Author: David Dumouriez


Lieutenant-Commander Rane had received the warning minutes before the alarm sounded. The destiny that nobody wanted was hers. It was happening on her watch.

Eight distinct generations of ‘peacekeepers’ had been trained and deployed at Station 48 without any sign of hostility. Each individual knew that eventually the post would come under attack, and so they lived their lives one day at a time in a heightened state of artificial readiness. Nobody wanted to be the one whose negligence allowed the defences of the human race to breached, overrun and, in the worst of all the scenarios outlined by the government, rendered extinct. That was the kind of fame – albeit brief – that you could certainly do without.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, time passed slowly at Station 48. The whole period – what was it, two hundred years? – had gone by in a breeze. But the daily lives of the inhabitants, the conscripts and the volunteers, were characterised by their monotony. And this was wholly by the design of World07. It provided the latest gaming systems, feeds and links to every event that could feasibly be of interest, as well as outlets for the crew members to rid themselves of excess energy or desire. Intrinsically, though, it suited the pan-continental government to create standardisation and engender boredom in its various outposts. Distractions of any but the most basic kind were unwelcome.

Most of the thousands of guards who’d occupied their posts over the years, as well as those officers who’d overseen them, had never given any of this tedium a second or, at most, third thought. That was just the way it was. But Lieutenant-Commander Rane was of a newer type. A newer mentality. Time went deep with her. It was more than just a superficial entity that needed to be dissipated. She used it to find out as much about her species, and about the potential invaders, as she could possibly access. And the conclusions she formed were not entirely favourable to her own race.

It was said they were coming for resources. It was said they were coming to drain humanity of life. Or, perhaps, just for some act of nihilistic pleasure. World07 had it all covered.

Rane inferred from the various sources she managed to locate that perhaps those ‘enemies of the world’ were operating out of a not unjustifiable sense of revenge. Was it not they who’d had their resources depleted? Weren’t they the ones who were now effectively homeless or, rather, planetless?

She suspected that the ‘designated preparations’ would be useless in the face of the sheer numbers of craft that were currently on the way to Station 48. What she knew as a Commander, and what the majority of her force didn’t, was that it had been underpowered for years and was more or less just a sacrificial offering that would allow the Taskforce to gain time and protect its nearer and more strategically valuable stations.

So, as she judged that one way or another everything was broken, Rane decided to shatter protocol by standing down her defences and broadcasting a message to the invaders. A message, in essence, of welcome, but which could also be construed as surrender.

Not for the first time, several of Rane’s leadership group questioned whether she was the right person for the job. However, a Station Commander was invested with supreme authority and any insubordination was punishable by death. But wasn’t death guaranteed now anyway?