Author Topic: History of Mankind after COVID19 pandemic (conventional start, 1st January 2021)  (Read 2532 times)

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25th June 2217, 17:56, an exploration mission going back home from Xi Bootis system using Mechi-established wormholes detects a large fleet of Mechi ships near Kapteyna Star:

It prepares to jump away running warp drive in emergency mode, but soon scanners confirm the ships don't appear to be armed and are very slow. Captain of the exploration mission decides to keep track of them. In the meantime Ender sends a squadron of Vaccines guarding Epsilon Eridani to intercept Mechi ships and force them to surrender.

27th June 2217, 4:36:35, with the help of Guidance system, Vaccines quickly rendezvous with Orion and engage detected ships. Numerous threats and surrender demands are sent, but Mechi refuse to comply. Instead, they transfer a strange message. This is surprising both because of the message content and the fact after the long history of mutual hostility they replied at all. The message simply said:

"Your position compromised. Too much data sent via SETI program. Dark Forest knows. They are coming. They are already here. Invaders destroyed us."

Several very important information could be acquired from this simple communicate: the most obvious one stated about a threat. Could be Invaders themselves, in which case humanity was well-prepared provided they won't send better ships of theirs, could be flying saucers Invaders seemed to be anxious when thinking about or any other powerful, hostile civilisation. In fact it wasn't anything not known by the Wold Government before message translation.

The more worrying part was about Mechi mentioning the term "Dark Forest".
At first it wasn't obvious what exactly they meant, because in their language they didn't use the words "dark" and "forest" to name the phenomena, but multiple linguistics with help from latest Precursor-tech based AI software analysed the message thousands of times, comparing it with every other signal ever received from Mechi, until there were no doubts left.
These damned robots figured out the concept of Dark Forest themselves, or at the very least had it programmed in by their creators.
Whatever the case, it was a solid proof that at least one alien civilisation treated the concept seriously. And that one example was enough to prove that it was not just human paranoia induced by the bloody history of its civilisation, but a theory universal at least between some civilisations in the universe.

Last sentence of the received communicate mentioned Mechi facing annihilation at Invaders' hands, which confirmed popular predictions and theories. Upon processing these news, starship that came into contact with Mechi fleet was sent to HIP 22738, only two wormholes away from Kapteynta Star, which was believed to be either homeworld or a very significant colony of either Mechi themselves or their creators, to check the state of the system. Vaccines were left to guard Mechi fleet shall it attempt to do something suspicious. Also an assault fleet has been sent from Mars to serve as an escort for the research ship.

13th August 2217, 19:08:40, a small asteroid outpost, guarded by small Mechi garrison is discovered on one of the asteroids from the outer belt in HIP 22738:

15th August 2217, 14:37:20, human forces travel to HIP 22738-A II to confirm the state of Mechi civilisation, or rather what was left of it. Suddenly when first ships close in for the radars to start picking up clear signals, everyone onboard freezes in shock when it is revealed that the planet seems to still hold on pretty well and large signatures indicating possibility of even entire cities to exist on the surface are gathered. Mechi lied. Sure, Invaders gave them hell, but this is not how a "destroyed" world should look like. There was also possibility it wasn't Mechi existing there, because the Invaders would rather wipe the robots clean, but leave natural planetary ecosystem be, so that others could still colonise it in theory. However, similarity of the discovered signal patterns with what is already known about Mechis are too similar for a coincidence. HIP 22738-A II was a Mechi-inhabited, well-developed world.

When it is discovered it has a planet-wide defence grid and first shots are fired at the fleet, fallback order is issued. While reversing thrusters, assault fleet tries to fire a bunch of missiles to thin the defence systems out a bit, but it is pointless, all missiles are neutralised even before they get a chance to approach low orbit:

At the same time, upon receiving reports from HIP 22738, Vaccines demand surrender for the last time, this time motivating it with a few warning shots, demonstrating total superiority. Mechi ships surrender. Apparently they were just forming a deep space mining fleet:

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OM Atlas 067  (Areyonga II class Orbital Miner)      76,847 tons       739 Crew       2,216.2 BP       TCS 1,537    TH 800    EM 0
520 km/s      Armour 1-161       Shields 0-0       HTK 105      Sensors 14/14/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 18    Max Repair 120 MSP
Lieutenant Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months   
Orbital Miner: 14 modules producing 588 tons per mineral per annum

Commercial Inertial Fusion Drive  EP800.00 (1)    Power 800    Fuel Use 0.99%    Signature 800    Explosion 2%
Fuel Capacity 40,000 Litres    Range 9.5 billion km (210 days at full power)

Thermal Sensor TH1-14 (1)     Sensitivity 14     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  29.6m km
EM Sensor EM1-14 (1)     Sensitivity 14     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  29.6m km

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

On top of that, full data about HIP 22738 and Xi Bootis systems has been recovered from captured robots, plus additional info about three other systems: Nacmine, Nagpur and Narwhal.
Nacmine system:

Narwhal system:

Nagpur is just a white, bright star without any nearby celestial bodies:

Not enough data was recovered to determine their position within Mechi space, though. Astronomers begin work on identifying the stars and matching them with current catalogues.
In addition to that, technical details about three additional Mechi ships have been successfully accessed:

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Allawah III class Heavy Cruiser      21,206 tons       671 Crew       9,055.9 BP       TCS 424    TH 5,600    EM 0
13203 km/s      Armour 10-68       Shields 0-0       HTK 140      Sensors 18/36/0/0      DCR 6      PPV 138
Maint Life 0.70 Years     MSP 1,601    AFR 600%    IFR 8.3%    1YR 2,286    5YR 34,288    Max Repair 700 MSP
Colonel    Control Rating 3   BRG   AUX   CIC   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

Solid Core AM Drive  EP1400 (4)    Power 5600    Fuel Use 53.45%    Signature 1400    Explosion 10%
Fuel Capacity 1,950,000 Litres    Range 31 billion km (27 days at full power)

52.50cm C8 X-Ray Laser (1)    Range 480,000km     TS: 13,203 km/s     Power 72-8     RM 70,000 km    ROF 45       
35.0cm C8 X-Ray Laser (11)    Range 480,000km     TS: 13,203 km/s     Power 32-8     RM 70,000 km    ROF 20       
Beam Fire Control R480-TS8000 (2)     Max Range: 480,000 km   TS: 8,000 km/s   
Solid-core Anti-matter Power Plant R9 (12)     Total Power Output 112.8    Exp 5%

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Chengelaygiin L10 class Spaceliner      24,172 tons       570 Crew       992.7 BP       TCS 483    TH 1,600    EM 0
3309 km/s      Armour 1-74       Shields 0-0       HTK 44      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 25    Max Repair 100 MSP
Passengers 1250    Cargo Shuttle Multiplier 3   
Major    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months   

Chengelaygiin P800.00 Civilian Drive (2)    Power 1600    Fuel Use 0.99%    Signature 800    Explosion 2%
Fuel Capacity 40,000 Litres    Range 30.1 billion km (105 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

Allawah ships look threatening, but their guns are barely outranged by particle beams of Vaccines, their armor is much weaker and engines generate less thrust than those installed in Vaccines. If this is a good example of current Mechi military strength, humanity shall be well-prepared for eventual space combat. Besides, Mechi were severely damaged by Invaders, still.
An operation to check out on neighbouring Mechi systems begins. First star explored is DEN 0255-4700, accessed directly from Xi Bootis (the latter having a total of three wormholes, destination of one remaining unknown), but it's floating in space alone:

A wormhole near it allows accessing WISE 1506+7027, but it's same story all over again, nothing worth of interest:

HIP 22738 contains a total of 5 wormholes - the one through which it was discovered from WISE 1647+5632 and a four others. One of the remaining four brings explorers to the NN 3988 system:

There's nothing there besides a single comet randomly passing by and a hellish, airless planet, likely already exploited by Mechi.
Next explored wormhole leads into the neighbourhood of a DN Draconis, which is a single white dwarf with nothing special around it. Well, with nothing at all around it:

5th December 2217, IT specialists working on cracking acquired Mechi machines manage to decipher parts of heavily-encrypted data. At this stage so little is known about this that as a whole it is completely unintelligible for a human reader, but what could be pieced out leaves no doubt - in these documents, buried deep in the core of a Mechi's command unit, an alien technology is mentioned, namely the infamous flying saucers.

There's no time for waste - government, desperate for answers and knowledge about the incoming alien invasion from the cliche "Greys", decides it is worth taking the risk and plans to invade the Mechi homeworld (computer scientists were able to figure out enough data to determine with 97,68% accuracy that HIP 22738-A II is indeed a planet on which Mechi appeared for the first time in the universe) in hopes of gaining access to the core of their civilisation and knowledge and finally uncover the truth and gather as much intel as possible to prepare humanity for the day when "Grey Invaders" will arrive to purge the Milky Way from human life.

Preparations for invasion begin. Armies start to train combat in a scorching, mountainous terrain that spans across most of Mechi Homeworld's support, though there are some lush regions grouped near what little seas and ocean the planet contains, too, and fierce battles are supposed to take place there as well. Also new XCOM units are prepared, armed with the latest antimatter-based guns and undergoing even harsher psionic training, based on the latest knowledge acquired from attempts of reading Invaders' minds.

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XCOM Squadmember
Transport Size (tons) 6     Cost 9.89     Armour 42     Hit Points 42
Annual Maintenance Cost 1.2     Resupply Cost 1.3
AMR-15 Antimatter Assault Rifle:      Shots 1      Penetration 31      Damage 25

Reinforced Personalised Power Armour
Elite Cybernetic Implants
Elite Combat Exoskeleton
Bionic Bones
Synthetic Regenerative Organs
Extreme Psionic Training
Psi-Resistant Mind Shield
Decentralised Hive Mind Module
Invaders-Based Mental Defensive Techniques
Advanced Genetic Enhancement
Desert Warfare
Extreme Pressure Combat
Extreme Temperature Combat
High Gravity Combat
Jungle Warfare
Low Gravity Combat
Mountain Warfare
Rift Valley Warfare

Vendarite  0.24   
Development Cost  494

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XCOM LMG Support
Transport Size (tons) 12     Cost 19.78     Armour 42     Hit Points 42
Annual Maintenance Cost 2.5     Resupply Cost 6
AMP-L40 Plasma-Accelerated Antimatter LMG:      Shots 6      Penetration 25      Damage 25

Reinforced Personalised Power Armour
Elite Cybernetic Implants
Elite Combat Exoskeleton
Bionic Bones
Synthetic Regenerative Organs
Extreme Psionic Training
Psi-Resistant Mind Shield
Decentralised Hive Mind Module
Invaders-Based Mental Defensive Techniques
Advanced Genetic Enhancement
Desert Warfare
Extreme Pressure Combat
Extreme Temperature Combat
High Gravity Combat
Jungle Warfare
Low Gravity Combat
Mountain Warfare
Rift Valley Warfare

Vendarite  0.48   
Development Cost  989

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XCOM HMG Support
Transport Size (tons) 20     Cost 32.96     Armour 42     Hit Points 42
Annual Maintenance Cost 4.1     Resupply Cost 9
AMP-H50 Plasma-Accelerated Antimatter HMG:      Shots 6      Penetration 38      Damage 25

Reinforced Personalised Power Armour
Elite Cybernetic Implants
Elite Combat Exoskeleton
Bionic Bones
Synthetic Regenerative Organs
Extreme Psionic Training
Psi-Resistant Mind Shield
Decentralised Hive Mind Module
Invaders-Based Mental Defensive Techniques
Advanced Genetic Enhancement
Desert Warfare
Extreme Pressure Combat
Extreme Temperature Combat
High Gravity Combat
Jungle Warfare
Low Gravity Combat
Mountain Warfare
Rift Valley Warfare

Vendarite  0.8   
Development Cost  1,648

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XCOM Mortar Team
Transport Size (tons) 20     Cost 32.96     Armour 42     Hit Points 42
Annual Maintenance Cost 4.1     Resupply Cost 6
AM-5000A2 Antimatter Mortar:      Shots 3      Penetration 25      Damage 50

Reinforced Personalised Power Armour
Elite Cybernetic Implants
Elite Combat Exoskeleton
Bionic Bones
Synthetic Regenerative Organs
Extreme Psionic Training
Psi-Resistant Mind Shield
Decentralised Hive Mind Module
Invaders-Based Mental Defensive Techniques
Brain-Integrated Targeting System
Long-Range Full Spectrum Vision Module
Advanced Genetic Enhancement
Desert Warfare
Extreme Pressure Combat
Extreme Temperature Combat
High Gravity Combat
Jungle Warfare
Low Gravity Combat
Mountain Warfare
Rift Valley Warfare

Vendarite  0.8   
Development Cost  1,648

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XCOM Heavy Weapons Specialist
Transport Size (tons) 16     Cost 26.37     Armour 42     Hit Points 42
Annual Maintenance Cost 3.3     Resupply Cost 6
AMPG Antimatter-Propelled Personal Missile Launcher:      Shots 1      Penetration 50      Damage 75

Reinforced Personalised Power Armour
Elite Cybernetic Implants
Elite Combat Exoskeleton
Personal Force Field
Anti-Shock Armour Shielding
Bionic Bones
Synthetic Regenerative Organs
Extreme Psionic Training
Psi-Resistant Mind Shield
Decentralised Hive Mind Module
Invaders-Based Mental Defensive Techniques
Brain-Integrated Targeting System
Long-Range Full Spectrum Vision Module
Advanced Genetic Enhancement
Desert Warfare
Extreme Pressure Combat
Extreme Temperature Combat
High Gravity Combat
Jungle Warfare
Low Gravity Combat
Mountain Warfare
Rift Valley Warfare

Vendarite  0.64   
Development Cost  1,318

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XCOM Squad Leader
Transport Size (tons) 10     Cost 65.92     Armour 42     Hit Points 42
Annual Maintenance Cost 8.2     Resupply Cost 0
Headquarters:    Capacity 2,000

Reinforced Smart Power Armour
Elite Cybernetic Implants
Elite Combat Exoskeleton
Bionic Bones
Synthetic Regenerative Organs
Extreme Psionic Training
Perosnality-Adjusted Psi-Resistant Mind Shield
Invaders-Based Mental Defensive Techniques
Hive Mind Multi-Command Module
Advanced Genetic Enhancement
Desert Warfare
Extreme Pressure Combat
Extreme Temperature Combat
High Gravity Combat
Jungle Warfare
Low Gravity Combat
Mountain Warfare

Vendarite  1.6   
Development Cost  3,296

Apart from a brand new rooster of elite soldiers, best out of the best, most of which are volunteers recruited from Earth itself to give it a symbolic meaning, XCOM technicians have prepared a prototype of an interceptor that'll provide air support for the soldiers fighting on the ground:

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Avenger class Interceptor      250 tons       9 Crew       192.6 BP       TCS 5    TH 300    EM 0
60020 km/s      Armour 1-3       Shields 0-0       HTK 1      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 0      PPV 1.6
Maint Life 7.43 Years     MSP 68    AFR 5%    IFR 0.1%    1YR 2    5YR 32    Max Repair 150 MSP
Magazine 32   
Lieutenant Commander    Control Rating 1   
Intended Deployment Time: 1 months    Morale Check Required   

Solid Core AM Drive  EP300.00 (1)    Power 300    Fuel Use 779.42%    Signature 300    Explosion 30%
Fuel Capacity 4,000 Litres    Range 0.37 billion km (1 hours at full power)

Size 10 Fighter Pod Bay (2)     Pod Size: 10    Hangar Reload 158 minutes    MF Reload 26 hours
Size 12 Fighter Pod Bay (1)     Pod Size: 12    Hangar Reload 173 minutes    MF Reload 28 hours
Missile Fire Control FC2-R1 (2)     Range 2.5m km    Resolution 1
Plasma Beam (2)    Armour Penetration: 33     Damage: 50     Shots: 3
Fusion Ball Launcher (1)    Armour Penetration: 32     Damage: 48     Shots: 3

Active Search Sensor AS1-R1 (1)     GPS 1     Range 1.3m km    MCR 113.5k km    Resolution 1

Missile to hit chances are vs targets moving at 3000 km/s, 5000 km/s and 10,000 km/s

This design is classed as a Fighter for production, combat and planetary interaction

Capable of bombing ground targets into oblivion and performing air combat as well, it's a marvellous achievement of science and engineering. It has been fitted with modular wing system, allowing it to quickly change configuration to adapt for all kinds of atmospheres it might find itself flying through, including a case with no air at all.

But the most important achievement is hidden within its propulsion system. Conventional antimatter engine aside, the prototype came equipped with a first subluminal Alcubierre Drive ever built that can be safely used while the vessel remains within atmosphere. XCOM physicists worked days and nights to overcome problems with the insane amounts of matter contaminating warp bubble during atmospheric flight to make it safe, reliable and effective and it all paid off, since Avenger can reach one fifth of a light speed while staying within atmosphere, making a nightmare for enemy AA and opening up possibilities to redirect its support to pretty much any place in a planet within seconds.

