Traveling Light approached from the dark side of the Earth-sized Precursor artifact, keeping the planet between them and the polar radiation jet of the Malcanari Singularity.
As the vessel penetrated the atmosphere, they could see the radiation plumes of the shield around the planet constantly lighting the sky with an eerie, flickering light, bright enough to see by. The ship touched down near the Corvan constructed facilities near to one of the tallest of the spires rising almost fifty miles into space from the surface of the planet. Like many of the Precursor artifacts, this one’s immediate purpose was not easily understood and the Corvan facilities appeared to have been here for many decades, maybe even centuries.
Their construction was a series of concentric circles with the oldest of the constructions nearest to the center. As they grew more sophisticated, more technology was shipped to the planet, along with building materials. The last ring of the construction appeared to be made from the very surface of the planet itself, scans indicating it having been molded in some as yet unknown fashion.
Major Wilks, Essver Dreamsinger and Master Wex left the ship, fully equipped with a variety of weapons and scientific equipment, most of which Essver carried. Master Wex carried his large force staff and a pulse emitter, wrapped around his left hand. Chuntra thought he should carry a ranged weapon, just in case and customized him something that would work with his fighting style. The projector was on the back of his hand but would not prevent him from using his force staff or any of its variations. She also configured it to be in sync with his shield allowing him to shoot through the shield without disrupting it.
Master Wex refused a full combat suit, instead opting for a molecular shield sprayed on and hardened to a diamond toughness. Powered by a micro-cell, it would resist all but the most powerful of weapons. Its biggest drawback was its closeness to the skin, so it transferred kinetic energy even if it couldn’t be penetrated.
Acrobatic or speed-based martial artists preferred this armor since their style of fighting prevented them from getting hit in most combat in the first place. His oxygen supply was provided by an internal converter common to the Subaki. With their highly efficient metabolisms, he would be able to survive for a week if he did nothing but meditate. In full-out combat, he would be sustained for twenty four to forty eight hours.
Essver wore a Sjurani war-suit, a large, clunky, heavily plated affair, equipped with layered force fields, molecular plating, and numerous weapon systems ranging form auto-cannons to plasma burst artillery. The Sjurani prided themselves on their peaceful nature today, but once were one of the most warlike people in the galaxy. The suit was painted with a number of garish runic symbols. Essver explained them as family sigils reputed to offer protection against harm.
The weapons of Sjurani warsuits speak volumes to their history of warfare. The suit added to his already considerable bulk and the dense-crys dome allowed him to see in all directions while still offering him diamond-hard protection he could see through. It augmented his already considerable strength but did nothing for his speed. He was as slow as Wex was fast.
His war-suit’s one concession to mobility were its jump jets, allowing it to make forty to sixty meter hops across the battlefield and still being capable of firing any number of its weapons during those hops. Essver added some Humani computer protocols to the suit, allowing him more advanced targeting and heads-up scientific displays. He never revealed any of these upgrades to his people since they thought their capacity for violence had no equals. Their cousins in Humani came close.
The Major stepped off of the ship, in the Resurrection Frame, and she was configured for stealth operations, in midnight black with only the tiniest of lights showing on her carapace. There were numerous lighting systems across her front and back, but they were currently dimmed to disguise their usefulness. Taking some time to reconfigure, she boasted several adaptations designed to help battle their suspected enemy, the Nox. Projectile weapons replaced all of her energy weapons. The resulting surplus of energy was redirected into armor plating and external force fields, increasing her damage resistance. She was also smaller and lighter than normal. She was rigged for speed, silence and extreme physical force.
The Major carried a psychic blade, a molecular weapon forged from psychically bound metals capable of being hundreds of times harder and sharper than any normal metal could be. The psychic metal was attuned to the major’s psychic profile and allowed him to manifest a field of force along the edge of the blade capable of penetrating almost any know armor worn in combat.
This blade was created by a group of psychics who trained with the Bel-ha for decades learning their secrets. Extremely rare weapons, most were found in the hands of elite soldiers due to their prohibitive cost. A psychic blade in the hands of a skilled user could not be stopped by any normal metals or barrier fields. Only the strongest fields used on large mechs or small starships were capable of stopping such a weapon. The major also carried a standard Humani military flex blade, more than adequate for fighting almost any foe in the galaxy.
The major tested his suit’s multiple spectrum visions, both using ambient light as well as the emitted radiations his suit was capable of projecting. The frame allowed him to see in a variety of spectra so it was just a matter of finding one that worked for his needs. His weapon load out was extensive, carrying a long range pulse rifle, two heavy pulse pistols, and a shoulder mounted rocket launcher. Their scans of the planet indicated there were over two hundred Nox scattered across the facility.
The three of them strode free from the ship and Biyu took off after a few seconds and was gone from sight. No one said goodbye, though they all were sure this might be the last time the seven of them were together.
