Jennifer descends down from the sky and lands at the head of a wooden boat leading seven other boats in perfect formation down a glassy ocean towards a bright white light off in the distance. She’s wearing a white, loose-fitting gown that’s flowing like a spider’s web in the wind. As she turns around, she sees nine blue birds perched on the stern of each wooden boat. The birds get up in unison and fly around the boat and shoot lasers from their eyes, cutting the oars each of the crew members are using to row the boats. The boats begin to slow and drift into each other.
The blue birds then breathe out a smoke that overcomes the crew members and asphyxiate them. The blue birds then fly off towards the shore where there is a light house with no light.
The bright white light in the distance begins to have a dark dot in the middle that is slowly growing outwards. The light in the distance eventually becomes a ring of light centered around pure nothingness. A complete void of light. The ocean begins to freeze and the wooden boats become stuck; frozen in place.
Jennifer steps off the bow of the boat and walks along the ice towards the ring which is becoming dimmer with each step. She steps over bodies of Mohcia frozen into the surface of the ocean, and she can hear them calling out to her. The light house where the blue birds went begins to glow a bright blue light. The light is blinding as it passes by. It suddenly stops just passed her. The cries from the Mohcia suddenly stop, and there’s a deafening silence. She feels someone gently grab her hand from the opposite direction of the light.
As she turns to see who it is, the light comes back directly over her. She sees her shadow cast on Lieutenant Bargh, who is kneeling with his arms wrapped around an infant Mohcia. He hands her a gun and stays crouched down in her shadow as the light begins to pull her away from Bargh and the native. She turns to face the blue light and notices that the light from the ring has all but disappeared.
She’s breathing deep, and her vision is dark. She unlocks her sleeping chamber and steps out into her room. Her robot assistant awakens and goes to the closet and gets her uniform and helps her get dressed.
“You have woken up earlier than normal, Admiral. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, Tes. Thanks. Let’s got to the observation deck.”
Tes makes arrangements for a personal shuttle to take Jennifer to the observation deck, but Jennifer asks to cancel the reservation. “I’m going to walk this one.”
“Are you sure, Admiral? It’s a 5 kilometer walk.”
“Well, I guess I didn’t wake up an hour early for no reason, right?”
“That was rhetorical?”
Jennifer and Tes leave her quarters and begin making the 5 km walk to the observation deck. The hallways are mostly empty as the majority of the command crew is still sleeping. About halfway through the walk, an uniformed military crew member walks passed Jennifer and salutes her. “Morning, ma’am.”
Jennifer realizes in that moment that the military crew aboard the Ark ships all have a falcon insignia on their uniforms, which are also blue. She feels a bit dazed as she walks by the crew member, and Tes notices the sudden change in her heart rate.
“Admiral, I noticed your heart rate increase as we walked passed that military crew member. Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the sick room?”
“No need. Tes, tell me something. How many military crew members do we have on each Ark?”
“Thanks, Tes. Let’s jog the last bit, alright?”
“Your command.” Tes and Jennifer begin to job the remaining 2 km.
The door opens to the observation deck. Jennifer’s night crew is working diligently on facilitating the round the clock evacuation procedures. Lieutenant Commander Sissend approaches Jennifer and salutes. “Ma’m there are still no signs of anything wrong with this star. No solar anomalies at all. Are you sure you want to keep executing this evacuation?”
“Yes. Keep moving forward as planned. How many days until the second team returns from the far side of the star?”
“Three more days, ma’am. By then, we should have all but this Ark cruiser filled. It appears that most of the inhabitants of the center region of Mohcia are declining to be evacuated, so it’s going to be a much shorter trip than expected.”
“Great! As each Ark completes loading, Move it back to the border of the heliosphere.”
“Some of the Arks are filling up faster than the others, ma’am. There are likely going to be imbalances between the cruisers. The plan was to have that imbalance flushed out in orbit, where it will be easier to maneuver the shuttles.”
“I know, Sissend. New plan.”
Jennifer turns to leave the observation deck, when Sissend stops her. “Ma’am, the latest information from the solar surveyors is showing that there are some anomalies starting to become observable with the sun.”
“Speed up the completion and follow through with my plan as already instructed.”
John and Andre begin devising a plan to use one of John’s ships to intercept the communications from the solar surveyors and change the information being reported to Jennifer about the star. This way, they can make it appear that the star is becoming unstable, and she will pull back the Ark fleet and send them back to Earth. In the meantime, they will convince her that the more maneuverable military fleet should remain behind so that they can ensure that any last-minute natives can be saved without putting the larger Ark cruisers at risk.
“Andre, this is entirely up to you. You’re the one who is going to have to convince her to move the Ark fleet back and let the military stay. It’s up to you to save her.”
