Chapter 13 – Who are we gonna call ? Aarin!
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I'm back! There will be a chapter once every two weeks all the way until the end (which is about 5 to 6 chapter away), enjoy!

Chapter 13 : We are we gonna call? Aarin!

Those two were really too... stuck to each others, like a high school couple. Well to be honest we had our phase like that Sylvia and I. But they were in another level.

We were chilling out a little in a protected little asteroid belt a few light years away from Union Central, we sent again an automatic encrypted message to warn them from the menace, but they weren't keen to talk to us, who would have thought? However, this forced us to develop a plan to defeat a species entirely by ourselves to protect the Union. Or hundred of billions will die horribly fried by their own Star.

Everything was going fine then the proximity alarm gone off and the screen shown a Union Ship fighting with, a cargo ship? A very heavy armed cargo ship to be honest, I can see plasma turrets and void torpedo launchers everywhere . After a quick glance with the rest of the crew I slipped in the nav chair, and Sylvia into the custom created neutronic beam turrets, they were ridiculously powerful, we had regular weaponry, but while the enemy ship is occupied we could stop, calibrate the beam and destroy this ship with zeta-joules of energy in the form of X-Ray and Gamma ray burst.

I strapped myself activated the HUD and human display, clocked the ship and began carefully posting it in position. That said we sent an encrypted message stating we were gonna fire on the enemy ship, they understood maneuvered out of the beam and I pushed the button.

And that was it, an enormously luminous beam -- only dimmed by the glass protection -- traveled at the speed of light and ate the 300,000 km separating our two ship in about a second. A few seconds later, nothing remained of the other ship, not even dust, all of it were decimated under the sheer heat and power of the gamma ray beam. We sent recognition codes to the Union's ship, they conveniently decided not to attack us, and we were free to relax a bit after that stressful battle.

A few months earlier, Aarin's POV

We decided to take a break on our rescue efforts to add weapons to our ship, we were researched by the Union and my ship was a science ship designed to observe a planet a few years straight not combat. As such Sylvia and I were browsing the gray-black market a few weeks of voyage away from base. We wouldn't find anything like a full fledge plasma station, but we could build it with the right parts.

- "Aarin! I bought what Eleanor asked me for her project, how are we for the plasma conduct and plasma compressors ?" Sylvia asked me, rather excited, I wonder what was this project. Anyway I had everything we needed to construct plasma turrets. We couldn't have space torpedoes however this kind of hardware is only in the hand of militaries. The stuff they bought looked very generic, ducting, now that I see it, it seems like very resistant to heat and electricity. This was intriguing, Eleanor had to talk to me about it.

- "Yeah, I got it, let's go home."

A few weeks earlier, on base, Sylvia's POV

Aarin was busy building the plasma turrets and installing them onto the ship's power grid, the plasma, itself, was provided directly from the fusion reactor via bleeding duct already present, we just completed them with basic plasma duct. The plasma canons were pretty basic, the hydrogen-helium plasma was brought in a compression chamber where heavy and powerful electromagnets compressed it and accelerate the plasma ball in the cannon to a fraction of the speed of light, and here we are launching a mini-sun at 10 percents of the speed of light. Pretty basic weapons within the Union according to Aarin, and the shields we installed should be enough to withstand a few direct shot.

Eleanor and I, however, were constructing a little more deadly weapon. The only one of its kind. It used the black hole generated by the FTFTL engine to accelerate and heating the plasma, until it gets a neutronic mess of nuclear reactions, close to the speed of life, after that this plasma is directed forward in the big cannon mounted forward and unleach hellish-hot neutron plasma, gamma rays, and X-rays at the speed of light destructing approximately anything. The big downside of this technology is that it uses the drive, however, it could save us in the worst of times.

Present, Ariana's POV

The viewscreen was glowing a pure white even seconds after the shot, and that was with the automatic protection activated to avoid being cooked by our own weapon, a few seconds later I heard the familiar chip of sounds signaling the imminent report of Eleanor on the main speakers.

