.
"No, they are jointly opposing a third party. Sheppard is helping them, just as his mission demands," Liam said but then frowned. The message only mentioned a third party, showing that it wasn't the Vargas; the message would otherwise have contained that information. Not many races besides the Vargas could force Sheppard to send a distress call.
"You say there's a third party, and Sheppard asks for help. Am I the only one finding this strange?" Jack asked.
"I agree, it's strange. The message is short and unbelievably uninformative. The signal is also distorted, which shows that an advanced form of jamming is active nearby," Liam said. He didn't know who was broadcasting the interference because three sides were present; the aliens they came to meet may have done it. "But we shouldn't start throwing strange theories. The truth is that Sheppard is asking for help, and we will provide it."
With a simple nod, Liam conveyed his intent to William. The ship swayed for a moment, signifying that William had forced it to change course abruptly while keeping in the lambda hyperband. He was genuinely testing the ship's systems. Even a little too much if anyone asked him. But the truth was that they were in a hurry. Even with their fast ship, it would still take them at least a few minutes to reach the place ten thousand light-years away. The ship hadn't had the time to achieve a high speed. Before changing direction, they traveled at a rate of barely 2% of the speed of light, which inevitably fell lower when they had to change course abruptly. He calculated that four-minute was the minimum it would take them to reach Sheppard.
"No matter how fast the ships we build are, space is still too big. It will take us at least four minutes to reach them," Liam said.
"Four minutes is a lot when you're in a battle. Is there anyone closer?" Jack asked.
"No. I informed the Sphere to prepare for a jump, but it will take her more than four minutes to get moving," Liam said.
The Sphere was the farthest a ship could get from a fast response unit. That miraculous construct could cross millions of light-years in the blink of an eye, but things differed when it needed to react quickly. Unfortunately, the SGA also hadn't set up any jump stations in the galaxy that could deliver reinforcements even to a location ten of thousands of light-years away as they could in the Milky Way. Quite a fantastic idea implemented by the Terrans. After discovering hyperdrives, most races stopped inventing other ways to move across space. But the Terrans were adding new methods, hoping each would benefit them somehow, even if indirectly.
He was digressing, which often happened lately. He needed to focus more.
After sending instructions to the Sphere to prepare, he replied to Sheppard that rescue was on its way. But he wasn't confident he would receive the message. The message they had received was severely garbled, showing the jamming device was decently strong, enough to block the signal he sent back.
"I'm sure Sheppard can hold out until we get there," Jack said.
An utterly unsubstantiated hypothesis, but he understood why Jack said it. However, he would prefer to know who Sheppard was facing and their strength before they reached them. They could then spend the next three minutes devising a suitable strategy to enact upon exiting hyperspace. Perhaps, if lucky, they could even catch the enemy with their pants down. But instead, they would have to guess, hoping the enemy wasn't far from their predictions and that Sheppard could manage on his own until they got there.
He assumed that his greatest difficulty was keeping the aliens alive, thus having little room to maneuver. Furthermore, he would bet the enemy had more ships than Sheppard. He was convinced there were many times their numbers. Apart from the Vargas, no race under their control could face a Terran battlecruiser in a fair fight and win. If Sheppard was in trouble, it must mean he met a numerically superior opponent.
"We should get out of hyperspace ready to open fire on several dozen enemy vessels," Liam murmured.
"I agree. Sheppard has to be facing dozens of enemies; I'd say at least a three-to-one ratio stacked against him," Jack said.
That wasn't a baseless assumption. The SGA had gone through countless battles, and they knew that fights not directly involving the Vargas or having fewer opponents than three times their numbers were easy to win for an experienced task force like Sheppard's.
As was usually the case when someone was in a hurry, time seemed to nearly stop, simply refusing even those brief three minutes to expire. William was the only one who was calm. However, he was preoccupied with carrying out all the necessary calculations to prevent the ship from slowing down or dropping into normal space. They were moving even faster than before, thoroughly testing the ship's readiness. It wouldn't be strange for something terrible to happen now at the worst possible moment. However, Liam believed that William wouldn't do anything reckless to endanger the ship and its people.
"We're finally here," Liam said the moment he noticed the ship going through the process of dropping back into normal space.
The screen in front of them abruptly changed from displaying the swirling blue of hyperspace into that of ordinary space otherwise devoid if not for the dim light of distant stars.
"Yaw, sixty-five degrees; pitch, twelve degrees; distance, eight thousand miles," William informed.
It was the needed change in course and the distance to Sheppard's ship. The battle raged sixty-five degrees starboard and twelve degrees above the galactic horizon. While he thought about it, the ship steadily veered off.
"These are some bulky ships," Jack said when the screen showed the battle in sufficient detail.
Liam had to agree. Apart from the ships in Shepard's task force, the rest were vessels longer than three kilometers, with no exception. A few even exceeded five, but that wasn't the only reason for concern. Ships were primarily built to be long but narrow. It was easier to make them in shipyards that way, and it was even more critical to make them slim when they needed to push them through the Supergate. Shipyards were easier to build if only one dimension was prominent, while they kept the others as small as the ship's internal systems allowed. However, the enemy ships were also very wide.
It was easy to discern which ship was on which side, and unfortunately, the largest ones were hostile. Five kilometers long and almost three and a half wide, the largest ships constantly fired energy blasts from countless ports on their hull. There was no angle where these ships didn't spit shots in copious quantities.
"They look more like motherships than battlecruisers," Liam said.
"Based on their firepower, I would have to disagree," William replied. Now that he didn't have to make all the calculations, William joined the discussion.
The ship's shape suggested they were dealing with motherships carrying troops or smaller vessels on long voyages. But a mothership wouldn't have the needed space to install all these cannons, much less the number of reactors required to power them correctly. It was impossible to have both a cruiser and a transport vessel without creating a flawed ship. A ship holding everything would prove useless because it would have little of everything to put it into a specific role.
Liam recalled the first few ships built by the Terrans, and especially the BC-304 Daedalus. It was a time when they had fewer ships, having no choice but to design them to cover multiple roles. But the Daedalus turned into a vessel holding only four squadrons of fighters and with too few anti-capitals ship weapon ports to call it a true heavy hitter. And inevitably, its maneuverability was also low due to all the ancillary systems installed, which inevitably increased its weight. Unlike the Daedalus, the Defiant and Damocles were the lightest they could be and, therefore, more mobile. They had their distinctive roles and wouldn't stray far from them.
