The metal, anti-slip magnetism boots worn by the members of Black Star 19 dully clanged against the hull of the mysterious, freight ship; the sound almost completely muffled by the vacuum of space. This unregistered space craft had recently been discovered traveling through a restricted area in the 29.1 quadrant of the galactic free trade zone; and although space travel was still authorized, and widely used by all citizens of the United Federation of the First Cosmic Order, there were still areas off limits for commercial use after the War of Enders and the Benediction that had followed. However, given the generated turmoil throughout the galaxy brought on by the recent war, the primary governments that made up the Federation had little concern and far too few resources to waste precious manpower to patrol these areas for rogue traders trying to make a few extra credits through the sell of harmless trinkets; so normally, these events went unnoticed.
But someone had noticed this particular ship, and given the amount of money spent to hire Black Star 19, this ship was of some importance. Black Star 19 was one of the growing numbers of hired guns; contracted specialists; in short, mercenary groups that had formed and begun offering their services to the smaller kingdoms and colonies spread throughout the Federations aims. Normally these organizations offered protection, search and rescue, and on occasion, attacks and assassinations on citizens and/or political groups who's activities had drawn the attention of their enemies.
Two weeks ago Carl Legner, owner and founder of Black Star 19, was contacted by an unknown benefactor by way of a model S-8 courier-bot; the meeting was held at Legner's office, with the other party only present remotely through the courier-bots tri-haloderm projection lens. This unbeknownst patron had gone through great lengths to conceal his/her identity; using a holographic morpher to contort their appearance and change their voice. The figure's appearance resembled one of entity in a black cloak.
Legner leaned back in his synthetic leather, Sadlic hover recliner and put his feet up on his desk. A massive man; Legner's reputation as a cold and calculated soldier, was only proceeded by his new found entrepreneurship in the rapacious business of death for hire. The 9 inch scar that ran from the top of his right eyebrow to his jaw provided enough evidence to most people that he truly was not a man to tangle with.
"I would normally ask if you minded if I smoked; the smell of cigars bothers some people, but seeing as though you ain't actually here; well I'll just take that as a sign that it's ok." said Legner as he struck a match on his boot and carefully lit his Altarian cigar. Since retiring from the military, Altarian cigars had become his one vice; and if it wasn't for the fact that the Federation's Council of Medicine had discovered the cure for cancer centuries before he wouldn't have continued to smoke them; but now that the risk had been taken out of the equation, there was absolutely no reason as to why he shouldn't indulge.
"Now, let's get down to business," said Legner "I understand there's a certain issue that you seem to think my particular skill set can assist you with; is this correct?"
Legner's low droning voice carried an usual accent on it that most couldn't place. He had picked it up by watching a form of visual entertainment that had once been called "Westerns", while on an extremely long (and harsh) tour of duty at a remote base on Jhalix 5's ice desert, Dalizin; these "movies" (which all standard Federation space history textbooks state) had been made by an ancient group of beings that had once ruled four of the original uni-spheres of the galaxy, called humans. Now an almost extinct race; humans could now only be found in the most remote areas of the Old Nebula. As a matter of fact, humans were so few in number that they were not even recognized by the Federation's Census Bureau, listing them on all official Federation documents as "other".
The figures voice came across as slow, monotone, "Yes, it has recently been brought to our attention that..." he was cut off mid-sentence by Legner; he was no fan of the cloak and dagger, shadow games that this individual seemed to be playing at.
"Now, let's stop right there," Legner slowly blew out a smoke ring; following it with his pale grey eyes; he seemed to be examining it, as if to make sure it was of the perfect size and circumference, "Now if we're gonna work together, we need to form a more trusting relationship, one where we can tell each other anything. So when you say 'it was brought to our attention', who are you referring to?"
"Who we are should be of no concern to you, sir. I was under the assumption that you were merely muscle for hire, bought and paid for to provide a guaranteed service; nothing more, nothing less." replied the figure.
