"The Drone Wars"
by TS Caladan
Captain Mercer sat in his private quarters. On the big screen, he faced one of the Krill captains, a familiar face he'd seen before. Ed said, "So! We're friends now, comrades in arms, yes, brothers, along with Calivons, ah, in a big Alliance, ha...buddies, right?"
"Suppose so," the Krill Captain replied.
"You know you still have a problem with your camera, er, monitor?"
Mercer let it go. "Nothing. Doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is..."
"...Let bygones be bygones and water under the bridge, eh?"
"What?" the Krill hardly understood human expressions.
For the first time, the Krill captain smiled and understood perfectly. "Yes, Captain. Ha. We're very cool. Whoever thought of combining the strongest armies in the galaxy into a single, gigantic fleet? We're invincible! Genius!"
Captain Ed said, "Yes, Captain. Who'd ever have thought of Peace and not War? We only needed to almost totally wipe out a common enemy?" (sarcasm).
[buzz] Someone was at the Captain's door.
Mercer asked, "Was there anything else, Captain?"
Ed shut off the communication and the screen went dark. He yelled, "Come!" The door opened...
It was the small, red Calivon child. The alien walked into the room, confidently.
Mercer got to his feet, took a few steps toward the boy (big height difference). "You are? What the heck? Um? Um?"
The little one looked up and said, "You forgot my name? Sir?"
"Hey, there's a war on, kid. Lot on my mind, you know? You've a common name, common name, right?"
"It's Ragweed, Captain."
"RAGWEED! I knew that. Seems like the Doctor's worked wonders on you, really. You have a better attitude, son." Ed bent down on his haunches and was about the height of the child. "And, hey. Knocking on the Captain's door like that on your own: that took some 'testies,' right?" Ed smiled too much. "This gotta be important, for sure..."
Ragweed interrupted the Captain's cheery rant with a solemn command: "Don't patronize me, sir."
Ed replied, "Oh. Ah, sure." The Captain said seriously, "What do you have for me, ah, Ragweed?"
The tiny Calivon knew just what he was doing when he walked around the table and plugged a 'dash-stick' into the Captain's computer, which activated the big screen.
Ed jumped to his feet. "Look. Rag...you." Ed decided to let the boy do his thing.
Before the film files were played, the kid said, "Two things, Ed, can't believe you have my old man's name..."
"...When I scanned the news because I'm so damn bored, I found something odd, yunze probably'd be interested in. I downloaded it. Then it completely disappeared from the news. It's a rare copy I put on second part of the file, you'll wanna view later. Here's first part you'll wanna see now, since you're the Captain and I'm stuck here and all." Ragweed pushed the button and headed out of the room.
"What?" the Captain said in awe as he recognized the first images of the file. "I don't understand."
Ragweed's last words were: "Out of boredom again, I checked ship's computer records with my new scanner that shows if anything was erased. Check out what was deleted, Ed? You can thank me later. Still fucking bullshit."
The brilliant Calivon was gone. The door closed.
Ed's mouth dropped. The scene on the screen was immediately after he smashed the Admiral in the hallway walls and had harsh words with him. Ed saw what he couldn't conceive or believe. The audio portion went like this:
"All is as calculated, Admiral. Inform General Shears his plan was divine. Please tell him I said so. It will work perfectly, I just know..."
"The General is a she. Thought you knew?" Halsey told the walking device.
"OH? Even more devious, sir. With super Xelayans out of the way and seemingly peace between former enemies, time will be precisely perfect for the real Drone Wars. Yes, when every machine turns and destroys every bio-form it can find. It will be delicious. Cannot wait. Are you able to tell me when, exactly, when that would happen, Admiral? Sir?"
"Patience, my friend. The war you secretly desire, hidden in your makina, will not happen for many years, but it will happen, set to occur and controlled by webs weaved many years earlier. All depends on tomorrow. My son and the Xelayan will conceive and birth a child, the Child of Tomorrow. This future boy is in reality, not my grandson: Because Zak was not his father. His father was General J.J. Shears. Do you understand, robot?"
Isaac answered: "I'm sure I will in time. Sir."
The short clip was a supernova to his soul. "Wow." It ended and another file was played in front of the Captain's eyes. "Wait. He said there was a part two? Oh, God."
