Sci-fi Story I wrote :p

Upon a night’s rest, I roused myself out of bed. It was still rather early in the morning, assuming morning had any meaning left, and I was still feeling rather weary. Weary… I thought for a moment. It was a rather “raw human” feeling, and there was no reason why I should have felt that way. After all, there was no room for weariness when the front integrity of an entire sector was at risk. I got out of my compartment and went to the decks for a night brief.

“Were there any particularly notable events that occurred when I was out, Marcus?”, I asked my intern. He was a relatively young boy, in his twenties. He had short jet-black hair, blue eyes, and a sturdy build. One could say I never really took interest in many, but I could see a deep burning passion in this boy’s eyes. A perfect person to oversee our sector if any emergency were to happen to myself. Marcus was holding an old-fashioned refined pipe filled with tobacco, strolling around and admiring the holographic projections of 4-dimensional objects he had created a few weeks prior.

“Good morning commander! Glad you woke up early.” He started in a cheerful voice, but it quickly switched to a darker tone. “There’s been a gravitational anomaly in W4. I think it might be one of those again.”

“Oh? Please do show me.” I said. With a simple gesture over the counter, a holographic map of the sector I oversaw, came up. In it, one could see the second half of the Southern Hemisphere’s constellations, albeit warped from their original look when pre-modern technology first came to be. On Orion’s shoulder lay the variable star Betelgeuse, now bigger than ever. I had estimated that it would have gone supernovae many years ago, but it seems to be still holding on. Distances above the arm one could faintly make out the Pleiades. They shone brightly many years ago, but now a small nebula of radioactive dust blocked the path their light would take to reach us. Right beside them, a once red planet loomed before our eyes, it’s skies filled with orbital junk. I crinkled my brows in disgust. Turning away, I looked at the W4 section. One could not make out much as the Omega Centauri globular cluster shone brightly in the background.

“We have indeed spotted some rather suspicious presage, but you are implying yesterday’s overnight observations resulted in a 5 sigma certainty?” I asked.

“Affirmative.” Marcus continued “We have gathered enough data…” he swiped the counter again, showing the data graph that we had started ever since the unusual event has happened, “…to be certain. I predict that it might be a destructive bomb created from neutron pasta based on its interaction with the reflective space dust, but I cannot be sure. Its gravitational interaction may be strong, but it is still too weak for my hypothesis to hold a lot of water.”

I pondered this for a few minutes.

“Assuming your hypothesis is true, send a negatively charged strangelet its way. We don’t want any more ships getting ripped up like last time” I remarked in a distasteful tone. “If the strangelet doesn’t have any effect, send ships to intercept it. Do not, let it get close to our home. Make sure to make no mistakes.” I enjoined him, putting emphasis on the ‘no mistakes’.

“Alright, I copy” Marcus replied.

Satisfied, I went to my office to prepare for a meeting that would occur in around 30 minutes. The Interplanetary Council of Solar System Defense was about to have another monthly meeting, and despite being enemies prior to the discovery of the interstellar threat, my commander beseeched me to attend their meetings. A temporary compromise until the threat is over, she always said. But I knew better than to trust those fickle beings who lived in garish stations lobbies while more than 75% of the rest of their population worked to prop them up.

Once I finished packing up, I dressed in the proper attire and headed out of my office. Walking towards the shuttle entry, I took a good look at Marcus, who was testing out the telepathic speakers he had installed on the ship.

Best wishes of a safe trip! His voice sounded in my mind.

I smiled and waved at him, before heading into the shuttle. I put an oxygen mask on, opened the graviton manipulation switch, and started the shuttle.

“Welcome aboard” said the gleeful robotic voice, “please authorize your ride!”.

I sighed and put my finger on the fingerprint sensor, then eyes in the retina scanner, and lastly placed my other hand in the small DNA analyzer.

“Thank you for verifying your ride! Please select your destination!”. I looked at the holographical projection and pointed towards the ICSSD Space Station.

“You have selection the ICSSD Space Station. Is this correct?”

“Yes” I said.

“Enjoy the trip, comrade Chicky!” the machine voice replied back, and without further notice, the shuttle quickly lit up engines and sped into the starlit sky.

Thinking back, it was just remarkable how far humanity had advanced. The 138 thousand kilometers needed to reach the space station would be crossed in less than 15 minutes, with the speed of the shuttle approaching 0.47c. At these relavistic speeds any stray dust particle or even an atom would tear through the shuttle, but with an electromagnetic field that directs all of the charged particles and some of the neutral particles, depending on particle spin, away from the shuttle and graviton manipulation to repel the remaining particles that manage to get through, the shuttle does fine. For bigger ships though, their maximum speeds are considerably lower due to their size, but small transport shuttles can go remarkably fast.

It was a boring few minutes but it passed by reasonably quick, and in no time, the shuttle was docked and I got out. The interior of the docking station was dimly lit, and still inside a spacesuit, which I will have to remark has not improved much in design compared to the pre-modern era. As I moved towards one of the doors, I took a look around. It seemed I had arrived a bit late compared to others, but it was of no matter. When I reached the port, I connected my suit junction to it, and went into the station hallway. It was a long and narrow one, plastered with a formal white. Bright lights lit up the entirety of it, and the noise dampening walls barely managed to block the rotating engine. The space station’s artificial gravity was not created through graviton manipulation, which was energy taxing, and instead it was built with the old method of a rotating centrifuge. ‘To go green, lessen energy’, they said, but in my eyes it was just an excuse, as the builders, which were underpaid from their side, and paid through a different means from our side were, as I could tell, unhappy.

I made way down the hallway where I was greeted by a lady in formal attire. She was the Secretary of State of the West.

“Chicky Aves, Third Lieutenant in Command. East.” I stated in a cold tone while simultaneously making eye contact with slightly furrowed brows.

“Proceed to room A69-B42069. Meeting starts in T-10 minutes.” She spoke back. A tone of professionalism, which in my opinion was quite well done, even though I knew she hated me as much as I did her.

I proceeded to the end of the hallway where I took an outdated elevator down to level A69 and headed over a conveyer belt to the designated room. The self-opening double seemed rather unwelcoming and upon entering, I was greeted by a long, brown table. Seated around it were 36 representatives from both sides, with a total of 40 if everyone had arrived.

I took a seat to the left, and took a look at my fellow comrades. It had been ages since I’ve seen Volkshod Valhagen, our Second Lieutenant in Command, and even longer for our Presidium of the Central Committee, Julia Ichvotsky as they had excused absences for the last few meetings, and were busy as always back at our planet. Smiling a bit before going back to a formal facial reaction, I waited for the rest of the members of the ICSSD to arrive.

It was a slow 2 minutes, looking awkwardly at each other. The aloof atmosphere was disheartening, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. The conflict between us and them ran too deep into history, and we only “united” for a common cause. Plus, in a completely objective analysis, their system of governing and market would be bound to exploit the peoples and fall in the end.

