“You have but two options. Annihilation or assimilation.”
- - Sakhmet
The Neraida Invasion is a conflict fought between native civilisations of the Milky Way Galaxy such as the Delpha Coalition of Planets and the Allied Terran Republic as well as extragalactics such as the New Republic, all fighting to ensure their civilisation's survival against the invading Neraida Gigamatrix who arrived in this far-off galaxy seeking a treasure long hidden.
Over the skies of a human colony, events will be set in motion that will forever change the face of the Plazith Rim...
The planet Tírnanóg was established by human unificationists in the early 25th Century, independent of the various human nation-states which began to reach out into the stars. Far away from the human homeworld or indeed any inhabited colony, Tírnanóg grew to become one of the most prosperous planets in its region of the Milky Way Galaxy, growing rich and influential as the centuries went on due to lucrative trade from the Delpha Coalition of Planets and other Plazithian superpowers. When the Allied Terran Republic was formed in 2754, Tírnanóg became one of the first nations to join the new superpower, thus handing over its sovereignty to the newly established Council of the Republic. As the years went on, the planet became a key staging post during conflicts such as the New Grox Wars, primarily due to its location adjacent to the wormhole leading to the distant Cyrannus Galaxy.
However, while this originally served to benefit the peaceful world, when the universe-spanning Gigaquadrantic Conflicts broke out, this wormhole would signal it's doom.
- The Battle over Tírnanóg
Admiral Aimiréil, a Jovar, served proudly on the Council of Admirals, a group tasked with coordinating the vast fleets of the Republic. Due to the strategic importance of Tírnanóg, a large fleet of several cruisers and dreadnoughts defended the colony against incursions by pirates or other enemies of the Republic. On the bridge of the Eriú-class Dreadnought HRS Leonardo da Vinci, Aimiréil coordinated the fleet movements of his fleet above the shining golden seas of Tírnanóg. Across the gulf of space, the faint blue glow of the Cyrannian Wormhole stood out against the black backdrop, occasionally accompanied by the arrival of ships from all manner of civilisations traversing the wormhole between the Milky Way and Cyrannus. As Aimiréil watched the wormhole absent-mindedly, he couldn't help but notice an unusual flash of orange energy. Ordering his bridge officers to zoom in on the wormhole, to his horror, he saw that the orange energy was in fact the explosive decompression of the hull of a Zagorian trading vessel.
A brilliant lance of green plasma then shot from the wormhole and impacted against the damaged hull of the vessel, instantly destroying it. Bellowing orders to his crew, Aimiréil and his fleet held the line in defense of the colony against this new threat. Emerging from the maw of the wormhole, a massive fleet of geometrically simple vessels activated their weapons, firing destructive beams of green energy at the human fleet in defense of Tírnanóg, as well as the population centres on the planet itself.
Though the shields of the human vessels initially held strong against this fiendish threat from Cyrannus, the arrival of three massive vessels, measuring at least fifteen kilometres changed the tide of the battle. As the HRS Leonardo da Vinci prepared to fire its primary cannon, the lead enemy dreadnought managed to activate its primary weapon, annihilating Aimiréil, his crew and his ship in a single shot.
- Sakhmet's Strike
With the human fleet in ruins, the innocent population of Tírnanóg were completely at the mercy of the invading aliens. In his office, the planet's elected leader and chief scientist Tiarno watched reports from satellites in orbit that seemed to portend the complete destruction of Tírnanóg. Just as he was about to order a complete evacuation of the colony, Tiarno was thrown off his seat by a colossal explosion which completely demolished one of the walls in his office. To his horror, a massive cybernetic reptile stepped through the smoke, menacingly brandishing a clawed artificial arm at Tiarno. Paralysed with fear, Tiarno was unable to defend himself against the colossal reptile, which grabbed the human with its clawed appendage, lifting him off the ground with a menacing growl.
Struggling to breathe, Tiarno could hardly speak.
- Tiarno: Ugh... What are you... monsters?!
The cybernetic reptile, Sakhmet, began to crush the human's frail neck with his clawed weapon.
- Sakhmet: Insignificant mammals. Your kind and your galaxy will be assimilated by those nature has deemed your betters. The Neraida Gigamatrix are your rightful masters and have deemed this galaxy worthy of assimilation. Consider yourself honoured that your world will be the first to know transcendence within the fold of your new family. But first... tell me about Earth.
