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Patches and Stickers for sale here

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6300 No. 6300 ID: 451480
Humanity struck a happy medium in thought when it came to scientific progress: meticulous and patient enough to begin understanding the universe around them, yet brash and crazy enough to make the odd leap of genius every decade or so. They made their way to orbit around their home planet, then onwards to the planets orbiting their home star, much like the rest of the developed Galaxy, but they grew in ways other races didn't even imagine. It's a question of how much their advancement, however, is owed to their "happy medium" or their centuries-long entrapment.
The key to faster-than-light travel was mathematics, left behind by the Precursors for the younger races to find in beacons scattered on their homeworlds throughout the Galaxy. No single race had ever became true star-voyagers without the assistance of the beacons. Sooner or later, they would find the beacon on their planet, decrypt it, and use that knowledge to spread through their sector of the Galaxy, before meeting those who made the process before.
But not the children of Earth.
By circumstances lost to history, maybe from a worried Precursor who feared for humanities welfare or a malevolent Precursor's deliberate sabotage, the beacon for humanity left behind a different message. When humans unearthed and decrypted the beacon in East Africa during the 22nd Century CE, instead of receiving a key to the locks of lightspeed, they got a warning.
"There are monsters beyond the rim. They knew our technology, superseded it. They intended it that way. You must walk a different path. Stay in this system, stay safe, until you feel you are ready."
Humanity was frustrated, excited, terrified and galvanized by this message. The technology within the beacon itself was centuries ahead of what anyone on Earth had, this was no hoax. But, as advanced as this race was, it didn't help them against these "monsters". How could we, humanity argued, defend against them? The message was clear, though-as long as the human race stayed within Sol, it was safe.
So, humanity made the great exodus into space the hard way. One by one, old hatreds died, the damage done to Earth was reversed, the colonies on the Moon and Mars flourished and expanded, and the inner and outer planets were reached. The asteroid belt was harvested, metal and ice fueling the expansion, making great stations in deep space, each holding millions of souls. Mercury was cracked, and reorganized into solar stations around the sun. Not forgetting the Warning, humanity redoubled it's efforts in science and technology, making it's own path. Everything from medicine to robotics was met with renewed vigor and larger budgets. Prototypes for the first space-borne warships, that will no doubt be needed to fight these Monsters, were designed, built, then redesigned and built again. The war with disease was won, energy shortages were relegated to the history books, and computers became increasingly complex and capable.
A major breakthrough was made with the advent of quantum computational substrate, the new silicon in electronics. Operations of a level unmatched in human history became commonplace. Then, arguably one of the biggest leaps of genius in history was made. The uploading of a human brain into a computer was an ancient theme in fiction, but now it was finally possible. The procedure was initially restricted to volunteers on their deathbeds, then the super-rich, but as it was honed over the centuries, eventually everyone who reached the age of 25 was given the chance to be uploaded. Their mind, their intelligence, was transferred from their organic brain to a small box, about the size of a hand, filled with substrate. That box, and by extension, the individual, could be connected to a virtual simulation, or to a robotic platform in the "real world". The platform could range from a body with the looks and sensory feedback of an organic body, although with cybernetic augmentations, to more obviously mechanical bodies for roles such as construction or security, to those of non-bipedal machines, even spaceships. The box can seamlessly transition from one body or Sim to another, so an individual could spend their working day as an assembly mech, then come home in their "human" platform, with skin, hair, sweat, tactile feedback, the works.
This changed society forever. Death became nonexistent, only happening to those who believed they had seen enough centuries. The population exploded, because having kids was as possible, and as "enjoyable", as ever. The effects of this explosion, today breaking through the one trillion mark, was negated almost entirely by the much lower demands of uploaded. Small stations could now house Sims of huge megacities, millions of minds, and the larger stations could hold entire planets, billions. It is no cornucopia, one must achieve if they desire wealth, but no one could be said to be poor, or malnourished. e-democracy was established, major decisions could be debated and decided upon at the speed of light by participants, and anyone could be a participant.
Humanity staggered on, unlocking one secret of the universe after another, adding ships to the ever-growing fleet dedicated to protecting Sol. They had no measure of the Monster's military strength, if they even still existed. All they knew was that for every ship built, every soldier trained and every antiproton generated, their chances of survival increased.
But, it would still count for nought if they couldn't even leave the system. FTL drive was proven to exist by the beacon, but the physics behind it was such a monumental problem to solve. Still, every generation since the Warning dedicated experts to the cause of unlocking this technology, until finally, 1974 years since the first manned mission to the Moon, a test ship holding a prototype FTL drive departed Earth, arriving at Mars in five minutes, when light would take twenty minutes to make the same journey. Even then, after the system-wide rejoicing, Humanity took it's time finishing the latest additions to the fleet, and upgrading every ship. Only then, a small flotilla was sent on the maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri, arriving in mere hours. Thankfully, giant space monsters primed to kill all humans didn't jump out of nowhere, so the cautious march forward went on, ships exploring the nearby systems for any sign of the precursors, the younger races or, worst case scenario, the Monsters.
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>> No. 6301 ID: 451480
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Captain Vichubris sat at his chair on the bridge of the cruiser EWS Apex, an image of lumian martial discipline on the outside, a soul wreaked with boredom on the inside. For the past 2 months, his little flotilla has been turning over every rock in a 500 lightyear radius. The Galactic SpaceTime Sensor Net had picked up field distortions, unmistakable signatures of FTL travel, in this section of the Orion Arm, and the Lumian Empire, military backbone of civilized space and neighbour to this not-yet-colonized region, was tasked to investigate. No other race admitted to having interests here, so it must either be pirates setting up safe havens or those savages, the ittoknar, overstepping their borders. Either way, it was something that could be solved by a sufficiently large gun, and the proud fleets of the Lumian Empire had the biggest of them all. Vichubris grinned at that thought, only to remind himself that first, they had to be found.
Not one enemy of civilization had yet been found, and the luxury food rations had just been depleted. Vichubris looked around his bridge, the crew restless, visibly irritated in the case of some, but everyone kept it to themselves, as they should. Even the lowliest enlisted were professionals, and a shortage of seed buns and methamphetamine wasn't going to cause a mutiny. Of course, getting to vaporize some pirates would brighten the mood somewhat.
As if the souls of creation themselves listened in on his thoughts, his wish for action was granted. "Sir! Unknown convoy has entered from FTL! Bearing, 85 degrees right, 17 degrees down! Extreme-Long Range!", Sensors Specialist Divanius gave in his best bridgespeak: loud, clear, without accent or figure of speech. Nobody should have to say something twice in a life or death situation. The statement of facts by the specialist awakened the entire ship, and the flotilla by extension, from it's half-slumber, as eyes open and backs straighten, ready for orders from the Captain.
"What's their signature? Is this friend or foe?", replied Vichubris, the daring warrior in his mind, the one that got him this commission, secretly hoped "foe".
"Again, unknown, sir. Their ships don't match any in-service designs, amongst all races, and they look to be in too good a condition to be salvage."
'Ah, somebody has been testing their shiny new toys without telling the rest of us', Vichubris thought without speaking, 'probably the siltorians, they always keep something to themselves. No matter, the jinx is up, and the sooner we settle this, the sooner we get home', "Hail them, it's probably an ally doing a shakedown run on a new ship. As a precaution, put the flotilla on Orange Alert." Every ship in the flotilla begins the turn towards the new contacts, their shields charging and weapons loading. Just in case. A burst of radio waves emit from EWS Apex to the Unknowns, "This is Captain Vichubris of the Lumian Empire War Ship Apex. State your alleigence and intentions, or you will be fired upon!"
If he gave that message to a civilian ship, he might've been court-martialed, but this was obviously an experimental warship that was rather too close to the lumian border. Empire comes first, and anyone who complains about their people dying could go talk to the diplomats.
Silence greeted the flotilla, the Unknowns staying still in space. No reply signal, no emissions implying a charging drive core or powering weapons, nothing. 'OK, let's try that again' "Unknown vessals, state your intentions or risk engagement!" Every race has known of and codified each other's languages for centuries, so every translator on their ships being faulty was no excuse. They should be able to detect the lumian flotilla, so some kind of response was to be expected. "Chief Durmaines, give them a warning shot, they should listen to that." "Aye, sir."
As the Apex's main gun charged, just about to accelerate a small tungsten pebble to 57.8% of lightspeed, every computer in the flotilla crashed. Monitors plunged into darkness, the hum of the drive core faded, and shields flickered out of existence. The counter-cyberwarfare suite activated backups, and connections between the flotilla rematerialized.
"Cyber-attack! Why weren't the firewalls up?!" Vichubris groaned at the lapse in judgment of the unfortunate officer who'll have a good telling off when this was over. "They were up, sir! They broke through them in seconds!", cried Cyberwarfare Officer Siptus, a hint of panic in his voice. The rest of the bridge crew didn't understand the Electronic Warfare Package installed in Apex quite like he did, but they shared his fear. The EWP was the jewel of the Apex's most recent retrofits, one particularly hush-hush project from the Fleet's labs. A trained Cyberwarfare Officer, with a standard EWP on the opposite number of Apex, could bust through the first level of defenses in maybe 30 minutes. For the entire system to be so thoroughly dismantled in such a short space of time implied a mastery of cyberintelligence magnitudes beyond anything in the lumian arsenal. 'What else does this damned convoy have in store?'
