The UNM positioned the 2nd, 8th and 13th fleets in Nihalas in preparation for first contact. This represented one of the single largest collections of active warships in human history and many feared it would not be enough. Despite the watchful eyes of dozens of telescopes, there was no idea how large the invasion force was going to be, and the UNM had no idea what to expect. Almost as soon as news had spread of the invasion, the IP3 had shut down their back door to their own xenoarchaeologists. In secret, they believed that this would help them in their current campaign against the UNM, that they could use the information gained in negotiations to secure a better outcome for themselves.
Plans were drawn up to evacuate the system, but there was no way to move that many people in the time remaining, and so focus was put on fortifying the planet and protecting its inhabitants. Defensive stations were built in orbit whilst the cities on the surface were reinforced. Tens of millions left of their own accord, but the majority stayed. Support was rallied across UNM space for the inhabitants of Nihalas, who were widely hailed as the vanguard of society.
In 2247, a series of extrasolar objects entered the Nihalas system and began to decelerate harshly. Huge crystalline teardrop shapes, coated on the bulbous end with a kilometre of rock, came to a stop a little over three AU from the local star and did nothing. A total of seven objects entered the system, whilst observation posts counted another fifty either passing through or near by the system, using the star to nudge them towards their final destinations.
Attempts were made to communicate with the alien objects, but to no avail. Some almost believed that this was it, but after six months, all seven objects shattered. Each structure revealed hundreds of smaller crystals which quickly got to work. The fighting was tense, but only about a third of the crystals took part in the assault. The remainder started building.
The Outsider fought to a close stalemate, but the UNM didn’t possess the raw firepower to press their advantage. Very quickly the Outsider managed to build factories to produce more crystalline spacecraft to wage its side of the war, whilst the UNM struggled to replace their own losses. Ships were pulled from other systems, but they were well aware that at some point far more systems would suffer the same fate if they did not learn how to defeat the Outsider.
On the one year anniversary of the invasion, a UNM ambassador sat down with her IP3 counterpart and begged for any news or information that could help, but their requests fell of deaf ears. The IP3 considered the war with the outsider to be nothing but good. It sapped war material from any potential conflict with the IP3 and from what they understood, there was only a single Outsider invasion force.
Almost a hundred light years away, in the IP3 controlled system of Diadem, an astronomer saw a telltale flash in the sky from an otherwise unremarkable star. He wasn’t aware of what it was, but as the information filtered through the outernet, the researchers working on deciphering the ancient ruins of the civilisations destroyed by the Outsider knew exactly what this meant. Unfortunately, no-one was willing to believe that there was a second Outsider invasion force. As such, whilst even two years into the struggle Nihalas still stood strong, Diadem was overrun within weeks and it was all the local military could do to prevent the Outsider from taking the wormhole gate.
Whilst the Outsider lacked any faster-than-light propulsion systems, it did possess a remarkable ability to share a limited amount of information between its constituent parts faster than the speed of light. How much it could share was unknown, and as more systems were invaded it would appear that they couldn’t just share information at will as surprise tactics that worked in one system often worked in the next.
Continue reading The New Normal.