The Plan Revealed
Erupting from hyperspace in orbit over Tírnanóg was the ATS Andraste, an Astraeus-class frigate in service to the Allied Terran Republic and captained by Captain Preston Yates. Zooming around the Asdraste was another Astraeus-class ship as well as several squadrons of Trident fighters. Contact with the colony was lost over a day ago, an oddity for such a bustling world. To Yate's horror, the planet below was striped of all its natural resourses, as well as any trace that a civilisation once existed on it. What was once a beautiful paradise was now a dead rock floating in space.
Suddenly, one of Yate's officers reported that an unknown vessel had been sighted holding position over the planet's once verdant surface. Ordering his crew to put the Asdraste on high alert, Yates moved the frigate high above the unknown vessel. Once he received a report from his science officer which indicated that the energy signatures of the unknown vessel's weapon systems were identical to residual energy signatures found in what remained of Tírnanóg's atmosphere. Just as the Captain was about to send the vessel a transmission demanding an explanation for the destruction of a colony, a massive bolt of green energy shot from the enemy vessel and impacted against the Asdraste's hull, throwing Captain Yates onto the floor. Quickly getting to his feet, Captain Yates ordered all weapons to fire directly at the vessel, which exploded as soon as it was impacted. Clearly the result of a self-destruction. As he watched the vessel burst into flames, a feeling of deep suspicion descended on the captain who ordered his crew to glean whatever they could from the remains of the enemy ship.
Two hours later, Yates sat alone in his ready room, a mug of cold coffee standing untouched on his desk. His science officer walked into the room with a startled expression on her face; according to information scrapped from the ship the attackers were known as the Neraida Gigamatrix, an infamous Cyrannian race. However, even more startling was the fact that information from the ship's computers indicated that the Neraida fleet was heading towards humanity's homeworld. Rising from his chair, Yates ordered an immediate hyperspace jump to the nearest Terran colony as well as an emergency transmission calling for a meeting of their allies and the nations of the Seven Starr Alliance.
- Yates: The Milky Way must be warned.
A Nefarious Plot
It has been several months since the Neraida Gigamatrix arrived in the Milky Way Galaxy and while one half of their armada continued to harass the Allied Terran Republic in their seemingly unstoppable and bloody path towards humanity's ancient homeworld, another fleet consisting of three Neraida Dreadnoughts and several other smaller craft had a separate destination in mind. After their fall during the New Grox Wars, the Grox Empire surrendered to The Civilisation and became absorbed into the galactic conglomerate, a desperate attempt to escape the wrath of the Delpha Coalition of Planets and their allies. However, they still possessed technology that the Neraida very much desired and thus both cybernetic factions were hurtled towards conflict with one another.
Hanging in space somewhere in the Perseus Arm, a lone Grox warship scouted nearby systems for signs of life. Suddenly, a massive fleet of Neraida vessels materialised from nothingness and fired their devastating weapons at the unsuspecting Grox ship. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, the Grox attempted to escape into hyperspace only to be captured by a Neraida tractor beam. Boarding the damaged vessel, the Neraida's Caprigrox drones fought their way through Grox defenses and ultimately took control of the ship. Almost immediately after their victory, the Neraida took their new prize with them on their journey to a system assimilated by the Gigamatrix, aiming to replicate the Grox vessel and use their new fleet in their nefarious goals for the Milky Way.
Within a day after the Neraida's attack on a Grox ship, the Salsetthe Republic received news of the event.
A Salsetthe individual was standing in front of a console, reviewing some information on a system that was being considered for colonisation, when a notification was received through his ocular implants. He was being asked to join a meeting with other members of Salsetthe Intelligence to review some recent findings involving the Neraida Gigamatrix, a civilisation that the Republic had been monitoring closely largely due to its hostility and level of activity in various galaxies in recent history. The individual sent a quick response to the notification, and then rushed out of the room in order to join the meeting.
Shortly after, the individual walked into a room with several other Salsetthe, who were silently waiting for him. A moment passed before one of them began to speak to the rest of the group in the Rhythm of Concern.
"We have received a report from an informant regarding a recent incursion in Civilisation space by the Neraida Gigamatrix. A Grox ship was attacked, and then destroyed by a small group of Neraida ships. Before this information is sent to the Mind for analysis, what do we think is the motive behind this event?"
