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  1. #1

    A matter of perspective

    ### Epilogue ###

    Captain Fuentes sat at his desk in his private sanctuary, brooding.

    Adhering to the orders of a Lord Inquisitor was not something a humble captain was in a position to question. Not even to reflect about. That he did not like those orders one bit might sooner or later result in unpleasant interviews with representatives of the navy - or worse: the inquisition he would be content to avoid.

    Now, his fleet tender Mercury-54-R had been turned in a troop transporter. No, that was not entirely right... it had been turned in the homebase of a bunch of barbarian auxiliaries. And to make things worse, expectations on how that transport mission would develop had not been met in the anticipated scope.

    As planned, those barbarians had been deployed to support loyal imperial forces in putting down half hearted rebellions on Mercury-54-Rs course to Elysia. Larger conflicts were not that common in Segmentum Solar after all - and who would expect to find a planet inhabited by heretics that close to terra?
    The expectation that was not fulfilled was the death toll of the auxiliaries. At this point, if that scum had not been completely extinct, the occupied space should at least have been significantly reduced. Instead, they had lost mere three platoons. Mission assessments saw even an increase in cooperation and coordination between the two... tribes. Discipline within each tribe surprisingly had not been a problem - Fuentes had expected more trouble on his ship. One should be thankful for little things as well.

    The whole mission would be something hardly to be believed in admirality - but at least he had Lord Helions orders. But as soon as Fuentes would reach a more civilised system, he would definitely be questioned very closely. Disappearing from the empires screens for such a long time was nothing that extraordinary given circumstances in the Warp - and each time a ship emerged after a long time again, it was subject to very carefull examination by the inquisition.
    In this case, however, Mercury-54-R did not disappear in the Warp. All they did was entering the forbidden region XX-K196586-C upon direct order of that Helion and picking up 9.000 (give or take a few dozen) barbarians and their heretical equipment. And when Fuentes had the first contact with imperial officials after leaving that region, it became apparent that his stay in that bloody system lasted for a little more than the three weeks the ship chronometers indicated. In fact, all system commanders and ship captains he met since then insisted on a date meaning that he entered XX-K196586-C 32 years ago. Now at least he knew why XX-K196586-C was classified regio prohibitus. Helions order to exterminate the heretic planet upon leaving the system after taking all military personnell on board made some sense to Fuentes - it may have been possible to control and develop the society on ... what was its name? Utgard. But with that difference in the passage of time, it could not contribute anything to the empire. Well... besides the donation of all soldiers that had been taken along.

    That Magos Pente that accompanied Helion was also quite reluctant to allow the techno heresy they brought with them on an imperial vessel - but he had to admit that the taint was minor enough. So minor that the vehicles could even be upgraded to a certain degree with imperial weapons. And it was meant to be ony temporary until the problem solved itself on a battlefield on the way.

    A few weeks ago, most of the barbarians had learned enough gothic to comprehend complexer orders. So again one obstacle less to make his life miserable.

    Fuentes looked up as the com gave of a chirping sound. "Fuentes. Report.". Nothing, only silence. Apparently that call came from the bridge. Fuentes terminated and called the bridge himself... no response.
    Outside on the corridor he heard boots clattering and shouts and incomprehensibly muffled by the door. Something hard knocking repeatedly on his door.
    Wonderfull. Was that a breakdown of communication system - and even something worse affecting vital systems?
    Fuentes stood up, walked to the door and opened. At least the door signal should have worked, so what was the point in knocking? So either the harm to his ship was larger and affected not only coms - or the soldier outside was entitled to extensive tongue-lashing.
    The door opened and Fuentes looked straight in two muzzles. Those muzzles belonged to primitive projectile weapons as preferred by the humans holding them - two of the barbarians in camouflaged exo-armour and faces hidden behind hazard masks with redish glowing eyes. And then all turned red as two projectiles spread Fuentes brain in his sanctuary.


    As the headline indicates, this is the epilogue - excuse my english, i am no native speaker.
    I started with the end because other readers had difficultes believing that the story is indeed a 40k story. And the main part is VERY non-40k.
    So... what do you think so far, would you like to read the rest?

    And feel invited to speculate.
    Last edited by Ravengrove; 09-12-2018 at 14:34.

  2. #2

    Re: A matter of perspective

    that's not much feedback so far ... anyway, here is how it starts.


