Eternity’s Foundation: Chapter 34

Congratulations on making it to the final chapters! I am posting the final chapter and epilogue at the same time.

The giant titan-class sphere ships basked in the sunlight and emissions from the twin stars. Near the planet Danube, a small fleet waited at the recently abandoned Carnarvon Station. Among this gathering, an observing eye in the seas of thought noticed a small disturbance in the nearby tesseract. It glowed and pulsed as grid energies gathered. The observer sent out a warning to the rest of the fleet, but it had detected the anomaly too late. A flash of light appeared. A group of corvette-class Republic ships materialized. Then more flashes. Thousands of energy signatures appeared from all directions. Soon enough, they outnumbered the few globular ships. The remnants of the Republic Navy bore down on the orbiting fleet like wolves on lambs.

Inside the Combat Information Center, Atranas watched the three-dimensional tactical map display light up with friendly and enemy indicators. She played and replayed every permutation of the coming battle in her mind. No doubt casualties would be high. Too late to change course now, the battle had begun. She cast a wary eye to the gigantic representations of the ships orbiting the suns. No activity there. Officers and aides worked around her in machine-like precision. She ordered the fleet to split in two and approach Danube from opposite directions.

At maximum engagement range, thousands upon thousands of torpedoes blasted towards the sphere fleet at thousands of kilometers per second. Soon after, following their path, swarms of Hawking ships rushed to engage. Drones stayed behind to help with defense. The enemy forces took defensive positions, adjusting their weaponry for point defense, in a manner eerily similar to their foes. Blasts of light intercepted the majority of torpedoes were intercepted. However, a few got through the defense screen, hitting the ultradense armors of the waiting ships. The larger spheres emerged relatively unscathed, but many smaller ones buckled under the repeated high-yield detonations from the thousands of miniature suns.

When the torpedo barrage ended, the spheres adjusted their weapons again and fired back at the approaching Republic ships. Openings in their hulls burned with intense thought-formed energies. The counter fire was devastating. Despite the Republic’s advanced targeting systems, the laser point defenses were not accurate enough to stop all of the relativistic energy blasts. Shields failed in flickering blue light, armor plates exploded as the projectiles pierced them, and ship magazines detonated from the high-yield weaponry. A cruiser called the Moranga lost control of its internal gravity generator, and all crew died as the intense g-forces crushed them against the bulkhead. It floated silent, its hull leaking orange gas. A group of corvettes exploded simultaneously in waves of fire.

Nearer to the spheres, escort orbs intercepted the Hawking ships, attempting to prevent the small but heavily armed ships from getting within fleet formation. They danced in high-g, firing pinpoint accurate weapons thousands of kilometers away from each other. With the electronic counter measures and the electronic counter-counter measures negating each other, maneuverability became the greatest predictor of success. Hypervelocity missiles instantly caught a few escorts that fell into the firing line. Several Hawking ships succumbed to energy projectiles. When they moved close enough, particle beams tore through the relatively light-armored sphere escorts. Both sides suffered heavy losses.

#

Alan waited in the Vĩnh Viễn, docked in the Yasothon’s hangar bay, listening to the radio chatter. Orders flew back and forth. Pilots reported enemy positions and kills. Some screamed as their ships got caught in the blasts. He gripped the sides of his chair until his fingers turned white and fought the urge to join them.  He programmed in the thousand possible approaches to the suns. Lines of possible enemy vectors appeared on his computer screen. He examined them, tracing each of their paths with his eyes.

#

The main Republic fleet approached into heavy weapons range from both the flanks of the sphere fleet. In response, the defenders split into two groups to meet the challenge.  Beams of light emerged from Third Fleet to bore into the orb ships. The Republic ships engaged side thrusters to strafe the enemy and avoid counter fire. Sustained fire annihilated many of the larger spheres, and they exploded in clouds of grid energy. An undetected siege ship rapidly powered up and fired its massive beam into the largest sphere. The intense white laser cut into its hull, tearing it apart from within. A giant flash of light engulfed the sphere. Winning their engagement with the escort spheres, the Hawkings flew into the flanks of the enemy fleet, cutting down many of the smaller ships.

