• Published 3rd Jun 2017
  • 5,279 Views, 1,257 Comments

Cosmic Lotus - Goldfur

The Anomaly was a star in the Equestrian night sky that was unlike all the others in the heavens. Advances in science and magic had only deepened the mystery. Finally it was decided to send a starship to learn what they could. This is their story.

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Halfway (part two)

Author's Note:

If this chapter is part 2, where is part 1? The answer is that it's in my other story - Life, Love, and Death in the House of Path. If you haven't already, you may wish to read that first as the events are relevant.

Also very relevant is the Purple Point fanfic written by Alden MacManx. Important details can be read in the latest chapter of Purple Point - His Life in Space.

AFTER you have read this chapter, you may wish to read the episode of Life, Love, and Death in the House of Path -> Breaking a Path <- if you haven't read it already. Repeat: AFTER you read this chapter.

“We have confirmation from Equus, Captain. We have officially passed the halfway point in our journey,” Starry reported.

Wandering smiled and leaned back in his chair. “It’s becoming more real all the time, isn’t it, Starry?”

“What exactly do you mean?”

“The dream. The goal of discovering what is out there. For five years we’ve lived our lives and kept a sense of community so that we can make this extraordinary journey. Being confined to a metal cylinder hurtling through space for year after year takes real dedication. Only dreamers like us could make the trip. Now that we’re halfway to our goal, that dream has become more substantial.”

“You’re certainly waxing philosophical today,” Starry replied with a smirk.

“Well, I have to say something deep for the record, don’t I?” Wandering replied with a wink toward the chrome changeling crewperson on duty.

The ’ling grinned and made a show of recording the alicorn’s words.

“So – time for the Halfway Happening?” Starry said, referring to the name that they had given to the party that they had planned for passing the halfway point on their journey.

“Yes. I’ll have a word with Galena about reviving all those in hibernation who insisted on participating in the event.”

“It’s going to be pretty crowded for a while, isn’t it?”

“Considering that 94% of the crew want to party, I’d say so. I’ll also alert Engineering to ramp up life-support to cope. Hmm… Radiant Spark is currently in charge, but she doesn’t start her shift for another hour, so I’ll talk to her then.” He turned to the changeling. “Zinth – let Fatima know that we’ll be needing more fresh food supplies soon.”

“Aye, sir!” the ’ling replied as he put that information into the system.

At the same time, Wandering felt the mini-network light up with sub-directives to all the changelings associated with both the food production and life-support systems, as he knew that Zinth would do. Five years of familiarity with the network made this an almost automatic response because the changelings thoroughly understood their controller’s methods and desires. He got up out of his chair and turned back to Starry. “I’ll go see Princess Galena now. You’re in charge of the bridge until the end of your shift.”

“Aye, Captain,” Starry replied formally.

As Wandering headed to the hibernation department, he encountered the occasional crewmember who would give him a happy smile. The alicorn returned it, knowing that the word had already spread from the changelings to their workmates. He seriously doubted that anyone awake did not know it by now, especially Galena. Nevertheless there were details to work out in person and schedules to be made. Coordinating an event as big as this was going to take a lot of work.

He encountered Ixia apparently heading towards the mess hall for a meal break, and she seemed to be walking a little gingerly. “Are you okay, Ixia?” he asked solicitously.

The yellow changeling paused, and gave him a smirk. “Fun fact – dragons don’t tire as easily as any other species.” She then proceeded, still walking gingerly.

Wandering stared after her for a long moment before he hastened on his way. She did not have to elucidate any further. In fact it was close to too much information. Her relationship with his dracopony nephew was an open secret since he had called her his charoite gem, and he insisted that he only kept the finest jewels in his hoard. Wandering had only found that out as a consequence of his concern that the changeling crewmembers were all making stable relationships for the duration of the voyage. He admitted that he never saw that one coming though. When he asked Eon why he called her that, the dragon pony told him – ‘Because that’s what she tastes like.’ He wisely did not ask any more questions after that!

When Wandering reached the hibernation department, he was informed that Galena was in her office with Techbird. He nodded and thanked the changeling drone and knocked on Galena’s closed door. His ears swiveled forward as they picked up the sound of people hastily moving around before Galena called out, “Enter!”

