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New Dawn

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“Okay people, listen up.” Delta One’s voice slicing through the comm network was more than enough to silence the entire squad. He was a hardened warrior, having fought in the bloody battles and experienced the brutalities of guerilla warfare. “The New Dawn has been drifting here for centuries now. Chances are nobody has even touched it since it was destroyed. The tower’s been exposed to the environment for a long time, so expect radiation hotspots. Now, we need to examine this thing for any signs of possible hiding xenos. They’ve been pushed back from this region, but they might’ve used the New Dawn and its companions as garrisons. See anything, sing out immediately. Alpha and Beta squads are searching the lower floors, so we don’t have as wide a search area to cover. Delta Two, take sector L5. Delta Three, sector L6, Delta Four, sector….”


* * * *

Delta One walked in the ruins of the control floor. His eyes constantly roved, not allowing the carnage to distract him. It was bad, yes, but he had seen much worse during his stint as a guerilla fighter. His legendary one-man charge through enemy lines during the Battle for Kalphero had rallied the retreating human troops, barely scraping a victory. War had hardened him; if there was any emotion he felt striding among the ruins of New Dawn, he hid it well.

He paused at the door to Command A, but only for a second. His gloved hand hovered over the keypad, about to open it. The door fell.
The room was in absolute disarray. Burns lacerated the wall, and bodies were strewn everywhere. Not all of them were human. “Xenos”, he muttered with a grimace. Spider webs of cracks blossomed within the alloy glass. Walking to the glass, he gazes out and takes in the sea of wreckages. He could only imagine what could have taken place here all those years ago. Scanning the room, his eyes fell on a black object that seemed out of place, forlorn and forgotten in a corner; a dead hand clutched it. Curious, he walked over and picked it up, recognizing the object as an antique version of the audio diary. Glancing over his surroundings one last time before committing himself to the diary, he pressed a button on the diary. Click. A holograph instantly appears, crackling with static, suffusing the room with a flickering blue light.

* * * *

>CALIBRATING>
>SCANNING FILES>
>PLAY>

October 11, 2545


During the conference with the Fleets Admiral and the six other admirals, we have discussed the Merchant Federation’s prospect of developing intergalactic settler ships. Additionally, I have been ordered to transfer my fleet to the interstellar regions of the Perimeter to act as a replacement for the Outer Orbital Fleet. In light of the recent insurrections from the Outer Colonies, the Orbital Fleet has suffered casualties, and will need to be refitted before they can set off again.
It will be a lonely post. We will have to patrol the outermost edges of known space, the Perimeter, for seven years, the time required to make a full orbit. There are only four Skyfortresses acting as outposts, each several light-years apart. I wonder what I have done to offend the Fleets Admiral. Perhaps it was the cartoon that I made of him…
There have been several missing people’s reports in the past few months on the Perimeter; it is an open secret that the Fleets Admiral, the boss of us all, is hoping for some more information on that.
Colonel Schmidt will be coming to fetch me. He has a way with piloting starships that few people will ever have and is a most valuable asset to my flagship, the Dawn Reaper.
I see Schmidt now; gesturing to me from behind the office window. I must go now. The Third Fleet will have to set off now if we are to make it in time.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:48>



November 8, 2545


The Third Fleet has arrived at a StarMonitor. We will remain here for a few days, and then move the Fleet to its correct trajectory. It will be tricky to avoid running into the Auxiliary Perimeter Fleet, which will be arriving soon. Starships sideswiping each other at extremely high speeds are not a pretty sight. Patching them up is notoriously expensive. I hope the accident on Octanus IV will not repeat itself.



Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:25>



December 29, 2545


We are not going as fast as I had initially hoped for. Several days ago, a MAS siege tank broke free of its electromagnetic moorings, damaging the Galewind’s gravitational mass equalizer, and causing the frigate to collide with a Hummingbird-class striker… the Flammifer, I think. Since the local StarMonitor is repairing its Artificial Atmosphere generators, we were forced to land on Avionsyl for repairs, delaying us by several weeks.
My original plan, to utilize the Scorpion System’s far-flung gravitational range as a slingshot, is now snowballed. Instead, the Fleet will have to fling across the Eriadanus System to make up for the lost time. It is a dangerous route due to the massive asteroid belt and numerous comets. I can only hope nothing goes wrong.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:27>



January 8, 2546


We have arrived at the Archon. A few days before we had arrived, debris had breached the hull of a Cyclonis Interceptor, dragging Sergeant Joshua Mattson off into space in the resulting vacuum before the lockdown doors could close.

Mattson’s body has been recovered and is being prepared for transport back to his home planet, Odessia, on a Hydrogen Processor Station. Not the most fitting, perhaps, but it is the only ship that is currently heading towards Odessia, so it will have to do.

