The End by Paul Chadeisson
When : Where
551 DE (2861 CE) : Unknown
The dreadnought dropped out of shellspace after shooting the gap through the constellation of Virgo and continuing another 900 light years, give or take. Celestially speaking the stop was in the middle of nowhere, a dead-end way point not worth fighting for let alone visiting. Another ship materialized from shellspace several million miles away and approached the docile but alert dreadnought. The ship designs were clearly of differing logic. The dreadnought was needlessly massive and overbearing. The corvette was just as needlessly sleek and organic. Divergent themes with convergent intent. War.
To disguise from prying eyes the pair of ships were meeting in the shadow of a local pulsar. Millions of years ago the star of this system had gone supernova and left behind a massive neutron star spinning at an incredible rate and emitting torrents of radiation. There were three tricks to hiding in space that have been employed by navigators for centuries. Hide in shellspace, fraught with its own peril. Emit no energy … a virtual impossibility. Or hide in the shadow of energy. This meeting chose the latter.
Emissaries on both ships conversed via a virtual connection, agreeing only to meet face to face if initial negotiations proved fruitful. Many topics were discussed. Ending the Orion War. The trading of prisoners. How to divide this section of the Orion Spur. War reparations. All the usual discourse that happens when wars draw to their inevitable conclusions. But the emissaries danced around the real topic that was the only reason to meet at this particular system.
Finally, it was breached. What of the weak signal emanating from the second planet of this system? Who would stake the claim? This section of the Sagittarius Arm had only known two sentient, and existing, life forms during the same historical epoch … and they were currently at war. In the end the emissaries agreed to send separate but equal expeditionary forces down to the scorched and barren surface of the planet that had not been touched by the light of a real sun since its atmosphere had been burned away in a maelstrom of celestial fire nine million years before.
The alien signal was followed until the forces discovered a city under the southern polar region. The “Hanging City” resided in an unnatural and massive cave system that was clearly constructed to protect the inhabitants from the full brunt of the supernova. Space faring technology was not found–this ultimately doomed the race. A remarkable state of preservation existed within the caverns of the Hanging City, but no remains were found–having long ago turned to dust. There was no doubt to either race that the builders of this city were intelligent and peaceful. No weapons of war were discovered. Very little history of violence was evident.
Within the grand towers of the city, the emissaries convened one last time, looking out over the beautiful ruins that had been the final sanctuary for millions of frightened beings. The surrounding ruins of an ancient race who were decimated before reaching their potential, yet reached a pinnacle when both warring races were millions of years from sentience, weighed heavily on them. Conciliations were made. Pacts of openness were declared. Territories were equally split.
Thus did the destruction of an entire race lead to the salvation of two younger races. After 110 years the Orion Wars ended in the halls of the Hanging City.
Images & Words © 2015-2024, Neal Ulen.
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