All that made Liam believe that these big ships weren't motherships but only looked like them. They were hefty hitters, or the best way to describe them was to call them dreadnoughts packing an impressive array of mid-range cannons.
"They possess impressive firepower, making it difficult for the Defiants to get near," Liam said, mentioning one of the reasons the fight didn't favor the good guys.
"These plasma bolts just look small because of the size of the ship that fires them, but in fact, each is half the size of my house!" Jack shouted.
Liam now knew the approximate size of Jack's house, but he didn't know what to do with that information.
The situation wasn't what they expected. True, the opponent had more ships; that part was genuine. Even with the unknown aliens and Sheppard's task force, they still had a three-to-one disadvantage. But the size of the enemy ships was also troubling.
"The size of their ships is a big problem, but we also have the added difficulty of not knowing anything about them," Liam said. "All the readings show an unknown type of shields, weapons, and internal energy patterns, the little of it that leaks through their jamming."
"How come we haven't met these guys before?" Jack asked.
"We are far from home. We've entered a region with never seen races living in it," William said.
"That's right. But right now, it's not as important as getting our people out of their predicament," Liam said.
The enemy created an encirclement, with an active jamming signal preventing a hyperspace window from forming. There weren't many options for how to proceed. The best way was to break one side of the encirclement, let the aliens and Sheppard slip through the weakened defenses, and later decide what to do with the enemy, whether to leave or smash them if they were in a good enough position.
So far, the enemy must have noticed their appearance, but they showed no change in attitude. They continued to bombard without even a single ship changing course or preparing to oppose the intruder.
"That kind of thinking will cost them dearly," William said.
"We're just one ship, not even the biggest here," Jack said. "No wonder they don't pay too much attention to us."
"But the moment we open fire, they'll realize we are a threat and change attitude. Let's continue studying their shields as we approach. If we can find their modulation, we could use our quantum disruptors with significant effect," Liam said.
"Yes, but let's not wait too long. "Our ships seem to be in a pretty nasty mess," Jack said.
"I'm more worried about the aliens," William added.
Sheppard's task force could avoid most of the fire with relative ease. The same, unfortunately, could not be said for the aliens they were trying to befriend and their fat ships. Many were convinced that simply building larger ships yielded a greater fleet strength. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Vessels that were too sluggish would always become favored targets. No matter how much stronger the ship was due to its increased size, not having the ability to avoid incoming fire was quite the drawback. He could only agree that bigger was always better if they could somehow create a propulsion system that gave larger ships unparalleled maneuverability. If that were possible, Liam would be the first to apply for the production of countless massive behemoths, no matter how long it took to make them.
However, everyone knew that the ship's maneuverability decreased with the increase in size, making a vessel more sluggish and an easier target. And here lay the biggest problem with large ships. After cracking the blockade, the alien ships would react the slowest. That meant that they would have to add some leeway to the plan of action. Fortunately, the enemy ships were larger, making them even slower to react.
On the other hand, he felt no fear of the upcoming battle. The enemy had large ships with large cannons, but he was still sure that his ship would outperform them in every conceivable way.
"Okay, I think we're close enough," Liam said.
It wasn't just because they had been within range of the weapons for some time, but because the enemy began turning, a clear sign they were about to engage in battle.
"I think so too. I wouldn't mind if we fired a minute earlier," Jack added his five cents.
"William, will you do the honor?" said Liam.
There was no response from William. However, the frontal cannons barked the next moment, sending a salvo of deadly energy. It was a mixture of quantum disruptors (QDs) and plasma lances (PLs). The QDs would be less effective until they figured out which configuration worked best. Firing a few PLs also meant seeing how tough their shields were.
"They have decent shields; I can barely detect any fluctuations after our PLs hit. The QDs also seem to be ineffective," William said.
"It was a little anticlimactic, wouldn't you agree?" Jack said, not knowing why there wasn't much of an impact. "Isn't this some uber-ship? Shouldn't we be able to trample the enemy with ease?"
"You're right," Liam replied.
"That means what exactly?" Jack asked again, clueless.
"What do you see the enemy doing?" Liam asked him.
Jack looked at the screen, thinking. "Well, a few ships oppose us while the majority continues to target Sheppard and our newest friends."
"Exactly," Liam said.
"I don't get it. Again!" Jack replied.
Liam sighed. "They do not see us as a threat, and this is because our introductory salvo was weak, and so had a negligible effect. The QDs didn't disrupt the energy in their shielding, and the PLs did little to overwhelm their emitters, much less penetrate their shields. That's expected since we used a negligible amount of the power the weapons can deliver."
"OH! Now I get it!" Jack said. "You are calibrating the QDs and PLs, so when we fire our strongest burst, the enemy will remain clueless, focused on the wrong opponent, and be completely confident that the attack will fail again."
"Exactly. There's no reason to give them time to prepare an adequate defense if we don't have to, right?"
"That's insidious of you," Jack replied. "I like it!"
They could have sent a stronger initial burst, but it took a couple of attempts to calibrate the QDs, which meant they couldn't use them to their fullest potential. But they would soon find the correct modulation to collapse their shields and disintegrate their armor. Then performing the most decisive attack would have an astonishing effect without the enemy even having time to react.
"The aliens and Sheppard will survive for a few minutes while we calibrate our QDs and figure out how many shots we need to take down their shields. After that, William is exceptional at devising a perfect plan to take down the largest number of enemies with the lowest number of shots. He's quite the perfectionist in that regard," Liam said.
Meanwhile, gunfire began to pour, forcing their shields to glow with each impact. But still, only three enemy ships had turned to face them, and their joint fire wasn't enough to make their shields drop by as much as one percent. With a singularity and six type IV ZPMs, they would need a hundred times stronger barrage to achieve anything. However, the enemy couldn't know that, partly because William was deftly manipulating the shields to fluctuate, making them seem weaker than they were. Such deception would undoubtedly cause the enemy to consider them an inferior adversary that they could effortlessly dispatch whenever they chose as long as they dedicated more ships.
There was something to be said about first encounters. Both sides knew little about their opponent and should be more cautious in their approach. While Liam always kept something in reserve no matter who his opponent was—a trump card or at least a way to quickly change to a defensive stance if things went wrong—the aliens didn't doubt their superiority.
"For now, these aliens think it's enough to occupy us with three ships while the rest deals with the encircled ships. And after that, they will dedicate their full attention to us, finishing us off easily. How incredibly optimistic of them," Jack said.
"It happens more often than you think," Liam said.