A blast glanced off the shields of the Yasothon. Nalia ordered her crew to target a cruiser-sized sphere firing at a wounded dreadnaught. A full array of particle beams raked the sphere from top to bottom, pouring intense energy into its hull and obliterating it. She watched the red indicators circle around them. An officer reported that gravity shields still held. Her support ships took defensive positions and fired their full complement of weapons. The red indicators started disappearing.

Soon enough, the Republic fleet decimated the ships around Carnarvon Station. When the command ship gave the all clear signal, a dozen marine frigates burned towards the station to retake it. They attached themselves to the sides of the structure and cut holes into it with breaching lasers. Soldiers carrying impact rifles in full lethal mode and wearing self-sealing space suits emerged from breaching modules. They ran through the darkened corridors of the abandoned station. Luckily, no one had occupied it, leaving only a ghostly silence. They secured the bridge and control room. Specialized marine techs started restoring functionality to the station.

It was time. Nalia relaxed the urgings of her impatient mind and took out the dull yellow Gate crystal from her pocket. She placed it on the console in front of her. It sat like an inert desktop toy. “Beginning Gate activation sequence,” she announced to the fleet. Cupping her hands around the crystal, she felt its warm pulses. A light within flashed as the computers inside the crystal began their calculations. She saw visions of swirling energies gathering in dust and light. In some indescribable way, she could feel her consciousness resonating with the processes within the object. She directed it to open a place far away from this section of the galaxy. Some instinct deep within guided her as she manipulated the grid.

“Energy surge from one of the suns,” reported an officer. The crystal started to float, emitting an eerie red and purple light. In a position in front and outside of the ship, time and space began to distort. Sensors reported gridspace anomalies all around the fleet. And then the Gate appeared. A giant spinning metal structure through which hundreds of ships could pass through. It spun clockwise, slowly at first, then at a faster pace. A blood-red swirling passage started forming in its epicenter, beckoning them towards it. Nalia covered her face as the floating crystal shattered into a million particles of dust. It must have overloaded from the massive amounts of energy pouring into it. No matter. The deed was done. She checked herself for injuries, and then opened general comms channel.

“Start the countdown!” yelled Nalia. Timers throughout the fleet started at twenty minutes, based on the estimated activation time of the Gate that Mohe had determined through his study of the key.

An incoming transmission from the Virtuous came through. “Good job, Captain Sargire,” Atranas told her. “Now, the hard part begins.”

The fleet took a spherical defensive position around the Gate. Hawking ships waited at the outer perimeter. Injured but still active ships moved towards the center. In the middle of that mass, orders emanated from the Virtuous. Minutes passed by like seconds as the Republicans prepared in haste for the inevitable counterattack.

“Alert! Enemy fleet materializing near our position,” reported the Yasothon’s tactical officer. Above their plane of axis, flashes of light heralded the coming of a similar sized sphere fleet to the one they just destroyed. A warning indicator appeared on Nalia’s holo. Alert sirens echoed throughout the bridge. “Second enemy fleet materializing and approaching us straight on,” the officer said. That was rather quick, Nalia thought. Red indicator figures appeared on her screen, showing the second sphere fleet below their position, its numbers much more than the first. She gritted her teeth. They were now outnumbered. The titan-class ships orbiting the star remained inactive.

#

In the Vĩnh Viễn, Alan found that he could do no more planning. He watched the countdown timer go down. He kept comm channels open to the Yasothon’s bridge. He heard orders from the admiral for all ships to take position. He waited.