Wandering entered to find Galena behind her desk with Techbird at rest in front of it, and he repressed a grin. A lot had changed since Galena had formed a sub-net with Techbird. After the initial overload of work that nearly incapacitated her, the changeling princess had reached a compromise with the elderly griffoness which throttled back the amount of stress that Techbird put on the net. However, Galena still got a heavy mental workout that had gradually improved the changeling’s capabilities.

One other unexpected consequence though was that their constant intimate cooperation had begun to spread from a mere working relationship. This had been of great benefit when Techbird had finally completed her special project – a golem body built on crystal magitek. Galena had supervised the placement of Techbird’s real body into a special pod that enabled her to stay conscious even while her life functions were slowed to near stasis. Then the network connection that they shared enabled Galena to shift Techbird’s consciousness into the golem body, freeing the griffoness from the tyranny of old age.

Their association did not end there. In fact their very intimate mental relationship had surprisingly blossomed into a deeply personal one, and the two were rarely found apart. This had been of profound psychological benefit to both, and even though they were very different people, they complemented each other. The only mystery to Wandering was that they somehow didn’t realize that he knew very well that, if they could, they’d be doing what he would be doing with Starry. The noise that he had heard was probably them scrambling to disengage from a cuddle in order to maintain the illusion of propriety.

“What can I do for you, Captain?” Galena asked ingenuously.

“I wish to go over the schedule for reviving the hibernating crew who want to attend the Halfway Happening.”

“Ah, yes – Techbird and I were just discussing that.”

I just bet you were,’ he thought with amusement. “Okay – pull up the list and let’s get started.”

Despite the time dilation problem, the crew of the Cosmic Lotus had long ago worked out a method of coordinating with Mission Control back on Equus, and a visit by Destined Path was scheduled for the beginning of Wandering’s next shift. Starry, more often than not, kept the same schedule as him so that they would both be off-duty together. Their personal bond had only strengthened over the years, although neither was inclined to explain it to any of their family as yet, other than Luna. They were both willing to procrastinate revealing that little detail until the end of the voyage, if possible.

Thus they were both on the bridge awaiting the arrival of their brother, with two extra crewmembers instead of the usual one due expecting to need them in charge of the bridge while the alicorns left the control room with Destined. Right at the scheduled time, the Alicorn of Time appeared next to the mana beacon, grumbling as always did about the temporal distortion that gave him trouble.

“Hi, sibs,” he greeted them, although a little more subdued than usual.

“Hi, Des. Are you trying to make a fashion statement, or is that the new rage these days back on Equus?” Starry asked with a smirk.

Destined raised a puzzled eyebrow. “What are you talking about, sis?”

“The yellow sequined mane-band that you’re wearing.”

“What mane-band?”

“That one,” Starry pointed out with a giggle.

Suddenly the mane-band flew off Destined and in a flash of light, changed into an odd mismatched creature.

“SURPRISE!” the unexpected visitor shouted.

“Flix? How did you get here?” Destined asked.

“Hitched a ride, Des. You told me that you couldn’t teleport anyone along with you, and you could only take small parcels. I figured you wouldn’t even notice a mane-band, so here I am!”

“Didn’t you think that your presence or chaos magic might have thrown me off?!”

“Nah – I had confidence in you, bro.”

Wandering and Starry gaped. Both had been born after Flix had been petrified, and neither had ever known him as anything other than a statue in the House Path training grounds.

“You’re really our brother?” Wandering asked.

“That’s big brother to you,” Flix replied with a grin.

Starry gasped with joy and flung her forelegs around the chimera’s neck. “Oh! I never thought I’d ever be able to hug you!”

Flix chuckled as he hugged her back. “You’re an alicorn, sis – you would have been around for however long it took for me to be freed.”

Starry pushed back a little to look into Flix’s mismatched eyes. “How do you even know us?”

“Although I was a statue, I was still aware of what was happening around me. Whenever you were in the training grounds, I could watch you. Heck! Mom visited me every day and brought you around when you were foals to introduce you to me. Even then she had faith that I would hear her words. I got to watch you both grow up.”

Wandering listened with wonder and happiness. He chuckled and said, “It’s about time you got around to fulfilling your big brother duties.”

Flix laughed. “Not sure what I can do for a century-old little brother or sister, but I promise it will be fun.”

