Fighting Annihilation

It has been just six years since the Great War. Aliens. Billions of them appeared without warning. Quickly they destroyed and conquered the outer rim planets of our galaxy. 'Our' galaxy. Resistance to the alien menace was futile. The human race lost millions as they tried to stop the indestructible force. Within weeks, all that remained of the human race was a handful of systems. The elite pilots-the ones we were meant to rely on-had all but gone. Slowly the surviving squadrons returned from their annihilated home worlds with brutal stories of the alien force. From then on it was one massive struggle for survival, a struggle for mankind. But we beat them. Small groups made stinging sorties, which began to add up against the alien power. One by one, we regained our conquered planets back. Bit by bit the alien menace crumbled. Then 20 years after it had started it suddenly finished. In what seemed like over night the aliens had gone. Disappeared. But disappeared to back to where? Where had they come from? Why had they come here? Why did they leave...?

The beeping from the Holophone woke the Base Leader. As he stirred from his sleep his wondering of what the time was, was answered by his PC, as it sensed his brain waves. "The time is 0423hrs." said a female voice. Wonderful thought Kempt. This had better be good. "Answer." he said. Instantaneously the bleeping stopped. He sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. This had better be damned good he thought again. A Holographic screen had appeared in front of him and set a green glow to his private chamber.

"Sir," the young man in the Holodisplay said. "Ace Ri...sorry, Commander Riker and Chief Tucker request that you come over to the Head Quarters right away."

Kempt was most definitely not a morning person and hated being woken during the night-for whatever reason. "For what?" Kempt growled.

"I don't know, sir. I was just ordered by them to request that you come down here immediately."

Great, thought Kempt. My presence is requested by some charismatic freak with a huge ego and the Head Scientist at STIROP at 4 in the morning. It was probably something like "sir, the coffee machine's broken, what shall we do?" Well they could go to hell. "Corporal, tell Mr. Riker and Mr. Tucker that it shall have to wait until morning, where I might add, their reason for waking me must be bloody good."

"Err...yes, sir." said the Corporal. But there was no need. For Kempt had switched his Holophone off, turned over and had gone back to sleep. But had Kempt known what he was wanted for, he would have got down to HQ in a nano second. It was a lot worse than a coffee machine blowing up, for half a light year away, Alpha Centauri, the biggest star in the Milky Way at a quarter of a light year in diameter, was going supernova.

"What the hell do you mean, going supernova?!" Kempt had arrived late at Centauri Base HQ that morning and he was not in a good mood. When he had arrived, he was immediately ushered into the brightly lit meeting room for an emergency meeting. The Head Scientists from ten of the biggest companies were already seated around an eliptical darkened glass table.

"Er, well, sir. When a star the size of Alpha Centauri burns all of it's fuel, it er, it becomes a red super giant, and then it um...explodes." The short man speaking was a classic stereotypical mad scientist. In his late forties, he had a shock of unkept grey hair, he wore glasses with lenses which made his eyes look like saucepans. He had heard of the concept of shaving, but rarely got to practise it, as a result tuffs of beard sprouted from his face. He wore a tie showing complex physics equations' which was the closest he could get to humorous. It had been done up once, and looked as if that was the only time, the knot was tiny and sqiff, and his top button was undone. Over his grey suit he wore a grubby white lab coat which looked as if he only took it off for the rare shower. His ID was held in a black plastic holder clipped to his chest pocket, the card was upside down. His coat pockets bulged with scientific equipment, pens, holodisks and dictaphones. He looked uncomfortable in the presence of so many people.

"Yes, yes. I know what a supernova is. What I want to know is why it is doing it now, without warning, and why it has just jumped the red supergiant stage?"

The head scientists shifted uneasily in their comfy black leather chairs. They all tried to avoid each others desperate glances.

Kempt's voice dropped and with words laced with razor knifes aimed at Tucker said "Why is it doing this now with no prior warning?"

