We fight for them. We learn for them. We exist for them.
We do this for the people.
0 0 0 0
Barren wasteland that held only a single building previously was now a bustle of activity. Machines worked in silent harmony on sleek metal crafts, aided by mute beings in grey uniforms with white markings adorning one sleeve.
It was impossible to tell the beings apart. The same tousled, auburn coloured hair adorned each head; the same empty green eyes stared out across the sea of machines and tools. No emotion was displayed, save the surprised hiss of pain when they drew blood.
The beings worked day and night, ignorant of their own needs, ignoring the sudden collapse of others around them as they succumbed to dehydration or sleep deprivation. The only thing that mattered was finishing the crafts, making them beautiful, making them strong. For all that died more would replace them.
Recycled then reused.
No material was wasted, not a scrap of metal or drop of blood. It all aided the course.
The beings only knew of the ships, and an overwhelming desire to serve an unknown master. There was no contemplation of life, no mourning of death, no need or desire for relationship or contact with another being. There was just a single blinding purpose, the building of the craft.
Once the craft were built, the beings would cease to have purpose, they would wander the barren wasteland, devoid of the mental capacity for survival. Their masters would let them die.
If more workers were needed before the ship was completed, the dead would merely be recycled.
No material was wasted.
The machines halted, and paused. Unbearably loud silence spread across the beings as they too stopped to stare. A quiet hum filled the air, and a sleek, beautiful craft rose up from the ground.
The beings nodded as one then returned to their work.
It had begun.
0 0 0 0
Captain Elise Hathaway settled in her chair, drumming her fingers restlessly as she gazed at the viewscreen. She couldn't shake a feeling of unease that had been dogging her since she woke, even though there was no basis for it. Life aboard a scientific vessel had never held what many would deem adrenaline pumping excitement – not unless they counted scientific discoveries in with that assessment at least.
She glanced around at her bridge crew, all were working diligently seemingly quite happy – all save Lieutenant Lily Chambers.
Lieutenant Chambers had been a late addition to the crew, transferred from the Enterprise after a traumatic away mission – or so the rumours suggested. The full details of the mission had never been released to general personnel, leaving only speculation and rumour. Indeed, Lily had never been persuaded to speak of what happened, only a vague statement about recycling that made no sense.
'Recycling is death. That place was death.'
Elise shivered slightly and ceased drumming her fingers. Lily glanced at her, Elise offered a smile, but Lily didn't return it instead frowning worriedly.
"There's a ship appearing on sensors, Captain," a clear, loud voice cut across her thoughts. "It's on a direct intercept course with us."
Elise glanced back at the speaker. "Brandon, can you identify it?"
Brandon shook his head. "It's not a ship design known to us."
Elise nodded once, frowning ever so slightly. A new ship? Out here? The region they were currently travelling through had been explored many times; it had been years since an unknown vessel had been sighted travelling through this area of space.
"It's moving fast, Captain," said Brandon a hint of worry creeping into his tone.
Elise turned her attention to the tactical station. "Can you give me any information?"
"Our scans can't penetrate its shields."
"It's coming to a halt alongside us, Captain," Brandon announced.
"On screen." Elise stared at the viewscreen; a sleek, silver craft almost filled the entire screen, triangular in shape with curved edges and a bulge beneath. "Chambers, open a hailing frequency."
Lily tapped a few keys. "Hailing frequency open."
"This is Captain Elise Hathaway of the Alva, please state your intentions." Elise paused, first contact had not been a required skill for her captaincy, the Alva usually arrived after first contact had been made.
"Captain Hathaway." The voice sounded rusty as it stumbled over her name. "We are the Iyoshians. Prepare to surrender your vessel."
"Surrender? I –" Elise scowled
"Surrender or be recycled," the voice interrupted her.
"Just wait one second –" Elise began but was cut off by Lily shaking her head.
"They've cut the communication," she whispered.
"Ma'am, we can't take them on in a fight, we don't have the firepower," her tactical officer chipped in quickly.
"We can't just surrender," Elise spat, "Sound tactical alert. Lily, send out a distress call – I'm sure the Magellan is patrolling this sector." She stared at the silver monstrosity on the viewscreen.
"We'll have no choice," said Lily, her eyes looking slightly unfocused as her fingers ghosted across her console. "Surrender or be recycled…"
Elise stared at her, recognising the term. 'Recycling is death. That place was death.' "You've met these people before," she realised.
Lily stared up at her. "Captain, either way we're dead. Believe me; surviving by surrendering is a far worse alternative than death."
All of a sudden the ship rocked. "That was a warning shot," the tactical officer called out, "Just grazed our nose." There was a pause then "They're charging weapons again."
"Raise shields," Elise barked, "Return fire!"
To her left she could hear Lily chanting a message to her console. "Mayday, mayday. This is the Alva, we are under attack, repeat - we are under attack."
A shot struck the ship, sending the bridge crew flying. Elise slammed into the floor then quickly struggled to regain her footing. "Evasive manoeuvres! Lewis keep firing!" A glance around the bridge showed complete and utter devastation. At her feet lay Lily, unconscious with blood streaming from a wound on her forehead. "Get a med team up here now!"
The ship lurched as another shot from the enemy vessel just missed hitting them, skimming their bow.
"They're matching our every move, Captain! They're too fast for us!"
A second shot struck them, knocking the crew from their posts once more. Medics stumbled out of the turbo-lift, shuffling towards the fallen. Lily was carried off.
Elise dragged herself to her feet once more. To her right she could see Lieutenant Lewis, tactical officer struggling back to his station. "Shields are failing!"
Another shot grazed the ship. Elise clutched at her chair, fighting to remain standing.
"Hull breach, deck 3!" Brandon yelled, coughing at the smoke filling the bridge. "Emergency bulkheads are holding."
Behind her she could hear the hiss off extinguishers working to put out fires. On the viewscreen the alien vessel returned, taunting them. The communications console beeped. Brandon staggered over to it. "They're hailing us."
"This is your last warning. Surrender or be recycled."
All around her Elise could see and hear her bridge crew struggling to their feet. Feeling the worried gaze of scientists settle on her she stared at the alien ship.
The alien ship fired again, the Alva rocked violently.
"We've lost engines," Brandon stated quietly. "We're dead in the water."