#

Long-range missiles and torpedoes flew towards the approaching enemy fleets. Atranas split the fleet again into three groups and ordered farthest one to approach the top sphere fleet to heavy weapons range. The second group took position around the Yasothon and protected the Gate. The third group escorted the Virtuous to a safe place away from the Gate. Weapon blasts detonated around the Yasothon, unfathomable amounts of energy pouring into the space around them. Two nearby dreadnaughts were caught in the blasts. One split into two as the green sphere blasts penetrated its shield and its midsection. Multiple impacts blew the other into its constituent atoms. Nalia ordered the gravity shields extended to protect the smaller ships around them.

Carnarvon Station finally became alive again as its systems were restored. The fortshield blinked on. It spread like a curtain around Third Fleet, providing its powerful protection. Multiple shots from the two sphere fleets hit the shield. It held and left blue iridescent residues as it absorbed the intense fire. Several escort-sized orbs flew in, attempting to find holes in the shield. Hawking ships moved to intercept them. The two Republic groups held position behind the shield curtain, waiting for the inevitable moment it fell under the barrage.

The countdown ended. Nalia checked the Gate. A large passage was now present in its center and appeared to be stable. She reported its status to the Admiral.

“Acknowledged, Captain. I will give the order.” Atranas in her strategy room traced a path from the tesseract to the Gate. “Start the first wave!” she ordered into her console. The chatter around her burst with people shouting commands. Her map indicated multiple grid signatures as hundreds of civilian ships materialized. “Task groups Alpha through Delta, escort those ships to the Gate.” She rattled off more orders to Carnarvon Station to open a hole in the fortshield and to rearrange defensive positions.

Luxury yachts, cargo ships, and shuttle tugs burned at full acceleration towards the Gate. In response, portions of the sphere fleets closed in on their position. The escort groups moved to intercept and block any shots. Weapons ordnance exploded around the civilian ships, but none received more than surface damage. They eventually reached the shelter of the fortshield. The civilians approached the Gate without hesitation. The first ship, a cruise liner called The Hanging Gardens, entered the Gate and disappeared in a ripple of light. The other ships followed in quick succession.

#

Around the twin stars, a single titan-class sphere ship activated with a shimmer spreading across its surface. Multi-colored iridescent patterns formed and shifted throughout its hull. It moved towards the fleet at an acceleration unimaginable for a ship of that size. A trace of grid energy followed in the giant’s wake.

#

The escort groups sustained heavy damage protecting the first wave. Atranas ordered them back under the cover of the shield. More blasts detonated against the fortshield. It started to blink in and out, but it still held. One of the emitters blew out and the shield deactivated for an agonizing five seconds. In that period, enemy munitions caught a handful of the retreating escorts. Two unshielded destroyers and two frigates were lost as the blasts pierced their hulls. The marines on Carnarvon Station poured all available power to the shields, even turning off life support and gravity.

The last of the first wave passed through the Gate safely. Atranas ordered the second wave in and assigned escort orders to healthier ships. A larger contingent of civilian ships materialized into the star system. Again, the escort groups rushed out to protect them. The sphere ships ignored the civilians and concentrated on the warships. Although under heavy fire, the escort groups and civilians were able to pass through the now fainter fortshield.

On the command ship, an alarm trilled as the resident AI reported a looming threat. Atranas cursed as she noticed the large red indicator for the titan-class ship. It stopped, half a million kilometers from the fleet’s position. Then, like a fist preparing to slam down on an insect, its internal reactors gathered grid energies at a point on its hull. Clouds of space-time distortions appeared at that point. A nearby technician reported that massive power fluctuations were emanating from the sphere. Atranas’ pulse raced. She switched comms to general frequencies. “All ships, evasive maneuvers! Spread out!” she shouted, hoping that they would react in time.

A giant translucent beam of energy emerged from the sphere ship straight toward the center of the command fleet. It hit the fortshield, which exploded with colors from all over the spectrum. A millisecond later, the beam pierced the shield, taking Carnarvon Station’s entire power grid down. When it reached the main mass of Republic ships, it detonated outwards in a blinding flash of brilliance. Nearby electronics shorted out from the influx of energy. The explosion expanded at high speed for a range of thousands of kilometers, consuming hundreds of ships, both military and civilian.

