Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Approximately 800 light-years from Earth, the DSX-13 “dropped” out of hyperspace, and reentered conventional space-time. This was Earth’s first sojourn beyond the “local neighborhood” (100 light-year radius). It took fifteen jumps, and over two months, to reach the intended target, Zeta Orionis, a rare Type O, blue supergiant. The mission profile was simple: explore the system for a few weeks, collect some asteroid and comet samples, and return to Earth. However, when the DSX-13 was mapping the system, they detected an abandoned one-passenger spacecraft in orbit around a lifeless Class-M planet. The derelict ship was the first direct evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life discovered in the 83 star systems explored thus far. To make room for the alien ship, all of the expendable equipment in the primary cargo hold was jettisoned into space. The alien ship was stowed in the cargo hold, and two months later, it was transferred to a secure hangar at a Top Secret base in North America.

Earth’s best scientists spent a year accessing the ship’s electronic systems and downloading the data into “The Brain,” Earth’s most sophisticated Mark VI supercomputer. Eventually, the Brain was able to translate the alien’s language and play the audio and video logs. The information contained within the logs terrorized the scientists to their very souls.

The alien ship belonged to an advanced race called the Alnitak. They were a fierce, super aggressive species that systematically plundered the resources of any world that they found, regardless of whether or not it was harboring life. Even sentient species were destroyed without the slightest consideration, because to the Alnitakians, they were less important than iron ore. In fact, indigenous intelligent life was considered a nuisance; to be disposed of as quickly as possible, in order to minimize interference with ground-based operations.

Since a dangerous alien species roaming the galaxy had serious survival implications, the scientists attempted to determine if the ship had been abandoned recently, or 100,000,000 years ago (perhaps indicating that the Alnitakians were now extinct). Unfortunately, a detailed analysis of the celestial positions recorded in the ship’s star charts revealed that the ship had been abandoned only a few decades earlier. In addition, the star charts also disclosed that the Alnitak sphere of expansion had a diameter of approximately 50 light years, and was expanding at a rate that would reach the Earth in about 200 years. This gave the scientists hope that there was time to prepare for the inevitable invasion.

The first order of business was to analyze the alien ship’s technology, in an attempt to advance Earth’s scientific knowledgebase, and to look for weaknesses in the Alnitakian’s defense capabilities. During an operation to remove access panels in the ship’s cockpit, a maintenance technician accidentally activated a switch on the instrument console. Seconds later, an alien voice was emanating from the ship’s speakers. The Brain was patched in to provide a translation. “Calling Fighter IDSG 2951413, your emergency distress signal was received. You are currently in an unexplored sector, but we are able to determine your coordinates. We are dispatching a rescue ship and fighter escort. Maintain your position. Help is on the way. ETA, six days.”

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