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Local hour 0412, June 14th 2367 Earth date

Onboard USS Arlie, New Souther class transport vessel.

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I wake up from my weary slumber. The alarm function in my mind is ringing loudly. Feeling annoyed by the sudden awake I smack my forehead to turn it off, an unnecessary action since all I have to do is to merely think about turning it off. Eyes still half asleep and tiredness still lingers throughout my body due to not having enough sleep hours, but I got used to that long ago.

[Good morning, sir.]

[Morning, A-LAN.]

I lie on the bed, half naked and covered in a blanket. I try to force myself back to sleep but my half awaken consciousness prevents me from doing so. Telling me to wake up and uphold my duties. With eyes both agreeing and refusing to shut down I decide sit up and turn my body to the side of the bed. My vision becomes clearer and various UIs appear on the side of my vision. I direct my eye towards the lower right corner of my visions and look for the series of numbers that tells date and time.

4 am, so about 3 and a half hours of sleep.

I stand up and stretch my body, then head to the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror I gather myself and review my schedule for today as I subconsciously do oral cleaning. Thinking about the overall situation.

I left the Sol system nearly an Earth month ago, embarking on my journey to visit Athena station, the orbital platform built for scientific studies and observation of a particular celestial body. The shorten old name for this planet was SR 4546, it was named centuries ago, somewhere between the 20th and 21st century. And no I don want to acknowledge its long serial number of a full name. But due to the fact that the first ever intelligent alien civilization exist on this planet, its name is once again open for changes. Officially the name is still SR 4546, but everyone from all over the United Stars debates intensely on this subject, from folks within the scientific community to the people on the Astronet. Some agree upon keeping the old name, some don . For me, I would rather not rush this process. In my opinion, we should learn as much as possible from this alien world, know about it better. Only then we could decide a proper name for it. Maybe adopt the name from the local aliens? Maybe, if we ever contact them, which I doubt we will.

My mission is to visit Athena and stay there for some time. Other than the usual official businesses, my tasks are to interact with the science team and the staff, some usual official talks with the people working there. In the mean time learning as much as possible about this world and its inhabitants.

Every thing is still too surreal for me, and probably for all of humanity, all 200 billion of us. Throughout history mankind has always wondered if it is alone in this vast universe, in this galaxy filled with hundreds of billion of stars. That question was asked again and again ever since the start of the space age almost 400 years ago. Then, in the 2240s, when experimentation on the Alcubar drive succeeded with flying color the human civilization truly became an intergalactic civilization. The event sparks a fiery flame within humanitys pioneering and adventurous nature that leads to what was known as the second age of exploration. More than a hundred years later the searing heat has yet to die down. We have explored more than a hundred star systems, colonized dozens of planets, even trying to develop terraforming technologies. So far, we have encountered many plant and animal like alien species on multiple habitable planets. But what we truly want is to make contact with sapient life. They must exist. They have to. And they are somewhere out there, so we kept on looking and looking. For more than a century of exploration we find nothing, not even evidences or ruins of possible existed civilizations.

Then, two years ago, an exploratory expedition fleet was on its way to continue the expansion of the border of knowledge and the influence of mankind over this region of the Milky way. This is the 17th large scale expedition so far, the goal for this expedition is to explore the unknown region beyond Aeris sector. One of the science vessels of the fleet was ordered to jump to Sarir-B and survey its orbiting celestial bodies.

The moment it exited the jump some form of unknown anomalies messed with the ships systems. Scanner later found out that the unknown energy was emitting from an Earth like planet within the local systems habitable zone. As the ships observation systems and scanners focus onto SR 4546s surface, they found something absolutely astonishing. They could see that the surface was littered with cities, towns, infrastructures and most importantly, living beings within said towns and cities. It found the one thing that mankind has always been looking for throughout history.

This discovery hit the United Stars with a force greater than ever before. We finally found what we have been looking for for a very long time. Everyone and everything pour all of their focuses onto this, the hype all over the Astronet was insurmountable. Along with my workload of course as it almost doubled thanks to that event.

An orbital space station was built shortly after that to observe and study this incredible planet. The station was named Athena, which is the name of a Greek god of knowledge and wisdom. Its construction was finished almost a year ago, and the crew onboard the station have been working tirelessly since then. They have discovered quite a lot of knowledge regarding SR 4546 and its aliens, but not many information was released to the public. Obviously only people with high enough clearance can access full detail, its not hard to point that out. And of course they have full control over the release of those information to the public.

