Short Story: “Stars”

By Julian Michael O’Connor

Stardate 2320.1.01.0905

The view is the best part of this job. A whole galaxy of stars on one side of you, galaxies upon galaxies of points of light on all the other sides. Some people would probably think that my job is boring. After all, I do the same thing every day, and it doesn’t often change. Even when it does, that’s for a day or two at most, and then whoever came goes home. They came to their senses, I guess. 

Who in their right mind would want to be stuck at an outpost at the edge of the Alliance and the galaxy? I must be crazy then, because I quite like it. 

Ever since I got here, two years ago, I’ve enjoyed it. It is boring sometimes, but everything is. At least here, I get a great view and I get to be disconnected from all the politics on Earth. I still hear about it of course, on my trusty holotablet, but I don’t have to be in the middle of it, with the protests, the marches, the campaigns for or against this or that. 

I swear, when I lived on Earth, on the walk to my job, I could pass a group campaigning for alien rights, and then another one campaigning to deport all aliens. It was crazy. Everybody always asks you if you were for or against something. At least out here, nobody asks you anything. 

That’s the only downside of this job: the loneliness. My last contact was a year ago, when a couple techs came out to replace the missile battery. The scientists back on Earth invented some new type of missile that does more damage because of something to do with antimatter… I don’t know. It doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is that because this is a border station, the techs needed to replace the missiles so that the station is “combat-ready to defend against any potential threats”. 

Pffft. “Potential threats.” Who do they think we’re fighting? The last war was fifty years ago, and that was against the Devourers. They’re all dead now, so unless another race that wants to eat us alive is going to come along, I think we’re safe. Then again, that’s the military for you. Always defending against some potential threat. 

It’s a bit ironic though, because even though this starbase is a border station, it’s a border with our “allies”, which really just means any alien race that doesn’t want to devour us alive. It reminds me of the situation on twenty-first century Earth, which, if you can believe it, was only slightly over a century ago. Anyway, most of the major countries in the world back then had a mutual dislike for each other, but they all pretended to be allies because of the threat of nuclear war.

Of course, eventually they realized that they couldn’t survive without each other, although it did take an interstellar war to get there. Whatever, that’s all in the past. I highly doubt that our neighbors one jump away, the Bavi, will ever attack us. They’re pretty nice people, they mostly keep to themselves. I think I’ve talked to one Bavi since I started this job, and only about two back on Earth. 

Since the Bavi are so nice, the Fleet doesn’t think they’re a real threat, and prefers to concentrate fleet power where it’s “really needed,” even though we all know the Sirius base doesn’t need another missile battery, even if it used to be the border with the Devourers. 

The other reason they don’t come is that they probably just forgot about me. This system is one of the last accessible systems in the galaxy, it’s on the Galactic Rim, if you will. This makes it a chokepoint, completely uninteresting, and gives it a great view. 

A ship is scheduled to pass through today, any minute now. Some scientist on his way back from the far reaches of the galaxy. I heard the government recently surveyed every star system we have access to. Of course, that doesn’t include star systems in nations that are hostile to us, and half the people in the galaxy just gave us their survey data, but surveying 50% of the galaxy is still pretty impressive. Here he is now.

Stardate 2320.2.26.0905

Everyday, I sit at this desk, read my holotablet, and drink my coffee. 

Coffee. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s been with us since the early days on Earth, and it’s still with us to this day. It’s amazing. Some people have even set up hydroponic farms on starbases to grow coffee.

Anyway, today the fleet science division announced that they made a new kind of shield generator. Supposedly this shield generator breaks all the laws of physics, but makes a whole new set of ones work again. I’m not quite sure how a shield generator can break gravity, but I guess it does. All it probably means is another team of techs coming to install new stuff. You’d think they’d come faster considering there’s literally a Gateway to Alpha Centauri, but whatever. They like to take the slow route. 

