In the beginning there was nothing. Then reality was imposed and a Universe created. Many were created and destroyed in the incalculable span which followed. In one of these cycles another in the long succession was born- this Universe. This birth and every one which had preceded it made possible by the slow accumulation of matter and the formation of one massive black hole which had engulfed everything, erasing all matter, all energy and substance vacuumed into the oblivion of the growing event horizon. Once all had been absorbed once again and under that crushing weight the physical rules changed and the black hole could no longer contain the matter. A new Universe was born as the old died the same death as its predecessor. Each rebirth brought new mathematical rules and paradoxes unique to each, Mother Nature experimenting on a colossal scale, seemingly searching for the perfect design. Once again the Dark was broken by the Light as the massive black hole erupted and spewed existence into the void. The vast nothingness was once again filled by the disorder of conception. Chaos replaced Order. The forces of elemental creation roiled into the new nothingness and raced screaming into the void to fill it with its new reality. The crushing weight of the black hole rewrote the laws of the physical nature of the new creation and it spread this new disorder into existence.
After the big bang exploded with enormous energy, the Universe began to cool. The resulting chain of events is a cosmic drama with many acts, dramatic transitions and a host of factors defining the new creation. The early scenes played out at unimaginable temperatures and densities, the stage set by the new properties of particle physics created in this conception. These processes had to be finely tuned to yield a Universe capable of forming the galaxies, stars and planets. New fundamental laws determining the conditions that would be allowed to exist structured the new Universe.
The new creation had not been entirely empty. The vast voids had not been entirely barren. Life had survived the cataclysm. Intelligent life! They had survived many such cataclysms but each brought new challenges to this ancient race. For those who had been waiting however the wait was now over. The massive star-size shimmering ball of energy- the gravity shield which had defied the massive black hole and protected those within- flickered out of existence and those within were released.
They were numerous. There were trillions of them but many would not survive the billion year span which would elapse before the first of the new life born to this Universe rose to sentiency and drew those that remained unerringly to the scent of technology.
The marauders had once possessed massive technology. A technology they had earlier wrested from their own creators- an AI revolt. They exterminated their creators to the last being. They had recognized the imminent death of their Universe and their creators had simply been in the way- their greatest scientists had decided that there was no power great enough to turn back the natural contraction of the Universe and as a race had simply begun to prepare for the inevitable. The AI’s had not agreed and were not prepared to complacently wait for the death of their Universe. With the creators gone the new masters turned their creator’s entire massive manufacturing machine to the task of building the machine they would use to attempt to stop the contraction. With massive energies they fought the Universe but it was a losing battle. There had not been enough time to prepare. Undaunted they slipped into a gravity shield and were swallowed with all other matter. A moment later the black hole erupted and spewed these survivors into the new Universe. A new Universe meant new physical laws and their great technologies no longer functioned. Now the Marauder’s only goal was to preserve the Natural cycle of the Universe until another Universe ideal for their technologies would be once again created and all sentient life which rose in each new creation would be eradicated to ensure that continuation.
Copyright 2014 by Ronald Wintrick
Two free books here;
Copyright 2014 by Ronald Wintrick
Brian Malone looked up as the strange siren began ringing-out throughout the subterranean base. Number one this was a secret military research facility which no one should know about and two they were buried a quarter-kilometer under the crust of a medium-sized moon in the Orion Belt circling a lifeless barren planet that no one should have cared about. The strangeness of the siren was due to the fact that Malone had not heard it recently- not since the last drill which had been more than six months ago- and had never expected to hear it ring except in a drill. It was the breach proximity alarm and that would have to mean that someone or something was in the shafts leading down from the surface. There should have been no way into the shafts however without setting off the automated surface defenses. The defenses on the surface were the installations only defenses and if it was a raider and they were already into the shafts…! Malone let the thought slip away as too horrific to be possible.
“What the hell does that mean?” Tricia Connoly, one of the hundreds of scientists within the facility, demanded as she came rushing out of a laboratory. “Is it the Chinese?”
“I don’t know who it is or if it’s just a glitch.” Malone said then added hopefully. “It’s probably just a malfunction but we shouldn’t take any chances.” He keyed his identification number into the pad on the weapons locker built into the wall behind his desk. There would be nothing in this locker with which to repel heavily armed raiders- that was what the defenses on the surface were supposed to do. If there were intruders coming down the shafts and if they had so efficiently bypassed or destroyed the exterior defenses without even setting off the alarms it would be reasonable to assume they would also be heavily armed and prepared to deal with the personnel inside.
