Prologue- Failsafe

Acar lifted his heavy forearm to shield his face. The blue dwarf star outside in the panorama of space unleashed a mighty solar flare, engulfing the entire space station. As he lowered his arm, Acar pulled his hand across his console to silence the menagerie of screaming alarms that had started. They protested against the sudden heat increase on several parts of the station merely as protocol; the flares posed no real danger.

Acar stared down at his console, floating before his eyes. Luminescent blue diagrams and menus circled lazily in front of him. He extended a finger and jabbed at a glowing button labeled 'damage schematic'. After a brief delay, the floating console seemed to break into thousands of pieces as the luminescent particles flocked to rearrange themselves into Acar's desired shape. Acar watched the blue light form into a detailed three-dimensional image of the Cyclone-II. A tiny white light floated in the space station's console deck, indicative of Acar's current position. Smaller, teal lights represented the other ees crewmembers aboard, while green lights stood for the auto-repair drones. Finally, certain parts of the station glowed red, showing that they were damaged or in some way afflicted. Currently, the entire starboard side of the deployment ring was radiating a vivid scarlet, alerting the ees to its increased temperature.

Acar looked carefully at the other damaged areas. The deployment ring, other than the temperature anomaly, seemed in working condition. The cannons and growth chambers within it were all functioning at full efficiency and cleanliness. The command deck, console deck, quarters, life support systems, defensive systems, and field generators were perched about on elegant, slender arms protruding from the deployment ring. They, too, seemed perfectly functioning except for some moderate asteroid damage on the command deck. Even now, a pair of the repair drones was perched atop the damaged region, automatically returning it to new condition. Acar extended a hand and closed his fingers around the cylindrical power core of the station. With a slow, fluid motion, he pulled his hand towards him and loosened his grip. The console responded in kind, allowing him to pull the power core with him as if it were a real object. He withdrew his hand with the power core now expanded greatly so he could inspect it more carefully. It, too, seemed flawless, and had always seemed so. However, the consequences of allowing even a tiny fracture to form in the tumultuous power core could be devastating. However, seeing none, Acar smiled and dismissed the console. The glowing particles dimmed and swarmed into a tiny chamber to recharge until summoned again.

Acar turned to look at the console deck. He and three other ees managed all of the administrative computer systems on the station. It was a fairly mundane job. Though the purposes and whereabouts of the Cyclone-II were absolutely top secret, he didn't feel his presence was all that important. The space station he stood in was one of the technological wonders of the galaxy. Every circuit, every window, every armor plate had been carefully and painstakingly built by the finest ees engineers over the course of a few decades. All of that work culminated into the marvel that was the Cyclone-II, the machine that would finally draw the Great War to a close. It was absolutely imperative that the station never be discovered, and thus it was kept in a relatively unknown, barely-inhabited system. The ees themselves did not even coin a name for the greenish planet they now orbited.

Despite the secrecy and importance to the war, however, Acar knew that he was obsolete when compared to the beautiful machine that hummed all around him. The station practically managed itself, automatically repairing and adjusting everything without sentient intervention. He truly was only there to act in emergencies, which had not even surfaced upon release of the payload, months ago. Indeed, the Cyclone project seemed to be an absolute success. The infallible logic and amazing engineering of the ees shone through every aspect of the mission. And yet… Acar worried.

Understand, it is not in an ees' nature to worry, and less yet in Acar's. He, as so many other ees did, devoted his lengthy life to the understanding and application of science. Ees machinery was by far the finest that could be found, because the ees truly loved their creations. They buried themselves in work on the tiniest piece of a machine for months on end. They may take years to complete a single starship, but the result is a masterpiece of aesthetics and function.