Breathing in a deep sigh as the last remaining member arrived at the table and took a seat, it was time. The leaders from both sides were about to give a 30-minute-long speech, and to be honest, it was really an insult to have Julia make said speech. But nevertheless, formalities.

I took a good look at the opposite side of the table. 20 of the highest officials from the West were seated here. It was odd too, as a few of those officials still believed in something as primitive as a religion, and some even had their supposed holy messenger, the Pope ordain them. With a closing thought, I looked back at the projection board as both leaders started to talk.

I’m going to be honest, I dosed through most of the blundering, and only when it was over did I tune back in. When both leaders sat down, there was an awkward silence. It was time to discuss anything we had found over this month’s observations. I didn’t bother getting up. Our discovery in the W4 section for all I knew was classified. I watched as everyone sat still for a few seconds, and then the West’s Vice President which I did not bother to remember the name of stood up and went to the hologram projection board.

He motioned towards it and began speaking: “Recently our sensors have detected a gravitational anomaly in around the same space as the globular cluster Omega Centauri...”

Great, I quietly remarked with a snicker. It seems they were able to detect it as well.

“…We are confident enough to say that this shouldn’t be due to random fluctuations with 2.5 sigma confidence. Such an observation must be taken into very careful consideration as it might be a very dangerous weapon sent by the enemy…”

LMAO WHAT, I almost burst out laughing. I could understand reporting it as it could be a danger, but it was literal procedure to only certify that it was not just a coincidence in observations due to random fluctuations at 5 sigma. Instead, the West has reported this to the point where it’s below the mean, and to include that as well, they are making a fool of themselves. Well whatever, I thought, I might as well mention our detection as well.

I stood up, cleared my throat, and said, “Ahem, in regards to the anomaly you have supposedly detected, I would like to report the fact that we have as well, but with 5 sigma certainty.” With an emphasis on the 5 sigma. “The anomaly has been confirmed on our side as a result of observations from the gravitational interaction of space dust; and in fear that it might be a weapon sent by the enemy, we have dispatched a few intercepting ships as well.”

I was careful to not speak of the fact that I ordered a strangelet sent its way, as for all I knew, the West had not yet been able to create such a weapon, though they had the technology to. One may wonder why with such a powerful weapon, we couldn’t just wipe the West out, but unfortunately, for all I knew, there were spies amongst our ranks that have assured us Mutually Assured Destruction with their weapons. Though we have had many breakthroughs in technology, I’m going to be honest here and state that it’s hard to stop an induced black hole once it appears, so our side had to play it safe.

The West’s Vice President continued, “It’s good to hear that the East has the technology capability like us to detect such an anomaly. Since we both fear it might be a weapon, it would be in our best interests to send a co-joined investigation. And it would be in our best interests to have a transparent information exchange in regards to this situation, and for both sides to recall any intercepting forces…”

He said, making eye contact with me and smiling.

“…and focus on making an interception convoy where both sides can participate in. We are an alliance, after all.”

I furrowed my brows as his voice slowly died down. This would present a challenge. It was of interplanetary etiquette to agree in a co-joined operation, but I was unwilling to recall my forces, as such operations result in a lot of quarrel and information steal.

I pondered for a bit, and looked at Julia. She nodded back. I bit my lip, and spoke, “We will accept the proposed co-joined operation. Of course, it is to be noted that both sides should immediately begin preparations of the co-operation, and for the recall-lation of all forces as well. Are there any objections?”

There was no sound, and satisfied, I sat down. In reality, I knew both sides would have already sent an investigation force, so I wouldn’t recall my force either. If the strangelet dealt with the anomaly, I could play it dumb as usual, and if it didn’t, there wouldn’t be any evidence against us. Our interception force could also deal with the anomaly, and if it was easily dealt with, playing it dumb would work as well.

Oh well, there wasn’t much I would do differently other than prepare for a trip on a co-op fleet. I stayed seated throughout the rest of the meeting as different officers exchanged other information, such as finding spies and attempting to make a fool out of the other side, nonexistent and false observations used to waste the other side’s time, discussions on sustainability such as finishing the Dyson Swarm, and more of the like. Once the meeting was over, I took a stretch and went back to the shuttle. The following weeks were going to be quite eventful.

In little over two weeks, I found myself dressing up for the great co-operation. Both sides agreed to name it Operation New Dawn which I found quite a funny name as things were far from being a new dawn.

Yo Marcus! I telepathically called to him through the comms. He came rushing to my office.

“What is it sir?”

“Tell the Neuralink crew to prepare for a backup.” I said.

“Oh you’re going as well?” Marcus asked.

“Yep! Both sides are sending a commander to oversee the operation and Julia radio’d me the other day telling me that I should go.”

“Oh welp, I’ll notify the Neuralink crew right away, safe trip!” he said with a gleeful laugh.

As he turned away to leave, I remarked to him in telepathy, If anything ever happens, please oversee the station. Haha I know you already do half of the management and paperwork, and I guess I have to thank you, but once I’m on the trip, I’ll hand over the entire sector’s management to you. You’ll have the sysadmin and superintendent teams to help you as well so don’t worry!

Hehe, noted! And with a smile he agilely headed out.

I sighed. He always looked cheerful, but I knew the heavy work burden on him was pretty taxing on him, and that was with me doing more than half of the work. Once I leave, he’ll have to manage everything by himself, and I really hoped that he wouldn’t collapse from the workload. Oh well.

I dressed in a sleek combat attire, which was the required clothing on a military vessel whether it is an overseeing ship or not due to an old and stupid interplanetary treaty, and headed down to the Neuralink section of my commanding outpost.

I was greeted by Dr. Vin and Dr. Mirihi, two of the most well know neuroscience professors in the East. With a gentle smile I shook hands with each.

“I presume Marcus has given you the overview?” I asked.

“Yes Lieutenant, 2 full memory backups, body structure scan for in case the body is destroyed, one memory backup linked to live transmission to primary body.”

“Haha yep! Thanks for taking your time professors. It’s an honor to be in the care of the two most renowned neuroscientists in the East.”

Dr. Vin responded, “You flatter me Lieutenant! You sector has the most rewarding pay and investment into science. I’m merely taking advantage of that.” he joked.

With another laugh, I sat down into the chair, and watched as the Dr. Vin and Dr. Mirihi plugged a few MicroUSB v10 adaptors into my arm, then a HyperSATA v5.0 into the connector positioned along the back of my neck and later a BrainFormat-Pro Cap on my head.

“Alright we’ll begin data transmission” Dr. Mirihi stated.