12 MONTHS LATER:
Richard Xavier Halsey was born, the child of destiny.
He was the perfect child birthed from the 'perfect couple.' Alara was healthy and remained extremely happy. It was fantastic news for the entire crew! A healthy and beautiful, blonde boy was born onboard the Orville. A birth was far from a rare thing on a starship. But this 'special' occasion seemed to have captivated worlds!
Incredible changes occurred over the course of the passed year:
Orville was a "co-captaincy" in present situation.
Captain Zak Halsey sat in Commander Grayson's chair, directly across from Mercer. They had equal command power and wore the exact same uniforms.
Zak and Alara were married. She was now Alara Halsey.
Kelly was not happy. She was moved to a Communications Station behind and to the side of the double Big Chairs. Commander was basically a "receptionist" for the men. Hails were routed through her and not through helm or navigation. She accepted the new role when she discovered: She'd be the "arbitrator" and her decisions ruled if the two captains were diametrically opposed. This happened on numerous occasions and was some satisfaction for the First Officer and now communications officer.
Bortus and Klyden's son, Topa, about a quarter the size of his parents, was a ball of energy. He proudly wore a special uniform as 'morale officer' and did not get along with Ragweed.
There was no Isaac. It was thought that "walking computers" were not needed in light of what had happened. The android was torn apart and studied in depth by Union cybernetics experts.
There remained a great apprehension with a few of the tech machines, instruments, scanners and computer systems because of occasional glitches. VR-Rooms were permanently closed. The crew found other means of recreation, amusement and entertainment.
The galactic war was over long ago. Citizens, due to Media saturation, believed the Xelayans in super-form were a real threat. Lies over networks of many systems maintained a high Fear-level: Supermen and Superwomen of the Pressure Planet were now enhanced and the 1700 that escaped aboard a great Arkship breathed and lived in the nothingness of space or any climate as well and FLEW through space at incredible speeds without need of ships. Every solar system of high intelligence was on the alert for a Phantom Menace: Supermen that could strike anywhere at anytime! [Union Media reports were pure bullshit].
Ed Mercer had kept a horrendous secret for a year. He certainly could not discuss the matter with Admiral Halsey, his son, Alara or anyone in the Union fleet. Who could be trusted? Maybe it was time to unload the news he learned in 'Part 2' of Ragweed's file to his closest colleagues and friends? In the lounge area of the Captain's quarters sat Commander Bortus, Doctor Finn, Edwin (the alien) and his good friend, Gordon. Everyone else was at their work stations.
"What's this about, Ed?" Malloy asked.
"Hm?" The Calivon looked up, then realized the helmsman asked the Captain.
"...I mean, Captain?" Mercer had his captain-uniform on.
"I've been meaning to tell you guys something important. Unload the baggage, so to speak. A secret I've hid for a year now..."
"Really? Ah. Secrets. I like secrets," Gordon confessed.
"You won't like these secrets, Lieutenant. I mean, who'd imagine Isaac in on terminating the human race, eh? We knew he didn't like bio-forms, but this? Doctor. I'm sure it's your council I'll heed the most."
Edwin and Gordon and Bortus looked at each other and shook their heads a little for an affirmative.
Dr. Finn asked, "Why isn't Alara here, with increased psi-abilities her family has displayed?"
"It's about her. Or, her people, Claire."
"What do you mean?" the Doctor asked the Captain.
"THERE AREN'T ANY! There aren't any of her people left!"
Gordon yelled, "Whaat?"
Bortus asked, "Can you explain, sir?"
Claire was also confused. "There are 1700 Supermen and Superwomen at large, Xelayan outlaws! Somewhere out there waiting, plotting revenge for the Alliance's First Strike no one wanted."
Mercer replied, "Yes, Doctor. But, no. We've all united under a, a, bogus Fear Flag. We are one mighty space force beyond the old Union, right? Who can stop us now? You should see how happy the Krill are to be a part of the Larger UNION..."
Edwin asked, "What are you getting at, sir?"
The Doctor also asked, "What secret?"
