Part 23: 3010-3016-OrionOrion
Republican colonisation efforts continue, with the world of Newland in the Einhorn system and the world of Yawal in the Sabaki system being colonised in 3011. Yawal, like the other worlds in the Sabaki system, is primarily a Mrrshan world.
New breakthroughs in power generation technology are achieved in 3012 when an antimatter reaction is contained in a focused subspace bubble with calibrated physical laws. Oddly, the reaction seems to draw in additional energy from elsewhere in the dimensional structure of space, although the precise cause remains a mystery. The new power generation allows for hyperspace drives considerably faster than the previous models run by a 'conventional' antimatter reactor.
The next two years see another failed attempt by the Nations to re-establish a military alliance, as well as the establishment of an AI colony on Kesset, in the Fieras system. When the Invincible is completed in 3014, the fleet is dispatched on the two-year journey to the Orion system.
In 3015, with the fleet still a year out from Orion, Republican Atlantic successfully develops engineering designs for very large-scale orbital fortifications. Well-developed worlds across the United Republic begin constructing orbital fortresses around the core of their existing naval stations, the ultimate defense against enemy attack.
Then, in 3016, the fleet arrives at Orion. With the AI control over Republican vessels boosting their reaction speed, the Republican fleet is capable of seizing the initiative from the vessel defending Orion. Although the defending vessel has an array of powerful and exotic weaponry and a highly sophisticated AI computer core, both its power core and its primary drive units show evidence of makeshift refitting and repairs sometime during the service life of the vessel, leaving them less effective than Republican technology. The vessel, closing to attack, is instead destroyed by a coordinated volley of relativistic projectiles from the Republican fleet.
With the defending vessel destroyed, the wonders of the planet of Orion are open to the United Republic. On the surface, cities and factories, although badly eroded by time, promise a huge wealth of knowledge to researchers. The biosphere and climate of the planet are immensely fertile and lush, providing a welcoming environment for the settlers founding a new colony on the planet of Orion.
Scavenging the remnants of ancient factories and foundries on the surface immediately reveals a wealth of technology. Most useful, perhaps, is the ability to reconstruct elaborate fabrication methods for precisely-structured high-density alloys with immense strength. Also valuable is the information recovered from ancient naval weapons factories that allows Republican Atlantic researchers to build accelerators that launch unstable singularities at a target, there to detonate in a massive pulse of Hawking radiation after absorbing some matter at the point of impact. The ability to slowly create larger gravity wells at a specified point away from a ship, eventually collapsing into a larger singularity, is potentially devastating, but problematic in the slow operation of the device and the need to protect the generator as the gravity well approaches the point of collapse. Arrays designed to be linked to a drive core to ensure the overload of the drive core when a ship is destroyed or captured seem a curiousity at best. Tests of weapons against new armor materials prove that weapons designs intended for deep penetration do not work effectively against the superstrong material, simply depositing their energy into the surface of the armor, which resists easy penetration.
Xentronium Armor also negates the effect of the Armor-Piercing mod on weapons, which will be taken into account for ships attacking Antares.
Before these riches are recovered from the surface, however, a single living person aboard a relatively small warship approaches the fleet and makes contact in perfect English. The speech he makes is relayed to the Great Senate via focused tachyon pulse.
"Greetings to you of the United Republic. I am Loknar, and I am the last of my people, the Orions. I beg you forgive the madness of the Last Guardian, for in its grief and its loss it lost all reason. Once, the Dominion of Orion was the finest civilisation of the Galaxy, living in prosperity under our Lords President and the High Assembly. We imagined that nothing could bring our era of happiness to an end. How foolish that seems now!
To our galactic north one of our neighbors in that time was the Empire of Antares, whose territory stretched over much of the space now settled by the Klackon. Although the science of the Orions was strong, the Antarans were stronger in their biosciences, and their Emperors were ever hungry for power. Their people were re-engineered with an absolute psychological requirement to obey the authority of their Emperors, which perhaps only their own biological sciences could reverse. Their dictatorship over all aspects of their people became absolute. Even their computer intelligences were restructured as slaves to their Emperor. I have seen what became of the Trilarians, who seem very like the Antarans of old in some fashions, but much changed in others. Perhaps when they became stranded on Trilar the Antarans there rewrote their own genetics so they could survive beneath the waves with no communication from the Empire. No matter; the Trilarians are no Antarans now.
They experimented with creating great beasts that they thought may supplement their forces, but such experiments were bound by the inherent weakness of flesh. Although formidable to those more primitive, these experiments could not match modern warships, and so the Antarans abandoned them. But it seems not all of their experiments perished, for you encountered some of their vile get in your own history.
Still, the Dominion persisted in foolish confidence, with only the fixed defenses and a few robotic Guardians to protect us. It seems clear the Empire of Antares was jealous of our wealth and our dominance, for they built a mighty fleet in secret, along with five great singularity bombs that must have taken the whole of their wealth for years to build. When their fleet arrived to launch a surprise attack against the system of Orion itself, the Guardians, knowing that they could not withstand a fleet such as that which opposed them, withdrew to defend the planet of Orion itself, whose defenses were the strongest of any in the Dominion. In four years they overwhelmed the other four planets settled in our system, and in each they dropped a single singularity bomb which eventually tore the planet apart into mere asteroids. But, at each, the defenses took their toll, and finally those Guardians which had existed from before the war and those few new which had been built in nearby systems met the Antaran fleet over Orion itself. The death was immense, but in the end we triumphed in that battle.