Chuntra and Biyu had filled the command module allowing complete freedom of movement for the aquatic Corvan. Biyu moved to the center of the bridge and accepted the two dozen cable feeds which plugged into her body at the limbs, spine, and torso. As she was connected, the cables were tightened making her appear to be a spider in the center of a technological web. Chuntra slid between the cables without touching them, grateful for the freedom of movement outside of her exosuit. Teela would periodically appear and disappear from the command area as she coordinated readings between the main bridge and the engineering science station below decks.
The three sentients did not speak much during their first hours as each pursued their specialty. Chuntra monitored the communications channels used by the Nila picket ships, the command coded frequencies from the approaching fleet and ansible transmissions from Corva Prime. Each stream of data was organized via timestamp and priority to be analysed collectively. Several of the transmissions were encoded and could only be accessed via her diplomatic credentials. The greatest benefit was her ability to remain anonymous and not even having to report her intercept of the transmissions. Being a galactic diplomat had its privileges.
Biyu spent her time linked to the ship’s sensors augmented by Nehaikai’s rig attempting to understand the strange temporal readings in the surrounding space-time. There appeared to be pockets of information scattered inside the nebula, many pockets, tens of thousands of them spaced all over the nebula, with the greatest concentration of them near the event horizon of the rift star.
There was another concern that held her attention during her investigation. The star that was used to originally power the rift had an unusual axis which pointed into the nebula and as a result allowed the polar jet to be directed at the primary Precursor station. This meant the world would have been highly irradiated if the had not been the Precursor radiant shield technology in place.
Even so, they were forced to approach the planet from the dark side with the planetary shield between them and the polar jet. The polar jet would not be serious problem as long as the shield were active. Even so, it created a no fly region that she was sure to put into the ships systems to ensure, there was no chance they would accidentally fly into it. The ship’s shields would protect them but would draw upon power reserves depleting them at three times the normal speed.
Traveling Light’s AI, Teela, spent the next two hours trying to compensate for the temporal distortion created by the quantum fluctuation permeating the nebula. She tried numerous algorithms to compensate for what she assumed was a necessary variation to keep the rift unstable enough to travel through. She altered course and flew closer to the rift in order to analyze what maintained its stability. As they approached the rift star, she appeared on the bridge and cleared the viewport.
Re-configuring it for a telemetry overlay, she included all of the information being harvested including flight patterns, communication bands, distances, fleet times to intercept and all of the temporal pockets scattered throughout the nebula. Adding to this, she included the quantum fluctuation field, and its attendant densities. Panning the view backward, she included the Precursor crystal worlds. She began to rotate the image until she found a point of view she deemed important. Chuntra and Biyu looked on, trying to see what she was seeing. And then she stopped.
“I don’t see it,” Biyu began, drawing her attention away from her data surveys being fed to her via cable. She focused on the information stream coming from the visual display and accompanying data.
“Look harder.” Teela did not hint. She did not want to prejudice the conclusion.
Chuntra looking at the two sentient machines did not see how she could notice something the two of them found, but there was something disturbing about the patterns in the anomalies in relationship to what was once the star Malcanari. Then she suddenly turned pale and drew her tentacles close to herself. “They look like ships,” she blurted out, pointing to the monitor.
Biyu turned the image and projected the paths of the anomalies back toward the rift. She organized the movement and compared the placement in four dimensions taking into account the temporal phasing of the rift. Then she saw it too. There was an area of interface between the intruding universe and our universe spanning from the rift. The area of interface was filled with tens of thousands, maybe even a million of these pockets of probability. They were not quantum foam or fluctuations. They were ships.
“She right, they are ships.” Teela looked at the two of them and said again, “You’re still missing it.”
“The quantum field is decaying as it’s being rerouted to broadcast the atavistic Corvan signal. This reroute will collapse the field. Not only will this subvert the entire Corvan stellar navy, turning each unshielded Corvan into an atavistic, crazed and supremely capable enemy-of-the-state but when that happens, these probabilities will become actualities. We will be surrounded by nearly a million of the ships that belong to creatures that exterminated the mightiest we beings we have ever known to exist, the Precursors. Two birds with one stone; disrupt the Hegemony and attack it while it struggles for control.”
“Oh shit.” Biyu whispered.
Teela coordinated another long distance scan to confirm her suspicions. “We have movement. The stasis field at the very edges is on the verge of collapsing.”
Chuntra opened a channel to the incoming shielded Hegemony fleet. “Now is your moment of decision, Fleet Command, you can pursue us or you can shoot an enemy fleet that was likely caused of the destruction of the Precursors, you can’t do both.”
A quick look between the three of them convinced them in only a second that Chuntra’s statement was premature. “Now he’ll have no choice,” Teela intoned. A nod was all it took for coordination.
And with those words, Travelling Light turned in toward the Malcanari Rift, a doorway between Universes where one of the fiercest species ever known to exist was pouring out of it, in untold millions and one of the fastest ships ever made flew right into the maw of this ancient enemy.
The fleet commander directed his ships to align for jump to the enemy fleet and to fire at will…