“War Journal, Eleventh of Retwain.
We are leaving Terra to return home against orders and fight the incoming Grag invasion. Deniv has already contacted the spaceport where the shuttle is parked to get it unshipped and fuelled up. I have also contacted a local freighter to run us home at top speed.
We’re coming home.
End of entry.”
They hadn’t taken much to begin with.
Draliv and Deniv’s kit was packed. Deniv was still hurriedly trying to contact Litin Prime, but having no luck. The Navy officers that he spoke to were distracted, with fear on their faces, and kept saying long-range transmissions were being disrupted all across the board.
Draliv didn’t care.
They were leaving.
Neither had had to say anything, but they were both in agreement.
The apartment’s door chime let out gentle twin notes. Deniv barely had a chance to answer and Markeros was marching through it, having hacked the door controls. He was dishevelled and flustered, his shirt undone, his jacket open and loose; one or two of his service badges were missing as well.
He stopped short when he saw the aliens’ bags packed and neatly stacked beside one of the sofas. He hesitated, unsure.
“You’ve heard already?” he blurted out.
Draliv frowned at him, fury in his face.
“Heard what? That your government is currently assisting the Grag in the extermination of our people?”
Markeros looked crestfallen.
“What? I hadn’t heard that. When did this happen?”
“It’s been happening for years. The Terran Navy was apparently treating with the Grag during the War, and have now signed a treaty with them! Your Prime Minister admitted as much, and our whole reason for being on Terra is null and void.” Draliv got right up in Markeros’ face, who cowered, shrinking as he remembered who this man was and what he had managed in the past. “Since that treaty was signed, a Grag war fleet is headed for Litin Prime to annihilate us once and for all, and no sign of help from anyone!”
“I’m sorry, General… I wasn’t aware of it.”
Draliv just harrumphed and returned to pacing the apartment.
“General,” Deniv said from his right, “the shuttle is out and ready, and the freighter is waiting on standby, ready to leave as soon as we dock.”
Draliv whirled round, and Deniv took a step back, expecting Markeros’ head to come flying off. The old general controlled himself.
“You expect us to stay whilst our age-old enemy is about to destroy our home?”
“I… well… there’s something else, General. The reason I came here tonight. I… I’m here to escort you to a meeting.”
“Because the last one was so helpful?”
“I… No, sir, this one is… different. I’ve only been told some of the details, but it’s… it involves all ambassadors, non-aligned or otherwise.”
* * *
Markeros hadn’t been exaggerating.
When Draliv entered that same arena as before with Markeros leading him, he hadn’t expected it to be so busy. The chairs had been removed in favour of plain stone steps, and aliens of thousands of different biological combinations were arrayed around the amphitheatre, all talking, and all looking highly confused. Some were even outraged that they had had their sleep or meals disturbed.
Draliv tried to tune it all out.
He stayed near exit.
When the meeting was over, he would make a quick getaway.
Deniv was already at the shuttle, and would land outside this place, using diplomatic credentials to get almost outside the door.
There was an almighty squeal through the arena’s speakers and all conversation stopped. A figure strode out onto the central stage.
It was the Prime Minister.
He held a small microphone in between two fingers. He looked as dishevelled as Markeros, with the weight of the world literally on his shoulders. He looked defeated, was the word Draliv was looking for. The same look of resignation and surrender that the Grag warlord had on his face before the life had drained from him.
Something bad had happened.
Draliv struggled to push past his own pain.
“My apologies for the lateness of the hour,” the Prime Minister said, his voice booming from the speakers despite the smallness and weariness in it. There were several grumblings from among the assembled group, but nothing loud enough to be heard fully. “An emergency situation has arisen that requires your attention.” He fiddled with the mic, like a child with stage fright. “A few hours ago, I was made aware that an asteroid was headed directly for Terra.”
He clicked a control on a remote that he fished out of a pocket.
The holographic systems in the arena usually used for highlighting the lead singer of a band or the comedian on stage lit up, and showed a rock. It tumbled and tumbled with small particles of debris surrounding it. A section was highlighted and zoomed in on, and the entire crowd gasped as they realised what they were seeing.
It wasn’t particles around the rock.
They were starships.
Navy warships, in fact. There were no lights on, nothing happening, they just seemed to be orbiting the gargantuan asteroid, tumbling uselessly.
Draliv felt sick as he realised why those ships weren’t moving. If the lights were off, there was no power, and no power meant no life support systems. They were looking at floating tombs, all of them orbiting the asteroid thanks to its small gravity mass similar to a moon.
They weren’t ships anymore; they were tombs.
He saw someone turn and vomit.
Somebody else figured it out, he thought.
“This asteroid is the size of a small moon,” the Prime Minister continued, “And could potentially devastate this planet in a matter of seconds if it is allowed to hit. So far, any ship or device that gets close to it suffers an immediate loss of power. We cannot yet explain why as our sensors are thus far unable to locate it. We can only see it, not scan it. I’m afraid as several of you have already experienced, it is blocking long-range communications away from Terra, even to Mars and Venus, the nearest planets.” His voice wavered, and he had to pause for a few seconds. “We are looking at an extinction-level event. What we would like from all of you is to contact your governments any way you can to help with rescue and recovery efforts. Many of you have personal ships; I would ask that you use them to help evacuate this planet, even if it is just a few people at a time.”
Draliv looked up at the asteroid and had a sick feeling that he wasn’t getting home anytime soon.
“Has this been announced publically yet?” somebody shouted.
“No, Gentleman Zlika, but it’s about to be.”
“That’s going to be hell and confusion,” Markeros murmured beside Draliv. He was looking wide-eyed with fear at the rock and the starships caught in its orbit.
“I’m sorry.” It was all the Prime Minister said before leaving the stage.