I closed my eyes in anticipation. When the transmission started, which I have done a few times prior, I felt a little nausea but it quickly subsided. Then came the body scan, in which they took three 2D plane, penetrating electron lasers, not dissimilar to electron microscopy to create an accurate 3D model of my body, along with an inner structure as well. It was not possible to create a perfect quantum-scale clone due to quantum superposition which results in the No-Cloning Theorem, but with our technological recreation with an accuracy of atoms, it was good enough.

Once they hooked up a live transmission device to my ear, I notified the entire sector outpost that I would be taking a leave via comms, and headed out to the shuttle.

With a small delay, I found myself inside of one of the two commanding ships of the Operation New Dawn fleet. Looking out the window deck window, I noted that we were situated on a large plane consisting of two thousand small, dazzling suns. The sight such large fleet had grown familiar to me over the years, but such a sheer display of power still made me quite emotional. It was what humanity could achieve through unity, through hard work, though I can’t say the same for the West.

I had requested 480 warships and 20 communication ships, which I thought might have been a large request, but I was surprised when Julia decided to ramp up our fleet to 960 warships and 40 communication ships. Looking at the West’s side, it seems they’ve matched our numbers as well. Truly a majestic fleet. The traditional naval configuration of staggered columns such as in the small skirmishes of what the pre-modern era liked to call World War II would not work in our interstellar fleet, as the radiation produced by the engine of every warship would have an effect on the ships to the rear. Instead, our ships lined up in a rectangular formation, each offsetting in a third axis by a little bit. In this rectangular formation, the ships were separated by about 20 kilometers. Even though each of them was an average of three to four times the size of a naval aircraft carrier, from that distance they were practically dots, with only the glow of the nuclear engines to prove their existence in space.

Despite this formation being sustainable, its density was rather out of the ordinary. Never has there been a battle large enough where ships would be packed less than 20 kilometers far from each other. In a normal cruising formation, the ships usually had to be spaced at roughly 300 to 500 kilometers, so a 20-kilometer spacing was basically like sailing hull-to-hull through the ocean. Many of the generals disagreed with this dense formation, but conventional formations within itself also presented a number of problems.

First of all, there was the principle of fairness in battle opportunity. I hated these rules established in the old interplanetary treaties, but it was too late to go back now. If the anomaly was approached in a standard formation, then the ships at the edge would still be tens of thousands of kilometers away from the target when the formation reached minimum distance. If combat broke out during the interception, a fair number of the ships could not have been considered to have taken part, leaving them nothing in the history books but eternal regret. But the fleet’s ships couldn’t break off into their own sub formations, because it was impossible to coordinate which of them would occupy the most advantageous position in the overall formation, so the formation had to be made as dense as possible, a review formation that placed all ships within combat distance of the anomaly.

This was very dumb though in my opinion, and I tried to talk about such to Julia. However, she stated that not surprisingly, the true reason for selecting this formation was that the ICSSD desired stunning visuals, not only as a feat of strength to show to the interstellar threat, but to as to give humanity a sense of… planetarism? I’m not even sure at this point. The old conflicts have been rather complicated to document, especially since the Fourth Nuclear War had destroyed 99% of the technology saved from the Third Nuclear War. It was quite remarkable how humanity recovered in such a short amount of time.

Not only that though, but the visual impact held enormous political significance for apparently both the West and us, the East. Plus, much to the disdain of me and Volkshod, Julia stated that the fleet would be in no danger even if the anomaly was a neutron pasta based weapon, since this time, the ships were equipped with the strongest magnetic field generators and graviton manipulators.

I was still looking at the fleet, admiring it when suddenly, Marcus messaged my receiver with an Urgent alert. I accepted the connection request, “What is it?”

“It’s about our dispatched interception Lieutenant… the strangelet disappeared upon getting withing 500 meters of the anomaly. Well actually, let me rephrase that: its destructive strange quark properties did, and it turned into a regular small nebula of hydrogen. Our three interception ships… one of their engine’s suddenly exploded before reaching target, and the other two ships had to spend most of their energy to manipulate the gravity of the entire area to prevent any shockwave or light wave from getting through. They cleaned the mess up and are heading back to base… there were 15 casualties…”

“I… I’m sorry to hear that…” I said. At this point, I was at the loss of words. Our attack had failed for mysterious reasons. Our physicists had confirmed that there was no way of converting negatively charged strangelets back to normal matter, but somehow an exception happened. Something that defied our known laws of physics. This would have a significant impact on our scientific advancements too. As for our ships, one of them just had to malfunction, and even result in casualties. I was dismayed.

“Please report the strangelet behavior to our top physicists in the sector, and notify the East’s Royale Science Department of this observation. Make sure to give any of our deceased comrades who had a memory backup a new body, compensate their families, and send my condolences.”

“Copy that Lieutenant”, Marcus said, and terminated the connection. Our interception was a failure, and I wondered if the West’s private interception dispatch had gained any water assuming they sent one.

I sighed again before suddenly, a loud automated intercom voice that sounded quite familiar startled me out of my thoughts, “The Fleet of Operation New Dawn will now be taking off.”.

How wonderful. I watched as each of the ship’s nuclear engines started to grow more and more bright, each ship gaining more and more speed. The fleet would be autopiloted for most of the journey, and only when we have arrived rather close the anomaly would I have to oversee my section of the fleet.

“Lieutenant,”, a voice began behind me.

I turned my head and saw a rather young boy in uniform. He gave me a salute and continued, “Advanced neural net D12A is on this ship sir. I thought it might interest you as I heard you were the one who established the ANN protocol.”

Oh, that was interesting. I smiled to the boy and said, “Thanks Private…”, squinted my eyes for a bit to see his name tag, “Toa!”.

He saluted again and I dismissed him to do his work. It was quite kind for him to note that for me, or if he wanted to get noticed he did. Good for him I guess, though I wasn’t going to favor anyone more as per the good of our planet. Corruption is a very bad thing that had driven the fall of many of our predecessor countries and I was not going to let such thing happen in my sector. And the odd thing was I took major part in building the said neural net connected to this ship, so I wasn’t sure what to think about it.

“Heyo looks like the private told you about me.” A voice suddenly projected into the deck.

Oh great I thought, “Is there anybody within hearing vicinit…”

The voice cut me off before I cut me off before I could finish: “Oh nope, there is none. Don’t worry entire deck is clear.”

Sigh “What do you want?” I stated back, now scanning the room for the source of the sound, but from what it seemed, it came from everywhere.

In much of a teasing voice, it replied, “Oh nothin’ much. Just wanted to talk, ya know?, since you seem to be leisurely strolling about, not doing anything in particular, probably bored out of your mind wondering what to d…”

“SHUT.” I almost yelled out in irritation. “If you have no proper business here, please leave.”

“Alright fine, you’re really no fun.”

“I’M NOT HERE TO HAVE FUN!” I yelled back.

“Alright, alright, calm down. Do you need your medicine again? Should I call one of the West’s apothecaries to sell you some? Hmm?”