A design of a carrier for transporting Avengers into the frontlines is agreed upon:

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Raven class Carrier      43,023 tons       670 Crew       11,728.2 BP       TCS 860    TH 11,200    EM 0
13016 km/s      Armour 30-109       Shields 0-0       HTK 163      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 45      PPV 0
Maint Life 1.04 Years     MSP 6,555    AFR 987%    IFR 13.7%    1YR 6,058    5YR 90,874    Max Repair 2800 MSP
Hangar Deck Capacity 18,000 tons     
Captain    Control Rating 3   BRG   ENG   PFC   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Flight Crew Berths 360    Morale Check Required   

Solid Core AM Drive  EP5600.00 (2)    Power 11200    Fuel Use 53.45%    Signature 5600    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 5,000,000 Litres    Range 39.1 billion km (34 days at full power)

ECM 50

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Soon facilities on most Core Worlds begin assembling a swarm of Avengers that'll support soldiers fighting on the ground and first pilots enter simulations to undergo necessary training required for safe and effective operation within a planet's atmosphere while crossing the effective speed of a 1/5 c.

In the meantime some troops are sent into HIP 22738 to eliminate several Mechi garrisons located inside the outer asteroid belt surrounding the system, mostly in order to gather some data on Mechi combat capabilities:

Landed soldiers quickly deal with rather small garrisons without much trouble, vaporising all enemy forces. Their guns and armors don't seem to be that tough compared to what human armies use, nevertheless some casualties were taken and it is clear they'll fight to the bitter end while protecting their homeworld and government opted in for an enormous, costly undertaking.

According to the reports that came in, human settlements scattered in Kappa Tucanae seem to be doing well. They assembled their own colonisation ships and used them to land a few million people on Kappa Tucanae-A V, making all three selected planets from a system officially settled.

On top of that, numerous shipyards were built in orbit of Kappa-Tucanae-A II and Kappa Tucanae-B II. Engineers from the former succeeded at building a new fleet of small cargo ships, designed specifically for short-range resource transfers to allow easy and effective development of Utopia:

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Blue Whale class Cargo Ship      92,419 tons       440 Crew       4,484.1 BP       TCS 1,848    TH 16,000    EM 0
8656 km/s      Armour 1-182       Shields 0-0       HTK 75      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 30    Max Repair 1000 MSP
Cargo 50,000    Cargo Shuttle Multiplier 10   
Lieutenant Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months   

Commercial Solid Core AM Drive  EP4000.00 (4)    Power 16000    Fuel Use 0.99%    Signature 4000    Explosion 5%
Fuel Capacity 250,000 Litres    Range 49.3 billion km (65 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

Another achievement of the citizens of Sol++ was assembling harvesting stations and putting them in orbit of Kappa Tucanae-A III, richest gas giant in a system. Thanks to this, their fleets will swim in fuel for a long time, allowing them to freely expand beyond Paradise and conquer nearby systems as well. Despite still having access to the Terraria stations left there after terraforming, they prefer to build a mobile fleet of terraformers using latest technological improvements from Core Worlds and prepare for expansion. Despite Invaders being less threatening thanks to Vaccines for a while now, government still maintains all the isolation protocols in fear of a new, yet unidentified danger arising from the depths of space.

There are key differences between humans from Core Worlds and the rapidly expanding population of Paradise. First of all, the latte have an average IQ higher than people living elsewhere, thanks to only elite members of society being sent there at the beginning and quarantine hitting before Kappa Tucanae was opened for all volunteers. Also they all have psionic implants, since that also was a mandatory part of early Utopia conquest programs.

Another major contributor to the prosperity of Kappa Tucanae system obviously has to be Bidet Inc with its toilet paper industries set there. With the ever-increasing production and not exporting the invaluable resource due to ongoing policy of "laying low", every person living in Paradise has an easy access to this luxury product from the ancient times, rich or poor. It is thus a first society that has the access to the basic comfort of using toilet paper since the end of the world in 2020.

Tensions rise on Core Worlds, strained with great military effort government forces its citizens to put in, when some reports about the status of Sol++ leak into the public. Masses question the policy of the government, outraged at all the privileges Kappa Tucanae colonists get while they're forced to work hard to keep the army supplied. As a response, government promises to open up Kappa Tucanae for free colonisation as soon as the threat is dealt with. War propaganda soon follows these promises, with message carefully crafted by best psionic scientists to easily appeal to most people, calming them down a bit.

27th May 2219, the day has been chosen symbolically to power off all terraforming infrastructure across Beta Trianguli Australis since all three planets are already adapted for hosting earthlike life. Beta Trianguli Australis-A II and III ended up being lush, hot worlds with lots of tropical and subtropical climate zones, meanwhile Beta Trianguli Australis-A V has a more diverse ecosystem, better adapted for the human life.
First colonists are sent to begin taming the three worlds on the very same day.

14th July 2219, fifth moon of Sirius-A I follows Beta Trianguli Australis. Fleet of Pandoras passed its test successfully, terraforming its first world without a problem and once new colonisation programs are prepared will be reloacted for its next task.

Government creates a special XAT department tasked with researching all claims of classical UFO sightings thorough entire human history. They immediately get to work, but so far they do nothing but dig through endless stream of fake materials, busy proving how fake they are.

After years of experiments, scientists on Gaia successfully adapt a group of human beings into deadly freezing temperatures, putting them in a halfway between functioning metabolism and cryogenic sleep. As a result, these humans have much higher life expectancy and require less food to survive. On top of that, they're the first people to have alien genetic material inserted into their DNA since the solution prepared on Gaia was inspired by many alien species found on frozen, icy worlds where life evolved nevertheless.

Although they will be sent to eight moon of Epsilon Eridani-A VIII first and the natural temperatures occurring on Nibiru without help of planetary heaters and orbital mirrors are still way too low even for their tolerance, they were quickly named "Nibirians", after the main intention behind the whole project.

First groups of Nibirians are sent to Epsilon Eridani, meanwhile all current population of the moon in question is supposed to be relocated to Ender, but, according to the initial plan of Epsilon Eridani militarisation, they won't need to worry about conscript despite being relocated to "that planet". Under such conditions many actually are happy to leave the rather barren moon requiring planetary heaters for some basic, cold ecosystem to function properly and move in to a planet very closely resembling Earth.

Racial tensions are on the rise since such advanced genetic modifications are still a highly controversial topic, but World Government makes sure to pass necessary laws to ensure Nibirians will always be treated just like every other human citizen. Especially since the experiments are going to continue, because the main goal is to make them inhabit Nibiru itself, surviving in temperatures below two hundred degrees once planetary heaters are switched off.

Creation of a "fourth human race" was just the beginning, though. Xenobiologists, genetic engineers and terraforms all cooperate closely on designing a proper ecosystem for Nibirians to live in, composed of many alien species encountered so far, further improved via genetic modifications to make them fit nicely into one planetary biosphere.
Another challenge that needs to be solved is about Nibirians visiting other human worlds. For now many powerful corporations and institutions from Core Worlds prepare special "cryogenic zones" for Nibirians to feel comfortable without a space suit shall they visit their buildings for whatever reason.

One of the best space engineers teams of entire human race proposes to build a new class of a combat spaceship, bigger and more terrifying than anything else that left a shipyard and was combat-capable so far. According to them, it'll fill the role of a capital ship and shall raise terror and panic across all foes of Mankind:

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Executor class Dreadnought      70,000 tons       2,126 Crew       38,514.4 BP       TCS 1,400    TH 19,600    EM 33,840
14000 km/s    JR 3-50      Armour 24-151       Shields 1128-528       HTK 390      Sensors 800/480/0/0      DCR 20      PPV 351.6
Maint Life 0.94 Years     MSP 20,877    AFR 1960%    IFR 27.2%    1YR 22,180    5YR 332,702    Max Repair 4900 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 5   BRG   AUX   ENG   CIC   FLG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

J70200(3-50) Jump Drive     Max Ship Size 70200 tons    Distance 50k km     Squadron Size 3

Solid Core AM Drive  EP9800.00 (2)    Power 19600    Fuel Use 78.92%    Signature 9800    Explosion 25%
Fuel Capacity 10,479,000 Litres    Range 34.1 billion km (28 days at full power)
Xi S141 / R528 Shields (8)     Recharge Time 528 seconds (2.1 per second)

75.0cm C12 Extreme X-ray Laser (3)    Range 800,000km     TS: 14,000 km/s     Power 147-12     RM 90,000 km    ROF 65       
50cm C12 Extreme X-ray Laser (15)    Range 800,000km     TS: 14,000 km/s     Power 65-12     RM 90,000 km    ROF 30       
Quad Gauss Cannon R500-25.00 Turret (5x20)    Range 50,000km     TS: 32000 km/s     Power 0-0     RM 50,000 km    ROF 5       
Beam Fire Control R150-TS32000 (1)     Max Range: 150,000 km   TS: 32,000 km/s     93 87 80 73 67 60 53 47 40 33
Beam Fire Control R800-TS14000 (2)     Max Range: 800,000 km   TS: 14,000 km/s     99 98 96 95 94 92 91 90 89 88
Gas-core Anti-matter Power Plant R217 (1)     Total Power Output 216.9    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS23-R1 (1)     GPS 96     Range 23.5m km    MCR 2.1m km    Resolution 1
EM Sensor EM20-480 (1)     Sensitivity 480     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  173.2m km
Thermal Sensor TH20-800 (1)     Sensitivity 800     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  223.6m km

ECCM-5 (3)         ECM 50

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Huge size and dangerous-looking. Latest antimatter reactors and engines deployed. Large subluminal warp drive allowing it to reach speeds same as Vaccines despite much more mass. Decent thrust and manoeuvrability for a starship of such magnitude. A total of 18 very powerful laser beams, capable of burning through every known alien ship up to date with ease. Very efficient Jump Drive, a byproduct of ongoing research into the possibility of building a true hyperdrive, allowing reaching an effective speed of well over 1500c in optimal conditions. Latest version of software capable of obstructing systems of enemy ships, with dedicated separated modules for both Mechi and Invaders. Multiple layers of lightweight, but extremely durable armor. Great energetic shielding, protecting from any kind of damage for a long period of time. Sensors as powerful as the ones installed on Overseers, but much smaller and less power-hungry. A backup bridge. An independent Gauss-based anti-missile defence system.
This is by far the most powerful starship ever engineered.
Initial simulations of a theoretical vessel matching this design are very promising.

When the first prototype has been assembled, it was decided it'll be painted entirely in black, with some blood-red outlines sticking here and there. Dark like Dark Forest itself, with blood-red patterns like blood spilled and fire burning across it when two inhabitants of the Forest meet each other.
For many, it is a symbol of the might human race has achieved so far and a sign of victory against whatever civilisations will endanger its existence.
For many others, it is a symbol of the dark era human race has spiralled into and the brutal times of conscript and military-oriented industrial production with no end in sight.

Two remaining wormholes from Mechi home system are checked out - one leads into the nearby of an already explored HIP 79762 lonely star, a place where a bloody slaughter of human forces by the Invaders happened back in the day, and the other leads into HD 158633 - a system without any planets or at least dwarf planets, but with an impressive asteroid belt surrounding the star:

Astronomers successfully identify the three stars which Mechi names have been extracted from their internal databases. "Nacmine" is in fact GJ 1187, "Nagpur" - Zeta Doradus and "Narwhal" corresponds to HIP 80346.

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30th January 2220, exactly two hundreds years after WHO declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency, two hundreds years after the Old World fell, Global Reset took place and World Government led survivors of humanity into a New World Order era and took serious interest in space exploration, everything was ready. That memorable day, at 12:57:20, a huge Invasion fleet emerged from a wormhole in HIP 22738, ready to assault HIP 22738-A II - Mechi Prime.

30th january 2220, 18:47:33, invading forces approach the orbit of HIP 22738-A II, soldiers getting ready to land among scorching lands and blazing sands of besieged planet:

Escorting warships fly ahead of Starkillers transporting soldiers. Once close enough, Executors broadcast jamming signals and start blasting at hapless ground-space weapons of Mechi:

Encouraged by initial success, assault forces close in, getting Vaccines within firing range as well. At shorter distance enemy scores first hits, but they barely disturb powerful shields of the Executors:

After few hours of notorious orbital bombardment every last planetary defence bunker, every last space-capable gun of Mechi is razed to the ground and only ashes remain. The time has come. Soldiers of Human Race cover the last kilometres of vacuum before their drop pods will touch the atmosphere. "Operation CyberDesert", named after the mostly deserted and hot climate of Mechi homeworld, has begun.

30th January 2220, 23:47:18, first units touch the ground and emerge from the drop pods and take a look at the planet from ground perspective. Squadrons of Avengers quickly spread out across the skies. Mechi AA guns are able to take a few of them out during atmospheric entry, but their usage of Alcubierre Drives within the atmosphere grants them practically a teleportation ability, rendering AA defences of the enemy practically useless.

First XCOM troops land directly within many important Mechi cities (which are probably closer to robot-producing facilities than what an average human being understands by a term "city"), meanwhile particle beam artillery gets positioned around them, ready to bomb the hell out of city defenders. Under the blazing sun, a brutal war begins, the first time ever humanity wages war on a scale of an entire planet.

Artillery tries to take the high ground whenever possible, however soon it is realised than almost every hill and mountain close to any major infrastructure is occupied by Mechi garrison. In many places at once, humanity mounts powerful assaults relying on heavy tanks and mechs to break Mechi resistance and get them out of their defensive positions:

Hell is let loose across HIP 22738-A II's deserts. Plasma projectiles and laser beams are fired upon charging human soldiers, dealing a lot of casualties among infantry despite their power armors and succeeding at destroying some combat vehicles, too.

Avengers quickly gain air superiority and fire their Fusion Ball launchers time after time again, disrupting Mechi formations and suppressing their firepower. First hills are taken over and repositioned artillery directs fire at what appears to be enemy's most important buildings.

After few initial artillery barrages, human commanders tremble upon realising some of the buildings weren't really buildings in the first place when they transform into mighty machines, ready to destroy, tear and kill:

Orders to concentrate fire are given and Avengers focus their bombardment on those huge beasts as well, but their armor seems very though. Particle beams can deal with them, but they can withstand a lot of abuse and, in some regions, successfully not only stop human advance, but also push them back a bit. Several regular machines concentrated around them, but it was already too late when high command noticed it was a trap - most of the robotic forces took advantage in their opponents being busy with Desert Leviathans and with precision and cruelty worthy of a machine started encircling manoeuvres. Firefight intensifies.

In the meantime, XCOM operatives began gaining control over major cities. Their mission wasn't to directly annihilate enemy presence, but rather to locate and hack into any sort of command center or control interface they would be able to locate.
Their task required them to move in smaller squads and try to stay low and stealthy, but firefights were unavoidable among heavily guarded areas. At least Desert Leviathans would have a hard time picking them up without causing massive collateral damage to their own structures.

But not only deserts and mountains were places where bloody firefights took place - gaining control over the lush areas alongside what little rivers and seas the planet had was also an important part of the operation - not because of Mechi, since them being robots meant they could set themselves up pretty much anywhere and the lush regions weren't more valuable for them than any other, but because quick conquest of "green lands" would provide humanity with excellent spots for establishing bases of operation on the hostile soil.
Best XCOM units were dispatched to secure potential "safe zones" and establish impromptu HQ centers at convenient spots.

31th January 2220, 10:28:15, after over ten hours of intense fighting across every region of Mechi homeworld, a few XCOM squads successfully breached into a seemingly important Mechi facility in one of the cities. Minutes felt like hours while walking across the eerie corridors in eerie silence. Until, out of a sudden, a huge army of Mechi infantry-style robots poured out from many directions at once.

XCOM squadmembers started blasting away in despair. Antimatter from their bullets collided with matter, unleashing a powerful energy blast upon each impact, laying destruction everywhere. Well protected from Mechi plasma, they fought well and held the line, but the enemies just kept coming and coming. Ammo started to run dry and within next hour all soldiers had to switch from antimatter guns to their secondary laser pistols. Power armors, even if resistant and protective, could only withstand so much abuse at once and fighting squads started to lose more and more soldiers. In this dire situation retreat orders were issued. XCOM blood shed across the dark halls and marked the trail of exponential bravery and sacrifice.

As soon as XCOM survivors emerge from the facility and rejoice with nearby units, relief of making it out alive from the slaughter withers away from their faces, slowly replaced by the expression of true fear and horror.

"There were no Mechi there. We all killed each other." - the words of the leader of those squads went down in history.
It took a while for the reports on strange psionic interference to reach the generals overseeing the entire invasion.

Dozens of psionic scientists supporting the operation studied the transferred data and records of brain activity of XCOM soldiers participating in the massacre and compared them with the recordings of their fighting within the facitlity.
The scenes were unbelievable, surrealistic, showing XCOM squads murdering each other at point blank with antimatter projectiles, with the offenders often killing themselves together with  their victims. Not a single Mechi has shown up.

Panic started to creep into commanding officers when they fully acknowledged that members of an elite formations, undergoing a very intense, brutal psionic training, titanium-willed and mentally unbreakable, fell prey to a psionic attack so powerful they didn't even realise something tried to access and control their mind until everything was over.

