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EPOCH, the War of the Words

When the Exodus Fleet of the Human Confederation – also remembered as the Dissension Fleet in some memories – left the planet Earth, it had 48 Salvator class Cruisers and 5 Titan Class heavy destroyers with 35 million passengers and crew members on board. The main mission of escaping the solar system – especially Earth – took almost 4 months. One year later the solar system was eventually out of reach of the starships' sensors bringing relief to millions of passengers.
The Admiral Enlyle who was in charge of the Exodus fleet put an end to the Emergency state to focus on the research for places suitable for colonization. As the highest rank in the professional Army of the Human Confederation (AHC) he was in charge of the entire military forces on all the starships, meaning all people boarded in Titan class heavy destroyers from the soldier to combat walker pilots. On the Salvator class starships only 5% of the passengers were under his command, but they held key position such as officers and crew members, security team, navigators and pilots. The other 95% were civilian families or rescued people working on the secondary tasks as machinery, production and administration.
The Admiral Enlyle was therefore empowered with all the necessary authority to decide about laws for millions of citizens. Even with virtually unlimited resource to provide safety and basic needs for all passengers, the Admiral had the most urgent mission of mankind's history: Bringing the remainings of the human race to a new world safe from the Avoydes.

The Fall of Dabow

The Exodus fleet spent the first 10 terrestrial years following pseudo random trajectories to loose any potential followers. During these years hundreds of unknown planets were found but all too hostile for colonization. From the logistic point of view that was not a subject for worry to the headquarters: Recycling circuits produced water, hydroponic farms provided food and plasma and nuclear fuel were stored for decades of travels... But day after day the harsh life conditions felt heavier and civilians were in despair of finding one day a suitable planet to start a new civilization.
Scientists of the university from the Dabow Cruiser made proposals to improve the research process of suitable planets for humans: Trajectories optimization, allocation of military Navajo fighters for recognition missions, production of space probes... but all the ideas were dismissed by the fleet headquarters.
The best-known and respected scientist, a young astrophysicist named Pascal Avogadro, started public meetings where he exposed his proposals and openly criticized the general habit of the military society to set aside every wise idea coming from civilians. Avogadro's proposals were soon highly popular among most of the people, but headquarter remained deaf to them and to its increasing number of supporters. Highly motivated by the support from the mass, Avogadro demanded a referendum to change the organization of the fleet command chain.
The Admiral Enlyle get worried about losing part of his power and ordered immediate arrest of Avogadro for public disorder. Reaction came immediately in the form of spontaneous massive strikes all over the Salvator class cruisers. Headquarter decreed in turn the demonstrations to be illegal and declared a new emergency state. The whole army was set up to force the work production restart.
On the Dabow, protestation started to rise when the police shuttle try to dock on the ship to arrest the astrophysicist Avogadro. Dockers forbid any access by destroying the opening systems of pressurized areas whereas thousands of strikers converge toward the command platform. Heavily outnumbered, the ACH agents left their duty to shelter in different emergency zones. Some of them took safety modules to escape and reported to the headquarters. Protestation had now become a true mutiny.
Aiming at securing the situation, Admiral Enlyle ordered a communication black out on messages coming from the compromised ship and a curfew for civilians of the whole fleet. Then he gave the order for immobilization of the Dabow. The Decallyon Admiral ship of the fleet itself and two other destroyers surrounded the renegade ship and took fire on its reactors and shield generators. The Navajo interceptor and Viking bomber destroyed the gun batteries. The rebel ship was now immobilized and drifting slowly among his own debris with 3 heavy destroyers around him to maintain a blockade.
Admiral Enlyle was aware that basic destruction of the ship was not a suitable option. Such a deadly operation killing hundreds of soldiers and thousands of innocent civilians likely hostages of renegade would not be understood by the rest of the fleet. Despite the lack of experience of ACH in this domain and the absence of aggressive space boarding gear – nobody would board an Avoydes space ship – boarding was considered as the only option.
Technicians worked harsh during 10 days to adapt a combat walker IGUANA 911 especially for magnetization of legs and tightness of the chassis and thrust vector control tool addition. 10 days while the rest of the passenger were locked in habitation quarters, spreading pirate records of the Dabow cruiser surrounded by its ship keepers.
Suddenly the 3 heavy destroyers started to send waves of hundreds of soldiers in space battle armors. With the thrust of the engine exhaust nozzle the swarm of trooper attacked the Dabow ship. Few of them could not reach their goal but where rescued by Indian troop transport. Most of the walkers anchored on the Dabow surface with their modified magnetic grapple and started to cut the successive metal layers with plasma rays to board.
Once inside the ships the combat walkers I-911 took position in the largest places such as landing bays and hydroponic farms to demonstrate their fire power. Unexpected numerous renegades dressed with extra vehicular pressurized suits fiercely tried to counter the heavy armored walkers thanks to improvised weapons. But their thick armors and high fire power gave no chance to the defenders who were decimated. In few hours the ACH soldiers had secured the main halls and took control of the landing pads for evacuation of the military forces previously trapped in the ship.
Extraction operations were calm as no more opponents were able to fight. Army had lost 5 men where hundreds of thousands renegades were killed and half a million civilians remain hidden deep in the ship, ignored by the military headquarters.
Once the troops came back, the Admiral Enlyle organized a feast where he mentioned the honor of the army and accused the traitors from Dabow of the tragedy. He ended his speech with an ultimate decision to abandon the Dabow and its passengers to their fate and wandering until death. The aim of the admiral was to end up with any new attempt of mutiny.
As a matter of fact, no one raised the voice when the Exodus Fleet abandoned the Dabow.