Acar did seem worried about this mission, though. In truth, he felt slightly guilty for his thoughts. Such illogical fears, if shared with his fellow ees, would most likely evoke dislike and condescendence. He himself, as had they all, contributed to the construction of this station. He should be personally assured that the machine was immaculate. However, his doubts lied more on the apparent ineptitude of their enemies. Even though they had taken many precautions of secrecy, it did not appear to Acar that a station of this size and purpose could go unnoticed for long. The payload had deployed months ago, and its effects started to emerge shortly thereafter. Surely their foes would have traced it to its source…

Almost as if in response to Acar's needling doubts, a blaring alarm sounded. He whirled around to face his console, which had automatically formed a map of the surrounding space. Acar carefully scanned across the three dimensional realization of the system until he located the source of the problem. A small group of starships had entered the system. He grabbed at the ships and zoomed in on them just as he had the power core. He could see, at a glance, at least fourteen Decimator-class ships of several types. They would definitely pose a problem. Fear began to well up inside of Acar, but he did not allow it to overtake him. He coolly maneuvered to a microphone.

"Attention… All crew… a strike force of kittek is en route and should arrive shortly. All pilots should proceed immediately to their ships. Automatic defense, recovery, and lockdown systems are now active." With that, Acar returned to his console, prepared to issue any commands to the computer that may help them. All about him, ees calmly prepared for the impending attack. Acar watched the crew through his console. Green orbs scrambled from all directions. Several ees, presumably pilots, were heading into the hangar, ready to engage their foes. Technicians, officers, and computer specialists spread to their respective stations to help the station defend itself. They would all do what they could to guide the Cyclone-II, but their fates lay in the machine itself. Fear welled up again, stronger this time. Acar knew he should not give in, but as the enemy ships loomed ever nearer, his fright became more and more persuasive.

"There are no anomalies. The system is failsafe. Failsafe. The system is failsafe," he quietly mumbled to himself. As he regained his composure with this optimistic mantra, he stared at the display that showed the enemy ships. As they neared, the scanners could pick up more information about them and provide more details. Acar glanced through the readouts that the station provided as it analyzed the enemies' capabilities. He returned to the microphone.

"Pilots. Target the depth-borers," he stated blankly.

"Affirmative comm leader 3," came the reply from a speaker by Acar's head. Within a few seconds, the entire station shook with the telltale rumble of the hangar doors opening. Acar watched the two Hurricane fighters streak from the little luminescent hangar floating before him, just as the kittek ships came into firing range.

"Prepare for impact," Acar stated as the first depth-borer unleashed its payload. The station rocked violently as a mechanical bomb bored its way through the hull. Acar and the other ees clamped their strong arms down on whatever they could grab to steady themselves. For a split second, time seemed to stop. Then, with a resounding boom, the bomb exploded, sending fragments of the hull flying out in all directions. The stations alarms blared at great volume, and robotic repair drones were immediately dispatched to the afflicted area. Acar watched the miniature station gradually turn from a calm blue to an angry red as two more bombs impacted.

"Failsafe. Failsafe."

Acar's fear welled up once more. He knew his fellow ees were doing all they could to protect the station, but he already feared the worst. The station rocked violently once again as an enemy fighter crash landed into its massive side. Acar could see what the enemies were attempting. They were sending everything they had at the power core. Its armor and shielding were immense, but the depth-borers were slowly eating away at it. Another impact or so would probably fracture the core, which would spell doom for them all. Acar watched with a dismal look on his face as the two ees ships whittled away at the enemy forces. Ees ships were the best of the best. Given enough time, those two fighters could probably destroy the entire enemy force. The enemies seemed to realize this, and wasted no time assaulting the two ships, but rather focused all firepower on the station. They had clearly learned what it was for…

Two explosions later, Acar started to feel the station slip. Its starboard side dipped below its normal position and the immense station began to slowly fall towards the planet. Bombs continued to accost the station as it accelerated and the planet began to grow beneath them. Acar knew now that he would not survive the crash. He sighed complacently and began to walk away from his console. Other ees did the same, realizing that with the station as badly damaged as it was, there would be no hope of recovery. The enemy bombers ceased their assault, apparently confident of this.

"I do not understand. The station was supposed to be failsafe," one ees declared. He was obviously afraid, but maintained his logical, rational composure to the end. The entire crew felt a lurch as the station struck thicker atmosphere. The air friction from such a large object moving so fast threatened to melt the entire station. As they broke through the troposphere and Acar was offered a glimpse at the swampy expanse below him, he voiced his grim realization.

"It is failsafe…"