“I’ve got this, Uncle.” Andre turns to leave the room. “I’ll make sure she doesn’t know anything.”
“That’s my soldier.”
Andre travels back to the Earth base with Issa’s family and gets to know them a bit more. They get back on the shuttle that takes Issa and his family to Ark II. Andre steps into the secured communication room to call Jennifer and make plans to visit her on Ark I.
The shuttle arrives at Ark II and the debarking begins. Levion meets with Commander Nielson and provides a long debriefing about his mission, leaving out everything he discussed with his uncle, of course.
“No sign of your uncle, Levion?”
“Not a single sign. Our best guess right now is that they all left as soon as they noticed the anomalies in the star.”
“So far, no anomalies have been found.” Nielson informs Levion.
“Ya, could be a fluke. Better to be safe than sorry. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all sitting back on Earth right now just waiting for us.” Levion assures Nielson.
“Probably right, sir. Well, the Admiral sent me an order to have you visit Ark I as soon as you’re cleared by the doctor.”
“The doctor again?!” Levion is still upset that Jennifer doesn’t trust him about being sober. “Nothing could be more sobering than that you’re on a suicide mission without knowing it.” Andre thinks to himself as he heads to the sick room.
Jennifer and Levion are sitting at a dinning table, eating a steak dinner across from each other. Levion is dressed in his military uniform and Jennifer in her Admiral uniform. He has informed her that there are no signs of his uncle or his convoy but also no signs of anything unusual or threatening on the planet. Jennifer waits for Levion to take a big bite of his steak.
“You ever remember any of your dreams, Andre?”
Levion is a bit startled and stops chewing. He lifts his index finger and then continues to chew as he nods his head. “No, Jen. Not really. Maybe one here or there. Usually just me putting files in a filing cabinet to be honest. It’s not really important to me to understand how my brain is sorting and storing information.”
“Ya.” She looks at the falcon insignia on his newly acquired military blue uniform and remembers the blue birds from her dream earlier.
Tes enters the room. “Admiral, you told me to interrupt you with this important news.”
“What is it, Tes?”
Tes looks at Levion and then back and Jennifer.
“It’s okay, Tes.”
“Admiral, the solar activity is beginning to show some anomalies consistent with what the original Levion crew was reporting in their distress signal.”
Andre knows John’s team has pulled through and see this as the perfect opportunity to nudge Jennifer. “You gotta pull back the Arks, Jen.”
“I think you’re right.”
Andre is a bit puzzled. He was expecting a bit of resistance from the woman he knows to be so stubborn. “You’re just going to agree with me?”
“Don’t try to take credit, Levion. A good idea is a good idea regardless of whether you think it crossed your mind and exited that giant mouth of yours before I was already thinking the same thing.”
“Of course, ma’am. And my mouth isn’t that big.”
Jennifer smiles at Levion and stands up. “Levion, I’m putting you in charge of the military fleet. We’re going to pull the Ark ships back to the edge of the heliosphere immediately. We’ll have to compensate for the imbalance prior to jumping into hyperspace back to Earth. You keep the military and cargo vessels here to take care of the last remaining evacuees. Jump back to Earth ASAP.”
Levion can’t believe what he’s hearing. Everything is going exactly as his uncle had hoped it would. The Ark fleet will be safe, and the military fleet can remain behind to confront the enemy.
“This is a damn good steak. Can I take it with me?”
“Let’s finish our meal together. With an exploding star on the horizon, this might be our last meal together.”
“That’s a bit morbid, don’t you think, Jen?” Andre asks as he stuffs his face with steak and mashed potatoes.
Jennifer calls Tes over to her desk in her study. “It’s time to execute my plan, Tes.”
The Ark cruisers begin to leave orbit around Mohcia and head for the edge of the solar system. Levion has returned to Zeus One, the commanding military cruiser. Jennifer has given the Ark cruisers instructions to make the jump to hyperspace as soon as they have all reached the edge of the heliosphere. Unbeknownst to Levion, Jennifer has balanced each of the Ark cruisers by completely unloading the evacuees, cargo, and crew from her ship, Ark I, which has remained at Mohcia.
Onboard each Ark cruiser is a robot just like Tes on Ark I. They help direct traffic throughout the cruiser and ensure that crew can navigate as quickly as possible during maneuvers. The Tes robots also have a tracking system that allows them to find everyone on the ship so that they can assist in the event of a disaster or when crew does not report to their positions as commanded.
As each of the Ark cruisers begins to pull out of orbit, all crew are required to secure themselves. One by one, the Tes robots find each of the nine military crew members wearing the blue uniforms with falcon insignia and kills each of them as they are secured for exiting orbit. The Tes robot has no weapons, so it has to use blunt force to brutally club the humans to death. It then has cleaning robots clean up the blood and dispose of the bodies in the ships’ garbage hold.
