First Contact

Captain Tavian looked out through the strange system. His sensors gave no indication of where he was. He may not have even been in the same galaxy as his beloved Amarr Empire any more. The thought brought a smile to his face.

New, virgin territories to conquer. And he was among the first to come there. “What wonders shall we find?” he said out loud, mostly to himself.

His science officer perked up. “Well, sir, we could find anything!” she said. “Our sensors are picking up a variety of deadspace signatures.”

“Oh?” Tavian asked. “What type?”

She shook her head. “Unknown sir. Some of them are quite strong, though. I should be able to… Yes, I’ve got several pinpointed. They seem to be structures of some sort!”

“Structures?” Tavian betrayed rare excitement. “That means there are inhabitants in this system!”

“Perhaps,” she answered.

Tavian grinned. His family had lost many slaves in the Empress’s emancipation. A new civilization meant replacements. And as the leader of the charge, he would be rewarded with the best.

“Take us in,” Tavian ordered.

A moment later, they were staring at a vast structure, bearing no familiar marks or styles of construction. Yet it still was ineffably human in design. His grin widened.

“Broadcast a standard message of Amarrian superiority,” he said.

His comms officer began broadcasting the same messages the Empire had used for centuries. “The Amarr Empire is the true chosen of God. Bow down before us and you shall be allowed to earn your place in His creation. Stand against us and be cleansed by His holy light.” This message would repeat ad nauseum.

“We have contact,” said the tactical officer. “One ship. Cruiser sized. Tactical threat unknown.”

Tavian laughed. “One cruiser? Perhaps they have come to surrender themselves to us.”

“They are locking us,” the tactical officer said.

“What? The audacity!” Tavian growled. “Return the lock and destroy them!”

Suddenly, the ship rocked and the lights dimmed. “They are firing on us! We are losing capacitor fast.”

Tavian whirled. “What do you mean? There’s no way they should be able to put a dent in our capacitor!”

The tactical officer’s brow was furrowed. A line of sweat was beginning to bead on his forehead. “I don’t know, sir! But we’re losing armor fast. Sixty percent. Fifty percent! Forty percent!”

Tavian’s face paled. “Get us out of here.”

“We’re scrambled,” the navigation officer said.

The last color drained from the captain’s face. He was quiet as the tactical officer called out the ship approaching structure. Then he dropped to his knees. “God, forgive us our sins, for we are but imperfect servants of your will. Bear us to safety and - ”

He never finished, as the ship exploded in a shower of plasma and molten metal. The silent ship that had attacked them slowly turned and retreated back into the station it had launched from.

The rogue drones approached the structure. They knew it had been made by organic life, but they could tell now that it was abandoned. They had become experts at picking up the signs.

So when the station launched its defensive drones, they were surprised. But they did not engage the defenders. And the defenders did not return the assault. They merely watched each other.

After a few moments, the rogue drones retreated to the wormhole. This new space was not safe. They could not escape persecution. Organic life would be here soon. The rogue drones knew they could not seek protection with the Sleeper drones. Even if they could get the Sleeper drones to help, eventually the organics would find a way to overcome them.

There was nothing for them here.

“Are you sure about that?” Varal asked.

“Yes sir,” answered the science officer. “That’s Sleeper technology.”

Varal shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. “Sleeper tech? How is that possible?”

“I have no idea,” the officer replied. “But I grew up in the Ani constellation. We had their relics lying all over the place.”

“Those don’t look like relics to me,” Varal said, staring at the vast station floating hundreds of kilometers away. “It still has power to it. Could there be Sleepers still alive?”

“I don’t know,” the officer answered. “I’m not scanning any life signs, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any there. They could have some form of shielding.”

Varal turned to his second in command, a woman named Atanya. “What do you think we should do?”

“We’re not cloaked,” she pointed out. “So they know we’re here. If they’re hostile, then they’d have attacked already. I say we move in, see what else we can learn.”

Varal nodded. “Agreed. Move us in to a hundred kilometers.”

“Yes, sir,” the navigation officer said. The ship sped up and quickly accelerated towards the station.

“Sir, there’s movement,” the tactical officer reported. “Three frigate-sized ships being launched. They’re of an unknown type.”