Chief Tucker straightened his tie, adjusted his glasses and stood up. "What seems to have happened, sir," Tucker swallowed, "is that some sort of freak reaction has caused Alpha Centauri to consume its remaining fuel at an inconceivable rate." Tucker adjusted his glasses again, "Because of its size, when it goes supernova, the implications are going to be huge."

Kempts eyebrows shot up, he looked straight at Tucker. Tucker tried unsuccessfully to avoid the burning stare and shuffled his feet uneasily. "Implications?" Kempts voice was just audible. "What implications?"

Tuckers heart was in his mouth. He swallowed, trying to get it back down. Eighteen pairs of eyes were staring at him. He broke out into a cold sweat. "Er... well you see..." his voice trailed off, and he began to fiddle with his A.I Organiser.

"Yes?" questioned Kempt.

"Well, er given the shear size of Alpha Centauri, sir. Primary research has shown, and we are fairly confident, even at this stage, that any explosion from Alpha Centauri will almost certainly..." Tuckers voice trailed off again.

"Get on with it!" Kempt yelled, and Tucker jumped.

Tucker looked down at the floor with the faintest of hopes that a hole would appear and swallow him up. As it happened, he had no such luck. Tucker breathed in and battled to put on a brave face. Where was Ace Riker. He was meant to be here. He was meant to be the bearer of the bad news. Ace had a gift for that. He could make losing your nearest and dearest sound like the best thing in the world. After all, he was the one who discovered the disconcerning fact and had worked out all the formulae to show that there was no escape. An eternity ago it seemed like now. "We are almost certain that, when Alpha Centauri goes supernova it will set off a chain reaction through the whole galaxy causing all stars to explode..." Tucker paused and seemed to stare into space. Quietly he said "It will be the end of all mankind..."

Silence befell the brightly lit meeting room. Each man and woman took in what Tucker had just said. "The end of all mankind." They were going to die and there was no avoiding it. They all became consumed in their own thoughts. Quickly and as quietly as he could, Tucker sat back down. Even the chair groaned at him.

After what seemed like another eternity for Tucker, Kempt broke the silence. "How long..." his face was expressionless as always "...do we have?"

Tucker didn't answer. Nobody said a word. Just then the meeting room doors burst open. The bright light behind the figure made it impossible to depict any facial features. But with the height of 6ft 2ins, standing proudly, no one needed to see the features of this man to know who it was. Everyone knew. He was famous throughout the galaxy for his heroic exploits against the Noveons. He had almost single handedly recaptured six planets-including Centauri. He is the man who was credited with the most alien kills. He is only twenty-seven, yet he outranks most of the men and women his age in the Space Navy Corps. His hair is brown, thick and wavy, it hangs down over his right eye in a fetching way. His eyes are dark and alert. His neck is muscular and shoulders broad. He is the idol of the galaxy. A model for every man and woman. He is Ace Riker. He walked over to his seat, each step calm and casual-but as sure as a rock. He sat down and called up the data he needed via the computer terminal sunk in to the glass desk

"Well?" asked Kempt to Ace Riker.

"Well, what? My old banana." Ace replied, his voice oozing with charm and charisma.

Kempt exploded, "Well why the hell are you late, god damn you!"

"Calm down, big man, you'll give yourself a haemorrhoid." Ace replied evenly, "I was down at the research lab with a couple of tech boys. We were working out how long we have before the firework display starts and how far away people will be complaining about the light and noise." Ace was infact lying about being at the research lab. In fact he was at some ladies' house who he met at a bar the night before. But that wouldn't have been a good thing to tell Kempt when he was in this sort of mood.

Good old Ace, Tucker thought. Faced with death and still he thinks it is an adventure. Well, it was going to be an adventure of sorts, he had to concede.