- "The Union's ship is severely damaged but the emergency beacon works, a rescue team should be here within an hour, the enemy ship is reduced to atoms ma'am, it seems like Sylvia's idea works"

Indeed, it was... I can still count the dark spot in my vision.

- "Ariana! We're receiving a communication signal from the ship! They're hailing us!" I called Sylvia and Aarin to come to the main bridge and accept the call, audio only

- "Unidentified vessel, this is the Union Battleship Xaor, identify yourself, or you will be fired upon, repeat, identify yourself, or you will be fired upon, over" - "Uh, full military protocol even after we saved them it seems" Sylvia said, non without a chuckle, Aarin signaled me to answer, - "Battleship Xaor, this is Ariana from the Rogue Science Ship I, I repeat this is Ariana from the Rogue Science Ship I, please do not fire, do not fire" I said, hoping they would listen and not making the mistake of trying to kill us

- "Ariana, this is Captain Ligo, commanding officer of the Xaor, our weapon are targeted on your drive, you will send us your commanding code and surrender yourselves to the Union for multiple crime, or you will be destroyed, I repeat surrender yourselves, or you will be destroyed, over" They are not making this easy, aren't they.. With a wordless nod to Syl we targeted our big canon directly on their bridge,

- "Captain Ligo, please, we just saved you from a hostile foe, the structural integrity of your ship is held magically by the internal field, you cannot spare any energy for the regular weapon, nor the railgun, and our shields are more than capable of tanking whatever bullets you might throw at us, to top it off we have our big mighty canon pointed right at your nose, so please Captain spare me the energy of dispersing your atoms all around the known Universe and Stand. Down. RSS I over."

What felt like hours passed, seconds by seconds, tense moment with each other's weapons hot and ready, we're sure we would be victorious and with barely a scratch, but I really don't want to destroy a Union ship and her crew, too many people died already with the destruction of the enemy ship. Finally, exactly two minutes later the familiar sound of the coms chipped, and we all relaxed a bit, - "Ariana, this is Captain Ligo, we're standing down repeat, we're standing down, you're right." - "Thanks Captain, weapons disengaged, with that out of the way, what the hell an enemy ship that much armed was doing a few lightyears away from Union Central? What are the sentinel doing! The automated defense system of Union Central should have picked them up a long time ago! What happened!" - "We have.. no idea, fleet command back home is silent about them and just ordered to engage the enemy in close combat, but we could not have won this battle they were welled armed, and it was like they knew all the weaknesses and stress point of the ship"

Aarin and myself frowned at that, this knowledge is a big secret, guarded by the elite on the military, nobody should have had access to that sort of thing, with the odd behaviour of Fleet Command it sounds like an infiltration, and if they're already that high up in the hierarchy the Union is, for a lack of a better term, completely screwed.

- "Crap." Aarin said, and I could not agree more, even Sylvia whose knowledge of internal Union politics is lacking picked up what was happening and seemed tense, every one of us were tense, how could we on our own figure this out we're four against an entire unknown enemy force whom agents already infiltrated the military command.

Suddenly, the maximum alert activated itself, while the internal gravity system failed we were sent away flying at high velocity inside our ship
- "Elea! What is happening! We have an emergency! We're floating!" - "Working on it! An unknown force projected the ship and caused her to collide with a close asteroid, the internal gravity should activate itself.... now" and with that we fell on our butt in the middle of the bridge, yeah activating the gravity after an accidental shutdown, sucked. , Aarin commanded a damage report - "Nothing is too damaged, the emergency shields activated themselves just before the colision so just a few scratches on the main hull, I calculated the approximate location of the Xaor, we should see it"

We all at once understood what caused this situation. Where lied the Xaor is now a cloud of dust and space junk.

