• In the vastness of neverending cosmos, it was quiet. Absolutely, completely, utterly quiet – not a sound traveled through the colorless vacuum, only light and radiation... Nothing could live in it, nothing could breathe in it, only die a death as quiet as space itself. Glowing orbs dotted the blackness, being the stars that gave the cosmos the light and radiation that filled it. Mighty black holes filled the distance light-years away, sights unseen, crushing the life of even the light that strayed too close. Green spasms of nebulae cloud brought crept across the stellar sea like a slow-moving pirate that robbed starships of their only sight. Occasionally, the cosmos's natural inclination to be unpredictable and strange kicked in, and gamma explosions rocked the galaxy, wiping out entire planets and civilizations.
    One civilization that had remained constant for thousands of years, though, was embodied in the sleek metal cylinder that drifted through the vacuum unabated. It moved at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour, its drifting powered by subtle magnetic thrust. It moved without particular location, but with a singular aim: discovery. It was not just to discover, but to discover civilization – no, not civilization, but something of more importance, a habital planet.
    It was required to discover the planets for the civilization that had sent the probe was running low on living space. Space that its people were willing to kill for, and would always kill for, whether they killed with the gun or the tongue. Violence was always the first option for this race, though that violence was not always the obvious kind – blood spilled was blood spilled, and those that built the probe always spill the blood.
    So the probe drifted. It may have seemed to move fast, but in the cosmos, it moved slowly. Slowly and surely, without stopping. With luck it avoided random destruction and with superior construction it powered itself infinitely, its brilliant design able to withstand all but the most deadly punishment the universe could deal. Dozens of sensors that could reach for light years along its path were sent in waves and beams, trying to pick up more importance than the occasional and useless anomaly. It would do this for years, many years in which it would send reports back to its creators with its wondrous communications daily, and they watched it closely for those years. A patience was a trait to these creators, the patience wrought from a mastery of space that met with challenges, and these challenges they conquered.
    For ten years the probe drifted, its sleek, silver cylindrical form drawing no eyes but those of its creators. For ten years it found nothing, not even an asteroid, only a mindless travel through the black. It was a traveling that would drive anything but a machine mad, lonely and desolate with no one to confide into – but the machine felt nothing, cared for nothing, thought nothing. It only acted on programming, lines of code that it executed flawlessly for ten years.
    On that eleventh year, the probe's mindless journey ended. Those far-reaching microwaves found something... no, not something, but many somethings. An entire solar system, in fact! The creators put on predatory grins as the solar system was mapped out within seconds and scans performed on every one of the ten planets. Two gas giants, three desert planets of potential, an ice planet, two red-hot planets too close to the sun... and a planet of terra, but not only a planet of land and water. This was a planet habitable in the golden ring of the sun. A discovery so rare that it was like finding a second Earth!
    The planet must be taken, no matter the cost, as the decision went. Through the chain of command this decision went, starting at the very top from Guass-Emperor Pax Ethenica of the Pax Guass, the creators, and down to the high admiral of the Tillinth division. A fleet was not yet assembled – instead, a single ship. More surveys would need to be conducted, for the probe could not map out the surface of the planet and look for life – that was not a probe's job. The probe was merely to probe, and it did so with an effiency granted to it by the masterful precision it had been created with, but it was now time for the job of colonization.
    So the crew was assembled. It was a crew like any other gathered for a colonization process. It had the Tillinth navy men, towering over seven feet and broad of shoulder, resplendent in sharp, distinctly-woven grey tunics with folded collars, their lower half covered by grey pants tucked into knee-high black boots polished enough to reflect light and shine, their large, dextrous hands covered by high quality black leather gloves never before even scuffed, and crew cuts that were the height of fashion arrived, striding in confidently in a perfectly straight line with dufflebags containing all their worldly possessions slung under one arm and their other arm free. Each had slightly varied heights, different tones of skin, different colored eyes, differently formed faces – but each looked the same on the basic level with massive muscles that fit their broad, tall frames perfectly. The Tillinth men were quiet and extremely intelligent and diligent, though every man, woman, and child of Pax Guass had intelligences that would be off the charts on scales from the twentieth century. Every one of them never stopped until the job they had to do was done, either, unless they had reason good enough. They rarely did have such reason.