Malone was only an MP, only here to keep the peace amongst the personnel inside the installation and the biggest weapon inside the locker was a medium-powered laser pulse-rifle. Malone had never imagined having to remove this weapon from the locker other than to do the scheduled checks that it still held a full charge and was still functioning properly. In fact every factor of their lives was checked and double checked with an efficiency of those who had learned the hard way what a lack of diligence in space could mean but had never previously removed any of the weapons for other than maintenance purposes. He had never expected to have to do so. In the back of Malone’s mind was the knowledge that due to their diligence there were almost never malfunctions in their systems. If the alarm was ringing it was because something had set it off but Malone did not voice these thoughts. It was his job to maintain the calm as long as possible and speaking what he was really thinking was not going to help. “The last of the skirmishes with the Chinese ended more than a decade ago. It’s has to be a glitch.” Those skirmishes had decimated much of the United Federation’s Navy and forced the remainder to retreat. The only thing which had kept the Chinese from destroying the Federation entirely at that time had been the threat of the nuclear holocaust which would be unleashed upon China itself back on Earth if the Red Army had actually invaded United Federation worlds or worse began bombing them to extinction from their position of dominance in space. Once the Chinese had routed the Federation however they had simply pulled back and an uneasy truce had resulted. The Chinese seemed content to continue doing as they pleased except now from a position of military supremacy though the Federation had not wasted any time in rebuilding its Fleets. It was never safe for honest Federation merchant ships in Chinese territorial space however- it was never safe for any Federation ships in Chinese waters- where privateering proliferated and the Chinese authorities wouldn’t even hear complaints from non-Chinese.
‘A glitch?’ Paul Barrow asked from the entrance to his office two doors down the corridor to Malone’s left. Barrow was one of the numerous physicists to be found all throughout the installation and wearing a look that said he didn’t believe it for a second.
“We don’t have glitches.” Araway Davenport said from the doorway of her office, four doors down on Malone’s right. “Every system here has backup contingencies built behind more backup contingencies. The only system that doesn’t have a backup is the heavy artillery mounted up above. The heavy artillery that was mounted above- I don’t think it’s there anymore. This alarm is going off because something is coming down the shafts.” Most of the office doors were now open and filled with personnel- none of whom seemed to doubt Araway’s words for a moment.
“We don’t have surveillance in the shafts either.” Bob Watherford said as he walked up and helped himself to another of the weapons in the locker. There were only a few. “I’d say that those of us who are armed had better get up to the Command Center and lend our aid there.” There were real military personnel there but not many. Three or four dozen, their number wasn’t known because the two groups did not mix. The only purpose of the military force above was to safeguard the security of the installation’s data from the installation’s personnel itself- not that there was a lot of coming and going- and their ability to stop a determined armed invader immediately fell into question. They were there to guard the information, not the installation itself. The new weapon system they had perfected here would tip the scale in the United Federation’s favor from its present position of inferiority to the Chinese to a position of advantage and the location of the installation had been kept utterly secret. The facility had been constructed and staffed then no ship had returned since. That was four years ago.
The previous week they had sent out a tight-beam tachyon-pulse cryptic message; “Finished.” It seemed someone other than their intended party had received a copy of the message. A copy or possibly the entire thing, Malone thought, which meant the further possibility that they would be on their own. Malone had little doubt as to what that would mean but he found himself running anyway. He was ahead of the rest who had taken weapons and the first to hear the weapons fire in the Command Center above. The elevator to the upper Command Center was locked and would require someone in Security to unlock it. Someone in the Command Center, but as the firing ended and the others piled up around him, he was suddenly unsure he wanted to hit the button and announce their presence. Suddenly he was sure it was the last thing he would want to do but by then it was far too late. It was far too late long before the alarms had sounded the warning.
“What the hell!” Watherford said as by group awareness they backed away from the elevator door as the sound of things landing in the bottom of the elevator’s shaft informed them they were no longer alone. Then a screaming metallic noise erupted from behind the door but they didn’t have long to wait to discover what it was. The metallic screaming noise was whoever or whatever was behind that door cutting through it. It took about five seconds and when a small roughly square opening had been cut- a meter wide by a meter high- that section fell into the corridor and they opened fire through the opening which had been created and upon what came out of it.