I am ashamed to say that in our terror in that war, we turned to annihilating the inhabitants of the worlds of the Empire of Antares with orbital bombardment. The death we had suffered already shattered any calls for moderation. The killing gripped the galaxy on both sides, and over a trillion persons were slain in the galaxy before we had our 'victory', the last pocket of the Empire blockaded within the system of Antares itself. Our allies were extinct, extinguished by Antaran fleets in the war. I wish, too, that I could say that it was superior valor, the skill of our soldiers, and the righteousness of our cause that gave us our victory. No, what won the war was quite simply that our wealth was greater, and we could continue to build ships to replace our losses faster than could the Empire. But, at last, with the final armed might of the Empire shattered, we who remained of the Dominion of Orion were sick at our hearts of the killing, and our Lord President agreed that the last survivors of the Empire of Antares should be granted a measure of mercy.
With all our science, we could not undo their enslavement to their Emperor. Perhaps had we captured their Emperor, he might have ordered their liberation, but it was beyond us. The bloodshed to hold their worlds was beyond what we could achieve. So, we who survived of the last two settled worlds of the Dominion of Orion instead devised a plan that we believed would forever remove the Antarans as a threat to the galaxy. We built a series of generators which would, in their activation, create a stable pocket universe that would enclose the Antares system, leaving them forever alone on a single world, without the resources to overcome their entrapment. Despite their superiority in the biosciences, we had the advantage in other matters, and so we eventually created their prison which held them for... I believe it works out to something like thirteen thousand Earth years.
What we did not know is that in our last surviving colony world beyond Orion, although it had survived a bombing raid by the Antarans, the Antarans had seeded a biological weapon of exceeding sophistication. For fifty years it lay dormant, taking the time to undetected infect the whole of our population. Only I in Overseer remained uninfected, for our mission was to reseed observation drones in the Oort clouds of every system in the galaxy, and we made no port at Orion in this time. When the sickness progressed to its active phase, the dying filled the streets of every city on both our worlds. The remaining Guardians went mad with grief, and when Overseer and I returned, they seized us and swore they would protect us forever, to not fail the very last portion of their charge, after they had failed so completely in all other respects. Over the long years, Guardians broke down and were cannibalised for parts by their bretheren, and I and Overseer waited, taking advantage of the medical bay in Overseer to preserve my own life against the march of time. As your civilisations rose from species which had been overlooked primitives during the time of the Great War, I observed through the drone network. Overseer and I took hope that perhaps someday we should be freed.
Then, we saw the Antarans had returned. They must be poorer, certainly, than they were so many years ago, with few resources to spare on raiding parties, but it is clear their madness and hatred has not diminished in the years of their imprisonment. Overseer took on the name Avenger, for we pledged that should we achieve our freedom, we should aid our liberators to take vengeance against the Antarans who murdered all our kin and countrymen. We were foolish to believe that imprisonment could have been enough. Our failure has led to new death beyond the death of our own people.
I beg all of the Republican people, Humanity and all those who share in her civilisation, to join us. Let us avenge my people. Let us ensure the death of the Orions does not go unpunished."
The Galaxy in 3016
The program of fortification-building is a significant expense to the Republican economy, reducing the rate at which investment capital is generated. The fleet is returning to Ezra for refits. New breakthroughs should occur within five years that will allow for new navl ship designs. Loknar and Avenger's access to sensor data from across the galaxy allows for observation of every world in the galaxy, although the low-powered Oort sensors are no longer useful for detecting hyperspace activity or ships at void.
Loknar's Galactic Lore lets us see every system in the galaxy, complete with colonies and defenses, but does not let us see ships or monsters. It also happens to give bonuses to our accuracy and evasion against monsters and Antarans.
The Sakkra homeworld is larger than Earth, but their inner system is remarkably barren of otherwise usable worlds.
Despite the presence of a relatively friendly and exploitable world in their home system, the Elerians have failed to spread beyond their homeworld.
The AI seems much poorer than it should be about building colony bases, in general.
This is the last chance the United Republic has to unite the galaxy diplomatically before going to Antares. Shall the United Republic seek to defeat the Antarans, or unite the galaxy first?
Further, there are three design proposals for new warships to send to Antares by major aerospace contractors, based on projected new shielding technology and miniaturization of existing weapons and systems. The Republican Navy's lighter vessels shall remain to defend the United Republic's borders, while the heavier vessels are refit.
Republican Atlantic wants to build sturdy, reinforced vessels, avoiding the untested defensive systems developed by Mikhailovich Interplanetary, and using the unstable singularity cannon reverse-engineered from Orion weapons factories as their primary armament. With singularity cannon, it is likely that any particularly exotic Antaran defenses may be able to be overwhelmed.
Williamson-Lin intends to use the existing relativistic projectile technology and the Mikhailovich energy absorbing technology. Although any individual projectile is less powerful than the singularity cannon, the large number of triple-mounted projectile cannon should have a larger total firepower than singularity cannon.
Death rays can't be miniaturised, so we're dealing much more raw damage with autofire gauss cannon. Death rays deal more damage per shot, however, which can make a difference.
The Mikhailovich Interplanetary design is... unconventional. It is built entirely around launching boarding parties, either by immobilising enemy ships or launching fleets of assault shuttles. It is both heavily reinforced and uses Mikhailovich Interplanetary's energy absorber defenses. As might be expected from Mikhailovich Interplanetary, it is also the cheapest design proposed.
This is almost certainly not the most practical design.
Naval planners also debate the merits of different force sizes to send to Antares. A fleet of eight, a fleet of ten, and a fleet of twelve have all been proposed. Smaller forces may make for a riskier battle, but should be completed sooner.
The length of the game is definitely getting to me about now, but I can wait through long enough for whatever size force we develop.
Also, Orion! I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. I hope it did not disappoint.