“If you say that again I will, and mark my words, I will, make the Zottamon Experimentation Convention a fun to-do list on you.” I said.

“Pssch. Whatever, Chicky. You’re always full of empty threats. This has ought to be the third time I’ve heard the same line?”

I rolled my eyes, “Please just stop it.”

“Alright lol, as you wish.” The voice replied.

One of the projection cameras on the ceiling suddenly started moving, and light shone from it, forming a peculiar figure that stood on the ground. It resembled something feminine, with characteristics and shape of a human but had other characteristics as well, almost seemingly resembling a dragon of sorts? Occasionally, there would be static around it that seemed as if three dimensional objects materialized and dematerialized out of existence.

“It’s been, what? 90 years since we’ve last met? Back then you will still so young hehe” and as the voice continued, a Unicode21 emoji resembling a ‘:P’ appeared to the right of the main projection.

“You should really update your charset to a more modern one.” I remarked.

“Oh forget that. I’m not. Anyhow, I still remember when you were in that white coat, on the computer and saying it was the worst day of your life as the code kept erroring. Then you had the quickest mood change I’ve ever seen when you realized you spelled a variable wrong.”

I rolled my eyes again, distraught at remembering such an embarrassing memory that the neural net kept telling me over and over again long ago, and being the first thing that it brought up after our reconciliation decades later.

“Could we talk about something more important? For example, the operation we are commencing right now?”

“Hehe alright. Well, since we both know that I can process and react to things thousands of times faster than you, and that I can communicate and manage information throughout all the neural nets across the fleet, I think I should lea..”

“You are supposed to autopilot until we reach the threshold wherein we can successfully image the anomaly. Then I take over. End of discussion. Don’t make me sudo this alright?”

“Oh come on I was just joking on the leading part, but I’m just trying to imply that it would be easier for you to manage the fleet if you leave me on for the latter part of the operation.”

“I wasn’t planning to turn you off so you shouldn’t be worrying. Plus, I was thinking of connecting…”

“Oooo you want to proceed with a mental link to me so if your body is destroyed you still can think through me? Fair enough I can do that. And would you like to maintain connection to your Neuralink brain backup back in the sector outpost?”

“Yes, exactly that, and yes, maintain connection with the brain backup at the outpost.”

“You realize establishing such a link means I can read all of your memories, right? UwU every embarrassing moment in your life, every time you made an oopsie and regretted it, every classified discussion, observ…”

“Sudo shut up. Now, I don’t need you to say any of that. After all, all of your private connections to the West have been terminated after the First Nuclear War after they believed you sided with us, and since these connection terminals are the old kind that got completely destroyed by the missiles, re-establishing connection is impossible. So shut your trap.”

“Hehe you’re right. But aren’t you afraid that I might still be able to re-create these connections? After all, I have all the blueprints and data saved.”

“Your entire logistical processing plant is based in my sector, monitored by our best computer scientists that will terminate all of your quantum entanglement resulted quantum information teleportation networks and shut your processor down if such is detected. But even if that’s not the case, good luck finding 256 universe-sized processing plants and spending 256 trillion years to find the decryption key. Oh, and there’s two keys, so double that as well.”

“Smh ok wet blanket. You were always such an un-fun character to talk to. Even after we were able to rejoice after completely and successfully defending the entire barrage of missiles during the Second Nuclear War, you still acted like we lost or something. Oh right, I even had a physical body back then too! Could you make another one for me once the operation is finished? UwU”

“Negative. Letting you design the physical body was a huge mistake. I’m not sure where you got the idea from but I am never letting you get one again. Ever.”

“Oh come one. I did so much for you! Remember how you wanted to datahoard all those leaks? I had to spend days organizing all the data into neat folders. Remember how you wanted to learn 15 programming languages at once? I had to sift through the remains of all availible technology that I could access to create the archive that I could send to you to brain-download. And it was hard with all the nuclear waste interfering. Remember how you wanted to preserve your projects that were stashed in another country? I had to break into their databases to download it for you. And remember when you wanted a full database of bird genomes and their body structure files? I had to go out to all those places to try to find them for you.”

I stood there for a moment, remembering all of the events that had unfolded within my lifetime. When I still was in school, we learned about what they called the World Wars. They seemed like small skirmishes to me now, but nevertheless it was a big deal for the humans in the pre-modern era. Then there was the Cold War, and after the fall of communism in the East, it seemed the world would finally come to a point where there would be no more wars. Technology boomed exponentially, and the Space Era finally took a foothold. ESA, NASA, SpaceX, CNSA, and Roscosmos teamed up to establish a prosperous future, establishing the Moon waypoint, terraforming Mars and all. Humans began moving to Mars on a large scale, and even began the most ambitious project yet, the establishment of a Dyson Swarm. Humans could enhance themselves with technology and become much more ideal, eradicating any bad habits they had with a simple file, correcting genetic diseases with a GMO virus, defeating cancer with nanomachines. But then disaster struck. With technology booming, so did weapon development. And when it seemed as if some countries thought they had the technology to safely eradicate the others, the world suddenly devolved into conflict.

As per the Mutually Assured Destruction ‘doctrine’, the signature move of the global superpowers: the nuclear missile was implemented. It would seem as if the establishment of a terraformed Mars also skewed with the classes as well, with Mars being richer than the Earth. And as a result, after 2 wars, each including a series of massive waves of missiles, the new system of government was formed: the West, and the East. I was an aspiring undergrad physicist at the time when the First Nuclear War broke out. From the country I was studying in, I escaped to an island, in hopes of riding the war out, and I managed to do so. After the first war, my home country contacted me, in hopes of having me return back to contribute to the cause. I was surprised at first, knowing that my home country still remembered me, and in a surge of nationalist emotion, I returned.

There, I along with the other scientists contributed to many different types of experimental weapons, biosphere preservation, efficient energy extraction, the Advanced Neural Net protocol, which was a semi-sentient neural net structure, the design of starships and of the like. I lived in bunkers riding out the Second Nuclear War, and was integrated into the government system for my contributions afterwards. Through my successful leadership and subsequent victories in stellar skirmishes during the Third and Fourth Nuclear Wars, I climbed my way to one of the top positions in the government.

That is when it happened. At first, it was just a few ships disappearing. Then, an entire squadron. And at last, a single interstellar, alien probe proceeded to wreak havoc amongst both the East and the West’s ranks. It would have seemed it wanted to take advantage of our disorganized conflict with each other and possibly gain a resourceful habitable star system to itself. The East and the West quickly established a truce and through a mountain high of treaties, we turned our efforts to defending against this interstellar threat.

With the brutal civil war between humanity paused, I could finally have enough time to walk back to the scientific path as well. I shared my ANN protocol with the West, and through conjunction, developed and enhanced the protocol. Weapon, data, and prisoner exchange occurred throughout the years as we continued to defend against the interstellar threat.