Many mysteries still linger regarding the planets inhabitant and their hidden nature. How have they not been detected or discovered thus far? With all of sorts of satellites, telescopes, sensors and scanners looking for signs of their existence. Sure they are nowhere near the Sol system but they should have been discovered long ago. Perhaps the scientists and researchers on Athena can shine some light upon these questions?

[Sir, you need to see this.]

A familiar voice suddenly rang out inside my mind and interrupt my train of thought.

[What is it A-Lan?]

SR 4546 is now fully visible outside of your rooms window. I have also detected station Athenas signal.

So we have arrived. Alright then, I should make haste and get on the bridge.

[Todays schedule?]

[You will have a short meeting with your main escort team. Then the ship will proceed to dock with the station. I will comprise a detailed sheet and send it to you shortly.]

Thank you.

A meeting with the SF. My main escort team. My clearance is not high enough so I don know much about them but I do know they are most probably tier one. These folks are really serious about their businesses, and have succeeded in executing all of their ”businesses ” so far, according to A-LAN.

[How long til we land?]

Average travel time between Sol and Sarir-B is estimated to be around 25 to 32 standard Earth days, passing through and stopping by several star systems along the way to resupply and refuel. Which is quite fast considering the distance between the two stars. In the beginning of the FTL age a light year would take up to several weeks to traverse through. Today however, if you have the cash, you can get ships that can travel several light years within a day. Faster-than-light technologies have advanced so much since then.

[ETA 20 minutes until docking, sir. Athena has already hailed us and is communicating with the ship captain.]

I finish cleaning my self and grab a white towel. Then head out of the bathroom.

As I walk out of the bathroom, remembering A-LANs word I turn my head to the left, looking at my bedroom window.

[A-LAN, open the window panel.]

A moment later, the external armor panel that covers the windows rolls up, revealing the stunning scenery on the other side. Through layers of reinforced carbonite glass I can see it, in all of its beauty. The glamorous green and blue marble shining among the black void of space that is SR 4546. The all too familiar scene, every habitable planets looks like this, with green landmasses, vast blue oceans and white streaks of cloud. I have gazed upon this very scene many times in my life, looking at Earth and other Earth like planets through the windows of spaceships and space stations. Yet no matter how many time this very scene presents itself in front of my eyes, I just can help but be dazzled by its magnificent beauty.

It looks just like Earth…

But for some reason, I have a strange feeling, that something seems off about this planet. It is like any other Earth like planet yet at the same time it is not.

The whole scenario with this new alien world will undoubtedly be the highest climax of my life, many challenges will appear before me. Many obstacles will try to obstruct my way. What can I say, the future is always uncertain. Whatever will happen from here on out only time can tell. But I have to do this, this is my responsibility. For mankind, for Corsia and for the family whose name I bear.

I finish preparing, don my formal suit, then head to the door.

With a single commanding thought, a hissing sound can be heard as the door slides to both side.

[Alright, here we go…]

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Local hour 0523, Athena observation orbital platform, mess hall.

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”There we go, now you need to get to the evac zone, can you walk? ” I asked as I pull a scientists leg out of a fallen vending machine.

”I don think so, sir. My legs bones have seen better day. Why are the vending machines so heavy anyway? ”

”Dammit, give me your hand. ”

The scientist reach his hand out and I grab it, then I pull him up before calling for help.

”Hey we have another one over here! ” I yell toward the station staff who are currently helping the evacuation process. Two of them run up to me and help carry the limping scientist toward the emergency exit.

”Aight hes yours. Anyone else left inside? ” I ask one of the staff member.

”The mess hall is all clear, sir. ”

”And the other sector? ”

”The bridge is clear. The Blacks are taking care of the living quarters and the marines are handling the research labs. But I heard that a few engineers are stuck in the engineering sector down below. They headed down there again earlier but so far we have yet to hear anything from them. ” One of the staff answered, panting as he grab the shoulder of the injured scientist.

[Found them, sir. Loading camera feed.]

I hear A-LAN voice in my mind. Moments later, a camera screen appears on my contact lens, showing what seems to be a group of people running around inside a room filled with pipes, wires and machinery. Red lights are flashing every where and sparks can be seen flying about all over the place.

”What are they doing? I thought the evacuation order was given out? ” I yelled over the loud speakers that is blaring the evacuation order, confused by the action of the engineers.

”I don know, sir. The head scientist tried to chase after them but then the main elevator lost power effectively locking us out. One group is trying to restore the elevator right now. ” Said the staff as he and his buddy assist their injured colleague.

Without thinking ahead, I let my action take over my rationality.

”Ok, thank you. Ill go get them. ” And then I dash out of the mess hall.

