Three years later, New International Space Station.
Meng walked the hallways of the new ISS built in cooperation with Kraz’ox. The new station was more like a floating city than the old ISS that was destroyed when the Kraz’ox appeared for the first time. It could hold several thousand people and u utilized Kraz’ox gravity technology that allowed them to walk freely around the station with similar gravity to Earth’s.
Meng walked into a command room where she was met with greetings and salutes from both humans and Kraz’ox. She walked towards Louanne, one of the members of the original ISS crew that went with Anoi on their little adventure.
“Everything set for today?” Meng asked with a hushed tone.
“Yes,” Louanne answered. “How are the things down there?”
“We are keeping communications to a minimum today, but everything is set down there as well, two hours to go,” Meng answered.
Three years ago after Meng, James, Chloe, and the others came back to Earth, the decision was made by Lieutenant William Grant sided with the Qhiks in this interstellar conflict that spans the whole universe and millions of years in the past. The decision was made by William but supported by everyone that was included in the project, including James, Katie, and Meng himself later when he found out. They had to carefully choose people to include in this secret which now had almost a thousand people from all across the globe with all thirty-five original ISS crew members included.
They’ve built three secret bases over the globe, the main one at the South Pole, a place where Kraz’ox never even considered looking to. Three months ago, the first Human interstellar ship was built based on old Qhiks schematics, with a lot of additions from Kraz’ox technology, with a new Humanly design. The ship was set to take its first flight today after the diversion that would be created at the new ISS station.
In the past three years, the new human secret organization called United Front for Advancement of the Human race, or UFAH for short, noticed patterns in Kraz’ox behavior on Earth. Whenever there was a conflict relatively near Earth the Kraz’ox would send almost all available ships from Solar System there, leaving only a few scout ships that mostly looked out into space, almost never at Earth.
UFAH would use that and create a false alarm today, as the new ISS was mostly in charge of scanning the near Solar System for Anoi and their coalition activities. Once the Kraz’ox launched their ships towards the false threat, the first Human ship capable of hyperjumps, called Pegasus, would take a flight from the South Pole into the unknown. Hyperjumping directly from Earth’s surface had its risks, but getting caught by the Kraz’ox was almost inevitable if they left Earth’s orbit and then jumped.
Meng was feeling nervous, they worked non-stop, day and night blending into one for the past three years to make this a reality, Humans would level the plain field, or at least start the process.
Meng wanted to be a part of the Pegasus’s crew, but the decision was made for him to stay on the ISS duo to his set of skills, only fifteen of the original ISS members would ride the Pegasus, with the addition of twenty-five more people from various fields for a total crew of forty.
Meng toured the ISS station and made final checks with everyone that was a part of UFAH on the Station. Everything was and the only thing left was a sign from Lieutenant William Grant and they would initiate the false alarms.
South Pole Station, UFAH headquarters, one hour before launch.
James paced around the South Pole station as the engineers made the last pre-launch checks on Pegasus, he was appointed the Captain of the ship. In the last three years, he worked closely with Lieutenant William Grant in a preparation for this role, from military tactics and mannerisms to people and leadership skills. It was a big role, but a logical decision to appoint him as the Captain of the first ship, and Chloe was appointed as his XO. The two of them played well off each other and that was the dynamic Lieutenant William Grant wanted.
James felt a wide array of emotions, he was beyond excited to get back into space after three years spent down on Earth. In order to spend most of his time on the South Pole, they had to trick Kraz’ox into thinking James suffered a mental blockade due to his time spent in space with Anoi. It wasn’t an easy task, Kraz’ox kept an eye on him for a few months, but soon after forgot about him and the whole Anoi-ISS crew incident and turned to their more pressing problems. It allowed James to spend the past almost three years on the South Pole overseeing the building process of Pegasus, human space battle suits, and many other technological advancements.
James also felt terrified, they believed they were doing the right thing for Humanity, but what if the Qhinks were the worst of them all? And they were going to their bidding, at least for now. But a more pressing matter was the launch, what if the diversion didn’t work and Kraz’ox noticed their ship, what would that mean for Earth and the human race, would Kraz’ox harshen their conditions, which to be fair were not bad at all, or even worse would they declare a war on Earth. Those were some of the questions that ran through James’s mind these past few months and today they induced a decent amount of anxiety.
James stumbled onto Lieutenant Costas Lavrentios, a trusted friend of Lieutenant William Grant and a person in charge of military operations of UFAH at the South Pole station.