The blast caught the Virtuous just as it started accelerating. Atranas stared at the expanding energy wave on the tactical screen for a few milliseconds before it overcame the command and control ship. It hit with a loud crash and scorching light tore through the flagship’sinnards. Atranas could not even hold up her arms to protect her eyes before the light consumed her. Her last thoughts were of the words she never said to her son.

#

Although Carnarvon Station was at the edge of the blast radius, it was not spared. Large secondary explosions rocked it as internal generators failed. Its lights blinked out and its orbit around the planet started decaying. A few seconds later, the station fell through the atmosphere, breaking into flaming chunks of metal before hitting the surface in clouds of dust and fire that could be seen from space.

#

On the Yasothon, red lights flashed and alarm klaxons wailed as the crew attempted to repair damaged systems and tend to the wounded. The ship had barely escaped the blast intact. Nalia slowly opened her eyes and checked herself for injuries. Her ears ringed from a console that had exploded nearby. “Weapons disabled. Gridspace drive disabled,” the computer reported with its flat tone.

“Captain!” yelled Officer Drevin. “The Virtuous is down! I repeat, the Virtuous is down!”He checked his console for more status updates. He turned to her, his expression unreadable. “We’ve lost the entire chain of command, also. There’s no one leading us.”

Nalia’s heart skipped a beat. She stared, frozen at her console, as red indicator lights appeared all over their position. Around them, the two sphere fleets moved in for the kill. The fleet fought back, but their scattered positions and momentary confusion made it difficult to coordinate the defense. A blast hit a civilian transport in its reactor, causing it to detonate and bathe the fleets in the light of a temporary star. 

“What should we do?” Officer Drevin asked with a slight edge to his voice. Nalia attempted to reply, but panic threatened to overwhelm her.

“Captain, we’re picking up comms from all over the fleet!” The communications officer looked at her with wide eyes. Frantic calls came in from every communication channel. Cries for assistance. Reports of enemy ships closing in. Screams as weapons fire tore into vessels. They begged for someone to take charge.

Nalia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The alarm klaxons wailed even louder. She cleared her mind, shutting out the fear. She opened her eyes quickly and sat up straight, filled with resolve. “Open frequency to the fleet!” she commanded. The comms officer complied.

“It’s ready. You may speak now,” the officer reported.

Nalia steeled herself. “Third Fleet. This is Captain Nalia Sargire of the vessel Yasothon. The Virtuous has been lost. If we do not take action, then the day will be lost. I am taking command. Engage enemy fleets and keep them away from the civilians!” Her console screen showed the fleet in vast disarray. Some ships complied. Most did not respond. She slammed her fist on the console. “Why are you waiting? In this very moment, the fate of humanity rests in our hands. We face the greatest challenge to our species. Our homes may be destroyed. Our comrades may have fallen. And we may be injured. But we are not done yet. As long as we can still fire our weapons, as long as our hands still function, as long as our will survives, we will overcome. They seek to put us in hell, but we will return that hell four-fold to them. The power lies within each and every one of us. All we need to do is to keep going, just for a few more moments. I ask you to fight with me. Fight for your family. Fight for your friends. Fight for the future. Fight so that you can tell your grandchildren that you answered when humanity needed you the most!”

A deadly second passed. Then, Officer Drevin’s excited voice cut in. “Captain! All the ships in the fleet have recognized us as the new command and control. You’ve been given full authority.”

Nalia sighed in relief. She set her console to open channels to every Republic ship. “I am auto-assigning you into twenty groups. Groups 1 to 8, form up around the siege lasers and defend them. Siege lasers, target down the biggest guns first. Destroy to the fullest of your capabilities. Groups 9 to 15, cover groups 1 to 8. Do not allow the siege lasers to be destroyed. Engage them at knife range if you have to. Groups 16 to 20, escort all remaining civilian ships to the Gate.”