There were very few people Legner had come across in his time that had spoken to him in that manner, he simply had never tolerated it; and the few that had spoke to him like that, were immediately rushed to the nearest tech infirmary to have a thermo exo-gel cast administered to set their broken jaw. But age seemed to have softened the old grunt, at least this is what he was accrediting it to. Besides times had grown tough since the war, jobs were hard to come by; he wasn't one to chase off a prospected customer, especially one that was willing to pay fifty thousand credits up front for any job.
Legner quickly sat forward in his chair, "I like you. I don't know why; but I like you. That's why I'm gonna let this little game you're playing continue."
At the remote location the figure was projecting his image from, he must have sat down in a chair of his own; because from Legners view, it looked as though the figure was sitting in mid air.
"If we are done with these unpleasant formalities, I would very much like to continue."
"By all means, continue." said Legner.
"Very well then, it has been brought to our attention that a certain transport ship has been making various trips through the free trade zone in quadrant 29.1."
"Ok, so what's the problem?" asked Legner; he was growing impatient, "It is the free trade zone; ships can go through it as much as they want. Federation has only made certain areas off..."
This time it was Legner that was was cut off in mid sentence by the figure.
"We are aware of this. However, this ship continues to travel through the restricted areas of 29.1; at times using a cloaking device to mask it's movements."
Legner let out a long, drawn out sigh, "Ok, lets just cut the space jarb and get to the point; what is it you want with this ship?" he said as he cleared his throat.
"Our sources have informed us that this particular ship is carrying something rather unusual, and quite valuable inside it's cargo hold. We would like to know if our sources are correct."
"What exactly is inside the cargo hold?" asked Legner.
"We would rather not say at this time," replied the figure "if it turns out to be nothing, then so be it. However, if our sources are correct, it will need to be addressed and brought to the proper channels."
Legner leaned forward, propped his elbows on his desk and rubbed his eyes.
"Look I'm gonna be honest with you," Legner said with a tone of considerate sympathy that he hardly ever used, "this all seems like a big waste of time, money, and resources. You just said yourself that you weren't even sure that your sources were correct about what the ship is carrying. I mean, you can't even tell me what you think is on the ship. Maybe, maybe you should..."
Just then, the figure must have turned off the holographic morpher that had been giving him the air of mystification, because what appeared to Legner was now a man; not just a man, but a human. Without the morpher projecting a rather ominous appearance for him, he was nothing more than a tired, old man; the lines and creases of age that crossed his face told the tale.
"Sir, please," the man was now speaking with a soft tone of desperation; he had stood up. "This is of the utmost importance to myself and my kind. The party I speak for needs to know what is on that ship. Since High Priest Helion unleashed the Benediction during the war, we..."
Legner raised his hand to stop old man; he needed to think; because what he was about to say and do was something that had never been in his nature before.
All knew the story of High Priest Helion and the Benediction; these were two names that would remain infamously in the minds of Federation history for eternity. The War of Enders was a terrible, unimaginable tragedy. The death and destruction that it had brought to the galaxy was astronomical; dragging all to the edge of oblivion with it. Kingdoms battled kingdoms, brother killed brother; the loss of life throughout the macrocosm was staggering. Alliances were formed in the name of preservation; however, where some lives had been sustained, others lives were abridged. But just when all seemed lost, a being came from the Great Exterior Rim; his name was High Priest Helion.