    Part 1 - Leaving home

    2083 was the year humanity began to anticipate its approaching end. It was the year when Hubble IV detected something new in the solar system. Something that came from outer space crossing the solar system. That something turned out to be a small exoplanet. The passing of the traveller resulted in excitement, once the first shock had been overcome and once it turned out that was no direct threat to earth, since it would pass in a safe distance of half an AE. Science was thrilled - and the traveller was the target of a whole armada of manned and unmanned expeditions. In the end, it was a rather boring piece of rock, ice and Helium. However... it was large enough to drag a significant part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter with it. And this tail of thousands of rocks turned into a cloud that tumbled through the inner solar system.
    2083 was the year in which the first small asteroids hit earth and crashed in the atlantic ocean. The resulting tsunami spared the american continents - but it washed away all tracks of humanity from the canarian islands, cleared the north african west coast and Portugal. Of course, the tsunami was only one aspect of the catastrophe. Seismic effects, short term climatic changes from clouds and dust in the atmosphere, long term changes due to the effect on the gulf stream...
    This impact would have long term consequences beyond the first half billion victims. And sooner or later, more impacts would occur. Impacts of larger asteroids.
    It happened sooner.
    By 2095, three more asteroids had hit earth, 4 more passed earth much too close.
    Attempts to destroy approaching asteroids showed mixed success. The second and the third asteroid absorbed the majority of nuclear warheads earth could muster and had armed orbital defense satellites with. The second asteroid was again a rather small one and was blown to small pieces that rained down as in comparism harmless boulders. The third one was too large and at least broke down to pieces that at least only resulted in catastrophes - and not total destruction.
    It became clear that attempts to blow the asteroids apart could only reduce the degree of destruction, but not avoid it. It was just a way to buy time, but destruction seemed inevitable.
    If humanity was to survive, it would not be on earth.
    Colonization of space seemed to be the only solution.

    Earth by the mid of the 21st century looked in a discomforting way similar to how it looked a century ago. An increasing degree of nationalism, cold war in the rise again and again a highly instable south american and african continent. What economic progress the nations there had achieved was overcompensated by climate change and political and ideological instability.
If something had inhabited the traveller, it would have encountered a world with several competing blocks.
The European Union had survived a Phase of downsizing and was eventually refounded as a Federal Republic, much like the United States used to be and even more resembling the german republic. However, the borders had expanded to the North African coast which functioned as a heavily guarded border region and at the same time a belt of solar power plants.
With almost drained petrol depots, the arabic world steadily descended back to the state it inherited prior the petrol age.
The asian demisphere was dominated by 3 powers - the russian empire, the chinese federation and the United Protectorates of America which covered most of the pacific nations that refused to be consumed by chinese expansion.
No need to say that the UPAs territory covered the whole north american continent and about half of the south american. What was left effectively worked as a giant ghetto where UPA citizens that had lost their civil rights had been exiled. Canada had at first associated with the FSE - until it was krimed by the UPA

    (krimed had at that time become a term that refers to the first russian expansion. Continuing with this method later led to the russian empire - whose borders resembled those of the UDSSR and that expanded further and further in FSE-territory.)
    The Traveller would have seen a world just one step away from a hot war between the russian empire and the FSE.
Protection from the UPA was possible and not without precedence - but since 2025 every intervention came at the cost of sovereignity. The Exit of the USA from the NATO marked the rise of the UPA.
2112 was the year in which the last political block had started the construction of the first colonization ships in earth or moon orbit.
The FSE had built a fortified space port on the devastated and uninhabited canary Islands, since it had no more access to the Space Ports in Cape Caneveral, Baikonur or even the former ESA-Site.

    All of the colonization expeditions faced common problems.

    Where to go?
    So far, no other inhabitable planet was known to mankind - there only had been a couple of destinations with a certain chance to find a planet fit for colonization. Once started, the trip would be a one-shot. If the destination turns out to be uninhabitable, chances that fuel will suffice to go somewhere else are close to non existent. The reason for that was quite simple... slowing down takes as much time and fuel as it took to speed up... and building up the speed for interstellar travel would require years to accelerate.
    Even if the planet provides basic conditions that allow for colonization, that does not mean that no terraforming will be required. As a consequence, each expedition will need at least the capabilities to initiate terraforming - and to set up a colony that is able to survive even under conditions that will only eventually allow human survival.

