Deep space is so vast its true expanse cannot be truly understood and even mathematical expressions do little to really put it into perspective.
The Milky Way Galaxy has a diameter of 100,000 light years and is a good 1000 light years thick on average. There are a little over 400 Billion Stars and many more planets and moons.
Yet all the stars and all the matter of the galaxy takes up less space than 1 percent of the entire space the Galaxy occupies. So one would think that these vast empty and completely worthless near vacuum would be free of borders, territories and boundaries and yet there are and crossing them can be very dangerous.
The United Stars of the Galaxies claims most of the so called 'Upward Sector' of the Galaxy and physically occupies there alone over 900,000 Planets and locations. Add to this the areas of the 'Coreward Sector', the 'Large Magellan Cloud' and the 'Andromeda Galaxy', one stands in awe about the size and power of the Union. Yet it is insignificant in size and expansion compared to the 100 Billion Stars of the 'Upward Sector' alone.
Unlike in the core regions, a Space Bus is often the only means of travel on the untamed frontier regions of the Union. Braving many dangers, these coaches span, on schedule, vast distances of sparse populated space, teeming with privateers, Shiss Raiders, Kermac Sponsored Terror and the threat of the unknown.
It is the year 5030. The announcement of the Gray Leader of the Nul, one of the fiercest enemies of the United Stars, that his people and the Union are no longer enemies and that the Nul would begin the process of becoming a Union Member shocked and surprised everyone, especially of course, the Shiss and the Kermac led Galactic Council.
It would mean the end of the Free Space Treaty and of course the end of the Big Four, an arrangement that was seen by many as a guarantor of stability and peace. The Shiss knew it was the beginning of the end for their civilization. At that time no name struck more terror along the frontier between Union and Shiss space, than the name of Hazzzock, Gray Throated cousin to the First Nestling who would rather die than submit to Union rule...
Captain Sickles of the United Stars Army stood with his arms crossed beind his back looking outside the floor to ceiling view port gazing into the endless darkness of space. "Two point five trillion cubic light years in this sector alone, Jarvis. There should be room for all of us. The Union, the Shiss, the Nul," He threw up his arms and turned to face the others present in his office "and heck even all the species of the Galactic Council should find all the space they need out there and not ever bother each other."
Lieutenant Jarvis Mentar, who always looked like a walking recruitment poster, said, "Sir, I doubt I am qualified to answer your questions. Besides we do not have to worry about the Nul anymore."
"Lieutenant Jarvis Mentar, for the blue Virgins sake, don't take everything so seriously. There is no one, not the Immortals, not Nelson and I doubt even that mysterious Dark One that is supposed to exist, that knows why we always end up on a collision course with others."
The Lieutenant pulled dark green pseudo leather gloves off his hands with slow measured moves, "Sir, it might be a lot of space out there, but I am glad the Union decided to establish borders and border posts like this one. I don't want Shiss or Kermac ships to roam freely between our star systems. They could bring long distance weapons to bear, establish secret bases, as I think they do anyway. It is them who have started every war and conflict."
The two men watched as a space bus departed, its' ISAH pods slowly turning from a red to a white glow, and then the bus vanished into a streak of light. Closely after the bus twenty Apache Army Gunships departed as well following the bus.
Captain Sickles was the Commandant of this Deep Space Fort, floating in deep space. It was established here because until only recently it was where the spheres of influence of the Shiss, the Nul and the Union had met.
Besides the Lieutenant there was a Union Ranger and a Purple Nul giant in the room.
The huge massive Nul stood like a menacing alien looking golem, making Captain Sickles feel small and glad that the always predicted war against the Nul would never happen. He wondered what really happened that made them so suddenly change their minds.
The conversation and his thoughts were interrupted as the Fort Systems transmitted the 06H00 bugle sound over all speakers announcing the official start of a new day.
The two United Stars Army Officers in the room faced the flag in the corner and saluted it.