He remembered that he'd gone deep into Vargas's territory full of confidence, just like these aliens were doing now, only to perish (ascend) and have his ship barely able to crawl back home. Pride was something to watch out for and avoid before it was too late, just as it was too late now for the enemy in front of them.
"I see that you've finished calibrating the QDs," Liam said. "It is time to rescue our people. William, fire at will."
Only after their people leave the blockade will they be able to contact them. The signal jamming was too intense. Unquestionably Sheppard hadn't even received the message he'd sent him. The console showed exciting readings. Liam's ship had powerful enough sensors to detect Sheppard's task force's current state even with the active jamming. Sheppard's battlecruiser was the strongest ship in the group. His shields were strong, never falling below ninety percent. There was nothing strange about that. With a fully active Aegis, that ship had the most vigorous defense of those surrounded.
The worst were the heavy cruisers, whose shields dropped as low as forty percent in one case. The ship was a heavy hitter at the expense of other characteristics, making them the class that had scored the most kills during this war but also suffered numerable losses. The Defiants were quick on their feet, making them difficult to hit more than a few times before escaping the enemy's grasp. There was nothing to fear with the complete immersion system that gave the crew unparalleled control over the ship. However, the downside of having weaker shields and weapons was that they couldn't achieve too much without risking exposure. Enemy ships continued creating a thick curtain with their relentless bombardment, preventing the Defiants from coming near and inflicting critical damage.
The verdict was clear. Although ships within Sheppard's task force weren't in immediate peril, they couldn't deliver the decisive blow without jeopardizing the lives of their new alien friends. That meant Liam needed to do something before the situation spiraled, in which the aliens would be the first to suffer losses.
Thanks to the Terrans constantly shielding them, the aliens were also holding on. Liam was confident they could survive for the next ten minutes without suffering any grave damage that would later hinder them from safely escaping the enemy's grasp.
That was plenty of time, especially now that they had joined the fight.
The change was abrupt, just as Liam and William had intended. The new salvo from their QDs managed to eradicate their shields long enough for a few precise shots from their PLs to destroy the emitters underneath. William chose an elegant approach that favored accurate targeting of critical systems over the usual brute force smash-everything-to-bits approach many preferred.
The outcome wasn't as stunning as when the used weapons would relentlessly cut down all targeted ships as if the Grim Ripper (Death God) had personally descended. However, the onboard prediction system quickly updated the tally. Even with this approach, from an equal standing in which both sides showed no apparent vulnerability, it now showed a huge advantage in favor of the good guys. If it were a chess game, it would be the same as if Black had blundered a vital piece and the prediction changed to a plus ten in favor of White.
In a brief period, more than half of the deadliest enemy ships ended with exposed hull parts, vulnerabilities that not only Liam but also Sheppard could continue to exploit. Moreover, it took minimal firepower to achieve it due to the employed tactic. While that wasn't necessary for the current situation, every advantage was appreciated when the enemy was as strong as them.
However, the positive outcome due to their strategy didn't mean William was against the use of raw power.
The main antimatter cannon achieved criticality, casting an outrageous number of antiprotons at a relativistic speed at the chosen victim. It was a ship they hadn't targeted yet, hence still in pristine condition. However, even as such, the vessel couldn't escape its demise. The shield held the destructive beam at bay for a few meager milliseconds before letting it pass. The beam inexorably hit the hull, breaking through it as if it had no thick armor plating protecting it. The reaction between matter and antimatter instantly began, leading to a fiery spreading of destructive energy throughout the whole ship. Intense radiation erupted radially, leaving the ship broken and melting within a second. However, that was not all. Liam aimed at that ship not only because it was in pristine condition but also because another dreadnought stood right behind it.
The beam sliced the second ship, and it would have kept through the third if the ship hadn't moved. Lucky for them, it had shifted position a moment before the attack, evading certain destruction by a hair.
Liam and Jack watched enthusiastically the spectacular explosions that marked the end of two enemy flagships.
"It's never enough for me to watch enemy ships getting blown up," Jack said.
"Yes, something is fascinating about it. A little less when our ships are on the receiving end, though," Liam said, ending the sentence in a gloomier tone.
Progress through Vargas territory wasn't filled with victories alone. They met fierce opposition from the Vargas and the unlimited number of Vargas-backed races that kept entire galaxies under control. Over the last three years, the SGA had grown, but the number of enemies they had clashed with didn't diminish. Losses were inevitable as the SGA was spread thin, resulting in small task forces like Sheppard's having to face numerically superior foes on missions that should have at least a three times larger task force.
That's why Jack enjoyed watching the enemy ships explode so much. It was revenge for their people who had died in this war—a war with no end in sight.
"Instead of being fascinated by a few insignificant Vargas pawns in a god-forsaken galaxy that we'll never visit again, we should focus on ending this battle before reinforcements arrive and ruin our flawless victory," William said while continuing to fire at the enemy.
He was like the voice of reason, always ready to spoil the mood. But what he said, other than reasonable, was also a valid concern. All races under the Vargas had the latest hyperdrives installed, and they had the incredible ability to travel at maximum speed with their stealth active. As William pointed out, one never knew when more ships would join in and ruin the fun.
"Nice way to spoil the mood," Jack said. "But you are right. We went out to test a freshly repaired ship and not wage an exhausting battle against who knows how many enemies this galaxy has. I'm sure there are too many to deal with even if we constantly battled for a month, just like in every other galaxy we've been."
There was bitterness in his voice that any admiral in history would have recognized after having fought in a protracted war without making real progress. They felt most uncomfortable when their people at home asked them how the war was going without being able to give them a satisfactory answer. What could they say to people who lost someone when they didn't know who the real enemy was or where they could find them? It was even worse for Jack, as many on Earth wondered why it was necessary to send their spouses or children to such a remote place when there was no progress. In their minds, if not the Solar system, then the Milky Way at the most was their entire Universe. There was no need to go any further, and most didn't even grasp how big the Universe truly was. It was only necessary to protect their home galaxy from the entry of enemy forces. For the rest, most people did not care.
Liam understood how they felt, though he believed they were shortsighted. If they left the Vargas alone to do as they pleased, focusing solely on protecting their galaxy while discarding the rest of the Universe, there would come a day when the enemy would come knocking in full force. But that was something for the distant future to worry about, perhaps even for future generations, so it was hard to explain why they were so fervently promoting this war.