In spite of the recent events, not willing to take additional risks, all XCOM soldiers were to abort their missions and leave the cities, designated for orbital strike as soon as all humans stuck in them are evacuated. A special committee of psi scientists has been assembled, tasked with figuring out what exactly happened and how to counter this new mental threat.
But evacuation of the cities of course didn't go as smooth as planned. Mechi seemed to largely concentrate on the suburbs, greeting fleeing soldiers with a barrage of intense plasma fire from multiple directions, melting through the armors of many. A desperate stand began on many fronts.

2nd February 2220, 7:30:16, after a few days of intense combat, battle engineers have finally finished fine-tuning of a proper hacking sequence meant to be transmitted across the world to disarm every hostile robot and make Mechi surrender and comply. The only issue left was Mechi communication arrays were rejecting every human-made data transfer as a form of default defensive mechanism and while producing software to defeat Mechi was a subject extensively studied and well-developed after decades of the state of war, software masking itself as Mechi-produced was a whole different programming challenge.
However, prepared transmission could still be used locally to support fighting troops by disabling their nearby enemies. Thanks to this, a few breakthroughs have been made across the deserts, pushing Mechi out of their garrisons and outposts.

9th February 2220, 18:20:52, heavy artillery, cooperating with Avengers, started shelling city centers, razing many buildings and bringing destruction everywhere they aimed. The facility where the infamous friendly fire incident took place has been personally targeted by admiral commanding space fleet from orbit, onboard of an Executor. Extreme X-ray lasers burned through the internal structure of the complex, severely damaging everything within its proximity.

9th February 2220, 23:14:51, numerous cyberattacks are detected on all of the Executors that keep pounding on the planetary surface. Dedicated anti-Mechi modules of the antivirus software deal with the threat without too much problems, but the very attempt of the enemy to take control of the most powerful combat spaceships that ever left human shipyard is impressive and scary. Additionally, Mechi didn't give up and kept disrupting the virtual space of Executors with numerous cracking attempts.

Despite all attacks destined to fail, they made admiral and most officers too occupied with purging the internal systems to notice what was going on the radars and the onboard AI didn't issue a warning either, also fighting alien computer viruses. It all lasted maybe a few minutes, but a few minutes was enough.

Before a planet-wide warning could be issues for all fighting grounds, several Desert Leviathans in different key regions committed what could be called a "suicide attack" and detonated their antimatter reactors right among the fighting troops, causing devastating casualties. Panic spread quickly among the ranks when the matter and antimatter collided.

Mechi, now in the initiative, quickly mount a counterattack, pushing humanity out of the hills, outposts and other strategic positions, cutting out some units from logistics support. The blasts had caught up even a few Avengers which didn't engage warp drives fast enough:

A lot of human forces plunged into chaos, its soldiers fighting in despair for their lives.

To save the day, XCOM commander comes up with an idea to weaponize Alcubierre Drives mounted on Avengers. The basic idea is to make Avengers fly so close to the enemy while at warp speed that they'd end up caught in warp bubble, contracted and expanded just like all space in front and behind the craft, leading to their ultimate destruction no armor can prevent.

Proposed solution sparks controversy since it is expected to be extremely deadly for Avengers pilots since accomplishment of the task will require them to fly very close to the ground at one fifth of the speed of light, basically begging to crash into something with full force, but the XCOM psionic training didn't go to waste and while high command discusses the matter, upon hearing the news, many pilots volunteer to "do what needs to be done".

If Mechi, being robots, could have never felt fear before, what followed after appropriate commands have been issued for sure must have sparked terror even inside a cold-oiled machine. Space bending into weird curvatures, splashing burned robotic parts all over and flashes of violent explosions of Avengers crashing down at warp speeds were all that could be seen, but it all lasted a mere few seconds until the deed was done.

11th February 2220, 5:47:32, XCOM teams are sent to investigate what was left (if anything) from the complex where the psionic attack occurred. Just to be sure, they were given an order to do not engage and flee immediately upon detecting any "hostile" activity to prevent the traumatising incident from happening once again.

Soldiers move across the rubble, not being able to spot any movement or robot, coming closer to the position where shots have been fired before. According to the new protocol, they were supposed to proceed slowly and take long breaks. The aim was to maximise their chance of detecting any psionic hazards beforehand while advancing within the effective range of a potential interference slowly and give their brains a lot of time to focus and adapt.
The new approach has passed the test - soldiers soon begin to report strange feelings and an unusually high tension and fear of death. Psionic scanners detect waves reaching their positions, tailored very well to a human brain structure and psychology.

Well-aware about their vulnerability and having confirmed that the source of psionic waves remains operational despite all the laser beams that hit the place, XCOM operatives calmly walk away from the problematic spot. But their cold blood began to boil and evaporate when out of a blue a powerful Mechi battalions appeared and encircled XCOM teams, keeping them suppressed.

Following the orders, no shot has been fired. EMP weapons usage has been briefly considered, but that idea was dropped too - fired directly at XCOM squadmembers, a blast powerful enough to knock out one of the bigger Mechi robots would've destroyed much of their gear, including destruction of power armor systems, causing the soldier to collapse under its no longer supported weight, or worse, frying internal cybernetics implants.

Surrounded and unable to fire, XCOM inevitably started taking casualties. Psionic attacks aside, blood of their brothers in arms pouring from lifeless bodies could only mean one thing: somebody broke the orders and opened friendly fire. Paranoia was setting in among escaping troops, each one of them feeling they'll be next.
Not knowing what was real anymore and what was not, they fled the battlefield and desertion was not uncommon, some believing they'll be better off separating from the team.
Taking severe casualties, eventually survivors of the second massacre left the influence zone of this mysterious psionic weapons.

But the surrounding gunfire didn't stop.
Mechi robots were still closing in, launching missile after missile at the hapless infantrymen.
Commander of the XCOM teams taking part in the operation, surprised, picked up multiple messages sent to him in the past minutes. They were all telling him that this time the Mechi were real and demanded opening fire, but he couldn't remember noticing them before.
Quickly coming back to his senses, he ordered his soldiers to regroup and make a stand, now supported with a few other units operating within the city. First shots at pursuing Mechi have been fired.

The committee tasked with studying the psionic threat quickly came to conclusion that this time around Mechi attacked, because they figured out humans won't shoot back for obvious reasons, meanwhile the imposed mind-control was strong enough to force XCOM leader to ignore the incoming warnings and situational updates. At least during a second trial no friendly fire has been opened.

20th February 2220, 11:05:11, Mechi suddenly launch a concentrated attack on several command centers established withing green zones. Big machines move over the forests with agility that is hard to imagine, quickly repositioning an using hit and run tactics, scoring devastating hits while avoiding incoming fire for longer periods of time.

Since HQ defences struggle to penetrate shields of constantly rotating enemies, small patrols with "search and destroy" mission leave the perimeter, attempting to outmanoeuvre hostile machines.

The situation quickly goes out of hand since individual scout teams are unable to reliably and effectively engage the enemy and the usage of heavier mechs and tanks that could deal with the enemy is limited by rough terrain. Avengers and Executors help with bombarding the green areas. "Search and destroy" deterred to "destroy and destroy".

25th February 2220, multiple other psionic weapons are detected among major cities. Deeming it too dangerous to venture further, new invasion plan assumes gaining total control over deserts and mountains, cutting off and encircling multiple Mechi groups in cities. That way it should be easier to deal with them later on, maybe even force them to surrender under the threat of orbital annihilation. Humanity presses on the attack.

Multiple battles rage for days to no end, but humanity starts to emerge victorious from them. Mechi, running out of ammo and spare parts across the sea of sand, losing base after base, defence point after defence point, begin to break down, remnants of their formations scattering around, finished off by squadrons of Avengers patrolling the sky.

Soon a bunch of major cities became the last holdout of the enemy.
Not willing to risk accidents with psionic interference, human soldiers stay clear from city centers. The plan is for them to thin out initial defence lines enough for unmanned drones and vehicles to push through, eliminating last bits of resistance.

Drones and unmanned craft isn't enough to pierce through the strong Mechi defences - on a pure machine vs machine combat, without direct input from a human being, Mechi are simply better for obvious reasons. Because of this, battle over HIP 22738-A II turned into a trench warfare, with human armies controlling most of the planet, but unable to deal the final blow.

12th March 2220, a colonel leading a branch of XCOM forces proposed an insane method of breaking the impasse - he suggested using alive Invaders kept in captivity to achieve a breakthrough on a mental plane.
He points out humans were able to score victories over Invaders in psionic battles during boarding of their ships only because of unpredictability and rapid change of human thought processes and emotions, but in this particular case the psionic emitters were, in fact, very predictable, because they were just devices and their control software, without an alive, sentient creature to control them to grant that unpredictability.
These arguments face agreement from the psionic committee after enough analysis of these mental weapons was done, but these are the only good news for the colonel - high command is shocked and even outraged when hearing about this proposition. Besides, obvious controversy aside, there are only a total of a few hundreds Invaders currently kept alive, and to guarantee most of them would survive assault on multiple enemy cities to guarantee victory and their further availability for scientists to study them would be a logistical nightmare nobody is willing to take.

28th March 2220, after nobody else was able to come up with a better plan, facing rapidly deteriorating morale among troops doing nothing but to wait endlessly on a hostile world, under artillery fire, wondering who'll die next till "someone up there" is gonna make a decision, admirals and generals leading the invasion agree to the plan, claiming maybe it's not that stupid to "fight insanity with insanity".

2nd April 2220, 8:21:06, five Phoenix Hawks, each containing a total of thirty Invaders onboard and an "overkill escort", begin atmospheric entry.
2nd April 2220, 14:52:03, all five groups are successfully enclosed within energetic shields acting as a double-edged soword - a lot of power was redirected to them, keeping Invaders extremely well-protected from enemy fire, even at a cost of power required for shielding of human troops, but at the same time humans will remain well-protected from Invaders shall they "try something".

No contact has been established during the entire journey from Core Worlds prisons to the combat zone.
Yet it is predicted Invaders will have no choice but to fight with their brains once the psionic weapons will attempt to break inside their heads.

2nd April 2220, 18:34:25, humanity launches a final assault on the infamous complex. Soldiers take more casualties because of all the power redirected to protect Invaders at the cost of them. Morale suffers a lot thanks to this, too.

After hours of intense fighting marked with blood and fried circuits, Human-Invaders and Invaders-Invaders approach the ruins of the complex. From now on, human soldiers form a cordon around the danger zone and push Invaders forward at gunpoint. In order to motivate them further, all five teams have been separated beyond the range at which they'd be able to communicate psionically and told the others were executed for refusing to do what is requested from them, as to prevent Invaders just refusing to move under the premise of them knowing they're valuable and humanity doesn't want to lose them.

Before they moved, it wasn't without an intense psychic sparring between them and best of XCOM psionic operatives till they finally stepped forward, though.
But it required them to only move a little bit before ending up caught up in violent thoughts. Everyone watched with dropped jaws via the video transmitted from escorting drones how they spit their acids at each other and two of them even died in the process.

All attempts to figure out what exactly was going on in their heads failed.
Not even the best scientists could figure anything from the recorded brain activity scans.
It was most likely simply a duel on a higher level humanity was yet to ascend to, similarly as if musketeers from ancient past saw modern plasma rifles and tried to figure out what kind of musket is that and how is gunpowder able to generate so much energy for the projectiles to be so fast and hot.

But they did their job somehow, completely disarming these strange devices. With their forced help, humanity pushed further, conquering city after city. On 20th April 2220 the entire planet was under the control of human forces, with all Mechi either destroyed or disarmed, leaving only working drones.
Operation CyberDesert has come to an end.

Entire Ender celebrated the victory, but on other planets and moons people weren't as pleased. Some ethics and plain citizens as well questioned the moral right for humanity to attack Mechi Prime, especially when the decades-old question of whether they're robots or robotic ascendants of an alien beings uploading their brains into computers still remained a mystery.

Immediately after securing the planet's "population", fleet of Pandoras has been sent to prepare the planet for long-term colonisation. While technically it was already capable of supporting human life, oxygen amount was on the lower end of survivability and there was very little water available, with most of the planet being covered in deserts not survivable without a protective suit to shield from the extreme heat. At least a bit more temperate ecosystem was neccessary.

Conspiracy theories begin to surround a squadron of five Phoenix Hawks leaving shipyards on Earth when the war was still raging, ranging anywhere from additional orbital support request to World Government secretly cooperating with Invaders, which would also explain them not being seen for a while now. Earth-Invaders Organisation tries to deny the latter.

All kinds of computer scientists, programmers, hackers, technicians and engineers are called to participate in a Desert Deciphering Program aiming to translate, read, classify and, most importantly, understand all the information that can be recovered from Mechi Prime. Government excepts a breakthrough in figuring out what the hell is going in the Milky Way soon.

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Through the following months tons of data has been mined from Mechi Prime.
First and foremost fact established was that Mechi weren't an intelligent species at all - they were just machines with advanced AI, engineered, built and programmed by someone else.
They lacked the creativity and abstract thinking that define sentient beings, but advanced algorithms and learning mechanisms programmed into their cores allowed them to achieve pinnacle of engineering and optimisation within a pre-defined ruleset. They might have lacked innovation skills, but not even the best human engineers could beat them at optimising and improving already existing technology or even inventing new ones, even if limited to the core concepts and science they had pre-programmed.

Sleepless nights and restless days spent at reverse-engineering and reading their code payed off - AI experts finally started to understand Mechi and their civilisation.
Their very existence was a result of an ancient, mighty race breaching the level of Singularity in technological development.
Automation and artificial intelligence so advanced it could even achieve limited breakthroughs in science.
Once these machines were built and their software uploaded, a new era of prosperity and peace dawned upon their creators.
But there was more to it than just simple, even trivial, technological utopia.

The Creators were aware of the Dark Forest.
Instead of just integrating Mechi into their own society, they put them all into one of their planets and conditioned so that they could start their own civilisation.
This new mechanical civilisation was supposed to act as a safe testing ground for concepts meant to "enlighten the Dark Forest". Even a total failure could not hurt Creators - worst case scenario was that a more powerful alien race would come and purge the universe from Mechi, but Creators themselves would remain safe and sound.

The robots had everything programmed in them to allow and ensure peaceful coexistence and friendly contact with other inhabitants of the known universe and were meant to explore and broadcast messages of friendliness and will to form alliances.
This was very surprising since it clashed with the history of Mechi-Human relationships. Sure, some sort of mutual communication has been achieved before first shots were fired, but, well, first shots were fired and overall Mechi were nothing like their initial programming states.

Databases scattered around Mechi Prime tell a story about everything going wrong. As time passed, thriving and expanding Singularity, despite not having it programmed, using ruthless precision, created mathematical model of cosmic civilisations interactions. It was the infamous Dark Forest Theory indeed. Following it, Mechi have completely overriden their original programming, replacing it with self-made protocols, which stated "learn, adapt, neutralise, consume, expand".

It was an actual explanation as to why they haven't opened fire immediately and even appeared somewhat friendly - knowing their own limitations, they were still in the "learn" and "adapt" phases. The moment they blasted Human Race Representation Group to hell was the moment they switched to "neutralise", except soon after these events a bigger predator opened up a wormhole into their territory and decided to neutralise them before they got a chance to launch a proper alien invasion of their own.
They knew about them a bit earlier, though (hence why they indirectly warned humanity once that they are "coming from outer space"), and that was thanks to excavating Precursor ruins with records mentioning Invaders.

From what could be pieced together, Creators fell into despair and planned to annihilate their own creation for the greater good of any civilisation of good will that might still exist across the stars, but never actually did it, because a "new hostile presence" appeared within this sector of Milky Way and them intervening would pose them at risk of extinction.

Eventually, when it came to cataloguing stellar and celestial databases, a horrific truth about HD 158633 has been uncovered. The asteroid belt surrounding local sun once was not an asteroid belt, but a habitable planet.
The planet has been destroyed by a near-light speed missile fired from across the stars, which kinetic energy was so insane it blasted right through the planet's core, shattering it into millions of pieces that cooled down and started orbiting the star just like in the "old days" when they were all one celestial body.
Currently humanity had no technology powerful enough to intercept and either destroy, slow down or change the trajectory of such missile, meaning if one has already been fired at one of the colonised planets, its days were already counted.

To much surprise, despite all the successes with decoding Mechi data, information directly related to the Creators were encrypted so well it took almost half a year for the optimised, fastest cracking algorithms to access it, but humanity, for the time uninterrupted by anybody, had all the time in the universe to break into them.
Everyone who saw the entries and logs, remained speechless, just telling their colleagues to take a look themselves. Some even passed out.
The Creators were short, thin and overall weak humanoids, with grey skin and relatively big heads and deep, dark eyes. Never evolved the ability to speak, but were capable of reading each other's mind directly and extremely intelligent, with their natural psionic powers being only a mere side effect of their rapid brain evolution.

Oldest recordings showed them using flying saucers with an extremely efficient version of warp drive, being on par even with early human designs of Jump Drive. Everything matches.