The young Lieutenant, fresh out of West Point, gave the Ranger a disapproving look as he noticed the man not saluting the flag.
Lt. Mentar was certain that traveled looking Ranger would have never made it in the Army. The man obviously rejected good grooming habits as well as the dress code a Union representative should adhere to. He had long hair and a grizzled face. The Ranger wore a Shiss Leather jacket, Karthanian made pants and Terran All Terrain boots. The handle of a knife showed from the rim of one boot and an actually quite illegal SII Mark 11 in a low slung holster, also not regulation and made of leather. Mentar said after the last tone of the bugle faded. "You should look at yourself in the mirror, Ranger! You are representing the Union out there. Can you imagine what settlers and colonists say if they see a tramp like you?"
The Ranger's bright blue eyes gazed at the young officer and the smile he had in his tanned by a hundred suns face, "I can imagine what they would say if you showed up..."
Captain Sickles put his hand on the Lieutenant's shoulder, "He is a respected Ranger and we are glad for his service and Intel." The Captain then activated a three dimensional projection of the local region of space and the Ranger tipped his finger against five points of lights.
"These systems are full of Hazzzock's raiders. They've attacked every colony in this region. I've seen eight settlements burning and completely destroyed!" The Ranger then nodded to the impassive Nul standing there and said, "My friend here had a brush with them last night. Says they all had been Hazzzock's lizards.
The report had a striking effect on Sickles and the young Lieutenant. The Captain said, "So it is true, Hazzzock finally went over the edge. Reports of destroyed Colonies will stir up a Nest of Xunx at the Assembly."
The Ranger said, "I have been patrolling these parts for the last thirty years, Captain. There are Union Colonies, Free Colonies and settlements, A few Nul planets here and there, and the entire region claimed by the Shiss for over 20,000 years as theirs. Hazzzock is neither a fool, nor a force to be trifled with."
The huge Nul pointed at three other even closer systems, "We ran into very well armed Kashir Cruisers right here, eight of them. Hazzzock has the resources to buy the best Free Space markets offer."
The Captain rubbed his chin and said "Eight Kashir, you say, this close?"
The Lieutenant eyed the Nul with unveiled distrust and then leaned closer to the Captain, "How do we know he is not lying?"
The Ranger answered before the Captain could, "Shut him up, or I will!"
The Captain looked away from the projection and said to the Lieutenant. "He is Nul; they have hated the Shiss 10,000 years longer than us." Then he added, "Be careful Lieutenant, that ranger outranks both you and I."
The Nul moved only a few inches and said with his growling voice, "Our wise leader has decreed that we are now working together. I have known this ranger for many years, as my duty is somewhat similar. I trust and respect him and I do understand human innuendo very well. One more insult from you little Lieutenant and there will be an incident between our nations where I have to explain what happened to my wise Leader and your Captain will need a mop and a bucket to remove what's left of you!"
Before anything else could be said an N.C.O. opened the door, "Sir, urgent message from Benton's Colony."
Sickles impatiently gestured towards the GalNet Terminal, "Connect us right away."
The N.C.O sat down before the GalNet Terminal and keyed in the security code, "It is a High Priority Message, Sir!"
Sickles moved behind the N.C.O., "Well then put them on."
The N.C.O. made a few futile verbal attempts and then pulled out the rarely if ever used manual input board from its hidden compartment and typed a message.
The Captain impatiently said, "By the time you are done, I could have walked to Benton's Colony and got it in person."
The Ranger said, "That's the Problem with the Army, I would get my own messages and would be done by now."
Mentar made big eyes, "What a ridiculous suggestion. He is the Commandant of the Fort and that N.C.O. is the Signalman."
The N.C.O. turned to the Captain and said, "Benton's Colony is not receiving or sending. It looks almost as if someone destroyed the Relay buoys in that region."
Sickles drew in air sharply and said, "What did the caller say before you got disconnected?"
The N.C.O. answered, "Only two words, Sir. Hazzzock raiders."