Stardate 76136.7; February 19, 2399
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
Prime Minister Vallis
Lieutenant Flora Sanders
Lieutenant Jayla Trinn
Ii’zyyr’aa • (ih-ZEER-ah)
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
The distressing resonance of the computer alarms brought Ansor Tanar from his slumber. His pale green eyes quickly flitted open, frantically searching the nearby controls for the source of the computer’s consternation—but the fog within the bleary-eyed ansor’s mind kept him from making a coherent analysis. In his stupor, Tanar could see little more than the blinking violet light in the middle of the console…
His hands stumbled over the myriad controls, hastily working to silence the clamoring computer, but his actions came too little, too late. By the time the computer was muted, the Command and Control center was abuzz with activity. The lights were at full illumination, the rest of the lowly ansors were diligently working to pick up for Tanar’s slack, and Sor Dalem had emerged from her private anteroom to address the situation herself.
“What is going on?” demanded Dalem as she strode onto the command deck. Her pale violet skin seemed to glisten in harsh light, making the woman a very intimidating presence in the room—a notion that was only exacerbated by her legendary impatience. “Tanar?”
By this point, the flood of thoughts racing through Tanar’s chaotic mind had cleared his post-nap haze—and while his vision was still a bit blurry, he could see enough of his workstation to realize what was going on. “We are getting telemetry from the Azel Cluster,” he reported, though his voice sounded a bit more uncertain than he would have liked—but then again, the expedition to the Azel Cluster was a fairly routine operation. It shouldn’t have been generating level-nine sensor alerts. As such, uncertainty was definitely warranted.
But if Dalem was uncertain about the situation, there was no sign of it in her actions. She hastily crossed the command deck and assumed a position at Tanar’s side. “A sensor anomaly, perhaps?”
No technology was perfect—not even Velora technology—so Tanar could not immediately dismiss Dalem’s suggestion. But since the last notable computer malfunction occurred more than fifty years ago, he was extremely skeptical. Still, he humored his superior, and performed a quick system analysis.
It immediately confirmed Tanar’s suspicions.
“All systems are functioning within normal parameters,” he reported, grimly shaking his head.
Dalem’s bright green eyes peered into the sensor data, and with each second that passed, the look upon her face grew increasingly distressed. “Get the Prime Minister,” she said a moment later.
Tanar immediately froze. “With all due respect, Dalem, the hour on the Moschet Peninsula is late. The Prime Minister is most likely asleep…”
Dalem’s angry eyes narrowed to slits. “Then wake him!”
And it was then that Tanar decided the situation was far worse than he had originally thought. The Prime Minister did not frequently involve himself directly with daily military affairs—and when he did, it almost always meant bad news. And so, Tanar sent for the Prime Minister, knowing that when he arrived, hell would be following close behind…
A colossal brown cloud rose from the barren world of Azel, a densely thick mass of undulating bio-matter that spread relentlessly from the planet’s dark, craggy surface. The bustling entity penetrated the roiling atmosphere and spilled into the endless void of space like floodwaters bursting through a dam…
Prime Minister Vallis was awakened by the sound of footsteps. He could hear the heavy footfalls approaching even before they reached his cavernous bedroom, and he instinctively knew they would not bring with them good tidings.
His heart began to pound, and a moment later, the heavy wooden doors in the front of his room swung open. Vallis glanced up to see a very morose Ambassador Corrin standing at the threshold, flanked on either side by a pair of equally concerned guards.
“Forgive the disruption, Prime Minister,” said Corrin as he tentatively stepped inside cavernous room, “but there has been an incident…”
Concern mounting, Vallis threw aside his bedding. He quickly grabbed a coat from the nearby chair and an instant later he was on his feet, charging the exit.
As the dark cloud stretched into the glittering cosmos, its fluidic cohesion began to fracture. Parts of the massive entity broke away, veering at random to port or starboard, while the bulk of the roiling mass stormed away from the cloud-shrouded world with incredible haste… And with good reason—a storm was brewing on the distant horizon…
“We’re getting additional telemetry,” said Tanar, his nervous hands hovering over the controls. He watched intently as the new data scrolled across his screen; he didn’t like what he saw. “It’s a class-fifteen neutronic wave front—headed directly for the planet.”
Eyes wide with fear, Dalem shook her head in disbelief. “How many people are on that colony?”
Though he was loath to do so, Tanar temporarily removed the accumulating telemetry from his screen. Even though twelve other people in the room were monitoring the exact same data, Tanar was afraid some important piece of information might be missed. Besides, he was not eager to see how many lives teetered on the brink of death; he already knew it would be unbearably high.
