“But freedom is more important than security, more important than order, for the unfree are incapable of pursuing that path to a real peace, one of our own making!”
- - Aidan Collins, in the aftermath of the Fall
The Fall of Terrae (December 6th, 2822), was an event during the Second Great Cyrannus War, during which the Galactic Empire of Cyrannus conquered Terrae, the capital world of the Allied Terran Republic. The Imperials had orchestrated the Battle of Danánn simultaneously, using it as a diversion while the majority of the Imperial battlefleet in the Milky Way besieged the capital, destroying the massive Ring of Gaia, and capturing the capital city of Arcadia. In the aftermath of the Fall, the Empire declared the Terran Republic dissolved, replaced by a new government known as Legatus Terraen, an Imperial puppet state ruled by human collaborators.
The absence of Apalos from Danaan did not go unnoticed by the allies, but it ostensibly had two explanations. Firstly, many of their ships were engaged in fortifying the Biosphere Preserves after Tírnanóg, a task that they had not originally intended to do so quickly, but they had since decided that it was strategically necessary. Secondly, they had predicted that the Empire were ready to strike at Terrae, and left the rest of the allied fleet to a likely victory while they prepared to form the first line of defence at the capital. These were in part true, but Apalos had another reason: in spite of their enmity with the Empire and their positive relations with the Republic, they had recently acquired information from the Technoosphere that made them desire an Imperial conquest of Terrae. By allowing the Empire's forces to whittle down the allied fleet at Danaan, they could make such a conquest an easier outcome of the subsequent battle without raising suspicion, either from their allies or from the threat residing on Terrae. Combining this with sending only a small Apalos flotilla to Terrae, and having them make some subtle suboptimal tactical decisions in combat, an allied defeat could be made all the more certain.
By the time reinforcements from Danann had arrived, space above Terrae was already swarming with Imperial destroyers, battlecruisers and several dreadnoughts, all commanded by the Phaedric Lord Moranonúngur. The first Terran reinforcements to arrive, led by Admirals Ayotunde and Yates, were horrified to see the smashed debris field where once the vast Ring of Gaia orbited, a structure now the cold grave of the majority of the system's former inhabitants. Nevertheless, the Terrans and their allies bravely charged forward to meet the Phaedric Lord's fleet. It was unusual for the Delphans to retreat during a dire situation, but the fleet consisted only of a small carrier group sent to serve the Allied Terran Republic. It would be no use to sacrifice or deplete the fleet for a pyrrhic victory, only for the Empire to send yet more reinforcements.Instead, as it became clear that the Empire could not be dislodged, the DCP redirected their remaining ships to protect the supercarrier base and move it further back.
In the capital city of Arcadia, President Elethien stood motionless, her eyes fixed on the battle reports. Ever since the defeat at Danann, her own homeworld, she had become withdrawn, quiet, yet filled with a quiet determination. She stood alongside Councilor Aidan Collins and Sarah Hansworth, her special intelligence aide, and her friend from the scientific board Vasiliy Ilyich, who looked visibly crushed by the descent of Imperial craft and diminishment of sparks visible beyond the sky that represented the resistance. Approaching the window to join them, Collins placed a hand over his mouth as the distinctive dagger-shaped profile of an Imperial Star Destroyer began descending beneath the clouds, a hail of green turbolasers turning everything they touched into ash.
Collins slammed his fist against the wall as a nearby Terran frigate came smashing into the sea. Turning to face the President, who still kept her eyes fixed on the screen, he attempted to convince her to evacuate the capital building, lest the Imperials capture her and execute her for all the Gigaquadrant to see. Elethien merely turned her head to face him, and with three unnaturally fast blinks of her eyes, she began to transform. Her once slight, humanoid body, grew, a tail sprouted, her face became elongated and an other-worldly roar emanated from her mouth of razor-sharp teeth.
- Elethien: "You are weak. We are strong. We are superior."
With a swing of her tail, the reptilian impostor flung Collins across the room, where he landed on Hansworth and Ilyich in a heap.
