The skies were burning.
Dift watched the skies of the human homeworld in awe. Though the sky was covered with dense cloud cover and blotted out the rays of the nearby sun the sky was nonetheless bright with reds and oranges as if it was a summer evening on his own homeworld.
The streaks of burning human ships finally losing their battle to the planets gravity fell like fireballs racing across the sky leaving a trail of burning wreckage in their wake that gave the clouds their coloring. From atop the massive imperial palace which was located in the city Dift believed was once called “Cairo” he could not picture a more welcoming sight to mark the end of tyranny.
The Terran Reformation had been the bane of the galaxy for decades. Ever since humans obtained faster than light travel they had spread like a plague across a hundred worlds and carved themselves and empire. Their leader, emperor Asher Galvoc had forged humanity into a single engine of conquest with dedication placed towards military service with the result being numerous border conflicts with the surrounding galactic governments.
After several years of human aggression several systems banded together and forged the Union of Stars to counteract the human aggression. They combined all of their forces into a single massive strike force and used cloaking technology to sneak past the borders of the human domain until they had arrived at the very heart of the retched empire.
They struck like lightning on a clear summer day and wiped away what orbital defense and ships guarded the planet before launching a full invasion force. Dift had led his Kavaran brothers into battle against the imperial palace that he now stood upon with the mission to secure the emperor himself.
The stories of humanities fanaticism do not even compare to the madness he had witnessed. Countless humans, soldier and civilian, threw themselves at Dift and his brothers as they fought their way into the palace. At every hallway laid a barricade of blank faced royal guards, in every room a servant armed with a knife or pistol ready to take as many of his brothers as they could, he had even witnessed a human child no older than five solar cycles walk up to one of his brothers with a hand grenade and detonate it taking its own life and the life of three of his brothers.
With each conflict Dift became increasingly worried as time was working against them. He had received reports from commanders in orbit that human forces were being recalled from all fronts to defend their emperor and that if they did not obtain him within hours then all would be lost.
Several barricades later Dift and his brothers had finally stormed the throne room at the very top of the palace. The room was massive in size with high ceilings vaulting upwards and a long red carpet leading to the throne itself. Standing at the base of the throne flanked by the last remnants of his royal guard stood the emperor himself. He made no attempt to hide or cower but clutched a sword in his right hand.
Before the two sides could attack each other the room exploded inwards as a shot down human fighter crashed into the outer palace walls. Whatever weapons the fighter had been carrying went off upon impact triggering a massive explosion that caused nearly half of the ceiling to collapse on to the emperor.
As the dust settled Dift had his brothers begin sifting through the rubble until finally finding their prize. Dift knelt down to human leader, his once imposing visage now gone leaving a broken dying man.
“Die knowing that your empire dies with you.” Dift had spoken as he saw the last embers behind Asher’ s eyes begin to fade. Reaching out and grabbing Dift Asher pulled him close and whispered back. “You…will…wish…I…had lived…” then took his final breath and passed on.
Dift shook off the dead man’s arm and took a step back. From the gaping hole he could see transports slowly descending to retrieve the Union’s soldiers now that their task was complete. He should have felt a sense of victory, of righteousness, something noble in toppling the greatest threat to peace among the stars. But as Dift ascended the boarding ramp all he could think of was the dying words of the once emperor and if they were those of a last act of defiance, or a premonition of things to come…
(4 years later)
Dift shuffled in place, his honor guard uniform uncomfortable and itchy as he waited to appear before the broadcast. An attendant motioned for him and he stepped out from behind the curtain and on to the stage as the studio crowd began clapping and cheering. The camera drones circled around him as he smiled and waved to the crowd, his picture being broadcast not only across his homeworld but to several other Union planets.
As the applause died down Dift took a seat next to the shows host. This appearance along with several others were part of the propaganda tour he had been assigned to for the last few months meant to boost morale and encourage recruitment. He had been taken from the frontlines to perform this duty given his previous actions years earlier at the human palace.
“Thanks for joining us commander Dift,” the host began outstretching an arm which Dift shook, ”it’s a real honor to have you on the show.”
“Well I am a huge fan.”
“Actually, not even a bit.” Dift smiled as he looked at the shocked host. “I will just use any excuse to come home and sleep on a real bed again.” That drew a round of laughter from the crowd and he smiled again. The two then began talking about the general state of affairs in the galaxy, pop-culture, and so on.
Despite the seemingly fluid nature of the discussion it was all a sham. A carefully laid out script made up by military command meant to show a sense of stability and calmness when the reality of the situation was far from it. The truth was the Union was on its last legs, desperately holding on to what territory it had left. Dift couldn’t help but let his mind wander as the host broke into a long story about how things could have gone so wrong.
He wagered it was right after the human emperor died things began turning for the worst. The Union’ s forces were able to safely escape the encroaching human forces and return back to their respective territories. The Union’s leaders expected humanity would send a delegation to discuss terms of surrender or at the very least a ceasefire to the ongoing conflict.