What Divanius had to say next brought both relief and dread to the bridge. "Sir! All ships have went to FTL! They seemed to have done a 180 before jumping, so they likely retreated! Putting their likely destination on-screen! It was less a screen, and more a 3-D hologram projector, positioned in the center of the room. 2-D screens to project 3-D starmaps had long gone obsolete. A medium main sequence star, 58 lightyears away, was highlighted. From what they knew, this was the base of the Unknowns.
The attack on the flotilla was seemingly being dealt with, no physical damage was done, and no crew died, though the datalogs were filled to capacity with "junk" bits. Captain Vichubris made a decision.
"Call Fleet Command! Tell them we made contact with the target, it's a small convoy of highly experimental starships, most likely on a shakedown cruise. We've had a serious cyber attack, but are completely operational, and are pursuing to their likely base...transmit the likely home star's coordinates in case we don't make it back."
Vichubris stared through the cockpit window, and the insensible, unphysical glow of Overspace stared back. Apex and it's flotilla was likely just 5 minutes away from exiting Overspace and landing in the Unknown base of operations, face-first. Helmsmen Filtim shot a cocky grin at the Captain.
"Don't worry, sir, I'll be here flying the ship while you can run to the escape pod." If this was the age of wooden ships traveling through water by power of wind, the Captain could throw him overboard. Today, he could only give him laundry duty. But Vichubris and Filtim went back a long way, and learned how to deal with each other.
"I appreciate that, Filtim, I'd hate to see my ship break apart, but knowing the smartest-lipped helmsman I ever served with was onboard would cheer me up." Vichubris turned and marched back to his chair. The bridge was a hive of activity, crew checking everything under their respective commands, ensuring everything was in peak condition. Some taking a sip of water, others a shot of stims, a few reciting a quiet prayer to themselves, wishing the souls bless them with either a good hunt or a noble end.
In the last 30 seconds before reentry, Vichubris considered how this might affect the big picture. What if they did find the super-secret tech lab of another race, could they even hope to last against a base that would be so well-defended? Would they go to war over it being threatened? What if these were pirates, in which case the whole Empire is vulnerable from whatever criminals funded the building of those ships? Would any of his crew ever see home again?
>> No. 6302 ID: 451480
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"Leaving FTL in 3...2...1..."
What Vichubris saw blew all other questions out of his mind. The map lit up with the signatures of hundreds of thousands of ships, several times more than all the fleets of the Lumian Empire put together. Two hundred or so were 20 kilometers long, either huge dreadnaughts, with more guns than that of several small colonies, or an alien design, a hull similar to the dreadnaughts, but with what looks like a hanger space big enough to dwarf Apex, holding thousands of fighters a pop. Any one could glass a city in a minute. The bulk of the "frigate and above" signatures were the cruisers, or at least, those that were arranged like cruisers, since each one was at least twice the length of Apex. The remainder were "frigates", either providing screening for the bigger ships, or in their own "wolf packs".
Just as soon as he collected himself enough to wonder how anyone could build such a huge fleet, Vichubris was at least partially answered-a huge ring of space stations, most hundreds, some thousands of kilometers long, were arranged in rings around the star, one near the sun, with huge solar collecters and mighty microwave transmitters beaming power across the system, the other between the outermost rocky planet and the innermost gas giant, with shipyards filled with yet more crafts, asteroids within different stages of being tugged to base, mined and refined.
Once again, the flotilla suffered a cyberattack, this one far more effective than the last. All control of the ships were lost, the drive cores coming to a stop and the shields dropping. The flotilla was now totally at the mercy of this new force.
Unbeknownst to the lumians, a trillion minds entered the largest, hottest debate in their history: a debate on what to do with these intruders. Some spoke with confidence, some with fear, others with compassion, and more than a few with blind fury. When the ships datalogs were scanned and absorbed, relief flowed through an entire society.
'These are members of the Young, like us. They do not mean us harm, nor do they have the capacity to do so.'
'Then let's kill them! And their entire race! We must prepare for the return of the Monsters, and their resources are better spent in our hands!'
'And if the Monsters are waiting for someone to ignite galactic war? To finish everyone off when they're at their weakest? What then?'
'To their laws, we are illegal! Nothing but mindless machines! Why bother wasting time with diplomacy if we are less than animals to them?!'
Even after an hour of system-wide feedback, billions of viewpoints collected, refined, assimilated and broken apart again for more data, all happening at the speed of light, a compromise solution was needed. More time was needed to make a decision.
Shields and weapons were still inactive, but the drive core was suddenly brought back online. Booming from the flotilla's PA system (that was hijacked too) was a simple message, in perfect lumian.
"We are Humanity, and this is Sol. LEAVE."
>> No. 6303 ID: ed8096
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Haven't read that one before, very nice. Dumping.
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>> No. 6325 ID: d444df
Blatantly stolen from Meatfcker on le reddits

Every newly contacted race is supposed to find a place in the Galactic Compact. Most of them end up dying.
Once the gate network opens up into some new inhabited system, an official contact team and it's normal gaggle of hanger-ons jump through. The token Compact gunboats lurk menacingly, translation packets and threat profile's are thrown together (my race warranted a brief "harmless, grounded" and a mere {two-gigabyte} morpheme map), and dozens of alien ships rush towards the newly contacted race, bringing with them the wonders of interstellar civilization.
One or two Rraey ships start trading for local delicacies in pursuit of their specie's goal to eat a piece of everything (and everyone) in the galaxy. A budding Schlael ship discretely checks the various planetary bodies for new nursery worlds. Merchants and primitive-art specialists sample from the planet's cultural achievements, while science vessels harvest whatever data they can find. There's even the odd pleasure yacht on or schooner, home to some rich and well-connected sophont out on a pleasure cruise. All are safe in the knowledge that the might of the Compact Navy will protect them.
Then {a month} passes and the Compact's initial 'protective period' ends. The Compact bureaucrats lament their failure to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, gather up their gunboats, and leave. All the various emissaries of civilization follow. Daan raiders arrive and ravage the system {a few days later}.
One ship always stays, though. A Nedji ship, its crew chosen from the best of the Remnant Flock, stands one last watch over the newly contacted race. When the Daan come, they fight back.
I'd been chosen for the honour of a crew position on board the RFS Unforgotten only a few {months} before the Sol gate came online. If my extensive study of linguistics and xenopsychology had given me an edge, a lengthy {year-long} posting aboard a Grx commerce freighter had all but guaranteed me the slot. Nobody else in the fleet was as well-suited to give our warning to a new race.
The Sol connection happened {years} earlier than anyone in Compact space had expected, catching the Remnant Flock unprepared for the first time in a century. The Unforgotten was still unfinished, equipped with only a handful of undersized graser projectors and no deployable defences. The crew hadn't even begun to work up to full combat efficiency. We didn't have a choice, though. We set off for Sol.
Our first sign of anything unusual came when we begged a contact package off of a sympathetic Walli merchant captain. (Not for us lowly client races is the full glory of the Compact navy. We make do with the scraps.) Instead of the brief, unimaginative descriptor the bored GCN paper pushers normally revelled in, Sol had warranted two full paragraphs:
contacted species appears capable of primitive manned spaceflight; acceleration of manned vessels limited to the durability of their bodies, but evidence of crude projectile weapons that can exceed these specifications have been observed
CAUTION: contacted species have spread across two planets. planetary body III appears to be the homeworld of contacted species: standard {carbon-based oxygen-nitrogen} atmosphere; beware of strong tidal forces, unpredictable geological activity, and dangerous weather patterns. planetary body IV appears to be a colony of the contacted species; beware of dangerous weather and minimal atmosphere.
On their own, all of those snippets weren't surprising. Sol wasn't the first system where live had evolved on violent and dangerous planets, and this newly contacted race was far from the first to reach primitive spaceflight by contact. But having a species to survive long enough on a broken planet to reach the stars was almost unheard of.
The translation protocols were unusual, too. Instead of the usual three or four dialects, it detailed more than fifty distinct languages. I'd only ever seen as many in studies of scattered tribal species, races of individuals doomed to die on the same rock they were born. It didn't seem possible that a spacegoing race could manage with as many divisions as they had.
When I brought my concerns to the Flocklord, though, he only fluttered his wings in amusement. "The Compact team may just be trying to make this farce sound important. It wouldn't be the first time one of those bastards forged information."
"I don't think they faked this, sir," I replied. "Anyone smart enough to produce this much detail and consistency would never buy it. I'm almost certain its real."
The Flocklord folded his wings down in concern. "Does this affect our calling?"
"No, sir. Despite evidence of a fragmented and diverse culture, they've formed some sort of unified front towards us and the Compact ships. Most of the flotilla's calling it the Human Alliance."
"Seems to be what they call themselves as a group, sir, although they've got a whole host of other names. No idea why they'd need a dozen different ways to label a flockmate, but they've got them."
"It won't matter for much longer. Find their leaders and make contact with them."
I blinked in surprise. I hadn't expected to do anything more than advise on this than advise on language.
"It looks like their leaders are nested in the large, rotating space station just outside the limits of the gate. Most of the flotilla's concentrating their efforts there."