Jennifer leaves Ark I in orbit around Mohcia when Jennifer receives notification from her second solar observation convoy. There were no unusual observations of the star, but they did encounter extremely anomalous gravitational pull on the far side that pulled their ship off course by an increasing amount of force. The conclusion is that these gravitational anomalies might have been observed by the original Levion team and been the cause of the distress message. Jennifer sends the message to the Ark fleet to jump back to Earth immediately.
Levion’s military cruiser spots Ark I still in orbit around Mohcia.
Levion makes an open communication to Ark I. “Is there something wrong with your Ark?”
There is no response.
“What are you doing, Jen? Is everything okay? Please respond.”
Lieutenant Bargh and Esua sit down on top of a mountain watching Zathustine Major rise over the valley below them. Esua’s bright blue eyes can easily absorb the light. Bargh is wearing his weaponized space suit and has a shield over his face. They look at each other, and Bargh smiles.
“I am smiling on the inside, my friend.” Esua says to Bargh as they both look back at the sunrise. “Thank you for taking care of my family.”
“I’m smiling under this helmet. Thank you for trusting in me. My commander just gave the order to make the jump back to our home. They are safe.”
The two sit atop the mountain enjoying the sunrise as they notice Zathustine Major is beginning to shrink as it’s rising. They see a massive solar flare leap out of the side of the star and look at each other.
“Looks like your god is right on time, friend.”
“This is my destiny, Norman.” Esua stands up and is now as tall as Bargh is sitting down. He places his right hand on Bargh’s shoulder. “I hope your commander can come through.”
“You and me both, friend.”
Tes is standing in the command room of Ark I with a splatter of blood on her arms. She receives an encrypted transmission from Jennifer. “In position.”
Jennifer is onboard the crippled cruiser that was sitting in the 4th planet’s orbit. It’s a communications cruiser, so she’s able to still maintain communications with the few satellites left behind by the fleet. Tes begins to navigate Ark I out of low orbit from Mohcia as Levion continues to attempt communication.
As Jennifer looks out of the command center’s observation window at Zathustine Major, she starts to notice that it appears to be shrinking slowly. Suddenly, there’s a massive solar flare that jumps 1/3 the distance of Mohcia. Tes sends her an encrypted communication, “It’s been a pleasure serving you, Admiral.” Jen’s eyes well with tears.
The electronics on Ark I begin to have all sorts of problems. Tes hears a series of loud pops. She is alerted to numerous breaches in the hull as Ark I collides with the moon of Mohcia.
Levion looks on in despair and orders the military fleet to perform a search and rescue mission on the moon. “Something must have gone wrong with the navigation and communications on the ship. I want everyone to find any survivors.”
Jennifer circles to the far side of Mohcia from the moon and sends down a shuttle craft to the top of the mountain where Bargh and Esua are watching Zathustine Major slowly shrink into a black hole. All of the data Jennifer is receiving from the remaining solar observers are showing that the star is maintaining its mass but shrinking in size. So, there is little effect on the solar system.
Bargh and Esua walk towards the shuttle when they are confronted by John Levion, who is wearing battle gear as well. “I can’t let you board that shuttle, Solider. You can join me, but you cannot get on that shuttle.”
Bargh tries getting a reading on John’s suit, but his weapons scanner is unable to determine the weapons Bargh can clearly see with his own eyes. Bargh tells Esua to get on the shuttle and John steps in front of him.
“Let the little guy go. I’ll join your little treasonous shit parade, but I made a soldier’s promise to this little guy that he’ll rejoin his family.”
“That’s just not going to happen, Soldier.” John pulls a detonator from his utility belt. “That shuttle is going up with this detonator, and your friend up in the sky is coming down.”
“That’s the Admiral. I believe she’s someone you know rather well.”
“Her choice, Soldier. Your choice too. Choose wisely.”
Esua reaches into his pouch and pulls out the flashlight that Bargh gave him the other day. He shines it into John’s helmet, and it distracts him just enough for Bargh to get the drop on John. The bullet from Bargh’s gun cracks Levion’s helmet glass, and he falls to the ground. Bargh runs towards Esua, picks him up, and jumps on board the shuttle. John stands up and fires his gun at the shuttle, hitting Esua in the stomach. As the door closes, Esua holds up his six-fingered hand and drops two fingers to the right and left of his middle two fingers.
The Shuttle takes off and Bargh notices that Esua was hit by John’s bullet but there isn’t much blood coming out of his wound. Esua reaches three of his fingers inside the wound and pulls out the bullet. “Who needs thumbs now!” The two laugh as the shuttle continues on its way back to Jennifer’s cruiser.