”Sir, where are you going? Sir? Sir… ” I hear the screaming voice of the staff as it get quieter.

[Any other way down?]

[No, sir. I have no idea why the station have no emergency stair. Elevator is the only way.]

That genuinely surprises me. No emergency stair, on a space station? Well that can be left for later. Right now my focus is on something else.

[A-LAN, route to the elevator and get it back online.]

[Already on it. Vectoring route now.]

From my vision, a path made of yellow blinking triangles appears underneath my feet on the hallway of the station. And on the top right of my eye, an overall 3D map of the station can be seen. A blue dot is in the center of the 3D map moving about which I represent my current position.

[Sir, the elevator is slightly damaged but can still be used. Attempting to redirect power…]

I run as fast as my legs allow me as I weave between falling sparks and debris, thanks to A-LAN predicting and pre-constructing my path to avoid incoming hazards. The hallways brightness is not helping at all as the lights constantly flicker on and off. Emergency warning beacons keep on spinning around showering crimson light everywhere in a chaotic manner. The stations unbalanced angle starts to show as the corridor is getting progressively more slanted.

[Power redirected, elevator online, opening now.]

After hearing A-LANs report, I take a right and see the elevator on the end of the hallway, its doors are sliding to the side revealing another larger door which slides downward.

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Local hour 0531. Athena observation orbital platform, engineering quarter.

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”Theres no use. Athena is gone. ” I yelled at one of the engineer over the loud noises surrounding me.

”I know, sir. We are not trying to save it. ” the engineer yelled back.

I am confused. If they are not trying to save the station then what are they doing down here.

”Then what are you doing? ”

”The station is a goner, we all knew that from the last trip to the engineering quarter. Now we are trying to reactivate the anchor and getting all thrusters pointing downwards. ” the engineer answered with an even more confusing statement.

”Wait, Wh…? Why? ”

”To slow the station down, sir. Athena is now a 642 meters asteroid falling fast through the atmosphere. We are sending an equivalent of a small planet buster warhead down to the planets surface. ” gasped the engineer as he is called by his colleagues toward one of the stations power core.

With the size of the station and the sheer velocity of it, if it slams full speed into the ground like this then the consequence will be catastrophic. Both for the people whose evacuation pods land near the drop site and the natives of this planet.

[Shit, what did I get myself into. A-LAN, anything?]

[I am trying, sir. But the anchor is in an extremely critical condition, it is damaged by up to 70%.]

[70%? How? If something functionally went wrong and it shut down, how come 70% of it is destroyed?]

Did something hit the anchor? Debris? Asteroid?

[No satellite, no space junks, and no asteroids big enough to damage Athena were detected prior to the current accident, sir.]

Before the accident, I was greeting the staff and the science team after exiting the airlock connecting the docked ships and Athena. After a hand shake with the chief scientist, out of the blue a violent shock vibrate throughout the entire station. And now here we are twenty minutes later, free falling.

Everything is starting to get confusing. Nothing make sense anymore. All of a sudden the anchor just breaks apart? All on its own? What is going on?

[Sir, calm down.]

A-LANs voice intercept my thought, easing me up a little. I take a deep breath and exhale.

[Calm down my arse. Alright.]

I look around and try to find the person who is in charge. Then I spot a tall muscular man pointing his finger at people and seems to be ordering them around, all the while focusing on a computer monitor.

I quickly run toward him and call him out.

”Hey! Excuse me, are you in charge? ”

The man turns around and look at me. He is quite tall, and buff. He wears a pair of glasses and a hard hat. He don a standard issued engineer outfit, with all kinds of lights, tools and wires hanging around him.

”Yes, sir. I am chief engineer Johnson Galter. And sir why are you down here? ” He answered with a surprisingly light and young tone, unfitting with his bulky body.

”I was trying to get you lot out but you are too stubborn. If the station is a sure goner then what are you all still doing? ” I argue with Johnson, not seeing the logical reason why he and his pals decided to stay.

”Anchor s totally fubar. We are a PBU heading down to slam into the planets. Our size plus the reactors will wipe out a chunk of a continent. And we are doing something to prevent that. We only have the thrusters now. But Im afraid that won be enough. ” Johnson hastily spoke with a hint of worry in his voice. It is true. The directional thrusters are used to adjust the stations position within orbit. It doesn have enough power to slow it down.

”Why do you care about the locals? ” I argue back, still not seeing the point.

”Sir, because I know what they are. Im sure youll understand once you see them. ” Johnson calmly replies as he keep his gaze at a monitor screen.

”What do you mean? Hey Im not done talking to you. ” Johnson move away from the monitors and help his nearby colleagues fix something.