Both Jacks were outraged even though they hid it incredibly well, at least in front of most people. But Liam could say that this war heavily burdened them. They had also changed, little by little. At first, Jack would be ready to fight at any opportunity, happy to ruin the day for any enemy he stumbled upon. But over time, he realized that there was no real improvement, and even flawless victories began to seem inconsequential. Eventually, he avoided conflicts except when unavoidable, as in today's case, when their people needed help. But he would never fight more than the minimum required. He would not choose to wait for more enemies to appear if he could escape beforehand. He would prefer to free their men and leave this place at once, though they might be able to destroy more ships if staying longer. Except when it came to a squadron of Vargas's strongest dreadnoughts, Liam's ship could face anyone and come out as the undisputed winner. Hence there was no real reason to flee.
"You're right. Even if we fought here for days without a break, more enemies would appear. It's better to leave before more troubles come. The aliens will be grateful to us for saving them, and we should now focus on formalizing an alliance. It's what matters the most at the moment," Liam said, sharing William's opinion.
Meanwhile, the enemy realized with bitterness that the situation had become more complicated. That was immediately clear upon seeing how their encirclement had broken down, and their coordination crumbled. While several ships turned toward the newcomer, the rest continued to try to rebuild the blockade over Sheppard's task force and the aliens. In short, for them, it was the worst possible development, which allowed Sheppard and his new friends to go on the offensive.
With the tables turned, the enemy realized the best was to perform a strategic retreat, which turned out to be the worst possible decision because their formation disintegrated further, but still an understandable decision after such a sudden turnaround a single ship caused. Their actions destroyed any chance of a reversal, forcing them to flee recklessly. The situation was inexorably spiraling out of control, with the enemy having no hope for a comeback.
The conflict concluded with the enemy fleeing in one direction and Sheppard and the aliens in the other. Only Liam still kept the enemy at gunpoint so that it wouldn't accidentally occur to them to turn around for a second round. Now that they were out of range of the enemy's jamming signal, they could finally contact Sheppard and learn what had transpired.
Sheppard appeared on the big screen. "You have impeccable timing. Fifteen more minutes, and we'd have to force our way out, regardless of losses."
Forced meant that some might not have been able to break through the encirclement and would have been left behind at the enemy's mercy.
"I'm glad we could be of help," Liam said.
"Sheppard! Why do you always get in trouble no matter where you go?" Jack shouted.
"I'm sorry, sir! We ran into the aliens we were looking for while under attack from these new guys," Sheppard explained. It was the first time for him too to encounter this new foe. "We couldn't leave them to fend for themselves."
"I know you couldn't. However, it's becoming questionable how often you get into situations where you have no choice but to use your guns," said Jack.
He didn't know everything in detail, but Liam had read reports showing that Sheppard had frequent encounters with the enemy. Someone could start calling Sheppard a trouble magnet behind his back, and his task force could gain a notorious nickname.
"I agree, sir! I tried to explain to people that the whole universe is against me!" Sheppard replied. "But nobody listens!"
"Okay-okay, whatever you say. But, more importantly. Tell me, did your task force suffer any losses?" Jack asked in a severe tone.
"a few guys on one of the heavy cruisers got a little beaten up and visited the ship's doctor, but nothing serious. Nothing a couple of pills can't cure, sir. But I'm not sure about these new friends of ours. We managed to protect them from the heaviest attacks, so we reduced their losses to a minimum," Sheppard explained.
"That's great to hear. Being grateful to us will help during the upcoming talks," Jack said.
"Yes, that should be the case, but I would not call them talks. It will be a little challenging to talk to them because they are an aquatic species with a peculiar way of communicating," Sheppard said.
"It's not a problem at all. That's why we always keep a few Ancients around. They are great at talking to races with whom we have no idea how to speak," said Jack, proud to be able to pass the ball to someone else.
"Yes, we're only here for that reason," Liam said sarcastically. But they were better at communicating with races far from the norm. The last race Weir met was predominantly made of energy. These large creatures soared through space and communicated with each other through subspace in a way that couldn't be called ordinary, telepathic, or a mixture of the two. It was something unique and too complex for Weir to comprehend. Furthermore, their utterly different life experiences made it impossible to find common ground to help them understand each other. Here the Ancients had a massive advantage over the Terrans.
They had patience, while the Terrans did not.
Whether it was the one from the future or the current timeline, Jack would give up after ten meager minutes of futile attempts at establishing a dialogue. Even someone like Daniel wouldn't have the patience to spend months creating a reliable vocabulary that both sides could understand. When the actual conversation began, the Terrans would already have set out to do other things, leaving the conversations entirely in the hands of the Ancients or Nox.
Liam didn't mind. The Terrans took many responsibilities on their shoulders. If the Ancients could take care of a few trivial problems the Terrans weren't good at, so be it. As the most numerous race in the Second Great Alliance, the Terrans had to secure most of the people in the war. While the Guardians and Asgard could send thousands, the Terrans had to send hundreds of thousands.
But, as usual, he had veered off topic again. He stared at the combat log to see if anything interesting popped.
"These are stronger opponents than the races we've encountered before," Liam said.
"These guys?" said Jack, pointing at the monitor where the ship's wreckage was still scattering.
"Yes, these guys. It may not have looked like it, but they were superior to the Wolf race or the Dinos we previously clashed with. Their ships are bigger and more durable, and their weapons are also a step ahead. They aren't much when it comes to maneuverability, but that's understandable given their size," Liam said.
Sheppard and the aliens in need of rescue were in a bad spot for a moment. But then they came with their mighty ship and smashed the enemy's plan, succeeding mainly because the enemy thought the newcomer couldn't do much to change the situation. They paid dearly for it, with fewer ships able to escape.
"I'm still skeptical they are stronger than the other enemies we've faced in the last few years. Their ships are just bigger, but that's all. The primary weapon took care of them easily," Jack said.
"I never intended that weapon for enemies like these," Liam said, not too pleased with how the weapons behaved. The antimatter cannon was a classic, a brute force weapon everyone loved to have on their ship. Antiprotons were fired because they were more destructive than protons and were fired at a relativistic speed to give them unprecedented penetrating abilities—a pure brute force weapon with no subtlety. In fact, he had trouble finding any weapon cruder than it. "I am not happy with the charging time. While other weapons take seconds, the antimatter cannon takes minutes. When faced with multiple opponents that can survive a few shots, it becomes difficult to work out a strategy that mostly relies on it. Damn, the charging time is just too long. I should think about installing a time dilation device to improve that aspect of the weapon. I'm not exactly sure how to do it, though. Time manipulation, antimatter, relativistic speed, and massive amounts of energy; messing with all that isn't easy."