"You'd better join them. Establish a connection and get started with the warning process while I get the rest of our crew into fighting shape."
{Two hours} later I was awkwardly perched across from a human, fighting the urge to bolt.
Humans are unmistakably predators — even the way the man across from me sized me up made my feathers itch. On a Nedji ship I would have scurried up the walls to safety, but on this cramped vessel the {six-foot} monstrosity could easily reach me wherever I fled.
While Nedji are definitely striking, there isn't a race in Compact space that finds us imposing. We measure {four feet} from our rear climbing-arms to our head, though our wings span a good {six feet} when unfurled, and make do with our thick coat of downy feathers and a bandolier in lieu of clothing. Our wings boast enough colour to make up for it, though, and four deep scarlet orbs add a dash of majesty to our beaked face. We're a species born to ride the thermals of our homeworld and nest amongst its tall trees. We fended off the predators of our past through sheer numbers and tools, and we fled to the skies when we could not.
>> No. 6326 ID: d444df
We never walked into an enclosed space with a predator, sat down across from it, and "shook hands." Millions of years of evolution cried out in horror when I realized that the voice in my ear, delivered courtesy of my small translation unit, wanted me to let the human pin one of my grasping-arms and wrench it up and down..
I had to tamp down a strong urge to urinate and flee when I felt the carefully restrained strength of the muscles in his grasping-hand. Another surge of panic arose when he bared a rather nasty set of teeth in my direction. Only the soft, insistent voice in my ear averted a disastrous first Human-Nedji contact.
That being said, it still took me a good {thirty seconds} to realize he was waiting for a response. I blinked apologetically.
"Sorry, but I'm afraid that I… ah… missed that last bit."
I felt a jolt of surprise as the human bared his teeth and let out a warbling sound vaguely reminiscent of our own joysong. The voice in my ear called it laughter.
"That's a first. Most everyone I've entertained today hasn't cared a whit about what I said. I'm John Gaulle, junior ambassador of the United Humanity Alliance, and would like to formally request the reason for your meeting."
"In a little less than one of your months, almost everyone who came through that gate today is going to leave. Then the Daan were going to come. Then you'll die."
Much to my surprise, this drew another laugh. "So you're saying that all the good aliens are going to leave, and then the bad aliens are going to come and kill us all?"
"They did to the Nedji."
The human quieted. "The Nedji?"
"My people. The Flock. When the gate connection formed, we were excited. We'd long dreamt of the stars--what flying species doesn't?--but we never expected to have someone someone give us the key for free.
In a way, they didn't. Some Compact bureaucrat deemed us a dead-end, more useful as a commodity than a people, and the Compact stepped aside to let their Daan privateers visit our system.
They slaughtered us. Warships filled our skies and rained fire down on our cities and forests. The luckiest among us were captured and taken as slaves. Others were rounded up and butchered, sold as an exotic delicacy to species like the Rraey or simply killed for sport."
"Wait, the Rraey?" interrupted the human. "Those Ewoks that were trading for nothing but food?"
"That sounds like the Rraey. They've got some sort of religious fascination with eating sentients. One of the nastier races out there -- they do a lot of trade with the Daan occupying our homeworld."
"Ugh. So how'd you guys end up here?"
The question came out of nowhere. "Sorry?"
"If your race became a bunch of livestock, how'd you manage to bring a ship alongside the galaxy's finest?"
"Oh. The remnant of the Great Flock that managed to survive the Daan occupation stole one of their ships. They didn't see us as a threat -- most of us were either penned up in breeding camps or gracing buffet tables galaxy-wide by then. We weren't advanced enough to overpower the guards on one ship, much less three, but we managed it. We call it The Escape."
The translation the small box squawked out left me feeling a tad cheated. In our tongue, The Escape's a beautiful, harsh, and hopeful string of musical notes that are hard to sing without feeling a little bit awed. In the human tongue, it's three syllables.
"So all three got out?"
"No, just one. Two sacrifice themselves to save the last surviving Flocklord's vessel. We built up from there."
"Still doesn't explain why you're here."
"Where else would we be? Before, we were artists and poets and sculptors and singers. We never learned to hate until the Daan came, but we learned that lesson well. It's the highest of honours to be chosen to resist them. The Nedji have stood alongside a hundred races through their final days."
"So you send ships to die" The human's surprisingly mobile face contorted into a frown.
"You expect us to stop the Daan? The Compact sees to it that they get powerful ships and fearsome weapons; they like their status quo too much to let any but the most select of races reach membership. Those Compact bureaucrats negotiating with your senior ambassadors are stalling. The deadline they've given you for admittance is going to pass, everyone but us is going to leave, and then the Daan are going to come a-raiding. They've done it before. They'll do it again."
"We might be able to change that last bit," the human said as his face split into a savage grin. "We've been preparing."
I was ushered into some sort of holding area. The table of foodstuffs set up in the corner immediately caught my eyes and, after a surreptitiously scan with my datapad (there's roughly even odds that two species can eat the same food), I reached out and snagged a small, soft bundle I couldn't identify. It's smell reminded me of a local grass we'd managed to salvage from Nediji, but it's hard shell and spongy innards didn't quite fit with my image of the small tufts of seeds.
I'd pecked off about half of it, my eyes closed in pleasure as the rich, vaguely tart flavour swept through me, when someone spoke.
"Like the sourdough?"
My self-control finally broke. Before the speaker had finished I'd scurried up into the corner of the roof, my climbing-arms latched onto the grille of a small air duct. The human, only halfway into the room, looked at me in surprise.
"Whoa. Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you, just wanted to see if you like the cooking. Wasn't sure if we'd get it right -- only had a couple of hours to put it all together, y'know."
My translator was speaking into my ear again -- it identified the pale-skinned human as female, and (belatedly) drew my attention to the humour in the newcomer's voice. I gingerly descended back to the floor, fully intending to smooth things over. My curiosity got the better of me, though.
>> No. 6327 ID: d444df
"Yeah, bread. Like the roll you were eating. You seemed to be enjoying it."
"It's… good. Although I've been raised on mealworm and grass seeds, so that's not too surprising. Never had a chance to try a planet's cooking before."
"Enjoy it while you can, then. I'm Faith O'Neal, by the way. Senior United Earth Alliance ambassador. Figured this would make a better meeting room than one of the cells we had you in before."
I cast my eyes up to the tall ceiling. "It is a bit more roomy."
She smiled, and for once I didn't get the urge to dash for a high branch. Maybe there was something in the bread.
"So," she said after a moment. "What's your name."
I'd been ready for this question since we stepped on board, and it almost surprised me that it hadn't been brought up.
"Nedji don't really have names," I said. "I'm known by description, or by scent, or song, but rarely by name. If you have to call me anything, mottled-crest-broken-tailfeather will do, but it's not necessary. We hadn't even named our homeworld, Nediji, when the Daan came."
"Really? Why Nedji and Nediji?"
"They're the first parts of the dirge the Flocklord sang as we fled. Loosely translated to English, they mean Those Who Shall Remember and The Place of Those who Shall Remember."
"Ah. Makes sense." She went still for another moment, and then she spoke again, this time quieter. "We believe you."
"Just like that? Most other races take a little bit more convincing. You've only had the data we provided for a few of your hours, and I doubt you started analyzing it right away."
"I've been in talks with these so-called Compact specialists since the moment that gate spun up. Humans spend enough time arguing to know when somebody's stalling, and these guys are textbook examples."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
I probably shouldn't have been as blunt as I was, but Nedji aren't politicians. Besides, she didn't seem to take offence.
"Like John said, we've been preparing." She pulled a small screen out of a pocket and tapped a control. I took the opportunity to scurry over to the buffet table and snag another piece of bread.
By the time I was back over to my seat, a the centre of the room had become a holotank. A small three-dimensional image of the gate was projected in the centre of the room, along with scaled image of the station.
There were also a lot of ships that I couldn't remember seeing from the deck of the Unforgotten. On screen, they looked dangerous, even if the human's tech level made them easy to dismiss.
"We picked up the gate about half a century ago. Some lucky bastard had his telescope aimed at a star when it passed in front of it. He drew a straight line from where it was to one of Venus's Lagrange points, set up his telescope there, and caught it passing in front of another star. It was moving at a decent fraction of the speed of light, and it was slowing down. An asteroid wouldn't be able to do that.
We've dreamed of first contact for a while, but having it right on our doorstep still came as a bit of a shock. It took about a decade of war to settle down."
"War with who?" I interrupted. Who'd these humans fight if all the aliens were on the other side of the gate?
"Ourselves," she said dismissively. I filed that away as a disturbing yet interesting revelation as she continued.
"We almost destroyed ourselves trying to come to an agreement about what to do with this. My side won out eventually. What had once been called the United Nations became the United Human Alliance, and we started building.
In case the object was peaceful, we made this ship. Spared no expense, really, and tried to make it accommodating to as many forms of life as we could think of. Almost managed a home run, too," she added with a smile. "Didn't have quite the right setup for those plants."
I broke in when my translator finished explaining their concept of a plant. "The Schlael? They wouldn't come on board even if you could accommodate them. They do everything through those tame bugs of theirs -- I'm not even sure if they can talk."
"Weird. I'll pass that on to our xenos, they'll have a field day. Anyways, we built up this spaceship in case the contact was peaceful. We also put together an alternative if not.