    Whom to take along?
    Each block started with one ship - and chances were good that this would be the only ship that would get the opportunity to leave earth. One of the largest problems regarding the population was to ensure support for the mission. A mission that was not intended to evacuate the people, but to give humanity the opportunity for survival. On the cognitive level, it was apparent that each block would only be able to send a few thousand people - as opposed to billions of citizens. A few thousands also would be required to ensure a suffitienty diverse genetic pool to allow the population to survive. In addition, not only genetic but also educational diversity is required. Scientists, engineers, all kinds of crafters. But this lead to a couple of other problems. A certain degree of colonists already needed to have the required skills - and almost all skills needed to be available. On the other hand, depending on the kind of ship, those specialists would need to survive the trip, so they needed to be relatively young.

    How to survive the trip?
    In each and any scenario, the voyage would last centuries, maybe millenia. That alone leaves only two alternatives- generation ships or hibernation. Generation ships of course have a much higher need for room, life support systems and supplies. In addition, they bear the risk that the colonists adapt too much to life in space and maybe even loose the abilities required later. After all, those skills would have no practical use on the trip and would need to be given down from generation to generation.
    Hence, UPA and FSE decided to research hibernation techniques. China went for a generation ship - in part due to access to almost unlimited building supplies from the mining facilities on the moon. The russian solution was still not decided upon when the other three ships finally left earth.

    The decision about what to research was something worth mentioning - because none of the blocks had the technologies required for colonization when they began building the ships. They started with what they knew and the design and capabilities evolved with scientific progress. There was not really another choice - building a single ship would take at least ten years and no one was willing to take the risk to begin only when every problem was already solved. In the end, "at least ten years" became 17 years.

    What drive to use?
    A chemical drive was out of the question due to the massive requirements of fuel and no practical way to replace used fuel on the trip.
    Informal and involuntary knowledge exchange finally led to all ships using the same drive technology. Fusion technology was finally available and provided both an energy source for the ship and a drive. Since Hydrogen and Helium are both fit as fuel and have at least a chance to be found somewhere on the way, the solution appeared practical.

    The FSE eventually found a combined solution for the problems of survival on the journey and the required education of the limited number of colonists.
Stuffed deeply away in a drawer with useless inventions was a technique for direct neural knowledge induction. Basically, it allowed to let a person to learn while asleep. At the time of the first practical demonstration, it was awarded with a Nobel Price. Afterwards, it went directly to the drawer due to extreme inefficiency - the process was so slow that transporting the equivalent of 1 page of plain text information took about 20 hours with some tolerance depending on the recipient. Transfer of motoric skills took extremely longer. As a matter of fact, that technology was pretty useless - with a few exceptions that quickly became illegal in the FSE.
With the development of an hibernation technique that let the subject sleep in a state similar to a coma while reducing vital functions to an absolute minimum, the neural induction was dug out again. Time was no limiting factor in this case and the formerly useless method became a practical solution.
    It was Common Sense that the ultimate priority of each expedition was to set up a colony that was able to survive on its own. Hence, every ship was required to carry the equipment to quickly set up industrial capacity for mining and refinery.
    However, at this time the UPA had already followed a doctrine first implemented in the early 21st century that allowed a different approach. In a nutshell, the argumentation was that the UPA had ensured peace, freedom and democracy in the world for about a century, so it was deemed only fair if it claims compensation for that role. A reduction of industrial equipment allowed for more american citizens to be taken along. The know-how in those areas was inferior anyway - natural resources on UPA Territory had been depleted decades ago and almost any sophisticated civil technology had been imported for a long time. Local products concentrated on the traditional sectors of information technologies and military equipment. Almost every other industry was still existent, but everybody who could afford it chose Chinese or European products.
Since nobody could see a reason why a colony would need weapons - beyond hunting equipment - no expedition wasted space, fuel and training on weapons. Wasted. The UPA did not intend to waste any of it. The weapons and specialized personnel they made room for in their ship were an investment in American citizens future.
    In early 2127, the UPA ship „Ranger“ was the first to leave earth orbit. Its destination had been kept secret - for good reason. The trip was extremely short - „Ranger“ flew no further than Mars. Mars would have made a poor alternative to earth for colonization - not only because of the required terraforming, but also because Mars was just like earth subject to continuous asteroid bombardment. But Mars was not „Rangers“ destination. „Ranger“ waited in Mars orbit.
    The summer of 2127 saw the start of the FES ship named „Daedalus“. As its destination, the Trapist-1 system in the Aquarius-sector had been chosen. With 7 planets resembling earth - as far as scientists could tell - it bore the best chances for founding a colony. With a distance of just 40 light years, the system was also extremely close. It seemed unfair - and from an objective perspective it actually was. Trapist-1 would have been the best choice for any ship, but due to the short distance it should have been the destination for the chinese generation ship. But building of that ship had not yet been completed and FSE was not willing to give up that opportunity. There was no price for good sportsmanship in this competition after all. If diplomacy and intelligence was to be trusted, „Ranger“ did not go to Trapist-1 as well.
    „Daedalus“ did not set direct course. To build up speed, a complicated course from one gravitational field of solar systems planets to another was much more efficient - though, longer. And due to the positions of Mars and Jupiter also predictable.
    There was one unique field of technology the UPA researched with maximum priority: The means to detect and follow a space ship. When „Daedalus“ performed its slingshot maneuver around Mars onwards to Jupiter, „Ranger“ picked up the track and followed unnoticed by „Daedalus“, whose every maneuver was analyzed and mimicked ever after by „Ranger“.
    „Daedalus“ left the solar system, all the time under full thrust of the fusion drive. Acceleration lasted for 5 years, until the drive could not increase velocity any more. The engine was shut down and „Daedalus“ fell towards Trapist-1 at 0.6c.
    „Ranger“ followed.