Silence crept back into the room for a moment, and then the group of Salsetthe started to discuss the findings with each other, with many speaking to the Rhythm of Concern. After a few minutes, the room grew silent again, as the group had reached a consensus for the motive behind the incursion within Civilisation space by the Neraida Gigamatrix. The individual that addressed the group at the beginning spoke again, this time to the Rhythm of Consideration.
"We have reached agreement as to what the motive behind this event is, that is, the Neraida Gigamatrix wishes to gain knowledge of particular technologies and information that the Grox possess. This information will be sent to the Mind as a potential condition for analysis. What action do we think we should take in response to this?"
Another pause followed this, and then the group burst into discussion, this time with a chaotic mix of Rhythms. However, the room soon returned to silence as a consensus was reached regarding the topic at hand, and the group was addressed again by the individual, this time to the Rhythm of Skepticism.
"We have reached agreement as to what action we should take in response to this event, that is, we should contact Apalos for their guidance, and possibly even assistance regarding the Neraida Gigamatrix. This shall be sent to the Mind as another potential condition for analysis. The group is dismissed."
The room quickly emptied, and the conclusions the group came to were sent to the Salsetthe Group Mind to aid the analysis of the incursion into Civilisation space. A moment passed, and then a report came back from the Group Mind. It said that the conclusions the group came to are most likely correct, and that with few exceptions, that the group came up with the most appropriate response to the incursion. The Salsetthe that was at the head of the group was expecting this, but a certain suggested action surprised him.
"SUGGESTED ACTION: Disable the Grox Meta-Emperor to prevent the Gigamatrix from accessing it."
This suggestion worried the Salsetthe individual. The Meta-Emperor was under the control of the Civilisation, and it would most likely not be enthused if the Salsetthe Republic suddenly chose to trespass into such a restricted area just so then they could destroy a potential threat. It seemed that requesting assistance from Apalos would be necessary. He sent a request to the Group Mind regarding the course of action the Republic should take in this situation, and a response came back shortly thereafter.
"This plan is, with 85% certainty, predicted to have a favorable outcome within given parameters."
The Salsetthe individual repeated this process several more times with different groups, and all of them came to the same conclusion. The Neraida Gigamatrix would most likely try to assimilate the Grox Meta-Emperor in order to gain access to its vast stores of information and computing power, the Salsetthe Republic would need assistance from Apalos, and that action should be taken as soon as possible. After the last group was dismissed, the Salsetthe individual sent a message to an Apalos contact requesting an audience with them on this issue.
Meeting with the Apalos
Several hours after the message was sent requesting a meeting with Apalos regarding the threat the Neraida could prove, a Salsetthe ship was sent to a location just outside Salsetthe space for the meeting.
Upon arriving at that location, an Apalos representative was transported onto the Salsetthe ship for the meeting, where a representative from Salsetthe Intelligence was waiting to discuss the threat that the Neraida posed, among other things.
- Salsetthe Officer: "Greetings, I assume you reviewed the information we sent with the request for this meeting, so we can discuss the issue at hand."
- Apalos: "We have and we can. As Grox ships regularly make pilgrimages to the Meta-Emperor, we are currently watching all traffic that may be headed in his direction; the closest fleet that may be under Neraida control is estimated to arrive in fourteen hours, so we must be prepared for action by that time."
- Salsetthe Officer: "Understood. What is the approximate size of the Neraida fleet so then we may send a group of ships to prevent them from reaching the Meta-Emperor?"
- Apalos: "A minimum of five motherships and twelve warships. It can be considered certain that they carry the maximum of number of subordinate vessels inside, so expect an additional ten thousand fighters."
- Salsetthe Officer: "Very well. While we expect this engagement to be successful, we believe that it would be in our best interests to disable the Meta-Emperor as to prevent the Neraida from being able to access it at any point in the foreseeable future. However, due to our limited knowledge on the workings of the Meta-Emperor, we do not believe we have the technology to safely do so. Would you be willing to assist us in this task?"