The Dissension

During 30 years the Exodus fleet continued its wandering through the stars. Still under martial law, all crew members and passengers had to work daily on the 57 Salvator class cruisers. Despite the birth of a new generation, nobody dares to openly contest the authority of the military headquarter. However thoroughly the silent protestation kept growing. Inequalities were increasing in different manners: Inequalities between military and civilians, between uppers and lowers decks, and between the different ships. When most worked harshly every day and struggled for decent life, the others had access to delicate food and pleasure. That was unfair and even worst as the idea was spreading that most critical resources of the fleet like energy, water, oxygen and raw materials were reaching worrying low levels. Whether it was due to lack of chance or lack of skills, no planet suitable for life had been discovered until then.

Paradoxically only the death of the admiral led to change the situation. Right after the funeral, the AHC headquarters nominated the elder son of the Admiral Enlyle to succeed his father. Many passengers felt it as a final treason: not only the system maintained unfair privileges and class system but it began to be a dynastic one. Few complainers who dare raising the voice on open networks were quickly identified and arrested. This only confirmed the bitterness of opponents who started to create secret meetings.
Many independent secret networks started to gather, hidden from the installed power. Research laboratories and production stations were the first involved in the contestation. Black market and unauthorized information channels were established in some ships. A short pirate pamphlet named the Dabow grew on private networks. Some ships were soon known as less policed and contestation grew even further. Many passengers chose to change work or accommodation – often not for better one – to join groups or freer places. However without union and charismatic leader all these waves remained harmless and small enough not to be detected by the army.
Admiral Enlyle “the young” was in charge for few years when general communication system received a generic hacking message pretended from the Dabow ship. The short message signed by astrophysicist Avogadro gave coordinate for a stellar system regrouping several planets suitable for men. Communication officers quickly prevent the propagation of this message. Investigators tried without success to find the author within the fleet. Anybody from the army and the secret groups supposed that is was a provocation from people against the regime. But after few days the energetic signature of an unknown ship was sensed by the fleet long range systems: the true renegade ship was back.
First the Dabow came close enough to the fleet to be identified without doubt. But it kept out of the range of the ion canons and fleet missile with a velocity unexpected from a Salvator class cruiser and despite the maneuvers of the titan class heavy destroyers. Furthermore when a ship of this size should not have been capable of hacking the communication systems at such a distance a message was played by all the speakers in all the ships:

I am Pascal Avogadro, captain of the Dabow Cruiser, talking to all passengers of the Human Confederation ships.
We found a massive stellar system at few weeks from this spot. The supra-star of this system has been named Epoch and is orbited by hundreds of planets class A to G. We already acquire that many of them are suitable for human life. Any of you should see the coordinates of the system displayed on personal communication display. Considering our own level of stock I guess you have resources remaining for few years only. The Epoch system is maybe your last chance to build a new world.
My comrades and I wish to build a new form of civilization, based on min power and life respect. Any of you is welcomed among us. For those who prefer to follow the military supremacy and despite what you have done to us, we gifted you these coordinates as a message of human brotherhood.
A new hope rises to us. The apogee is before us. I hope that you won't deny it.
Last thing... If we manage to find you easily I have no doubt that it would not be complicated for the Avoydes to do so. Take Care.
That was Captain Avogadro from the Dabow Cruiser; I wish you a good day. Over.”