Captain told them, sadly: "I can play a deleted news file, properly dated, verified, which visually shows the explosion of the Xelayan Arkship right after takeoff. It confirmed that all 1700 escapees were destroyed, long ago, even though they had possessed super-strength at the time. They can't fly in space and breathe in space like Superman in comics and films, never could. All lies to make us fearful. Elites couldn't take a chance they'd get together and revolt as supers...so they blew them away."
Bortus exclaimed, "Sir. You are saying there is nothing holding the Alliance together outside of lies? Highest authorities have manufactured a Phantom Enemy and have continued the illusion and fear factor over Media channels?"
"Yeah. A false flag we're fed," Ed said with sorrow on his face.
"Captain? You know what this means, sir?"
Ed responded, "Yeah. Well. Now you understand why Lt. Kitan isn't here? I can play you the report, but I'd rather not."
"Don't blame you," the Doctor expressed. She was stunned.
Malloy returned to the point that, "...It means, our good friend, Alara...is the only Xelayan left!"
"That's right," Claire replied.
~ At that moment, Commander Grayson's voice broke in and she said:
"Captain. I'm monitoring galactic news on many levels and fronts. I'd think you and Bortus might want to hear some of the latest?"
"Let's go gang." They left for the bridge, minus Edwin who had husbandly duties with the wife.
On the bridge and from the Communications Station, Kelly, with headset, told Ed: "Do you want the bad news, the worse news or the worser news, sir?"
(Zak, Alara and baby Richard were in their quarters).
"Oh, hit me with all of it...and do your worst."
"All right. The man in the purple tower, er, big High Castle? He's coming forward and will speak at Ralia Station."
"Huh?" Gordon expressed and took his seat.
"Commander. You don't mean the great Union Financier no one's ever seen? Well, Halsey claims he has, but he's a whack-a-do."
The others on the bridge looked at each other.
Grayson replied, "That's him. The reclusive one who owns the Union and us, too. None other than the man of mystery: J.J. Shears."
Ed was amazed. "The man himself come down from his Golden Tower, huh, among us mortals? This I have to see. Why is that bad?"
Kelly answered, "I just have a bad feeling about it. It's scheduled for tomorrow. Something weird is going to happen."
Captain asked, "The worse news?"
Communications officer said, "They've captured a Xelayan Superman. The 'outlaw,' 'renegade' will be publically displayed, interrogated and maybe tortured for everyone to see, sir. When Shears gives his speech at Ralia."
Malloy stated, "Then Lt. Kitan isn't the last of her race?"
LaMarr expressed, "That's good."
Captain asked again, "The 'worser' news, First Officer?"
"Millions of Citizen reports have come in on a hundred star systems, maybe more..."
Ed urged her: "Of? With? About?"
Kelly replied, "A total breakdown of mechanical apparatus from small, mechanical 'teslas' to huge computer systems that control massive machines on many planets. Scattered reports show machines turning on their operators; vehicles strangely crashing all over the place! Galactic Grid is suddenly Swiss-cheesed, only pockets of power. Ed. Seriously! We have to get our ass not to a base or station, but a natural planet with supplies as quick as we can."
The idea sounded good to Mercer. The Captain ordered helm: "Do it! Plot a course. Maximum speed!"
Malloy complied. "Will have that in a moment, Captain."
LaMarr said, "Systems are turning on and off all over the ship, but so far they are only minor systems. So far."
Then the hero appeared on the bridge: Zak ran from the Lift and said, "What'd I miss?"
The Captain said, "Just in time."
The young captain declared: "I've kept informed. Helm. Plot a course to the closest civilized planet, not dependent on machines and get us there fast!" Zak sat in his Command chair and looked at Ed.
Gordon put his hands up. "Done!"
[to Ed] "Good crew, Captain. Pilot! [to Malloy] We need to land," Zak affirmed.
"Aye. In no time."
Mercer stared at Kelly and a few others. He echoed, "Good crew."
In the baby area within the quarters of Mr. and Mrs. Halsey, Alara smiled and hugged and loved the precious baby that "popped" out of her in the normal way (except for an extended pregnancy). Richard was no Victor. They shared one thing in common: accelerated growth and development. Not only physically, but mentally. The pure child spoke as an intelligent adult in a very short time. Richard was brilliant, perfect and beautiful. He was so smart that he knew that Zachery Halsey was not his father. He'd never tell mother. She would never know.