There's two lines of defence. First up are these really fucking big solar-powered laser arrays. There's about a dozen of them that we use for asteroid mining, but we always kinda planned on melting ships with it. Judging by what our techs are saying about your ship alloys, we should be able to burn through them in short order."
"Most of the ships will have screens to deal with that," I said. "Something to do with cancelling a good part of the wave while its within the field of effect. If its powerful enough it'll break through, but it'll take time and juice."
"Figures. What're these 'grasers' the geeks have been babbling, then?"
"Something like focused gravity waves, although that's all I know." I fluttered my wings apologetically as I spoke. "I'm not very technical. My specialties are xenobiology and linguistics."
"They're short range, though, right? Our best guesses puts their envelope at around ten thousand kilometres."
There was another lag while my translator figured out what a kilometre was. "Yeah, that sounds about right."
"Perfect. One more quick question: what do you ships use for point defence?"
I was puzzled again. "Point defence?"
"Y'know, for stopping missiles and ballistic weapons."
"We've got some guns for breaking apart small rocks and meteors, if that's what you mean, but they're not used much. Why'd we worry about that? And what do you mean by 'missile'"
I'd seen the word on the original Compact briefing for the Sol system, but I hadn't bothered to figure out what it meant. My translator was proving rather unhelpful now, too.
The human didn't seem to notice. Her face split into a feral grin as she stabbed at a button on her small screen, and her next words sent chills through me spine.
"Perfect," she said again. Her eyes were fixed on the holotank as the ordered scene devolved into chaos.
A flotilla of Daan ships, larger than anything I expected to see in Sol, burst through the scale-model gate. The cruisers were eerily accurate; whatever these humans were, they were damn good at putting together information.
The lasers Faith had boasted of tried to cut into the ships, but the screens I'd described a moment before made them almost useless. The Daan ships bore down on the human fleet unopposed.
Unopposed, that is, until tens of thousands of small projectiles exploded out from the space around the gathered human ships. I could only stare mutely as the missiles chased down the Daan raiders, slamming into their sides and igniting like so many small, vicious stars. Within moments the only ships left on the holotank belonged to the humans; the simulated Daan raiders were little more than slag.
"They'll never see it coming," said Faith, still smiling. "We'll get the bastards."
>> No. 6328 ID: d444df
Author's note: If your read the previous entry, be warned that I've made two slight tweaks. The ship humanity parked outside the gate is now properly described as a space station, and our narrator has a name: mottled-crest-broken-tailfeather, or Mottled.

If the Galactic Compact had known the extent of the human's preparation for the gate, they never would have come through. They might even have slagged it, risking the wrath of whatever elder race spun up the network countless {millennia} ago in order to cut humans off from their peaceful status quo. But instead they came unaware, and their honeyed words and false friendship only made the humans angry.
As my small delegation of Nedji toured the vast human shipyards, hidden from the gate by the bulk of their star, I was starting to realize that I never wanted to make the humans angry. They hadn't known what would come through the gate, or whether or not something as simple as putting a star between themselves and the gate would fool the oncoming aliens, but they'd hidden away their critical industry anyways. That level of paranoia and determination beggared belief.
I'm pretty sure that the humans were just as shocked as we were when they found out that their industries had escaped notice. It only served to add yet another advantage to the human's impressive industrial capacity.
Manufacturing in the Compact works a little different than in human shipyards. The collective knowledge of the galaxy is remarkably complete, with only a few frustratingly difficult problems left in the farthest reaches of physics. Our industrial processes reflect that: Compact shipwrights chase after perfection on the atomic and sub-atomic level, crafting vessels that function for {millennia} with only minimal repairs. The results are majestic, beautiful, and exceptionally durable, but do have one flaw.
Ships take forever to build.
It's one of the reasons why the Nedji Remnant Flock is made up of only about a dozen permanent vessels, all of them designs that have long since gone out of style. Not obsolete, mind you. It's hard for something to go obsolete when the last major scientific breakthrough happened before your race developed language. Designs just go out of fashion every {century} or so, ensuring a steady supply of business to the Compact-controlled shipyards.
Humans had approached their shipbuilding differently. When I heard they'd hidden a shipyard on the far side of the solar system, I thought they'd be able to turn out one ship every {few years}. Maybe they'd put out two or three {a year} if it was large enough, but it didn't seem terribly likely. Only the most impressive Compact military shipyards managed that kind of production.
You can hardly blame me my disbelief at Faith O'Neal's claim that the UHSS Hephaestus could commission hundreds of warships each year.
"Unless you're churning out garbage scows, that's impossible," I stated flatly. "You'd build more ships in {a decade} then the entire Compact military could manage in {a century}."
"They're not ships like yours," she admitted, "and they're not all the size of the Unforgotten, but they're damn fine regardless. And the shipyard's big enough to handle it."
Her words turned out to be something of an understatement. Their shipyard was the size of a small moon, a labyrinth of vacuum-exposed drydocks and living quarters. Compared to the serene, needle-like stardocks the Compact favoured, massive structures that built single ships in pressurized microgravity, the human shipyards seemed wild, chaotic, and dreadfully exposed. I could see thousands of humans working on dozens of unfinished hulls, protected from the dreadful void only by thin vac suits. Some were even floating loose, guiding their flight with small bursts of what looked like ejected matter. None of them seemed to mind drifting through the void untethered.
These humans are insane, I thought. Wonderfully, beautifully, insane.
The shuttle docked and Faith led my small delegation through to one of the habitat modules. It rotated like the massive vessel they had parked just outside of the gate, providing a weak yet comfortable sense of gravity. Its hallways were still too cramped for my liking, but at least I could feel my own weight.
A human Rear Admiral, Richard Calloway, was waiting for us in a conference room along with a handful of his aides. One of them, a Nedji tactician we'd sent over about {a week} ago, hurried over to me for a brief report. The rest of my delegation began to make their introductions.
"They didn't lie about a thing," she said. "More than five hundred ships ready for war, most of them being loaded with their missiles, and all of their missiles updated with the new control model we worked out. It was a little scary when their techs realized how much smarter they could make their weapons."
"And their stealth capabilities?" I asked, bringing up the other claim that some Nedji engineers had flat-out refused to believe.
"Superb, although not for the reasons you'd expect. They'd never even heard of grav-fields or matter annihilation before contact, so all of their ships use undetectable nuclear reactors. No annie plants churning up their local space-time, and no grav wedges throwing out ripples as they accelerate. Only way to see their ships is on the near-hazard sensors."
"But every ship's got those sensors, right?" I replied, one engineers fervent disbelief still fresh in my mind. "Otherwise we'd never be able to avoid debris and rocks when near a gravity wells."
"Their ship's have that too. They call it radar, and it's their only sensor system. The bastards found a way around it: military ships soak up radar pulses like they're nothing, and what they can't absorb they reflect back away, from the detectors. Add in the matte black paint-job they slap onto every ship and they start to get pretty hard to spot."
"We can't see them?"
"No, their thrust would show up pretty clearly on a good heat scan, but we've only got those on science vessels. Even if there are a couple warships in Compact space with the right gear to spot them, none of them are crewed by Daan."
The attache paused for a moment, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"Have I missed anything on the Unforgotten, sir? It's hard to keep out with the new out here: they keep EM transmissions down to a minimum, and I haven't wanted to take time on their tightbeam relays, so..."
My four eyes blinked in surprise. Her last week here must have been torture, cut off from the flock. "You have no idea what's happening across the system?"
"None, sir. Anything out of the ordinaryy?"
A quick glance around the room was enough for me to realize that I wasn't needed. Human and Nedji military minds were embroiled in a discussion of ship placement and tactics that was far over my head, leaving me free for gossip.
Nedji love gossip.
>> No. 6329 ID: d444df
"The humans have been dancing circles around the Compact bureaucracy. Once they saw the process for the farce it was, their lawyers started turning up dozens of Compact legal precedents and shoving them into the bureaucrat's faces. Turned back the Schlael seedship under some centuries-old non-aggression technicality, then got the Compact gunboats to keep all unauthorized alien ships within {a hundred thousand kilometres} of the gate thanks to some obscure first-contact law. Even convinced the Rraey to give over some of their better trade goods in return for a couple boxes of wafers and spoiled grape juice. I don't think a contact expedition's ever been so angry."
"Wish I could've been there. Has our Flocklord reported any of this back home?"
"Nah, we only shipped out with one comm buoy, and we're saving that for our final hours. We're not going to send it {a week} before the Daan come."
She began to nod knowingly, then stopped abruptly. "Wait, {a week}? We're barely halfway through the contact period. Why a week?"
She must have been more cut off than I though -- I'd thought everyone knew how the negotiations had ended. "You really haven't heard? The humans got tired of the whole charade. They kicked the Compact out."
In our many {centuries} of hopeless resistance to the Daan, the Nedji had never come across a race willing to slam the door in the face of the Compact. Humanity was the first.
The official delegation and their gunboats sulked off first, not even bothering to broadcast a warning to the gaggle of merchant ships and explorers that had accompanied them out to the far edge of the galaxy. The other merchant ships chased after them in a disorganized horde as, one by one, they realized that they might be trapped in the system when the Daan arrived. In the span of a few {hours}, the space outside of the gate was deserted save for the UHSS Apollo.