He had brought word from his temple, Kalidia-Prime; speaking to any and all ruling parties of the numerous uni-spheres spread throughout the cosmos that would grant him admittance to their court. He told them all of a chimera he had will attending holy mass, back when the war had just begun; before death's caliginous hand had given its outer-worldly touch of damnation. In this vision he had been approached by a figure that gave off a lustrous appearance, nearly blinding him. The figure told of the impending doom that would reach all areas of the galaxy; how the kings and kingdoms that made up the uni-spheres had forgot their place in the cosmos, had made theirselves as godheads, and how this had upset the Divine Spirit. The High Priest would be scoffed at for even proposing such a preposterous idea. He would be called a madman, a fool who believed in fairy tales; they would tell him to return to his meager life of pauperism and isolation, and never speak to them again of such ridiculous accounts. So he would return to his tabernacle; and on the very night, he would be approached by the glowing figure once more. In this reverie the soul would only speak but three words to the High Priest, "It is time."
In the years that followed, the priest would begin work on a design given to him by the entity. This would later be scrutinized by what would be left of the scientific community, due to the fact that the High Priest had no formal training in the field of tri-linear quantum mechanics, theory, or any formal type of scientific training at all for that matter that would be needed to put together of such a phenomenal event. Where he had attained the knowledge to conduct such a project is still unknown and widely disputed by all.
The High Priest would then send word to the kings and kingdoms once more by way of courier-bot; asking them to abandon their present pursuits of greed and domination. His plea would fall onto deaf ears, it would not stop the course of the destruction that the galaxy had been set upon. It was then that the High Priest knew there could be no other way than to proceed with his divine task; the wheels of obliteration had been set into motion; they could not, and would not be stopped.
Battles waged on throughout the galaxy; blood would soak the ground were soldiers walked, fire would set ablaze the skies of where their harbingers of fate flew. The war would claim all, soldier and citizen alike; it would not discriminate. But then on all fronts, on all battlefields, on all worlds a pulse of light and energy was felt; this surge of lucent aura would be perceived only as a mere stitch by man, woman, and child. And with this insignificant event, the true damage was done. Although man stood completely unharmed by this happening; it would be the rest of the manmade world that would feel the effect. In that instant the entire galaxy had been essentially thrown back in the prehistoric, dark age of science.
Mainframes had been shutdown; grids emplaced to provide power to kingdoms and colonies were now offline; bots designed to assist and serve no longer functioned; naval fleets in space would be halted in their present course of battle, leaving the crew to suffer a slow, agonizing death due to the subsequent loss of life support systems on board the vessels. Even the nanotech pulse rifles that were carried by the soldiers on the battlefields would no longer fire a single shot. Panic rose, all were baffled. For centuries, man had put his complete faith and trust into the technology that surrounded them, not into the knowledge that would be needed to repair and reconstruct it. Bots had been made by father's, fathers to take care of what man had deemed as menial tasks; the care, upkeep, creation, and assemblage of what use to be tasks of men were now left in the hands of their robotic serviles. But when the wave of technological incapacitation hit, rendering all forms of scientific advance useless, it was only then that man could see the air of ignorance they had been carrying.
The following years would be a period of slow, painstaking rebirth. Holo-schematics used in the fabrication of all currently 'dead' technology were located in dust covered storage facilities turned makeshift tombs. These diagrams of promise were essentially useless to the current age of science turned arrogance; they would have had a far better chance in deciphering the long deaden language of the ancient Yhanstal tribe before being able to make heads or tails of these rediscovered plans. But then a new beam of light and hope was cast upon the incurable, devitalized galaxy. His name was Lanston Grey; he came heralding a promise of a new age to all.
A handsome and charismatic individual, Lanston Grey was of a royal decent; named Duke of the Ghyaril province by his father, Dyna-King Lynis of the 45.91 quandrant of the 53rd uni-sphere. He spoke of possessing the ability to bring the entire populace out of their current eclipsed state progress, if all would vow to back him, swearing allegiance to him and his cause. Knowing of his success as Duke of his own province, the degrees, knowledge and aptitude he acquired for science while attending the Research, Science and Reason Facility at the Unitarian Solar University, and the financial backing he retained from his monarchical ancestry; this seemed like the only logical solution to the current situation. Thus a new government was born; it would be designated and remain the United Federation of the First Cosmic Order.