Kempt was fuming, his face was red and blotchy. How dare Riker call him 'Old Boy.' He was Rikers' superior for Christ's sake. Riker had done it again, Kempt thought. He'd insulted a senior officer and now he had information, which he would desperately need to know. "And, er, how long have we got then, Ace." Kempt tried to make 'Ace' as an insult, but he got no reaction from anyone at all.

"Well my old chickeroonie, the tech boys reckon we've got four years at the most, then when the supernova happens, we'll have about half a minute to live, then we will reach about one hundred million centigrade in a quarter of a second, and vaporise along with Centauri. We'll be the crispiest chargrill around." Ace beamed, in a complete contrast to the others to the others who were all pale and looking very ill.

So far, since the meeting had begun an hour ago there was one person who had sat back and said nothing. She had been in deep thought. Now, slowly she began to piece together what to say. "Er...Ace, er...sir. Um, it is my understanding that er, stars, they go through life cycles. Correct?"

"They certainly do my old fruitcake." Ace gave her a pleasant smile. He hadn't noticed her before-which was surprising for Ace-she was beautiful. Her hair, well, you couldn't say it was brunette or redhead either. Sort of in between, kind of depending on the light. And her eyes weren't blue and they weren't green. They were unique. She was unique.

Dana blushed as Ace stared at her, but she carried on trying to keep her composure under the onslaught. "Well stars last for some considerable time-don't they." It was a statement rather than a question.

At first Tucker hadn't realised where this question was heading. But now he saw it was heading straight for the top of his list of things 'best not to think about or mention.' It wasn't taking a lazy country road either, it was taking the expressway. Tucker tried in vain to make eye contact with Ace. But Ace was too busy staring into Dana's eyes. He coughed, getting everyone's attention except Aces and Dana's.

Ace answered Dana's question, "Well they do tend to outlive most people."

Dana continued, "Well while I was in University, one of the courses I followed was Astro Physics and we were given lectures on Alpha Centauri. I was told that Alpha Centauri was only about half way through it's life cycle, it should be burning comfortable for the next six billion years-I can even recall the equations to prove it."

Worried glances were exchanged by certain Head Scientists. Kempt never noticed this but leant forward, put his elbows on the table and hands together and then rested his head on his knuckles. Tucker burst into a fit of coughing. Ace glanced at Tucker but looked back at Dana.

"I think I can see the point you're making," Ace slyly accessed the computer terminal while he was speaking to find out who this stunning woman was sitting opposite him. The file came up:-

Name: Akins, Dana Charlotte

D.O.B: 17th September 2645

Current Rank/Occupation: Head Scientist, Zorrack Propulsion

That was enough information for Ace. She wasn't his senior and she wasn't ranked above him. He looked up, and into her eyes. "Dana old love. You want to know why a star which is meant to last for the next six billion years, is about to blow up in the next four years. Yes?"

Dana's heart melted as Ace flashed her one of his winning smiles. He knew her name. She couldn't believe it. Ace Riker-the- Ace Riker knew her name.

"Yes, I think we would all like to know that Mr. Riker." Kempt said butting in, again trying to sound insulting.

Tucker suddenly spoke up. He knew Ace would probably tell the truth. There was no point in denying it any longer, it was just the truth was not something other people should know about, it was not something they could handle. "We are conducting tests into that, sir. But I fear we shall be to late to find out why." Tucker needed a drink. More than anything else in the world at this moment in time, he needed a drink. A good stiff one. One where you got your eyesight back after three days. Guaranteed.

"Nonsense old fellow. We know exactly why the old candle's going out." Ace said.

"Really?" Kempt replied with a touch of sarcasm aimed at Tucker. Tucker loosened his already slack tie, his face felt like a red hot beetroot. He did not need this. He just wanted to get back to his little lab and produce some more hydro-antimatter byproducts. He did not want to be interrogated, he did not want to be here giving details of how this was going to be the end of man kind, and lie about it.