It all happened in a blur, as Collins realised he was on the floor with the two others, his emotions went from dismay to shock. Was the building rocked by bombing? Looking up at Elethein, he once again saw her as a reptillan humanoid, over twice as tall as a baseline human. He immediately deduced she was an Imperial impostor. Hansworth and Ilyich quickly got up, shock smitten, and backed themselves against the wall. The reptile began to approach them, and gave an inhuman cackle, toying with her mammalian prey. The humans felt a stir of primate intimidation, a prehistoric fear echoing through time, of serpentine entities that had permeated every human culture. Summoning his courage, Aidan steadied himself on his feet, backing slowly away with the others.
- Aidan Collins: "Y-you're an Imperial! You have been from the start!"
The reptilian let out another sinister laugh.
- Elethien: "No, little mammal. In the hidden shadows of your primitive society, they call us Alpha Draconians, masters of the Chitauri. A mask for our true name—Bisistar."
- Aidan Collins: "You are lying for the Imperials. Fables."
However, Aidan had the uncanny feeling that there was something about this creature which defied all resemblance.
- Elethien: "The Ri'nanov shall be most displeased by this development. The Traitor shall not go unpunished. But now... enough talk. "
The Bisistar unhinged her jaws and lunged for Aidan's throat, but was suddenly halted and blasted across the room by a new arrival. Surrounded by Imperial guards, there stood Grand Admiral Daeron Siruliulus, who held a smoking blaster rifle in his right hand. The Libertus, clad in a white uniform adorned with twin black capes hanging from his shoulders, gave a smug smirk, and approached the stunned humans with an air of patronising confidence.
- Grand Admiral Siruliulus: "Rejoice, Terrans. With one fell swoop, the hidden Bisistar dominion over your... civilisation has come to an end."
Aidan opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the Grand Admiral's raised hand.
- Grand Admiral Siruliulus: "Fear not, m'boy. Many of your countrymen died today at our hands, to be sure. But with your President unmasked for the vile deceiver she was, the rest of her ilk will soon follow. Today marks the end of your chaotic existence, and the birth of a new... partnership with the Greater Empire of Cyrannus."
Three days later, Collins looked out over the city of Arcadia, now overshadowed by hovering Imperial Star Destroyers and holograms projected into the sky depicting a victorious Empire and a united humanity, all joined under Emperor Tyrómairon's rule. All around, Imperial walkers roamed the steets, while troopers and war droids rounded up subversives and began clearing away the debris from the major streets. ATR flags were cast down and replaced by Imperial symbolism. He had hoped to himself that the allies would be victorious, though clearly, they had escaped orbit to fight another day. Glancing behind him, he saw that Hansworth and Illyich were close behind him, while in front, the unconscious body of the Bisistar who called herself Elethien was being dragged along toward the central square.
The Imperials had given Aidan a choice, now the most influential public representative alive, or, as was the case with many of his colleagues, truly a human and not a Bisistar infiltrator. Either he was to bend his knee before a hologram of the Emperor, or face a very public and painful execution. Bowing would carry significance for the possibility of making the remaining republic worlds capitulate and surrender bloodlessly to the 'generous' authority of the Emperor Tyrómairon. As they approached the main square, Aidan saw that thousands of people had gathered to hear what the occupiers had to say, all with solemn expressions etched on their faces. After a particularly loud rendition of the Imperial Anthem, Grand Admiral Siruliulus addressed the crowd.
- Siruliulus: "People of Terrae, new citizens of the Empire. I stand before you at the dawn of a new beginning. Our enemies have fed you lies, that we are an evil and oppressive regime. No, I say, no! We fought not to enslave, but to liberate! Your Republic has existed under the thumb of these vile beasts!"
He pointed to the Bisistar, who had begun to wake, as she hung motionlessly in her restraining field. Activating the vast hologram projector above the platform, the Grand Admiral began playing a recording of the events within Elethien's office, showing the President transform from humanoid into reptilian. The crowd let out a collective gasp, and many cheered when the recording showed the moment the Empire defeated her.
