Written by UF-Harkonna on . Posted in AE Stories

Spatial warfare had changed drastically since humanity's early attempts to conquer their own solar system. Bickering nation-states faced with fresh resources to compete over, rather than drawing the nations of Terra together- soon brought war to all of the Sol system. The annals of history have long forgotten this lonely, desolate planet- brought to its knees by nuclear hellfire, as its colonies continued to thrive, and conquer. War was constant, and embittered. Even now, in the far-flung future, war has become almost a bygone conclusion- the idea of peace, or honor, a worthless trinket used by the weak. Countless stellar empires rise, collapse, or are beaten down by the strong in every passing moment. The peace that might have been found among the stars that so many on ancient Terra dreamed of, is nothing more than a foolish, shattered dream.

Colonies across the myriad galactic clusters are consistently founded and annihilated at a breathtaking pace- the death of millions a commonplace sight, and genocide regarded as a necessity. Psychotic despots regard their citizens as nothing more than pawns in a twisted war game, many even brought to the horrific conclusion, by their utter depravity, that they truly are playing a game ... The lives of their pilots, captains, and innumerable citizens nothing more than numbers and figures to be dismissed. Perhaps, this is to cope with the concept of having such incredible power in their hands, but for most, it is merely a way to write off any sort of guilt for their transgressions against even the slightest shred of a conscience they might have left.

A lonely asteroid circles the blazing red sun that dominates the solar system- an insignificant speck, compared to the vastness of the galaxy within which it resides. Clumps of debris and other rocks drift about this relatively small stellar body. Upon closer inspection, the asteroid shows signs of habitation, massive excavations and mechanizations dot its surface, and burrow deep within. Spaceports, Shipyards and Mining Facilities sprawl across the great chunk of rock- a home to nearly fifteen million civilians and military personnel. This is but one of many colonies of a galaxy-spanning empire, ruled over by a vicious and merciless despot, known only to his citizens as "BanMah." A squadron of fighters streaks by at an incredible pace, the smallish, sleek-looking craft actively patrolling the asteroid field for intruders.

Near the surface, numerous weapons platforms remain on stand-by, their crews idling the hours by- waiting for the next shift to take over for them. Despite the highly militarized nature of the colony, things seemed almost peaceful. Idyllic. The hand of their despotic ruler never really seemed to touch on their personal lives- the military never really seeming to interfere with, exception of their rather ruthless recruiting drives for newly constructed vessels, or fresh fighter squadrons being churned out in need of pilots. In barely a few moments, all of this changed.

The automated sensors facility on-planet began to transmit desperately to the primary military command centre, the staff on-duty hurriedly calling in the base commander, one Gareth Lohansen. He was a seasoned defensive tactician, specializing in directing and resupplying base turrets- and other defensive facilities. It wasn't long before they realized how dire the situation was. The sensors array had picked up ten Carriers en route to the asteroid field, carrying a full compliment of fighter craft. At this point- they hadn't the faintest who was attacking, but they were here in force. The entire colony had literally only minutes to begin co-ordinating a hasty defense. At their disposal, they had barely a hundred and twenty Fighters, with a handful of Scout Ships, twelve Corvettes, and six Destroyers to back them up. Even in a coordinated strike, there was no way they could hold out against the six hundred Fighters that were incoming. Moreover ...

Their attack controls were locked. The colony was constantly under explicit orders to only act defensively, unless under direct orders from BanMah to initiate a counter-attack, and despite desperate communiques to the capital, there was no response from him whatsoever. Seconds later, the enemy fleet was upon the scattered forces the base had managed to scramble. The carriers flitted into view near the outskirts of the asteroid field- bright flashes of light flickering across the soon-to-be battlefield as the large military vessels disgorged a veritable swarm of fighter craft. The scout craft managed to ping the enemy vessels as they approached, getting a few images of them with their advanced optics before the large craft winked out of the system once more.