The Perimeter is a dangerous place as the monotonous view will quickly sap the vigilance of any crew. I hope no ships will drift off like the Acionyx did. The crew was burned to death by spatial anomaly radiation.
Regardless, the Fleet will leave in a few days and begin its patrol. In that time, the Fleet will be largely isolated from any of the colonies until we stop at any of the Skyfortresses.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:34>



January 12, 2546

The Third Fleet is currently waiting for my order to cast off right now, so I must make this brief. Personally, I think the Fleets Admiral really is hoping for us to shed some light on the Perimeter 56th Patrol that failed to rendezvous with a StarMonitor, and has been presumed lost. His son was the squadron leader of that Patrol.
Ah, I see Master Chief Alexander Wicks now. His arrival means the Fleet has finally run out of patience. Yes Wicks, wait for a moment longer. Communications with colonies are extremely difficult to maintain on the Perimeter, so I hope that nothing will go wrong while we are out patrolling the Perimeter.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:39>

>FILES CORRUPTED, UNPLAYABLE>
>FFW>

April 18, 2549


The Perimeter has been kind on us. In the course of three years, we have lost only two supply ships and one Hummingbird striker, the former two resulting from a collision, and the latter resulting from a reactor explosion. Thankfully, I was not required to write anymore names in the KIA roster in the aftermath of any of these incidents.
The monotonous view changes little. Discipline is becoming harder to maintain, despite all of the officers’ efforts. The only time the monotony is lifted is when all hands are called to shatter a careering asteroid, or when strike fighters are dispatched to deal with pirates. Though no threat to us, they pose a constant hazard to tankers with few escorts. Disturbingly, we have found the ruins of some luxury crafts perched on asteroids. Civilians are always well warned of the dangers of the Perimeter, but even so, some reckless person always falls prey to the Perimeter. But even so, there are too many ships to be dismissed as just, as First Officer Colbin puts it, “piloted by fools who decide to see the Reaper a bit earlier than normal.” Neither can it be dismissed as pirates. Speaking of the devil, I see Colbin…he looks grim.


Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:56>



May 07, 2549


We have found the missing Perimeter Patrol. All of the ships were destroyed. Judging from the way the splintered starships drift, something ripped right through them…the six ships of the 56th Patrol have all been accounted for…the Fleets Admiral will not like the news.

Following Colbin’s report, I have sent recon onto one of the starships that were damaged the least. Perhaps the ship’s log could tell us more.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:28>



May 10, 2549


We are under way again. The recon has found little within the ship that could enable us to gain a better understanding, except that the warship had been disrupted down to the molecular levels. What could be gleaned from the ship’s corrupted log only emphasized the need for a more thorough search, one that required planet-based salvage teams. I have my own suspicions…what are the chances of hostile aliens? Ridiculous, I know, but ever since that Tychus Event six years ago…I should keep that in mind.
Rebellions have flared up again in the Epsilon System. We will have to temporarily turn off course to support the hard-pressed garrisons and drop off the ruins somewhere. Maybe Jericho.

Admiral Holland, out.


>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:30>


>FILES CORRUPTED, UNPLAYABLE>
>FFW>

June 28, 2553


My fears have been realized. Before returning to the Skyfortress Archon again after our seven years, all I could do was try to convince myself that I was paranoid and there was a perfectly logical explanation. However, as we docked in, we were told of the invasion. I have learned that hostiles had entered the Perimeter. My best guess is that they happened onto the 56th; then proceeded to destroy it. Taking advantage of our absence they moved further inspace until they were in position to attack the Eastern Twelfth Fleet from three ways. It was a tactical nightmare. The Fleet tried to hold them off so nearby Jericho’s civilians could evacuate. They fought valiantly, but in the end the Twelfth Fleet was ravaged and Jericho’s crust was shattered. Out of Jericho’s population of three million, two thousand escaped.

Presently, the Forty-Second Northern Fleet, commanded by Bovenkerk, and what remains of the Eastern Fleet have rallied. Several auxiliary companies have also joined, in an attempt to halt the relentless advance before they can reach the Inner Colonies. Final preparations are being made by the Forty-Second Fleet; the invasion fleet is expected to make contact in the next few weeks. The Northern Fleet is strong and Bovenkerk is a decent commander, but I fear that they alone will not be enough to counteract the enemy.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:41>




July 04, 2553

The survivors of the coalition fleet were methodically hunted down and slaughtered. It was a quick battle.
There is now no one else protecting Earth except us. Four of the Perimeter Skyfortresses have been moved, arranged into a defensive formation that envelops Earth more than one thousand and five light years away. I have been stationed to New Dawn. But this is only to buy time. A single Skyfortress, the Yggdrasil, is now heading outside the Perimeter as I speak. In the event we fall, there will only be the Home Fleet protecting the Inner Colonies; Earth would most certainly be wiped out. This will leave the Yggdrasil as the last bastion of humanity. It is our only hope.
No news of Bovenkerk’s flagship yet, I fear it will not be one of the pitiful ships limping back now.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:43>



