Chapter 1

We had been in this conflict a very long time. Twenty-three years, seven months, two weeks and three days to be exact. Two cycles ago, the damaged vessels of the fleet left our remaining weapons platforms and ships in a holding action against our enemy, the Dern. Let me explain, each of our years consisted of six cycles, roughly forty-seven earth days, each lasting thirty eight hours in duration.

Our empire consisted of more than one hundred planets and sixty-nine billion people. Our enemy was about the same size. Both races were human and both, I am certain, were formed from the same sources.

How the conflict started, no one really knows. What follows is a summary, taken from ships logs and presented in a manner to tell you how things were when the Klaxon invaded, and why things were as they were.

A Human Machine Takes Form

We were near the end of our journey. The last six of the missile carriers surrounded the smaller and lightly shielded AI fighter. A Missile Carrier was much smaller than our newer weapons platform. Three types of missiles could be carried but only one was used today, this for the long range and larger warhead it could carry. One half of its carry capacity was converted to armour plating and shield generators, only one mass volley, some 2,600, would be fired then the massive, reinforced hulls used only to protect the AI.

Three slightly bruised and battered frigate ships filled in any openings they could around them with their very battered hulls. These had been stripped of weapons, They now would extend Proto-shields around these few remaining ships. At the very front the last battleships we had took up point, they were the VSS Victory, the Valiant and the former Command Ship, Viceroy.

All three were new, the best we had. Each equipped with four heavy beam weapons and two tractors. Their Plasma shields and Neutron armour would hopefully protect the remaining older ships. The most vulnerable was the AI. She had very little armour, only minimal shielding had been restored on her hull and the shipyard had taken the AI from the damaged Vindicator Class Command ship when it had been determined repairs would require too much time. As it was, the AI ship, now christened Victorious represented our last hope in the long fight we had been in with the Dern.

In more than twenty years of battle no clear determination had ever been reached. I suppose that over-time both sides had decided any defeat would mean the end of that civilisation. By the time that this last battle was taking place, it was clear that the winner would take all.

Winner, right, whoever would win would inherit two dead. near-dead or dying empires. Even with the resources of both empires, it would require many cycles to even repair and replace defence weapons for one side, let alone both.

The command to engage was given and a countdown of sorts was begun, timed to coincide with our appearance in the fight.

We emerged into an indescribable horror of floating ship hulls, burning wreckage and millions of crew from both sides floating in space around our formation. Some seventy-three of the enemy remained. They were attacking our last functioning weapons platform and thirty Bella Class destroyers. They were all that remained functioning. When sensors notified them of our approach, two things happened. All of the enemy broke off the attack of the platform, turned about to face us, and then began to target us with everything they had left.

I said us because, at that moment, we flew as one. Our AL was given control of all ships, even the former Command ship. Missile were launched and an even tighter formation was then formed around the AI. All our ships would now sacrifice everything to protect the AI. Offensive responses would come from the three battleships alone. Plasma fields were used as a forward shield and any propulsion would be from the nine ships behind.

There was really no place left to go. Shielding and weapons would be all that stood between victory and defeat. Everyone was now watching what would happen.

The first wave of enemy weapons hit the plasma barrier. Missiles, energy weapons and several hundred Photo Blasters were destroyed. Photo Blasters were old style weapons used by the enemy to destroy very weak or crippled targets. That they were used as offensive weapons gave us a hope that this truly would be the last battle of this war. As it turned out, this first barrage was intended to destroy our forward plasma shields, which it did.

Their second wave consisted of most of their newer and more destructive weapons, including several hundred Cerberus missiles they had used to destroy our Alpha Class ships and sixty of the Vindicator escorts.

Our missiles hit them a few seconds before everything seemed to stand still for us. It was like hitting a titanium wall at light speed. Everything stopped. Hulls were mangled, ships fused together and none of the battleships seemed to be able to fire. Ahead the enemy had also paid a heavy price. Only three of their ships were able to move. Our missile attack, coupled with the renewed firing from our weapons platform had disabled seventy ships.

Our platform could fire but not move, we could do neither. Even though there remained only three enemy ships, they were headed our way. We could see the devisor torpedo pods headed towards us. Once near their target, these would split and eject plasma nodules covering and slowly destroying their targets. We had no way to stop them now.

As they approached, our weapons platform had been destroying or stopping the enemy from going any further, it was a pyrrhic victory though, not much would remain alive.

As the plasma nodules were released and formed up to envelope our mangled ships something strange happened. Our AI left its ship and began to place itself as a huge wall between us and the plasma field. When the two walls came together masses of the stuff hit the AI then began to eat it away. The AI was saving us at the cost of itself.

If this was a soldier, what we were seeing would have been deemed a sacrifice worthy of a medal and our highest respect and honour. But this was a machine. How could, no, why would a machine do such a thing to save us?

It would be several weeks before we would be towed into any repair facility to even try to find out. The war had been going on for so long that no one, on either side knew how or why it had started. Both sides now saw only the devastation that had been done. There was no gain, no reward or prize gained. The best that could be said was that some healing might begin. That is, if no other beings would sweep us aside now. It was a fear that permeated on both sides now and it was a very real threat.

Where We Were Now

As the war was ending, both sides were to see the damage that had been done and assess what all needed to be done to let the healing begin.

Meanwhile, our damaged ship/ships being towed for repair left a question for us as to why and how the AI had done what it had for us. We were all put into stasis until much later.

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