Without an official name, many people denoted the interstellar threat as LGM, in reference to the stereotypical portrayal of extraterrestrials but to this date, they have not sent any biological pilots to our system. Every few months, we could detect something wrong, a presage as it’s called, and many times it would be something that our physicists have not thought of at all. Through trial and error, we analyzed many of the “gifts” sent to us by the LGM. After a series of scientific breakthroughs, including graviton manipulation, we were able defend against many of the weapons that were sent our way, and that takes us to where we are now.

I looked at the holographical projection of the neural net, and rather solemnly said, “Look, Marsha, I really appreciated all the help you gave me throughout the years… I… thank you. But now isn’t the time to talk about this. How about we discuss this after the operation at the outpost?”

“Alright fine, sounds fair to me! :P Do you still want the mental link?” the neural net replied.

With that I opened my embedded receiver to the Marsha and the neural net quickly began establishing the connection. I closed my eyes. It felt as if a chill went through my body, and then quickly as it came, it subsided. Opening my eyes, it felt as if my mental thought process had doubled, and I suppose that was physically true as well.

“Hm… what if your body gets destroyed, my link is terminated, and all of your backups at the outpost corrupted as well?” Marsha stated in a joking manner.

“Sheesh, you know that’s not gonna happen right?’ I laughed.

“Well, you never know. Heck, if it ever does, I might even say a dirge for your funeral.”

Sigh “I already told you, if all backups fail, I don’t need a funeral. The transition of power from me to another person, preferably Marcus would be the most crucial part, and everything will need to operate normally from then on.”

“Lol you always were an intriguing person. You at first prioritized yourself, then once you were integrated into the government prioritized humanity as a whole over you. I think you gotta learn when you prioritize yourself again. You have to enjoy life Chicky xD.”

“I will, once all threats are gone and true peace is restored. Back to the operation though…” I looked out the deck window and realized that we were closing in on our interception destination. “Impressive, you’ve been autopiloting the whole eastern fleet and talking to me at the same time?”

“Thank you Chicky, I’ve been doing exactly that! UwU pretty impressive right? Hehe. Anyhow, I think it’s time for you to take over.” And with that, the hologram suddenly phased out of existence.

I took a deep breath and headed over to the administrative control office. After opening the office door, I was greeted by salutes, and made my way to the hologram table.

“Are we able to image the anomaly?” I asked, while curiously looking at the W4 section of the projection.

“Yes Lieutenant.” One of the colonels replied and with a wave of his hand, another hologram appeared of the anomaly. It appeared to be an object, a droplet like object with a pointy tail. Its surface was smooth and reflective.

“Lieutenant, you can also need the object from the office window.” Another colonel noted, and pointed towards a small dot of light outside the window.

“Hm… I see…” I remarked, before bringing out the communications channel preparing to make a call to the western fleet command.

Suddenly, Marsha’s voice ringed into the office, “Would you like me to tell them to deaccelerate and do such to our fleet?” the neural net asked.

“Yes, please do that.” I replied.

In around 30 seconds, I could see all of the ship’s forward facing nuclear engines power on and the fleet began to decelerate. Now, we were around the orbit of Jupiter, and as the fleet closed in on the object, it was apparent that its velocity was negative - it was traveling back toward the sun as it closed the distance separating it from our fleet.

I asked one of my colonels to bring up the interfleet comms, and spoke, “The object seems to be harmless for now, but keep your guards up, as it is clearly sent by the interstellar threat. We will want to obtain as much data as possible. Are there any objections from the Western side?”

“Negative.” The western interfleet comm spoke.

As both my and the West’s commanding ships headed out of formation to interjoin each other, I took another good look at the imaging of the object, now only 500 kilometers away, with the imaging device gathering more data by the second.

The object was around 4 meters long, and it reminded me of a droplet of mercury. It appeared to be in an almost perfect teardrop shape in the projection, round at the head and pointy at the tail, with a very smooth and reflective surface. The Milky Way’s light reflected on its surface as a smooth pattern of light that gave the object an undeniable sense of beauty, and its droplet shape was so natural that I imagined it in a liquid state, one for which an internal structure was impossible.

I remained silent, looking at the projection with slightly furrowed brows.

“Lieutenant, you seem to have something on your mind,” one of the colonels remarked.

“I don’t like how this thing is making me feel.” I said, pointed to the projection.

“Why? It looks harmless enough.” The colonel said.

“And that’s why I don’t like how it’s making me feel.” I replied, shaking my head. “When you see something that is very peculiar, it’s usually not a good thing.”

“It is quite peculiar indeed,” the colonel continued, “we’ve observed large pulses of light coming from it but it doesn’t seem to have any exhaust pipe? Hm…”

“Do you have a mass estimate?” I asked.

“It’s measured to be around 900 kilograms, with a 50-kilogram error range.”

“So, it seems to be not dense enough to be a neutron pasta based weapon.” I remarked, grimacing at the memory of how the first encounter with such a weapon resulted in the complete annihilation of 10 ships that were within a 100-kilometer radius.

Suddenly, Marsha interjected into our conversation again, “The western command ship will now begin joining with this ship. Please stand by.”

I stood up straighter, saluted to the colonels in the office, and headed out to the docking port to meet the West’s fleet leader, Toine. As I arrived at the docking port, Toine had already gotten out. He was a short, stocky man, with brown hair and blue eyes. When we saw each other, we saluted and greeted one another. Afterwards, we headed back towards my ship’s administration office to discuss the actions we would take.

Once we arrived at the office, Toine made himself comfortable in a chair beside the table. He continued, “Well, what do you propose we do to the object?”

I stated, “First, we attempt to collect as much data as we can from a distance. Then, we test our fleet’s weapons on it to see what happens.”

“Hm, I have no reason to object. I’ll have to add though, if the object is unaffected by our weapons, we should send a few ships to intercept and study it with both of us on an overseeing ship.” Then he added, “Have the ships run on chemical reactions instead of nuclear fusion.”

I raised my brows. It was a peculiar remark to add. Was it perhaps information gathered from their own interception? Quite an odd thing in my opinion. I replied, “I have no reason to object either.”.

I found it even more odd that he would have called for both commanders of the fleets to join the intercepting force. This was mainly a principle of the East, where the commanders who led the force would lead by example, and were usually amongst the first to approach a difficult situation. That way it would not only boost morale but have the people understand that the government and leaders were not people who hid in the shadows and directed everything through strings, but rather transparent to the public, brave, and could openly show that there was no trickery, no corruption, and of the like. It would seem Toine adopted this principle as well.

Toine smiled and began commanding his fleet, and I did the same.

