Have you ever seen what entropy does to a place – and I don’t mean the law of thermodynamics? I mean the technology. The rewriting of physics within a set space. Nothing in these worlds rends my heart more than witnessing the aftermath of such a weapon of mass destruction. All it takes is one, or a particularly tampered FTL drive, and entire star clusters are gone in the blink of an eye. Not that one worries about such things. Back then, like today, drives couldn’t do things they weren’t made to. Destroying a star with an FTL drive is like trying to level a city with a nuclear reactor. You can do it, but you’re going to have a difficult time making it happen. These thing are, by design, tamper-proof.
Back then I was a Davis, before the Staforce, and before the subterfuge that comes with being a blackguard. I was born in the Theta Erid system on 23rd November 2606. It was a quiet and out of the way place on the frontier of human space. A place that attracted people with the fascination of adventure and science types by the hundreds. With a population of about fifty thousand and no major shipping lanes nearby it was a haven for such dangerous scientific endeavour, such as entropy technology, thay when misapplied could be disasterous. As cold and utilitarian as it sounds, in the grand scheme of things, if an experiment goes wrong, fifty thousand people is nothing. But an experiment did not go wrong.
On 17th July 2617, I learned a single profound truth of the universe:
We are not alone.
I remember my father, he was a deep space communications technician. As young as I was, I think I understood that he made the internet work. My mother, however, was a scientist. Only reading back on it did I later understand that she did research in hyper-light radar and communications.
It all happened quickly. I was out with my father one morning during a school break – I recall we had ice cream – when we heard the familiar sonic boom of ships. In an instant, everything was on fire. The earth shook, glass exploded everywhere and the very building crumbled into ruin as a mass of brick, steel and plaster tumbled down. I remember being one of the lucky ones, in a manner of speaking; nothing fell on me. Looking up, the sky was full of fighters; ours, theirs. The difference was negligible fron the ground, but you could see that something was… off.
The ships were unlike anything I’d ever seen. They were strange contortions of metal, spewing fighters and shuttles into the air around them while they bombarded the city below. I later learned that their ships weren’t shooting at us, they were shooting at the shipyards and the power stations. It was the shuttles we were meant to be afraid of.
It must have been a while before I really took in my surroundings, the broken windows, shredded buildings, chunks of steel from ships that hadn’t been there before. and my father, laying pinned beneath a mass of rubble. In the moment it took to shake of the suddenness of everything, a couple of people had rushed over to help pull him, and the others, free. My father screamed in pain when they tried to help him. Everyone had to dig the rubble away instead. It seemed like and age before they got him free. One if his legs was hurt and bleeding. He couldn’t have stood on it even if he’d tried. The strangers carefully propped him against the wall, one of them going as far as to put their belt around his thigh to try and stem the bleeding.
There was a pause, as everyone looked around at one another. What was happening? Why? What should we do? Everyone stood there awkwardly until someone shouted at us from the street.
‘One of those things has landed!’
He was right, of course. A shuttle had landed in the street and a swarm of these repugnant creatures climbed out. They were as tall as people, but bigger. They had six legs, a pair of arms and looked somewhere between a crab and a grasshopper. The moment they climbed out of the vehicle they started shooting people. There were screams, people tried to flee only to be shot in the back.
There was this little old lady near me, who pulled me back into the building. She had me firmly by the arm and told me ‘You need to say goodbye to your father. We’re leaving before they come here.’
I objected. I wanted to stay with my father, but all that caused her to do was grip me tightly by the shoulders.
‘You’ll see him again, but right now we need to leave.’
I continued to protest, until my father repeated what the old lady said. Then I just started crying. Just like that I was pulled, sobbing, from the ruin of a building by a little old lady who moved with surprising agility, accompanied by a dozen other people.
I never saw my father again.
I don’t remember much of what happened after that. We ran through streets of ever dwindling people. At some point, the local garrison of the starforce was fighting back with a futile vigour. Finally, about a dozen of us were ushered into a troop transport after it’d unloaded it’s compliment. That, that was when I saw my first blackguard. He had a ragged-looking team of marines in combats and he himself wore the crisp black uniform of a blackguard like it was made for him. I remember the rifles, wrapped with red tape, and the shouting of the marines as they put down a squad of the beasts.
It was so quick, so easy, and yet every other solder I’d seen fight the invaders, had struggled to even put a scratch on the creatures. I was almost in awe when the transport pulled away. They were actually putting up a fight when nobody else on the ground could. Then the street was hit, and in a roar of fire they were gone.
The little old lady was still with me. ‘Look at me.’ She said. ‘We’re survivors you and I. Remember that.’ And I did, but I’d just watched a city burn. What do you think that does to a girl? I barely had the energy left to tell her my name.
There was a long silence on that transport before the pilot made the jump to FTL. The jump was short. We met up with a collection of small ships, a carrier and a couple of gunships were parked a few light-years out in empty space. I remember finding a window to look out of, back towards Erid, but there was nothing. Just an empty void. By the magic of entropy weapons, and a catastrophic first-contact, five local star systems were gone.
We were told to say it was a fault with an FTL experiment. The hundred-odd of us were were lucky enough to be leaving the planet at a the right time, we were the fortunate few who made it out. Just another dangerous experiment gone wrong. An experiment that would never have actually gone wrong.
There were a fifty thousand people on that colony. Now there are less than a hundred of us. They are family to me, I was raised by them. We share a bond that few others know. We know that humanity’s days are numbered.