Commander Evon smiled, baring his fangs. It was so eminently gratifying to watch an alpha torpedo at work. He had fired several in covert actions in support of Section Six of the Drugwer Authority, but this was the first time he had ordered it fired on such a large target.
The human station Large Tree-Limb
or whatever it was that they actually called it seemed to almost be dissolving in the face of the star, small sections having broken away, but making little difference other than as a minor navigational hazard.
He glanced at Station 1337. It would also have to go. Can’t have any witnesses contradicting the official story in the Collective.
He had already read the first draft of it. It lacked style, but got the point across. The Drugwer vessel had been sent to defend Station 1337 from the vicious humans, only to arrive too late to save the station, but were able to destroy the humans’ military vessels in retaliation. It was then that the human station had opened up its weapons upon the Drugwer vessel, the humans trying to spill Collective blood through senseless violence, and the Drugwer were forced to destroy the human station and captured a number of the human military vessel survivors.
Inelegant, but it was better than some of the official stories of his vessel’s prior actions.
“Status report on the gnats hovering around us,” he commanded to the sensor station.
“Sir, the sensors indicate only four vessels, all near the human station,” the operator reported.
“Any damage to them?” Evon mused.
“Nothing that our sensors indicate,” was the operator’s reply.
Evon was not a fool. He had seen the recordings of the prior actions in the system as well as the stories of the humans’ interdictions of cargo vessels and the events at the Mundivore chamber. He had no doubts that the humans were still here and in greater quantity than they were showing.
“What are the four human vessels doing?” he asked.
“They are not moving. They appear to simply be waiting,” the operator said.
“Any sign of weapons activations?” Evon probed. He was not about to be caught off-guard by these humans, even with his shields up.
Evon looked at the four ships on the monitor. They were probably a tenth of the size of his vessel and rather inelegant in their appearance, not the smooth lines that his ship commanded. It was said that if the Supremacy and Domination
were to pass through an interstellar gas cloud, not a single atom would be carried with it unnecessarily.
“Activate the mass sensors and the warp gate inhibitor. I won’t have these humans running away on me. Not before I’ve had my fun,” he said, clasping his hands in front of him.
The humans seemed to take no notice of these efforts, but the sensor operator did. He gasped.
“What is it, sensor operator?” Evon commanded, before his second could inquire or command otherwise.
“According to the mass sensors, those vessels aren’t actually there,” the operator said, pointing to different points on his screens.
“Explain yourself,” Evon said, debating whether killing the operator and replacing him for incompetence would be simpler.
“We can see them, we can measure the neutrinos through their hulls from the star, we can even register the radiation from their reactors, but the mass indicator shows that there’s nothing there,” the operator tried.
“Your sensor must be malfunctioning. Perhaps you need a demotion to consider properly calibrating your instruments!” Evon bellowed at the operator.
“But sir, I did. I even ran it against Station 1337 and the human station’s masses. Those ships aren’t on the mass scanner,” the operator pleaded.
Evon glowered at the operator and then back to the screens. If this was a ruse, it was an especially good one. He hadn’t known its equal. He tried to guess what the humans would be playing at.
“Shield operator, status,” he commanded.
“No registered hits since we raised the shield. Shield at maximum power and efficiency. We can maintain this posture for several cycles if needed,” the shield operator said, confidently.
Evon was puzzled.
The humans hadn’t fired on them since he had raised the shields and now, they had several apparently mass-less vessels sitting near a dying station. It was some sort of game, the type where if you don’t understand the rules very quickly, you are very dead in short order.
“Probe those vessels with kinetic rounds. If they are illusions, we shall soon know then,” he said, sitting back on his dais.
“Anything else to report, Second?” he said, turning to his left, where his second could be seen hovering over several different screens.
“Nothing noteworthy, Commander. A few anomalous power spikes, but we attribute that to crew actions and the shield interacting with space debris,” his second dutifully reported.
“Very well,” Evon said and looked back at the screens, feeling the kinetic cannons open upon the human vessels in short controlled bursts for each vessel.
They were coming into close range, having been closing on the human vessels and the two stations, so the time he had to wait to hear the report was reasonably short, in stellar warfare terms.
“Impacts!” the sensor operator reported, highlighting the impacts as they happened on the visuals.
“So the human vessels are actually there,” Evon said to himself. He was still trying to guess what sort of game they were playing at, pretending to be massless.
“Are the human vessels doing any sort of station keeping to maintain position?” he asked, a thought having occurred.
“No, sir. They are entirely stationary, as though we didn’t even hit them,” the operator reported.
“That cannot be. They were hit by our weapons and physics would dictate that they would have to initiate action to not move otherwise,” Evon said, wondering how the sensor operator’s jellied lungs would taste as a soup.
“Yes, sir, but they are not moving or emitting any extra energy,” the sensor operator meekly replied, sensing the mood of his Commander.
“Replay the mass sensor logs on those vessels,” the Second commanded.
“Do you have a theory, Second?” Evon asked.