“You sound a lot like Professor Discord,” Starry said.

Flix shrugged. “I was his prize pupil, so it’s hardly surprising.”

Destined said soberly, “Flix – you’re stalling.”

Flix’s expression drooped and he sighed.

Starry frowned and asked, “What’s wrong, Flix?”

“Destined was going to tell you the news anyway, but it’s more personal to me. Mom passed away the night after I returned.”

Starry gasped. “Momma Roseclaw died?!”

Destined replied, “Yeah. She passed away in her sleep due to old age. We reckon that she had only managed to stay alive this long because she was determined to see Flix again.”

Starry stepped up to Flix and gave him a comforting hug. “You must be devastated to lose your mother so soon after being freed from being petrified.”

“I was a wreck for the rest of the day. I’m still waking up in tears every morning. I’ve been using humor to cover up how I feel.” He looked into Starry’s eyes and gave her a lopsided smile. “Judging by the tears filling your eyes, you’re not much better off than me.”

“Make that all three of us,” Wandering said. “After we discovered that the time dilation was going to prevent Destined from ferrying people back and forth, we knew that our voyage was going to be long enough that we might never see some of our parents again. We did our best to express our feelings through letters, but it still hits hard now that it has actually happened.” He spread his wings to enfold the two of them.

Destined followed suit, and all four silently shared their loss for several moments.

Eventually they pulled apart again and spent a minute composing themselves.

Wandering eventually asked, “How is Papa Path taking it?”

Destined replied, “Pretty bad. He broke down during the funeral, and he hasn’t left his room since. It’s been nearly four days since Mama Roseclaw passed away even though it’s been less than half a day for you. We saved this news for the scheduled visit so that I could deliver the news personally. I hoped that Dad would have pulled himself together by now, but not even Papa Free has been able to get him out of his misery. If it keeps up, the family will have to find some way to intervene.”

“How is Dad’s health?” Starry asked. “He’s not an alicorn or a changeling queen, so he must be feeling his age, and his wife’s death can’t be helping.”

“Dad’s health is fine, Starry. He’s still fit as a fiddle with not a grey hair in his mane. It’s only his spirit that is depressed,” Flix replied.

Wandering said, “Don’t tell any of the other crew about her death except Eon. He deserves to know, but I don’t want to put a damper on the celebrations for everyone else. That can wait until much later. Keeping up morale is always a priority on board the Lotus.”

Destined nodded. “Of course. And since Flix has decided to hitchhike along with me, I say that we put him to work entertaining the crew.”

Flix’s grin returned. “Laughter is the best medicine, even if it has to be self-administered.”

Only the Park was big enough to contain the expanded crew numbers, but five years of plant growth and constant work by the gardeners had changed it from a plant-lined tube into a true linear parkland that gave the party a more festive air than when it was last used for such a large gathering. There were little nooks and patches of grass where couples or even small groups could sit down. Sculptured ledges further up the tube walls catered to the winged members of the crew which left more floor space for the ground-bound ones.

Flix, Destined, Wandering, and Starry entered the Park and the chimera immediately started drawing attention. Many of the crew had seen the statues in House Path’s main training grounds in Griffonia, either from having trained there or visited at some stage, and there was no mistaking the transformed hippogriff. He quickly gained a large audience as they moved deeper into the Park. Even those who had never seen the petrified son of the House Path founders were astonished by the bizarre creature that had a dragon’s right arm, a griffon’s left arm, pony and bunyip hind legs, one changeling eye, and a sea-pony’s tail. They followed him, exchanging comments and speculation.

When the crowd had grown so great that he could not move forward anymore, Flix raised his dragon arm and snapped his talons. Fireworks and streamers burst harmlessly overhead, quieting the gathering and focusing their attention on Flix.

“Greetings, Cosmic Comrades!” Flix declared with a broad smile. “While a lot of you may have heard of me, I’m sure that some of you haven’t, and so, let me introduce myself. I am Flix, son of Lord Long Path and Lady Roseclaw, student of Professor Discord, and Master of Chaos. Not to mention hero of the zebra invasion of Griffonia,” he added with exaggerated false modesty. “I’ve come here to join my sister and brother in celebrating passing the halfway point in your journey. Now I realize that you think you know how to throw a shindig, but you’ve never had one Chaos Style!”