At this point Im sure that Im just wasting my time here. These people are mad. I might as well get out of this place and evac while I still can. So I turn around, exit the engineering section of the floor and head over to the elevator.

I push a pad next to a door and wait. The door for some reason decides to not open.

[Did somebody used the elevator after me?]

[No, sir. You were the last user of the elevator shaft.]

Fearing the worst, I nervously ask A-LAN.

[Its gone, isn it?]

[Yes, sir. We lost the elevator, I have been trying every possible ways to bring it back online for a while now but nothing works.]

Shit…

Now what?

Standing here and stare at the elevator door out would not solve anything, maybe the engineers can help with this. So I return to the engineering sector, dodging falling debris on the way.

”Why are you still here? ” Johnson was surprised upon seeing my face again.

”Elevator is busted, we are trapped. ”

”Oh, is that so? Well, can do anything about that now then, cause power have just went out and theres a massive hole in the backup reactor power room. ” He says and point toward a bulkhead door. It has a round window on it to allow for observation into the room it guard. And beyond that glass, I can see the trail of yellow plasma forming out side of a massive tear on one of the wall, indicating that we are indeed falling fast.

Oh no…

An engineer suddenly shout toward Johnson from across the room.

”Hey chief, its not working. ”

[A-LAN?]

[All thrusters are at maximum power, sir. And Athena is not slowing down.]

[But why are we falling? Shouldn we be orbiting the planet?]

Its built close to the planets atmosphere in order to study it, too close in fact. Only anchors can hold it up this low. We weren orbiting the planet, we were simply hanging within its upper atmosphere. And Athena will fall if the ropes its hanging on were to be cut.

”Then we can do only one thing. ” Johnson speaks up after some moment of thinking, interrupting my muted conversation with A-LAN. His tone is much more serious this time. And that caught my attention.

”And that is? ”

”We can collide the core and force an implode. ”

What?

”Excuse me? Say that again? ”

”We force collide the core, initiate a meltdown and create an implosion. ” The words leaves his mouth so naturally as if theres nothing alarming about what he have just said.

”Wait…wait, what? You mean we…self destruct? ” I asked in a surprise tone, trying to confirm his words.

”Yes, that way only small chunks of the station hit the ground. The result will be less catastrophic. ”

Self destruct? To break apart the station into smaller pieces? What is this, Revenger: Age of Oltrun?

”Wait, but if you do that then we will all die? ” I asked him again, uncertainty flooding my voice.

”Yes, unfortunately, but less people die down there. We are going to die either way now that we
e here. At least we can save the others. ” Johnsons tone is still indifferent from before. I can also feel the same fear within that voice. But it comes along with something different, determination.

”But what about these guys here? Did they agree with this? ”

”Yes… Well most of them…maybe. ”

I am at a lost of word.

Are you serious? You are killing us all because you want to be a hero and save the aliens? You forfeit human lives and trade it for these creatures?

”Wait…wait, hold on…Jesus **…god damn, you can do that…shit… ” I start to panic, knowing that my journey might abruptly ends here, of all places and times.

”Well then, I will- ”

”NO…NO, DO NOT… ” I yelled. My body is trembling at the realization that my life is going to end and there are no other way to escape it. Why is this happening? If only I didn run down here.

I have a long future ahead of me. I am going to have a planet of my own one day. There are so many thing I want to do, so many thing I want to see. I haven even taste love. I am going to die before embracing true primal affection.

[Sir, calm down.]

[Calm down? CALM DOWN? Im going to **ing die A-LAN. How the ** am I going to calm down?]

[Sir, please remain calm.]

Thats it, this is the end. My first ever mission to another planet alone and I **ing die A-LAN, I **ing die! How will people think of this? And the public, or my family? And then-

A powerful shock resonate throughout the engineering quarter. My body suddenly feels extremely heavy as I am forced down onto the metal floor. Other people suffer the same, even Johnson is on his knees as an unknown force push all of us down.

[What now? What is going on? Is the gravity machinery stuffs acting out? A-LAN!]

[Sir, the station is slowing down.]

The fu-?

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”The flow of fate is becoming unstable. Something is bound to break apart the chain of destiny that has been embracing this world for eternity. It is coming. Something powerful, very powerful, so powerful that not even the most divine of gods and the mightiest of demons could topple. But it is not something evil. No. It harbors no ill intent. It conjures no evil. Yet along with it is changes. Changes that will forever reshape the world like never before. Bizarrely, I harbor no ill feeling toward it. I do not know why. Strange, it is indeed. ”

—Unknown entity—

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