"Listen, I'm all for powerful weapons and their advancement, but I think we need to try to improve our ships in areas other than weapons or shields," Jack said.
Liam frowned, unsure that such cords would come out of Jack's mouth. "It's pretty weird that it comes from you, the big-honking-space-guns-above-all-guy. Amazingly, you're now preaching about focusing on something other than weapons and shields."
"That's right! I've had enough of trying to improve our weapons. Whatever improvement we make now, it wouldn't be of much impact. The same goes for our shields. We're now on version eight, with ridiculous performance, and your ship even got the new Aegis V. It's so advanced that we even skipped a number when we named it!" Jack shouted.
The Aegis V came right after the Aegis III, but the reason for skipping the number IV had nothing to do with its performance. The reason was that the new system used five distinct methods to protect a ship instead of three. "I was quite surprised when you explained the idea behind the new system. Adding spatial and temporal distortions to protect a ship is a move of a true genius. You are certainly lucky to have such a person among the ranks of your scientists. What was his name again? Felger, right?"
"Yes, we are thrilled to have him. If only there were more of them," said Jack, with sarcasm leaking with each word uttered.
Liam couldn't understand what was bothering him, but he decided not to delve deeper. There could be bad blood between him and the scientist. "So, you're saying we should focus on improving other systems, leaving weapons and shields as they are."
"Right. QDs are incredibly good at removing what we know the exact composition of," Jack said.
"Yes, but it also means that they are useless when we do not know the composition," Liam said.
"Exactly!" Jack shouted.
"Exactly what?" Liam asked, unsure of where Jack was going with it.
"We need to improve our sensors to make it easier to detect the composition of materials or forcefields during battle to adjust our weapons faster!" said Jack.
"So, when you said we needed to improve other systems, you meant systems to make our weapons more efficient," Liam said. "I should have expected that from you."
"What's wrong with that? We should also improve the maneuverability of our ships to make it easier to gain a positional advantage in combat. Our weapons could then target vital points more easily. Our shields would inevitably be under less stress if we received fewer shots," Jack continued.
"Yet another idea related to making our weapons more efficient," Liam added, sounding tired. Jack was still one hundred percent focused on improving weapons, only in a roundabout way. "Don't you have a proposal that has nothing to do with our offensive capabilities?"
"Like?" Jack asked, not fully understanding the question.
He didn't even think about anything that didn't involve shooting the enemy down.
"Like, for example, finding ways to discover our enemy's location as they travel through hyperspace. You know how hard it is to know if enemy ships are nearby when they use Vargas' stealthy hyperdrives," Liam said but recalled that they were in that exact situation right now.
Enemy reinforcements could appear at any moment, so it was better to leave soon. However, the system kept informing him that the aliens they had come here to befriend needed a little more time before they could enter hyperspace. Several ships suffered severe enough damage to their propulsion system to demand repairs, and they would have to wait, hoping there were no enemy forces nearby.
"And that would be good," Jack said. "But I'm more interested in the new system we got from the tiny aliens that allow us instantaneous change in position," Jack said.
"You mean the zero-mass drive we got from the Illari. It doesn't allow you to change position instantaneously. It gives you the ability to travel briefly at the speed of light without the usual limitations our space-time imposes on all objects with mass," Liam said.
"Yeah, that system," Jack replied, obviously uninterested in how the technology worked as long as it did.
It was a marvelous piece of technology that allowed a ship to drop its mass to zero. While in such a state, even a short thrust from the engines would propel the vessel at the theoretical maximum speed any object in space could attain, the speed of light. Of course, when the mass returned, the ship would inevitably revert to the rate it traveled before the drive was engaged. It would be as if nothing happened except that the vessel changed position while traveling at the speed of light. It was a great technology that could significantly improve their fighting ability.
However, there was a limitation. The system was too power-hungry to be used often and on every type of ship. Currently, only smaller vessels could use it, as energy consumption grew with the increase in the object's mass. Unfortunately, it meant his ship could never use it. The power source, conduits, and the very heart, the zero-mass drive, would have to absorb energy levels ranging in the gigatons range in a fraction of a second, which wasn't feasible. Even if they somehow set up enough high-energy capacitors to instantly deliver such a burst of energy, the best they could hope was for the conduits to melt before the engine exploded.
It was possible to use them on smaller ships, such as fighters and corvettes. Still, these were too small and had limited energy reserves. Such vessels could use the system only sporadically and, in doing so, would completely deplete their reserves.
"We are improving the system so our fighters and corvettes can use it without turning into lifeless coffins afterward," Liam explained.
"I'm more interested in putting that on our Defiants," Jack said. "Fighters and corvettes cannot go against capital ships if their energy reserves are drained after each use. On the other hand, if we could make the system available to our capital ship killers, that would be something we could take advantage of."
Liam thought so too. That's why both Alterra and Asgard were working hard on it. He also considered using the system on their Echelon ships, and if successful, they would become quite deadly.
"We are close to succeeding. These ships may not be able to use it routinely. Still, both the Defiants and Echelons will soon have a prototype ready to be tested. It took us three years to perfect the technology, but it will be worth it. And to get the tech, we just had to provide the Illari with a steady supply of micro ZPMs and our stealth technology capable of fooling even the Vargas. In addition, the little aliens were now inducing massive headaches to the Vargas in their galaxies," Liam said.
"Yes, they might be tiny people individually, but their race encompasses dozens of galaxies," Jack added.
"Their region is comparable to the Aklarians, but they are very different from them as people," Liam added. "They don't give me the same bad feeling."
"I don't know what to tell you. They have that word Dominion in their name that I don't particularly like. But I have no complaints about how our alliance runs thus far," Jack sighed. "I just don't see why you're so wary of them."
"I can't put it into words. I feel that we should stay alert when it comes to them," Liam said with a sigh. "But I may also be wrong."
"At the very least, they won't pull out while we are actively fighting the Vargas, which would be against their best interest," Jack added.
The war against the Vargas was in full swing, making this the worst moment for any member to withdraw. The SGA Navy was not as small as in the beginning. In the last three years, they have increased the number of shipyards and built thousands of ships, making them the largest Navy after the Aklarians and Illari. However, although not the most numerous, their fleet was undisputedly the strongest. Even with a ratio of ten to one ship in their favor, the Aklarian fleet performed more poorly if they had to fight the Vargas, a bad match for them.