The fleet complied. Her orders proved effective as the incoming sphere ships appeared to not anticipate their rapid regrouping. Scores of ships were caught out of position as beam weapons and siege lasers tore into them. For a millisecond, the enemy fleet stopped its advance. Then, they surged forward again, as their numbers still proved an advantage. One Republic group and its siege laser melted under sustained fire. Another group became surrounded. A dreadnaught named the Antanan succumbed to the concerted attack and disappeared in a sustained reactor detonation. In desperation, the escort ships moved to visual range, ensuring the full force of their weapons would hit the ships of the enemy. In some parody of history, sphere and Republic craft traded blows like Spanish and English galleons.

“Comms, order all remaining civilian ships to materialize and tell them to make a run for it.” Nalia gripped the armrest on her chair tightly. The communications officer sent the order out. Hundreds of ships appeared from gridspace. They oriented towards the gate and flew at full acceleration. Many shook from the g-forces, not made to withstand such pressure.

“Helm, take us to the fleet closest to the civvies. We will take position around the Gate and keep it open,” Nalia commanded.

“Yes, Admiral, taking us there,” the helmsman responded. The Yasothon flew past the hulks of burnt out ships as they rushed to the still intact Gate.

A large alarm rang from the tactical officer’s display. “Admiral!” His forehead shined with sweat. “A third fleet’s coming in!”

No, Nalia thought. Not now!“Groups 16 to 20, prepare to—” She began.

Thousands of pinpoint lights flash above them. Massively armed ships accelerated to the Republic’s position with their weapons activating.

“Kenzenken configurations!” exclaimed the tactical officer.

Colonel Miyashiro’s fleet! thought Nalia.

“Hail coming in,” reported the comms officer.

“Put it on viewscreen,” Nalia replied.

The familiar face of the young colonel appeared in front of her. “Let us take some of the pressure off you.” His sonorous voice enraptured the bridge crew.

“You have no idea how glad I am to see you, Miyashiro.” Nalia could barely keep the excitement from her voice.

“The pleasure is all mine. I will not abandon my friends in need. Let’s show these invaders our hearts of iron!” The viewscreen turned off as he disabled the connection.

The titan sphere gathered grid energy again as it prepared to fire another blast. The Kenzenken fleet moved to engagement range and concentrated all of their railgun, missile, torpedo, and even point defense fire into the center of its mass. The first barrage tore into the sphere’s armor, heaving pieces into space. A gigantic red cloud of point defense slugs ripped millions of holes into its hull. Still, it continued preparing its weapon. Defensive fire from other points on its surface caught a few smaller ships in their blasts. Numerous torpedo explosions rocked the sphere, heavily damaging it. Finally, a siege laser opened fire and burned into it. The sphere lost control of the grid energies. Detonations appeared in sequence throughout its hulk, before a final one disintegrated it in orange balls of fire. A green shockwave emanated from it at light speed.

Cheers rang throughout the Yasothon’s crew and on the general comms frequencies across the entire fleet. The Kenzenken fleet regrouped and joined the rest of the defenders in engaging the sphere ships. Kenzenken civilian ships, with the colony ship Izanami prominent among them, materialized and rushed toward the Gate.

#

Alan allowed himself a slight smile as he listened to the comms chatter. He closed his eyes, savoring that night with Nalia on Danube. A moment later, he opened them and looked at his tactical map. He guided the pilot’s gland in slowing his heart and increasing his senses. Turning on his secure connection to the Yasothon’s bridge, he sent the ready signal to Nalia. The channel opened for direct communication. “Nalia, it’s time,” he said.

“I know.” Her voice crackled with static.

“You’re going to make it,” he said. “You are the finest person I know.”

“Alan, I—” the static grew clearer. “Promise me. Promise me that you’ll come back. Alive.”

He found it difficult to form the words. “I-I will. I will come back. I promise.” He stifled the involuntary sob in his voice as he said the final sentence.

An eternity seemed to pass. “Vĩnh Viễn, you’re clear. Go.” Her voice was sharp and commanding.