    Behind the men of the Tillinth, the navy, were the quiet men of the Forda, more than dangerous as one and beyond dangerous as a dozen. Each of them were even more massive than the navy men, most of them over eight feet tall in height and with muscles large enough to crush the heads of lesser men in between their two colossal hands. No one would think these men smart or fast, but they were just as smart as the men of the navy, and fast enough to run ten miles in twenty-five minutes while weighed down with four hundred kilograms of equipment, as the men did every day in training. The Forda were the most dangerous fighting force ever assembled in the history of mankind, more than a hundred billion strong and each man able to hit a target in the head from three hundred yards away at a glance. With the various power armors and guns that made the appearance of the Forda men legendary, the fighting force became a machine of destruction that had rolled over dozens of civilizations in a bloodthirsty conquest to not rule the galaxy, but to calm it. The Guass-Emperor had a vision, and the men of Forda were more than willing to destroy entire systems to fulfill that vision in his name they were so loyal to his cause.
    Science teams followed suit, the true humans. They were anywhere from four feet to seven feet tall, wiry to fat to muscular, from a pale skin to a skin nearly ebony, from male to female, and all of them ranked as super geniuses even on the scale of intelligence the Guassic Empire used. Different from the soldiers, they had only the bio-modifications that the designated 'civilians' that came out of the gene-banks received – the ones that gave them longer life and an immunity to nearly every disease that could form against the human race. Each of them had no aptitude for combat whatsoever, but were there to train the soldier class in the ways that would be required for them to colonize the planet – agriculture, mostly. They were by no means viewed as weaker by the Forda and Tillinth men. Bigotry against those that belonged to the Pax Guass was expunged while inside of the vat they were created in or as soon as they were out of the womb they were licensed to be born in. Bigotry was ignorance, and ignorance was downfall.
    Last to arrive was a box. Not a box of square, wooden origin, but something more – a gigantic cubed monstrosity. It was wrought from sheet after sheet of shining silver metal and fused together flawlessly, not a single seam revealing its boundaries, only a simplistic nine-key pad on the dead center of its front facing side. Inside this box nothing stirred, not even the slightest of movements or sounds to indicate what it carried, if it carried anything. Few knew that it arrived, for the box was inserted into the cargo bay without supervision – its inclusion was an absolute last minute order, something only the Guass-Emperor could invoke in such a delicate operation. The Captain himself did not know of it until later, leaving him infuriated.
    The men and women that entered the ship that was to be the flagship of a new world to be brought under the sixteen-pointed cog that stood boldly on the flag of Pax Guass. The ship itself was an absolute masterpiece forged by the microlite vats in the orbital dry docks of Mars, taking four years to assemble the six hundred thousand tons of metal into a craft to traverse the ocean of stars. It was formed into a perfectly black ovoid – but not necessarily a perfect ovoid. The front end seemed to curl into itself, forming a bulbous tip that gently curved back like a person bending over; almost like a peanut with a swollen tip. The peanut-shaped vessel was, like every vessel of the Burgeon-class supertitans, made unique of the other models. This vessel, the Exploiter, was truly unique. It was far more heavily armed than the other Burgeons, able to destroy entire planets if necessary, as this ship was meant to be an entire fleet in itself – a true testament to the power of war contained within the well-oiled machine of Pax Guass. It sacrificed space used for servicing other craft for the massive kilometer-long cannons that adorned its thirteen kilometer long, seven kilometer tall hull.
    From the outside, the ship looked gargantuan, imposing, intimidating... omniscient. Inside, it was so – twisting corridors, dozens of doors, rooms the size of buildings, three floors, every bit of it absolutely terrifying to an invader, but comforting to the defender. Even though the crew had never been in this particular ship before and some naught even in ships of its type, they knew the basic layout of every ship in the Empire was logically designed, and maps were in their computer slates should they need to access such. The scientists trudged along with short steps to the elevators and down to the middle floor, where most of the labs and civilian city-modules were for them to work and design and study further data to be received from the drifting probe as it somberly traveled the black. Those of the Forda walked with long, parade-ground strides, intimidating in the thick plated power armor that covered every inch of their body except their heads, which were donned with opaque black domes that made them look even more inhuman and herculean than they did. They marched in double-files lead by squad leaders as they always did when on duty, their absolute and unquestioning discipline on display, headed to the lowering bays, where the absolute bottom layer was for them, thickly armored and shielded so their weapons wouldn't do harm when training, soundproofed so that their war cries and thundering and roaring weapons and ear-shattering explosions wouldn't disturb anyone else. And the Tillinth navy men came, quietly moving like ghostly spirits in a moonless night, taking their positions in the bridge, engine room, weapons rooms, maintenance rooms. All five thousand five hundred of them moved into position without a word said, just like all the others. The silence in the ship was so loud it threatened to deafen everyone aboard, for not even a single whine came from the unmoving hulk.