“Flix, what are you up to?” Wandering asked suspiciously.

The chimera grinned back. “Don’t worry, Captain, O Captain – you’re gonna love this!” He snapped his claws and a giant book appeared in his other arm. On the cover they could see a stylized CL logo, and Flix started flipping through the pages. “Let’s see… yadda, yadda, yadda…. Yeah, relativistic travel is a bitch, isn’t it?” He flipped a few more pages ahead. “Bling, bling, bling… whoa! Okay now, that was creative.” He looked around until he met eyes with Purple Point. “You, sir, are a linguistic master! Good on ya for making my li’l bro blush.” He went back to the book. “Yes, yes, yes! WHOA!” His eyes went wide as he looked at Wandering. “Really? Really?

Wandering didn’t even know exactly to what Flix was referring, but he felt himself blushing anyway.

Flix chuckled and went back to the book, flipping a few more pages. Starry and Destined craned to look over Flix’s shoulder to look at the book and went cross-eyed trying to read the words on the page – if you could even call them words as they were in constant motion on the page. Flix laughed before he looked up at Galena. “Yeah, Techbird is like that.” He shut the book and it went poof in a puff of smoke, while at the same time two puppets appeared on his shoulders. One looked like an orange changeling, the other looked like a sea-pony.

“All hail Flix the Magnificent,” the changeling puppet declared.

“Flix the Prognosticator!” the sea-pony puppet added.

“Now, for the party, I have something special planned. Since this is my first party in ages and I have so much energy accumulated after all these years, it’s time I really flexed my muscles.” The book reappeared along with a bookmark, and he placed it into the midst of the pages with an exaggerated flourish. Then he threw it up into the air and snapped both his griffon talons and dragon claws. The book disappeared and at the same time everyone felt a strange, powerful magic wash over them.

“Flix… what did you do?” Starry asked with deep concern.

The chimera looked over to her. “Save point.”

“What?” was all the flustered alicorn could say.

Flix turned to the gathered group. “For the next twelve hours, there are no consequences, a-a-n-n-d ask me for something – anything! I can guess what you all want, so who is going to be the first one to tell me what they wish, hmm?”

Wandering spoke up. “Hey now! I don’t want you to do anything to my ship without my–”

Flix cut him with a raised claw. “You’re welcome!” He snapped his fingers and Starry and Wandering disappeared. He turned his attention back to the rest of the crowd. “Now there are limitations. No, I can’t send you to visit Equus for a few hours. If I did that, as soon as you appeared, you would cause an explosion that would take out most of the city you wanted to visit. I can’t bring back the dead because… just trust me – you don’t want to meet him, and there is no point in wishing for all the bits in the world because where would you spend them? But if there’s something you would do on this ship if you only could, ask me now.”

The crowd was still unsure of both Flix’s intentions and abilities, so the chimera started to help some of them out. He laid his eyes on Xanth who had one foreleg around ColdFire. “You! Don’t be shy! Let me help your relationship along.” He snapped his talons and Xanth transformed into a pegasus.

ColdFire took in Xanth’s new look and then turned back to Flix. “Xanth has transformed into that pegasus form before for me, so what’s so great about this?”

“Umm, no, Coldy. This is different,” Xanth said with wonder in his voice.

“Huh? Why?” the puzzled mare asked.

“I’m a pony. I mean – I’m not a changeling in pony form – I’m a real pegasus pony! This… is so weird.”

ColdFire’s mouth went round in surprise as she said, “Oh.” Then her face split in a grin. “Oh! So, two wishes for the price of one! Thanks, Flix!” She grabbed the bemused new pegasus and started dragging him away from the crowd and out of the Park.

“Two happy customers!” Flix declared. “Who’s next?”

“Umm… you said anything, right?” asked Albite Feldspar.

“You heard right, friend,” Flix assured him.

“I know this might seem silly, but I have been dying to taste my favorite meal from Apple Bee’s restaurant near my home.”

“A stallion of simple pleasures. One deluxe feast for you, my friend!”

A tray loaded with food appeared hovering in front of Albite. The crystal stallion grinned in delight, took the tray in his mouth, and trotted away to enjoy his meal.

Flix looked around and spotted Techbird’s Griffish golem form. Their eyes met and he smiled. “Hello, Tech – long time, no see.”