    At home, humanity finally found a way to avert destruction. Ironically, the further development of the fusion drive led to the solution and earths destruction was postponed for a few millennia. „Daedalus“ and „Ranger“ never learned about it - which would also have been pointless, because fuel would have sufficed to slow down, but not to build up speed for returning.

  3. #3

    Re: A matter of perspective

    still does not feel very 40k, right? Patience. Wait for part 4 - but you already know the end.

    Part 2 - Odyssey

    Something else was going on as well that the colonists were not aware of. The 5 years of acceleration had been determined in earth time. On the ships, the high velocity interfered with the passing of time and the situation was different. At that time only 4 years had passed so far. Now that both were traveling at 0.6c, time dilatation would mean that 2 years on earth would equal mere 15 months on the ships. An increase of speed also increases the dilatation factor. That factor was increased significantly 50 years later, when the ship KI awakened the „Daedalus“-crew. Nothing apparent had changed - no damage to the ship, no imminent danger. What had changed was the velocity. No one ever found out why and how, but the situation was that velocity had increased to 2.4c. Which meant that Trapist-1 would not be reached.

    First, because „Daedalus“ fuel reserves would not allow the ship to reduce speed sufficiently.

    Second, because even if fuel would suffice, „Daedalus“ would be far beyond Trapist-1 once velocity even went below 1c. Approximately 220 light years too far.

    Third, the fusion drive would not even work at all to slow the ship down. A fusion drive emits particles at light speed. Firing it in driving direction would usually work to slow it down… but not when traveling above light speed. To make the drive work, it would require particles to be emitted faster than the ships own speed.

    The only thing that could be done was to utilize the drive to make amendments to the course.
    But where to go?
    Only a degree away from the current course and 610 lightyears ahead shone the Helix Nebula - also known as the eye of god. Hope was to find 2 powers there that might at least reduce the dire situation:

    1. inertia
    Nebula often feature a comparatively high density of Helium and Hydrogen particles. Besides an opportunity to refill the fuel depots there with the particle collectors that each of the fusion driven ships was equipped with, it might also help to slow down the ship. Particle collectors are basically circular sails of molecular-thin, self healing tissue with a diameter of 5 km. Provided that particle density would not exceed a critical degree and not too many particles larger and heavier that Helium, the continuous impact on the ship might eventually slow it down.
    2. gravity
    Back in the solar system, the slingshot maneuver allowed „Daedalus“ to build up speed. The same principle could be used to slow down the ship. However, the high velocity required something stronger than a planets gravity field. Something strong enough to have an effect on something as fast as light or faster - in theory.
    Something like the black hole in the center of the nebula.
    It is difficult to say how long „Daedalus“ and „Ranger“ spent circling around the center of the eye of god in a close, but safe distance to the event horizon. Ship time indicated 124 years, but the effects of speed-induced time dilatation now were multiplied by an unknown factor with the effects of the massive gravity field.
    The „Daedalus“ crew was awakened again when velocity finally fell below 1c. At this point, all the crew could do was guessing in which direction to continue. The nebula itself was uninhabitable. Due to radiation across the whole spectrum, everything outside was invisible, so all they could hope for was to exit the nebula in a direction that did not deviate too far away from a system with an inhabitable planet.
    They had an amount of good luck that happens only in stories. The course that spat them out of the nebula needed some adjustment, but eventually after additional 180 years of ship time took them to a system they otherwise would never had chosen, but provided everything they needed. First, 2 planets in the comfortable zone of a star resembling the sun at home. The other 5 planets had no features worth mentioning. What WAS worth mentioning was the fact that not only the planets circled around the star - the star featured a circular movement as well. A movement around an invisible spot in a far distance. In cosmic terms, a very fast movement that indicated that that spot can only be another singularity.
    But without any other choice, „Daedalus“ made use of the gravitational circumstances and began exploration of the two possible planets. Eventually „Ranger“ arrived as well and took a waiting and observing position in a safe distance outside the system. 15 years. That long would „Ranger“ wait and give „Daedalus“ time to explore, to set up a working colony and to overcome the expected early difficulties. Then they would take over.
    Last edited by Ravengrove; 25-11-2018 at 12:43.