    The silence that had built up wasn't tense, wasn't awkward – there were simply no words that needed to be said. Orders had been given before entering the ship, orders for the superhuman soldiers and scientists to await for the Captain's announcement before leaving the quarters they had been told to enter. Every man and woman except for the silent men in the grey uniforms waited. The soldiers waited with the patience of wizened old men and most of the scientists waited with the patience of a four-year-old, but they obeyed the orders given – no one disrespected the orders of the Tillinth on a starship.
    Every Tillinth sailor, while the others waited, was working. They did not work hurriedly, for that caused mistakes and mistakes could be fatal, but they worked with a sureness that wasn't slow or fast, but had a speed that showed the motions they went through were of competence born by routine. The sailors moved through that routine – they booted the primary cluster of quantum generators, the forty-foot tall, twenty-foot wide ring of metal cylinders breaking the loud silence by humming quietly to life, bringing terrawatts of power to the entire ship. As the primary generators booted, so did the systems of the ship: its sensors, weapons, shields, communications, engines, and the life support was brought to full power. As the life support was brought to full power, it did more than simply provide oxygen, and the freezing hallways of the ship began to grow warmer, more comfortable. The air became more moisturized, its recycled metallic tang taste lessened considerably.
    The PTF Exploiter was brought to its full glory and the colossal metal beast became alive, its thrust the unheard roar of triumph and joy as the beast departed its cage. It was the king of its jungle, and it intended to show it. The Exploiter charged across, accelerating faster and faster towards the Mars Gate, six hundred thousand tons of unbeatable, unchallengeable, unforgiving war. As massive as it was, the ship easily traversed the hundred thousand miles between it and the Gate in a minute, going nowhere near its top speed. And the Gate was prepared for its new passenger. As soon as the Exploiter was in range, a great pool of blue formed inside of the moon-sized metal ring with a large rectangle jutting out to the side, a swirling vortex of endless blue that splashed forth, the wave making the Exploiter look minuscule as it enveloped the ship, drawing it into the ring... and then the portal was closed, the blue receded, the ship it had carried gone, swept away by the powerful current to an entirely different place, for where they went, they knew not was to happen.
    In the strange dimension of limbo they traveled to their destination, accelerating to thousands of times Exploiter's normal speeds in a place where the laws of sciences that existed were but few. It took them naught but weeks to arrive to a destination they knew little about, the scientists debating, the soldiers training, and the crew crewing. All were on knife's edge, the tension in the entire vessel so thick it was nigh palpable. It was not a quiet tension, but a loud one, the kind brought on in open, heated political debate. When the Exploiter reached the medium ballof dirt and water called Alpha Three, it dropped out of the strangeness it had been in and into the chaotic order of the true galaxy, anchored in the gravitational orbit of its prey.
    Inside of the ship, a single voice was to echo throughout the vast halls, the voice of the captain. What he said would be remembered by the crew for as long as they were to live, for that was to not be very long.
    “This is your captain speaking,” he said, and everyone listened, but they didn't hear the words that he didn't say next, but he had planned to say. Instead, they all died, for the ship exploded. The great orb of scintillating and pulsating blue smashed through the flickering green-yellow of the ship's shields as the generators were so overwhelmed that their circuits fried. Spinning and soaring, the orb melted through a dozen feet of the hardest metal known to humanity like it had never been there before, its heat so intense that it not only burned through, but burned a hundred feet of metal to slag by just being near. The orb collided with the power cores of the ship, not burning through, but exploding upon contact, consuming the outside of the device, destroying its safety circuits, making it volatile and deadly. What had begun as an explosion turned into an ever-spreading invisible storm of death, with billions of genocidal killers let loose to commit five thousand murders, and a mingling explosion of raw physical destruction that spread outward.
    Both raced through the ship, the neutron storm dropping thousands dead where they stood, exploding any electronics, wreaking havoc untold, and its physical counterpart ripping free everything and anything and pushing outward. Seamlessly fused together plating flew apart, the Exploiter being torn apart from within in a violent tide of entropy that destroyed anything and everything it could touch. In seconds the ship was wrenched in two, billows of flame spurting forth like fountains of fire from hell, an ever expanding mushroom cloud of flame that burned. No one was left alive, nothing left recognizeable – except a single, large strip of the hull shaped into a stretched out oval.
    The oval dropped into the atmosphere, too resistant to burn. It passed through this burning hot air, only to fall serenely to the ground. After its fall, it landed gracefully and loudly, leaving not a crater, for it was only eight inches and a half long and an inch wide. Instead of leaving a crater, it left an irony so unexpected that it was a shame to go unremembered, for this oval-shaped strip of hull metal eight inches and a half long and an inch wide had landed in between two large, perfectly spherical rocks.