The carriers had been heavily armoured, bulky, and heavily armed, from the telemetry the scouts had sent back, before moving off. At best guess, it would have taken an empire with a Universal Capability Level of roughly 45 to field such vessels. From the markings, they managed to trace it to the empire lead by another merciless despot named "KrillerSkrilleX." Moments later, the comparatively large, dangerous-looking fighter drones were upon the defensive forces. Mercifully, now that they were under attack- the weapons controls unlocked, allowing the small fleet to maneuver and engage.

Emerald green and dull crimson laser fire belted out from the opposing forces, intermixed with the florescent green of plasma rounds that blasted out from the destroyers as they waded through the battle. The fighter drones tore through the ranks of rookie fighter pilots with ease, their advanced- near sentient programming and instantaneous telemetry sharing allowing them to out-coordinate and out-fight the pilots in every possible way. It wasn't long before the last squadron met its end, the frightened pilots desperately screaming for mercy from the cold, silent automatons. The corvettes and destroyers fared little better- the drones outmaneuvering them easily, dodging their clumsy weapons with extreme finesse, before lighting up their weak points and leaving them nothing more that smouldering slag. One by one, each of the defensive craft were snuffed out. A few of the crew aboard the destroyers managed to abandon ship- but the pods were ruthlessly destroyed- popping idly in the face of the drone's concentrated energy beams.

The burned husks of what was now roughly two hundred military personnel drifted silently through the asteroids- spinning and floating outwards in a peaceful, yet macabre fashion. The hulls of the destroyers glow, their plasma batteries ruptured and leaking liberally, boiling atmosphere seeping out into the inky blackness like the blood of a slaughtered beast. But the drones were not finished yet. There was still the matter of the colony ...

56 rebels

The command centers on the asteroid colony were in disarray, the personnel torn between shirking protocol, and attempting to bypass the automated lockouts preventing them from evacuating the base, and attempting to heighten the efficiency of the base's numerous plasma turrets. Eventually the latter won out, as the fifteen million souls within the base awaited their fate with an agonizing, clawing fear. There was no way their defenses could possibly hold up to the sheer number of fighters, commander in charge or not. Of this, the fighter drones were well 'aware,' streaking down upon the hard-points with lethal precision. The large plasma cannons tracked, and fired with great precision on the approaching targets, blasting almost fifty of them out of the sky, before the overwhelming majority of them finally broke through the meager defensive shell, coming into range and laying waste to their armour.

The laser fire tore through, into the ammunition bunkers beneath the turrets all across the large asteroid, their combined assault leaving nothing behind but boiling craters of rapidly dissipating plasma. The turret crews, who only minutes earlier had been merely waiting for the next shift to relieve them- were now running through the bunker corridors in a desperate attempt to escape their imminent demise. The vast majority of them failed, trapped within the facility by the same damnable automated lockouts that seemed to ruin any chance they might have had at self-preservation.

The drones continued mercilessly- their programming ordering them to continue razing civilian targets all across the large asteroid- Urban Centers, Metal Refineries and Mining Facilities lay burning, scoured of life. Much of the entire asteroid was soon reduced to little more than a smoking ruin, a shattered husk of what it was minutes earlier, ravaged by a brutal firestorm, that blanketed the once idyllic colony with death and suffering.

The next few hours dragged on, as enemy support ships poured in, ransacking and pillaging the remaining facilities, and patrolling what was once a battlefield for scrap metal and usable debris. The trading vessels on-planet were destroyed immediately, their immediate contents looted and secreted away aboard on the of thousands of resupply vessels that had descended upon the base like horrific vultures, only to slip away without a word. A few fighter drones remained, hunting down pockets of resistance, and exterminating them- continuing to ravage and raid whatever targets of opportunity presented themselves. More than half of the fifteen million colonists had been killed in less than an hour.

And elsewhere in the galaxy, similar scenes played out on a regular basis- the lives of trillions exchanged and bartered for in exchange for Galactic Standard Credits. Entire civilizations exterminated for a pithy amount of resources. The universe is a dangerous, hateful, malicious place, ruled over by the strong, and the psychotic- leaders either unable to grasp the impact of their action, or actively reveling in it.

Welcome to Astro Empires. Where every step you take, whether forward- or back, is bathed in the blood of millions. Join the eternal Firestorm ...

Story sent by UF-Harkonna for the AE Stories event.