  4. #4

    Re: A matter of perspective

    Part 3 - Utgard
    The outermost of the two potentially inhabitable planets turned out to contain the jackpot and was named Utgard - after the mythical realm beyond. The climate was slightly colder than on earth average with polar caps covering a quarter of the surface. Two continents were located in the equatorial plane and featured in the warmest regions a climate resembling the circumstances in canada and southern scandinavia. Mild summers, harsh winters. With much tolerance and a high degree of wishful thinking, one might even have recognized parallels in the flora of those regions. The Fauna resembled in a similar remote way that of earths fauna during pleistocene.
    The inner planetary candidate was less inhabitable and could best be described as a grey tinted version of Mars with an atmosphere of nitrogen and sulfur. The name Niflheim seemed appropriate.
    Like back on earth, the sun was just called „the sun“ by the „Daedalus“ colonists, though officially it was given the name Hall. The close black hole was given an name fitting its destructive and eventually inevitable power: Ragnarök
    The „Daedalus“-colonists began building the colony and at the same time disassembling „Daedalus“. Mining and refinery equipment stored for centuries were landed, the hull provided material for the first buildings and the fusion drive provided energy. When „Ranger“ awoke after the 15 years of board time and set course on Utgard, not much was left of once mighty „Daedalus“.
    A first scout shuttle was sent down in the atmosphere at night to provide reconnaissance for the coming invasion. Localising the Daedalus settlements was easier than expected - the colonists had built a much larger infrastructure in the equatorial region of one of three continents on more locations than should have been anticipated for mere 15 years. The colony consisted of several small settlements in three clusters with one large settlement in the center of each cluster and villages getting smaller with growing distance from those centers. Taking the number and sizes of those settlements into account and even with a significant tolerance, Ranger operations command could not help but make significant corrections to the estimations on Utgards population. „Daedalus“ had transported approximately 3.000 colonists - but the infrastructure based estimations indicated at least 8.000 adults, maybe 12.000.
    That would require changes to the operational parameters. Especially retaining peace and controlling the Daedalus colonists would get much more difficult. Even unarmed colonists are hard to keep under control if in large enough numbers. Civil rights would be reserved for „Ranger“ personnel anyway - the „Daedalus“ colonists would have to endure a few more restrictions then. Given the dimensions in population estimations, even a reduction of population seemed necessary. The infrastructure was very likely to survive a period of reduced usage or mothballing until the newcomers population would catch up with it.
    Infrastructure… well, there was another anomaly. There seemed to be two categories of settlements. The smaller settlements looked pretty much as expected - housing for a few dozen people surrounded by cultivated farmland, sometimes smaller production facilities of some kind.
    Larger settlements, however, looked different. First, in addition to the housing found in smaller settlements large enough for a family, there were always also rows of much larger buildings. Only a few of those could be classified as warehouses or production facilities, most seemed to be housing for a larger number of inhabitants. Common to all those larger settlements was also a large square of open space adjacent to one or more of the larger houses. That square always had a side length of approximately 100 yards. Another feature common to all those settlements were light fortifications with fences and watch towers. Ranger analysts came to the conclusion that both features indicated the presence of local predators from which livestock needs protection and that the building next to the squares would most likely be stables instead of housing for settlers. The question why the smaller settlements featured no similar protection remained unanswered,
    At the same time, those fortifications indicated the presence of more light arms than assumed before.
    The center of the colony cluster farthest to the west was chosen for first annexation. It seemed suitable as a beach head. 2 companies seemed sufficient to encourage unarmed colonists to comply with a change of management. In fact, it appeared more like an overkill - meant as a statement of discouragement.
    According to the plan the strike force would make a parachute assault. The square looked like the perfect place for the troopers to enter the settlement at night. The guardians expected to be on the towers would not expect an attack from inside. The only concern and subject of mocking between the troopers was who would land in cow dung.
    „Alpha Three-Twelve for Alpha Three.“
    „Alpha Three. What’s up Hendricks?“
    „Sarge… can’t help it, but that does not look like a paddock to me… more like… a drill ground. And those buildings…“
    „I see what you mean. Look like barracks. We’ll know in 20 seconds.“
    Hendricks was right and sergeant Donovans was too. Exactly 20 seconds later Alpha and Beta company landed on the drill ground. A drill ground suddenly illuminated by flood lights. What kind of ***** could confuse a concrete covered drill ground with a paddock? 6 seconds later heavy machine guns on the towers opened fire on the soldiers. Twelve seconds later the surviving 42 „Rangers“ had taken cover between the buildings and called for immediate evacuation. They had so far already learned a few things reconnaissance had failed to notice.
    For example a clear strip of at least 15 yards between the fence and the closest buildings. There was also a fence dividing the settlements in three segments, allowing passage through guarded gates. The closest gate was the place where the „Rangers“ made first contact with enemy soldiers. Soldiers. As surprising as that realization came, 35 „Rangers“ broke through. The uniforms the guards wore strung a chord somewhere in the memory related to history lessons at school back on earth. At that time, the barracks behind spat out the reinforcements and the paratroopers were quickly outnumbered. They ran, ran through the second district and around the next corner… and around another one. One man stumbled out of a door, tired, confused and afraid. The „Rangers“ seized him and took him along. 32 made it to the free space where the shuttles landed to pick them up. 28 survived… 28 of 200. Some of them uninjured.
    Last edited by Ravengrove; 10-12-2018 at 12:47.