“James, are you ready?” Costas asked him with a polite smile across his face that was decorated by a thick graying beard.
“As ready as I can be,” James answered.
“Don’t worry, everything will go smooth,” Costas said tapping James on the shoulders. “Walk with me.”
Two of them walked towards the hangar and went over the mission objectives one more time. Almost two years ago when they finally finished the South Pole station and started with their work, UFAH contacted the Qhiks via one of the devices they left with the ISS crew and updated them on their progress. A few months after that the Qhiks gave them coordinates to their first mission, the long-abandoned planet of their parent race Ellads that they didn’t get to visit due to the Void threat. The planet, they called Ephulea III, could hold the knowledge about the Void that was long forgotten.
Walking into the hanger James and Costas were welcomed by the first human spaceship capable of hyper jump in its all glory. The vessel looked nothing like Kraz’ox or Anoi, it somehow felt more gracious and elegant, more like a cruiser ship compared to a NAVY battleship. But looks could fool, it was a battleship in its core, Qhiks insisted humans be capable of defending themselves in case they stumbled onto the rogue enemy ship, so they armed it with Qhiks, Kraz’ox, and human nuclear weapons. The spaceship was mostly dark gray in color, with white strips coming to a point at the front of the ship. From both sides, it was decorated with the UFAH logo and its name, Pegasus I.
The ship could hold more than two hundred crew members but could function with as little as ten. They decided on forty crew members for the first flight in order to keep the ship running smoothly, but not to overcrowd it since it was only a scout mission.
James spent the remaining time before boarding pacing around the ship, talking with engineers, and checking with the Crew that was about to embark on the first human interstellar flight. His conversation with Eric was cut short due to an announcement over the PA system.
“All crew of Pegasus flight goes to your designated position in order to suit up into your space suits.” A feminine voice said over the PA.
“Here we go,” James said.
“Hell, yea… about time,” Eric said with a smile and they walked towards their locker room.
Similar to Pegasus, new Human space suits were hybrid of Anoi, Kraz’ox, and Qhiks technology, taking the best elements from all three and adopting them to humans. Suits at the times seemed more impressive than the Pegasus itself, they had shields like the ones Kraz’ox used to repel the attacks, and they had a decent arsenal of weaponry if the wearer ever found himself in ground combat, they could produce their own oxygen for days thanks to the Qhiks technology, they also had trusters at various positions to help you move around in the vacuum of space and many other. Those functions only scratched the surface of the suit’s capabilities, but they were the main focus of training for the Pegasus crew, the rest would have to wait.
Ignoring all their functionalities James felt powerful wearing the suit as it looked menacing with its blacked-out visors and black body paint with white and red stripes that followed the curvature of the suits which allowed humans to move freely like they were wearing almost nothing. Wearing the suits, James felt, like he was the pinnacle of human strength and power.
A short time after all the members were dressed in new space suits and the designated crew did all the necessary checks new announcement arrived that Pegasus was ready for boarding and the crew into the hangar.
Pegasus had three entrances to ensure the fastest possible boarding when the ship was at full capacity and found itself in a sticky situation. This time, as it was only forty members and there was no need to rush things, the whole crew entered from the main point below the ship’s hull. The whole South Pole station watched them ascend into the belly of the ship and saw them off with applause, the crew saluting them back.
“James, can you hear me?” Katie said over the comms, her voice clear as she was standing next to him.
“Loud and clear,” James answered. “How are things looking?”
“Everything is running smooth, there are no complications,” Katie said. “But I don’t want to Jinx us.”
“Roger that, we are going to make one last check from inside the ship and we will be ready to go in less than ten minutes,” James said and closed the communication channel towards Katie and opened a new one towards the Pegasus crew.
“Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to humanity’s first interstellar flight,” Captain James said to his crew over the comms. “We practiced this what feels like million times, but going for real now, I’ve gotta admit it I wish we practiced a couple million times more. It’s not because I don’t believe in you, because I do with all my heart, you are the best of the best and there is no other group of people I would embark on this mission with.” Even with all the training James has done with Luitenant William, Costas, and another officer, he was still too honest at the times and said unnecessary things, but he felt the crew loved him for that, that it was just part of his personality no training could rewrite.