A few moments ago, Union Central Fleet High Command

The room was flashing red and the sound of the alarm was almost deafening for most of us in the High Command, we don't know how but one of our patrol ship, the Xaor, picked up an unknown signal and reported back for investigation, this was not exactly routine, the automated defense system should have detected it a long time ago and the ship itself should have checked in with the civilian traffic control once they got into our protected space, but this is not unheard of, the ship could be damaged and its transponders non-responsive, however once the Xaor was into range the unknown vessel started showing hostile behaviour and engaged it into battle. I checked the hologram in the middle of the room displaying the fight and the status of the Xaor, it looked badly damaged the battle started to seem more, and more one-sided in favour of the enemy ship.

- "Sir, we picked up another energy signature close to the fight, it can't be one of our ship the closest is more than a day away at top speed" my lieutenant was saying, I replied with a grunt and resumed thinking about the situation, however as I was considering launching the fast response FTL fighters the light representing the enemy ship just went off, - "Massive gamma rays detected, unknown form of energy, analysis suggest a very powerful kind of weapon destroyed the enemy ship" I frowned at the computer's report, we do not have that type of weapon on our patrol ship, and even then our destroyers are not fitted with that much power, I asked the lieutenant to connect me to the Xaor's commanding officer, a few seconds later the main screen came to life with the live feed from the ship's bridge, - "Hi sir, sorry sir we got an issue over here our survival system are barely working do you read?"
- "Yes Xaor, we do, please report"
- "We got attacked by an unknown hostile force, the ship's integrity field appear to be holding for now, a beam seems to have destroyed the enemy ship, there's just nothing, one second it was there and now it isn't"
- "It corrolate our finding any intel on how it was possible? A gamma ray burst from a nearby star maybe ?"

I watched as he went from station to station trying to discover what happened when he put the conversation on hold, a few minutes later he was reaching out again but the signal got scrambled,

- "What happened with the signal? Correct! We need to know what happened there" time seemed to be slowed down as I watched our engineer trying to get around the fluctuation on the signal
- "Sir, the signal appears to be the automated distress beacon, but the communication suddently stopped in the middle of the communication with only one last word."
- "Please lieutenant, go on, what is it?"
- "Zero."

The next minutes were carefully spent checking with the Xaor's transponder and with no answer we called the Xaor missing in action, the last communication seems to infer the ship was self-destroyed, but it didn't make any sense did it? They were saved by an unknown force -- which I believe is Aarin's crew, I secretely kind of liked him and his last trick shown he definitely had the tech to do this, and even with the current bounty on his head he would never have destroyed a Union ship without a strong incentive to, which was not the case here, he saved the Xaor in the first place -- so why would they activate the self destruct right after? Were they boarded ? It seems unlikely we paid close attention to the skirmish and our sensors didn't picked shuttles, so, would it be possible there was an enemy inside the Xaor? They may have attempted to take over the ship and her commanding officer would then have activated the self destruct, or the enemy themselves activated it to cover their traces ?

- "Lieutenant please leave this room I need to contact the government, we have an issue here" Now that I wasn't thinking out loud the room did seems eerily quiet, and my lieutenant did not answered - "Lieutenant." I repeated looking around the room to spot him, and what I saw was, to put it midly, a slaughter, every one of the officers in the room were dead - "Sorry sir, do not move, hands on the chair sir ." the familiar voice of my lieutenant spoke, right behind me, he slowly turned in front of me with his weapon right in front of my head, I was also very aware of the fact I come to work without my weapon. - "I'm sorry, you figured out too much" were the last words I'd ever hear.

Moments later, Prime Minister Private Chambers

The last message I received from the Fleet Admiral was alarming at best, just one word, one single terrifying word, invasion , he sent it to me on our private encrypted line, a line I knew was only accessible with his biological data, on the right armrest of his chair, back in the Fleet High Command room, if he sent it to me through this channel, and not with a regular call in his office I had to assume the high command was compromise, and I also had to assume he was dead.