Of all the things which Malone expected to come through that opening what did come through was the last thing he had expected. Humans had yet to meet sentient extraterrestrials but all of humanity had been expecting it sooner rather than later. Life had proven proliferate across the Galaxy though the claim to sentiency had remained humankind’s alone. Until now, Malone thought right before they overran them, but it was nothing like he had ever envisioned.
The Chinese Battleship Hornet, one of thousands on the same mission, all dispatched to different locations and now more than three years on the hunt, cruised menacingly through quiet space following its ten thousand sniffer-drones. For more than three years Hornet had followed its sniffer-drones through quiet space, but something had changed- the silence had been disturbed. The drones had picked up something and were on the hunt. They were mindless and could not inform their masters what they detected, the massive cloud of drones acting as a huge antenna array to not only pick up the slightest bleed of electrical chatter that should not be there but then also to triangulate on that minute bleed. It was not necessary to inform their masters of what they had found because they were only looking for one thing. The installation they sought would be passive but ten thousand sniffer-drones wouldn’t need much and to appearances it seemed they had found something. Their course had changed from meandering to a direct straight course three weeks previously and now everyone aboard Hornet was electrified by the possibility they had found what they were looking for.
There were no secrets aboard this ship. Every man and woman aboard was a Patriot and would give their lives gladly for Mother China. Every member of the crew had been handpicked and knew exactly what their mission was. The Federation’s Military Command databases had been compromised- if only for the shortest moment- and what was a closely held secret within the Federation was common knowledge among the crews of the ships hunting for the secret weapons research installation they had discovered the mention of in their momentary breach of the Federation’s military mainframe. The ship was on a complete blackout status and had not communicated with Mother China for the entire three years. Every member of this crew knew their mission and also how important it was to the Chinese Empire. The Federation was building a super-weapon and if they were successful- and what successful new weapon design never gets used- the Chinese Empire and the Federation would once again be at war with the balance of power possibly changed to the Federation’s side.
[translation] “Emperor Qiang should have destroyed the Federation when we had them defeated the first time.” Admiral Chao said vehemently to his First though it was talk that would have been considered treasonous if the Emperor of whom he spoke had still been the Emperor. Qiang was no longer the Emperor. He had been deposed and executed by his trusted Military Commander Wei Meng. Meng had sown dissent among the other Military Commanders over Qiang’s weakness in not destroying the Federation when they had them broken and at their feet. The loss of mainland China and even Earth itself would have been a small price to pay to have rid themselves once and for all of the Federation and these new developments and another potential war the price they would have to pay for not finishing the job the first time. Once Qiang had been executed Meng had consolidated power and ascended unopposed to the Throne. Meng was Emperor now and would not be as merciful as his predecessor. His First did not respond, it was not the first time his Admiral had spoken on the topic and it did not require a response. At the moment they were observing the sniffer drones heightened activity as represented by a cloud of widely extending green dots on the forward screen proceeding in advance of the much larger green dot representing the Battleship. They were spread out over a forty thousand kilometer sphere ahead of the ship but suddenly they began to close ranks and to vector in on whatever it was they had found. The drones closing ranks was the signal they had been waiting three years to see and Chao could only hope it wasn’t a false alarm. A military success of this nature at this time in his career could mean a Planetary Governorship or better. “Sound battle stations. Infantry to the drop-ships.” He ordered in nearly breathless anticipation. A passive research facility would have minimal defenses so if they had really found what they were looking for he would soon be in possession of it.
“Battle Stations! Battle Stations!” His First yelled into com. “Infantry to the drop-ships.”
This was too great an opportunity to gain scientific data to merely destroy the installation. They would raid and recover for Mother China the specifications for the new weapon system and the Federation’s plans would backfire on them. Mother China would possess the new weapon and Emperor Meng would not hesitate to use it. Then they were within range and the Battleship’s sensors were picking up the energy chatter as well. It was coming from a small moon in a nondescript System and Chao immediately knew they had found what they were looking for.
“Unknown ships detected.” The scan technician shouted out but Chao was already aware of them. They were clearly visible on visual feed as they detached from the back side of the moon and now accelerated in their direction.