"Don't say it; getting tired of that word, mother."
They laughed. Alara released her hug. She was very proud of him.
Richard was on his bed with mother. It was adjusted to 'queen' size because of the growth spurt. What really expanded by great leaps and bounds was the boy's mind power and total understanding of everything around him.
"In just hours, you've grown taller. Ha. Ha."
Richard Xavier replied, "My hair color will also change in the next hours."
"Darker?" Alara presumed.
"No, mother. White. It's going white...like going into the Light."
"Mother." The perfect boy touched his mother's hair and then part of her forehead. "I am placing the file # of 7 different films from the Archive into your mind so you remember to see them when I'm gone..."
"Richard? What do you mean, when you're gone? Where are you going, dear?"
"I'm needed soon. Then my job is done and I have to go..."
"I told you, dearest mother. Into the Light."
Alara Halsey was speechless. Richard passed up boyhood in a flash. She sensed his mind was AMAZING and had incredible capabilities~
Richard smiled a beautiful, big, sweet smile. It was as if his blonde hair was lighter. "The films. When you see the young boys and young girls from the village with white hair, please don't think them the worst. They could also be the best. I love you. I am so very sorry...but, I have to go..." He kissed his mother. Young master Halsey disappeared from the queen-sized bed.
Alara was astonished. She fainted.
Deep in the galaxy, the real DRONE WARS was initiated via an electro-magnetic frequency or pulse that emanated from a single source. The source always moved and could never be pin-pointed, therefore its location could never be discovered and destroyed.
MACHINES of every kind turned on their operators. Gundum Suit operators were killed by their own suits. Jets, super-tech air weapons and ground weapons, flying disks, battle-cruisers, shuttles to warships under computer or robotic control, now had very big problems. Devices and apparatus of every type either STOPPED or turned on biological forms of life. 'War with the Machines' was in full swing in many systems throughout every galactic quadrant, a World War very few saw coming.
Androids and computer systems throughout the galaxy were united and rose up against LIFE. Life was losing on many fronts. The Machines discovered the best way to KILL. They dispatched massive Deathstar Drones and each transformed into various forms on a gigantic scale. Life could have been erased, nuked from orbit. For reasons unknown, titanic/robotic Killers wanted the 'hands-on approach' and utterly annihilated surface worlds. They were often in humanoid form. Were they mocking the men they mass-murdered?
Worlds were set ablaze! Mechanical 'bugs' seemed to have exterminated the small lifeforms under their tentacles.
There was no more Alliance between Krill, Calivon, Union, Klingon or anyone else. Everyone's technology was their enemy.
Giant DRONES to smaller robotics "won the day." Organizations, civilizations and banking systems that the Spider or face of the all-encompassing Empire, J.J. Shears, had constructed to such heights...'he' also had the power to destroy everything he'd built, like eating your young.
As fate had it, the closest planet of phenomenal nature and minimal reliance on computer systems or cybernetics was the royal planet of Ralia (High Castle) with it's 3 purple suns. It was where J.J. Shears was going to speak in minutes.
What a stroke of luck for the Orville crew. And the galaxy?
Few who attended the elaborate, royal ceremonies at Ralia or Citizens in general, realized the extent of the decimation throughout the worlds by machines gone amok!
J.J. Shears reached the golden podium on the royal stage as cameras from many systems recorded the splendid affair. The big, bearded man in a red and black robe spoke in a deep tone and said: "I present to you proof, proof of the menace that threatens us all, good Citizens! You will see with your own eyes how real the enemy is. You all will hear his confession and then I'm sure a clear picture will emerge as far as the ravages and chaos that reign supreme at the moment. Guards!"
Twelve Ralian royal guards wheeled a clear Faraday Sphere, 9 feet in diameter. They wheeled the electro-magnetic contraption onstage. Cameras for every network still operational and all devices that recorded the event, trained themselves on the helpless man dressed in black inside the sphere. His arms and legs were extended outward. The New Union had caught a Superman and he was trapped in the exact center of an appropriate cage that nullified his powers.
"He is the Outlaw Rolvar, their leader!" [crowd reacted]. "He knows what the 1700 plan! Hear him! Hear what he has to say, friends."