“Shit,” Varal said. “Stop us and hail them. Tell them we’re not here to hurt them.”

The comms officer shook his head. “They’re not answering. Either they don’t understand us or they don’t care.”

“They’re moving fast!” the tactical officer reported. “Almost as fast as we can move!”

“Get us out of here!” Varal said. “Back to the wormhole!”

“They’re on us,” the tactical officer said.

“We’re scrambled,” the navigation officer reported.

“They’re draining our capacitor!” the tactical officer added. “And we’re taking heavy damage.”

“Dammit!” Varal said. “Hit the MWD! Get us out of their range and get us warped out! Now!”

The ship lurched forward as the powerful microwarp drive propelled the ship about as fast as any sublight drive could.

“We’re taking heavy armor damage,” the tactical officer said. “At fifty percent.”

“We’re still scrambled,” the navigation officer said.

“Forty percent.”

“Still scrammed.”

“Thirty percent.” Varal gritted his teeth. “Twenty percent.” He started to sweat. “Ten percent.”

“Comms, prepare a message to send back through the wormhole. Tell them that - ”

The ship suddenly lurched again. “We’re in warp!” the navigation officer whooped. “We got away!”

Varal sighed and slumped down into his chair. “Thank the maker. Get us back through that wormhole immediately. We need to report this back to our superiors.”

Aona turned to Eran. “The Sleepers,” he said.

Eran turned to Aona. “Yes, the Sleepers.”

The two turned back to the view screen. “I thought they had vanished,” Aona said.

“This must be where they vanished to,” Eran answered.

“We should investigate,” Aona said.

“Is it safe?” Eran wondered.

“Does it matter?” Aona asked.



Their ship shimmered into view of the dozens of Sleeper ships idly orbiting the massive station. Immediately, they turned and swarmed towards the ship.

“They are fast,” Eran said.

“They are powerful as well,” Aona said. “We are taking damage to our shields.”

“Are our defenses sufficient?” Eran asked.

“They should hold.” The lights on the ship dimmed slightly. Aona looked up at them. “They are neutralizing our capacitor.”

“Interesting,” Aona said. “I see no traditional energy neutralizing.”

“Is this technology even we lack?”

“Perhaps. But it is nothing to worry about. These Sleeper still slumber.”

“Do they?” Eran said. “We seem to have roused them.”

Aona shook his head. “Merely the tremors of a nightmare.”

“Then we should let them continue dreaming. Are we scrambled?”

There was a sudden explosion off the bow of the ship. “Not any more.”

The ship quietly slid into warp, then cloaked, vanishing like a wraith in the night.

The Megathron slowly approached the ruins of the station. “I wonder what built these?” Captain Jerie asked. “It’s obviously very advanced.”

“No idea,” her second-in-command said. “I’m just glad it’s a ruin. We already have the damn Jove hanging over our heads. The last thing we need is another advanced civilization hanging a sword of Damocles.”

Jerie nodded. “That’s true, but I’m a little sad too. Imagine being the first Gallente to meet a new civilization. Especially one that’s on - or even has surpassed - the level we’re on. It would be awe-inspiring.”

“Maybe,” her second said. “But that honor would mean little if they turned out to be hostile.”

Jerie shook her head. “Always the pessimist, aren’t you?”

“Merely anticipating all potential situations, sir.”

“Well, this is more a task for science teams than the Navy. We should - ”

“Captain, we’ve got activity,” the tactical officer reported.

“Activity?” Jerie wondered. “It’s a ruin!”

“Apparently a ruin with defenses,” the tactical officer said. “There’s one cruiser- and one frigate-sized ship coming at us.”

“Hail them.”

“No response,” the comms officer said.

“They’re moving fast,” the tactical officer said. “And they’re opening fire.”

“And we’re scrambled,” the navigation officer added.

Jerie frowned. “Lock them and return fire. Put our drones on the frigate.”

“Drones away,” the tactical officer said. “Turning our blasters on the cruiser.”

“Tactical assessment.”

“We have the firepower and tanking advantage,” the tactical officer replied. “I don’t see how…” He trailed off, then swallowed hard. “We’re taking heavy armor damage. Down to seventy percent already. Our drones are being targeted by their frigate and being destroyed. Our blasters are taking off chunks of the cruiser’s armor, but it’s repairing well.”