“I am only saying that because of the insanity of the situation,” James continued. “I still can’t believe we are going to press a button and appear in another solar system with something we, the humans, built. But as already said, the most brilliant minds on Earth worked on this, and there is no doubt in me that we are going to succeed with this mission and go on hundreds more together, so go to your stations we are going to do one last pre-flight check and launch ourselves into the unknown.” A Flood of confirmations came through the comms and James went towards his place, in the center of the command room.
Humans would be humans, it was someone said by one of the engineers while they were doing schematics for the Pegasus. Instead of going for simplicity and efficiencies like Kraz’ox, Anoi, and Qhiks, the humans wanted comfort, luxury, and beauty in their ship, and now all that in mind Pegasus was built. Justification for comfort was that mission could take for years, there was no need to break their backs, and they would need it to keep their sanity, similar could be said for luxury with the food, drinks, and other accommodations and for the beauty, someone just said “why not”, and it was truly why not, the cost was same, efficiency as well, so there it was, the ship at the times reminded James of luxury over-ocean cruisers.
The command room on the other hand was not built with all that in mind, but with safety as the first and most important function. The look of the room also felt like entering another building completely, as it was built with combat in mind. Screens, panels, and chairs with straps all over the room. The combat room could also be turned into an escape pod if the rest of the ship was heavily damaged. There was an idea to connect the command room directly with the hyperdrive in order to jump the room away and destroy the rest of the ship in the process when the situation called for it, but for now, it was left as only the idea, and the scientist at the three UFAH stations would need to think of how to create and implement it.
The pre-check went as smoothly as expected, everything was alright and ready for the launch. “Everything clear on our side,” James said to Katie over the comms.
“Roger that, stay on your positions and be ready to take off, we are going to initiate the fake-out protocol,” Katie said and called for Meng on the new ISS station.
Youx fell in love with the earth and humanity over the past three years he has spent in the Solar System. He did scouting routes with utmost professionalism and perfection even though Earth was left completely alone after the initial Anoi landing and Humans came back with their ship. After the shifts were done he would rush to Earth’s surface and enjoy the human culture, food, drinks, nature, and other wonders of the planet. Every two weeks he would visit a new part of the planet he still didn’t get to see and he would write all the findings about the humans and their culture into his journal. He was contemplating writing a book and publishing it once he goes back to the Kraz’ox home planet. He learned some of the human gestures, he could even speak conversational English by now and hoped to speak it perfectly in another year.
Youx was flying his standard scouting path when the alarms started blaring. He opened the comms and listened to the information.
“Armada of Anoi ships spotted at Alpha Centauri system, all available battleships get ready for the jumps.” A voice said from the command center located on the new ISS station. “Scout ships will go with them, all but, SC-11-SS, SC-15-SS…” The voice listed six other, Youx ships among them.
Youx was relieved, he hated combat and hoped to stay on non-combat scouting missions until the war was over. He returned to the new ISS and watched other ships create war formations as they got ready to jump into Alpha Centauri. He got and the other scouting ships got instructions to stay on high alert and scan their new routes carefully if some of the Anoi decide to jump into Solar System.
Youx started his new route as soon as the ships jumped away but everything was calm, as he waited to hear information from Alpha Centauri he noticed a little blip on the radar for a millisecond, he wanted to write it off as just nerves, but just in case rewound back and his surprise there was a red dot from an unknown source which somehow came from Earths surface and not from space. He went over it a few more times and the same results happened, the dot appeared somewhere in Earth’s South Hemisphere for a fraction of a second and then disappeared.
Curiosity got the better of him and as the command center gave no new instructions or information from Alpha Centauri, he dove into Earth’s atmosphere towards the South Pole, where the dot initially appeared. Once there he saw nothing but a white blanket made out of snow and waves from the clear blue ocean crashing into it. He scanned the area but found no intelligent life forms, only a few animals scattered around. Scanning the air on the location appeared he noticed a ripple, not visible with the naked eye, but through ships scopes. That kind of ripple only appeared when a hyper-jump happened and stayed for less than five minutes, and this one was declining rapidly. He had a choice to report it back to the command center and lose the chance to follow through the hole or go right now and report back later.
Curiosity got the better of him once again, he hated combat but this felt like something different, something that had no connection to the current war, so impulsively he told his ship to follow the ripples and jump him to the other side.
The clear blue Earth sky was replaced by the blackness of space, light coming from one unknown star and before his ship could calculate where they were, his alarms started blaring, and then he noticed it. A battleship unlike he ever saw, a black giant with white strips and something written in the human Alphabet, “Pegasus I”.