The crystalline magitek construct stepped up and cocked her head. “It really is you, Flix. You are a most unlikely visitor.”

“That sounds just like me,” Flix agreed. “It’s good to see that you’re still pushing the boundaries of science.”

“While you’re still abusing reality,” she replied with a chuckle.

Flix grinned at that. “Yep. So what can I do for you, Tech? Free wishes for everyone, even golems.”

Techbird smiled. “I only have one wish, and that’s to find the answer to my Question.”

“And I am certain that you will. But I see the years have not been kind, and you have had to resort to extreme measures to ensure that you do find your answer, which sadly, I cannot provide. So, I’m going to make a wish on your behalf.” He snapped his talons.

Techbird gasped, which in itself was impossible. While the golem body could mimic her natural griffon form, it did not need to actually breathe or eat, nor perform most bodily functions. Basically it was a vehicle for her mind while her real body reposed in a pod. But now she started breathing, and her crude crystalline form smoothed out and her colors brightened. When the magic died down, the occupants of the Park were gazing at the griffon equivalent of a crystal pony – a living being.

“What have you done?!” Techbird demanded even as she looked over her new form.

“Just a few improvements – all the benefits of both your natural body plus those of your golem body, minus the drawbacks. I’m certain that a certain changeling princess will appreciate them.”

Techbird quickly discovered that her new body could also blush, but she turned to meet Galena’s eyes, and the changeling nodded in approval.

The crowd finally caught on that even the most unusual wishes could be granted, and they started clamouring for the attention of their bizarre visitor. Flix’s smile grew as he started flexing his power and granted many diverse wishes. Finally he was left with a few indecisive individuals, and one troubled unicorn.

“So, Point, why don’t you make your wish?”

Purple Point frowned at the chimera. “Some things are beyond even you.”

“Are you sure of that, my eloquent friend? You are asking for the ridiculous, which is the essence of Chaos.”

“If you already know, then why don’t you just do it?” Point challenged.

“You just had to ask,” Flix replied with a knowing smile, and he snapped his talons.

A red-orange pegasus with white wings, mane and tail appeared beside Purple Point. The stallion stared at her, and she looked back in shock.

“Sunrise Flight?” gasped Point.

“Radiance, what’s happening?” the mare asked.

Purple Point turned to Flix. “Is this some sort of bad joke?”

Flix’s smile never wavered. “No, Purple Point, or should I say Radiance Glow? This is really your sister whose soul you have been carrying around with you for years. About time for a sibling reunion, don’t you think?”

Sunrise put a hesitant hoof on Point’s shoulder. “It’s really me, Radiance. I don’t know how he did it, but I’m really here in person.”

Point looked at her in wonder. “Sister…”

“Why don’t you introduce me to your friends?”

A smile lit up the stallion’s face.

Wandering stared at Starry in surprise. “Well, that’s new,” he said in a voice that was an octave and a half higher than normal.

Starry looked at herself and replied in a mellow baritone, “You’re telling me!”

“You wished for that?” Wandering asked, her eyebrow raised questioningly.

“I think we were both curious,” the stallion replied. “After all, you’ve enjoyed being a mare before, even if it was as a zebra.”

“And you wanted to know what the other side was like?”

Starry smirked. “So, I have a kinky mind. Are you going to do something about it?”

Wandering hesitated. She was more than a little intrigued by the idea, but something was bothering her. “If Flix can do this to us, what is he doing with the rest of the crew?”

Starry reached up to put one hoof gently on Wandering’s cheek. “He’s really like Professor Discord. You know that while some of his actions are a little crazy, they’re never harmful. Trust our brother.” He then gave her a gentle kiss.

Wandering smiled and said, “You’re right – I don’t believe Flix would do any harm. Let him and the rest of the crew have a little fun.” She then pulled Starry to herself and kissed him passionately, and the stallion responded in kind.

It was not for a couple more hours that the gender-swapped couple rejoined the party and braved the curious questions of the crew.

The Halcyon III colony was still fairly new, but it at least had a properly established base near its spaceport. The temporary initial structure had been replaced by a permanent multi-purpose building that served as both the seat of government for the fledgling colony, and as the base for several essential services. Two such services were interstellar communications and port control which included monitoring the planetary neighborhood. Since neither were especially busy at most times, they were both located in the same room along with several other minor services, with just two slightly bored staff members watching the equipment.