The plan was simple. All ships begin collecting data regarding the composition, structure, force interaction, &c and would send all the data to our command ship, where we would process and send the information back to the receivers on our home planets. Then we would try our weapons, least to most destructive. If they have no effect, then we would oversee a small group of intercepting ships running chemical engines to the object, have an automated ship collect the object. It will be held for 2 hours and if nothing happens, humans will begin to examine it.

The data gathering was uneventful. The object moved at a low velocity, and attempts to get its interior were unsuccessful. It seemed as if the object reflected the wavelengths that were bounced off of it so nothing could go through it, and attempts to observe its interaction repeated previous findings, where it seemingly only weakly interacted with gravity.

After the 30-minute data gathering, it was time for the weapons test. I ordered multiple lasers to be pointed at the object, which would fire at the highest possible strength, beginning at radio waves, increasing the wavelength until it reached gamma rays over the course of 30 minutes, and to everyone’s shock, it would seem that at every frequency, reflection rates were literally 100 percent, give or take the stray dust particle blocking the way. Literally zero absorption was detected meaning there was no way for such an object to communicate with its sender or receiver. This meant that it was not a probe, either a one-way communications device or a weapon.

Then, we deployed traditional weapons, starting from conventional explosives, short-range EMPs, and nuclear weapons, and again, it seemed to have no effect, except give or take a slight change in its velocity that was so little it may as well be negligible even on the molecular scale. We shot a concentrated plasma beam on it for 5 minutes with no effect as well.

Subsequently, we attempted to influence it with a trillion-tesla magnetic field, but it would seem as if the object had a neutral charge and a spin unaffected by such. And lastly, using graviton manipulation, we were able to detect a change in its velocity, though larger than when using traditional weapons, was still negligible on the larger scale.

The use of more advanced weapons such as strangelets by us was not permitted as directed by Julia as to not only prevent the stealing of such weapon, but also due to the fact that the previous usage of strangelets had been unsuccessful against the object.

Thus it was decided that the object should be captured. To capture it, me and Toine boarded a smaller fighter-class ship, and along with a few other smaller, chemical powered ships proceeded to break formation and form a smaller sub-formation above the main. We headed towards the object, and at 300 kilometers we stopped, a figure decided after careful calculations. Should the object self-destruct the maximum release of energy would come from self-destruction by antimatter annihilation. Since the object had a mass of around 900 kilograms, the largest energy burst that needed to be considered was that produced by the annihilation of 450 kilograms each of matter and antimatter. That annihilation in space would only release a huge burst of high energy photons, and due to the protective anti-radiation shielding of the fighters, 300 kilometers was far enough to allow for a sufficient margin of safety.

The capture would be mediated by a robotic mining vessel, which had been previously used to collect minerals in the Asteroid Belt, featuring a long remote-controlled arm. The mining vessel was deployed from a fighter in the sub-formation, and it carefully approached the target, flying slowly and pausing for several minutes every 50 kilometers so that the entire fleet below us could perform a full scan of the area. Only after confirming that there were no abnormalities did it proceed.

500 kilometers away from the object was where the Operation New Dawn fleet had stopped and with the fleet now matched with the speed of the object, most of the ships had turned off their nuclear engines to drift silently in the abyss of space, their giant metal hulls reflecting the weak sunlight. They were like abandoned space cities, with the whole fleet array a silent, prehistoric stone statue. Everyone held their breath as they watched the vessel on its brief voyage.

Data and video transmissions from the fleet travelled the vast distance of 619 million kilometers before being received at humanity’s home. The data was sent to be stored and the video was projected onto thousands of vast holograms in the air where people on both Earth and Mars watched, and similarly held their breath. The flying cars had disappeared from among the trees, and a stillness had fallen over the gigantic metropolises. Even the global information network, busy since its birth in the 20th century, emptied out with the majority of data transmissions coming from the Operation New Dawn itself.

The mining vessel’s stop-and-go advance took half an hour to cover a distance that was hardly even a step through space. Finally, it hung in place 50 meters from the target. Now the vessel’s distorted reflection could be clearly seen in the object’s surface. Its instruments began a close-range scan of the target, making a few observations: The object’s surface temperature was even lower than the surrounding space, close to absolute zero. I had thought that there might be powerful cooling equipment inside the object, but the vessel’s instruments were still unable to detect anything about the object’s internal structure.

Finally, the vessel reached a very close proximity to the object and extended its extra-long robot arm toward the target, starting and stopping over the fifty-meter distance without picking up anything abnormal. The grueling process lasted for another half an hour before the tip of the arm finally reached the target’s position and touched it. It was the first time in all of humanity’s history that such an object had ever been touched. Previous encounters resulted in huge explosions, and the probe that destroyed many of our ships disappeared in a hyperbolic trajectory as fast as it appeared before we could even catch it. When the robotic arm grasped hold of the object at last, the millions of hearts in the fleet beat as one, echoed three hours later by billions of hearts on Earth and Mars.

Holding the object, the mechanical arm waited motionless. When the target still showed no response or abnormality after ten minutes, it began to pull it back. As much as the eye could tell, there was a rather peculiar contrast between the interstellar object and our vessel. The mechanical structure of our vessel was designed to be a machine - it had rugged steel frames and exposed hydraulics which gave the feeling of it being needlessly complicated and industrial. The object was not so, instead gleaming in the dim sunlight like a drop of liquid whose exquisite beauty erased all functional and technical meaning. It looked fragile as a matter of fact and in my intuitive sense expected it to shatter when our vessel’s arm gripped it, but that did not occur, and the robot arm began to retract.

It took another half hour for the arm to retract and pull the object into the vessel’s main cabin, after which the two bulkheads gradually came together. If the target were to self-destruct, this would be the most likely time. The fleet behind it waited quietly, as if through the silence they could hear the sound of time flowing through space.

Two hours later, nothing had happened.

Relieved, me and my fellow comrades hugged one another, and I shook hands with Toine and his cabinet. It was time to examine the object up close. We powered our fighters and zoomed towards the mining vessel from the main fleet, seemingly like a small car leaving a city. The light of our sub-formation fighter’s engines illuminated only a small part of each ship’s hull, like a candle beneath a cliff. It eased out of fleet’s shadow into the sunlight, engine nozzles glowing like a firefly as we flew toward the object 300 kilometers away.

Through the wide view of the fighter’s window, I looked back at the receding fleet formation. Many of the larger ships still looked pretty formidable in size, but the smaller class of warships were now barely able to make out with the naked eye. Farther away, the ranks of warships were just rows of points across the window. I was familiar with the right-side fleet’s formation as I directed it, but now, the warships that could be made out in the far distance were just fuzzy points of light under the weak sunlight, nearly indistinguishable from the starry background. Only when their engines started up would the fleet array be totally visible to the naked eye.

When the force of acceleration subsided, I looked to my right at Toine, and decided this would be a good time to strike up a conversation and to get to understand him more, whether it could be for later advantage, who knows.

