Star Force: Nexus (SF57)

BOOK: Star Force: Nexus (SF57)
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May 8, 2635

System: Unknown

beyond Star Force’s maps


Kerrie-057 sat in the command chair of the
-class warship as it and two of
its twins raced across interstellar space mere seconds away from beginning
their braking maneuvers against an unknown star. The three Star Force ships
were following
H’kar ship and trusting in their
navigational abilities, for the foursome had passed into the unknown regions of
the galaxy beyond the furthest
border of the
lizards and were now arriving at their destination. Beyond the gravity
signature ahead the trailblazer had no information about where they were or
what was waiting for them, and even the V’kit’no’sat had never bothered to push
this far out with a mapping expedition.

Star Force’s map was being updated with each jump the
group made, but when the ships decelerated against the star Kerrie found what
she had expected the least…a completely empty system. There were no gravity
signatures anywhere nearby, and at first she guessed they had to be on the far
side and out of sensing range, with at least one planet’s gravity adding to
that of the star and seeming to disappear behind it.

But there wasn’t, made all the more evident when the H’kar
signaled with new position orders that had them moving around the star to what
appeared to be another jumppoint given that there was nothing there, not a
planet nor station, when they came around and into direct sensor alignment with
the location.

“What are they playing at?” she mumbled, looking at
her sensor holograms closely. The H’kar weren’t the most talkative race by far,
and their escort hadn’t done more than relay them coordinates with each jump,
leaving the trailblazer to guess at where exactly they were going. This system
had been tagged as their ultimate destination in the last transmission…yet
there was nothing here.

Kerrie felt like hitting the
and asking what was up, but she decided to play it cool and just wait it
out…then to her second surprise the H’kar ship contacted them, with a hologram
of an
monster appearing before her. A
series of words that were a mix of low tones and bird-like chirps sounded, with
the computer providing a text translation below the image.


With that brief snippet the hologram of the H’kar
disappeared, replaced by a slew of navigational figures.

“What have we got?” Kerrie asked, looking to her
bridge crew. The Ma’kri wasn’t a full-sized jumpship, rather about a third of
its size and carrying no drones, but the 6.3 kilometer long knife blade was
packed with armor and weaponry that most of the ADZ had never saw before. It
had been designed to mimic a Star Destroyer, giving Star Force an all-in-one
battleship that could roam freely and drop the hammer wherever needed, while
also being a control ship and troop transport when necessary.

Kerrie only had a handful of troops onboard her three
ships now, with most of the modular cargo bays being full of supplies. She
would have brought only the one ship on this diplomatic mission, but given how
far they were traveling she’d felt it was wiser to bring three. More firepower and
the option of abandoning a ship and transferring the crew over to another if
something catastrophic happened could be a lifesaver when going into the
unknown like this. And they weren’t even a fraction of the way to their
ultimate destination yet, but were supposed to meet up with a carrier that
would take them the rest of the journey.

The Ma’kri were considerably faster than the H’kar
ship, though they didn’t let on as much. The
race had simply asked if they could maintain a certain speed, which Star Force
confirmed without adding how much faster they could actually go. That said,
they weren’t sure that the H’kar weren’t holding back either, but for right now
Kerrie guessed that her ships were the faster and she was interested in seeing
what ride they were supposed to be meeting up with…and where. She’d been
expecting at least an outpost if not full blown inhabited world, but right now
all they had was empty space to greet them.

“Here,” a voice said, followed by a holographic map of
the system popping up beside Kerrie’s chair and expanding outward until it
shrunk to a dot…with another dot beside it 1.7 lightyears away. “Planet-sized
gravity field, barely detectable, but reachable in about 2 days.”

“Inform the H’kar of our estimates,” she ordered, glancing
at the dot sitting out in the middle of nowhere. It could be a rogue planet, in
which case it would make for a good hiding place for an outpost. A gravity well
that far outside a system would go unnoticed without a close scan, for its
effect on her ship was so much smaller than that of the other stars nearby. The
sensitivity of their gravity drives allowed them to detect increasingly fainter
fields as their tech progressed, but this was pushing it.

After a few moments the H’kar ship jumped out, albeit
very slowly, with Kerrie glancing at her navigator with a raised eyebrow.

“They’re slower by 22%.”

The Archon smirked. “Thought so. We’ll wave as we go
by. Confirm jump formation and let’s get moving,” she said, standing up a bit
disappointed. She’d expected to have some answers by now.

Heading off to the sanctum to wait out the painfully
slow jump, made that way by the limited gravity on which the ships could brake
against upon arrival, Kerrie continued with her training, being only 3 levels
away from reaching mage but with considerably less progression now that she was
isolated and training alone.

Kerrie had been in Atlantis with the others in the
advanced training group for the past 3 decades and, while she’d been doing solo
workouts most of her life, doing them here and now felt hollow. The environment
just wasn’t the same, but she wanted mage bad and continued to get in the best
workouts she could manage on her own, knowing that once this mission was over
she’d be heading back to the others.

Not all the trailblazers were there, for some were
still engaged on the lizard front and attending to other missions across the
ADZ, but all of them had been rotating in and out of Atlantis as they picked up
the new psionics and got a bit of time in with the group no matter how short
their stay was. When the H’kar had come to Sol unannounced they’d done so to
deliver a message and information concerning a race called the Sety and their Nexus,
of which the H’kar were a new member, Kerrie had volunteered to respond to
their invite given that she was one of a handful of trailblazers who’d had
extensive experience fighting the lizards.