When the headquarters hold a crisis cell to decide on the reaction, spontaneous crowds gather in the parks, malls and main avenues. Everybody wanted to share his opinion or get some information among the numerous discussions without violence or anger. But the situation worsened when one hundred of students took control of a transport shuttle to join the Dabow.
The operator of Titan class Heavy Destroyer Yimajam gave order to the shuttle to stop immediately and started plasma batteries warning shots. The pilot of the shuttle did not even respond to the message but increased the speed. When the Yimajam shot for second time the captain Avogadro spoke again on the general communication network.
“Cease fire immediately! This shuttle is now under the protection of the Apogee. I repeat: Cease fire or we will intervene. That was Captain Avogadro from the Dabow; I wish you a good day. Over.”
Commander of the Yimajam was overwhelmed by the situation and ask the headquarters to confirm orders. The shuttle was about to reach the maximum range of the ion canon. Admiral Enlyle “the Young” himself ordered the shuttle to stop and after another minute of silence ordered the destruction of the shuttle. Yimajam fired its 3 ion canons. The rays reached simultaneously the engines, the lower deck and the front of the shuttle which explodes in clouds of debris and blueish energy spheres.
The Deboran Cruiser reacted first. Most of the soldiers of this ship knew somehow one of the students who just died before them, the captain himself loosing 2 grandsons. Salvator class cruisers are not proper battleships but still have noticeable defensive weapons. The Deboran slowly pitched and fired with side laser weapons toward the over destroyer Yimajam. Even the reinforced shielding could not withstand a strike of short range laser firing and the inner part broke over kilometers. But even heavily damaged the Yimajam fired back with all the short range weapons available. Whole sectors of the Deboran disappeared instantaneously in high intensity explosions. Cruiser was torn apart, with its great hall and forest sphere floating in the space surrounded with debris and frozen corps.
The Heavy Destroyer Yimajam slowly drifting in space due to the damage on stabilization systems had just time to send fighters before being shot down by the 3 others civilian Cruisers as revenge. The situation then worsened exponentially.
Successive explosions of the Heavy destroyer and Deboran Cruiser had generated clouds of debris jamming all the fleet detection systems. Riots started everywhere in the ships as the captains took distance from the battle zone. Some ships exchanged spurious fire shoots. 3 cruisers collided and added even more to the overall disorder.
In very few minutes, the fleet had lost millions of passengers while the Army of the Human Confederation was frenetically attempting to coordinate actions to recover control. Quickly a safety perimeter was established around the 4 remaining Titan class heavy destroyers and the few Cruisers with known loyalty. Firing exchanges between Cruisers continued but situation get somehow clearer.
Six cruisers were now moving away from the rest of the fleet toward the Dabow. Seeing a clear sign of rebellion, the Admiral Enlyle ordered pursuit and destruction of the renegades’ cruisers. Several fighters were sent whereas heavy destroyers stayed to immobilize or destroy the last opponents in the battle zone.
At this moment the Dabow started to release numerous unknown drones. They were hardly bigger than a Navajo fighter wing but moved with high velocity. A swarm of these units quickly crossed the renegade cruisers joining the Dabow to form a vast revolving half sphere before the confederation fighters. The fighters started shooting without warning the small drones which exploded in vast plasma deflagrations. The Dabow had just installed a mobile mined field to prevent the fighter for continuing the pursuit. Some pilots tried go through or around it, but the drones were too fast to make it possible. Then pilots had no choice but to destroy all the mines one by one which let time to the cruisers to join the Dabow and move away from the remaining exodus fleet.
Following this disaster, the admiral Enlyle became swift and relentless. Assault troops together with police force were deployed on each cruiser to keep a total control. Military courts were immediately organized for immediate and uncontestable judgments with executioner working for several weeks for justice.
On the 48 Salvator class cruisers that left Earth only 29 were remaining among the Human Confederation. Seven of them had deserted and twelve destroyed. The fleet took the time to recover what was valuable from the wreckage and floating debris before aiming at the coordinates given by Avogadro. The admiral Enlyle was firmly decided to find and punish the traitors.

The Epoch system

Astronavigator from the Human Confederation fleet could confirm the information provided by Avogadro before joining the provided coordinates.
As a matter of fact Epoch is a supra giant star so big that probably visible from billions of light years. Around it is orbiting what could be named as a supra planets’ system.
Even if admiral Enlyle highly insisted on the risk of ambush, it was almost impossible to detect few cruisers among the numerous spatial bodies of the system.
136 planets of different types are orbiting in the system Epoch with additional satellites and miscellaneous meteoroids. The variety of analyzed planets impressed any scientist of the Human Confederation. With or without atmosphere, liquid or gaseous, with or without life, some planets are covered with liquid magma or weathered by toxic storms. Whereas the outer planets have very slow temperatures, the inner planets cannot be reached due to burning high temperatures under the energy of the star.
It is in the central zone that astronavigators found several planets suitable for human colonization. The headquarters chose one of them and called it Arcan for main establishment. 3 cruisers landed there to create the first colony of the Human Confederation. The Admiral ship Decallyon kept orbiting around Arcan while the rest of the fleet spread in the surrounding planets to created new settlements. There were still much to do for survival of Mankind...
Author: Fabien COUROUX
English translation: David DE MUYNCK
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