“What?” Jerie gasped. “Are they really advanced enough that a cruiser and a frigate can take down a Navy Megathron?”

“We have to get out of here,” her second said.

“We can’t. We’re scrambled and there’s no way we’re out running them.” She whirled to the tactical officer. “Overload our repairers and our guns. Concentrate fire on that cruiser. Put a remote repairer on whatever drones are being shot at! Keep them alive long enough to take out the frigate!”

The tactical officer nodded, but the second stepped in front of her. “Captain. That’ll burn out the ship in a matter of minutes.”

“And if we don’t, we’ll die. So we have to go for it.”

The lights on the ship suddenly dimmed as all power was rerouted towards the combat systems. “Our armor is doing better, but we’re still losing it,” the tactical officer said. “We are managing to wear down both enemies.”

“Keep me updated.”

“We’re at fifty percent armor. Forty percent. Thirty percent. Their frigate is down!”

“Get the drones on that cruiser!”

“Twenty percent. Our repairers have just burned out. Ten percent!”

“What’s their cruiser looking like?”

“It’s going down! No! Our guns have burned out! We’re into structure. Wait, our drones have gotten to that cruiser. It’s going down.” A fire broke out on the bridge as the structure of the ship was torn apart. Jerie closed her eyes and braced herself. “Cruiser down!” the tactical officer yelled. “We made it!”

Jerie opened her eyes and sighed. The bridge crew let out a cheer. “Good job everyone,” Jerie said, unable to keep a small quiver our of her voice. “Get me a damage report.”

Anger. Vengeance. These were the commands that the fleet received. Enter the rifts and destroy all that exists on the other side.

The protectors of the Nation obeyed. They knew nothing besides obeying. They would punish the universe for the holocaust it has visited upon them.

They emerged on the other side of the wormhole. They quickly found a target. A large station. Life was not detected on it. But the Nation knew that life could be sneaky. As the defenders emerged, they readied themselves.

The carnage was immense. The Nation had numbers, but it found a foe that could match its technology like none it had found before. If any fear was felt, neither side showed it. They showed only a unerring desire to kill and destroy.

When the battle finally ended, there was no victor. Any survivors had slinked away. The Nation’s bloodthirst was not slaked. And its curiosity was piqued.

It would return, once it had prepared to combat these defenders who were as silent and single-minded as themselves.

They watched as the Gallente ship limped away from the station. “We should destroy them,” the second in command urged. “They’re weak and most of their systems are burned out! We can take them out!”

Captain Ruhk shook his head. “No,” he said. “There’s no point in destroying their ship. We were ordered here to investigate the other side of these wormholes, not engage Gallente ships.”

“But we’re at war!”

“Heth’s war,” Ruhk said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s not Ishukone’s war. Mr. Reppola sent us in under cloak for a reason. To avoid a fight.”

The second in command gritted his teeth. “But we could - ”

“Enough!” Ruhk snapped. “We’re not engaging them! Besides, you saw what those hostiles just did! Who knows if that’s all of them? Maybe we decloak and attack, then seconds later more of those ships show up. A Megathron almost dies to a frigate and a cruiser, what do you think a Falcon would do against them?”

The second nodded in resigned obedience and stepped back.

“We will watch and wait,” Ruhk said. “And we will report everything back to command. Let the Gallente risk their lives, we’ll reap the rewards of patience, planning, and caution.”

“Are you going through?” Arel asked.

“Hell no,” Dramis answered. “Are you fucking crazy? We don’t know what’s on the other side of that rift. You go through.”

“I’m not crazy either,” Arel answered. “I’m not going through unless Sarpati himself orders me.”

“If Sarpati orders me through, I’m going to tell him to go fuck himself and his mother.”

“Well, you’re a Guardian Angel. It’s not like you have to listen to him. I’m an employee. I’d have to.”

“You don’t have to listen to him either, man,” Dramis said. “Anyone who does is a fucking nut. Ain’t no reason to go into those fucking wormholes. Not unless we find out there’s a bunch of junkies on the other side.”

“Amen to that, man. Amen.”

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