The room was silent.
The cavernous headquarters’ briefing room was filled, and it was still silent, except for the transmission of one Cadet Arga, playing over and over.
There was no analysis happening, besides verification of the transmission itself.
Every senior officer on or around Terra, of all divisions and arms, was present, recalled within an hour of Arga’s frantic call being received by Eagle Station. Briggen himself was present via hologram, still monitoring what he could from his post.
“This can’t be true,” declared Fleet Admiral Kombat, head of the 1st Fleet. It was the expected answer to the news. “How can we have not detected this thing? This has to be a cadet’s prank.”
“The squadron was utterly destroyed,” answered Marshal Withers, head of Starfighter Command. “They aren’t responding to our queries, and I’m loathe to send another squadron out in case they are obliterated as well.”
Kombat had stood all the way through, as had many others.
He sat now, unfastening his duty uniform jacket. He blew out a great big sigh, and rubbed his face.
He was one of three Fleet Admirals currently in the sector, the rest of the room made up of lower Navy ranks, as well as the dozens of Army and Starfighter Command officers in the area.
“This can’t be a natural occurrence,” complained Field Marshal Hall, the head of the Army.
“There’s been no threats,” added Kombat. “No warnings, nothing.”
“Are you saying it’s a freak event?” asked Withers.
“What else could it be?”
“If it’s a natural occurrence, why hasn’t this been detected?” demanded Admiral Trenar, the Rathgar commanding officer of the Navy Medical Division. “Why wasn’t this predicted?”
“How could anybody predict this thing?” countered Withers. “The Science Council haven’t reported any unusual disturbances in the asteroid field, have they?” He turned to a hologram hovering off to one side of the central holographic projector. It showed a collection of the science council, most of them currently in orbit aboard their purpose-built station.
“It was not predicted,” claimed one of the scientists. Kombat didn’t bother to remember their names; he knew they would be vilified for their inability to predict this in the months to come, assuming any of them survived. “As you say, how could it be?”
“Well, could this thing be the cause of our communications disturbances lately?” asked High Admiral Murren. He hadn’t even bothered with his uniform jacket; it could be seen hanging on the back of his chair, liberally thrown there.
The scientists exchanged looks, worrying Kombat greatly.
“It could be,” one of them answered.
There was uproar among the officers, all demanding to know why this wasn’t stopped. Why wasn’t it detected? Why wasn’t something done before?
The Science Council didn’t have an answer.
“SILENCE!” Murren bellowed.
The briefing auditorium instantly fell into deep dark silence, every eye on Murren. Kombat could see more than a few thoughts passing through the First Star Lord’s mind, despite knowing better than to try and predict the older man’s actions.
“Before I came to this briefing, I spoke to the Prime Minister. We have not told the public yet. He and I both agreed that evacuation plans should begin immediately.”
Another descent into chaotic shouting and clamouring.
It was Kombat, this time, that ended it.
“PUT A SOCK IN IT!”
Murren gave him a thankful nod when the crowd clamped their mouths shut. All eyes were on him, even the few officers that were manning the projectors and helping Murren organising the briefing. Everybody was silent.
Even he was dreading the next few words.
“Evacuation Protocol Alpha is in effect from this moment on. Priority personnel and equipment first, then everybody else.”
“Sir, you can’t be serious,” argued Trenar, his red skin flushing darker with anger. “Everybody needs to be evacuated, not just the rich and famous.”
Murren glared at him, but the alien stood his ground.
Kombat knew what he was thinking.
How was it that a non-Terran was more concerned with the welfare of the average citizen when their own supreme military command was showing nothing of the sort?
“I understand that, Admiral, but the government needs to be evacuated, as well as priority medical and infrastructure staff.”
“Sir,” Fleet Admiral Whight of the 4th Fleet spoke up. “I agree with the Admiral. Besides, this isn’t like Terra is the only planet, it’s one of millions. Infrastructure and the rest aren’t important. Those Evac Protocols were written when humanity was only spreading across a few star systems; they haven’t been necessary for centuries.”
Murren nodded, and sighed.
“These are the orders handed down by the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister himself.”
“To save their own skins,” somebody scoffed. Neither Murren nor Kombat saw who made the remark, but it wasn’t a great leap to think that many in the room were thinking it. Kombat certainly was, despite his… allegiances.
“Order all orbitals to activate their thrusters and get themselves clear of the planet’s gravity, we don’t know what will happen to the mass, it could pull them down. It’ll hopefully save more lives. Once the Parliament and the others are clear, every ship –Navy or civilian- is to grab as many as they can and run.”
“Are we not going to stop this thing?” Kombat blurted.
His cheeks went crimson with embarrassment, and he kept quiet.
“We’re going to damn well try, despite what the government says,” growled Murren, though his anger was directed at those above him than his officer. “I’m going to take a battlegroup to try and halt this thing, or at least re-direct it maybe.”
“Sir, you can’t,” argued Kombat, his voice joined by a dozen others protesting his involvement. He was the supreme commander, not a line officer.
“This is my homeworld,” he shouted them down. “I am the supreme commander. I refuse to order others to do something so monumentally important without doing it myself.” He turned to his aide. “Captain Ioni, start packing up Headquarters and get as much as you can to Delta-Tango. I want that to be our new Headquarters, away from the government and civilians.”
The aide nodded, and sprinted out of the briefing room, barking orders like a drill instructor.
“Since Fleet Admiral E’wala is currently scouting out new bases in Pegasus, you’re my acting second. In my absence, you must do what you can to get as many Terrans as you can away from this planet. Even if we succeed, there could still be geological, environmental, and seismological repercussions to this.”
Kombat nodded, though didn’t say anything more.
“I’m afraid, though, I’m going to have to borrow some of your ships, Kombat.”
“Yes, sir. Take mine, sir if they’ll have you. The 1st Fleet’s flagship is always ready to go.”
Murren nodded and chuckled.
“I would expect nothing less from a ship named Enterprise.”