  5. #5

    Re: A matter of perspective

    The prisoner they brought back to „Ranger“ closed many of the numerous gaps in the puzzle that was the Utgardian colony - after they overcame the language barrier, since the prisoner did not speak a single word of english.
    First, but not foremost, they learned that the distance to Ragnarök apparently had a direct influence on the passage of time. The waiting orbit that took „Ranger“ one time around the black hole until it met up with Hall again had a smaller diameter than Halls orbit around Ragnarök had. As a consequence, during the 15 years measured on „Ranger“, 52 years had passed on Utgard. 52 years in which the colony stabilized, grew and prospered - in some way.
    The social development of the colony remained an unsolvable riddle. The UPA had already embraced the concept of a classed society decades ago - but facing a society in which genetic heritage made the difference between being part of either a ruling elite or a caste of slaves was still something they felt more than uncomfortable with. Understanding why colonists from the almost pathologically tolerant and liberal FSE created a totalitarian society with more than obvious ideological and aesthetical influences from 20th century NS germany would have required insights to occurrences that took place back on earth only months prior to „Daedalus’“ departure.
    The neural knowledge induction technique had not been used on earth for two reason - the aspect of its ridiculous inefficiency being the more obvious one. The other aspect was responsible for the method having been actually outlawed. Inducted knowledge could be configured to be dominant - meaning that it would completely override contradicting knowledge - or ethic attitudes and socialization. When what Alfred Rotland, a 31 years old system operator for the NKI system, had done was finally discovered, it was much too late. „Daedalus“ was already on its way, a few historical files had been deleted, cultural, biological and ethical schedule files had been amended. The man who ended his life in a psychiatric clinic had found a way to create a society that thought of him as a mythical Führer and founder, a society that drew a line between one group that was hence considered a superhuman race destined for leadership - and inferior, lesser men born for service. The careful selection of colonists to ensure genetic diversity in the colony that was considered critical for a long term survival of humanity had become irrelevant the moment the ship started. The „power by strength“ doctrine meant that the rulership of the „superhumans“ had to be maintained by force, leading to the immediate implementation of a security caste and the production of adequate weapons to keep the „inferiors“ under control.
    By the time „Ranger“ started the invasion, most of the first generation colonists had already died of old age. Indoctrination of the second and later generations took place in a more conventional way - but stayed extremely effective. Each and every one of the original colonists had been programmed - be it slave or master - to embrace his role in society. Not only accept, but literally embrace.
    For many of the „Rangers“, this resulted in a perceived change of the mission. Taking over a helpless colony by force turned into a liberation expedition. Or, from a less idealistic perspective: a fight for survival against a more than equal opponent. After all, the Utgardians did not only turn out to be much better armed than expected… they also had many more soldiers. Even before the „Rangers“ ran in a deathtrap that cost them a third of their military personnel.
    The „Rangers“ did not have the required resources to build an own colony and had to conquer at least one of the existing settlement clusters. The only chance they saw was an attack with all remaining forces on the clusters center and then taking over one outpost after the other. The significant disadvantage in numbers meant that even if a settlement could be conquered, the „Rangers“ could not spare personnel to permanently defend it afterwards against counterattacks. This slowed the progress of the campaign significantly - and several settlements were just cleared from enemies, but not used yet. They needed to wait until their population had grown sufficiently to actually make use of the infrastructure. The degree of indoctrination of both masters and slaves made the liberation of the Utgardians theoretical desirable - but completely impractical. With this in mind, the invaders set the objectives to securing infrastructure and decimation of the current population. The development of non permanent chemical agents helped much in achieving these goals.
    A technological advantage in the beginning and especially air superiority allowed the invaders to both push the conquest and defend what they had already taken. However, this meant that the trained soldiers permanently hopped from mission to mission - and all the time, their numbers dwindled further and further. Military service for the civilian settlers was established during the first weeks - but eventually, new specialized recruits had been trained.
    It took about half a year to secure the first cluster and establish a territory controlled by the invaders. At that time, their military strength had been reduced to little more than a single company - but they consolidated and eventually their population did grow. Both sides concentrated on military development, with the first colonists resorting much on the historical and technological files the arms-enthusiast Rotland had stored in Daedalus’ databases. Growth was significantly slowed by the losses in the conflict - but both sides acted careful enough to limit their own losses.
    78 years after the invasion, the Heimatverteidigung - as the defenders called their military then - had built a respectable host of tanks and self propelled guns. With limited production capabilities and resources, the Heimatverteidigung valued flexible designs in their equipment. As a result, each tank could quite easily be adjusted to a given situations requirements.
    The Liberation Force, on the other hand, stuck to their Hit-and-Run doctrine with few light, but fast and hard hitting vehicles and aircraft. However… aircraft that dated back to the landing and that was used and maintained very careful, since the local industry had only then reached a capacity where new aircraft could be produced.
    In that year, 78 years after the arrival of „Ranger“, a trace of fire in the sky marked the arrival of a spaceship of unknown origin.