{Half a day} later, it was once again full of ships. Human ships, though. Human ships armed for war.
While the humans had been determined to make a peaceful first contact with whatever came through the gate, they'd long since learned to fear the unknown. So while the noncombatant crew of the Apollo space station prepared to either greet new friends or die at the hands of fresh enemies, their military hid themselves throughout the system and readied themselves for war.
Swarms of small craft hid in the gravity well of Jupiter and Venus, clamping down on their electromagnetic emissions with a discipline that would surprise anyone unfamiliar with the uniquely human notion of submarine warfare. Hundreds more descended to the surface of Earth and Mars, while yet another fleet stood watch over the UHSS Hephaestus. They couldn't hide all of them; a handful of their older warships still glided through the system, standing watch over their asteroid mines and civilian shipping (piracy is one of the many things humans are frighteningly good at), but the tucked enough ships away to fool the automated Compact probes. With the Compact ships gone from the system, the fleets of humanity revealed themselves.
More than a dozen squadrons of Exorcist-class missile cruisers lay in wait, each with twenty-four ships ready to hurl death at anything hostile that might come through the gate. I was still a little awed at the sheer volume of fire each of them could fire: rather than simply sling rocks out of a tube, as I'd expected the humans to do, each ship could spit out two missile pods every six seconds, and each missile pod held seven missiles. Every cruiser held over three hundred pods, enabling them to maintain their maximum rate of fire for fifteen minutes of combat.
As if that wasn't enough, the humans had towed out a couple hundred larger pods, each loaded with ten missiles apiece. I couldn't even imagine how long a Compact shipyard would take to craft the tens of thousands of missiles needed to defend the gate, but our human allies assured us they weren't even close to running out.
Hidden closer to the gate was a small squadron of boarding vessels, manned by entire platoons of humans insane enough to try and capture an enemy ship intact. A few Nedji had even agreed to join them as guides and fellow boarders. The rest of our crew thought they were insane, privately hoping that they would be lucky enough to sit out the fight.
>> No. 6330 ID: d444df
Twenty dreadnoughts, their kilometre-long bulk dwarfing that of their cruiser screens, drifted a short ways back from the ambush forces. These ships couldn't hide, having been built to serve as the focus of the human's powerful solar array, and tried to make up for it with incredibly heavy armour. Compact military technology had made them obsolete: the energy-cancelling screens around the Daan cruisers would render their main weapons useless, and a graser shot would tear through their armour like so much scrap metal. They'd serve to lure the Daan cruisers into the heart of the human ambush, though, and were crewed by volunteers in case the missiles barrage failed to take down the raiders before they reached the vulnerable capital ships.
The Unforgotten, though barely a tenth their size, made up part of the dreadnought formation. We were part of the bait, and I, as the de-facto second in command of the expedition, stood garbed for battle on the bridge alongside Faith, the sole representative of humankind on board the ship.
Our Flocklord was currently confronting the Faith about the horde of what the humans called 'irregulars' bringing up the rear. They were made up of everything from pleasure yachts to science vessels, and most of them were unarmed. When our Flocklord had been informed, he'd stormed over to the human liasaon and demanded to know why the human government had forced its civilians to fight.
She'd laughed. "Forced? We couldn't have forced them if we tried -- every warship in the fleet's either here or hidden in reserve around Hephaestus, Earth, and Mars."
I'd never seen a Flocklord turn from anger to puzzlement so quickly. "What do they expect to do? If the Daan make it through to them, they'll be slaughtered. The Unforgotten alone could tear that mob apart."
"Most of them won't end up fighting. They'll resupply military vessels, search for survivors, or offload wounded sailors. And if the Daan do crush our fleet, then at least they'll go down fighting."
It looked like the Flocklord wanted to argue the point, but any further objections were cut short by a curt update from the tac officer.
"The gate's powering. Something big's coming through."
The normal background chatter of the bridge fell silent as every eye turned towards the screen. For a brief moment, even the most restless of us was still. Everyone watched the gate.
When the tac officer next spoke, his normal calm certainty was gone, replaced with disbelief and fear. I couldn't blame him.
"Gate transmission complete, sir. Looks like ten, no, twenty, no, forty heavy cruisers, sir, escorting an as-yet unconfirmed vessel. Preliminary scans have it tagged as one of the Compact's gatecrashers, likely the GCS Ram."
He paused and looked over at the Flocklord. "Sir, they'd never just give a ship like that over to the Daan. It's worth a hundred heavy cruisers, sir. They'd never hand one over to the Daan."
The Flocklord didn't have a response. He was just as surprised as the rest of us.
In the corner of the Unforgotten's bridge, our singer began our battle dirge. Its mournful notes echoed through the ship and and out over our communications system, to be preserved by a small comm buoy discretely parked near the gate. It would be sung by the Nedji until the last of us was silenced, and we would be remembered.
The human ships listened, too. Even as they readied themselves to fight, a thousand ships heard our lament.
Faith, one of the few humans on the bridge, leaned over and whispered into my ear. "How bad is it? What do the extra ships mean?"
"It means," I said, pausing to drink in the moment, "that we're all going to die anyways."
The dirge swelled as the two-kilometre long Ram glided into the midst of the human ambush like some ancient primordial shark, its escorts flitting about it like minnows. None of them thought to look for the hundreds of human ships stationed around them.
Somewhere on the bridge, Faith and the Flocklord were responding to the Daan captain's demands for surrender. I ignored it in favour of the singer's soft, melancholy notes.
It wasn't enough, I thought. Everything the humans have, everything they've done, wasn't enough. We can't stop that monster.
I was still lost in my despair when the Ram crossed into the human's killbox. As our singer paused to await the battle's start, the only sounds on the bridge were Faith's angry yells as she rejected the Daan's twisted offer of mercy.
Then the humans fired, and the singer sang of war.
>> No. 6331 ID: d444df
A single human missile is a terrifying weapon. Tipped with a fusion warheads, their massive drive gives them more than twenty thousand kilometres of powered flight. Radar-scattering armour . Powerful computers tucked into its core guide its flight, prioritizing targets and attack patterns with ruthless efficiency. And advanced sensors, blending centuries of human ingenuity and the pinnacle of galactic technology, always knows where its victim is. A human missile never loses your scent.
Few captains have had to worry about just one missile, though. In battle, humans launch salvos of thousands.
Each Exorcist-class cruiser can lay down two missile pods every six seconds, and each pod holds seven missiles. Over the course of a minute, a squadron of twenty-four cruisers can thus ready a salvo of thirty-three hundred and sixty missiles.
The humans brought fifteen full-strength Exorcist squadrons to the First Battle of Sol. Then they'd towed another five thousand system defence pods into place, each of which could spit out eleven missiles.When they fired, a hundred thousand missiles streaked towards the forty Daan heavy cruisers and the GCS Ram.
Just shy of a thousand missiles targetted each heavy cruiser, closing the seventeen-thousand kilometre gap in twenty seconds. Most of them never fired a shot, their sensors and crew overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the human's attack. Others loosed graser burst after graser burst into the missile clouds, or tried to dash back to the safety of the gate. None of it was enough. The missiles found their targets, and energy screens designed to slow lasers and gravity fields did nothing to dampen the warhead's fury.
The remaining sixty thousand missiles attacked the Ram, saturating the superdreadnought's point defences and slamming through towards the hull. Though its hundreds of graser batteries scored missile kills by the dozens, it hardly mattered. Fifty thousand missiles got through.
Only one Daan cruiser survived the first salvo, saved by some tacticians thirst for prisoners when the humans were still unaware of the Ram. The missiles left it untouched even as the other thirty-nine raiders broke apart under the strain of hundreds of nuclear detonations.
The Ram wasn't so easily killed. Its hull was blackened, its sensors momentarily blinded, and dozens of its graser batteries melted shut, but it hardly mattered. It suffered cosmetic damage, warranting minor repairs at best. The humans hadn't stopped it.
The Ram kept coming.
On the bridge of the RFS Unforgotten, the Nedji's battlesong had risent to a fervered crescendo . The bridge crew was alert and ready, the usual background chatter replaced by a grim focus. In the span of {five minutes}, our newfound human allies had destroyed more Daan than we had managed to do in our {two millenia} adrift in the stars. It was a little intimidating.
The Ram was still coming, though. We were still dead.
Faith O'Neal, finished yelling at the Daan commander, made her way back to Mottled-crest-broken-tailfeather's observation post. "That bastard's tough."
"Of course it is," the Nedji replied. "It's a superdreadnought that can waltz through a nova. The Compact built three of them a few {centuries} ago. Haven't had to replace them since."
We watched helplessly as the Ram fired its main gun, a titanic graser with an astounding range, and tore through one of the smaller human dreadnoughts. The UHS Constantinople bled escape pods as its crew abandoned the doomed ship.
Our status display flashed 'weapons free' as the human admiralty scrambled to respond. The orders didn't really affect Mottled, a linguist by training, but it was still nice to be included.
A steady stream of missiles began to pound into the Ram, the human cruiser squadrons staggering their fire into a concentrated stream of destruction. Some scattered randomly over the surface the superdreadnought's hull, forcing their grasers into defensive fire and masking the fragile Exorcists, but most of the missiles spiraled in as a concentrated beam of fire. As the barrage of fire walked back and forth across the Ram's hull, graser blisters began to fall silent.