But it would be great if they at least knew the number of ships the Aklarians had in reserve. Everyone in the SGA agreed the Aklarians were producing more than what they sent to the front. It was expected that they kept some of their assets hidden, even from their allies, and the SGA did the same, so they had no right to complain. However, it was not clear the size of their reserve, and the Aklarian territory was too large and complicated to thread for the SGA to find where all their shipyards were. It was impractical to search where the Aklarians kept their mothballed ships and other military assets. Not that there was a real reason to learn about it either. It could easily backfire if discovered while snooping around.
Similarly, the SGA had hidden bases where they kept assets they didn't readily utilize. The largest stash house wasn't even inside the universe but existed in the pocket universe called Clava Thessara Infinitas. The Terrans, Asgard, and Alterra stored tens of thousands of ships and other property there, hidden from everyone else's eyes. However, they didn't put their newly built ships there because they wanted to keep them from their allies. After all, their newest partners couldn't even get to the Milky Way, so there was no reason to hide them so thoroughly. The reason was that they lacked the people needed to run them. Their enrollment didn't keep pace with the production, especially when it came to the Terrans. Partly, it was easy to understand why. They had built many facilities that kept cramming ships at an ever-increasing rate with time. But that was only part of the reason.
"Speaking of which, how's the recruitment going?" Liam asked, changing the subject abruptly.
"I don't want to talk about it," Jack said, but he continued to answer contrary to the spoken words. "I mean, I don't blame people for not rushing to recruiting centers and applying for the war, and given our situation, who can blame them for that?"
The conflict against the Vargas was the ultimate war the Terrans—or anyone else, for that matter—would ever have to wage. It was impossible to be another war on a larger scale. If they won against the Vargas, the Terrans would enjoy an extended period of peace that would end in the distant future when they joined the Ascended ranks. Had the Vargas been removed and the Anomalies closed, there would be no race that could harm Earth for the next million years, in which time they would grow even stronger than they are now. There was no enemy in space bigger than the one they were currently fighting against. That's why it was reasonable to think that people should flock to recruiting centers all over Earth and join the final war that threatened their home planet as much as the rest of the universe.
That's how it should be.
However, people on Earth did not feel it. The war happened billions of light-years away, a problematic distance for people on Earth to grasp. There was also no news of any tangible progress to keep the people engaged. There was no sign that the war was going badly or that the end was near. With such a state, people were left wondering. Will the war last a decade or a century? If I join, will I spend my entire life serving on a ship in a god-forsaken place billions of light-years away? Will my children and grandchildren still fight in the same war?
There was hardly any news about the war reaching Earth or its colonies. It wasn't because people in high places intentionally hid the truth but because they didn't know either.
The Terrans had cleared the Milky Way of most of the Vargas's forces. There were still the Reapers roaming the galaxy and the Crabs crawling across several planets, simply refusing to die out. But even that was far from the hearts and minds of Earth's people. The Earth was safe, with no Crabs or Reapers ever setting foot into the Solar system. Why would it then compel people to join the TSN? There was no urgency or clear goal in this war that people could easily understand and imagine.
"I don't blame them for not rushing to join, but I think tens of thousands of ships without a captain or crew locked up in the Clava Thessara Infinitas is very sad," Liam said, really feeling that way.
"You don't have to tell me. The other Jack sends me sad pictures of rows of motionless ships inside that Clata Thassa, or whatever its name is. Some have even suggested we start cloning people to solve the problem," said Jack.
"No, there are already too many Jacks as it is. Better not go down the path of cloning; I can't see it as an intelligent decision," Liam replied.
"It would be a nightmare to deal with once the war is over. Who returns to their wives? Should we clone their spouses and children too?" said Jack, but he remembered something. "Hey! Why did you mention there were too many of me? It's not that there are that many."
"One is enough. Anything more than that," Liam said without finishing the sentence.
"There's only one clone! And he's a completely different person," Jack growled.
"That's true. There's the clone, and even by age, you're different. However, one of you is over two hundred, while the youngest is in his twenties," Liam said. "That got to cause some confusion in people's minds."
If they thought the clone had been stuck in front of the anomaly for three years before they finally found a way to save him, he would be even younger than what his ID showed. But the confusion surrounding Jack O'Neill grew far beyond that. He had become Earth's hero ever since the Stargate Program went public, and after delivering Baal's two years later, his fame rose even further, making him the most famous person on the planet.
But which Jack was the real hero? What about the one five minutes from the future? Or the clone? Hundreds of Jack's heroic deeds happened before the three of them became separate individuals. Should the public think they had three heroes or one?
When the news mentioned Jack O'Neill, the confusion became even more remarkable. His ID clearly showed that he was seventy-one, but he looked like a man in his thirties. Furthermore, people couldn't cope with the idea that he had spent two hundred years traveling through the past. Still, when he appeared in public next to his double, they looked like twins that no one could tell apart! The clone looked even younger as if he were still a teenager in his twenties but was already a renowned captain in the TSN.
People didn't know how to deal with the existence known as Jack O'Neill. Suppose more of them were cloned and allowed to roam freely. In that case, it could push people over the edge, forcing them to reject the very notion of what individuality was, much less a hero. But then some had even suggested that they should clone him a few thousand times to take care of all the bad guys in the universe by themselves. Likewise, a large group was more inclined to clone Carter, but that had little to do with the war or dealing with bad guys in general.
"We are completely different people! There is no confusion about the three of us," Jack said, trying to keep at least a sliver of individuality.
"Sure. When the three of you argue, no one thinks it's weird," Liam said sarcastically. They were three different people with different experiences. Still, their arguments were eerily similar, especially as they quarreled. People eagerly awaited their public appearances, mainly because of it.
Liam sighed. While recovering on Earth, he spent considerable time watching TV. Since the point was to get his memories jogged, he watched everything related to the war and the people who actively participated. As the greatest hero on Earth, Jack was a hot topic he could hear about every day on at least a few channels. There had been a few older appearances of the three of them together.
"Let's not talk about it. Recruitment is going badly, and you understand why," said Jack.
"Of course. We are fighting a war billion light-years away, and there is no sign it will ever again reach the Solar system. That's why people are reluctant to join the Navy. Why join and travel billions of light-years to risk their lives when there is no need?" said Liam.
"That's exactly the issue here. If we could at least let people know how we plan to win—or when!—it would contribute to recruiting people faster. But as things stand, to improve our fleet, all we can do is to improve our ship's self-repair systems and reduce their reliance on a crew," said Jack.