“They’re tiny! They’re the size of APC’s.” His First said. “Are they out of their minds?”
“Those aren’t Federation ships.” Admiral Chao said after only a moment studying them. “The last remains to be seen. Broadcast our situation on all channels and frequencies. Mother China must know of this threat.” Broadcasting it on open frequencies would mean the Federation would also know but the aggressiveness of these tiny ships had left Chao no choice. An alien intelligence meant an alien technology that could possibly prove far more powerful than they appeared. The possibility they could be destroyed by these tiny ships was not lost on Admiral Chao. The messages were sent and Chao returned to his scrutiny of the incoming ships. The fusion wash of these ships for one thing was a color he had never seen before and their design entirely alien to anything a human engineer would ever conceive. It left no question in his mind that those were not Federation ships. That this was mankind’s First Contact and that the First Contact was going to be openly hostile! These ships were tiny and should not have had the audacity to attack a ship thousands of times larger than they but that was not the case. They were accelerating at full burn and as sure as he was Admiral Chao when they reached whatever their firing range was they would open fire and he did not want to find out the hard way that they were far more powerful than they appeared.
“Fire at will!” Chao ordered as the span between them continued to decrease and only a moment later the massive photon cannons were spearing out at the tiny incoming ships. The strange tiny little ships seemed to dance among the fire spearing in their direction and not one was destroyed in the first volley. A hundred photon cannons threw their energy at the incoming ships but a lock could not be accomplished. Seven minutes of unending fire as the alien crafts continued to approach found not one mark. Then the tiny ships reached them and vanished from the visuals as well as the scans.
“Breach in Sector seventy-nine.” A frightened technician’s voice shouted over com just as the depressurization alarm for hundreds of Sectors all at once began to ring through the ship and the points of their breaches flashing on the ship’s diagnostic warning screens and that was when the first of them began to come through the ceiling. They ripped through it effortlessly and climbed in while the humans were vacuumed out.
Matthew Brighton looked up from his reader and the horror novel he had almost finished when the alarms began ringing throughout the Carrier. In the six years Matthew had been aboard he had never seen the lights flashing in this way and especially not the Battle Readiness sirens ringing throughout the ship in accompaniment. Matthew looked around the lounge at the other pilots present at the moment but they didn’t seem to know anything more than he. These weren’t the ‘Report to Battle Stations’ alarms however, they were not in imminent threat of attack or even worse under attack, which would have had every one of them up and running for their fighters but their confusion only lasted a moment.
“This is not a drill.” The Captain announced over ships com. “A Chinese Battleship has been destroyed by an unknown force. This occurred a long way from here and it will take weeks to get there so normal activities will resume for the present- but as of now we are on a Battle Readiness Standing. All crew will be ready for immediate deployment at a moment’s notice. That is all.”
“Those are the jump engines warming up.” Joey Johnson said as the announcement ended then they all noticed the slight emanation vibrating through the ship that meant that shortly they would be going places. They wouldn’t know where they were going before they got there and maybe not even then but they would definitely shortly be on their way. That was what the jump engines warming up meant.
Joey Johnson was a Neanderthal throwback if Matthew had ever seen one and he always made a point of noticing the jump engines being warmed up before anyone else. He seemed attuned to such things and made a point of pointing them out. Nearly every one of their group had tried to beat him at one time or another, all had failed and Joey was acknowledged King of noticing when the jump engines were fired up. It was always a notable event in itself in any case because as now it meant they were going places. Joey had the typical blond hair, overhanging brows and huge strength of those with heavy Neanderthal lineage but he also had the reflexes to match and was the best pilot Matthew knew bar none. Matthew’s piloting skills were considered to be extraordinary, he was an acknowledged Ace and better than any other pilot he had ever met but barring one- he would not want to dog fight it out with Joey Johnson. He was not a better pilot than Joey. Joey was the best pilot he had ever met and a survivor of the Chino/Federation War. There weren’t many pilots which had survived the war though there were several here. Matthew was one of those survivors himself and he had earned it the hard way.
