Subject: Commander Jack Garnet
Vessel: RMV Cambyses
Date: 13th June 3544 (Earth date)
I woke up to an artificial voice speaking to me:
"Commander, you've got an urgent video conference with the Hamilcar" - said Isaac.
A video conference? What could Captain Petrov want so urgently?
“Accept it, Isaac”
When the video feed was activated, I heard a robotic voice:
"This is a confidential meeting, class 3A. No information obtained via this meeting shall ever be shared with anyone except given direct authorisation. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I do"
"Connecting video feed"
When I got connected I couldn't believe my eyes. Praetorians were in the Hamilcar. What were they doing there? Then a man came into my field of view. he was dressed in formal navy uniform, with four stars on each one of his shoulder boards. That's why the Praetorians were here, they were escorting an admiral, a four star one, nonetheless.
"Commander Garnet, my name is Admiral Reynard. I have urgent orders for you"
"Yes sir, I'm listening"
"Right about now a shuttle should be docking with the Cambyses. That shuttle is filled with a unit of 12 Praetorian soldiers. They will escort you to one of the two alien ships, UV-2 or UV-3, where you will serve as a formal link between me and whatever autority they have aboard those ships. We want to see if we can reach an agreement over this, let's say, misunderstanding. The Praetorians will be there to protect you in case anything bad were to happen. Is everything clear? Do you have any questions?"
"Yes sir, almost everything is clear but I have one question"
"What is it?"
"Why Praetorians, sir? Why not send a squad of Phalanx soldiers, or just regular troopers?"
"Because Praetorians do what I say, when I say it. They don't question my orders and carry them out to perfection. They are also the most elite combat unit in the whole galaxy, as far as we know. They're the perfect choice for your protection, and that's all you have to know"
"Yes sir, understood"
"Great. You will receive further instructions in the future"
"Thank you, sir" - I then saluted him as the conference terminated.
Whoa. Praetorians? I can’t believe that I’m going to be interacting with them!
"Commander, the Praetorian shuttle is on final approach. You might want to look out the window, it’s an amazing ship" - said Isaac.
When I got to the window, the sun was shining on the ship, which had an angular look to it, more than normal. It must be true then what they say about those cloaking capabilities they have, that they can turn invisible to sensors and to the naked eye. I decided to go to the docking bay to receive them, now that I had seen their ship. Hell, I could look at it more in detail in the bay.
As I made my way down, I wondered where would the Praetorians sleep. At that moment I remembered the VIP quarters just outside the officer’s:
“Isaac, send word to maintenance to ready VIP quarters 1 and 2. The Praetorians will be staying there”
“Right away, Commander”
As I got to docking bay 1, I saw my first officer already waiting for me at the door:
"Is it true, sir? Are Praetorians coming on board?"
"Yes, it is. Who told you though?"
"No one, sir. I just ran to the nearest window, as everyone else did. Then we recognised the shuttle from the Earth Day broadcasts as a Praetorian one"
"Well, we better get in there now, as they must've already landed"
Then, he opened the door to reveal the back of the ship, where a ramp was lowering. Once it touched the ground, two very tall Praetorians got out of the ship and walked towards us:
"I'm Master Sargent 'Shocker'. I need for you to show me to my unit's quarters. Once there, I will speak to you privately about the mission, as none of it shall be discussed in front of unauthorised personnel" - he said, as he looked at my first officer.
"Sure, I will show you personally to your quarters. Follow me"
Then I started walking, and heard the rest of the unit come out of the shuttle. When I turned around, I noticed how intimidating the Praetorians really were. They were at least 2.2 meters tall, and judging by the sound their footsteps made on the ground, they packed a punch. The capes they were wearing gave them an even more intimidating look, as if they were some sort of magical beings. Their suits also looked out of this world. One of these suits costs more than my ship, 10 times over. And their weapons, too. I heard these were prototype PR-13s, a gun specially designed for Praetorian soldiers. Rumors said the gun linked to their mind via special implants, and this plus the suit, which was also linked made the gun literally
an extension of their arm. Not that they needed the guns, though. The Praetorians were trained in all known ways of hand-to-hand combat, which made them deadly even outside the suit.
I kept walking through the ship and I looked back to see how they were doing, and they were marching in perfect formation, all in sync, looking forward. I couldn't help but notice all of the crew that were on the same corridor immediately make way for them, hugging the walls.
At once we reached the VIP quarters on the front of the ship:
"This is where you'll be staying, Master Sgt. 'Shocker'. What is your name, anyway?"
"My name and rank are confidential, sir. I shall only be adressed by my codename"
"Alright. Let’s go in and discuss those mission details you wanted to talk about"
Then he and the rest of the unit went into the room, which I entered last, closing the door behind me.