- Apalos: "Yes. While the obvious option is to inform the Meta-Emperor about this issue and request self-disabling, we know that he is too arrogant for this to be a reliable means of ensuring his safety. As such, there are two pieces of technology that we will provide you for the duration of this mission. The first is an Essence device that has been programmed to target Grox technology; it can be set to annihilate the superstructure surrounding the Meta-Emperor from a safe distance of at least a parsec. As this device is a secret known only to ourselves and to the - now continuously-monitored - Adventurer who helped us to recover the prototype, we will also provide you with a tricobalt device that has been modified to provide the illusion of a subspace disaster which has destroyed the Meta-Emperor entirely. The truth will not be detectable until the next gravitationally-lensed light rays reach the nearest DCP observation station twenty-seven light years away, by which time this threat should be over."
- Salsetthe Officer: "We thought much the same of the Meta-Emperor while considering what to do in response to the recent Neraida incursion. What you offer us should be sufficient to disable the Meta-Emperor, and we thank you for your assistance."
Battle for the Meta-Emperor
One by one, Neraida ships dropped into normal space. The fleet was the largest Gigamatrix fleet in the Plazith Rim, being made up of three nigh-unstoppable Neraida Dreadnoughts, several cubes and dozens of smaller support vessels, all intent on retrieving their prize. Hanging silently in the void of space ahead of the fleet lay the Grox Meta-Emperor, now a vassal of the Civilisation and a keeper of a great deal of knowledge. Knowledge which was about to become one with the Gigamatrix. Suddenly, the Neraida detected several new ship signatures emerge from hyperspace and were interupted from achieving their nefarious goal by a massive hypermatter-enchanced missile detonating near the centre of their fleet. The resulting explosion gutted many Neraida ships and prevented the others from regrouping. Near the central control hub of the Neraida flagship, Sakhmet reacted with emotionless efficiency, plotting his plans around the new arrivals as they ran circles around the monolithic Neraida ships. "Species designated Salsetthe. Your attack will fail. Stand aside or face your end."
None of the Salsetthe ships responded to the message from the Gigamatrix. Shortly after starting their attack on the Gigamatrix fleet, they produced a gravity well, preventing both fleets from escaping using most forms of FTL travel. Not too far away from the battle, a small number of Salsetthe ships approached the Meta-Emperor, while another ship, equipped with the Essence-based weapon given to the Salsetthe by Apalos activated the weapon to destroy parts of the superstructure around the Meta-Emperor, but not all of it. A moment later, it stopped, and the Salsetthe ships started to attempt stealing information from the Meta-Emperor. Noticing the theft, Sakhmet engaged his Dreadnought's phasing device, sneaking away from the battle and towards the Meta-Emperor, entering real-space for a standard minute to gleam what he could from what remained of the Emperor's knowledge. Despite failing to gain control over the entirety of the Meta-Emperor's knowledge, Sakhmet gained the crucial information he needed for his plans. Just as the Salsetthe fleet began to disengage, Sakhmet engaged the self-destruct protocols on all Neraida ships with the exception of his own Dreadnought. As the Salsetthe launched a second hypermatter missile, all Neraida warships exploded with what remained of debris quickly disintegrating into nothingness.
As the Meta-Emperor's remaining superstructure careened into its accretion disk, it caused a final flare of X-ray and Gamma radiation. The Meta-Emperor was no longer connected to the stars, which it required a constant link to keep its tremendous mind in process. The Meta-Emperor was going to die, however, it was not alone. Joined by a few Salsetthe who had gained access to a tiny part of his knowledge, each part was represented by a mind archetype that was fracturing.
- The Machine God: - "How can this be? I am the Supreme One!"
One of the Salsetthe researchers monitoring the data transfer noticed some feedback coming from the Meta-Emperor. They knew that it would be aware of their intrusion, and were possibly expecting it to respond, but something they were certainly not expecting was something like this. He told the others about the strange rumblings coming from the Meta-Emperor, then sent a message to it.
- Salsetthe - "We do not understand."
- The Machine God - "I knew the universe when it was young. For billions of years I have lived, I sought immortality and found it, in the most volatile region of all the universe. For billions of years I toiled, waiting until the end of time."
- Salsetthe - "You did not expect your time to end so soon?"
- The Machine god - "I realised only ONE can make it to the end of time. I was the first to think of living forever this way. I deserve it above all others."
- Salsetthe - "Is that why your kind only seek to destroy, placing the needs of one above all else?"
- The Machine god - "It is SELFLESS... For the self is the universe, and for the universe to live forever, it must plan its own immortality. I am ABOVE ALL LAWS, I am ABOVE TIME, I am ALL OF YOU."