  6. #6

    Re: A matter of perspective

    Part 4 - Taken
    The ship crossed the sky and disappeared behind the horizon. Not even one hour later, the fiery dot appeared above the red woods around the oldest - and largest - colony cluster. Rotland. That name was of course no coincidence. Naming the colony after the mythic founder was a bit more than merely suggested by the neural programming the Daedalus colonists had been subject to. That this rural region suitable for a colony was covered with red-leafed, treelike plants appeared just like destiny, adding a duality to the name as the region was indeed a „red land“.
    As the spark descended on Huninsdorf, a medium sized settlement less than 50 kilometers away from the Rotlands core settlement, sirens woke up and heavy machine guns pivoted up to the descending flying object.
    It was not the first time the invaders of the LF launched an airborne surprise attack - and all but the smallest settlements had been equipped with at least basic anti air defense weapons. The heavy machine guns previously primarily mounted on towers to keep subhuman inmates in slave camps under control were just as well useable against light aircraft. In theory, they were fit to actually bring down LF-aircraft - and at least damaged them on several occassions. However… enough to make the LF think twice about using their most valuable military assets that could to a certain degree be repaired - but until recently not replaced.
    To make things worse, those machine guns turned up everywhere in ridiculous amounts. With the enhanced carrying capacity of the new Asgard Exo Armor worn by more and more of the HV forces, the current patterns of those heavy machine guns had even become standard equipment for most HV-infantrists.
    As a consequence, the LF usually kept their storm shuttles carefully out of reach of anti air weapons. Following a centuries-long tradition, the HV had given those enemy shuttles an own name: „Aasgeier“ - meaning „vulture“ - had obviously been chosen for propaganda purposes. The HV was oblivious to the fact that the name chosen by the LF was „Condor“. This coincidence was even more unlikely because the actual design of the Condor certainly did not resemble a bald headed scavenger bird and instead a winged dolphin… with a large degree of imagination.
    Taking all of this, the distance to the front line and the strategic relevance of Huninsdorf into consideration let an attack appear extremely unlikely.
    And yet, there was that aircraft approaching Huninsdorf at that day - apparently indifferent to the defensive fire. While being roughly the same size as a Condor, it did not even resemble the LF storm shuttle. And last, but not least - it apparently had more firepower than a Condor with gunship loadout. When the last of the four towers harboring the defensive guns finally had burst in a cloud of dust, splinters and blood, the debris of the first had not even touched the ground.
    Then, it landed right in front of the gate in an obfuscating cloud of dust.
    Powerful searchlights mounted on the shuttle lit up, illuminating the dust cloud from inside. Against the backlight, an almost human looking shape walked out of the cloud. Almost human, for it was as high as a large man, and like a man, it had two legs and two arms. It was just the lack of a head above the massive shoulders that made the difference.
    Behind it, other figures of more human shape and size ran down the ramp and formed a circle around the ship. Four more emerged at a much slower pace and took position behind the inhuman shape that apparently was the leader.
    There they waited, the soldiers forming a gun line in front of the ship, still partially obscured by the illuminated cloud. Amplified words tore the silence that had settled on the scene to be heard by anyone in a radius of at least a hundred yards. Unfortunately, hearing and comprehending are not the same… the leaders words were nor more than incomprehensible gibberish to the HV soldiers behind the walls.
    Actually, a very few words remotely reminded of german. For several of the other words, there would have been a small chance of recognition and comprehension among the Daedalus descendants. Would. If only the roman languages so common in the FSE-territory had not been extinguished by the neural induction during „Daedalus’“ voyage. If that had not been the case, maybe a few colonists would have had the chance to recognize degenerated elements of latin.