Government decides to publish the discovery, which immediately divides the society. Some people claim "Greys" aren't a threat because of how they initially programmed Mechi, others point out how their experiment ended and that for sure must have convinced them there's no escape from Dark Forest, so they participated in the Eternal Night of the Purge and now are coming into human space to exterminate all life from it.
Even across members of the government opinions are divided, but that doesn't stop it from taking "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" approach, something everyone can agree on.
Unfortunately no data about where they could've been found exists, but that was expected - otherwise their entire experiment would've been pointless.

30th December 2220, World Government, in secret from everyone, approaches an unconventional method of tackling communications issue with Invaders. It tries what once Earth-Invaders Organisation tried - shows them all the knowledge gained from Mechi Prime.
It succeeds. First official conversation with Invaders started on 30th December 2220, 23:01:58, on board of one of the Phoenix Hawks serving as mobile prison for captured Invaders, orbiting Nibiru.

INVADERS: So now you know.

WORLD GOVERNMENT: No, we don't know. But you know. And now you will tell us everything and we don't care how cliche it sounds. You are afraid of Greys, just like we do, and that's why you'll tell use everything, not because of any threats we could make since you fear nothing. Nothing but them.

I: Oh, you do. You came a long way since we first met. We still remember your miserable attempts, the stupid optimism of discovery and the thrill of first contact... You were so childish. But now you know how this universe works. You even managed to Vaccinate against our non-combat scouts and capture some of us alive, something we didn't expect to happen. We're impressed.

G: We know about Dark Forest and you know what it means for your civilisation. We also know you think the exact same thing about humanity, yet we don't care. You didn't seem to pay too much attention to Precursors even though our scientists are making progress in figuring out their anti-Invaders weapon right as we speak.  But you are so anxious when thinking or talking about Greys. Why?

I: Weapon? If Precursors had a weapon to destroy us, why do you think they have gone extinct? Their "weapon" only allowed them to destabilise and close, how you call them, "Void Wormholes", but that's it. They were never very powerful in terms of military strength relative to their civilisation development level. And that's why Precursors are no more, bases with robots and planets like Nibiru being everything that's left from them.

G: Why do you consider Greys dangerous?

I: They have something we don't. Soon all the stars across the Milky Way will flare and the final part will begin, just like we did in many galaxies before, but it won't get us any closer. They are very powerful and survived so far only thanks to this one technology. They make us anxious because we have no way of getting it and we don't know how deep into Dark Forest they descended after their grand failure of Baile Screed, or rather how you call them, Mechi Experiment.

G: Do you know anything about HD 158633 or V1216 Sagittarii-A III?

I: Nothing concrete. Maybe that one intergalactic civilisation which escaped our purge in NGC 520. They often used near-lightspeed interstellar missiles to purge suspicious planets just to be sure. By the way, it'll take a while for the light showing disappearance of this galaxy to reach you. From the Milky Way it still looks as two galaxies undergoing collision, long before our first starships reached it...

G: How can we defend against those missiles?

I: Seems like you still have a lot to learn... Why do you ask? Soon you'll be gone. We will make sure you're no longer a threat to our civilisation.

G: If you're so obsessed about surviving, why do you act so indifferent? We could kill you right now, kept you imprisoned or release you, you're at our mercy and even if your race was to destroy us all tomorrow, your survival is threatened and in such scenario you wouldn't live to see the victory anyways.

I: Oh, we would've cared. But we know your thoughts better than you do. We know for now you'll choose the middle option. If you really wanted to kill us right now, we would've cared.

G: Why did you cooperate with Earth-Invaders Organisation? It doesn't mean anything in our society. It is weak, a couple of terrorist attacks, meaningless in the grand scheme of things, was all it could ever do.

I: We didn't. The one time we talked with them was because they told us about the Greys, though they didn't have much useful information and their psionic skills, obtained from shady, illegal implants were unimpressive, so we didn't talk for long, maybe one fourth of what we've been talking so far. And we started communicating with you for the same reason we did so with them.

G: What do you know about the Substance? Why were you carrying it in your, supposedly, tanker?

I: Substance is dangerous. At first we thought it was made by a threat, but really it is a threat. A sentient bio weapon, if you wish to call it like that. Just another horror lurking around Dark Forest.

G: From where it came from? How did it appear on many planets at once?

I: We don't know. And we don't even care. We will destroy it just like any other threatening sentience.

G: Let's go back to Greys. How do you plan to obtain this "something" they have, but not you?

I: That's why one of our battle fleets haven't warped into your systems yet, though we used it once to get rid of Mechi. We left their homeworld untouched, hoping you'd take it, and so you did. We will get what we want from them, and you will help us, and we know you will regardless of the actions your civilisations will take. It's an inevitable consequence of the nature of things.

G: What's going on in Barnard's Star system?

I: Why don't you take a look yourself? Your fastest starships can reach it from Earth in less than a day. If you dare, that is...

Despite repeated attempts, Invaders refused to say anything more. Nevertheless, the amount of information pulled from the first official communication was huge and brought humanity closer to understanding the dangers it was facing among the stars.
In following years government focused on exploiting the Singularity to accelerate civilisation progress even further and prepare human race for battles to come, be it with Greys, near-light speed missile firing race, Substance, Invaders or anything else.

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Thanks to outsourcing of Mechi workforce and processing power, humanity entered a new stage of prosperity. Colonies kept expanding, industrial production skyrocketed, many new civilian and commercial fleets were built for ease of logistics, science was marching forward like never before.

Pandoras' next destination is Xi Bootis-B II, an excellent colonisation candidate with little terraforming required. Main efforts are focused on filling the planet with oceans and providing water circulation.

Thanks to the immense power humanity has reached, dyson sphere can now be easily constructed at any star humans orbit and putting one from now on will become a part of standard procedure for preparing a system for colonisation.

18th June 2224, after almost 150 years of constant effort, Terraria workers celebrate the switchoff of Venusian installations and descend onto the surface as the first humans without any protective suit. Clear, blue skies, pressure matching that of an Earth, very similar gravity and a nearby river across which trees grow is the first sight they see. Five hours later first colonists arrive and robots starts building the first Venusian city.

More and more places across inhabited worlds are designated as "cryogenic spaces" for Nibirians. Sceptics talk about how it resembles racial segregation for them. Enthusuasts encourage them to try to take a walk on eight moon of Epsilon-Eridani-A VIII without a space suit.

Explorers cross the wormhole in HD 158633, landing near NN 3403:

Exploration of former Mechi space continues. Wormhole from DN Draconis connects to HIP 19394:

19th June 2224, 17:52:00, starship approaching the only planet in the system suddenly is attacked by a small squadron of Mechi ships and destroyed before it could engage warp drive:

20th June 2224, 19:02:15, Executors stationed at Mechi homeworld catch up to the target, neutralising it within seconds:

It is expected that while the bulk of Mechi space forces has been destroyed by Invaders and they don't have any means to build more, leftovers from their fleets could be encountered from time to time and thus extreme caution is still advised while travelling through their space.
Further voyages from across the stars bring data about EQ Pegasi:

Gliese 382 system:

It is expected that life could have evolved on either Gliese 382-A II or Gliese 382-A III, however grey, dirty icesheets is all that dominates the landscape and there's nothing there.
However, closer analysis revealed that the grey dirt trapped within the ice is of organic origin. It is the Substance.
This provides an excellent insights into a planet at final stage of Substance-initiated devouring process. Some limited information about lifeforms existing on both planets can be gathered from Substance composition.

Apart from biological matter, Substance also appears to feed on the minerals themselves, incorporating them into the mixture. It is suggested that maybe it'd cost it more energy to filter out only biological ingredients than it costs it to just engulf everything, leaving inorganic resources as neutral and feeding from the rest.
A temporary scientific outpost has been established in the system to conduct more research on the nature of this bio weapon.

10th January 2225, 4:25:39, containment breach alarm is raised in the laboratory on Aracaju where Substance acquired from captured Rakshasa ships. Consuming abilities are higher than initially estimated and the grey goo started chewing through its storage and expanding across the lab. Lost of biological matter within the facility nourish it, making for an easy and hard to control growth.
10th January 2225, 4:38:45, entire research facility had to be evacuated. A total of five members of the personnel have been eaten alive and eight others had to had parts of their bodies amputated in an emergency with laser rifles to cut the ever-hungry lifeform from killing them. They can be considered lucky - nothing a few bionic replacements won't fix.
10th January 2225, 5:21:47, despite unleashing all kinds of toxins or pathogens in an attempt to kill the enemy, it kept growing, only feeding from the chemical and biological weapons used on it further. Goo started creeping into the nearest buildings of a city close by.
10th January 2225, 5:47:31, entire city is undergoing evacuation. Initial estimates speak about at least two hundreds killed and massive collateral damage.

10th January 2225, 6:01:47, Vaccines orbiting Aracaju start bombing the affected area with particle beams, but it looks like punching holes through water. Beams damage Substance, but to much lesser degree than needed and the holes made are quickly refilled.
11th January 2225, 16:41:32, XCOM operatives arrive. Substance has consumed a few large agglomerations by this time. Estimated casualties range from 20 000 dead citizens or more. Evacuated population is temporarily put into hibernation on board of colony ships orbiting the planet.
After a test shot with antimatter rifle, goo splatters across a large area from the spot where it has been hit, carried by the shock wave. Two XCOM soldiers don't surive, next three had to have various limbs amputated on the fly. From now on, only laser and plasma weapons are allowed to combat the threat.
Lasers burn through the bio weapon and XCOM recovers some ground, but soon is overwhelmed. Its efforts are futile.
Trying a different approach, soldiers try to communicate with the lifeform, well-aware it is sentient. The only plausible way to do so seems to revolve around psionic waves, but alien lifeform is either too mind-resistant or is just incapable of communicating via this medium. Quick field tests reveal it can't be reasoned with in similar ways people communicate with animals, either.
Running out of options and time, government sends in Executors to conduct orbital laser bombardment of all affected areas, hoping to evaporate the enemy.
13th January 2225, 12:51:17, Executors jump into HIP 47650 and proceed to the orbit of Aracaju. Once positioned, they start striking the ground from above.

Their devastating, powerful laser beams burn through the organic enemy. Substance can't withstand temperatures and radiation so high and dies. Soon entire Aracaju is safe, but the bombardment causes some civilian casualties and collateral damage, because not everyone could be evacuated on time.

Society is outraged at the actions taken, and with emotions taking control most can't be bothered to look at the simulations showing the number of deaths shall he bombardment be postponed - the growth of the substance was faster than pace at which people could be evacuated into orbit, meaning in the extreme case bombardment wouldn't have happened until entire planet has been covered with the goo, killing hundreds of millions of people still stuck on the surface, awaiting evacuation shuttles.

After the incident, all medical experiments with the Substance are prohibited. When dormant, sure it does show extreme tissue regeneration properties, but once it decides its time to flip the killswitch, it spreads faster than anything short of orbital laser bombardment cleans it up.

25th january 2225, in order to suppress the unrest, government decides to open up Kappa Tucanae for broader colonisation. It justifies its decision with Mechi databases having Kappa Tucanae listed as one of the human colonies and them being aware about threat yet undetected, but incoming and knowing about the location of human-controlled systems. Further quarantine of Sol++ was simply pointless as the enemy already knew. The databases didn't have GJ 1279 listed, though, meaning wto inhabited planets orbiting that star were still valid participants of Operation Reseed.

To make colonists feel safer, government allowed for the FTL drives of colony ships to only be used to reach WISE 2359-7335. From there, fleets heading into Utopia should use only Invader-made wormholes, without engaging even subluminal warp drives for faster transit within one system. With that way, any civilisation potentially monitoring gravitational disturbances and space curvatures from afar wouldn't be able to detect these ships beyond WISE 2359-7335.

As soon as regular transit routes have been reestablished, toilet paper started arriving into Core Worlds. Overjoyed with the sheer availability of this luxurious product, humanity quickly forgot about Aracaju incident, celebrating the times that arrived, many forgetting even about Dark Forest and the predator it has sent after humanity. Population within Paradise exploded, with Kappa Tucanae-A II alone coming close to one billion inhabitants.

28th February 2225, engineers tackle the most ambitious IT project in history, the goal being a huge supercomputer, with clusters spanning across all settled worlds and systems and instant communication realised via quantum entanglement.

Thanks to the unimaginable processing power, scientists can speed up many of their computations and simulations. One of the results of this boost is correct and accurate recalculation of minimal energy needed for accessing four-dimensional plane and a decent mathematical mode has been created. This has finally led to the first prototype of a Hyperdrive.
Ships entering a four-dimensional space and staying there for the entire journey, emerging into familiar, three-dimensional space at destination became a reality.
30th May 2226, first hyperspace-capable starship leaves orbital shipyard of Earth:

Code: [Select]
Vision class Science Vessel      20,000 tons       418 Crew       6,419.2 BP       TCS 400    TH 4,000    EM 0
10000 km/s    JR 1-25(C)      Armour 7-65       Shields 0-0       HTK 123      Sensors 80/48/30/30      DCR 60      PPV 0
Maint Life 4.70 Years     MSP 6,818    AFR 107%    IFR 1.5%    1YR 505    5YR 7,572    Max Repair 1000 MSP
Commander    Control Rating 2   BRG   SCI   
Intended Deployment Time: 240 months    Morale Check Required   

JC20K Hyperdrive     Max Ship Size 20000 tons    Distance 25k km     Squadron Size 1

Commercial Gas Core AM Drive  EP4000.00 (1)    Power 4000    Fuel Use 0.88%    Signature 4000    Explosion 5%
Fuel Capacity 660,000 Litres    Range 672 billion km (777 days at full power)

CIWS-400 (3x12)    Range 1000 km     TS: 40,000 km/s     ROF 5       
EM Sensor EM2-48 (1)     Sensitivity 48     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  54.8m km
Thermal Sensor TH2-80 (1)     Sensitivity 80     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  70.7m km
Phased Geological Sensors (6)   30 Survey Points Per Hour
Phased Gravitational Sensors (6)   30 Survey Points Per Hour

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Vision passes all tests with mind-blowing results. During its voyage into HIP 22738 and back through most of the cruise it kept a stable effective speed of 5138c relative to normal space, while traversing through hyperspace at the speed of laughable 102 km/s, reaching 50c for every kilometre per second of conventional speed.
Humanity finally was able to build starships powerful enough to open up the possibility of pursuing Invaders inside Bootes Void.

Soon first Visions leave space docks and embark on their first missions. A total of five exploration groups puncture the fabric of space on the outer edges of Solar System and fly towards alien suns yet unseen from up close. First ships to successfully complete the voyage drop out of hyperspace in NN 3737:

Equipped with latest wonders of Precursor technology discovered on Kruger 60-A I, they use four-dimensional scanning sensors to quickly survey two worlds orbiting NN 3737. By operating within four-dimensional space, these sensors are able to asses the composition of the entire planet just by looking at its 3D projection from 4D plane.

In the meantime other Visions are exploring former Mechi space. A wormhole near HIP 19394 links a binary, but planet-less system of GI 630.1:

Another Vision emerges from hyperspace near WISE 0005+3737:

Powerful sensors of Visions detect multiple wrecks in HD 158633 and NN 3403, remants of Mechi and Invaders' ships alike. When a wormhole in NN 3403 is crossed, it is soon discovered why. Explorers arrive via it in Gliese 685. The star shines as an only bright dot with enormous Void Wormhole spanning in the background, far wider than the entire system itself, a giant black circle punching a hole in the stellar sky:

Gliese 685-A III hosts complex marine life beneath the thick ice sheet covering every square meter of the surface. Whether an intelligent species have evolved there or not remains an open question, but even if they did, Invaders wiped them out clean while leaving remaining ecosystem intact, just like they did on so many other planets.
As humanity continues to spread across the stars, new stellar maps are released to keep track of the explored space:


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In the following months, as part of the preparation for alien invasion, engineers from across the universe work hard to deliver new weapon systems and warships to the human forces. The results of their work include an improved version of the Woodpecker missile destroyer, but also a brand new battleship:

Code: [Select]
Woodpecker MkII class Missile Destroyer      25,000 tons       573 Crew       8,028.7 BP       TCS 500    TH 7,000    EM 6,240
14000 km/s      Armour 20-76       Shields 208-520       HTK 169      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 60      PPV 158.4
Maint Life 4.56 Years     MSP 6,021    AFR 167%    IFR 2.3%    1YR 471    5YR 7,066    Max Repair 1750 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 2   BRG   ENG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

Gas Core AM Drive  EP3500.00 (2)    Power 7000    Fuel Use 118.11%    Signature 3500    Explosion 25%
Fuel Capacity 5,488,000 Litres    Range 33.5 billion km (27 days at full power)
Theta S208 / R520 Shields (1)     Recharge Time 520 seconds (0.4 per second)

Quad Gauss Cannon R500-25.00 Turret (20x20)    Range 50,000km     TS: 32000 km/s     Power 0-0     RM 50,000 km    ROF 5       
Beam Fire Control R150-TS32000 (1)     Max Range: 150,000 km   TS: 32,000 km/s     93 87 80 73 67 60 53 47 40 33

Active Search Sensor AS23-R1 (1)     GPS 96     Range 23.5m km    MCR 2.1m km    Resolution 1

ECCM-5 (1)         ECM 50

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Code: [Select]
Judgement class Battleship      30,000 tons       976 Crew       8,823.9 BP       TCS 600    TH 8,400    EM 0
14000 km/s      Armour 8-86       Shields 0-0       HTK 163      Sensors 80/48/0/0      DCR 50      PPV 195
Maint Life 1.88 Years     MSP 6,076    AFR 360%    IFR 5.0%    1YR 2,207    5YR 33,108    Max Repair 4200 MSP
Magazine 2,310   
Captain    Control Rating 3   BRG   AUX   ENG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

Gas Core AM Drive  EP8400.00 (1)    Power 8400    Fuel Use 67.45%    Signature 8400    Explosion 24%
Fuel Capacity 3,758,000 Litres    Range 33.4 billion km (27 days at full power)

Size 5 Missile Launcher (30)     Missile Size: 5    Rate of Fire 10
Size 1 Missile Launcher (75.00% Reduction) (60)     Missile Size: 1    Rate of Fire 10
Missile Fire Control FC32-R20 (2)     Range 32.9m km    Resolution 20
Gangut Anti-Ship Missile (330)    Speed: 130,800 km/s    End: 1.3m     Range: 10.1m km    WH: 25    Size: 5    TH: 436/261/130
Georgii Pobedonosets AMM (660)    Speed: 130,800 km/s    End: 1.3m     Range: 10.3m km    WH: 1    Size: 1    TH: 3052/1831/915

Active Search Sensor AS12-R1 (1)     GPS 20     Range 12.1m km    MCR 1.1m km    Resolution 1
EM Sensor EM2-48 (1)     Sensitivity 48     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  54.8m km
Thermal Sensor TH2-80 (1)     Sensitivity 80     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  70.7m km

ECCM-6 (2)         ECM 50

Missile to hit chances are vs targets moving at 3000 km/s, 5000 km/s and 10,000 km/s

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Judgements are going to be a decent addition to the next-gen combat fleet. During a battle they're meant to open fire first, as if they were delivering a message about incoming judgement, meanwhile Executors were supposed to carry out the sentence as the fleet closes in. These two types of ships flying side by side shall make any enemy fall into despair, official doctrine says. Missiles of Judgement were built with the latest antimatter technology, allowing them to fit a powerful antimatter warhead while maintaining a relatively small size. Antimatter engines fit into them allowed them to reach almost half the speed of light, making them a deadly weapon thanks to kinetic energy alone, capable of tearing weaker ships apart without even detonating the warhead.