"Commander, you have been chosen as the provisional ambassador for the Second Human Republic. My unit has been selected to protect you at all cost, were the mission to fail. You have been given limited command capability over my unit. We still respond to the admiralty, but in case of emergency we can also take order from you. Do you understand?"
"Yes. If you don't need anything else from me, I will go back to the bridge"
"Sir, there's two more things we have to talk about" - 'Shocker' said, as he took out some things from his pocket - "This is a transmitter. You have to have it on you at all times, for us to be able to locate you. This other thing is a special communications device, that lets you talk to us wherever you are, no remote link needed. Also have it on you at all times"
"Is that all?"
"Great, thanks. Now I must leave for the bridge"
As I saluted them, the 12 Praetorians got up and saluted me. When I went for the door I heard footsteps behind me, so I turned around to see what was happening. Two soldiers were headed for the door as well:
"Sir, we have orders to escort you wherever you go, just for safety"
"Okay, come if you have to"
So I turned and left, with the heavy footsteps behind me. When I arrived to the bridge everyone was shocked to see my newly acquired escorts:
"Commander, incoming video conference from the Hamilcar" - said Isaac
"Connecting live feed now"
My HUD lit up with the image of Admiral Reynard:
"Commander, I see that you have got the new escorts. I hope everything went smoothly with the Praetorians. I have mission details I'd like to share with you. The Cambyses and the Faramond are to approach UV-2 and UV-3's positions in 2 hours. The Hamilcar will be ready to fire on them if any hostile actions were to take place, and two more Apex-class battlecruisers are on standby on the Gunides system, just in case. Before you jump to the alien ships, your ship-board AI will broadcast a message stating your peaceful intentions. From there on you will have to agree with the aliens on which ship to board to engage in peace talks. Your escorts will be with you all the time and you will report only to me via the communicator they gave you. Is that clear?"
"You will recieve a full briefing by the Agency soldiers aboard your ship on what to say and what not to say. Any questions?"
"Great. I'll contact you again before you get on the shuttle to give you a final briefing"
"Understood, sir. Garnet out" - I said, as the conference terminated.
Shit! I was going to board the enemy ship? That's why they brought Praetorians, so any attempt against me would have no effect at all. I bet my two escorts could get rid of an entire ship’s crew by themselves, if needed.
“Isaac, get everything in the ship checked and ready for when we have to go visit those aliens. Also, alert the Faramond of their duty to come with us and send out probes to the Euclidean travel lanes’ exits to give us an early warning if more alien ships are to come”
And then I headed for the Agency’s part of the ship. It was located near the bridge, so I didn’t have to walk for long. The Praetorians where behind me, so I decided to ask them their names:
“Praetorians, what are your names? If you’re going to be escorting me I want to know how to address you”
“Sir, I’m ‘Mamba’, and this is ‘Duster’”
“What are your names?”
“Sir, our real names and ranks are classified along with any other relevant information about the program”
“Are you allowed to tell me your age, or that is also classified?”
“Our exact age is classified too, but I can tell you that we’re above 25 years of real age”
“What do you mean ‘real age’?”
“Our physical age is 25 years old, and we stay like that for many years. Our real age is the time since our birth, not the age our body displays”
“Oh. Well, If you want to know anything about me just ask”
“We’ve read your file, sir. We know almost everything about you”
“Well, if curiosity gets the better of you, you can ask anything”
By that moment we had reached the Agency’s part of the ship, so I pressed the button beside the door to come in. The door then opened to reveal an armed soldier wearing full black armor. When he saw me, he saluted and made the gesture for me to go in. When I did, my escorts followed me, leaving the Agency soldier astounded. He saluted them as well and closed the door. I followed the corridor until I got to a desk:
“Good morning, Commander. Your briefing is in meeting room 2. Follow the corridor and turn left to get there”
Then I went left and turned the corner. When I got to the meeting room there was a soldier waiting outside for me:
“Sir, your escorts can’t come into the room” - said the soldier
“You heard him. Stand guard here”
“Yes, sir” - answered the Praetorians.
The soldier then opened the door for me, which I walked through. Sat inside was an officer dressed in black:
“Good morning, Commander. I’m Sgt. Chau, and I’m here to brief you on first contact protocols. Take a seat, please”
I sat down, and he opened a folder in front of him:
“Alright, first thing is you will follow the OpSec protocol as you would with a civilian. But you will have to take care not to reveal anything related to Earth or the Republic’s history. From now on, the words ‘Earth’ and ‘Sol’ are to be removed from your vocabulary. Your main objective is to de-escalate the situation and to avoid any immediate response from their part. We also have a device for you that we took from one of the captured officers aboard UV-1. We believe it’s a universal translator, and the engineering teams aboard the Hamilcar have tweaked it to adapt the English it has to a more modern version. Any questions for now?”