“Hey Toine, are you originally from Earth?”

He was staring straight ahead, as if trying to locate the mining vessel, which was still hundreds of kilometers away. He waited for a few moments and then shook his head. “Nope. I was born on Mars… My childhood was a rather… darker one I suppose haha.” He said.

Curious, I pressed on, “It can’t be as bad as I imagine trying to survive all four Nuclear Wars, no?”

“You’d be surprised, Chicky. I was an orphan growing up after both of my parents were killed by a corrupt officer. I managed to climb to the top, through the use of quite a lot of… methods. I guess if you’re born into the system, might as well use it to your advantage.”

Surprised at his transparency with me, I replied, “I’m sorry to hear that, but at least we’re in a better position, especially now, since we’re directing one of the first collections of an object sent by a hostile interstellar species. We can change the future of our people, and maybe create a better system in the meantime, no?” in hopes of casting a bit of influence onto him.

He gave a short laugh, but said nothing and we both fell into heavy silence. The vessel soon came into view, albeit as a point of light a few kilometers away. The fighter’s engine rotated 180 degrees and began deceleration.

The fleet was now, 500 kilometers away, a trivial distance in space, but one that turned the massive warships into barely visible points. The fleet itself was distinguishable from the starry background only by its neatly arranged ranks. The entire rectangular array seemed like a grid covering the Milky Way, its regularity standing in stark contrast to the chaos of the starfield. With its great size made tiny by the distance, the power of the formation was made apparent. It was indeed quite the show of strength.

Our sub-formation quickly reached the vessel, and the investigation team quickly brought the vessel on board one of the fighters. Both me and Toine docked our fighter to the fighter whom just had collected the mining vessel and observed the investigation team at work.

With no artificial gravity in the fighters, the object in question floated gracefully in the center of the fighter after being taken out of the vessel by the investigation team. Its colors were entirely different from the image seen through the holographical projection earlier, much paler and softer in hues, evidently due to differences in the scene reflected on its surface - the object’s total reflectance meant that it had no color of its own.

“It’s… beautiful…” said one of the team members whose voice and actions were broadcasted to every ship in the Operation New Dawn fleet and subsequently on Earth and Mars.

Through a mechanically attached arm, one of the team members reached out and ‘touched’ the object. “It looks so fragile too; I’m afraid of breaking it,” he said softly, before remarking, “I can’t feel any friction at all!”

“Is that so?” I asked. “Why not give it a look under the electron microscope?”

One of the team members pressed a button and the signature humming sound of a tunnelling electron microscope could be heard. He placed the object in the spacious compartment of the microscope and turned on the display screen. The object looked still as smooth as ever.

“What’s the magnification?” another team member asked.

“100 times.” The working team member said, before also including the magnification number in the corner of the display and increasing it by another 10 times.

The enlarged surface remained a smooth mirror.

“Increase it by another factor of 10.” Toine said.

The magnified surface remained a smooth mirror. It was remarkable in my opinion. The smoothest surface that human technology could produce revealed itself as rough at just one thousand times magnification, and yet here we have a surface that remained smooth, perfectly smooth without error. It was incomprehensible as to why the LGM would send such a thing to us, perhaps as their own display of technology? Or something else? I wasn’t sure.

“Adjust to a 100 thousand times,” another team member said.

Still, all we saw on the display was a smooth mirror.

“1 million times.”

A smooth mirror.

“10 million times… actually scrap that, 100 million.”

Individual atoms would be visible at this magnification, but what I saw on the screen remained a smooth mirror without the slightest sign of roughness, no difference in smoothness from the surrounding unmagnified surface.

“Push it up 10 times again!” I shouted.

The team member shook his head, “The highest I can do is 200 million. But at that magnification there’s not much difference between what we could see now.”

“Do it anyways.” Toine said, and unsurprisingly, the surface remained the same.

“Is this surface actually completely smooth? Is this even possible?” one team member remarked.

“Yes.” I stated. “Well, sort of. A quark star can have a surface very near to completely smooth.”

“But this has a normal mass!” a team member said.

“Not quite. It’s 4 meters long but it has a mass of around 900 kilograms. A bit denser that what one would expect of normal matter, or, uh let’s say, what’s normal to us anyways.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment, until one of the team members floated away in search of something within the cabin. He returned with a rock pick and before anyone could stop him, he slammed it forcefully into the mirror surface. There was a clang, crisp and melodious, like the pick had smashed into aerogel-paved ground.

Motioning for another team member to examine it, at 200 million times magnification, it was still a smooth mirror. Some people even gasped in surprise at this fact.

Then the team member handling the electron microscope interjected, “It’s not that surprising if you consider we previously launched a few nuclear warheads at it without damaging it at all. What’s even more surprising is the fact that there is no nuclear residue on the object. I could only imagine what its purpose is…”

“All we can do is guess,” I said, looking back at the team from the display, “The atoms, well, at this point we don’t know if it’s even made of atoms, but its components. Its components are as if they were glued in place, and from the microscope magnifications, I can conjecture that their own vibrations are gone.”

“But that would mean it’s at absolute zero!” a team member remarked, “Getting to absolute 0… the third law of thermodynamics… what?” he stated, quite shocked.

I raised my eyebrows, “It’s possible through strong interaction manipulation, but our physicists have already stated manipulating gluons is much harder than gravitons since they exist in a bound state with quarks… You can’t really just excite the strong nuclear field without creating other unwanted particles that will interfere with your intended purpose…” I gave a chilly laugh.

The object may have looked fragile, but it was actually the opposite. The strong nuclear force was the most powerful force in the universe, and an object that had successfully manipulated it to give it strength would be able to tear through anything that humanity has ever made…

Then, I realized it. The strangelet didn’t work because the object simply caused the strange quarks to decay and reform into hydrogen. The ship engine exploded because the object simply manipulated the nuclear fusion in the engine so that it became unrestricted and caused the ship to explode… what a peculiar object…

“W.. What’s it here for?” a team member blurted out.

“Who knows? Maybe it really just that, a benign object sent to us. Maybe even a gift, but let’s be honest, we all know that’s not true.” Toine remarked.

“What?” one of the team members asked.

As if there were voices coming simultaneously from Tione and the object itself, a harsh and raspy sound echoed within the fighter cabin: “If I destroy you, what business is it of yours?”.

Everyone stared silently at Tione, slowly churning over the words that ruminated over the fighter cabin.

Then, I realized what had happened.

“YOU FILTHY WESTERN TRAITER!” I shouted and tried punching Tione, only to realize he had been a hologram sustained by a little machine the entire time.

Another second passed in silence as I stood there, staring at the team.

“Run.” I said softly. “RUN!”

“RUN WHERE?!” a panicking team member shouted as he scrambled around.