“Acknowledged, Command,” he replied.

#

The hangar catapult launched the ship directly towards the binary stars. Alan steered the ship to avoid the bulk of the fighting. He raised the throttle, feeling the ship accelerate. The ships of the Consciousness turned their gaze upon it, realizing the enormity of its present course and mission. The bulk of the sphere ships disengaged, even those still in combat. They rushed to intercept, some caught in the fire from pursuing Republic and Kenzenken ships.

“All Hawkings, form up with the Vĩnh Viễn!” ordered Admiral Sargire over the comms channels.

Thunderbirds, assume defensive formation around the ship!” joined in Kenichi.

The small spacecraft moved to position around Alan, ready to protect it unto death. All went to full burn. Thousands of green torch trails followed behind them. From the surface of Danube, one could see the trails blot out the sky. They approached the twin stars with frightening speed. Sheer determination kept the pilots conscious, for failure was not an option. Five titan ships woke and moved towards the formation. Openings appeared on them, and masses of smaller spheres launched. In response, the escorts around the Vĩnh Viễn left their current trajectories and accelerated to engage. They dogfighted with the spheres, providing a defensive screen. The defense formation was able to get the first shots off at their pursuers. Bright railgun bolts and melting hot particle beams obliterated the spheres in the front of the pursuit formation. The counter-fire proved equally devastating, destroying Republic and Kenzenken ships by the dozens. Soon, almost every human ship escorting the Vĩnh Viễn engaged the enemy. Alan continued on his course.

He checked his tactical holo again. He cursed as two spheres slipped past the defensive screen and moved to engage him. He was so close to the firing zone. He activated side thrusters to orient himself towards them. They split, attempting to come at him from two sides. Using the ship indicators as a guide, he visualized the firing arcs of spheres, calculating their probable line of fire. He pulled the throttle up, ascending above the plane where the enemy ships were located. One shot a blast. It pinged off the Vĩnh Viễn’s gravity shield. He used his thrusters to accelerate towards a sphere ship to his aft. Right before the sphere fired, he slid his ship to port, narrowly avoiding the shot. Once in optimal range, he released swarm missiles. They danced like fireflies around the displacing enemy ship. It almost managed to dodge all of them, but Alan used the swarm’s distraction to hit the sphere with a well-timed hypervelocity missile. It disappeared in a bright flash.

The other sphere moved to his rear, forcing him to dodge its incoming barrage. He tried to get into range, but his opponent kept its distance.  He fired the last of his swarm missiles in frustration. The sphere displaced itself away without a scratch. Alan stared at the indicator for a second, and then primed one of his missiles for launch. The enemy ship moved fast in almost unpredictable fashion. When he saw the opportunity, he fired a hypervelocity missile. The sphere moved to dodge, and as it displaced, Alan fired one of the special missiles containing Gate key materials at it. Narrowly dodging the hypervelocity missile, the other ship focused its attention on the incoming missile. Alan detonated it right as the sphere began its evasion. A small singularity appeared at the missile’s former location. It pulled and ripped apart the enemy vessel enough so all that remained were stretched out ribbons of the former ship.

Unfortunately, the miniature black hole also caught the Vĩnh Viễn in its gravity well. Alan attempted to accelerate away, assigning full power to the engines. The strain caused his ship to creak and break. Red alerts on his console indicated damage to multiple systems. As he almost blacked out from the g-forces, the singularity mercifully blinked out of existence. Death did not embrace him yet. However, the ship was not in good shape. “Engines disabled. Shield disabled. Life support critical,” reported the computer.

This was it, Alan knew. As the Vĩnh Viễn spun out of control, he attempted to get a lock on one of the suns. Somehow, through some miracle, he had been able to get into range. He just needed a few seconds for the computer to complete the process. Sweat poured down his back as he concentrated on the viewscreen. And then he saw his father.