Stardate 2230.3.01.0905

The techs came yesterday, faster than I would have thought, slower then they could have been, considering they could literally have been here in hours. 

Today they announced that Jane Rector won the election for governor of the frontier. I didn’t vote. Apparently she has two kids, a devoted husband, and a cute dog. 


I’ve never had a relationship. Maybe I’ll find someone when I get back to Earth. 

For now, I’m happy here at my little starbase.

Stardate 2230.4.05.0908

Today they announced that – I use that a lot, don’t I? Today they discovered- no. Today our genius scientists announced that- no. 

Oh whatever, I’ll just quote from the article. “Today, Johansen et al. announced that they have made a revolutionary breakthrough: the invention of a so-called ‘jump drive’. The jump drive allows almost instantaneous point to point transportation of a ship-sized object anywhere within a distance of 10.52 parsecs. The first prototype was actually tested in a military lab in the far reaches of the Sol system on 2229.12.02, but…” You get the idea.

The article goes on to explain that although the applications for civilian ships are practically limitless, the military application is limited, because the ‘jump’ process tampers with a ship’s sensors, making it blind for a few minutes after a jump.

Also, something about the structural integrity goes down, meaning that going too fast, or say, getting hit by a missile would do a lot more damage than it normally would. This means that we probably aren’t going to see fleets jumping in on top of enemies anytime soon.  For civilians though, who don’t need to go that fast, nor should be getting hit by missiles, the jump drive means that they can get to their favorite asteroid theater that much quicker.

Stardate 2230.5.06.0906 

There’s news of tensions between the Jall’Neq, an authoritarian warlike people, and, of all people, the Bavi. 

Apparently, the two had a trade treaty that expired, and when they tried to renegotiate it, the negotiations fell apart. Now the two countries openly hate and distrust each other. 

Some people are saying it might escalate to armed conflict. I doubt that though. The Bavi are peaceful people, and we just signed a treaty with them saying that we would defend them if they ever got attacked. Nobody would be stupid enough to declare war on the Bavi and us. 

Stardate 2230.5.07.0904

hkhbjrytun Sorry, I just spit coffee all over my holotablet and had to wipe it off. Apparently I was wrong! The Jall’Neq declared war on the Bavi, and also specifically on us! The Alliance of Earth Nations is at war again!

The 1st Fleet is deploying from Alpha Centauri. Their original plan was to use the gateways to hop to where the Jall’Neq are invading, but the Jall’Neq seem to have found a way to destroy gateways, and it was the first thing they did when they invaded the Bavi’s border system. The 1stwill have to gate to the capital system and try to meet the Jall’Neq halfway. 

Stardate 2230.6.09.0905

It finally happened. The Bavi surrendered. Even after the 1st had won many victories against the Jall’Neq (losing only six ships), the Bavi still said that their losses were too high, and they didn’t want to lose any more people. The 1st is pulling back to Alpha Centauri, and the Bavi are going to be annexed by the Jall’Neq.

I feel sorry for them. Despite our best efforts, they still took heavy losses. I guess that’s also a part of being pacifist, not wanting to keep fighting if surrender is an option. I understand why they did it though. 

Stardate 2230.6.25.0905

Long range sensors report that the Jall’Neq fleet is still moving galactic North, towards us. I wonder why. They surely wouldn’t try to invade us… 

Stardate 2230.8.25.2200

I’m scared. The Jall’Neq fleet has been slowly coming towards us. They destroyed a border starbase just yesterday, only one system away. From there they can either go further into the empire… or here. I should try to get some sleep. 

Stardate 2230.8.26.0608

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Audio log transcript… confidence level 85%…

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Crap! I just woke up to an alarm! Long range sensors have detected the Jall’Neq fleet on its way here! They’re supposed to be here in a few hours. I’ve sent an SOS through the gateway, to Alpha Centauri. Hopefully someone will get it… 

Warning! Inbound fleet detected… Entry Point: Gateway. Origin System: Alpha Centauri. Identifier: 1st Fleet, Admiral James Washington Commanding. Allow Access? 

