A month had passed and not a single word had come out about any new activity

Three months later…

Not a single word had come out about any new activity. The occupied Lazarus worlds formed a sphere of robot controlled land known as the Blackout Bubble. Yet for a month not a single thing had happened. Nothing had happened, the war which had such a spectacular and terrible beginning had come to a grinding halt. All that cumin civilization across the Milky Way could do was ready itself. The speed by which the robots had taken the Lazarus worlds had all planets and their governments focusing first on a defensive force for home then on an expeditionary force to head to the Blackout Bubble. It would be a long time though before anything serious came.

Terrence Laster's mouth tasted like vomit and beer. He staggered along the road of New Yorsun City on the planet of Caerdan 21. He looked up at a great holographic screen that occupied half of an entire building in the city streets. It played a news broadcast that caught Terrence's attention. He walked over to it.

"The Milky Way is up in arms as hundreds of thousands of planets mobilize in the wake of the Skuller's Way incident to fight the mysterious robots" the voice said as images of soldiers and ships flashed across the screen. "Lai Chesoa reports". The screen flashed to a woman, presumably Ms. Chesoa, who walked in front of a parked warplane and lectured the camera about the combined military efforts of humans across the Milky Way.

In the street below the screen Terrence saw a mob of what looked like a few dozen protestors in sunglasses chanting something. One of them was drawing a megaphone. He drew nearer to them and heard their shouting clearly.

"Skuller's Way was and inside job! Skuller's Way was an inside job!" they chanted. They all wore white t-shirts that read either the words they were chanting while one of them shouted out over a megaphone.

"The governments of the Milky Way are trying to scare you with lies about a robotic army! They want to take control of our lives and plunge the whole Milky Way into a state of martial law! I refuse to be policed and dictated by these tyrants and their soldiers! The Lazarus planets have been isolated by their own governments so we do not see their citizens living under martial law until we too are ready to be consumed by the Blackout Bubble!" he shouted. Terrence crossed the street and stood by the group. He took a sip from his beer and noticed one of the protestors filming him. This was what provoked him.

"So you think the governments of Lazarus shut off their planets and forced them under martial law? That the robots don't exist?" Terrence asked the camera. One of the protestors, a young woman, approached him.

"Sir, the governments are trying to deceive you into thinking that an army of machines attacked the planets of the Lazarus system. We are part of a growing movement of patriotic citizens who expose the Skuller's Way incident and the disasters at the Lazarus worlds for what they really are: a government conspiracy".

"Were you at the Skuller's Way mission?" Terrence asked.

"Neither were you" she snapped back apprehensively.

"Lady, the robots are no government hoax done to scare us into submission. They are real. I lost my whole family to those invasions..."

"Sir, you have been brainwashed. Skuller's Way was an inside job and your family is still alive but they're living under tyrants in their own government" interrupted the woman. "If you want to know what really happened, there's a documentary coming out called 'Spare Coins' that will teach you what really happened and how the governments are all working together to make us their slaves" the woman said.

"The robots are real!" Terrence cried. "I was there".

"Uh huh" the woman replied skeptically as the cameraman filming Terrence got closer and two other protestors joined their comrade. "Uh, can I ask how forty one planets can be occupied in less than two hours? It is impossible" she asked.

"Lots of robots…" Terrence began.

"Uh, yeah, that's what the government shills all said. But where are all these robots now? Nowhere, absolutely nowhere. They must be magical robots who can appear and disappear at will. The space fleet sent to Lazarus 13 was huge. It could have engaged the robots but instead it fled and blockaded the Lazarus planets" continued the woman.

"We had to keep the robotic swarm from migrating to other planets while we waited for reinforcements from other sectors" Terrence replied.

"Oh? Why didn't they just send in half the ships to blockade the worlds and the other half to…"

"Lady" Terrence said. "You don't know what you're talking about. What is your profession?"

"I'm a student in college".

"Right. We'll I was a sector commander until they let me go for my drinking. We had gone into Lazarus 13 thinking we would encounter less than 200 billion machines and instead encountered over a one hundred times that number. We had to wait". Terrence stalked off. He peeked behind him and saw the cameraman was still filming him walk away. He had only taken a few steps when his stellar phone rang. He took the beeping device from his pocket and flipped it open. A little screen told him the caller was somewhere on the planet of Xerxes 2. This was significant to him because that also happened to be where his office of sector commander had been before he had been sent away.

"What is it?" Terrence asked to the phone. His voice was shot through a thread thin antimatter tunnel so it could reach the ear of the caller, who was light years away, in a few seconds.

"Laster, this is Ohman" said the deep voice from the other end. "Please meet me in the old café where you used to have coffee. I need to talk to you".

"Ohman?" Laster asked. "Good god, why can't you find someone else?"

"I need you because only you know".

"Can I not just tell you over the phone?"

"I need your advice on what to do next" Ohman replied. "I find your old office to my liking but I don't think it would go well with security if I brought you back into the base. So I want you to meet in the café where we can talk about the Blackout Sphere".

"That's not my job anymore. You know that, sector commander" Terrence said.

"Please Laster I need you now" Ohman stated. Terrence looked over his shoulder at the protestors. Their cameraman was still filming him, it would probably look good for their conspiracy theory if they had footage of him talking on a phone after trying to refute their beliefs.

"Whatever" Terrence replied. "I've nowhere else to go. Send a shuttle to pick me up though, I can't afford transit".

It would take Ohman's shuttle two weeks to pick Terrence Laster up. In those short weeks, a lot happened with the Blackout Sphere…