It wasn't enough. The Ram's armour, forged to withstand the fury of a star held the missile's fury at bay. Its screens, able to strip a nova of its fury, left terrawat lasers wanting. Its lance struck out once more and the UHS Dauntless was lost with all hands. Our battlesong rose and fell, mourning the loss of the fallen even as it thirsted for more.
The Ram kept coming.
The battlesong sang out over the speakers of the UHS Harrington as it shook with five gravities of acceleration. Gold-crest-soaring-wings quivered beneath the force: even with the help of an oversized crash couch and a small, virtually undetectable inertial dampener, the Nedji warrior's bones still threatened to shatter and slice him apart. He'd volunteered for this hell a {week} ago, determined to prove his species worth to the fabulous new race, and had trained alongisde Third Squad ever since. Now he and the rest of the human boarding complement sped towards the Ram.
The Harrington and her sister ships cut their acceleration for the final approach, flipping their noses out away from the ship as they streaked towards the invader's massive bulk. As they covered the last few hundred kilometres, the missile salvos thickened and electronic warfare drones joined their more explosive brothers, tripling the number of targets the superdreadnought's already overworked sensors saw. The stealthy Payload-class Attack Shuttles, built with the same sharp lines and radar-absorbing armour of the larger Exorcist cruisers, were all but invisible in the maelstrom.
A lucky graser strike still killed claimed the ninety-three lives onboard the UHS Mayhew, though, tearing the ship apart before the pilot had even a chance to notice the threat.
The eleven remaining boarding vessels fired their thrusters as they slipped into the bomb-scoured shuttle bay, each turning a spectacular collision into a gentle landing. Only the powerful inertial dampeners Nedji engineers had installed on board the landing ships, activated now that they'd cleared the superdreadnought's field of defensive fire, kept their crews from dissolving into paste.
Their soft impacts were all but unnoticeable against the rhythmic pounding of the hundreds of warheads striking the Ram every few seconds. A handful of engineers filed out of the ship and started cutting through the superdreadnought's sealed access hatchways, visors dimmed to protect their eyes from the blinding light thrown off by their own fusion bombs.
They're insane, the Nedji thought. Every single one of these humans are insane.
On the Harrington, his squad was running through their last-minute combat checks with ruthless efficiency. The Nedji's preparations were simpler than the human's -- aside from two quick checks on his helmet's seal and his flechette launcher's ammo count, everything was automated. Somewhere in the bay, a human cranked the battlesong to keep it from being drowned out by the harsh clacks of eighty men readying weapons and armour.
The small huddle of officers and senior noncoms broke apart and headed back to their squads, Third Squad's section leader among them. The warrant officer didn't seem pleased with the news he'd gotten.
"Intel just bumped their initial force estimates up. They're predicting five or six platoons worth of Nyctra shock troopers in addition to the Daan regulars, so we're outnumbered again." He looked over at Gold. "Tweetie, how bad is it?"
The nickname had stuck despite the young Nedji's fervent protests, but he was starting to get used to it.
"Nyctra are worse than the Daan, Chief. The Compact trains 'em for front-line work -- something about them making other races uneasy -- so they're disciplined and competent. Their code of honour's rigid, though. Manage to take one prisoner in battle and he'll trail after you as meek as a pup."
>> No. 6332 ID: d444df
"Pretty much spot on with NavInt's primer. For the rest of you grunts, just shoot the scary wolves with guns. A shot to the head'll drop 'em if you can't get rounds into their centre mass. Daan won't go as easily, though, so keep putting rounds into them until you hit the braincase. No standard parts on those bastards, so walk your shots.
Primary objective's unchanged: seize the bridge and stop this monster. Barring that, bring their big gun out of commission and buy the fleet some more time.
Don't fuck this up, marines. Nothing else can stop this beast."
He broke off as the lieutenants voice rang out through the bay. "Hats on, people, the techs just finished with their hole. We've got a job to do."
On the Unforgotten's bridge, the battlesong morphed into a rhytmic chant, each bar straining against the furious tempo. Out in the void, the Ram continued fly through the teeth of the human ambush.
The small casualty counter in the corner of Faith's screen ticked past ten thousand as the superdreadnought's main gun tore apart a seventh human capital ship. The human ambassador leaned forward as she watched a fresh list of the injured and the dead scan across the display, her face drawn into a tight grimace.
"You don't have to keep watching, you know."
Faith turned towards to Mottled, her face grim. "I'm not looking away from this. When we finally track down whatever monster's responsible for this, I'm going to make them pay tenfold for every death and every injury. They're gonna scream."
The way her voice snarled out her last sentence almost sent me scurrying for safety. If this was one of the human's emissaries of peace, what were their warriors like?
A flurry of new movements on the main tactical display wrenched me back into the present. The fleeing Daan cruiser had reversed course and aimed itself at the human's far flank. It doubtless hope to pick off a few easy kills while the missile cruisers were distracted by the Ram. It was a foolish and suicidal move, but the Daan captain was probably too stupid to realize that. Instead he charged forward with reckless abandon.
Ninth Missile Squadron, the Daan cruiser's target, dealt with the threat by shifting their aim for a mere {twenty-four} seconds. Six hundred missiles soon wiped the last remaining Daan cruiser from the sky.
Their actions followed the human's naval doctrine to the letter. They'd recognized an imminent threat and destroyed it with overwhelming force, using their only long-range weapons system to do it. The entire series of events had been professional, by the book, and utterly, horribly, wrong.
{Five seconds} after Ninth Squadron redirected their fire away, a battery of graser blisters onboard the Ram suddenly found their sector freeo f incoming targets. Freed from their desperate point-defence, the automated systems cast their sensors outwards, tracing back along the paths of the unknown projectiles that had held their attention just microseconds ago, only to come up short up against a dead end 8,000km away from the superdreadnought. They could trace the missiles back to the pods, but the pods seemed to spring from nowhere.
That kept them puzzled for an entire {seven seconds}. On the eigth, their analyysis guessed at the presence of human missile cruisers in the region of space between each pair of pods. A tentative shot from one of the battery's seventeen remaining grasers confirmed the guess, and the rest of the blisters opened fire.
Ninth Squadron, Eleventh Squadron, and most of Tenth Squadron were wiped from existence before the human admiralty could rebalance their fields of fire. The damage had already been done, though. With almost a tenth of their cruiser strength gone and their ammo reserves dangerously low half, the human barrage was starting to falter.
The Ram kept coming.
The human boarding party had landed in an empty portion of the ship. Thousands of crew quarters, storeroms, and living spaces were deserted.
"Another empty room," moaned one of the marines as he cleared another cabin. "Why the hell would the Galactics send in an abandoned ship?"
"Plausible deniability, shitpump," Master Corporal Jenkins fired back. "Send a ship through the gate stuffed to the brim with the Compact's finest and someone's gonna talk. Send the same ship with a crew of Daan privateers, though, and you can act all innocent if anyone tries to point fingers. 'Our warship? But it couldn't be our warship! The crew's been on-planet for months.'"
"Sounds like the Compact," Tweetie added. "Their bureaucrats hate getting their hands dirty almost as much as they like keeping things nice and stable."
"Damn right they don't. It's why the hole lot of 'em is doomed."
Several groans broke out over the channel, and one Corporal Puck tried to cut him off. "Don't get Jenkins started, he'll never stop."
If the corporal heard any of the objections, he didn't let on. "Y'see, the whole thing really just boils down to sticks. Galactics have been fighting with sticks for millennia. They carve the best sticks, put together the best anti-stick armour, even teach the best classes on stick wars. Plus they make sure all the fights always come down to who's got the biggest stick. Keeps things nice and safe for the bureaucrats."
The squad moved into an empty cafeteria, Jenkins pausing his rant while they scanned the room with machine-like efficiency. Then they moved into another empty corridor and he started up again.
"Then we come along. The Compact storms through the gate, sticks a-swinging, and we just hide in the bushes and throw rocks. They start trample around, try to hunt down the handful of guys we do have holding sticks, and we sneak in close and bash 'em in the back of the head with a rock. And then we can pick up their stick and dress up in their armour. We're gonna do it here, we're gonna do it again, and before long we'll be holding all the sticks and all the rocks. Galactic fuckers don't stand a chance."
"We won't either if they sneak up on us while you're gabbing, corporal," growled the warrant officer. "Keep this channel clear unless you've got something useful to add."
"Sorry, chief, just filling Tweetie in on the new galactic order."
"That'll be the day. Just shut your trap and watch your sector."
Third Squad advanced the next hundred or so {metres} in silence, then rounded the corner and stepped into a Daan ambush. The squat, asymmetric aliens boiled out through air vents and storage lockers, all but invisible until it was too late.
The first volley of shots caught both the squad's sergeants, four privates, and the warrant officer. Their powered armour, built to stop bullets and deflect lasers, barely slowed the pulse rifle fire: every shot proved fatal.
The surviving marines dove into the safety of an abandoned restroom before their fallen friends had collapsed to the ground. Tweetie was close behind, his four eyes wide with terror. When a Daan tried to follow,the four humans shredded him with flechettes.
>> No. 6333 ID: d444df
Outside in the hall, the warrant officer's strained voice rang out over his armour speakers. "Got a present for you, uglies." He detonated every one of his grenades, filling the hallway with shrapnel and fire.