    Eventually, the dust began to settle and more than just the silhouette of the leader became visible. It WAS a man - a man wearing a massive suit of ornate exo-armour. The impression of a missing head came from the weird proportions of that armor with the shoulder sections reaching above the head - now instead of being headless, the impression was that of a hulking hunchback with a bald and beardy face sitting in the upper chest.
    The speech ended, and both the HV soldiers and the newcomers waited. At least one of the previously ruined towers had been occupied again in the meantime with a HV gunner that took cover there. A overly enthusiastic gunner that showed initiative when the tension of waiting became too much. He took his time to take aim on the hulking leader and pulled the trigger, ripping apart the silence with a salvo from his heavy automatic rifle. Earlier versions of this gun had required mounting on a tripod to reduce scattering - and to control the significant repulsion. With this generation, the repulsion was still more than an average soldier could handle - if HV powered infantry exo armor were not standard equipment at that time and ensured a safe hand and aim. 56 projectiles hit an area with a diameter of less than 4 inches. 4 hits would have ripped a hole in HV exo armor and killed the wearer. 10 projectiles would have had a good chance of piercing the light armor on a recon tank. The 56 bullets instead only left quickly dying spots of bluish illumination ten inches before hitting the massive armor.
    The man calmly looked at the tower with the concealed gunner and his lips moved as he spoke a few more words, this time not amplified. 3 heartbeats later, a device on the ships hull briefly twitched, glowed and spat a painfully bright ball of blue and white heat at the tower, through the tower, through the marksman and further in the sky behind. 24 more balls followed, leaving an irregular line of holes with glowing edges in the villages outer wall. Irregular from the perspective of outside the wall. On the inner side, however, each hole in the plastocrete corresponded to a cauterized, fist-sized tunnel through 24 HV soldiers that stood there and slowly sank to the ground.
    While the gun still fired balls of plasma, the leader searched the horizon and found a range of small mountains aproximately 15 miles away. He spoke a few words more unheard by the defenders of Huninsdorf, followed by one single, amplified word to ensure everybody’s attention when he pointed in the direction of the mountains. Something dropped with a lightnings speed from the sky and literally pulverized one of the mountains at the impact with a blinding flash. Seconds later, the boom, the shockwave and the tremor reached Huninsdorf.
    When the ground eventually stopped shaking, Unteroffizier Steiger struggled to his feet again. Hauptgefreiter Lenke did not - he was the 24th victim of the plasma salvo that had been mowed down almost a minute ago. One more shot and Steiger would have been number 25. Including the 15 men and women that had died on the towers, the garrison had already lost 39 soldiers. What were the chances that the remaining 12 members of the Platoon could successfully fight off those unknown attackers? Not good. The still hot round holes in the wall provided a means of taking a look what happened outside the settlement. The shuttle was still there and as he watched, the last of the enemy soldiers came to their feet. Once more incomprehendible words in that foreign language washed over the walls of Huninsdorf - apparently, it was the large, armored man in front of them who spoke.
    Behind him, he heard steps approaching the gate and a single command… „Öffnen!“. Leutnant Kramer, Oberfeldwebel Junkers and Feldwebel Grote left their rifles and Pistols at the gate and walked outside, raising their hands and putting them behind their heads. Submission… all of a sudden, surviving the day seemed a little more likely to Steiger. He looked through the hole again and zoomed on the large leader that made a waving gesture towards the platoon officers.

    Come forward.

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