They tried to improve their ships and shipyards to reduce reliance on humans. Each person less meant one more who could become a crewmember on a newly built ship. Many who worked in shipyards or as non-commissioned personnel, in general, could choose to become officers by spending some time in the academy.
"Improving your ships is fine, but you are still plagued with the same problems as the Edenians and Asgard. No matter how automated our ships are, you need to fill the captain's chair, provide a first officer, scientific officer, tactical, helmsman, engineering chief, and fill many other posts in three shifts. They also need to have years of experience before you assign them to the helm of a ship like a battlecruiser," Liam said.
It was not easy to produce tens of thousands of veteran captains and their accompanying officers, people with many years of service aboard an intergalactic ship. Even the introduction of virtual reality that allowed for a much steeper learning curve couldn't replace the experience gained through years spent in space aboard a warship. Even surviving the boredom they inevitably experience during long journeys was a necessary skill for a future captain who would have to lead a large crew into the unknown.
"I am aware of all the difficulties we are facing. The only one who knows more about how much trouble the Terran Federation is having is my double five minutes from the past," said Jack. "But it's not that we have too many options."
"Well, that new type of ship should help," Liam said.
"I wouldn't put money on it," Jack replied.
"I don't understand why you're against it," Liam said.
"It's not that I'm against it. It's just that I'm not convinced it will give us such an advantage as many believe it will," Jack replied.
The ship was decent. It was bigger than the Armageddon class but needed the same crew complement. Since they made the ship quite 'utilitarian', its production cost did not increase too much compared to the Armageddon. It took five months more to make the battleship, which was a problem, but there was no way around it. A larger ship meant they needed more time to build it. It could not be helped if they did not want to degrade their latest creation with substandard construction.
"The ship will bring you the new Aegis V system, which should be a big bonus," Liam added.
"I believe our scientists will soon be able to cram it into the battlecruiser," Jack replied confidently. "But to me, the worst part of the new ship is its decreased maneuverability. We just made a bigger target that's not so good at avoiding incoming fire."
They couldn't help it. The ship was five times heavier than a battlecruiser; no chance it would not affect its maneuverability. The Asgard and Edenians had the same if not a greater difficulty with their largest class. The ship would have to rely on its shield even more than the Armageddon that, although quite extensive, could still evade a good portion of the incoming fire.
"I realize it's somewhat more important to have a more agile ship than to have a strong striker, but with the other problems you have, I think the new class with enhanced automation and the new systems installed will be a welcome addition to your fleet," Liam said. "Besides, how many do you plan to build? Same as the dreadnought or more?"
"Well, for now, we've been going with a one-to-three ratio—one dreadnought, three battlecruisers, nine heavy cruisers, and twenty-seven Defiants. Let's look at what we've built so far. We have 150,000 fighters, 50,000 corvettes, 36,000 Defiants, 4,000 frigates, 1,000 light cruisers, 12,000 heavy cruisers, 4,000 battlecruisers, 1,200 dreadnoughts, 8,000 assault carriers, 800 supercarriers, 1,200 transporters, 4,000 light support ships and 500 heavy support ships. Not counting the corvettes and fighters, we've built about 73,000 ships, of which we do not have a suitable crew for 10,000 of them. We need 14,000,000 highly qualified commissioned and non-commissioned officers in total."
Fourteen million was the minimum to crew the ships in the Terran Navy, and that was not counting the Terran Space Marine Corps and the Terran Army. While the TSMC had about three million, the TA was more extensive, with more than twenty-five million people joining its ranks.
Counting the people working at the shipyards, stations, outposts, mining installations, headquarters, etc., the Terrans had about forty-two million people on active duty.
It was quite a number, but far less than the planned one percent of their population. They were falling behind schedule with the enrollment and didn't know how to fill their ranks faster. Liam knew that was the main reason they decided to introduce a ship class they had postponed for years.
"The first group of a hundred battleships is coming out soon," Liam said.
"Since we do not have enough people for ten thousand already built ships of distinct types, building more of the same doesn't make sense. So, the first series of a hundred battleships is quite impressive. Although it took considerable time to build, they only needed fifty thousand people to crew them fully. It is only a slight increase compared to the battlecruisers that need four hundred people per ship. However, a battleship is much more powerful than a battlecruiser," Jack explained. "But the main reason I wasn't against their construction isn't that. It's because we added the Aegis V that I agree to it, especially since we can't install it on any other ship due to its size."
It was a happy coincidence that the SGA devised key improvements a year ago. Aegis V was one of those discoveries. Unlike its predecessor, the new system could create a spatial and temporal distortion to provide unprecedented protection to the ship and nearby friendly units. However, no one could say that the device was small or needed little energy to run correctly.
The latest version of the battlecruisers already had received a few improvements. The new automation that further reduced the need for a crew by twenty percent filled the ship to the brim. Nowhere on the ship was room to place anything bigger than a footlocker. Even the crew quarters became smaller, with many crew members now having to bunk in two or even four people's rooms. It was a proper warship, which used every iota of its space to increase its lethality while still keeping its agile nature. They could further improve the ship only if one of their crazy scientists miraculously produced a revolutionary discovery.
Since the Aegis V was too big to fit into any existing ship, the Terrans reluctantly decided to approve the development of a new type—the ultimate class with the strongest offensive and defensive qualities, all put together in one giant package. It was so big that it took exceptional power if it were to prove effective inside a battlefield. In addition to an extensive series of high-energy capacitors, it was ideal for the ship to have two ZPMs for when it needed maximum power output. Fortunately, a new way of charging a ZPM improved their charging stations' efficiency.
Researchers noticed that a ZPM charged quicker if three dams used interchangeably held the energy back instead of one. Not only would the new type of ZPM charge nearly three times faster, but it could also deliver an almost three times higher output. They achieved better efficiency and less risk of overload by cycling through three dams and releasing energy in short bursts that lasted no more than a few milliseconds.
It was an ideal device for a power-hungry battleship. A welcoming bonus was the ability to charge at an increased rate.
Liam thought the ship had potential. The vessel proved excellent in the last five years since the production of the Armageddon began. It was remarkable that the Terrans lost only three of them since the war started. It was no wonder that Jack kept saying that no other ship could be better, mainly because its high maneuverability combined with strong defenses enabled it to survive countless battles. Jack feared that the battleship would not be an equally lucky ship. Its ability to avoid incoming fire was less by the same amount that its firepower was higher.