An alert sounded, and the fox morph next to the device that had issued it peered at the screen.

“That’s odd. Are you aware of any unscheduled starships coming here, Raskar?”

The Rakshani turned around and peered at the vixen’s station. “No, there hasn’t been any notification, nor any emergency alerts. Not that anyone should be any all the way out here on the extreme frontier anyway. What are you seeing?”

“The geosat is picking up a mid-size ship of unknown configuration heading our way. Looks like it’s on a course for a low orbit.”

“I suppose we’ll find out soon. I’ll try to open communications with them.” He pressed a couple of switches. “This is Halcyon Three Colony Central Control calling incoming starship. Please respond.”

Raskar waited for a long moment before trying again with the same result. He frowned and changed frequencies before attempting to make contact once more, but again there was no response.

“It’s no use – either they have equipment problems, or they’re ignoring us.”

“That’s very strange. Scans from the geosat are not showing any signs of damage. Still can’t identify the origin of the ship either. Must be a new– what the hell?!

The Rakshani tensed up. “What’s wrong, Alicia?”

“They fired on the geosat! It’s offline – probably destroyed.”

“Merciful gods!” Raskar swore. “I think we’re under attack by pirates!”

“What pirates go to the trouble and expense of coming all the way out here just to steal farm equipment and construction supplies?” she asked.

Raskar never got the chance to respond.

“The link to the Halcyon Three colony went down an hour ago,” Ben Kumar reported to his supervisor.

The Caitian female frowned and asked, “I assume that you have checked the relays?”

“I did. Pings come back from them all. Only the satellite orbiting Halcyon Three failed to respond.”

M'Lisseena nodded. “If their geosat is experiencing problems, we need to give them a day to try to rectify the situation. Report back to me tomorrow if the issue isn’t resolved.”

“Okay, boss,” Ben replied and headed back to his station.

The next day, he was back in M'Lisseena’s office.

“Twenty-four hours and still not a peep from Halcyon Three.”

The Caitian grew concerned. “Too many failsafes for that to happen. We’re going to have to send out an inspector to check out the situation. I’m bumping this up to the next level.” She tapped the screen in front of her to get in touch with her superior.

“Contact with the inspector’s ship was lost minutes after arriving at Halcyon Three,” the Director of Federation Colony Services informed Star Fleet Command. We request an immediate investigation of this situation.”

The Commandant nodded gravely. “I will assign a ship to check it out and report back to you as soon as possible.”

“Thank you. Hopefully this isn’t as bad as it seems.”

“Indeed. I will keep you informed.” The Commandant closed the connection and he frowned. Unlike the Director, he did not have as nearly an optimistic feeling about the situation. He queried his computer for ships in that sector, and then sent out a subspace signal. His screen soon lit up showing the face of bear morph.

“Captain Yuri Ursa, here. What can I do for you, sir?”

“Captain, you are to proceed immediately for the Halcyon Three system and investigate the reason for the cessation of all communications from it and from the Star Corps colony inspector’s ship that went to check out the problem. Proceed with caution – this smells bad to me.”

“Understood, sir. We are approximately seven hours from Halcyon at standard warp speed. I will report as soon as possible.”

“Very good. Star Fleet Command out.”

The Betelgeuse was a medium-sized ship – fast, armed and armored to deal with pirate raiders and other dangerous situations. Even so, Halcyon Three’s remoteness meant a lengthy wait until they arrived at the star system with shields at the ready. Under Yellow Alert conditions, they cautiously approached the planet, every sensor active and straining for the least bit of information. They did not care if this made them conspicuous, only concerned that they would not miss a thing. They quickly found the missing inspector’s ship, and realized that it was a derelict with massive damage.

“Red Alert!” Captain Ursa declared. “Hostiles may still be in the area. Everyone on your toes!”

The entire bridge crew grew tense as they worked every possible technique to determine what had happened to the inspector’s ship, and who had perpetrated it. Then one of the crew spotted something.

“Captain! An unknown ship in orbit around the planet has just cleared the horizon. I think they have spotted us too as they have altered course.”

“Phaser cannons at the ready. Shields to maximum. Helm – ready evasive maneuvers!” Ursa growled.

