A brilliant scientist uncovers a terrifying plot to begin a galactic war. Aided by a talented, but reluctant and embittered combateer, he must stop the deployment of a super weapon he invented. A weapon so powerful it threatens to destroy entire worlds.
Guttural clicks emanated from their mouth parts and light reflected dimly from shiny-slick grey-green chitin as their limbs grasped the crumpled and blackened bits of debris, slowly turning and inspecting them. To ordinary eyes none of it would have been worthy of a second glance; hull plating, smashed equipment, conduits and charred circuitry. The two insectoid creatures were clearly not of this opinion; they were feverishly looking through the wreckage.
It was a crashed vessel, wrecked and ruined many years before. How it had come to be marooned on an asteroid in the depths of space was unclear; clearly the victim of some untold calamity. Much of it was completely missing but there was enough left to make out the vague predatory outlines of a human warship, a catamaran vessel, famed and feared for its prowess in battle many years ago.
The Thargoids had ignored the external hull; they were interested in what remained of the on-board systems. The vessel’s tarnished nameplate, surviving against all odds, was of no consequence to them. They passed the small emblem bearing the moniker Falchion without hesitation or recognition.
Much of the ship had already been salvaged. It had borne a strange and powerful weapon on its forward gun emplacement. Whilst ruined, enough remained for the Thargoids to begin reverse engineering the design. It promised to make a significant difference to their efforts.
Having scanned the immediate area they proceeded further along the hull, towards the most intact part of the hapless vessel. The hull was shattered but some elements of the interior still remained in place. Recognisable bulkheads and passageways could be seen, alongside the tattered remains of interior decorations. Beyond this was the core of the vessel, containing the smashed and compacted witch-drive mechanism. The Thargoids were still surprised by how primitive mankind’s grasp of that remarkable technology remained.
One Thargoid carefully examined a shattered segment of computer core and began attaching power conduits to it. It flickered into life. Damaged holofac emitters flashed grainy images of stored information. Figures moved, argued and gestured. The Thargoids downloaded the information, translating it as they went. The images were old, time-stamped from over a decade before.
The images stabilised. A tall human man, with a pale thin face and a hooked nose; a young woman with simple brown hair and wide eyes held in his grasp by the throat, internal fluid seeping from a wound on her face. As the Thargoids watched the man threw the woman to the floor.
The man stepped back whilst speaking to the woman, wiping the unpleasant fluid from his fingers with a small piece of fabric.
The woman tried and failed to stand up, clearly injured. She touched her face, smearing the garish red human ichor across it.
Now the man was laughing as he spoke to the unfortunate woman. Whatever he said it clearly upset her. Liquid was leaking from her eyes. She shouted back defiantly, shaking her head, mouthing a single word.
‘DUX DUCIS, INCOLUMITAS!’ The Thargoids intoned excitedly, having correctly translated the woman’s speech.
They stopped the recording and chittered excitedly amongst themselves for a moment. Then they turned their attention back to the flickering images.
The man’s face showed clear signs of his superior position. He spoke again before being interrupted by something out of sight of the recorder. Both he and the woman turned to look at whatever it was. To the man it was good news, to the woman, very much the opposite.
The recording captured the dismayed expression on the young woman’s face and then froze. The Thargoids scanned it repeatedly, increasing the resolution and then searching throughout the remaining data for any other potentially pertinent information. The Thargoids studied the image intently, analysing the woman’s facial structure; determining, extrapolating.
The second Thargoid moved to the rear of the hull. There was debris here but something else, a dark stain, long since dried. It was quickly scanned and a holofac image of a complex double-helix organic molecule appeared.
A series of clicks, followed by…
Part 1: Status Quo
Part 2: Mutabilis
Part 4: Finis