Physicists estimate that once the ship entering hyperspace opens a hole in a 3D plane, energy costs to enlarge it are small compared to the energy needed to open it at all.
Because of this, it doesn't take long for the Executors to be refitted with Hyperdrives as well, them being powerful enough to open a passage into hyperspace large enough for a huge fleet to fit in. Thanks to this, future war fleet will be able to travel quickly between star systems, using latest discoveries in FTL propulsion. This way it'll be able to quickly react to enemies appearing in any colonised system without much delay.

Engineers on Mechi Prime  build a new class of salvaging ship, hoping to clean up the mess made in the systems thanks to decades of Mechi-Invaders wars and extract a lot of precious resources to increase productivity of the planet. Amount of metals and alloys floating around is so huge that initial estimates talk about powering the entire industry for at least a decade with the wrecks alone.

Code: [Select]
Silent Watcher class Salvager      70,000 tons       343 Crew       3,218.2 BP       TCS 1,400    TH 7,000    EM 0
5000 km/s      Armour 1-151       Shields 0-0       HTK 57      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 28    Max Repair 875 MSP
Cargo 33,000    Cargo Shuttle Multiplier 10   
Lieutenant Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months   
Salvager: 2 module(s) capable of salvaging 5000 tons per day

Commercial Gas Core AM Drive  EP3500.00 (2)    Power 7000    Fuel Use 0.94%    Signature 3500    Explosion 5%
Fuel Capacity 807,000 Litres    Range 219.6 billion km (508 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

While new squadrons begin assembly across the Core Worlds, government makes a decision to finally launch a mission into Barnard's Star and put the pieces together, discovering what is going in this system.
6th July 2228, 4:37:13, combat fleet consisting of Executors, Woodpeckers of old designs, Javelins since Judgements are not ready yet and also Strikers of old as a foremost scout squardon, drops out of hyperspace near Barnard's Star. Deep space silence doesn't last more than two seconds, though - an unidentified fleet starts blasting at human ships with deadly force. Lasers burn through the shields and then hulls of Strikers:

Human fleet accelerates and gains distance, but it is still fired upon. Sensors quickly come online and detect a squadron of enemy ships, now left behind:

6th July 2228, 4:38:05, soon it turns out that enemy is capable of rapid acceleration, beating that of human ships, and catches up. Enemy railguns open fire and a swarm of small rocks is fired upon human vessels, meant to quickly overload shields:

6th July 2228, 4:40:12, when humanity tries to retaliate, it discovers hyperspace flight has causes targeting systems to go haywire, preventing locking onto enemies. With no option to shoot back, fleet admiral gives an order to engage subluminal warp drives and distance from the enemy while fixing the issue.
To the horror of crewmembers and officers alike, the very second warp bubble has been established, enemy ships did the same thing and enclosed themselves right next to their prey. Everyone could see them with naked eyes:

Green ships open laser fire which is powerful enough to burn through even the shields of Executors after only a few seconds.
But as soon as the shields are down, the white ones open fire with short-range missiles of some sort. At first they don't seem to do any damage, but as they splash across the hulls painting them grey, everyone realises what's going on before onboard AI confirms the hypothesis with official analysis of the goo's composition.
These missiles contained encapsulated Substance that was now consuming several ships, including one Executor. Firing at the incoming missiles with Gauss cannons only worsened the effect - the ones that got hit only splattered into multiple puddles of Substance, sticking to the targeted ships in multiple places.

6th July 2228, 4:45:36, several ships disappeared under the fast-multiplying grey goo, including one Executor. Loss of one of the dreadnoughts that were the primary pride of the entire space forces so quickly without it even firing once at the enemies that got it causes severe morale drop and panic.

Soon human spaceships dropped out of warp speed and Executors started preparing emergency hyperspace jump. Rapid collapse of warp bubble dropped enemy ships a few dozens thousands kilometres behind humans:

Seizing the opportunity to avoid enemy fire for a bit longer to give the hyperdrives and shields time to recharge, captains of the ships make a decision to engage warp drives once again. This buys a few more seconds, but enemy must have been able to predict the flight trajectory, because it changed direction and circled around escaping vessels while maintaining target lock and continuing to fire:

6th July 2228, 4:51:10, a few more Strikers are blasted into oblivion, but Executors are ready to engage their Hyperdrives and the entire fleet disappears from Barnard's Star, heading home for repairs.

What was the most terrifying about this battle was not about their lasers and railguns, not even about the one-sided fire and destruction of an Executor. It was all about their insane precision of navigation and predictions of human moves.
First they predicted an alien fleet was about to enter Barnard's Star. Then they predicted exactly where and when will it happen so that they could wait at the right place at the right time. Then they synced perfectly their movement when human forces enclosed themselves within warp bubble.
Navigational skills of the new enemy was outstanding. And on top of that it was wielding the Substance.

It'd take years for the better ships to appear, and because of that a new plan is needed. Military advisors quickly came up with using the biggest weapon of the enemy - their excellent precision - against themselves. According to the new plan, the squadron will be taken out by space marines. Boarding fleet will be escorted through hyperspace and the enemy will have its ships positioned right on top of it, allowing for quick and relatively easy boarding action. Once inside, marines will take their ships by killing off the crew and preferably capturing as much of them alive as possible, allowing engineers to study them which will lead to faster development of proper response fleet.

8th July 2228, 12:10:49, boarding fleet drops out of hyperspace in Barnard's Star. As predicted, enemy is right there. Patriots launch Gauntlets MkII and a standard boarding procedure is carried on across enemy fire that damages a few ships:

Several enemy ships, possibly serving a support role, quickly fly away:

Many marines die in the process of getting through hostile point defence. Enemies turn their ships rapidly, causing marines to either hit their hulls with too much speed or missing them at all and getting stranded far from any point of reference. But those who survive start blasting through armor with particle beam bombs and eventually gain access into the interiors.
For the first time, a new alien species has been observed:

On their uniforms they bear strange symbols, they look hypnotising:

What is strange, they don't appear to wear any armor, plasma shots seem to go right through them, but they're not dying. Grey, boiling blood pours from their wounds, but no matter the spot, they are still standing and capable of rapid movement.
Explosives still seem to be effective against them, though, and after enough shots fired at them, they simply bleed out and die, so they're not invincible, their bodies just give them a lot of natural protection. Xenobiologists will have a lot of interesting material to study.

After the initial surprise has worn off, enemy opened fire. Laser beams cut through the power armors of space marines, some of the shots succeeding at penetration. Human blood mixes with theirs, with the latter observed as feeding from the former.

Squads of marines take cover behind various obstacles, but soon it is observed the entire ship creates one big system capable of rapid change - some obstacles vanish into the ground, some suddenly hide inside the walls, entire corridors change shape. Everything starts to adapt in a way that makes humans exposed and aliens well-covered against plasma shots and grenades.
Under such harsh circumstances, marines end up on the losing side rather fast, since cover is everything. They also attempt to engage in psionic warfare, but this time "brain silence" is the only response they get.

As if that wasn't bad enough, alien blood starts feeding on the human bodies and all their gear piling up on the floors, with the Substance in it growing large enough to endanger soldiers still alive and fighting.

As the firefight goes on, marines shift tactics and start planting explosives under random devices and "mobile elements", attempting to break enough of them for the terrain to stop changing in favour of the defenders. Eventually it kind of works out, granting the attackers better positions and more stable environment, but as more defenders start to die, more Substance is spilled on the floor, hampering movement around the ship and forming a blockade guarding a lot of important rooms.

With no easy way out of this mess, soldiers started blasting holes at random places, destroying the hulls and causing decompression. The atmospheric pressure inside was low, but there was still more than enough air to just suck Substance out through the Swiss cheese that hull transformed into.

Unfortunately, in many cases the damage needed to be done to suck the Substance out paired with destroying one internal system too many doomed ships to totally disintegrate killing humans and aliens alike:

However, in case of two ships, marines boarding them cleaned them from the Substance and they ended up being pulled away from Barnard's Star via hyperspace rift created by Executors. Unfortunately, no live specimen had been captured, every single one of them ending either killed in a firefight or sucked out of the ship.

Before the hyperspace jump, one finally observation has been made: Substance, initially spreading across the vacuum as a shapeless cloud, started to form itself into shapes resembling spacecraft, with metallic surface coming on top of it, as if it was using the non-organic materials it has swallowed to encapsulate itself within shell protecting them from airless environment and solar radiation.

Two captured ships are transported into Ender for research, while the best biologists and genetics from Aracaju are tasked with investigating the bodies of dead aliens.
Their internal biology seems strange. Their dead bodies appear mostly empty, with little to no internal organs placed around and rather thin, though reinforced with an exoskeleton, skin. They don't appear to have a brain, or at least it is so well-hidden within what little was recovered during the autopsy that nobody could determine which organ it was. Inside their head many complex devices were found, though, most probably cybernetic implants. They existed within other parts of the body, too, however there wasn't a single one that wouldn't be destroyed by either wounds suffered during combat or powerful EMP blast.

Engineers working on the ships themselves didn't have more luck, either. While figuring out onboard systems themselves wasn't a very hard task, interfaces for handling them was a different story. Most difficulties revolved around the interfaces for handling the ship. Or rather lack of them. There was no language to be found, no interface as humans know it.
Because of that, nobody could translate anything, because there was nothing to translate. The way aliens communicated with either themselves or their technology was a mystery.
Due to the problems with Substance and its infectious nature faced during boarding, the researched class was temporarily named "Bubonix", though:

Code: [Select]
Bubonix class Battlecruiser      26,987 tons       826 Crew       14,910.3 BP       TCS 540    TH 9,300    EM 0
17230 km/s      Armour 14-80       Shields 0-0       HTK 175      Sensors 24/24/0/0      DCR 9      PPV 162
Maint Life 0.97 Years     MSP 3,107    AFR 647%    IFR 9.0%    1YR 3,193    5YR 47,902    Max Repair 775.6 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 4   BRG   AUX   ENG   CIC   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

Gas Core AM Drive  EP1550 (6)    Power 9300    Fuel Use 56.80%    Signature 1550    Explosion 10%
Fuel Capacity 2,600,000 Litres    Range 30.5 billion km (20 days at full power)

60.0cm C10 Far X-Ray Laser (1)    Range 600,000km     TS: 17,230 km/s     Power 94-10     RM 80,000 km    ROF 50       
40cm C10 Far X-Ray Laser (11)    Range 600,000km     TS: 17,230 km/s     Power 42-10     RM 80,000 km    ROF 25       
Beam Fire Control R600-TS10000 (3)     Max Range: 600,000 km   TS: 10,000 km/s     98 97 95 93 92 90 88 87 85 83
Gas-core Anti-matter Power Plant R12 (12)     Total Power Output 140.4    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS264-R98 (1)     GPS 42336     Range 264.9m km    Resolution 98
Thermal Sensor TH1-24 (1)     Sensitivity 24     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  38.7m km
EM Sensor EM1-24 (1)     Sensitivity 24     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  38.7m km

ECCM-5 (1)         ECM 50

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

10th August 2229, 15:32:20, an independent starship from Barnard's Army warps into Alpha Centauri at high orbit of Gaia:

Three Overseers that happened to be stationed in the system detect the threat and bombard it with missiles. Initially enemy anti-missile defences held due to small volley being launched to conserve ammunition, but when larger swarm followed, it stood no chance:

High alert is announced across Alpha Centauri system and proper combat fleets are on their way to prepare for any incoming assaults. The most important news, though, were about the lifepod launched automatically from the exploding ship. A total of twenty three alive alien beings have been recovered from it.

Prisoners were transported to a space station in Gliese 382, dedicated into research of the Substance. Personnel working on it has come up with a new material that can be used to store Substance in relative safety - its composition doesn't allow the goo to consume it too fast, giving more than enough time to add additional layers to reinforce the container and evaporate the excess mass with lasers. Every day a technician simply wraps Substance storage with an additional layer and fires a laser gun at it for a few seconds to destroy the Substance that has grown since the previous day, making its amount constant.

15th August 2229, a group of programmers successfully links the devices inside aliens' heads with human-readable interfaces. Communication attempts begin.
22th August 2229, it is discovered the devices, while complex in design, are trivial in concept. They are simply cybernetic brain interfaces. Surprisingly, translation of the language in which communicates are being recorded is a piece of cake for the latest xenolinguistic software. Almost as if the enemy wanted someone to crack their messages open. It doesn't take long to figure out why. First official communication with the alien species begins:

WORLD GOVERNMENT: Who are we speaking to?

ALIENS: We are the representatives of Yagidrerc Hive Mind.

G: According to our knowledge, your psionic activity seems pretty dead. How could you be a hive mind then? Is it simply because of these devices?

YAGIDRERC HIVE MIND: No. Our species evolved mental communication naturally. We formed hive minds since first historical chronicles were created. And who are we speaking to, if we may ask?

G: It is us who ask questions here. We know about your hostility. We will tell you nothing. Just because we're talking with you instead of putting laser beams through your heads doesn't mean we don't understand the nature of the Dark Forest.

Y: Dark Forest? We know it too. Every sentient race either learns about it or goes extinct before. But we are not hostile and we can prove it. We simply aren't a threat to you.

G: What kind of cheap bullsmeg is that? Just because we pulled our fleet out of Barnard's Star after first encounter you think that low of our civilisation?

Y: We aren't a threat to you. Substance is. It's a deadly weapon, playing according to the rules of Dark Forest, sentient in itself.

G: Explain what you have on mind.

Y: From the day our ancestors looked at the night sky and knew that stars were giant balls of burning gas just like our own sun and many worlds orbited them we were thrilled at the thought of meeting representatives from these worlds. Later our mathematicians predicted the Dark Forest theory, but our society rejected it. We sent our diplomatic message across the space via gravitational waves, but got no reply. Several years later a photonic missile pierced through our star at near-light speed, inducing a supernova. Nothing in our home system survived, from a microorganism to the planets themselves.

G: What happened later?

Y: Our other worlds were terrified. We desperately tried to prepare for the incoming invasion, but how does one prepare against such predator when one has only a bunch of lasers and railguns fitted with fusion warheads, but they have missiles which can single-handily annihilate a solar system? But then we stomped across the ruins of an ancient civilisation, predating our existence by eons. Thanks to their sensor technology we were able to build a defence early warning system directly in hyperspace, capable of sending us warnings about any near-light speed objects long before their arrival, giving us way more time to react than if we relied on conventional detection.

G: How did you benefit from knowing about the threat early on? Would you have enough time to evacuate targeted systems?

Y: That's where Substance comes into play. Shortly before discovery of the ancients, our explorers encountered a strange world devoured in grey goo just as you know it. We saw how it chewed through basically every material, faster or slower, but it always did the job. We were not aware of its sentience back then, we didn't even check it properly, treating it like just some sort of microorganisms. Our brightest minds came up with this idea.