"It's quite simple, six years back, when we recaptured Centauri and the Noveons had high tailed it back to their flea ridden corner of the universe, we were conducting some routine tests and we noticed that the old gel was definitely burning brighter. Extensive research, using modified formulas to the ones Dana just mentioned, showed us that some freak reaction had increased the rate of fusion at which the hydrogen atoms are formed into helium." Ace noticed Kempts' puzzled face, but so not to undermine him infront of everyone he turned to face some others, "In other words, fuel consumption on the star had increased by just over 298%, at that current rate we predicted the old gel would last ten years max. Now she's entering the final stages of a supernova and has become extremely unstable. We'll be lucky if we get five more years out of her." By this time a stunned silence had hit the meeting room again. It was if everything had slowed down. You could hear a pin drop. But Ace's confident voice carried on, he was completely undaunted by all this. This made Kempt suspicious. He knew of Ace's spirit of adventure, but surely death was not an adventure-even for Ace. "One of our hypothesis' was that the reason the Noveons retreated in the way they did is not because we beat them, but they wanted to destroy us all by making the largest star in the galaxy go supernova. They knew they were losing, and they didn't want to be beaten"

Kempt knew it. From the day he returned to Centauri, twenty-six years after he had left, Kempt knew there was something wrong with the star. God damn it! Why hadn't he noticed this before?

Then from the other end of the room there was a baby type gurgling noise. Tucker was using his Holopen and water glass as if they were an aeroplane. "Nneeeowww. Vroooom. Dagger. Dagger. Dagger. Kuphughgh!"

"Tucker, old love, be a darling and put the planes down." Said Ace, quite surprised about what he was witnessing. But Tucker took no notice. He carried on shooting down imaginary planes.

Why should he have to care now anyway? Tucker thought. Now that Ace had told Kempt that the research lab had been with holding information from superiors-he was bound to get fired, even worse, executed, and now he was about to lose his only chance of survival. Hell, why should he care?

"What in blazes do you think you are doing?!" Kempt demanded. His finger hovering over the security button.

Tucker turned his attention to Kempt, then moved his imaginary planes to face Kempt. "Dagger, dagger, dagger!" he screamed.

That was it for Kempt. He pushed the security button and two butch guards rushed in with Assault Blasters. They went over to Tucker at Kempts nod and lead him out, Tucker still making his plane noises. For a third time in as many minutes, the meeting room was silent, people did not seem to believe quite what had happened. It would be a day to remember.

"Well, er, yes, ...quite, um, well I've not seen that sort of reaction in a man before." For the second time in his whole life, Ace was very near to being speechless. He countered well though. "As I was saying. We knew she was going nova a few years back."

This time it was Kempts turn to be speechless. It wasn't as if he was shocked as such. It was just that he didn't know quite what to say to it. His mouth was open, trying to form a sentence. But whatever it was that he wanted to say-it just wouldn't come out. He lent down and drank some water, trying to gather his thoughts. He was angry at not being told this earlier-bloody angry. He was a bit pissed off that he was going to die, although that didn't scare him, he was a trained soldier, death was part of the job. It was just that he wasn't going to get time to do all the things he wanted to do. No, he wasn't scared of dying as such. What he was scared about was how to tell the galaxy Senators. They could make punishment worse than death, although death will be the inevitable in a couple of weeks. He was shocked about what he had just seen with the chief. But the thing that was really making him the way he was at the moment was his hatred for Ace Riker. Ace was popular. Kempt knew that. Everyone liked Ace. Actually liked him, not just respected him as others did to him. Ace had a certain something that made people like him. And that affected Kempt the most. Kempt had been a successful Commander once. People liked him then. Since then he been promoted through the ranks to Base Leader. He had been a Base Leader for some four to five years now and had lost all his friends, his marriage had fallen apart and he had lost contact with his two sons and daughter. Kempt had been pondering the possibility of early retirement after his marriage broke up, but something-he didn't know what-was pushing him on and willing him to carry on. To roll up his sleeves and get on with it. 'Life must go on' was his philosophy. Whatever happened to people around him-life must go on. Well now that philosophy had failed him completely. In two weeks, life in the Milky Way will not be going on-it will be gone. But soon, although Kempt didn't know it now, he will find the reason for him carrying on and a whole new meaning for 'life MUST go on.' Kempt was suddenly aware that everyone was looking at him. Kempt cleared his throat. He was desperately trying to recall the conversation. He failed miserably. Kempt looked blankly at the others.

"Hey the lights are on, but no one is in." Ace commented. He smiled pleasantly at Kempt. But Kempt still looked blank.

"What were you saying?" Kempt asked. His voice calm and careful.

"Well before you went waltzing into the land of nod, old love, we were having a serious conversation about the end of the world as we know it. But as it was so obviously uninteresting to you, you chose to ignore us." Ace said.

"Watch it sonny Jim," Kempt exploded, "you're stepping on very thin ice."

"I'm sorry, sir." Ace replied with genuine remorse, also quite taken aback by Kempts outburst.

"Well thank you. Apology accepted. But now I think you have a lot of explaining to do, regarding with holding vital information. Now, you say that the fuel consumption rate has increased astronomically?"

"Yes, that is what I said."

"Well, surely technology is sufficient enough to somehow reverse that process, or at least slow it down."

"No, been there, done that, got the singed T-shirt. Remember that solar flare scare we had a few years back?"

"What, the one that narrowly missed us by a couple of thousand miles?"

"Yes, a bit too close for comfort, wasn't it. We're sorry about that. But that was our best attempt. Three years of research went into that."

"You're telling me...that...that...solar flare, which nearly engulfed Centauri was you guys! Bloody hell Commander, do you people have no sense? What the hell were you thinking?! What if it had engulfed us? Huh? Did you not stop and think of that?"

"Yes, but say that the formula had worked. You lot would be none the wiser. We would not have had to worry about it any more."

Kempt rubbed his hands over his face, his fingers massaging his forehead. "You know I will have to give a report on this meeting to the galaxy Senators, don't you?"

Ace was just about to reply to this, when he suddenly felt something crawling around his family jewels. His stomach twisted as it got nearer and nearer. What the hell was it? His brain was demanding. Ace risked a look down at his crotch. A small, slender foot was just beginning to make itself comfortable. Ace glanced up at Dana, who was sitting opposite him. She gave him cheeky smile. She had just learnt that she was going to die in a few weeks, the way she saw it was she had to make the most of that. And what better way than to have Ace Riker for the last two weeks in this galaxy. Besides, she thought, I try everything once. Ace smiled back in understanding and got back to the matter in hand. "When me and the several others discovered the fact a couple of years back, we predicted mad outbreak across the whole galaxy, economics would crash instantly, huge riots in every system, massive uncontrollable crimes rates. We thought that if we were not to tell anybody, none of that would happen. What they don't know can't hurt them. Oh no. It'll kill them. We had just won a twenty year war, why dash peoples hopes and dreams after a huge struggle like that? Could you imagine what life would be like. No one would bother working, what's the point if they're all going to die?"

Kempt had to admit it. Ace was right-again. Why in Gods name did he have to be right every bloody time. Now, Commander Riker," Kempt wanted to keep at least a little bit of self respect, he wasn't going to call him 'Ace' like all the others. "I'm not an unreasonable man at heart," Kempt ignored everybody's eyebrows shoot up, "but please see where I am coming from. I can see your point about economics and everything, but I am afraid, my old sick bucket, that the galaxy Senators are not. So what do you suggest I tell them? That people under my command don't obey orders and keep life threatening secrets to themselves? Do you think they'll accept that? Do you think they will say, oh, that's O.K. Base Leader Kempt, we don't mind you not telling us that in two weeks we are all going to die. Do YOU?!"