July 15, 2553



The decided course of action is to let the enemy come to us. Even now, all fleets on these titanic Skyfortresses are arming themselves, preparing for the long siege. The sight of the Dawn Reaper is an encouraging sight, yet…

The Archon, New Dawn, Aegis, Unconquerable …Skyfortresses I, II, III, IV… we are the final hope of humanity…yet we will not succeed.
The radars are sounding their alarms. The enemy is here. The battle for humanity is now coming to a close. This is end war.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:38>



July 19, 2553

The Archon has fallen. It fell in four days. They have used PCD-class missiles. Planetary Crust Disruptors…designed to fragment a planet’s crust. What chance did they have? We watched its destruction helplessly; unable to help, as the enemy fleets massacred the fleeing ships. Aegis has collapsed in on itself; its survivors have fled to the New Dawn and the Unconquerable. Despite this, we have held them longer than we had predicted, though I personally do not doubt our inevitable defeat.


Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:34>

>FFW>




August 22, 2553

The Unconquerable has fallen. Skyfortress III is now nothing more than a burning hulk of metal. Out of more than a population of several hundred thousands on the ship, less than a few hundred have escaped the inferno.
Klaxons are sounding. Another assault has begun. The final battle for the New Dawn has begun.

Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED 00:21>




September 04, 2553


Despite the Plasti-steel alloy glass in the command tower, the battle’s din still reaches me.
Looking out, all I see is hell. Screaming men as they struggle from starships with reactors overloading. Explosions as the Titan-class ships fire Tri-pulses. But they are landing. Troop carriers after carriers touch ground, troops rushing out, taking defensive structure after structure. Our own soldiers fight for every square inch of the surface. Inch by bloody inch. The enemies are humanoid, but their faces are utterly emotionless. It would have been better had they bore no semblance to humanity. I wonder at their lack of emotion. Perhaps they¬ - SCHMIDT, TAKE THE GUN!

Napalm grenades blossom everywhere, and the roaring of Skyfortresses are deafening. New Dawn’s commander, Coyle, had activated the SAPOs. Its steady blue waves had swept over the enemy, taking them down by the thousands. But then a brief flash, then a curious feeling of being underwater had occurred, and the SAPOs fell silent. Later we learned that compressed energy waves had destroyed the SAPOs.

EMP shells whine. Several Artificial Atmosphere generators have been destroyed, causing random spots of gravitational variation. I wonder how much more punishment the New Dawn can take, but - MOVE THOSE PHASE CANNONS!

>ABRUPT TERMINATION>
>WAITING FOR RESPONSE>

>TRANSMISSION ENDED: 00:58>




September 11, 2553


They have broken through. My beloved Third Fleet lies in smoldering ruins, its three thousand ships annihilated. The Dawn Reaper fought valiantly, the Titan-class flagship blasting down hundreds of enemy starships. Yet it was soon overwhelmed, going down with all guns firing. I would have much rather be on the Dawn Reaper when it covered the infantry’s retreat, but it was insisted that I fall back to act as a figure of authority. En route to the inner command tower, I passed Colonel Aaron Schmidt, slumped over the remains of an anti-spacecraft pulse cannon. His blackened corpse, tangled in the midst of broken machinery, still haunts my eyes.
A.I. reports state that the blast doors are breached. They will be here in a few seconds…
The Home Fleet and the planet-fortress Kalphero will definitely put up a heroic last stand. The xenos will slaughter millions…when Kalphero falls, and I have no doubt that it will, Earth, the cradle of humanity since the beginning of history, will burn.
To whoever finds this; remember the courage of the thousands who fought in this war of insurmountable odds, courage even when facing the greatest of shadows.
I can hear them approaching now. We are determined to give them a fight to remember.

Learn from us. For like us, you will need it when you least expect it.

They are coming.


Admiral Holland, out.

>TRANSMISSION ENDED: 01:12>
>SCANNING>
>NO FURTHER ENTRIES>


Click. The audio diary closes itself. And once more, silence enshrouds the command tower of the New Dawn.
The man stands still for awhile, holding the diary. Shaking his head ever so slightly, he reverently puts the diary next to the body that had held it for more than two centuries. “But the xenos haven’t won” he whispered. “It has taken us decades, but we haven’t lost yet…”
As he left the room, his comm unit crackled. “Delta One, this is Delta Two. All assigned sectors have been accounted for. Requesting permission to proceed.”
A moment’s pause, then: “Anything of interest in your sector?”
The man debated with himself, but only for an instant. Then he keyed into the mike.

“Nothing. Move along.”

Behind him, the door seals itself.

Light-years from a desolate and burned Earth, past fragments of shattered planets and ravaged fleets, four monoliths drift, imposing to behold despite their innumerable scars. The Aegis, Unconquerable, New Dawn, and the Archon, their names still legible in spite of their ruin years before. From the sheer magnitude of the destruction, one might conclude that humanity was fighting a losing war.

But the predators have become the prey; the exiles have become the avengers.

The stars are blotted out by humanity’s fleets.

They are coming.




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