G: How did you intend to use Substance to defend against photonic missiles?

Y: You probably remember those white ships shooting substance missiles at you. That was the secret of our defences. We planned to splash Substance directly over the incoming missiles and watch them getting consumed. Think about it as of meteor burning in the atmosphere before surface impact. However, we needed to detect them before light reflected from them came back to us, otherwise Substance wouldn't have enough time to do its job. That's where ancient sensor technology came into play.

G: So what went wrong? Why is substance all over your ships, your bodies, everything belonging to you?

Y: It all started with a simple containment breach in a remote system on the rim of our territory. Outposts storing the Substance were all consumed before our fleets could arrive. But then the true horror unfolded. The Substance was intelligent. After killing only a few of us it realised it could do something better with us. More efficient. It consumed large parts of our bodies, way larger than needed to kill us, but at the same time replaced most of our tissues and organs, serving as our life support. It took control of our bodies, cut out our cybernetics, detached us from the hive mind, used us as carriers for itself, as if we were robots.

G: And then, according to your story, instead of just eradicating your race, took control over it after many battles and began expanding, playing according to the rules of Dark Forest?

Y: Exactly. But in some way our true selves survived. Substance doesn't have communication skills as we know it. It wasn't aware of the functionality of our brain implants, at least the one related to language and speech. Because it didn't understand it, it deactivated it, effectively putting us in a coma. But now you started tinkering with it and succeeded at turning ourselves on.

G: How can we know you didn't make this all up to disguise as the "good guys" and strike when we'll be most vulnerable?

Y: Because according to the Dark Forest theory, hiding hostile intentions is pointless because the other side will assume them anyways. Just like you do. It'd work only for primitive civilisations that aren't aware of the true colours of the universe, but then using it is still pointless because they aren't problematic to destroy. Besides, right now you're our only hope for liberating us from the Substance. And if you still don't believe us, let us share what we know about our ships and space warfare. We don't know everything, of course, as we were in coma when Substance was using us as carriers to go on with its goals and development, but what we do know, we will share. Lets start from the orders you can retrieve from our cybernetics. We were tasked with scouting the system before an invasion that'll happen ten days of your time later. We'll share exact coordinates at which they'll leave hyperspace.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 03:25:26 PM by Stormtrooper »

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1st September 2229, 8:05:41, supposed invasion of Alpha Centauri was about to begin. Not trusting Yagidrerc, government placed only a patrolling squadron of Overseers at designated spot just for the sake of checking it out, meanwhile bulk of forces was left orbiting Gaia. Many other fleets were also prepared, waiting across Core Worlds, ready to engage whatever might warp into their systems of operation.

1st Septembet 2229, 8:14:59, a group of four ships leaves hyperspace right where they were supposed to according to the information received. It doesn't look like an invasion fleet, though. Patrolling squadron opens fire:

First out of the four ships is destroyed, but the enemy suddenly begins to pick up speed. Overseers, not having more fuel to accelerate beyond a safe limit of a bit over 12000 km/s to have enough fuel left to come to a full stop and manoeuvre for a bit, stand no chance at escaping. Commander of the squadron prepares an emergency FTL jump and sets course at the nearby wormhole to Luyten 726-8 in case it fails. Missiles tear apart the second ship:

1st September 2229, 8:15:18, after a successful escape Overseers don't travel to a different system, but thanks to advanced and fast calculations immediately leave warp bubble near Gaia, trying to regroup with main forces. It detects another scout, but it disappears from the radar before an interception attempt could be mounted:

It turned out the enemies captured from escape shuttles were talkative as well and confirmed the information given by previous group. On top of that they warned about a larger fleet concentrating in Luyten 726-8, part of it moving in to secure the wormhole humanity has built to link it with Alpha Centauri. After already knowing Yagidrerc use hyperdrives as well, government checks it out by using HyperSensors to detect any hyperspace movement within the sector and indeed multiple signatures en route from Barnard's Star to Luyten 726-8 appear.

1st September 2229, 8:53:30, a large fleet of Vaccines, Woodpeckers MkII and Judgements led by a command squadron of Executors crosses the Alpha Centauri-Luyten 726-8 wormhole only to be immediately attacked:

Human forces pull back through a wormhole into Alpha Centauri. Meanwhile enemy does the same and immediately flies away from the wormhole:

Combat fleet accelerates in opposite direction to separate itself from the deadly close contact with enemy as much as possible, but Yagidrerc ships turn around and wait with opening fire till it's all close and personal:

Having reached a very high velocity, enemy finds it a bit difficult to adjust the course when humans pull their ships "up" (or down... or in any other direction, depending from point of reference), and, without wasting time to slow down first, fire their engines, gaining velocity in "diagonal" direction as well, passing over the enemy. Once directly "above", massive force of Vaccines and Executors opens fire, nullifying three ships at an instant:

1st September 2229, 8:55:14, humanity finds itself flying back towards the wormhole, meanwhile remnants of the defeated squadron try to escape through it. Humanity follows them, landing in Luyten 726-8 once again.

Humanity attempts to destroy the ships before their higher acceleration will pull them out of effective firing range. Last ship successfully crosses the line behind which lasers and particle beams are no longer effective, but a small volley launched from a Judgement finishes it off, leaving no surviving enemy spacecraft:

1st September 2229, 9:02:28, another combat squadron pops up on the sensors:

To better deal with faster enemies, two squadrons of executors, one of three ships and the other one of two, detach from the rest of the fleet, trying to bait enemy into ambush. The smaller squadron is fired upon with lasers and railguns:

1st September 2229, 9:03:20, two Executors break formation and split, one of them is followed by the enemy which keeps a distance of only a few hundred kilometres, meanwhile the other one slows down, ending up behind the enemy:

Remaining executors try to move sideways, circling around the bait ship and blasting enemy into oblivion, but Yagidrerc sense the danger and attempt to escape. An additional two ships are detected further in deep space, too:

Fortunately for human forces, before the enemy can break contact, Executors lock targets and destroy most of the fleet, though a few ships survive and jump into hyperspace:

The invasion of Alpha Centauri has been successfully repelled. While the forces thrown for the attack seem small and weak compared to the Human Space Navy, it is assumed it was a result of scouting missions - before the information about the danger has been received, the three Overseers on a routine patrol of Core Worlds were the only military presence in the system at a moment. It is estimated they'd quickly either escape or get destroyed before reinforcements could arrive shall humanity not be prepared, which would be more than enough time to contaminate at least some inhabited planets with Substance.

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The following months saw more and more ships leaving docks of many Core Worlds. Humanity was preparing for yet another war. War of Poisoned Minds, as it was called, as this name fitted regardless of the stance someone took on these events and the supposedly enslaved Yagidrerc Hive Mind.

Many people, especially of pacifistic alignment, believed the hapless aliens that they felt prey to another lifeform and seek freedom, completely at mercy of other civilisations Substance might come across while travelling within their bodies on boards of their starships.
Of course there were also those who did not believe, calling it nothing but a filthy plot, pointing out sacrificing a small squadron to gain trust is nothing unheard of. But the sceptics also differed from one another in terms of explaining how exactly do Yagidrerc work. Some claimed they were simply using Substance as one of their bio- and medical technologies, just like humanity itself was attempting to do it in the early experiments, some pointed out the part of the Substance controlling them might even be true, but they simply remained under its influence when speaking to interrogators.
Whatever the case, War of Poisoned Minds was a good name, incorporating all those theories and ideas under one banner, a banner of humanity ready to defend its existence at all costs.

But Yagidrerc weren't the only ones who had their minds poisoned in one way or another.
Among many, there was one movement that stood out. It consisted mostly of Dark Forest Theory supporters. They firmly believed in what the aliens said, agreeing with the argumentation that hiding evil intentions in a Dark Forest is pointless, but at the same time called for eradication of their race, because according to the theory they were a threat regardless of everything, and once liberated would sooner or later turn against their saviours.
Followers of this movement recruited itself mostly from Ender, which is exactly what sociologists warned the government during the rapid militarisation of the planet and days of Project Amazons - that it'd have an unforeseeable and harmful consequences in the future.

1st March 2230, 7:20:31, a fleet of Feeders transfering fuel from Groombridge 34 harvesters to Earth got attacked and destroyed by Yagidrerc ships as soon as it emerged from the wormhole in Luyten 726-8:

10th March 2230, 4:50:46, Guidance starship stationed in Altair to help with non-FTL craft transit in and out of the system vanished from existence before its crew realised what hit them and that they've been hit at all:

It seemed that enemy hasn't discovered the small mining colony placed in a system, but since it already detected human presence, it was only a matter of time. World Government approved a large-scale counterattack operation.

13th March 2230, 18:18:20, bulk of human forces makes a hyperspace jump into Luyten 726-8, after HyperSensors picked up multiple signatures within the system. Just like during first encounter, Yagidrerc prepared themselves to greet humans at point blank with murderous fire:

13th March 2230, 18:20:23, combat fleet receives an urgent request for support in Alpha Centauri system when SETI workers have detected another enemy fleet warping into the system, defenceless after the fleet concentrating there left to perform counterattack.

18th March 2230, 19:30:45, human forces jump back to Alpha Centauri, this time using a wormhole for the interstellar travel to be instant. Soon after emerging from the wormhole and setting course to Gaia, enemy fleet, according to its composition different than the one encountered in Luyten 726-8, warps right on top of them:

18th March 2230, 19:42:21, seeing the might of concentrated human spaceships and estimating its (lack of) chances, enemy retreats from Alpha Centauri via wormhole into Lutyen 726-8, doing it quickly enough for humans to not be able to fire a single shot at them. Sensing an ambush, fleet admiral divides Executors into two squadrons and orders them to make a hyperspace jump to the system, near the wormhole, to check whether enemy has prepared an ambush or not.

19th March 2230, 23:14:06, Executors emerge from hyperspace in Luyten 726-8. As correctly predicted by the admiral, enemy was sitting on top of the wormhole and this time didn't even react to humans dropping from hyperspace elsewhere. Unfortunately, due to jump miscalculation, one of the two squadrons emerges too close to the enemy and receives fire that heavily damages its shields:

Thanks to the information captured Yagidrerc shared with humans, Executors were able to predict the movement of the enemy and use it to accelerate in a different direction, distancing themselves from it:

After a few checkup simulations, admiral decides it might be worth to turn back and engage enemy at closer range, burning holes through their ships:

19th March 2230, 23:17:16, rest of the fleet arrives through now unguarded wormhole and supports Executors with more firepower. Enemy is now in full retreat:

Human forces chase down the enemy, delaying the moment they'll fly beyond the effective range of human guns or just make a hyperspace jump, wreaking havoc across their ranks. Enemy shoots back, though:

19th March 2230, 23:20:34, combat fleet finishes off last of the operational ships. The system looks clear on both conventional radars and HyperSensors:


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20th March 2230, 14:15:27, counterattack continues. Executors make a hyperspace jump into the far edges of Barnard's Star system. As expected, enemy fleet has been waiting for their approach, but thanks again to the details provided by captured enemies, Executors deceived enemy so that it haven't positioned itself exactly right on top of Executors. One of the squadrons still faces heavy fire, though:

Executors and enemies start circling against each other, warming up their guns:

Executors try to approach the enemy from two opposite directions and thus one of the squadrons corrects course, meanwhile enemy ships turn around and land behind human forces. Executors turn around without changing velocity and open fire, destroying first ships in the second battle with Barnard's Army:

20th March 2230, 14:16:01, one of the squadrons engages in a firefight with main enemy fleet, meanwhile the other attempts to travel back to the spot it emerged from hyperspace into, attempting to bring the rest of the fleet by opening hyperspace passage for them once again:

20th March 2230, 14:20:15, as the battle rages on, Executors puncture the fabric of space once again. Coordinating the risky manoeuvre with the commanders of the ships left in Luyten 726-8, they do so exactly when the rest of the ships have already achieved very high velocity, in a place they were about to fly through. As a result, main human fleet entered hyperspace while flying at a very high speed, making the interstellar travel the shortest in human history with the exceptions of wormhole usage. According to physicists such stunts were possible to pull out without too much trouble, but it had yet to be properly tested, so attempting to do so with large amount of ships traversing the fourth dimension at once when there was a firefight going on at the same time was accompanied with great risk. It all paid off, though, as enemy did not had a chance to properly prepare for arrival of reinforcements. It still managed to land several shots, though:

Most of enemy forces direct their attention to the main fleet, leaving the other Executors squadron behind:

Enemy ended up divided into three groups, flying in one formation:

One of them were not accelerating nearly enough, falling an easy prey to the Executors following them. A true battle was about to begin, though, as currently most of the ships from both sides focused on recharging weapons.

20th March 2230, 14:30:07, heavy laser fire overloads shields of two Executors. What follows after is the horror already known - Substance missiles splash over their hulls. They both don't stand a chance against the raging biological weapon and dissolve under the goo:

Main groups of enemies catch up to the human fleet and continues to harass it. Several Vaccines report internal damage. Independent squadron of Executors overtakes the slowest group, tanks a few shots and prepares to fire:

Enemy splits further and each group tries to correct their course a bit. Human forces retaliate, but no ships are destroyed:

Combat fleet accelerates as much as it can, trying to run away from the enemy which, after overtaking them, turned around and flew past it, opening fire at short range:

As the enemy slows down to make another turn, one Executor remaining with main formation suffered a catastrophic antimatter reactor failure. Its crew prevented an explosion, but the reactor is too unstable enough to be able to direct power to the engines. The ship flies through the vacuum uncontrolled, not being able to do even slightest corrections, evasions or turnarounds. The crew decides to fire for as long as it can and leave the ship which will now cruise through deep space endlessly.

20th March 2230, 14:35:24, main forces approach remaining squadron of Executors, which upon detecting them slows down to full stop and awaits them while continuing to destroy the "slow group":

20th March 2230, 14:35:58, lonely Executor left behind powers up all their guns and unleashes a powerful laser barrage, destroying one enemy ship and severely crippling a few other, but before all crewmembers can evacuate, counter laser fire punches right through the reactor, causing accumulated matter to collide with antimatter. A very bright explosion later only debris remains from once feared dreadnought:

Firefight continues and the enemy seems to have distanced itself from humanity:

20th March 2230, 14:37:14, with laser firefight intensity decreased and the enemy being further away and maintaining rather predictable course, Judgements can easily lock onto them and fire away all the missiles they can:

Their kinetic energy alone is deadly enough, their speed makes them a tough target for enemy flak guns, their antimatter warhead feels almost like an overkill when a lot of enemy ships blow up at once:

More missiles follow, spreading death and destruction among Yagidrerc ships which explode one by one:

20th March 2230, 14:37:55, last of the enemies faces annihilation and humanity emerges victorious from the tough battle, having lost only three Executors plus a few Vaccines with damaged internal systems.

20th March 2230, 22:15:30, human navy continues their journey deeper into the Barnard's Star system. Sensors detect more enemy fleets flying around and a large signatures originating from Barnard's Star-A I, once a homeworld for "Barnard's Army":

Most ships seem to keep their distance, but one of the fleets attempts to intercept human vessels:

20th March 2230, 22:23:47, Judgements fire away missiles when Yagidrerc ships are close enough for the targeting algorithms to predict their course with good enough accuracy:

Enemy stands no chances and is wiped out from the face of vacuum:

20th March 2230, 23:15:20, several new ships are detected:

They turn out to be unarmed and humanity quickly mops them up:

More spaceships flying around are observed as humanity pushes towards Barnard's Star-A I:

20th March 2230, 23:40:18, after destruction of a few more unarmed ships, radars detect signatures of a larger enemy fleet flying away from the system at rather low speed, possibly preparing for interstellar travel:

20th March 2230, 23:43:13, combat fleet catches up to the enemy and starts blasting them with lasers:

20th March 2230, 23:43:32, enemies suddenly change trajectory and human ships end up flying too close to them, facing railgun fire, but also damagins a few of their ships:

20th March 2230, 23:43:37, engaged fleet powers up their hyperdrives and disappears in higher dimension. Humanity moves in to clear the orbit of Barnard's Star-A I, nothing powerful lasers of Executors can't deal with:

After clearing the orbit, Judgements launch all their ordnance at the planet, hoping to thin out their surface defence grid and damage military infrastructure:

21th March 2230, 0:15:20, after initial bombardment has been finished and the space around Barnard's Star seemed clear, humanity jumped out of the system and returned to Alpha Centauri. The operation is considered a huge military success.

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First battles of a new war of humanity divided already divided society once again. Some were for the total annihilation of Yagidrerc Hive Mind, some against, pointing out xenobiologists and medics should focus their minds into finding a way to "cure" them, as them having good intentions could lead to a first interstellar alliance in human history, something so many hoped for when gazing into the stars for all those years it took humanity from understanding the nature of stars and planets to building first FTL drive.

A few thousands aliens surviving the battles were brought to their prison in Gliese 382. With such impressive amount of representatives of this race more large-scale experiments could be conducted.
First discovery made was the exact environmental parameters of the species - some rough estimates have been figured out before, but now, with dataset big enough to exclude many statistical errors and biases, more accurate results could've been achieved:

However, due to the biology of their Substance-devoured bodies, experts claimed these parameters have more to do with the homeworld of Substance rather than Yagidrerc. Information shared by prisoners seemed to confirm this.