“No, everything is clear”
“Great. Your secondary objective is to try to get the aliens to have a higher power of their ‘Federation’ communicate with us to make this a more formal matter. You will maintain radio silence for the duration of your mission in order to maintain our radio frequency’s as hidden as possible. The only contact you will have will be with your escorts. You will report everything back to us once you’re back on the Cambyses, and then write a full report for the Admiralty”. Any questions?”
“No, everything remains clear”
“Ok. You will also carry a microfiber camera, implanted directly into your cornea to film the entire mission. Once we’re done here you will go to the infirmary to get it implanted. We also believe it’s in your best interest to wear some under-uniform protective equipment, which you’ll find on the armory”
“Is that all?”
“Yes. Any questions?”
“Great. Head to the infirmary and then the armory to get ready”
Then we got up, saluted each other and he accompanied me to the door. He handed me another dossier:
“This is what our medical staff aboard the Hamilcar has learned about the aliens aboard UV-1. Take a look at it so you know how they look like and you don’t get shocked to see them”
“Okay, I will. Thanks for everything, Sargent”
Then I walked out of the room and headed for the infirmary. The trip was quick, and when I got there a nurse was waiting for me:
“Commander, right this way”
I followed her to a small room and she gestured me towards a padded chair, on which I sat down. Then, a doctor who was holding a metallic device came into the room:
“Hello Commander. This device will implant the microfiber camera into your cornea. Do you have any preference on which eye you want it?”
“My right eye is my dominant, so put it on my left one”
Then he put the device over my face and a whirring noise started to sound. I felt a needle go into my neck, and I assumed it was some anesthesia. Then, a light shone in my left eye and I felt a small pinch inside of it. When the whirring stopped, the doctor removed the device from my face and said:
“We’re all done! Now drink this” - he handed me a cup full of a light blue liquid - “It will break up the anesthesia in your body and you’ll feel completely normal in about 15 minutes”
“Okay. How does this camera work?”
“Blink three times for it to start recording, blink three times again for it to stop”
After that, I tried to get up from the chair, only to be met with the effects of the anesthesia:
“Wow! You have to stay here at least 20 minutes, for the anesthesia to go away” - said the nurse.
Then she left the room, so I took out the folder abvout the physiology of the aliens to take a look at it.
After a while, the nurse came back in and told me I was good to go. I left the room hastily and headed for the armory, which was close. I looked at my watch to see I had half an hour until I had to get the ship moving. Then, I arrived at the armory and a soldier that was waiting for me handed me a vest:
“Sir, this is a under-uniform bulletproof vest. It will stop any small caliber kinetic round as well as any plasma rounds”
When he finished speaking I said thanks and left for my quarters. One I got there I grabbed my formal tie and swapped the everyday jacket for the formal one. I got dressed and when I was ready, I headed for the bridge. While I was on my way I told Isaac to broadcast our peaceful intentions in all frequencies for the aliens to hear, and to also start charging the Halcyon drive and link it with the Faramond’s. When I got to the bridge, I saw everyone was neck-deep into getting us ready for jumping:
“Commander, the Halcyon drive is charged and we’re ready for jump” - said Isaac - “estimated travel time is 2 minutes, and we’ll be traveling at an estimated speed of 252c”
“Jump when ready”
Then, I saw the blinding white flash that meant we had jumped. I turned toward my escorts and told them:
“‘Mamba’, inform the rest of the unit to head towards docking bay 1, ready the shuttle and wait for us”
Before I turned around, I felt the ship getting out of warp. I turned to face the windows and for the first time saw the alien ships. They were a combination of angular and circular, smooth shapes. Like UV-1, they had clearly defined engine sections and a prominent bridge.
“Commander, incoming video conference from the Hamilcar”
My HUD lit up with the image of Admiral Reynard:
“Commander Garnet, I hope you are ready. We definitely are and our backup on Gunides station is too. Good luck”
“Thank you, sir” - I said as the conference ended.
“Commander, we’ve received a message from UV-2 indicating that you’re to dock with them, and they will host the diplomatic talks” - said Isaac.
“Okay. Keep broadcasting the signal until I come back. Do not
lower shields and keep weapons ready, but not powered up, in case we need to use them”
Then I turned around and headed for docking bay 1. Once I got there, I got into the shuttle and felt it take off and accelerate towards UV-2. The entire ride was silent, until ‘Shocker’ said:
“Sir, get ready. We’ll be docking in 30 seconds. The rest of you, you know what do”
Then, precisely 30 seconds later, I heard a thump
that indicated we had docked. I got up, straightened my uniform and walked up to the door. I heard my Praetorians load their weapons and check their systems. Once I was ready I blinked three times, pressed the button and the doors to a new chapter in human history opened before my eyes.
Author’s note: Wow! This was a long chapter, a lot longer than I anticipated. It got dragged on partly because of dialogue but mainly because I didn’t want my third chapter to be a filler one.
I hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading!