Alien Relations - Part VIII

August 2942
Celestial Unity
Approaching jump point to Virtus
Horus System

Gedion sat alone in his bunk on board the Celestial Unity. Matthias had ordered the fleet back to Terra briefly for a combat refit, as they were sure to expect trouble. Gedion recommended they leave the Scry behind, not wanting to put the new explorer in harm's way, but Matthias was eager to test her scanning capabilities in searching for the hidden aggressor.

The last thing they did before leaving the base was transferring the fallen Xi'an pilot onto the Celestial Unity. The Xi'an tend to be ritualistic about their dead, and in the interest of preserving some sort of positive relations, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Gedion left his bunk and headed for the bridge. The Celestial Unity was on high alert as it approached the jump point to Virtus. Matthias sat alert in his captain's chair, and the bridge crew busily buzzed around, monitoring all forms of sensors and communications. They had continued to receive reports of raids against the Xi'an on both sides of the border. There was every reason to suspect they might run into the aggressors.

"How's it looking?" Gedion asked Matthias.

"Not good. Someone is doing their best to drive the Xi'an back into their shell. They are undoing decades of diplomatic gains in just a few hours," Matthias bleakly replied.

"The thing I don't get is why? What's to gain from this?" Gedion asked exasperatedly.

Matthias didn't answer. They didn't have a clue, but they were determined to get to the bottom of it. All they had to go off of was the shape of a flame, as drawn by the dying Xi'an.

"Scope's still clear sir," Comms officer Breckage reported. Matthias nodded silently in acknowledgement.

"Anyway, hopefully we'll have some luck in Virtus. Hope Photeus and Reef are alright," Gedion said.

"We've reached the jump point sir, shall we initiate jump?" Navigations officer Tander informed.

"Yes, go ahead with jump," Matthias replied flatly.

Within moments, the Celestial Unity was pulled into an ever twisting and rotating tunnel of space and time itself. Travelling through a jump point was always a mixture of awe-inspiring and horrifying, even when it had been properly mapped out and rendered safe. The cascading swirls of beautiful colors filled the bridge and somehow calmed Gedion a little. But that calm lasted only a moment.

Emerging from the jump point in the Virtus system, the Celestial Unity was immediately rocked by missile impacts and weapons fire.

"It's a whole Xi'an battlegroup sir!" a bridge officer called out.

"Raise them on comms!" Matthias quickly ordered, leaping up from his chair.

"I'm trying, but they aren't responding!" Breckage replied.

"More missiles incoming!"