Months had passed without a single word from the Terran Reformation and the news their informants were brining back made no sense at all.
Several members of Asher’ s inner circle had gathered after his death to elect a new emperor. Many of the Union suspected that the former emperor’s favorite general, general Qwint Javal, would be chosen without delay. Unexpectedly several other figures rose to challenge the general’ s claim to the throne.
General David Holden was one of the first to challenge Qwint’s claim. Holden was described as the new generation of generals that had now joined the old guard. He had gathered them into a strong faction and began motioning that the empire should be turned into a democracy.
The industrialist Heather Windwall was the second challenger. Controlling nearly 75% of the empire’s industrial capacity she had been kept in check by Galvoc’ s political maneuvering to ensure she was too busy with her corporations internal matters to concentrate her power base. With Galvoc‘s passing Windwall had stabilized her holdings and solidified her power base across several dozen worlds whose entire population was employed by her companies.
A surprising third faction was the remnants of the royal guard under their commander Jacob Hashmall. Many had assumed that the royal guard would stand with Qwint’s claim and were rightly surprised when their commander denounced Qwint as a traitor. Hashmall argued that the general had let their emperor die by leaving their homeworld so undefended and deemed him unfit to carry the same mantle.
It was not long after before more claimants began appearing from the human leadership until where there had been one now there were dozens. The debates seemed like they would go on forever until General Qwint attempted to seize power by force by having several squads of troopers surround the gathering. The move backfired as each party had come prepared for betrayal. Hashmall had a private security force waiting nearby that rushed in and extracted her, several members of the troopers defected to Holden’s side and aided him escape the palace and back to his ship in orbit, and Hashmall’s guards were well enough equipped that they simply fought their way out.
The result of the action was Qwint securing claim to the throne and homeworld of the Terran Reformation along with several surrounding systems. He made public broadcasts denouncing the other inner circle members as traitors and to be hunted down and brought before him.
Things fell into chaos soon after the proclamation. From her headquarters and surrounded by her own private military Windfall declared herself the true empress and formed the Terran Conglomerate. Holden rallied several bands of Reformations armies and fleets to his side and declared the formation of the Terran Republic. His popularity ensure himself to be named the first president and his vows of fairness and equality captivated millions. As for Hashmall he took control of the former emperor’s flagship the Midnight Vail and set off into unknown space vowing revenge against all traitors and enemies of the true empire.
That had all been three years ago and since then madness had ensued. The Terran Reformation split into dozens of pocket empires each fighting with each other. Where once the Union leaders had been able to predict humanities intensions under the leadership of Galvoc now they were confounded as they were hit by a hundred different threats.
The Terran Conglomerate had turned to increasing their workforce by enslaving surrounding alien species for their factories. Raider fleets prowled between stars as entire colonies and worlds would go dark with their passing. Without limitations now of the Reformation Conglomerate scientists have been conducting horrific experiments on not only aliens but on humans as well as they seek to push the bounds of their knowledge what ever the cost. No method has been deemed restricted to their expansion and Union worlds that did not submit to their rule quickly found themselves being bombed with various gas and nerve agents slaughtering millions.
The Terran Republic was at war with several other human factions along with dealing with intense internal struggles. President Holden had attempted to form a coalition of different parties for his government but found that they quickly became roadblocked and corrupted ensuring that nothing was ever done. Increasingly Holden has been giving himself more executive power in an attempt to bypass the congress which has resulted in a civil war within a civil war as his enemies now proclaim him to be making a crown of his own.
The remnants of the Terran Reformation under emperor Javal have remained the military autocracy it was before. Dissent is stamped out without hesitation and much of the populace lives in the shadow of enforcers weapons. Though not as popular as his predecessor Javal is still an ample military tactician and began making up for territory lost by other factions by conquering new star systems. With Union forces stretched thin to combat numerous threats the Terran Reformation was easily able to invade several systems before meeting stiff resistance which has now turned into a grinding war of attrition.
From his flagship Hasmall has formed the “Sons of Galvoc”. Much less a state the Sons of Galvoc operate more as a terrorist faction with fanatical loyalty to their former leader. The sons attracted a considerable following among the Galvoc loyalists who now worship him as a god of humanity. The group strikes seemingly at random targets of every faction. Devastating bombings of military and civilian installations have been claimed by the group as they appeared to only value the body count of their actions.
With all that had happened Dift could not help but lay awake and think back to the dying emperor’s words. Humanity under him had been united and though a terrible force in the galaxy had at least not committed the heinous crimes its successors have.
As the host stopped his story and looked to Dift for a response he saw the war hero smiling. Not a smile from the story that had just been told nor even a smile of happiness, but at the realization that as absurd as the man had been he had been right. Dift was wishing that he was still alive.