Jenkins chuckled softly. "Mommy always did say I was born to lead."
The shot that hit the RFS Unforgotten was, from the Ram's point of view, a happy accident. The frigate would have crumpled before a direct hit. Instead, the massive graser beam had barely grazed them, its true fury aimed at where the UHS Majestic sat just fifty kilometres aft.
Even a glancing hit was enough to shred the frigate's hull, though. The helmets and magnetic clamps on Faith and Mottled's combat suits deployed with frightening speed, saving them as the bridge's air rushed out through a jagged hole. Mottled felt a jolt of horror as the battlesong cut off, but it faded when he found that the comm channel was still active.
The radio channels remained silent. The Nedji looked around the bridge, puzzled. Where were the damage reports? Where were the sound offs? Why wasn't anyone doing anything?
He quickly found the reason. The Flocklords body floated in the middle of the command bubble, run through by dozens of splinters that had snapped off from the outer hull. Most of his staff and second-in-command had shared his fate: only a catatonic intelligence officer and the human military attache had survived, both of them were wounded.
Mottled keyed his radio to Faith's private frequency. "We've got a problem."
"Yeah, of course we do, the side of the ship just disintegrated."
"It's worse than that." When her eyes followed his outstretched grasping-arm to the centre of the bridge, she paled. "Everyone on this ship who knows how to run a ship just got shredded."
"Not everyone," she said grimly. Another icon popped into our circuit as she tapped at her wrist-screen. "Hey Karamazov. Still remember how to command a ship?"
"Yes ma'am." The Rear Admiral's answer sounded a little bit distracted, his attention focused on the {two-foot} shard of metal protruding from his leg. "Why, got one for me?"
"Yep. How 'bout the Unforgotten."
The channel went silent for a moment. "Can we even do that?"
"Their entire command staff just bought it, I don't think anyones going to raise much of a fit."
"Very well." His icon shifted over to the general channel. "This is Rear Admiral Karmazov. I'm assuming command of the Unforgotten: any objections?"
The channel was silent save for the singer's mourning. After waiting for what felt like the appropriate amount of time, Karmazov continued.
"Alright then. Damage reports, if you'd please."
Out in the void, the Ram kept coming.
Jenkins was barking out orders as the survivors of Third Squad charged towards the bridge.
"Alright guys, you know how this works. Wallace and Roberts, you're on suprression with me. Puck, put a round through anyone who pokes their heads up. Tweetie, go play deathball."
Three grunts and a squawk met his orders. By now we all knew what we were doing.
Tweetie was a little surprised at how well he fit into the squad. The first time they'd charged one of the Daan barricades, the Nedji warrrior had lagged behind, watching the marines land shot after shot with frightening accuracy. Even with the battlesong driving him forward, he hadn't been able to match the human's ferocity.
The third time they'd overrun a pocket of resistance, he'd kept pace with the rest. He'd led the charge by the fifth, using his smaller size and greater agility to bounce between the wall's of the dreadnought's narrow corridors, zipping forward faster than the terrified Daan could react. After clearing the ninth barricade and losing two more men, Third Squad found their strategy.
Now, just outside the command bridge, they readied themselves to use it again.
Tweetie was crouched, ready to charge forward one last time, when the shakes started again. Another shot of stims banished them away, but it wasn't a good sign. Without the rush of the drugs and the battlesong, the little avian would probably have collapsed hours ago.
As the humans opened with scavenged pulse rifles, Tweetie sprang forward, diving over their heads and latching his claws onto a ventilation grate. He quickly leapt off, his head brushing the ceiling as he zigged across the corridor, and scrabbled against the smooth plating with his claws for the briefest of seconds. Then he was off again, already more than halfway to the enemy fortifications. A hail of pulsar darts boiled the air mere inches below him.
They paused {a few seconds} later, giving him just enough time to dive behind the makeshift barricade a score of Nyctra soldiers had errected. He hit the ground softly, tossed a grenade directly behind the enemy troopers, and bolted around the corner.
When he poked his head back around the corner, his human friends were finishing off the remaining Nyctra. Their terrifying accuracy more than made up for their lack of agility.
"Tweetie, you are getting way to good at this," remarked Roberts. "We might just have to find a way to keep you."
Puck grabbed a fresh pulse rifle from the dead defenders and began to take up a position outside the door, but Jenkins stopped him short.
"No pulse rifles in there, it might fry something important. We're gonna have to go in with the old tech."
Tweetie glanced down at his empty grenade belt. "Do we have any flechettes left?"
Jenkins just laughed and tossed his pulse rifles to the floor. "A few, but it hardly matters. Has Roberts had a chance to tell you about that martial arts obsession of his?"
>> No. 6334 ID: d444df
The battlesong had lost its energy. Mottled wasn't sure when it had happened, but he knew why.
The human fleet lay in ruins. Only two human dreadnoughts remained, more than half of the Exorcist missile cruisers had been vaporized when their plunging ammo reserves forced them to slow their bombardment, and the Ram had almost cleared the ambush. The superdreadnought's hull was scarred, not broken -- mankined had hit it with enough warheads to crack a small planet, and still it surged forward like some ancient primal god.
Yet the humans fought on, their stubbornness astounding the battle-weary Nedji. Their ships were broken, their leaders cut off or dead, but they refused to accept defeat.
The UHS Normandy, its laser array useless against the Ram's powerful screens, bled air and lifeboats as it accelerated towards the superdreadnought. The capital ship crumpled as it collided with its much larger bulk, then exploded with the force of a small nova as its oversized fusion reactors overloaded. Thirty graser blisters fell silent.
Scattered missile squadrons tried vainly to keep up with the Ram, pushing their engines far beyonnd the limits of their crew in order to fire salvo after salvo into the fast-receding superdreadnought. One by one they fell silent as their acceleration took its toll on their crews.
And on the bridge of the Unforgotten, Karmazov still gave orders. He was a whirlwind of energy, speaking with a quiet authority that seemed far louder than any scream or shout. Something about his bearing pushed the Nedji crew forward.
"Weapons, where are my grasers."
"Nearly back online, sir. Damage control's routing a new power line as we speak."
"Excellent. Engines, what's the status on thrust?"
"Just came back online, sir. Compensators should follow shortly."
"Let me know the moment they're powered. Helm, start plotting a course for the Ram. We're going to fly right down its throat and see if we can't do a bit of damage before it rips us out of the sky. Comms, you still alive?"
"Aye, sir."
"I don't care if you have lean out the window and yell, you keep that battlesong going out. Understood?"
"You feel that, Helm? Compensator just kicked back in. Weapons, what're you doing with my guns?"
"Just brought them online, sir, we're running the initial tests—"
"Forget the tests, we wouldn't have time to fix them anyways. Warm 'er up for a real shot."
Karmazov paused.
"Helm, get the Unforgotten underway. Let's go spit in the devil's eye."
Faith's clear voice broke into the fray. "Belay that, Rear Admiral."
The bridge paused, every eye turning to stare at the human diplomat. The goofy smile spread across her face couldn't have been more out-of-place.
"We're picking up a new broadcast from the Ram, Karmazov. You're going to want to take a look."
About thirty of the surviving human marines milled about the bridge of the Ram, splitting their time between eyeballing their prisoners and gainingcontrol of the ship's systems. Jenkins was fiddling with a control panel built into an oversized command chair.
"Damnit, I could've sworn I'd figured out how to turn this fucker on."
Gold staggered over and swept an appraising eye over a small readout on the armrest. "You did," he said, voice slurring with exhaustion.
Roberts let out a cackle. "Think you flipped it on about two minutes ago.
Jenkins sat bolt upright, his face ashen. "Wait, it's on?"
The tired Nedji nodded serenely. "Yep."
"And broadcasting?"
"For almost two minutes?"
"Shit." Jenkins paused. "The LT wouldn't happen to be hovering just outside the door, ready to swoop in at the last minute and save me, would he?"
"Nope, he bought it about an hour back."
"Fuck. Well, here goes nothing."
He took a moment to gather himself before turning to face the pickup.
"This is Master Corporal Walsh Jenkins, broadcasting from the bridge of the GCS Ram. Could you stop shooting at us? We've got their stick."
While the humans cheered, the Nedji rejoiced. Their singer sang a new song, a song of victory, and the Unforgotten's comm buoy carried it out to the rest of their exiled race. And at the end, after the last stirring chords of celebration had ended, the Nedji added a short message:
Come join us. We've been without a home for far too long.
>> No. 6335 ID: 451480
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>> No. 6336 ID: 451480
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Time and date local to Sol...10:15 AM, the 23rd of March, 2198.
Transmission origin...unknown.
Transmission destination...The Grand Council Assembly Hall.
"Council, when we first stumbled upon your confederacy and realized we weren't alone amongst the stars we understood that it would take approx. 46 of our home world's revolutions around our star before we could ask for a vote from you to be included in your community. We knew that both our space exploration ways and technology were in its infancy when compared to your least developed members. It would take time for us to grow as a species before you would consider us worthy of your ranks."