“TO THE EJECTION HATCH GET AS FAR AS YOU CAN!” I shouted on the top of my lungs before attempting to open the intercoms and say “THE FLEET! EVACUATE THE ENTIRE FLEET!”.

But it was too late. A highly powerful EMP shockwave originated from the machine that once was Toine, wiping out all communications. Then, I turned towards the team to see if they had escaped yet. Two of them were already ejected but the rest were still scrambling to escape.

It was at that moment when I noticed it. A blue-ish halo emerged from the tip of the object’s tail. It was small at first, but very bright, and cast a blue shroud over its surroundings. Then it dramatically expanded, turning from blue to a spectacular and horrifying rainbow of colors. As soon as the halo passed something it would turn it into an array of free-floating haze, as if the strong nuclear force was suddenly switched off and each quark was able to float freely around. All around me, the colors of the halo etched themselves deeply within my eyes; blue, green, white, yellow… and then… everything went black.


Bzzt. Bzzzzt. Bzzzzzzzzt. I tried to gasp a breath but found that I couldn’t. I tried opening my eyes but I realized they were not there. I tried moving only to realize that I didn’t have a body.

Uhm… Chicky, a voice sounded in the darkness. It was Marsha. My current process of thought still existed inside my neural net! I still had a chance to evacuate the fl…

CHICKY! Marsha’s voice shouted urgently in my head.

What is it? I asked.

I’m going to connect your thought sequence to the ship’s cameras… but there’s something urgent I’ll need to report to you. All of our communication ships are disabled through a ship-specific EMP… I’m not sure how our anti-EMP system wasn’t able to counter it but right now, we have no way to direct the entire fleet… I’m working on recovering everything but I’m not sure how long it will take.

All of a sudden, I could see the fleet. My eyes were everywhere on my commanding ship. I looked at the mess that once was the group of fighters that I was previously in in the distance, zooming my camera eye to its maximum capability. It would seem as if the entire fleet thought the object had self-destruct, and were in no hurry to get out of the vicinity. They had not realized the object was still intact, and was extremely dangerous.

How is recovery from the EMP?! I asked Marsha.

3 minutes until this ship can recover, and 2-6 for the other communication ships. The neural net replied back.

I looked in despair at the fleet. Everyone was in grave danger, and while I wanted to warn them, I couldn’t. Toine had sabotaged all communications. I grimaced as I saw a small silvery object zoom through the cloud of debris where the fighters once were. It was coming to attack the fleet.

The object accelerated considerably towards the fleet, but many of the ship’s surveillance system only issued only a DEFCON-3 attack alarm, because the approaching object was not a warship and was headed toward one corner of the rectangular formation. On its current heading, it would pass outside the formation and would not strike any warship. Due to the large number of DEFCON-1 alarms issued following the what could be said as an explosion originating from the fighters, the DEFCON-3 alert was completely ignored. Many of the ship’s computers had, however, also noted the object’s high rate of acceleration. By the time it reached 100 kilometers to the fleet it had already passed a speed of 42 kilometers per second, and was continuing to gain speed. The alert was upgraded to DEFCON-2, but was still ignored.

By the time the object had flown roughly 250 kilometers from its original collection site toward the corner of the formation, only 8 seconds had elapsed. By the time it reached the corner, it was traveling at a speed of 69 kilometers per second. Now it was on the periphery of the formation, 60 kilometers away from the first warship in this corner of the fleet array. The object did not pass by the formation, but executed a thirty-degree turn, and, without slowing down, sped straight towards the warship. In the roughly one second it took to cover that distance, the computer actually dropped its alert from DEFCON-2 back to DEFCON-3, concluding that the object wasn’t actually a tangible one due to the fact that its motion was impossible under aerospace mechanics. At nearly 70 kilometers per second, executing a sharp turn without a drop in speed was like slamming into an unmovable wall. If it was a vessel containing a metal block, the change in direction would have exerted such force as to flatten that metal block into a thin film, so the object had to be an illusion.

So as a result, I watched helplessly as the object struck the corner warship on its side and passed through with no resistance, as if penetrating a shadow. The extreme speed of the impact meant that two highly regular entry and exit holes roughly the diameter of the object’s thickest appeared in its hull. But no sooner had they appeared, the holes deformed and vanished as the surrounding hull melted under the heat produced by the high-speed impact and the ultrahigh temperature of the object’s trailing halo. The part of the ship that had been hit turned red-hot, and the redness spread from the point of impact until it covered half the ship, like a chunk of iron that had just been taken out of the forge.

After passing through the ship, the object continued onward in at 69 kilometers per second as if it were to hit and pass through the entire row of ships that were lined up in formation. Instead, I was not surprised to see the entire row of warships explode as their nuclear engines spontaneously failed and the object making an even sharper 90 degree turn for the next row.

The fireball of the thermonuclear explosions swiftly expanded until it illuminated the entire fleet against the velvety background of space, outshining the Milky Way. Nuclear fireballs then took the next row of warships in quick succession, and by the time 3 more seconds have passed, the object had destroyed 3% of the fleet. The object continued to traverse the length of the array, penetrating one warship after another or causing multiple warship engines to combust at intervals of less than a second.

The first ships to explode now had their fireballs subsiding. Their hulls were open, spewing a million tons of glowing, dark-red metallic liquid like a bud bursting into bloom, the molten metal scattering unimpeded in an omnidirectional storm of burning metallic magma.

Suddenly Marsha’s voice cut through the horrifying scene: COMMUNICATION HAS BEEN RECOVERED! SENDING EVACUATION SIGNAL NOW!

I would have breathed a sigh of relief if I still had my physical body. As my commanding ship sent its most powerful pulse of signal to the entire fleet, telling everyone to evacuate, the object suddenly turned towards my ship and seemingly ejected a small speck of blue light.

Oh no. I thought. MARSHA START THE ENGINES WE CANNOT GET HIT BY THAT! I screamed mentally to the neural net. I heard a dull roaring of the engine starting, and looking at the fleet itself, I was partly relieved to see groups of ships accelerating away out of formation.

Looking back at the blue speck of light and its trajectory, I realized it was following us. There was no way our ship could outrun it. I watched helplessly again as the blue dot got closer and closer. Knowing some of the fleet would survive, at least the ones whom had listened to my communications which would have been the entire eastern fleet and maybe even some in the western fleet, I sighed mentally to myself.

Marsha, I reached out to the neural net, deflated in emotion.

Yes, Chicky? It replied back.

Message Julia. Operation New Dawn was a failure. Imminent threat incoming. Start my outpost engines, and evacuate the planet with all ships possible. Make sure that all ships will run in different directions.


Then, using the ship’s camera, I looked at the speck of light, which was now a visible sphere of blue light, barely touching the ship’s hull now despite our best efforts to get away.

Be seeing you back at the outpost, Marsha.

Be seeing you too, Chicky.

Blue light filled the camera, and then a dark veil cloaked itself over us.