The strange ships kept coming. The one with the odd struts was followed by others that looked like predatory avians followed by more with odd struts. He severed their warp engines as easily as he had the first odd ship. There were five ships now and he had incapacitated all of them.

His communication dampers were back up. that had been a simple repair, a mere bypass to a backup power chanel. The odd ships had gotten around them. That was why power sinks were his primary offensive and defensive capability. The ships flashed lasers at each other, messages faster than an organic eye could see. Light-encoded data required physical barriers to block.

A few drones still worked. Most of them didn't respond. 115 and 237 had and making more drones was their first order of business. Sensors would be next. There had been a brief interlude of indecision-. 00712 seconds. Sensors before dampening fields. He had to know what he was facing before he could decide how to face it. The Caregivers could handle the intruders, but he first needed to tell them who was intruding.

Who was intruding? Opticals were all he had. There were two objects. He could see them moving as faint dots on his telescope screen. Until his sensors were back up, he couldn't resolve what they were. More ships with odd struts or more predatory avians? Perhaps the objects were the Caretakers, arrived at last. They would help. Yes. The Caretakers would bring repair drones. They would tell him how he should act in the war.

Here was something odd. The two new ships, the ones he couldn't identify. They didn't act like the others. They didn't blunder into the blackout zone he had created. They halted just outside. They waited. Were they observing?

He needed the long-range sensors back up. He needed them up now.