"But when the Po'yafr, the main providers of YOUR military, attacked our colonies in the Cygni system you did nothing. When they burned and took our terraformed planets in the Gliese systems and we begged you to reign them in, you claimed we had 30 more revoluions before you could even BEGIN to raise the issue with the council. When they destroyed Alpha Centauri, subsequently turning the entire system into a 40 billion soul graveyard, for the perceived slight of trying to defend ourselves and we pleaded for you to save our species...you told us that the issue was settled as 'nonmember species have no claim against members of the Council'."
"For the next 10 revolutions we hid in every crack and shadow we could find in the universe, keeping our home system hidden, as we were hunted relentlessly to the point of extinction spending that time learning what we could and adapting what we had. The next 5 revolutions we fought the Po'yafr to a stalemate...the next 2 we turned the tide."
"Because of our 'perceived and exceptional growth" and "benefits that can be brought to our community", we've been told that the Council has made a decision to take action on the issue we raised all those revolutions ago. Apparently a vote to include humanity into the Council a full, and as yet unheard of, 15 revolutions early with a requirement of hostilities against our enemy be ceased. Now it is our species that wants you to understand us..."
"We will not be attacked without provocation and then taken to court to be sued, bribed, or begged into peace. We do not accept your calculations on the value of a single human life. We do not agree with your idea of the hardship endured of a lost colony. We do not concur with the responsibility of an aggressor to a destroyed planet. You do not dictate when we feel satisfied that a debt is paid, we will make our own judgements on when that bill is settled."
"Sentient beings of the Council, the Po'yafr made the decision to engage humanity in a war of genocide...
...and we aim to oblige them."
"We pray that we don't have to add any other species to that list."
-Admiral Johnathan Lewis Deliard, United Terran Space Force.
>> No. 6337 ID: 823a67
That was terrible.
>> No. 6338 ID: 451480
All the advanced species in the Galaxy can be divided into two groups. One side believes that war, solving disputes with massive organized violence, is abhorrent and must be avoided at all costs, yet still see it necessary for self-defense. The other side believes war is a basic fact of existence, a way of life that one must master if to remain powerful.
Ever since Contact with the humans, everyone has been trying to decide which camp humanity belongs to. On one hand, they've built and maintained a Navy that punches above their weight several times over, and those who serve in the armed forces are, on the whole, respected by their society. On the other hand, not once in their history since Contact have they supported war to solve a political issue, and on a personal level they're so damn friendly.
And then there was the Albarius incident...

Albarius was (and is) a white dwarf star, with one surviving planet in a very close orbit and a planetary nebula full of asteroids with rare and valuable isotopes. Mining those asteroids made the place worth settling, but the only place to settle was that one planet, and even the most extreme thermophiles could only live on the poles. The Frenelli and Squalongae, two of the most thermophilic races in the galaxy, set up shop.
They didn't conflict over the isotopes. There were plenty of those. But they did run into trouble over living space. There just wasn't enough. Arbitration failed, and they started threatening war.
Which is when the Humans stepped in. They proposed a three-part compromise. The Frenelli would take the north pole. The Squalongae the south. And the Humans would construct an O'Neil cylinder at a reasonable solar orbit and provide free luxury housing to those who didn't fit at the poles.
Now, neither the Frenelli nor the Squalongae liked the thought of living in space, but they were currently living on a barely-habitable planet. And these were people who worked in space, so they were a little inured to it. And they got to trade expensive, cramped, spartan housing for free, spacious luxury housing. Everyone knew that when humans said "luxury", they meant it. The fact that the humans making the proposal lived in O'Neil cylinders themselves was a pretty strong endorsement too.
Long story short: when the governments surveyed the settlers, enough said they would move. So the treaty was signed.
It left a lot of observers wondering why. Even by human standards, an O'Neil cylinder is a massive undertaking. The humans said that it cost less than the disruption of trade a war would cause, but they refused to show the numbers. Independent economists disagreed.
Did humanity have some really important use for those isotopes they didn't want us to know about? If so, they'd done an amazing job concealing their purchases. Were they looking for political capital? Not very efficiently. Were they so horrified at the thought of war that they'd do anything to stop it, and didn't want it known lest they become targets of extortion? Didn't really fit.
Maybe they knew something we didn't.
Well, the cylinder was finished on schedule (a small miracle in itself), and it was a thing of beauty. The internal architects must have visited the Frenelli and Squalongae homeworlds to get such a good sense of how they lived. There were Frenelli clamber-webs interspersed with Squalongae watercourses. There were public sculpture gardens out of humanity's own traditions. In deference to the general discomfort with space, there were no public external windows and there was a central luminous sky-bar to make it look more like a planet. Settlers moved in and were happy.
And then we found out what the humans knew that we didn't.
Housing was free: a diplomatic gift and a princely one. Commercial real estate in the cylinder was for rent to the highest bidder. Commercial real estate facing a market that was rich in accumulated hazard pay, and free to spend what would have been the rent money on luxuries. Commercial real estate light years from the nearest competition. Outside of major cities, this was the most valuable commercial real estate in the galaxy.
The humans made back their investment in under ten standard years.
And as the colony has grown, they've started talking about a second cylinder, this time renting everything at market rates...
>> No. 6339 ID: 823a67
That one sucked too.
>> No. 6340 ID: fd3911
File 140496189251.png - (454.54KB , 1073x1370 , HFY - Drake McDougla.png )
This one's always my favorite.
>> No. 6341 ID: 451480
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Hylant took a moment to compose herself before she entered the medical wing. Her fronds faded from agitated pink to calm blue, her gills stilled their frantic flutter. She took a breath. This was always the hardest part of her work.
They took the news in different ways. Shouting and screaming were bad. Crying was harder. It was difficult to be professional with battle-hardened warriors weeping in front of her. The worst ones tried to tear off their offending limbs, or kill themselves rather than face the abomination that they’d become.
Abomination though it may be, it was necessary. Civilians who lost a limb could go without, learning to live handicapped. But this was war. Soldiers had to work at peak efficiency, and that meant the twisted marriage of flesh and metal that Hylant had to work with so often. She calmed them and comforted them, but they were always changed afterwards. Their former comrades never treated them the same, and how could they? The patients themselves seemed diminished, shell-shocked, like their arms or legs had stolen their vitality when they left.
Still, the recent progress in the field was definitely helping. The prosthetics were becoming more and more realistic, more indistinguishable from a living limb. The soldiers could pretend, almost believe, that they had not become a monster.
She stroked the datasheet with a long webbed finger. Hmm. This particular patient was one of the mercenaries picked up from the various neutral systems, from a fledgling race known as the Humans. They were rarely seen, and the doctors had never needed to make a prosthetic for such a species before, but they had done their best and assured her that it was up to par. She’d have to see for herself.
She opened the door. The human was conscious, sitting up on a bed never designed for his race, secured for his own safety. His prosthetic arm was well done, so well done that Hylant had to check the chart to know which was which, but it was his face she was more concerned with. His eyes, startlingly high on his head, were wide, and an alien blue. His teeth were bared in a snarl, but Hylant had been told that on a human, such a threat display was actually a social gesture of greeting and familiarity.
“Hi!” he said.
Hylant tried to return the expression, but drawing the teeth back felt bizarre. “Lance-Corporal Simon Grant, I am Pesbekidal Hylant, your caretaker. Are you… aware of what has happened?”
“Yup,” he said cheerfully. “I got my arm blown off down in Miksar 8, so you guys fixed me up with a new one.”
“What? Who told you?” This was bad. Patients had to be told of such a traumatic event by a trained professional. The very idea that someone had callously told him, then left him alone… luckily, he seemed to be a hysterical. They tended not to harm themselves until the shock wore off.
“Oh, no one told me,” he said, mouth still bared in a human smile. “I figured it out. If you didn’t want me to know, you should have kept my tattoo.”
Hylant flicked through her notes. “Your what?”
He pulled his collar down, revealing a discoloration on his pectoral. Hylant leaned in closer. It appeared to be a pattern, forming symbols she could only assume were a human language. “You guys don’t have tattoos?” he asked. “It’s where you stab ink into your skin, to make a picture. Stays there the rest of your life.”
Hylant pulled her head back so fast it hit the wall. Her fronds flushed a full crimson. The idea, the very idea, that someone would bring a, a dye, into their body, just to make a picture… She found her voice, but not as well as she wanted. “Y-y-your a-arm-“
“-yeah, I was thinking about that,” he said. “What’s the point of getting a robot arm if nobody knows it? This one looks too much like the one I had before. Any way you guys could just give me the bare bones on this thing? Just the metal?”
“Bare bones-“
“-and I was thinking, could you get the techies to fit a weapon or something onto it? A gun would be bad ass, but even a switchblade would be sweet.”
“If, if, if, if you could just, ah, ex-excuse me for just one second,” Hylee backed towards the door, clutching the datasheet like a shield.
“Sure, take your time, but think about it!” He waved her off with his prosthetic, so smoothly, so easily, as if it were just his regular arm and not a metal thing-
She made it out the door. In the hallway, she leaned against the wall for support, and tried to make her gills settle down. Breathe, breathe… Eventually, calm returned. She looked at the human’s door.
“Freaks me the fuck out,” she muttered.
>> No. 6342 ID: 863b0d
God dammit, I liked HFY until your shitposting ruined it for me.
>> No. 6343 ID: 451480
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good, be a faggot.

go away.

buh bye.
>> No. 6344 ID: 823a67
None of these are good at all.
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