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In the Shimmering Twilight

#1

Aboard the Alpheos in orbit around Janus,
Valessian Controlled Zone on Janus


The sun was low on the horizon as it usually was. On the band straddling the Everbright and Evernight as the Valessians referred to the, stood the Umbra Facility. An Imperial Research station devoted to discerning and aiding in inhabiting Janus. As a marginally habitable world in the system it stood as the focal point between Sorana and Vesta. The facility had been in operation for some ten years and was a source of tension between the Empire and the other dominant powers in the system as it was often a place for military drills despite its civilian stated goals. It was also well known that a detachment of Imperial Sentinels were stationed at the facility, though the Empire maintained that was for the civilian's security as it was considered on the fringe. Bandits and Marauders flocked to Janus in droves due to its position as lawless outside of a few maintained settlements. None of the dominant powers were able to bring their forces to root out such problem makers as it would undoubtedly lead to tension with one another.

In orbit was the Cassios Class Cruiser, Alpheos, the flagship of the Valessian Expeditionary Fleet that would periodically orbit Janus or make rounds along the demarcated zones of control. The vessel was resupplying the facility and changing out its Sentinel detachment for a fresh deployment. Several Hoplon Heavy Tanks and some Gorgon Fast Attack Vehicles were also being sent down to the station to further assist in defense against marauders and pirates.

A hologram shimmered into being on the command console of Captain Lukos, the image was of Director Hylas who oversaw the facility. "Captain I assure you that our facility remains intact against the external threats and has not been compromised. We appreciate your supplying us but we are not in additional need than we were eight months ago." Director Hylas said with a rather aggravated tone.

"Director it is the opinion of the Central Committee that the facility should be bolstered and so here I am doing just that. The new Sentinels being sent down are exemplary and were critical in rooting out a similar issue on Thesan. They will certainly be able to achieve similar results here on Janus. Your work is of great interest to the Committee and to the Admiralty and as such we will guard it the best we can."

"Captain..." there was a hesitation as another figure came into the room with Director Hylas though because the person was mostly out of the holograms reach they were not fully rendered.

"Director is there an issue?" Captain Lukos said rather agitated that the Director was putting up so much resistance to the reinforcement of the installation.

"Captain my personnel tell me that they have spotted some marauders on the far reaches of the plains not far from here. Perhaps your Sentinels would be of better use dealing with them then." The Director then severed the link.

Captain Lukos sighed and walked out of his personal room and onto the bridge of the ship. Officers and other personnel snapped to attention before he waived his hand. Several people were standing around a holographic map of Janus that was updating in relative real time thanks to a series of satellites and the capabilities of the Alpheos itself.

"Sir there appear to be eight light attack vehicles en route to the Umbra facility. Presently they are 50 klicks away and should be at the very edge of the canyon checkpoint in about fifteen minutes. We are predicting a breakthrough to the main facility should they be allowed to reach the checkpoint. Sentinel forces are unable to react at this time."

Captain Lukos looked at the map and then at the facility. As much as he would like to let the Director get a taste of the need for the Sentinels he also knew he would lose his job and his head should the facility be breached.

"Dispatch them." He said, his voice cold and unmoving. With his command several personnel began talking through the communication system and locking coordinates on the marauders. Within two minutes one of the main guns of the vessel began to swivel and was actively targeting. Without another word three shots were fired in quick succession. The rounds were plenty large enough to put sizeable craters into the ground below and should have been more than enough to be considered overkill but were also the quickest and cleanest way to end this before it started.

Below on the surface aboard one of the marauders vehicles there was a sound of a distant boom before everything seemed to flash and then silence. Where there was once grass and shrubs there were now cinders and craters.

A light began to blink aboard the vessel which caused a klaxon to sound almost a second later. Scrambling to get their words out the personnel began shouting.

"Incoming objects at extreme speeds. Estimated time to contact is two minutes." Came one voice from a console close to Captain Lukos. His eyes turned back to the planetary hologram where a mass of red dots appeared from the surface. Their projected trajectory put them on a direct collision course with the Alpehos.

"Bring pds online immediately and calibrate for close quarters bursts. Target long range weapons to begin thinning down the objects. Activate the Thesos." His orders cut through the cacophony of voices and actions were immediately taken. An electrical charging sound could be heard and what almost could be mistaken for lightning crackling.

Time passed slowly as the objects came closer. Still there was no word as to what they were and they seemed to multiple on the screen as more made contact with the tracking system. The longer range weapons began to fire taking a few of the objects at a time but not quickly enough.

"Unidentified objects crossing the red line. PDS firing." Another voice from the fire and control section of the bridge stated. Many of the Alpheos' various point defense systems snapped to life and opened fired. Some with rapid fire kinetic bursts akin to miniguns and others with cloud particles that would be shot out and then harden acting as a barrier of sorts.

It didn't matter how much the PDS and long range weapons did though as the objects kept coming and seemingly didn't end. The first few to hit the Thesos were incinerated on contact without much damage to the ship but as more and more strained the system it began to falter and areas of impact grew in number.

"Multiple decks breached, hull integrity failing. Thesos collapse imminent." The voice was tinged with worry.

"Transmit data to Command." Captain Lukos was aware of the situation and knew the Alpheos was not going to survive contact. Whatever weapon had been used had overwhelmed the cruisers capability to defend itself which would be of great interest to the Admiralty of the Empire. Just after the comms officer said it was completed another klaxon blared and the lights shifted to blue as confirmation of a reactor breach came in.

In a rather brilliant explosion that filled the sky above the Umbra facility the Alpheos ceased to exist. All hands lost. The faces of the civilians and the Sentinels on the surface of Janus went pale. The thought that something could so easily take out an Imperial Cruiser was daunting and intimidating to say the least. It was all at once that the radio signals of the facility and the various visual screens went black before a golden circle with a line down its middle appeared.

"The day the Empire has an official presence on Janus is coming to an end. Liberation of mind, body and soul is coming. Will you join or will you resist. The choice is yours." With that the screens and radios cleared. Debris could be seen raining down in the mountains to the north and west. No escape pods were observed. Silence once again fell over the facility.



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