“Perhaps they can manipulate their mass indications and so could perhaps mitigate their inertia as well as the inertia of the rounds. That way, they could be taking hits and because of this manipulation, it does virtually no damage,” the Second suggested.
“Impossible. But fine, if that’s the way they want to play, we shall simply remind them of what we are capable of,” Evon said. “Load another alpha torpedo!”
“Sir, if I may?” his Second asked.
“What is it, Second?” Evon said, looking down on the Drugwer officer.
“You might be able to secure their surrender already and then you would have the opportunity to wrest from them the secrets of their military technologies, like the false mass readings,” his Second said.
“You are quite right, Second. Communications, power up our WarpCom and prepare to transmit in the open to those four ships. I want to hear them beg for their lives,” Evon said, his fangs bared again.
Several minutes later, a link was established with one of the vessels, but the communications operator indicated that it was also being watched by the other three vessels.
On the screen, a human with a dark face and fuzzy hair in a brown uniform of some sort was facing the monitor.
“Are you the vessel commander?” Evon demanded.
“I am,” the human said, the tone even.
“Surrender and I shall let most of your crew live. This system is property of the Collective and you have violated the terms of the ceasefire by attacking the Capital,” Evon pressed.
The human was silent for a moment, the face unchanged in the face of the annihilation that Evon was ready to unleash upon him.
“No,” the human said.
“What did you say?” Evon hissed.
“I said no,” the human said.
“What is the meaning of this!?” Evon demanded, his claws gripping the edges of his dais.
“It means no,” the human said, in that same flat tone.
“Then I will destroy you first,” Evon hissed and gestured for the channel to be cut.
“You can try. But I believe you’ve already lost,” the human said, baring their teeth.
For the first time ever in his life, Evon felt a small chill run through his nervous system. Something about the way the human was looking at him and with those teeth displayed, it triggered in Evon something that no other being had ever made him feel.
Evon blinked. The human was still on the screen.
“Cut the link,” he ordered the communications operator.
“He won’t be able to do that,” the human said, before the communications operator could speak.
“And why not?” Evon said, glowering at the human once more.
“Because the instant you opened communications, you lost. Because the instant you opened fire on our station, you lost. And because when we teach you about why you don’t declare open war on civilians, you will understand the loss to the empire in every fiber of your being,” the human said, leaning forward, his face filling the screen.
Those eyes, those accursed eyes seemed to bore into Evon. He felt another chill run through his nervous system.
“If you could defeat us, you would have prevented the station from being destroyed,” Evon said, defiantly.
“We’re not all-powerful. But seeing as you offered us slavery or death, as you would wish on every human, well, that is something we cannot abide,” the human said, sitting back from the screen.
“All shall kneel before the Collective!” Evon cried out, to be joined a moment later by his bridge crew.
The human made a sort of smile that did not show the human’s teeth. There was something about it that was offensive, but Evon wasn’t entirely certain why. It just was.
“Get this primate off my screens,” he ordered again.
“We can’t!” the communications operator moaned. “Not without shutting down all communications.”
“Oh and by the way, you might want to have a chat with the people controlling your environmental system,” the human said, the offensive no teeth showing smile still on their face.
“Second, report!” Evon managed.
“Temperatures are falling on all decks!” his Second exclaimed.
Evon froze. As a Drugwer saurian, his people could tolerate only brief amounts of cooler temperatures without going into hibernation. He looked back at the human.
“This can’t possibly be your doing,” he sneered, before turning to his Second. “Fix it!”
“Oh but it is. Our boarding crew specializes in sabotage. We just appreciate the fact that we’ll get to capture you all for questioning,” the human said, leaning forward again.
“What… boarding… crew?” Evon managed, starting to feel the creeping cold of the room hitting his system.
“You know those power spikes you probably dismissed? That was a deployment gate. Very handy when you only get one shot into enemy territory,” the human said.
Evon shook his head, but it failed to clear. He had only two options. Fight or self-destruct. He refused to surrender. He had too much knowledge to be captured as did his crew. And as much as he wanted to fight, he had been out maneuvered. His thoughts were coming slower and slower as his body cooled, trying to drag him into hibernation.
He pressed his lowest finger against a hidden panel, which opened a second panel with a protected button. He twisted away the protection and positioned his finger over the button. Half of the bridge crew was already deep into hibernation and the rest were still trying to stay awake. He looked back at the human.
“We die first, human!” he growled and pressed the button.
The Supremacy and Domination
detonated in a massive series of fusion explosions.
Aboard the IMS Alestorm
, the captain watched the link break and the massive Drugwer vessel turn into little more than a navigational hazard.
“Did we get our crew back?” he asked his first officer.
“We did. I didn’t suspect they’d try blowing up their ship, but it’s always a good precaution to get back quickly once the work is done. If they’d run, we could also have used the gate to track them,” his first officer reported.
“Too bad. I was just starting to enjoy his company. Get me a link to Station 1337. I think some of the files we recovered are going to be of interest to the beings there.”