Fleet fighting during the invasion of Barnard's Star brought interesting photos from Barnard's Star-A I:

The planet didn't resemble itself from the photos taken by first explorers who encountered it before facing death from orbital lasers of Barnard's Army at all. It was an example of a world consumed by Substance at a final stage.
But while the photos were completely grey, closer analysis and data processing has shown pictures of alien cities on the surface, possibly all the infrastructure a war machine needed.

Survivors of the battle were sharing what they knew about the planet rather enthusiastically, desperately attempting to gain humanity's trust. From these revelations, a basic history of this planet could be pieced together.
The world supported diverse life and a civilisation has risen on its surface. They were about to spread across their own solar system and even transmitted some messages into interstellar space, but then they figured out the infamous Dark Forest Theory, which led them to getting paranoid about their own safety and survival, with the madness fuelled further by them sending messages into space earlier. This is why they attacked human explorers who first approached the planet, thinking they're about to get annihilated.

Later on Barnard's Star-A I fell prey to the Substance-controlled Yagidrerc Hive Mind. But the story of this planet was different than stories of many other planets conquered by the bio-weapon. During first stage of conquest, pockets of the goo were dropped from orbit and fed on the world and its inhabitants, however they consumed alien race living there together with the products of their civilisation exclusively, resisting the urge to eat every single atom of biological matter around.
After the first stage has been completed and native inhabitants were gone, it just happened that it was then when humans visited the planet for the second time, noticing the disappearance of "Barnard's Army". Later Substance began the second part of the conquest. It started something that was essentially terraforming - sure, the surface has been covered with grey goo during this stage, but it wasn't just eating everything, it was eating selectively to prepare the environment for Yagidrerc arrival.
This was vastly different from the processes observed on other planets, were the Substance was just consuming everything on its path. The difference is pretty similar to the difference between a Core World of humanity and an industrial colony, though in case of the latter it compared more to an autonomous AI-driven complex like in EZ Aquarii and less to an inhabited planet.
The aliens had also explained the shell Substance formed around itself after having leaked into vacuum of space during battles with humans - it was just another example of it using the knowledge possessed by its hosts to adapt itself to new environments, creating some sort of a "spaceship". Unfortunately, these ships, if not destroyed, could in theory drift for hundreds thousands years till reaching another solar system with more resources to consume and reproduce and potentially a new alien race to enslave.

So far stories told and knowledge shared by the prisoners were coherent, made sense and many of the claims have successfully passed multi-step verification processes led by best scientists of the known space.
Still, World Government took a careful approach and prepared for the worst by assuming a technical hypothesis of the enemy having estimated that the tactical gain from winning humanity's trust will be greater than tactical loss of humans gaining some insights into their knowledge and history.

27th April 2232, an original and controversial experiment is approved - genetics on Gaia are supposed to try to transfer consciousness of a few carefully selected Yagidrerc into a new body. For initial trials they plan to simply use an artificially-grown, brainless human body many of which were synthesised to alleviate the psychological breakdown people who had their brains transplanted into robotic shells suffered from.
The bodies will require a few genetic modifications to adapt to alien brain structure, but the task is supposed to be rather easy thanks to their brains being well-supported with cybernetic implants, to the point little biological matter is estimated to be needed for successful transplantation. A large team from across many systems gets down to work.

8th November 2232, first successful brain transfer is completed. Out of ten tests subjects, five died during the operation and three had to be put into medical coma after having their lives barely saved, but remaining two reported feeling rather well and after a month were fully adjusted to using their new body and felt comfortable enough to use it with ease. Their old, now lifeless shells have been incinerated with laser fire which later became a symbol of leaving the Substance past behind.
As weeks went by, scientists and doctors improved both the operation itself and the genetics modifications pre-applied to synthetic human bodies, making a month-long medical coma the worst case scenario for every patient. Thanks to these advancements, more Yagidrerc woke up in human's skin.

With this experiment government essentially wanted to check out feasibility of living together with the aliens without destroying each other. But while it could've ordered scientists to come up with a way to remove Substance from their original bodies while keeping them alive instead of tinkering with consciousness transfer, which could possibly be even easier, it did what it did on purpose - if the aliens were to be integrated into human society, they'd have to essentially become humans themselves. That was to nullify any differences between two species that could cause mistrust between two races, leading to a spiral of assumptions and paranoia ultimately leading to the all-out war meant to be fought until only one remains, as Dark Forest predicts.

A total of one thousand Yagidrerc, now looking in the same way as humans and having exact same environmental parameters as humans (well, except for Nibirians), were to be introduced into a human society. After many consultations with sociologists, government has chosen Kappa Tucanae-A V to become their home. The planet has been chosen because it was the last of the three "paradise worlds" to be colonised in the Utopia meaning it had the lowest population that only recently crossed one hundred millions, while at the same time citizens of Sol++ were, at least statistically speaking, the happiest people, hopefully making the introduction go more smoothly.

Yagidrerc were given a strict ban to leave the planet. Meanwhile others were allowed to visit it and interact with aliens, but only after passing psychological test determining their level of xenophobia and attitude towards Dark Forest. People officially registered as citizens of Epsilon Eridani system have been prohibited from interacting with new inhabitants and even visiting Kappa Tucanae-A V at all.

Main objects of sensation themselves reacted to the news with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they seemed grateful and called humanity "their saviours" that freed them from their tyrant, but on the other felt disappointed that they were forced to basically abandon not only their bodies, but also their culture.
But government demanded a hard line: shall they not face extinction, but merge with humanity, they should become humans themselves - otherwise they were a threat coming from Dark Forest and should be dealt with accordingly. They still seemed to prefer such fate compared to what awaited them in Substance regime.

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Despite the threats potentially lurking around alien suns, humanity continued to explore them, and thanks to the invention of a hyperdrive and advanced scanners did so at rate yet unseen. A mission was launched into V1581 Cygni, but it was nothing but two stars circling around each other:

WISE 1639-6847 system:

Gliese 229 was only a lonely sun, similar to WISE 0146+4234:

Former Mechi space also was continued to be explored. A wormhole from HIP 19394 led explorers into Giclas 179-43 system:

Initially no life signs have been detected, despite promising look of liquid water on Giclas 179-43-B I, but closer investigation revealed strange lifeforms on Giclas 179-43-B II.
Vast ice sheets were populated by methane-producing microorganisms, most probably responsible for the planet's atmosphere composition, but deep within the ice explorers found complex lifeforms scattered around. However, they were all frozen, as if they hibernated. Some of them looked similar to an octopus, except they had only four tentacle-like limbs and three heads, some resembled irregular rocks, others appeared like a crossover between a snail and a small tortoise, there were also pockets of purple grass or one-legged balls of fur, to name a few. All suspended in a natural cryostasis. Many of them were found to be dead, but even more to be still alive and ready to function again in case of awakening.

The planet was initially believed to be tidally locked, but more precise measurements showed the planet does rotate, except a full day and night cycle lasts roughly one Earth century.
After many experiments, sample gatherings and simulation runs, explorers determined a strange life cycle of the planet: every once in a while, complex flora and fauna will wake up from their frozen dreams, which would happen around a sunrise, after temperature has risen enough to melt the ice allowing oceans to form, but not enough for the water to evaporate like on the scorching "bright side".
Plants and animals surviving their hibernation would then start to populate the narrow life-friendly zone and the planet would thrive there, but after a few decades, when it'd become too warm, all life would migrate deep within "dark side" and slowly freeze along the way, falling asleep again and the cycle would start all over again when the sun would reach them.

The most intriguing question was related to the phenomena of the constant hibernation process of nearly all organisms instead of them simply moving a bit, constantly staying within the habitable strip on the border of day and night. Another mystery was the area currently within the habitable zone being dead empty rather than full of alien life.
The latter question was answered rather easily when all ecosystems of the planet have been mapped - sometimes the death rate within one "emigration wave" would be so high that survivors of the hibernation wouldn't be able to find enough food and would all die off, leaving the entire world either dead or suspended for a certain time, which is exactly what must have happened by the time first humans touched the ground of this strange planet.
Another option, discovered via simulations, would be that at certain spots the terrain was formed in a way that'd make it completely flooded by melting ice during sunrise, allowing only marine life to survive. In such case no land life would emerge, with entire habitable zone flooded.

However, the former question about life not existing permanently, remained without a clear answer. Maybe at some early point in evolution there were so many beings walking around that some of them were forced to emigrate to the "dark side" and try to wait everything else out in the ice due to shrinking food supplies, eventually creating the cycle that could be observed? That was the most popular hypothesis, but it lacked solid proof. Maybe there was nothing more to it than just "it might as well just happen this way because it could".

While one Vision exploration team was busy figuring out the wonders of Giclas 179-43-B II, another one flew through a wormhole in GI 630.1 and found themselves near Zeta Doradus, a lonely star which data has once been received from Mechi robots. In its proximity there were two other wormholes and two Vision starships making for this exploration group continued their voyage through one of them, leading close to the lonely star of HIP 87938:

Another team travels to V577 Monoceri:

Limited oxygen-producing microorganism-based ecosystems are found in the pockets of ice on the surface of V577 Monoceri-B II, and even some unicellular lifeforms floating in the hellish atmosphere of V577 Monoceri-B I, but naturally most attention has been caught by V577 Monoceri-A I.

6th September 2233, 20:05:17, as soon as Vision starships close in to the V577 Monoceri-A I, sensors pick up an orbital platform firing missile volleys. At first flak guns seem to do their job, protecting humans:

Before ships manage to slow down and then pick up velocity in a different direction, missiles blow up one of the ships. During this time the other one has successfully charged and powered up its Hyperdrive, entered hyperspace in an emergency mode and its crew lived to tell the tale.
Yet another Precursor-established outpost. As humanity desperately needed knowledge and technology of this ancient civilisation, government started to draw early stubs of taking the planet away from Precursor-made machines.

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15th September 2233, having crossed well over one billion inhabitants and still growing rapidly, Kappa Tucanae-A II is now officially referred to as a Core World, named Aurria Prime after the megametropolis of Aurria in which almost 10% of the planet's population lives. On the same day, status of a Core World has been given to Kappa Tucanae-A V as well, even though the planet is still in development and lacks all the infrastructure and self-sustainability, let alone ability to contribute to the space industry. This exception was made because of the introduction of aliens into human society happening there. "Resis X" was the name assigned to it, referring to yet another attempt of humanity to resist the seemingly inevitable Dark Forest.

While many celebrated the arrival of alien friends (or "friends", depending who you ask), citizens of Ender organised many large-scale protests against the new policy.
Government threw its elite forces to pacify the population, but it was fairly difficult given the entire planet served in the army and had one of the toughest psionic warriors in the entire human race. These manifestations weren't even described as peaceful by their organisers, contrary to almost any other which were at least disguised as "peaceful". Many escalated into all-out firefights with security forces which resulted in the death of over ten thousands people.

While the unrest on Ender was growing, Nibirians living on eight moon of Epsilon Eridani-A VIII launched a series of counter-manifestations, showing their support for arrivals from Barnard's Star. In return, supporters of "Dark Forest approach", deemed them "weaklings" and tensions between regular humans and Nibirians also rose for the first time since the very beginning of their history.
Meanwhile society of Kappa Tucanae was more tolerant of the Yagidrerc, more relaxed and statistically less stressed over dangers that could stumble upon them in Dark Forest. Because of that, it was rather easy to maintain order, but even there incidents happened from time to time.

But racial tensions weren't the only issue humanity was facing in these strange days. In the following months Yagidrerc have demonstrated on multiple occasions their psionic abilities, surpassing everyone among human beings. They tried to show good will by using their power to play the role of a mediator during conflicts or help local police forces catch up criminals and lead investigations by easily accessing anyone's mind.
In order to put their abilities to a true test, government eventually took a few of them into the military prison on Ender's orbit, locked them in a cell with a few rioters judged by martial court after killing a police officer during a protest and tasked them with "talking into their senses".

Results were predictable, but confirmed the biggest fears of humanity. After a short mental battle, aliens successfully took control over prisoners and calmed them down. All of the guards and remaining prisoners could not recognise their behaviour after the experiment took place. That meant that Yagidrerc had no trouble with tinkering with human psychology and could override many personality traits, including the ones introduced into a patient's mentality via the toughest military psi training methods ever known to human science.
It was clear that if their numbers within human society would grow big enough, they could just take control over humanity, government included. So far they were very cooperative, but everyone knew if they tried to do something suspicious, human soldiers could just kill every last one of them without much trouble at this point, so it wasn't any argument against their potential evil intentions.

Nail to the coffin was the realisation that even if their intentions were noble and pure like they claimed, facing increasing hostility and distrust of humans, eventually they'd end up taking control over humanity for the sake of their own safety, just like it was predicted in Dark Forest Theory.
However, in such low number, even if government was to transfer consciousness of all remaining prisoners into new human bodies, they'd still not pose any significant threat to an entire civilisation. Because of that, government decided to keep them for now as a form of status quo. And its members already had a plan to use them for the greater good of human race.

Within next two months all remaining war prisoners have been freed from the Substance and integrated into humanity. All of the surviving inside human bodies Yagidrerc government had a special task: being stronger psionic warriors, they are supposed to be the ones to crack the mind of Invaders still kept alive open and learn about everything they know.
16th January 2234, Yagidrerc report having successfully breaking into Invader's heads, but for any concrete results they have to wait. "Their mentality is hell. They obfuscated their true thoughts within thousands of useless ones and we need to sort through that" - reported Yagidrerc after finishing their work.
They compared it to having successfully broken into a database, but said database having millions of records, out of which only one thousand is important and meaningful, but no search functions, forcing reader to browse the logs manually, one by one.

And so government had to wait, anxious and with mixed feelings about the whole situation, similar to many concerned citizens. With Mechi not really counting, since they were just robots that could be reprogrammed, it was the first time humanity was interacting with representatives from alien civilisation without shooting at each other.
Dark Forest casts long shadows over this fragile "alliance", but it might as well be the only reasonable step at this time - humanity risks enslavement, but from Invaders and Greys it risks total annihilation and everything that can be done to counter these threats shall be done.

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28th January 2234, 14:58:10, human forces drop out of hyperspace near V577 Monoceri-A I, tasked out with eliminating local Precursor menace:

28th January 2234, 15:00:02, sensor detect multiple fast-moving contacts. Before Woodpeckers MkII can arm their Gauss cannons, one missile explodes on contact with Executor's shields:

More missiles are fired, but Woodpeckers pick them all. Meanwhile Executors and Vaccines destroy the planetary defence platforms in orbit without any problems. The system is secured and government has already sent Terraria stations on their way to prepare the planet.

Watching out for more Precursors' legacy, good colonisation spots or any dangers incoming, Visions fly back and forth in hyperspace, quickly reaching many stars. WISE 0323-6025 doesn't have anything worth of interest around it, though:

GJ 1230 system:

A few asteroids float on the outer rim of the binary system and one comet seems to be passing through, but it has crossed escape velocity so in the future these few asteroids will be the only celestial objects except the two stars themselves.

Explorers jump in the vicinity of Van Biesbroeck's Star, which possesses a very interesting planetary system:

All planets are dead worlds, but the extreme cold mixed with hydrogen and helium-based atmosphere and water buried within crust indicate that it could be a Precursor-inhabited system at some point. Detailed research doesn't show any remnants of their civilisation, just like on Nibiru. Even if they were there, there's no way to tell.

Another Vision research team arrives in Gamma Leporis system:

Gamma Leporis-A II looks stunning from orbit - vast oceans and only small islands (with only one bigger continent), most of them being of volcanic origin, but with most volcanoes being long inactive. Short, but thick trees grow sparingly on some of them, with blue grass and bushes in between. Unicellular and even small multicellular organisms swim across the waters, waiting for their turn to step onto the land at some point in the future, once they'll evolve to that point.

Gamma Leporis-A III is a planet far more interesting. It is the first world ever discovered that hosts ammonia-based life. At first glance there's nothing special about the planet, just an oceanic world with a few rocky formations sticking out in more shallow regions, no life to be found. But deep beneath the surface there's a plethora of marine organisms, ranging from a simple moss to more complex organisms. There are even bipedal creatures that have actually four legs - two of them are legs for walking around seabed, while the remaining two are fins for swimming around. It was observed these alien beings swim around and hunt their prey, and once they've eaten enough, their fins can no longer support their weight and they fall down to the bottom and hide in underwater caves from other predators until they burn through all their surplus calories and need to swim out for hunting once again.

