The Space War began twenty-five light years from Earth. Mankind had never actually managed to figure out a way past the speed of light, so our exploration of the stars progressed slowly, with whole generations losing contact with home just to set foot on the soil of distant worlds. The first dozen or so missions visited dead, Mars-like worlds, and the general public lost interest in deep space exploration. Then, the Hawking IV craft was lost.

The initial reaction was one of puzzlement and sadness at the tragedy, though no one could confirm what, exactly, the tragedy was from sifting through the quarter-century old data. The Hawking V was sent to continue the mission, with special cameras designed to record everything the crew saw. Before it too was destroyed, it sent back murky, unfocused footage of an attacking space craft.

There was a tightly controlled panic in Mission Command. The enemy craft had been too quick to film, and overwhelmingly powerful. The Hawking wasn’t able to gather much data before it was destroyed, but two things were clear: We weren’t alone in the universe, and the company wasn’t friendly. The distance between stars made communication with our own ships nearly impossible. Finding a way to speak with the aliens was out of the question. Eventually, they decided that war was the only option.

The carefully released information caused a predictable wave of chaos and fear, but in the wake of the riots, mankind showed a resolve it never had before. All of humanity banded together, buried their differences, and worked together to protect themselves. The next few decades saw huge advances in scientific achievement. Humanity built a great fleet of warships that would travel far out into space, and face our unknown enemy. Outposts were built, and we made ourselves ready for the coming conflict. More ships were mysteriously lost.

Finally, there was the ultimate breakthrough. A team of scientists developed a method of time-travel that would allow troops and armaments to seem to go faster than the speed of light. The next fleet could arrive as soon as it left, or even before it was built! The war could be over in months instead of years. The generals in command agreed to the plan. Earth and its neighbors were nearly stripped bare to provide resources for it. If mankind was safe at last, the cost would be worth the price.

After ten years of work, the scientists unveiled their finished time machine. The ship was sleek and fast. It was outfitted with bleeding edge weapons technology. Due to the stresses of time travel, the ship was unmanned. It launched to its destination, and transmitted instantaneous data back to Command. There was a ship at the coordinates. The generals and scientists were ecstatic. When they saw the vessel clearly, however, their joy turned to shock. The vessel had Hawking IV, IDSA stenciled in bright white letters on the side. For they had met the enemy…

 

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