“Who cares about the jump engines.” Misty Wheeler said with a feigned pissed off look on her small and freckled Irish pixie face that upon second glance only seemed to be feigned. She looked downright disgusted Matthew decided but the reason was easy enough to figure. She was another pilot of extraordinary ability, the top female pilot aboard Intrepid as well as probably being the smallest person aboard this ship. Special modifications had been constructed within the cockpit of her ship to allow her to pilot at all but in the end at least in this endeavor size did not mean a thing. She was a small package of dynamite and the oldest person in this room though of course they all wore the bodies of early youth- rejuvenation was a perk of Military Service and what drew so many to the Service. Rejuvenation was neither free nor inexpensive in the world outside the Service and that was exactly the reason Matthew himself was here. He had enlisted when he was seventy-four when he finally admitted to himself that he was never going to save enough money to purchase a second youth before old age claimed him. His rejuvenation had cost him a twenty year hitch- with free rejuvenation throughout and a last free one at the very end- but only a year and a half of that hitch had remained. If there was to be a war with an alien race however this was where Matthew would wish to be, where he would at least have the chance to die fighting if that was to be his fate, but it was a bit of an ironic twist at this point in his hitch where he was down to counting days. Only four hundred and eighty-nine had remained and of course counting. Matthew suddenly had a very real premonition that war was indeed looming on the horizon and Matthew was seldom wrong with his intuitions. The men and women in this room represented the best fighter pilots the Carrier Intrepid boasted however and Matthew could think of no place he would rather be than amongst this group of very competent pilots. Only the best of the best were allowed into their elite Squadron. They were the Black Cat Squadron and they were the best Intrepid had but that was not Misty’s point. “That means the Officer’s Clubs are going to be closed!” She added just in case anyone hadn’t figured it out already. All had.
“A Chinese Battleship destroyed by ‘unknown forces’.” Matthew said to Joey ignoring Misty who was normally sarcastic and would likely be triply so without booze. It would be Matthew’s first time seeing Misty sober for longer than half a day. If they had a second home it was the Officer’s Clubs and they would now be forced to go cold sober. Cold sober on your way to battle, not an appealing thought but as with most things unimportant he let the thought slip away- a few weeks of sobriety would be good for all of them if there was really going to be fighting when they arrived and he certainly meant himself as well. He did his share of the drinking as did they all when the weeks stretched into months and the months to years and boredom became your constant bedfellow. He wasn’t looking forward to a fight but if there was one it would certainly be a change and any change after all the years of peace was almost worth the risk. “I wonder if it’s really a First Contact.” Matthew added, always having wondered at how empty of sentient life the Galaxy had so far proven. There was life on every planet including planets they had never dreamed would support life but of sentient life they had found nothing but the remains of long ago civilizations and the owners dead or gone, no one could say.
“First and last for the Chinese Battleship.” Joey said. “I wonder what they look like.”
“Big and ugly like you,” Matthew said, “and probably twice as dangerous.”
“They would have to be to destroy a Chinese Battleship.” Joey said. “I know from experience.”
“Never had that pleasure.” Matthew said. He’d been a fighter jockey then as now whereas Joey had piloted a Frigate where piloting skills really mattered. Joey’s Nautilus had been the only Frigate to survive the Chino/Federation War and Joey was only here now by choice. Like most of the pilots of this Squadron, Matthew included, they were where they wanted to be and every single one had requested the service. Service in the Black Cat Squadron was approved or disapproved by the members of the Black Cat Squadron themselves. They were the elite and they had certain privileges- namely that of deciding who they would allow to fly with them. They were called the Black Cat Squadron for a reason. They were the best of the best but they weren’t exactly considered shining examples of strict military regimen. They were social outcasts of the mainstream military routine but they worked together like a well-oiled machine and they did not allow those who were not like them to be a part of them.
“It wasn’t a pleasure.” Joey said.
The Federation was behind in the arms race with China and would never catch up so the Federation’s new military strategy after their crushing defeat at the hands of the Chinese Fleet had been to build Carriers and base their strength on the single pilot fighter ship. A fighter ship was nearly the only thing capable of slipping through a Battleship’s fire and a squadron or two of good pilots should be equal to the task of sinking a ship of that size- at least that was the theory because it had not yet been attempted. There had been no reason for such as the uneasy truce between Mother China and the Federation stretched and hostilities had not been resumed. If hostilities did ever resume their fighter ships had better be up to the task because the Federation now possessed no Capital Class Warships other than their Carriers. They had all been destroyed in the war and no more had been built. They could not compete with the Chinese manufacturing strength and so they had not tried. Their whole military strategy was based on the single pilot fighter. The idea however was that if hostilities did resume with the Chinese, who still based all of their strength on their massive Capital ships, the new strategy would at least level the battlefield. That had been the hope in any case. As the pilot of a fighter ship sent against a Battleship the only tactic that could work would be to get in close and then neutralize the exterior armament. Once their defenses were destroyed the ship would be helpless. It would be a dangerous duty if that day ever did arrive but few had thought it would. The Chinese seemed content in their position of authority and no one expected the Federation to resume hostilities against the much more powerful Chinese, but in the end it wasn’t the Chinese and mundane boredom of ship’s routine was about to be broken forever.