Rather, he saw a glowing form hovering over the instruments and holos, but one he knew in the recesses of his mind to be the man that had carried him up those steps so long ago. Time seemed to stop. His rational mind screamed at him, telling him that it was an illusion. The warm sensation of peace filled his breast as the ghost reached out.

“You do not need to carry this burden, Alan,” the presence said. “Let it pass on to me. You deserve peace.”

His gloved hand reached out. And then stopped. No, he thought, I must not. Alan attempted to will his bliss away and replace it with a cold stabbing core of pain. He brought up his memories, ones of abandonment and loss. They catalyzed an explosion of rage and anger in his heart. He let these feelings play out, felt their dance in an emotional storm. Then, finally, he acknowledged and released them. In his mind’s eye, the sensations coalesced into a single ember that blew away into nothingness. He felt nothing as he looked at the specter. As if disappointed, the form disappeared and the illusion ended. Now it was time to finish the mission.

He focused all his attention on the target. One rotation. Dammit! Not enough time for lock! The alerts quickened in intensity as he attempted to use the remnants of the thrusters to steady the ship. He concentrated again as the Vĩnh Viễn slowed its spin by a tiny fraction. There! The angle was right; he saw his opportunity. He pushed the missile launch button. The last Gate missile accelerated at the nearest star’s corona. Alan stared in rapt attention at its path on his screen as alarms blared all around him.

The missile found its mark. It detonated near the star’s iron core, with the resulting singularity collapsing the space around it. The twin stars began to implode. As Alan watched the energy readings from the stars spike, a wave of regret passed through his mind. He could not keep his promise to Nalia. He sank back into his chair, thinking about all the things he should have said to her. Goodbye, Nalia, he thought. Unbeknownst to him, a large shadow crawled over the Vĩnh Viễn.

#

“Admiral! We’re getting massive energy fluctuations from the stars. They’re destabilizing!” Officer Drevin reported. Nalia noticed that his knees were shaking.

She watched the Izanami and the remaining civilian ships disappear through the Gate. She turned on fleet-wide communications. “All fleets, the stars are collapsing. Get through the Gate, immediately! If you stay, you will not survive. Godspeed, everyone!” Many of the Republic and Kenzenken ships that she observed on her tactical holo disengaged from the fighting and burned towards the Gate. However, a few stayed and fought to allow more time for the other ships to escape.

She watched the Vĩnh Viễn’s indicator in anticipation. It disappeared from the screen. The computer switched its status to unknown. Her mouth grew dry. She swallowed hard.

“Admiral. We detect waveform collapse all across real and grid space. We need to go!” the tactical officer urged.

Nalia stared at the location of the stars on her console again. Her heart fell. There was no time. She turned toward the helmsman. “Get us out of here. Now!” she yelled in a hoarse voice. The helmsman complied and took them through the swirling passage in the Gate. The Yasothon blinked out of the real.

#

The twin stars finally collapsed. Their combined mass imploded inwards, providing the necessary energy and material to generate a hypernova. A few of the titan-class ships around them dematerialized back into the grid and away from the impending cataclysm. An electromagnetic scream spread across all the listening instruments remaining in the area. The grid-assisted hypernova expanded outwards at relativistic speeds. The remaining titan ships orbiting the former stars disappeared in its wake. The grid energies resonated and combined into one. A colossal wave of blood-red fire descended upon the Danube system, consuming all in its path. In its approach, it obliterated Republic, Kenzenken, and sphere ships still engaged in combat. Planet Danube’s crust melted off before it too scattered into its constituent atoms. The explosion accelerated to far greater than light speeds, overwhelming nearby star systems, threatening to consume all. However, when it reached a radius of ten light years, something pulled back the wave of destruction. The grid energies dissipated back into their own universe and the great fire dissipated, leaving behind a giant cloud of gas and debris. It disappeared almost as fast as it appeared, the now gaping wound in the galaxy the only testament of its existence. An alien cry echoed among every sphere ship still in the real. It was a cry of frustration, fear, and ecstasy. Then, all became silent as the minds pondered this turn of events. The consensus changed.

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