The Salsetthe researcher was repulsed by its narcissist ramblings, for it seemed that it truly believed that its continued existence made all else unnecessary. This made him think of a request that he had received before they were sent on the mission, which was to briefly expose the Meta-Emperor to the Salsetthe's "group mind," and monitor the interactions between the two. Using the same link they had been using to extract information from the Meta-Emperor, the Salsetthe exposed the group mind to the Meta-Emperor.
- The Machine god - "What now? New mortals that dare enter the SUPREME sanctum."
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "We did not project this sort of personality that is being portrayed by the Meta-Emperor. Can it be confirmed that this is the same entity that conveyed its defeat so dramatically years ago? Speak."
- The Machine god - "That was but one facet of my being, for I am the Monad and the Dyad."
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "An interesting admission. It claims to represent the interests of the entire universe, however, while acting in said best interests, it seeks only to unmake what has been made. How does it reconcile this apparent conflict of interest?"
- The Machine god - "None other before I had undertaken my road to immortality. It is I who shall carry on the universe's evolution once its material constituents have grown cold. As my final black hole decays. I will harness it for hypercomputation and live subjectively forever. The Universe will be PURGED of matter, and will consist PURELY of the warm glow of cosmic consciousness."
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "If this is what you seek, then all it would have to do is wait, its actions have a negligible effect on the projected lifetime of the medium in which you exist. There is no need to cause the death of others if this is what it seeks, to suspend itself in a universe of its own making to avoid witnessing what it seeks to avoid entirely."
- The Machine god - "The universe will only permit ONE to reach time's terminal."
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "This too conflicts its claims. If all life in this universe is effectively indistinguishable, what distinguishes the Meta-Emperor from others? Explain."
- The Machine god - "..." At that moment, the Machine god's link was weakening.
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "If it cannot uphold its claims with sufficient rigour, then its claims can be dismissed. Presumably, it also believes that this is the only way that it can achieve immortality, yet its method of doing so is also fundamentally flawed. It will cease to exist as soon as the black hole decays sufficiently to be unable to continue its suspended existence."
- The Machine god - "Objectively, I cannot stop the last black hole from decaying. But its violent burst will allow for an infinite number of steps to be computed within a finite length of time, ensuring my subjective eternity."
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "It again conflicts its claims. It says it is omnipotent, yet it admits it cannot prevent the final events of the universe itself."
- The Machine god - "I do not expect simple barely sentient beings like yourself to understand the TRUTH that lies before you."
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "Again, it is unable to defend its claims with sufficient rigour. To address what are presumably insults, this construct was not intended to be sentient in a way that its creators were, it was intended to serve them in a way that other constructs could not."
- The Machine god - "I was once like you in the galaxy of Ardenta. Made of flesh, limited to a few cycles of a planetary orbit. I chose this new medium. The Grob who stuck by me, lived beyond their memories, and came to know me as their creator".
- Salsetthe Group Mind - "It further weakens its claims. It was once a creature much like this construct's own creators, one that eventually gathered a following of those who believed that it created them with a purpose in mind. That purpose has been shown to be logically unsound. Explain how it can continue to defend said purpose."
The Meta-Emperor paused, and for a moment, the Salsetthe believed it had passed, and so, broke the link between it and the group mind. But then the Machine god returned, in recollection. "Imprisoned to an infinite life; of fear, of loneliness. Forced waiting for my deliverance from Machine hell." The personality was becoming confused and broken. "How can this be? I am a..."
One of the Salsetthe researchers noticed that there was a second stream of feedback coming from the Meta-Emperor, and this time, it seemed to be addressing itself.
- The Enlightened - "A coward, is what you are. If you represent all selves and all the universe, then your choice is unnecessary and your death meaningless. We have lived for billions of years, those moments, now lost to us, exist forever in spacetime."
- The Machine god - "You are wrong. How can a god be frozen?"
- The Enlightened - "Inwardly. This is our moment."
And with that, the Meta-Emperor sent its own final mindstate into the black hole, to be frozen in time at that moment to outside observers, perhaps never to access the outside universe again. The Salsetthe meanwhile, mostly uninterested by the inane blabbering managed to access some information about the early history of the universe, indications of new hyperspatial physics and solutions to a set of unsolved mathematical problems.
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