She hadn’t expected the isolation to hit her so hard,
but adaptation was key to being an Archon and she began to adjust after the
first few days…but without the others it felt akin to running without music.
The movements were the same, but the energetic buzz was missing.

So she buried herself in workouts until it was time to
return to the bridge and hopefully get some answers as to where the H’kar had
been leading them off through the wilds of space. She had no idea what or who
was out here, nor what threat level they posed. The fact that the V’kit’no’sat
had never mapped it also made her worry, because everywhere within their domain
they would have knocked off the major powers. But out here they had no
influence, so what was or could be waiting for them unnerved her considerably.

Kerrie wasn’t worried about this mission per se, or
the H’kar, so long as everything went according to plan…it’s those times when
it didn’t that were the problem, in which case Kerrie’s three ship fleet could
be completely blindsided. The H’kar had said there’d be a transport ship
waiting to carry them on further out, implying that even their own gravity
drives were insufficient for the task, meaning that there was at least one race
out here considerably more advanced than Star Force was, speed wise anyway, and
that made her and the others wonder how many potential sharks there were in the

The location of their ultimate destination was
approximately 6,400 lightyears away, which would take them across the ‘gap’
between the Orion and Perseus galactic arms and far beyond any system Star
Force had charted to date. That gap wasn’t truly a gap, but a region of space
with a lesser density of star systems, all of which Kerrie’s ships would miss sitting
inside the hull of another carrier ship as it supposedly whisked them away
through the Nexus’s transit grid, with the furthest coreward hub being the tiny
gravity well they were currently en route to.

According to the H’kar, when the lizards were
consuming their territory system after system they had executed a fighting
withdrawal, moving further and further out towards the rim and discovering that
the lizards didn’t want to chase them. They did follow but at a slow pace along
with the rest of their expansion, not a straight line pursuit setting out for
their destruction as they’d anticipated given the ferocious nature with which
the lizards fought.

Using this to their advantage the H’kar had stayed
alive and ahead of the lizards, eventually moving far enough out through the
Orion arm until they caught the attention of one of the races within the Nexus,
which the Sety ran. A formal invitation was made after some vetting was done
and the H’kar became members, setting down roots and fleeing no further. When
the lizards’ growth crept out to meet their new worlds they were met with Nexus
troops and repulsed, creating a firm boundary beyond which the aggressive race
could make no progress.

But that hadn’t stopped the lizards from trying. As
they expanded that line in the sand had continued to get wider and wider, with
the Nexus having to defend more and more systems with a greater number of
troops and resources…though the battles were easy affairs. As the H’kar began
to regrow their empire, this time as part of the Nexus, they became the
coreward front line of the large interstellar union and had the responsibility
to hold it against the lizards and several other minor threats within the local
region with appropriate help now and again from others as needed.

Over the years the threat of the lizards had gone from
minor to moderate, with them continuing to spread out and in such great numbers
that there was no way for the Nexus to stop them aside from a huge campaign to
wipe them from existence…but as the H’kar continued to gather intelligence on
their enemy and the true size of their domain was revealed the unworthy
opponents that the lizards were became a nuisance that was too large to
eradicate. Even if they destroyed them in 100 systems they’d expand to 200 more
elsewhere, literally a race of cockroaches they could not stamp out of
existence if they’d wanted to.

The inability of them to be able to negotiate with or
destroy the lizards, combined with their minor threat to the Nexus itself, had
prompted a containment plan set to keep the lizards from expanding into the
Nexus region and surrounding areas. More and more resources were having to be
diverted there, not yet putting a major stress on the Nexus but growing as the
years passed. There were other, more powerful races in both the Orion and
Perseus arms, but the lizards were something new for them to contend with, for
no matter how many battles they fought the inferior race would not quit, nor
could they be destroyed unless you got them all…which wasn’t remotely feasible
given the size of their territory.

As the lizard problem continued to grow the Nexus was
learning more about them and the areas ahead of their lateral expansion, with
the H’kar handling a piece of that assignment. They’d come across contacts that
were associates of Star Force’s string of
reaching colonies, sharing with them information about the Humans, their public
maps and language, and the news of them successfully holding back the
lizards…which drew the attention of the Nexus. With the lizard threat being
something that was devouring system after system, someone who wasn’t falling to
them as even the H’kar had was someone they wanted to get to know, hence the

Kerrie didn’t usually like playing ambassador, but in
this case she wanted to see what was out here and what the galactic competition
was like…given that they’d just been invited into a bigger league. The H’kar
didn’t say that they were being offered membership, but rather that the Nexus
wanted to talk concerning their mutual threat. What that meant was unclear, but
Star Force wasn’t going to send anyone less than a trailblazer or Davis to deal
with this, and there was no way they were going to let Davis come this far out
into the middle of nowhere.

The H’kar were impressive enough, given the time
they’d spent in Sol and the data exchange they’d had with Star Force, which
made Kerrie all the more interested in seeing those who were supposedly
superior to them. So far they’d been led on a wild goose chase across the
stars, but when they finally did brake against the tiny gravity well the scope
of the Nexus finally registered with her.

“Oh…my…freaking…hell,” she whispered as the camera
displays showed the ‘planet’ they’d arrived at, except that it wasn’t round…nor
a planet at all. The thousands of starships floating around the area were a
mere afterthought to the Archon, though the size of some of them was impressive
in their own right, but the construct they were looking at had a stubby shaft
in center connecting two large discs made up of radiating struts. Each
‘umbrella’ was curved slightly, making shallow cups with sections missing and
all clearly artificial in construction.

BOOK: Star Force: Nexus (SF57)
2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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