Allow! Allow!

Access allowed. Arrival in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Fleet has arrived. Incoming transmission. Priority: Urgent. Displaying onscreen. 

“This is Admiral James Washington, commander of the 1st Fleet of the Alliance of Earth Nations, onboard the IES Ares. Am I speaking to Artemis Smith?”

“Yes, sir.” 

“Good. Smith, do you know how to operate this station’s missile battery?” 

“Yes, sir, I do.”

“Good, we may need it soon. Get ready. I’ll try to send some techs over to help you. Washington out.”

Oh my God, I hope I sounded more confident then I felt. 

Wow. I just told the display to show the 1st on screen, and… if I was the Jall’Neq, I would be terrified. For reference, the 1st is made up of 55 missile frigates, 30 point defense frigates, 20 missile destroyers, 5 point defense destroyers, 2 destroyers equipped with railguns, 10 carriers carrying somewhere on the order of 100 strike craft each, 10 broadside cruisers with massive railguns and long-range missile batteries, and five state of the art battleships with terrifying new energy weapons.

Looking at the whole fleet in formation for a gateway transition is awe-inspiring. Another figure I just looked up: the frigates are 100 meters from stem to stern, and the battleships are a kilometer long. One kilometer! I feel pretty good about-

Warning! Warning! Enemy fleet detected! Arrival in 5. Battle stations! Battle stations! Enemy fleet has arrived! Alert! Alert!

How do I turn this darn thing off? Computer! Stop! Finally. Oh my God, I’m really scared. 

“Smith!”

“Yes, sir?”

“This battle’s about to begin. Unfortunately, the techs I was sending to you just got hit by a missile. You’ll have to manage the starbase on your own. Focus your missiles on the small ships, but not the ones with point-defense. Make sure that you keep the focus on staying alive. Don’t worry about protecting my ships with your point-defense. As long as we have the base, we haven’t lost. Understood?”

“Yes, Sir!” 

“Outstanding. Good luck, Artemis. Washington out.”

I have to go fight. I hope I’ll be back. Artemis out. End log.

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Reboot complete. Status check:

Point defense cannon one: Offline.

Point defense cannon two: Online, minor damage.

Point defense cannon three: Offline.

Point defense cannon four: Offline.

Missile Battery One: Online.

Missile Battery Two: Online.

Missile Battery Three: Online.

Missile Magazines: 90% depleted. 

Crew: One, critical condition.

Hull: Warning! Hull Breach on command center. Establishing forcefields…

Forcefields established. Hull breach contained. 

Life support: Error 505, unable to connect. Retrying… Failure. Error 505. Retrying… Failure. Error 505. Retrying… Connection established. Querying status… All systems operational, minor damage.

System check complete. Sending status report to Fleet Command. Sending aid to crew members…

***********************************************************************************

“Smith? Smith? Are you alright there? The starbase took a hit on your main power module, it looks like it just rebooted. Smith?” Admiral Washington’s voice crackled through the radio.

Artemis’s eyes fluttered open as medical drones rolled away from Artemis’s body. 

“I’m here, sir,” Artemis said, trying to stand clumsily and grabbing a nearby bulkhead for support. “Did… did we win?” 

“Look at the display,” Admiral Washington said.

Artemis stumbled to the viewport and looked outside. Outside the window, billions of fragments of once-mighty warships float, glinting in the light like stars, superimposed over the stars of the Milky Way. 

“I’m assuming they’re all the enemy’s, sir?” Artemis asked, as a frigate flew past the window.

“Almost. We lost ten ships. The most we’ve ever lost. One the other hand, out of the 124 enemy ships, only one survived, because I let it. To tell the tale, if it even makes it back to their territory.” 

“Sir,” Artemis said, still gazing out the window, “the view is the best part of this job.”

The End.

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