Dalem sighed her frustration. “Tanar?”
He quickly accessed the data. “Eight thousand…”
The approaching storm was aglow in haunting crimson light, devouring everything in its path as it roiled through the heavens. Great tendrils of electric energy arced across the galactic plane ahead of the frenzied tempest. Most of the sizzling energy bolts dissipated after only a moment, but some of the more energetic tendrils curled around the planet’s atmosphere and began to interact with the rising cloud…
And an instant later, a huge chunk of the cloud shriveled up and died… Thousands of dying organic vessels immediately began to fall away from the cloudy formation, many of them descending into the planet’s atmosphere to a fiery end.
Vallis stormed through the myriad halls within the Circle of Defense, Ambassador Corrin and his entourage following close behind. However, despite of his haste, Vallis found himself going nowhere fast. His legs were simply not built for such a frenetic pace, and as such, the Prime Minister ultimately realized he wound up going much slower than anticipated. Still, he would not stop…
He could not stop.
At least not until he reached the command center.
The roiling crimson storm fell upon the planet like a tidal wave, crashing into the sphere with unprecedented force. Wicked tendrils of blazing white energy crackled through the glowing atmosphere, coiling around the besieged world like a noose—and as the flickering rope began to tighten, Azel’s crust started to crack…
Meanwhile, the immense swarm fleeing the dying world began to waver. The approaching storm killed the little ships by the thousand, its great tendrils of energy arcing around the planet and into the undulating swarm. In a futile effort to save themselves, some of the little insectoid crafts broke formation and darted back toward the storm, ceaselessly firing pale emerald energy bursts into the infernal storm’s blood-red maw…
So immense and powerful was the roiling crimson entity, it was virtually unfazed by the insectoid assault—and a moment later, it devoured the planet, the fleeing swarm, and every last speck of dust in its path…
Ambassador Corrin at his side, Vallis stormed into the command center—his eyes flitted to the viewscreen just in time to see a massive bolt of vivid white energy crackle through the scarlet gloom. And even before the blazing tendril began its assault upon Azel’s glowing atmosphere, Vallis clenched a nervous jaw. No matter the outcome, this was going to be a terrible day…
Moments later, in the blink of an eye, the vivid white tendril surged through the planet’s atmosphere, the forked bolt burned into the eyes of all those watching. Almost immediately, the planet began to crumple. Massive plumes of fire and ash surged through the fractured crust, billowing high into the atmosphere—and then the transmission ended.
Vallis’ gaze immediately fell upon Sor Dalem—who in turn turned her vivid green eyes upon the ansor manning the master control station in the center of the room.
“Radiation from the wave front has temporarily rendered the probe inoperable,” reported the ansor. Vallis was reasonably certain the young man’s name was Tanar, but he could not be certain—and in this dire moment, he didn’t particularly care.
“When will the visual feed be restored?” asked Dalem, hands impatiently hanging upon her hips.
Tanar shook his head. “I’m not certain,” he said. “Assuming it survives the next couple of minutes, perhaps—”
But the neutronic wave front must have been moving at incredible speeds—because even before Tanar could complete his analysis, a faint, grainy image became visible on the massive circular screen at the front of the room. But amidst the distorted artifacts dancing across the screen, Vallis could just barely make out a sphere in the middle of the screen…
Or at least part of a sphere.
“Can we get a better image?” Dalem inquired.
“Perhaps switch to one of the other visual probes in the vicinity?” suggested Ambassador Corrin.
His fingers dancing over the controls, Tanar shook his head. “The other three probes were destroyed,” he gleaned from his sensors. “But the fourth one is salvageable…”
Vallis sighed. There were so many questions racing through his chaotic mind. He was eager to hear all of them answered—and he would, in time—but as he peered at the grainy sphere on the viewscreen, Vallis could not bring himself to speak. He could only stand, and ponder the single most prominent question in his mind: How bad is it?
A moment later, the question was answered.
There was a grainy haze surrounding the planet. Some of it was the result of the transmission, but most of the haze was the dust and debris spewed into the heavens during the storm. And once his eyes looked past the dust, Vallis knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the damage was unbelievably horrific.
Half of the planet was utterly obliterated—not burned or singed—it was just gone. In its place, where once there might have been forests or cities, now there was nothing more than an enormous, smoldering crater.
His heart sinking, Vallis shook his head in disbelief. “May the gods forgive us…”