Operation Skuller's Way, named after the jump speed laneway that the military ships had used to get from their home planets to Lazarus 13, had commenced

Operation Skuller's Way, named after the jump speed laneway that the military ships had used to get from their home planets to Lazarus 13, had commenced. The largest fleet ever assembled in over 2000 years emerged from jump speed and appeared as if from thin air above the atmosphere of Lazarus 13. Their obvious objective was to liberate the world of Lazarus 13 from the mysterious robotic horde whom the top brass of the military merely called "The Robots".

Terrence Laster sat in the crowded room at his command chair in his command ship where orders could be directly given to the fleet. He was a safe distance from the planet and could escape at a moment's notice. The screens all around him showed Lazarus 13 being encircled by the thousands of massive military ships and troop carriers of the space fleet. And they were all his, all answered to him. Radio chatter filled his ears.

"Sir, we have just emerged from jump speed. All ships accounted for"

"Uh, roger that Redstar 9. We are at sector 0-9 Alpha at time 12 hundred. All sections report in".

"Rackenis section ready"

"Redstar section ready"

"Hellfire section ready…"

"Sir?" asked a voice beside Terrence. Terrence knew it was his chief of staff and looked into the old man's face. "I brought you some coffee. We've a long day ahead". Terrence thanked him and had it set it down on the arm of his chair. He dismissed the chief of staff then turned to his communication's officer.

"Patch me through to the fleet" he commanded as he put on his phones.

"All ships" Terrence began. The room and radios went silent so Terrence could be heard. There were millions of men and women hearing this address. It was an empowering feeling. "I'm going to make this short because we've work to do. We go into battle against an unknown threat" Terrence continued. "Mankind has not seen a genuine war anywhere for over 2000 years. Today marks an end to the age of peace. But do not let that ugly thought keep you from your duties. Down there are billions of evil robots just waiting to be reduced to slag by our bombs and mighty guns. Strike them from the skies in your fighters, crush their bodies under the tracks of your tanks. Make them pay for this invasion and for every life they took!" He sat down to an applause. Operation Skuller's Way commenced.

The plan was to proceed thusly:

The fleet would scan the surface of the world and determine enemy strong points. Troops would be deployed to the weakest and most defendable positions while the airforce would swarm across the planet and carry out airstrikes against the enemy. Any sections completely occupied by robots would be completely destroyed by missiles shot from orbit. Meanwhile, ground forces would take populated areas under heavy air support and find survivors. If anything should go wrong the ground forces would withdraw and orbital bombardment would handle the robots. If, in the unlikely event the space fleet should be forced to withdraw, they would pull away from Lazarus 13 to a point in the Lazarus solar system known as the "fallback point" in military terms.

The initial scanning began and Terrence Laster connected with the commander in charge of scanning operations for the results so he could know how to direct his army.

"Scanning operations, this is high command. What are your results?" Laster asked.

"Sir…you're not going to believe this. Our scanning was completed and…well…no robots anywhere on the surface of the planet. Not even signs of occupation. There is minimal damage to infrastructure and our scanners are detecting more and more humans. It doesn't make sense, the occupation only happened two days ago" came the reply from the radio. Laster's chief of staff ran up to him.

"Is something wrong sir?" he asked.

"Oh my god…" Laster whispered as he sat back in his command chair. It all made sense now.

"Sir?"

"SIR!" yelled the communications officer.

"The robots never intended to use this planet" Terrence said in a whisper to his chief of staff.

"What do you mean sir?" the chief of staff asked.

"Please sir, this is urgent!" the communications officer shouted from across the room.

"The robots were drawing our military forces to Lazarus 13" Terrence said.

"Why?"

"So they could attack the others!" Terrence shouted.

"Sir" the communications officer spat it all out, "we are receiving urgent messages from planets Lazarus 1-12 and 14-42". Those were all the other Lazarus planets. "They're all under attack!" Terrence thought about his new grandson.

"Put me through to the fleet" Terrence commanded and the order way obeyed. Again he was talking to the whole fleet. "All ships" he began in a calm voice, "abort all operations and move your ships to the fallback point".

"Sir we've lost contact with all Lazarus worlds!" the communication's officer shouted.

"Move to the fallback point" Terrence said as his heart began to race and his voice tensed. "Move to the fallback point. Move to the fallback point. MOVE TO THE FALLBACK POINT NOW!"

By the time the ships of Operation Skullers Way reached the fallback point two minutes later there was little that could have been done. Estimations made from information taken from the Lazarus worlds put the enemy's number somewhere between 10 and 18 trillion machines. They swarmed out of jump speed and descended onto the poorly defended worlds like locusts killing all in their path. All population centers from major metropolises to camping trips were targeted by murderous onslaughts. Forty-one planets were taken in a single day at speeds that would have made Adolph Hitler's blitzkrieg look slow and cumbersome. Human losses were so high that the official figure was not released so not to cause widespread panic. Terrence Laster's entire family was not among the survivors from the Lazarus worlds.

The Galactic War had truly begun.