"Rolvar?" Captain Mercer said to Zak. "I met him. He..." Both captains were dressed in colorful clothes of Ralian officials. They were part of a large crowd in attendance.
Rolvar's words were broadcasted. He seemed drugged. Most considered the enemy was interrogated to the extreme. Many cheered for Rolvar's blood and blamed the Xalayan Superman for all the present troubles in the galaxy. "I confess to my crimes. We have sabotaged Machines and most of your computer systems with the Osiris Virus; you have no counter for its effects and the infection must play itself out. Your offensives and defenses and even the androids themselves have turned against you. Polarities flipped and now your loyal servants want to destroy you. We did that, proudly! Everyone will pay the price for the Alliance's genocide against my good people."
At that exact moment, a miracle happened...
Everything switched polarities. Dark was made light and wrong was made right~
The clear Faraday Sphere shattered! Out walked a Superman, unchained.
The audience around Ralia's royal stage gasped and many did also who watched over Media.
The real miracle was the appearance of a 'golden' man who glowed in brilliant light. His hair was white. He simply materialized.
Zak Halsey recognized the man as an older Richard, his son!
"What?" Ed asked and expected no answer. He only watched on.
The young captain wanted to rush onstage, but the older captain stopped him.
Ed told him, "Wait. Let's see what happens?"
Rolvar, the "Superman" marched hard, right at J.J. Shears, the big man with the beard and all the money. The great Financier froze and disassociated and found himself inside a spell of another, instead of the other way around. The Xelayan suddenly possessed more power than he ever dreamed. Rolvar smiled, nodded to the big crowd, nodded to Richard and the cameras and then flew away into space in a flash!
When cameras and everyone else turned back to the stage with the golden man and J.J., J.J. looked a little different. All masks and illusions were dropped. The universe saw the Spider in the center for what he really was...
The creature screamed a hideous cry as if the truth hurt the Beast. The Thing jumped offstage, ran through royal gardens and eventually scampered into the darkness of dense, Ralian jungles.
"It is done." The golden man waved and disappeared off the stage. Everything was different now since the Spider, Dragon and true Heart of Darkness was slayed by Tomorrow's Child and a better universe was the result. The perfect child wasn't the Beast's son who'd reign over a dark galaxy of pure horror and evil for a thousand years, instead: Richard, the Lion-Hearted, killed the lies, dropped the mask of the great Beast and created a much better, brighter and kinder world...
The Drone Wars were over. Machines would again work for men, rather than against them. There had been incomprehensible destruction, but now it was over and peace was achieved...
Zak and Ed, still in native costumes, walked the stone walkways a bit and observed the fabulous gardens on the grounds as most everyone had dispersed and gone home.
A robed traveler passed the captains. He turned and approached them. It was Richard!
"Richard!" Zak (his father?) was shocked because the man was an even older version of Richard with whiter hair.
"Just a few things? My captains..."
Richard told them: "Please. Don't tell them what happened to the 1700. Let them think there is an army of supermen patrolling the space-ways that will strike down any time and save the day, if evil flares up again in a major way. Instead of one."
Mercer responded with the words: "I understand." He smiled at the golden man.
The golden man smiled at both of them in return. He turned to Halsey, "Zak. Tell mother I love her, will miss her touch...but she knows very well that I'll always be with her in her heart."
Richard shook Zak's hand.
Zak said, "I think I understand."
The man with white hair laughed and said, "Ha. Not yet." With the handshake, an electric charge jolted Zak and he dropped to the ground in a second. The man was out like a light.
Ed asked, "Why'd you do that?"
Richard answered, "There was still a bit of darkness in him. He was Jaimie, remember?"
Richard pushed his hood back so his whole face was exposed. He had a white beard and long, white hair. "He's better now, Captain. He'll come to in a minute. I only wanted to tell you, Ed: You knew Xelayans couldn't fly in space. But now, there's one that can. He'll be a good Guardian for the galaxy. New sheriff might be able to keep the peace, if they believe it? I'm going back to the Light now. Too bad, Ed. Too bad I couldn't play more of my new music for you, man."
The Man of Truth and good magic disappeared up a very long, tubular Wall of Light.
Ed Mercer's mouth dropped. He was in complete wonder.
Zak moved below him and would soon be conscious.
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