"I'm sure if you were to make a well presented report, explaining the reality of the situation, the big boys will take some of this into consideration-or you could just not tell them." Ace was beginning to feel horny, he wished this meeting would hurry up. He wanted to get to know Dana better. A lot better. Unfortunately for him it was to last all morning and into the early part of the afternoon. Finally everything had been discussed and talked about.

"And you are absolutely sure that there is no escape and we are all going to die." It was more of a statement from Kempt rather than a question.

"Absolutely." Ace replied.

"In that case, meeting adjourned. You can all have the rest of the day off."

There were mumbles and murmurs of thanks. Then everybody got up and left. Kempt lent back in his chair. He was exhausted. Even back in the war days, meetings were never this strenuous. He tried to collect his thoughts, but was too tired to think. There was one thing Kempt did know though. Ace knew more than he was letting on. There was no way in hell that they knew about this for six damn years and done bugger all about it. He would have to watch Ace, his every step. He was bound to slip up somewhere.

And that concludes Chapter One. To read the adventures of one, Mr. Ace Riker, email me aceriker and I'll send you a more complete story. Currently it's at 50000 words, so only another 70000 to go to make it become a novel. But believe me, it's a damn good story, if you loved Star Wars, then this is going to be for you, massive starships, epic space battles, and human kinds' constant fight against annihilation.

What you guys have got to look forward to:-

'…Ace hurtled towards one of the biggest mountains in this range-with no intention of stopping. Soon there was only a couple of miles between him and the mountain face, and at 450mph that distance was soon covered but still Ace did not slow down. 100m, 50m, 25m, 10m and then he was gone. There was no explosion. No smoke or smouldering. He had just disappeared. Vanished into a solid mountain rock face…'

'…Tempest Avenger was beautiful to look at, even with its massive size, it was pleasing to the eye. From the sharp point of the nose, to the angular fuselage which gave it a sinister and deadly look, to the two enormous main engines at the back, each one roughly five and a half miles in diameter…'

"Arm turbo lasers and neutron blasters. Lock and fire one Executer missile at maximum range to the centre of the target."

"Sir, a positive lock, target has been acquired. Missile launch in three, two, one, launch." A slender projectile sped out of the hull of the Tempest Avenger.

"Time to impact?

"Twenty five seconds, sir."

"Tactical report."

"Sir, the mass is taking highly manoeuvrable evasive action, but keeping a fixed lock upon us. Sir, no ship of that size could be so manoeuvrable. It implies that this is a highly trained group of fighters. And sir, this might sound paranoid, but permission to ask anyway?"

"Get on with it."

"Sir, the Noveon fighters, the best ones, they flew in formations of 16 to 24 units. Sir, I believe the skill of this formation gives an indication we are dealing with 16 to 24 elite pilots."

"Sir, might I suggest we launch a squadron of point fighters." Ace, said. "This ship is designed to destroy masses of ships, but why take unnecessary risks? Besides, I haven't had a proper run around the park in ages."

"OK, Ace, I agree about not taking unnecessary risks, but not a squadron. Take a squad, 18 of your rawest recruits, show 'em the ropes of a real dogfight, not the pansy sim ones. Draw their fire, lead them into the Tempest Avengers gunning range. Let our gunners take them out, it'll give them practise."…'

'…Ace barrel rolled over to get out of the lock. The Noveon fighters were now just in view at 1 o' clock. He powered up his front deflector shields, and accelerated. He went straight for the leader, his finger tightened on the trigger, as soon as it was in range, Ace fired. The alien reacted quick, pulling up and to the right, but unfortunately for him, it left his wingman exposed and unprepared, green bolts smashed into the aliens front shields, causing the pilot to lose concentration. Then from the port side a Point Fighter swept in, burning the shields even more. Ace let off a few more bolts and the fighter exploded in a bright flash, he swept through the explosion, banked left and with a certain amount of luck, another Noveon fighter dropped into Ace's sights…'