- Siruliulus: "No longer! The hidden tyranny of the Bisistar over your people has ended. The Empire has freed you all!"
More cheers drowned out the boos from those more resistant to the Empire.
A platform with a series of steps began to rise above the noisy crowd, with what appeared to be a holographic projector at the end. Aiden felt a knot in his stomach, he knew that his life and all of the ATR's future hung in the balance over a simple speech. Sarah touched his shoulder, but it wasn't any reassurance. Some guardsmen stopped Vasily and Sarah and ushered them into the side. Aiden had never felt so lonely as he walked the quiet steps up the platform despite being amongst the biggest crowd he had ever seen, drowned out by noise. When he reached the top of the platform, his eyes darted across the city below. His eyes settled on a young girl, no more than thirteen, who gazed back up at him with fear in her eyes. His eyes never left hers as he began his prepared speech.
- Aidan Collins: "P-people of Terrae. My name is Aidan Collins, councilor of the Grand Council, and a child of our motherworld. W-we must, all of us, remember, that the winding path to peace is always a worthy one, no matter how many turns it takes. That is why I stand before you today, as a son, a brother and someone who believes in the promise of our Republic, as a beacon of hope to all those without it."
Siruliulus produced a sly smile, expecting Aiden to be subservient. Suddenly, a vast hologram of Tyrómairon himself appeared, flickering from the nothingness, whose dark and unscrupulous eyes were fixed on the human standing before him. All of the gathered Imperials immediately knelt before their lord, as did many of the Terrans gathered below, most out of fear rather than loyalty. Tension gripped the scene, though the Emperor himself said nothing. Aidan, whose eyes did not leave the little girl, not even for the Emperor, continued in a shout:
- Aidan Collins: "But freedom is more important than security, more important than order, for the unfree are incapable of pursuing that path to a real peace, one of our own making!"
Aiden turned around and pointed straight at the Emperor. Tears began to streak down Sarah's face, as she knew these would be Aiden's last words. But the crowd began to cheer, and she knew no matter the consequences, this was right, and it made her feel defiant. Vasily looked on in concern.
- Aidan Collins: "We will fight you down to every last world if we must. We believe in self-determination, not humilation. May this day be remembered as the one your grip begins to faulte-"
His words were suddenly caught in his throat, and he felt himself rise into the air, his hands desperately trying to free his neck from an invisible stranglehold. Aidan gave one last look at the girl, and wondered what would become of her. Tyrómairon's holographic form narrowed his eyes, and with a single gesture, telekinetically snapped Aidan's neck. A stunned silence fell over the crowd as Aidan's body fell onto the platform.
Sarah cried out in despair as her lifelong friend dropped to the ground. But Vasily pulled her away quickly into the crowd, while whispering in her ear.
- Vasily Ilyich "We must move quickly, if we are to live."
As they made their escape, the Emperor's deep and resonant voice silenced the crowd.
- Tyrómairon: "Look at your councilor, behold the fate of all who would defy the Empire. There are but two paths: resist or serve. And for those who resist, a single rule: submit or die."
A few defiant voices began to shout, and the crowd erupted into anger, in defiance of their would-be Emperor.
The Emperor smiled, and glanced at the Grand Admiral, who now stood alongside the Phaedric Lord Moranonúngur. The Dark Lord telepathically communed his orders to Moranonúngur, who nodded his head and stood forward, as the Emperor's hologram vanished.
- Moranonúngur: "May you enjoy your freedom, people of Arcadia. And may you enjoy your peace. Your freedom from life. And your peace, in eternal death."
The Imperials began to withdraw from the city, and when the final troop had left, every ship in the Imperial armada targeted the city and opened fire.
As the dust settled, still warm from the destruction of the city, some rubble stirred, and Lily Peverell picked herself out of the ditch she had hid in as the buildings collapsed around her. There was no-one else in sight. Meanwhile, throughout the colonies beyond Terrae, subspace feeds were just patching in...