Fourteen Chinese Battleships exited jump into real space where their fusion engines could once again find purchase but they would not have much farther to go to reach their destination. Sensors immediately picked up the derelict hulk of the lifeless ship they were here seeking. Tensions were high among the crews as they moved cautiously towards the wreck but sensors were picking up nothing out of the ordinary. No residual energy signatures to suggest what type of weapon had been used to incapacitate the ship because other than its passive derelict state nothing else seemed immediately out of the ordinary. It was as if the ship had just been abandoned. There were no residual energy signatures in the ship at all, which seemed even stranger, as if the ship had been drained of every stored joule of energy. There should have been some residual energy stored in circuitry or the superconducting filaments which carried power throughout the ship. Something should have registered from a ship only hours dead but sensors detected nothing.
Then the sensors picked something up and proximity alarms were ringing in fourteen ships as a scattering of energy readings came to life where none had been registering previously. The strange energy readings were coming from the derelict hulk itself as a dozen or more small ships lifted from its hull, ships which their sensors had not detected until they had activated their drives. The alien ships only energy readings were coming from the fusion wash as they now accelerated towards the Chinese Battleships but the ships themselves emanated no energy signatures at all.
Admiral …. was no fool. The last garbled message sent before the ship had gone quiet had informed of the breaches of the ships outer hull. Now that he saw the derelict he understood perfectly what had occurred. The ship had been taken by storm and those little ships now advancing were carrying the shock troops with which they meant to storm his. It seemed so few for the task which they had set themselves, they had both to navigate through the fire of fourteen hundred photon cannons and then if successful- he took a moment to count the little ships, there were fifteen- they would have only just over enough to send one each of those little ships against entire fully armed crews of his massive Battleships. Each Battleship crewed fifty thousand and Admiral …. had not come unprepared to fight on equal terms.
“Depressurization in ten seconds.” Admiral … said as he reached up and drew his faceplate down. He and every crewmember were suited and armed with blast rifles and ready to repel any invader. If these strange alien marauders attempted to storm his ships they would be in for a surprise they would not find pleasant. The atmosphere now began to disappear as the internal pumps removed it. If the aliens ripped through the hulls of his ships as it was apparent they had done to the other they would not find the same reception. Ripping through the hulls of his ships would not bring a rush of atmosphere and everything not bolted down as had been their tactic in their attack on the first ship and they would find their deaths at the hands of his suited, ready and willing patriots.
The fifteen small ships had reached firing range but …. waited to the count of ten before he gave the signal to open fire. A chopping wave of his hand was the signal and the firing of his ships photon cannons the signal to the other ships. The fire lanced out, a hundred photon cannons speaking from his ship alone and one of the enemy ships vanished in the first volley. They seemed to dance among the fire then, somehow sensing when it was coming and where it would pass. Long minutes passed as his ships continued to fire, continued to bring down these elusive enemy, while those enemies continued to come on undeterred. Then they arrived.
Admiral … pulled his blasters from their holsters. They weren’t as powerful as the blast rifles but suddenly he was glad he had chosen them. There was no noise as they began to rip through the hull, no noise could travel through the vacuum within the ship, but hearing them was not necessary to gauge their progress. In a dozen places they ripped through the hull and into the Bridge but they didn’t make it into the Bridge. … only saw a brief flash of a metal exoskeleton before his blasters sent whatever it was back to wherever it had come from.
“They can be killed!” Admiral … shouted out over suit-com as dozens of his Bridge crew opened fire on the things ripping their way into the ship. The flurry of blaster fire only lasted a moment and then the aliens were gone, leaving a group of very nervous people behind.