“The ship is firing! Some sort of plasma discharge I think!”

The helmsman pushed the ship down and to the left, evading the blast.

“Return fire!” the captain ordered.

Phaser cannons spat out beams of terrible power. Unlike their enemy’s weapon, the beams travelled at light speed and struck their target.

“Their shields stopped most of the beams, but some minor damage to their armor,” reported the Weapons Officer.

“Keep firing!”

The enemy fired again, but the distance between the two ships had decreased rapidly and the helmsman barely managed to avoid the blast.

“What is the nature of that weapon they’re using?” demanded Ursa.

“Unknown, sir! The only thing registering on our instruments is energy in the visible spectrum, and that appears to only be a side-effect,” the ermine morph at the science station reported.

“How can that be? It has to register somehow!”

The enemy ship took another hit, but continued approaching anyway.

“Back off,” ordered Ursa. “I don’t want that ship any closer.”

The helmsman started to comply just as the enemy ship fired again. This time they were too close to dodge.

“Brace for impact!” the captain shouted.

Although they were expecting a shudder as the shields absorbed and deflected the beam, they were shocked to see it pass though as if the shields did not exist. The beam struck the Federation ship with fury, blasting away the hull and everything underneath it. The hapless ship spun, hurling its crew around as power failed to several systems including the inertial dampers. Emergency power quickly was restored to the bridge, but several of its staff were either unconscious or groaning in pain after being thrown from their stations.

Captain Ursa fared better as he was partially encapsulated by his command chair. “Helm – get us out of here! Maximum warp!”

The helmsman had been thrown into his control console, so although he was in a lot of pain, he was both functional and able to respond to the command. He brought the warp engines online, but just as he was about to execute the command to go to warp, they were struck again. One of the warp engines went offline, reduced to scrap as more of the ship was torn apart, and survivors were either killed or more seriously injured. Miraculously, power remained for the remaining warp engine and the Betelgeuse slipped into hyperspace.

There were several tense moments on the bridge as they waited to see if the enemy pursued them. In their crippled condition, there was little doubt in their minds that they could not outrun their foe’s ship if it had similar FTL capability, but eventually they came to the conclusion that they had escaped.

“Damage report!” Ursa barked.

“Port warp engine destroyed,” the Systems Engineer reported. “Main engineering still online but main power couplings are gone. Power rerouted through secondary circuits. Life support lost to decks three to seven. Casualty reports starting to come in, but initial numbers suggest that we have lost a third of the crew. Communications offline, but we should be able to get backups online soon.”

“Let me know as soon as we can contact Star Fleet headquarters,” the captain commanded. “Weapons Officer – I want to know why our shields failed.”

“They didn’t, sir.”

“Don’t tell me that! This ship has been badly crippled and I want to know why!”

“Sir, the instruments tell me that the shields were functioning perfectly, both before and after the first hit. It’s the weapon that they used against us; it did not react at all to the shields.”

“That’s not physically possible!”

“I know, sir, but the evidence speaks for itself. I have complete recordings of the event, for all the good it may do. I have no idea as to the nature of that energy used against us.”

Ursa scowled. Star Fleet was not going to like what they had paid so dearly to learn. Worse yet, he was going to have to explain to the families of his deceased crew members how a Federation battlecruiser had failed to protect the lives of their loved ones.

The Betelgeuse was halfway home before communications was restored and the bad news passed on. Star Fleet Command immediately alerted the entire fleet and issued instructions for all shipping to evacuate the sector. An emergency meeting of the Federation Council was held, and after it was concluded, the President made a Federation-wide broadcast.

Kyran Judd, the Voxxan Head of State of the Stellar Federation, gazed gravely at the camera. “My fellow citizens, it has come to our attention that an unknown enemy has chosen to attack a colony world and two ships sent to investigate why it had ceased communicating with us. Recordings of the active scans taken during battle by the Federation battlecruiser, Betelgeuse, revealed that the Halcyon Three colony has been wiped out, along with a Star Corps’ Colony Service ship. The Betelgeuse was heavily damaged but managed to return to warn us of the danger. The nature of the attack and the weapon used against us have led us to one terrible conclusion – we may be in a state of war with an enemy who has no compunction against killing us on sight. May our deities preserve us.”

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