"When it comes to maneuverability, the battleship is remarkably close to your dreadnought class. But since its role is to be in the center of a battle, it will receive more heat than a dreadnought whose role is to use its antiproton beams to attack the enemy from afar," Liam said.
"Exactly! Even with the Aegis V system, the battleship will still have to survive constant enemy fire because it will surely become their favorite target. And have you seen the energy consumption of that thing?" said Jack, almost sounding angry because the ship needed a lot of power.
"I saw. At full power, the ship needs more than a city-ship. If it weren't for the new type of ZPM, the ship would have only mediocre performance," Liam said.
It didn't matter how many cannons the ship had or how powerful the barrier protecting it was if there was no power source aboard able to meet its requirements. Of course, it was standard practice to overcharge the rows of installed high-density energy capacitors before entering a battle, giving the ship quite the boost. However, an energy-hungry ship like the battleship could quickly drain its capacitors, resulting in a drop in performance fifteen minutes after the start of the battle.
"Without it, that ship would be the worst investment ever!" said Jack. They avoided the bullet there. "It doesn't matter now. We will build them as long as we have a shortage of staff. The battleship provides the best ratio between firepower and crew size. A Dreadnought has an even better balance because it's bigger and needs only a hundred more people, but his role is entirely different."
With all the improvements made in the last few years, they could do nothing more to achieve a massive leap in ships' performance, no matter what class it was. The Asgard and Edenians were in the same situation. They did what they could to make vessels that required fewer people. But even with all their efforts, they had trouble finding enough staff. That was because there were not that many of them. Counting every person who contributed to the war effort, the Asgard and the Edenians still had only ten million people actively working in the Navy.
But even that was already ten percent of their modest population, and the situation would only worsen with time. The two races could not have more than fifteen percent of their people associated with the Navy.
The Terrans also had to supply the most men to the Army, even more than the Navy. The Edenians and Asgard could not afford tens of millions of people to become soldiers as the Terrans could. It was a point that made Liam and many others among the Edenians and Asgards feel ashamed that one race among them had to carry such a burden on its back, and worse, knowing that the gap would only widen over time. But Liam had no way to change that. In this war, the Terrans had to bring in most people for the war effort. At the same time, the Edenians and Asgard provided other means of aid, such as their knowledge and abilities that were far ahead of the Terrans. The Terrans were a young race. Most newer technologies were too tricky for them to understand if there were no Alterrans or Asgard patiently helping them absorb the new knowledge. No Terran had learned about these technologies since childhood or could download such knowledge into their brains as the Alterrans could. They also did not possess thousands of years of experience like the Asgards did. That was indeed where their respective races could shine the most in this war.
That wasn't to say they didn't do their best to contribute to the overall size of the fleet. Combined, the Alterrans and Asgard had a similar number of ships as the Terrans but had larger vessels like the Valhalla or the Archangel class that were much stronger than the Armageddon. Together, the three races had 150,000 ships of many sizes. That was by no means a small number, but they still had a negligible number of vessels compared to the enemy.
"By the way, why did you call the ship Argo?" Liam asked.
"Ah, that. Well, I'm not sure if you knew, but Argo in Greek myths was a ship Argus built with the help of the Gods," Jack explained.
"Okay, what's the significance or resemblance with the current situation?" Liam asked, not seeing the connection.
"Umm, well, we made many of its systems with knowledge from the Clata Thessa, whatever the name, with knowledge the Ascended had gathered. Ilium also dropped by a few times and gave a few good pointers on improving the ship," Jack explained their reason for the name. "That's why Argo seemed a fitting name for the new class of battleships."
The Argo was a great ship. So much so that the Alterrans and Asgards decided to incorporate some of its designs into their vessels. The Aegis V was the most prominent but not the only system they'd added. In truth, Liam feared the existence of such ships. Even a single one was capable of causing unimaginable devastation that only races at the same or similar technological level could hope to prevent. One single ship falling into the wrong hands could cause the disappearance of entire races. It would be effortless to siege a planet with it until nothing living remained. Even moderately advanced races like the Galarans could only watch and despair, unable to reach the ship's hull. He approved of the creation of such a class, just like he had approved the design of the Armageddon, Valhalla, and Archangel classes only because of their currently dire situation.
"I hope once we end this war, we will mothball all these ships inside the Clava Thessara Infinitas for good," Liam said.
"My hope as well. The Argo isn't as ugly as our Dreadnoughts that can easily scare children even at first glance. Still, whoever sees the Argo will at once realize its only purpose for existing," Jack said.
"Which is to wipe out everything in its path," Liam said, thinking that even his ship looked elegant in comparison. The Argo simply didn't hide anything it had on its hull, which was scores of systems meant to make it deadlier. No one would ever think of taking the Argo for an exploration mission, much less a diplomatic one. If they met a new race with it under the guise of diplomacy, the aliens would instantly shout, 'What diplomacy? You're here to annihilate us, right?'
"Exactly," Jack said, he too unhappy with the direction the Vargas had forced them to undertake. "Once the war is over, I hope our ship of choice will be the light cruiser Illustrious. Weir has nothing but praise for the ship. And for patrolling the galaxy, the Defiant is great! Fast, it needs a small crew, yet no one smart would willingly go against it."
The Illustrious was the most versatile ship in the whole Terran fleet. Bigger than the Damocles, it could comfortably hold a large crew even on long intergalactic missions and conduct almost any assignment, like diplomacy or exploration. Yet, the Terrans had built only a thousand of them, and the reason was easy to understand. Despite believing it to be the best ship, they were forced to make ships with the specific role of waging war. The Illustrious, Defiant, and corvette should be enough for the Terrans to safeguard the Milky Way once the fight with the Vargas becomes a thing of the past.
"We'll have a lot of ships to mothball once we take care of the Vargas," Liam said.
They both knew how uncertain the situation was regarding the war. Still, both kept mentioning the enemy's inevitable downfall simply because they had no choice.
They had to believe in their utmost ability to turn victorious.
Liam looked at the console that informed him their new friends had finally finished making hasty repairs to their propulsion systems, enough for them to leave this place.
"We can finally be on our way," Liam said.
"Yeah, I don't know if enemies are coming or not, but even if they are, I lost any thought of fighting," Jack said.
"I'm not planning to wait. We tested the ship, and I'm happy with how it performs. The best is to go back to the Sphere. Once our new friends see it, they might be inclined to join our alliance even more," Liam said.
One after the other, the ship began entering hyperspace. They were all going to the same place where they would discuss how they would help each other fight their common enemy.
Liam's ship was the last one to leave normal space.