Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Edge of the Galaxy

Commander Ridge peered over his rectangular screen, out into the black abyss of space. His face furrowed.

"Captain, sensors indicate we have breached the plane of the Milky Way. We are now in intergalactic space."

The Captain, usually quite stoic, let a slight grin briefly color his worn visage of a face.

"Very good Commander. Computer, this is the Captain, enter log, year 2614: we've done it. Man has left the Milky Way. A momentous occasion indeed."

With little fanfare, the Captain returned to his seat, positioned centrally on the bridge.

The alarms began to blare.

"Commander, what is that?"

Ridge punched a few commands into his computer, analyzing the data flashing on the screen. His mechanically enhanced eyes took in the data far faster than any normal human. The nano-modifications to his brain allowed him to process the information he received in seconds.

"Multi-spectrum analysis complete. Optical, aural, radio, and infrared sensors indicate a massive fleet of unidentified ships approaching our current location. Orders, sir?"

The Captain sighed.

"We knew this was a possibility. Transmit code red back to Valiant Station. Possible hostiles beyond the galactic plane."

The ship they were stationed on was massive, indeed, it was the largest moving object ever constructed by humanity. A marvel of engineering and ingenuity, she was nearly the size of a small moon at thirty kilometers in length. Her engines combined every bleeding edge innovation that could be thought up during her construction. Her purpose: to reach Andromeda and begin the long process of introducing humanity to the rest of the Universe. Was the journey to end before it even started?

Commander Ridge pressed a large yellow button on the interface before him, his muscles tensed.

"Message sent."

The Captain replied in a terse manner.

"Match the profiles of the approaching ships to all known vessels. It is possible we are dealing with known enemies here."

Having been busy making other calculations, the ship's A.I. finally responded to the Captain's command after a slight delay. It's voice boomed throughout the bridge, grabbing everyone's attention.

The ships are of an unknown design. They are of considerable size, my estimates place them at around twenty kilometers in length. At their current rate of speed, they'll be within firing range in approximately...three minutes and thirty three seconds. 

"Assuming their weaponry is more advanced than ours?"

Good point, Commander Ridge. Adjusting calculations. Given the strength of their engines, I estimate they are at least three thousand years more advanced than us. At that level of technological expertise, they will be within firing range in twenty five seconds.

The Captain visibly sank in his chair. Ridge followed suit. The rest of the officers on the bridge glanced at each other, worried.

"No...confirm analysis...three thousand years? Are you certain? That can't be...we've mastered the Milky Way. We've created worlds! Seeded planets! Watched civilizations rise and fall! It is impossible that another civilization is that far ahead of us! I refuse to believe it. All tactical simulations said that, at worst, we'd find beings mere decades beyond our capabilities!"

Ridge nodded, continuing where the Captain left off.

"Besides, we spent trillions of credits constructing thousands of listening posts at the edge of our galaxy, with sensors that can detect anything at a range of thousands of light years. Maybe I'm crazy, but they should have picked up something like an entire goddamn fleet."

I am sorry Captain. I am sorry Commander. I do not have access to information that would allow me to answer your queries in a sufficient manner.

That Captain slammed his fist onto the metallic armrests flanking his elaborate chair, anger coloring his usually placid face.

"Then speculate, damn it!"
The listening posts you mentioned scan intermittently, by sending out pulses every six months. This not only saves power, but was done because each pulse is staggered so that if something were to slip through the detection net of one post, another would pick it up. Here is the problem: at their current speeds, this enemy fleet would have been moving fast enough to slip between these pulses, effectively rendering them invisible to us. Until now, of course. We did not design the system with their level of technological sophistication in mind.  

The Captain was at a loss for words. Ridge spoke up.

"Well, that's it then. Shields up to maximum, all weapons at the ready. Red alert."

The ship shook as emergency protocols took effect. Blast doors sealed the bridge. On the ship's exterior, massive gun emplacements revealed themselves. Fusion warheads were readied. The three main weapons, gigantic rail guns several kilometers long that jutted out from flexible turrets along key positions on the hull, peered into the darkness.

With the Captain in some form of catatonic shock, Ridge took control of the bridge.

"I need a medical team to the bridge, get the Captain out of here! I have command."

The Captain, mumbling insanities to himself, was rushed to the medical bay. Ridge stood at his full height, and turned towards the main display, which projected an artificial representation of the space facing the ship.

"Computer, have they fired on us?"

Calculating. No projectiles detected. No offensive laser or plasma emissions detected either. Wait. Detect incoming wave of energy of an unknown nature. Should not be possible given known and hypothetical scientific theories. Impact in

As the wave of energy washed over the ship, Ridge and the rest of the crew buckled over, a feeling of horrific nausea overcoming them. Coughing, Ridge struggled to speak.


All shields disabled. All weapons disabled. Engines disabled. Computer processors at half capacity. Sir, I believe the

"Computer? Computer?!"

Ridge's face contorted. Panic etched his face. The rest of the crew remained writhing on the floor. As they suffered, the loudspeakers were overtaken by an entity that sounded nothing like the recently dismantled AI. It was deep, imposing, but beyond that, one could sense that it carried a great sense of weariness, and a confidence, justified or not, that it was performing some seemingly noble task.

Commander Ridge, yes? We have assimilated the entirety of your ship's data. Analyzing. Your civilization has attatined fifty seven percent of the prerequisites necessary to joining the intergalactic community. Detailed analysis commencing...
Species: Human. 
Level of Intelligence: Impressive for this sector, but does not pose threat to us.
Galaxy: Milky Way. 
Rate of technological progress given the amount of resources and obstacles to growth in stated galaxy: moderate/slow. 
Rate of cultural progression: slow. 
Rate of martial progression: rapid. 
Use of A.I. technology: detected. 
Estimated time of intergalactic integration: several centuries into the future.
Determination: You are destined to disrupt the natural order, whether in a positive or negative fashion is unknown. 
Verdict: Suppression of humanity until more research can be done. 
Order: All fleets converge on their designated home planet, Earth. By destroying the center of their civilization we shall prevent them from venturing beyond the confines of their galaxy before they are ready.

"No! You can't do that! We won't travel beyond the Milky Way until we are ready, you have my word! Just...just leave Earth alone, please!"

It took all the Commander had to make his plea known. Though he couldn't see its face, Ridge sensed that the entity pitied him.

We are saving you from yourselves Commander. Humanity has the potential to change the Universe. But for now, you must remain in your Milky Way. We cannot risk you arriving too soon, as our enemies would decimate you before you ever made it to your plotted destination, what you call, "Andromeda." Andromeda itself is home to several warring civilizations who are your equals, or betters. You would not find refuge there. We will act as the Milky Way's custodians, protecting you from the dangers that lurk beyond. When you are ready, you will join us. For now, rest, we will awaken you when you are needed. 

Ridge drifted into unconsciousness as his ship was dragged into the hands of this new enemy.

Within the flagship of the enemy fleet, another Captain sat. His hands, with five fingers, a slightly pinkish color, looked familiar. Two eyes, two ears, a mouth, and a nose adorned his face. His green eyes peered out into space, onto the thirty-kilometer-long ship he had just dragged in. He looked content.

Almost inaudibly, the Captain whispered to himself, "I'm sorry, Ridge...but nobody knows humanity quite like we do."

He sat up in his chair, and began speaking at a measured, audible level.

"Computer, set a course for Earth. Raise shields. Weapons at full power."

Swiveling, he turned towards the majority of his crew.

"Let's begin this family reunion with a bang, shall we?"




The End

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.