I tried not to think about the death of my closest friend and resumed my work, I was reviewing data sent by Aarin, granted the Senate hated him and with his last stunt of appearing out of thin air right on top of the most populated world of the entire Union he did not improved his case, he was however, one of our brightest scientist and a good friend of mine, along with the Fle.. Former, fleet admiral, I managed to convice the governement and the senate to send the data directly in my quarters for further analysis.

The signature itself had nothing unusual about it, it was a metal signature of a regular alloy used by the Union and other sentient alliances all over this quadrant of the Milky Way, the base material were abundant and the metal strong enough to create space ships, which was its main usage among us, no the problem was were the data were collected, it was on the site of one of the furthest recent supernova, at the edge of Union's space, our ships could not reach that area on time to collect it but he apparently developed a future tech, a technology I'm sure he would gladly provide us granted we survived the current crisis.

The problem was what could generate these metal naturally ? As far as our scientists are aware it requires a specific piece of hardware to forge the aloy that couldn't occur naturally. It would indicate that all of the supernovae that were happening around Union's space as of late were artificial  ? I didn't want to think that but the proofs seemed to agree, they were happening really close and in a relative simultaneity once the relative time distance substracted.

But now there's this invasion, they managed to reach the High Command of all places, so they are here for a long time now and it seems they're here to stay, I don't think this planet is safe anymore. No scratch that, the Union is not safe anymore, I must call Aarin now, and hope he can save us all.

Aria's POV, RSS I

We were still debating what could have happened to the Xaor when a distracting sound played in the bridge, now that I think of it, this sound a lot familiar, like an old 2010s phone line ? - "Attention all crew, we have a call from the private encrypted line of the Prime Minister for Aarin" Elea said, with a tension to her voice, I think we all knew it was bad news if the prime minister personaly called us. At the same time Elea finished her calculation and deduced the Xaor was destroyed using a deliberate failure of the core containment shield, which would cause the core to burn and eat through the ship like sulfuric acid through paper towel, in other terms, the ship was self-destroyed - "Accept the call Elea" Aarin said putting his hand on the bio-reader to match his bio-data, authenticating the receiver of the call

- "Aarin! Aarin! Is that you, we need to talk! Fast!" The prime minister didn't even bother with the decorum and I was blown away, they really like their decorum. I decided to shut up and snuggle up to Sylvia, stealing some light kisses while listening to the heated discussion between Aarin and the PM

- "[...] and see! While I was reviewing the data you sent to the senate I received a communication from the Fleet Admiral, just one word, Invasion . I think they are here, on Union Central, potentially all over the Union, and they infiltrated the High Command, I must assume they infiltrated the other institutions too, which would explain why your data was never took seriously!" - "We unfortunately came to the same conclusion sir, we analyzed the remains of the Xaor and it was a self destruction, they were definitely in the ship herself, we cannot trust the fleet. They also have tech advanced enough to purposely trigger supernovae, who knows what they might do." The look on our face must have been the literal definition for "dread", we could barely fight a ship if we have cover, how on earth could we keep up with the entire Union fleet? - "You're right, and I fear they might kill me next, which is why I'm doing this, Aarin by the primordial act of safety of the Union, you're appointed Fleet Admiral of the Union Navy, Ariana, you're appointed War Prime Minister of the Union and given the legislative powers as well, Ariana, Aarin, Sylvia, and yes even you Eleanor I know about you, you're the head now, the Union trust you to saves us. Godspeed Union One.

- "So I'm basically the President of the World now?"
- "The President of many worlds, dear Aria, now, folx, I need to be clear. We are not fighting an invasive force, we are resisting against an occupation."

End of Chapter 13

Hey! I'm back! Exams are finished!

With this chapter the last arc now starts and heats certainly builds up!

Our protagonist have now the mass of hundreds of world on their shoulders?

Will they be able to fight? What do the hostile force want?

Rendez-vous in two weeks in Chapter 14 : Investigations to find out!