Giclas 179-43 within former Mechi space appeared to contain an additional wormhole except the one used to enter the system, leading further into CC Eridani:

Gliese 685, a system with the largest Void Wormhole discovered up to date, apart from the wormhole with which the system has been entered, contains two additional ones, linking WISE 0734-7157 and GJ 1077 stars. Both are just single stars floating around with nothing near them:

GJ 1077 turns out to have one more wormhole, connecting it with GI 699.1 system:


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31th May 2234, Yagidrerc living on Resis X warn government about Barnard's Star-A I that, according to the last updates they've received during their enslavement, is about to be ready for spreading Substance en-masse into different worlds. First systems designated for total conquest are GJ 1061, Luyten 726-8 and Alpha Centauri, with the two former being a mining systems while the last one becoming a new colony, capable of spreading Substance further away.
Alpha Centauri for now remains quiet, but government immediately takes action. On the very next day, 1st June 2234, 4:57:29, human forces make a hyperspace jump into Luyten 726-8, only to be immediately fired upon by a small scouting force:

Most ships accelerate forward while Executors stay in the back and destroy the "opposing" force:

There are no more hostile contacts in the system, so human fleet prepares a hyperspace jump into GJ 1061.
1st June 2234, 23:05:24, humanity enters GJ 1061 and the scenario from Luyten 726-8 repeats itself:

Executors once again separate enemies from the assault fleet and tank some fire:

1st June 2234, 23:07:15, Executors fly above enemies and then attack them from above with devastating fire:

Firefight continues as enemy has reached higher velocity than Executors and tries to run away. Feared dreadnoughts concentrate on delivering as much payload as possible before enemy leaves the range of their lasers or jumps into hyperspace:

1st June 2234, 23:12:31, last enemy ship blows up, its debris spinning rapidly into the void as the last hit broke it in half, making its engines give it uncontrolled rotational speed:

With no more contacts in the system, humanity prepares a jump directly to Barnard's Star system, excepting the bulk of Substance invasion fleet to be still concentrating there, hoping for a relatively easy mission of search and destroy. However, on 1st June 2234, 23:28:27, a huge fleet with hundreds of ships jumps right on top of human spaceships, surrounding them from every direction. Some of the ships blaze their guns. One Executor's shields go down and it suffers from severe armor damage:

What is interesting is that three hundreds of those ships don't appear to be armed, but there's something beautiful yet eerie in their shape. They look like droplets, perfectly reflecting light around it, bending stellar sky on its surface, giving visuals similar to the ones that can be observed during warp flight:

HyperSensors, capable of operating within four-dimensional space, accessed the interiors of the vessels and discovered some antimatter engines, reactors and what appeared to be a very small hyperdrive aside, interiors of the droples are filled mostly with pure Substance. This must be it, their "colonisation" fleet and its escort.

Human ships engage subluminal warp drives and speed away from their enemies, destroying several of the droplets on the spot with lasers. Most of the Substance has burned away in the laser fire or got annihilated by the energy emitted from uncontrolled matter-antimatter collisions occurring after their reactors destabilised, but some leftovers of it survived, forming spaceship-like shells around themselves until they no longer could be observed on the radars due to their small size.

Humanity turns around and attempts to fly alongside enemy formation. Intense firefight goes on as the distance dwindles:

Enemy escort is on the losing side and lacks the firepower, but they concentrate fire on Executors. Substance missiles splash across the hull of one dreadnought, rapidly chewing through its armor as if it was food. Its crew can't even control most of the weapons and prepares to escape:

Many Vaccines have their armors dented, but they protect them well from the incoming fire. Enemy escort warships disappear one by one and droplets dissolve by dozens.

1st June 2234, 23:37:40, in a desperate attempt, admiral of the fleet who just happened to be placed on the Executor currently devoured by Substance, orders another one to concentrate laser fire on his ship, vaporising all of the grey goo before it is too late. Targeted dreadnought switched off its engines and all non-essential systems, leaving online only sensors and life support and gathered entire crew in their quarters, which were the only parts of the ship still untouched by substance, so they weren't going to be targeted, waiting for the inevitable.
Powerful lasers struck its hull like severe lightnings, damaging many modules and causing decompression in several places, but the controversial and suicidal method worked. The ship was saved, the reactor hasn't been hit, all crewmembers survived with the exceptions of those sucked in by the goo and killed during missile impact, the ship was even operational, with conventional engines, subluminal warp drive and hyperdrive intact. Engineers were busy doing fieldspace repairs while enemy and Vaccines kept on exchanging fire:

2nd June 2234, 0:03:38, the escort has been defeated and destroying droplets was all that was left to be done on the battlefieldspace. Officers feared they'd engage their hyperdrive and escape, but for once humanity was just lucky - being filled mostly with Substance, they didn't have much space for reactors and batteries left, so hyperdrive charging would take them too long. All three hundred droplets ended up destroyed, with their now dark remains floating around, spreading in all directions.


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The battle of GJ 1061 was over and with it over were also conquest plans of the Substance within local sector of the Milky Way, at least temporarily over. But there was hardly any time for celebration, because aliens who survived the battle, once within human bodies, reported more of similar fleets being built and estimated that within next decade a total of twenty would launch from Barnard's Star-A I.

World Government with the help of space combat experts estimated that even if those twenty fleets launched today, human space forces were strong enough to intercept them all, given they'd still receive intel from freed aliens. But if one decade was enough for them to increase production from one colonisation fleet to twenty, even if they wouldn't bring stronger escorts, combat spaceships wouldn't be able to destroy all of them simply because there would be too many, so some would slip away unharmed, conquering many new planets and rapidly expanding war industry, eventually overwhelming humanity with sheer numbers. On top of that there was also a risk factor of Yagidrerc stopping cooperating in case of ulterior motives, risk that was constantly looming over many human minds.

Early plans talked about establishing a permanent planetary blockade. Engineers from Aurria Prime proposed a new ship prototype specifically geared towards this task:

Code: [Select]
Neurotoxin class Gunship      30,000 tons       1,241 Crew       31,870.5 BP       TCS 600    TH 12,000    EM 0
20000 km/s    JR 8-750      Armour 16-86       Shields 0-0       HTK 232      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 70      PPV 200
Maint Life 3.23 Years     MSP 26,559    AFR 180%    IFR 2.5%    1YR 3,842    5YR 57,626    Max Repair 6000 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 3   BRG   ENG   CIC   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

J30150(8-750) Hyperdrive     Max Ship Size 30150 tons    Distance 750k km     Squadron Size 8

Gas Core AM Drive  EP12000.00 (1)    Power 12000    Fuel Use 26.13%    Signature 12000    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 2,215,000 Litres    Range 50.9 billion km (29 days at full power)

Particle Lance-24 (10)    Range 640,000km     TS: 20,000 km/s     Power 75-16    ROF 25       
Beam Fire Control R1000-TS20000 (1)     Max Range: 1,000,000 km   TS: 20,000 km/s     99 98 97 96 95 94 93 92 91 90
Plasma-core Anti-matter Power Plant R160 (1)     Total Power Output 160.5    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS1-R1 (1)     GPS 1     Range 1.3m km    MCR 113.5k km    Resolution 1
Active Search Sensor AS125-R100 (1)     GPS 9600     Range 125.7m km    Resolution 100

ECCM-6 (1)         ECM 60

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

While particle beams weren't an effective way of dealing with Substance, these ships weren't supposed to attack droplets directly. Instead their tasks would revolve around hovering at some distance away from the planet and destroying any warship attempting to leave the planet or even under construction in the orbital shipyards, effectively disarming the entire planet, maybe even simply directly destroying shipyards themselves and bombing ground targets.

To help with accuracy, computer scientists wrote an AI-driven, Yagidrerc interface-compatible hacking application that could cheat planteary defence grid of Barnard's Star-A I into thinking human ships were just small asteroids or even friendly ships, severely crippling their targeting and allowing Neurotoxins to come closer and aim carefully with clear target visibility.

Particle accelerators used to power ship's weapons were also an experimental technology - apart from their standard functioning, they were supposed to come equipped with an alternate firing mode that'd produce and utilise antiparticles, making an already deadly weapon even deadlier. In case of a miss, casually sending antimatter at near-lightspeed into deep space could end up horrible, hence this mode could only be used when aiming at ground targets or with the planet behind space target so that in case of miss all the antiparticles would impact the hostile planet instead of God knows what God knows in how distant future.

With the latest propulsion systems optimisations applied, this gunship could accelerate to speeds far exceeding the top observed speed of enemy ships, so even if something went wrong, safely withdrawing from hostile territory wouldn't be a problem. On top of that it came equipped with a small, compact, but very powerful and energy-efficient Hyperdrive.

Named Neurotoxin because it was supposed to completely paralyse the Yagidrerc network established within Barnard's Star, dozens of these gunships were expected to completely block hostile world before the decade ends. Thanks to this, the only option enemy would've left would be to send the droplets unguarded, but in such case a second blockade consisting of Executors or maybe even their improved versions by then would easily deal with them.

Government initially approved the plan, but economic analysts warned that according to the blockade fleet specifications they briefly skimmed through, it'd be one of the biggest, if not the biggest military investment of all time, severely impacting the economy of Core Worlds and putting a great burden on the industry for years to come. On the other hand, military advisors kept warning that if the fleet was to be of any smaller size, the risk of something slipping through the blockade would rise above 0%, which was unacceptable if the operation was to achieve what it ought to achieve.

Months went by and the final decision was yet to be made. During these months scientists at famous Cydonia research facility that once gave birth to interstellar travel announced a breakthrough: after all those years they eventually were able to develop a first working cloaking device that could be put on a ship to hide it from hostile eyes.

This device worked on two levels: firstly it was made from awesome heat-sinking materials, allowing ship using it to redirect all the heat generated be engines and power plants to be stored internally for prolonged periods of time instead of ending up radiated outside, making it completely invisible for thermal sensors. Secondly, in case enemy used detection based on gravitational waves, HyperSensors or whatever alien technology it might came up with, part of the device was a special kind of Alcubierre Drive, which instead of simply allowing the ship to go faster, was supposed to manipulate space around the ship in such a manner that it'd nullify the gravitational signature emitted by the ship, making the space around it look flat (or curved as it should be, for example near a planet) as if nothing was flying there. A first prototype of the ship soon followed the breakthrough:

Code: [Select]
Shadow class Stealth Scout      20,000 tons       754 Crew       14,758.7 BP       TCS 28    TH 1,280    EM 0
20000 km/s    JR 3-50      Armour 1-65       Shields 0-0       HTK 167      Sensors 800/480/0/0      DCR 82      PPV 0
Maint Life 5.09 Years     MSP 23,983    AFR 62%    IFR 0.9%    1YR 1,546    5YR 23,194    Max Repair 9000.0000 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 2   BRG   ENG   
Intended Deployment Time: 60 months    Morale Check Required   

J20500(3-50) Hyperdrive     Max Ship Size 20500 tons    Distance 50k km     Squadron Size 3

Gas Core AM Drive  EP8000.00 (1)    Power 8000.0    Fuel Use 16.38%    Signature 1280.0000    Explosion 16%
Fuel Capacity 728,000 Litres    Range 40 billion km (23 days at full power)

EM Sensor EM20-480 (1)     Sensitivity 480     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  173.2m km
Thermal Sensor TH20-800 (1)     Sensitivity 800     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  223.6m km
ELINT Module (6)     Sensitivity 84     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  72.5m km
Cloaking Device: Class cross-section reduced to 7.00% of normal

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

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Without having anything to lose, after extensive testing a lone Shadow has been sent into Barnard's Star to spy upon the enemy. Its mission went well and the scout returned safe and sound, but brought dire news with itself.

War industry on Barnard's Star-A I was accelerating. Not many ships have been built yet, but according to data brought by Shadow, this was about to change within the following year or two, when shipyards should explode with thousands of droplets and dozens of warships, leaving their home system and flying into all kinds of directions, spreading Substance across the stars.

There was no time to waste. World Government started a top secret NOVA Project, with its management set up on Ender. Having most of Mechi processing power at their disposal, scientists and engineers working on the project were supposed to invent and build a prototype of a "doomsday device" that could be used to safely and effectively wipe out all life from across Barnard's Star-A I's surface, ensuring humanity won't share the Yagidrerc fate in the near future. The project quickly became referred to as "first true Dark Forest Move of Humanity".

3rd December 2235, NOVA Project has been completed successfully. War engineers managed to construct a NOVA bomb, a powerful explosive containing a cluster of the most powerful antimatter warheads ever created, triggered by a detonation of a conventional, small-sized fusion bomb. The initial reaction was supposed to accelerate each warhead in a different direction (possibly some of them burrowing in the ground) similar to how a frag grenade works. After some time magnetic traps holding antiparticles separated would inevitably suffer damage and stop working, causing antimatter to collide with matter and unleashing a force so powerful and deadly that no words exist to describe it.

First tests of the bomb were supposed to be conducted directly on a hostile planet, there was no reason to try to destroy something else with it. In case it wouldn't work, simply a new, improved version could be detonated. Alongside the doom-bringing device, a bomber supposed to deliver it to the target was also prototyped:

Code: [Select]
Doomrider class Bombardment Cruiser      30,000 tons       1,111 Crew       11,934.5 BP       TCS 600    TH 12,000    EM 0
20000 km/s    JR 8-750      Armour 8-86       Shields 0-0       HTK 180      Sensors 800/480/0/0      DCR 60      PPV 159
Maint Life 2.11 Years     MSP 12,259    AFR 240%    IFR 3.3%    1YR 3,696    5YR 55,436    Max Repair 6000 MSP
Magazine 1,021   
Captain    Control Rating 4   BRG   AUX   ENG   FLG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

J30150(8-750) Hyperdrive     Max Ship Size 30150 tons    Distance 750k km     Squadron Size 8

Gas Core AM Drive  EP12000.00 (1)    Power 12000    Fuel Use 26.13%    Signature 12000    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 1,568,000 Litres    Range 36 billion km (20 days at full power)

Size 99 Missile Launcher (1)     Missile Size: 99    Rate of Fire 40
Size 1 Missile Launcher (60.0% Reduction) (100)     Missile Size: 1    Rate of Fire 40
Missile Fire Control FC28-R1 (2)     Range 28.7m km    Resolution 1
NOVA Missile Defence Breaker (500)    Speed: 151,600 km/s    End: 1.7m     Range: 15.6m km    WH: 1    Size: 1    TH: 1970/1182/591
NOVA Bomb (5)    Speed: 151,515 km/s    End: 1.4m     Range: 12.8m km    WH: 666    Size: 99    TH: 1010/606/303

Active Search Sensor AS100-R20 (1)     GPS 4800     Range 100.7m km    Resolution 20
Thermal Sensor TH20-800 (1)     Sensitivity 800     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  223.6m km
EM Sensor EM20-480 (1)     Sensitivity 480     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  173.2m km

ECCM-6 (2)         ECM 60

Missile to hit chances are vs targets moving at 3000 km/s, 5000 km/s and 10,000 km/s

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Missiles used to deliver the payload were capable of accelerating to over half the speed of light. Because of that, even one missile impacting on the planetary surface could destabilise its tectonics over a large area (there's no need to talk about wiping out everything from the surface at this point). And every ship was supposed to be carrying five of them.

A squadron of eight Doomriders in total has been formed. Elite soldiers from Ender were picked to man the vessels, toughened by the psionic bombardment stronger than the one used to punish the worst of the worst criminals during their sentence. Eight ships, that made the total number of NOVA bombs to be dropped reach 40. Even according to the most pessimistic simulations (although using the term "pessimistic" in this context would be controversial for many citizens) it was a vast overkill. But government wanted to be sure that not a single atom of the Substance survives.

17th April 2236, 12:00:14, on boards of eight Doomriders and two squadrons of Neurotoxins escorting them, also eight ships each, nobody spoke a word when the 24 ships emerged from hyperspace near Barnard's Star. Not a word.

17th April 2236, 12:00:25, radars quickly took notice of an enemy squadron. Neurotoxins approached it from two different directions:

Enemy attempted to chase down one of the squadrons, but it just accelerated forwards and turned their guns around, blasting enemy on its tail. Meanwhile the second squadron was closing in from the other side:

Enemy returned fire, but at such range their lasers weren't very powerful. Meanwhile particle beams pierced through their armor like it was made out of cardboard:

Particle beams kept pounding on hostile ships. They vanished one by one, hapless and surrounded, without hope, without enough time to power up hyperdrives.

17th April 2236, 12:54:30, NOVA forces approach Barnard's Star-A I, planetary defence grid aside, unguarded after all the defeats it suffered from humanity's hands:

17th April 2236, 12:55:39, nobody spoke a word when bazillion of safety modes have been switched off and High Admiral himself pressed the final button for launch. First three NOVA bombs left the missile launchers, accompanied by three hundred decoy missiles. At this point, the fate of the planet was sealed and nobody could do anything about it.

17th April 2236, 12:55:41, Barnard's Star-A I roared in thunder when NOVA bombs exploded across it, heralding an inevitable doom for every organism that happened to be either on the surface or in orbit. The light emitted was so bright it made even the sun fade away. It was still safe to look at via the proper filters applied either into protective suit or bionic eyes, but none of the people on board of the 24 ships dared to take a look.

And yet it wasn't enough, the bombardment carried on until all 40 bombs smashed against the surface with half the speed of light:

After the space dust settled in, first soldiers peeked through the telescopes. The planet itself existed, but its surface was no more. Ground was shaking violently, thousands of volcanoes erupted and lava has already drowned the significant portion of the surface. Barnard's Star-A I was emitting a sick, hellish, blood-red glow, especially from its night side.



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