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Paradise Lost

Contents/Warnings: Slight gore, warfare
Disclaimer: The true Master of Orion is currently Infogrames.
Scribbler: kebzero, February 2002
Stowed away at: the MoO3 Guardian, orionscifi and my own notepad.


'A second jewel among the stars.' That's what the propaganda machine proclaimed, anyway. Indeed, in most senses, it was; but as most things that seem too good to be true, so was this.

Our people had been slow to participate in the second grand colonization period of the Orion Sector. When the Long Night finally came to an end, we still felt content remaining on Ursa. It took many cycles before the first scouts - and a little later, colonization vessels - were sent out. However, fortune appeared to favor us. Our nearest stellar neighbor proved to harbor a most benign set of worlds - one was arid, but habitable, another covered in near-frozen oceans, reducing its population potential, but not its inherent worth. The true gem, however, orbited closest to the star; A warm, pleasant world with an incredibly rich biosphere - even more fertile than our beloved Ursa. The star was named Cornucopia, and Cornucopia Prime was immediately settled. A fairer world to colonize beyond our home system, could hardly be hoped for.

My parents were among those first arrivals; that adventurous one million citizens, the bold pioneers, who set out among the stars, destination unknown. Although their voyage turned out to be a short one, the marvel of their feat was no less. Crossing the vast, open oceans of darkness between the stars is always perilous, even today - perhaps even more so today, as we know there are other sentients out there targeting us. We're no longer merely subject to the cosmic shooting gallery.

Cornucopia Prime was an extraordinary world. The first settlers were astonished by the local flora and fauna - not necessarily because of its diversity, but due to the immediate differences from what they had left behind. This world fostered plants and animals that simply could not have lived on Ursa - tall, frail-looking trees, thin, soft creepers, flying animals with bones - hollow, but still bones - large creatures with such fragile body structures even a child could kill them, just trying to pet them - It was simply amazing. One of the more noticeable effects, however, was the incredible ease with which the colonists could move. The gravity here, low by Bulrathi standards, offered little impediment to extended stress and 'heavy' lifting. While a 'bounce' effect, as one could get on much smaller worlds, remained absent, each step was taken more lightly than it would have been back home. This turned out to be, of course, a curse for us of the second generation. Born and raised in this gravity, our bo dies became less resistant to the forces of gravity; something made painfully clear on our recent retreat. We still hope to return, though - Cornucopia Prime's biosphere appears far more resilient than we ever expected - it is highly probable the planet has already recovered from wounds affected on its biology, both those caused by us, and those not.

Despite primitive conditions and limited infrastructure, the planet was indeed a paradise until that fateful day two cycles ago. With government sponsorship, auto-factories, simple research labs and hydroponic bays had been assembled, as had a military training facility; making it clear that the authorities back home had no intentions of letting their most prized colony fall into the hands of any potential rebels. Unfortunately, it would prove it wasn't rebels that would become our problem...

Although we were well aware we were not alone in the Orion Sector, our old and - unfortunately - seriously out-dated stellar maps did not indicate that any of the other alien races were anywhere near us. We had, however, failed to take in the possibility of new arrivals to the Sector. Six cycles ago, when we first received their transmissions, the Bulrathi people had settled on three worlds beyond our homeworld. Ursa III, a large, barren world, colonized because of the presence of vast mineral deposits, Cornucopia Prime, our world, and Cornucopia II, the water world. Of the three, our colony was by far the most prosperous.

Their first message was simple; "We begin." It took us nearly a quarter of a cycle to detect the origin of the signal - when we did, the discovery was immediately classified beyond top secret. Such news were not the kind one wanted to spring on the general public. Unfortunately, as our leaders failed to send a response, another message was sent - across a broad specter, and including visual signals. This signal could be picked up by just about anyone with as much as a radio or tv set tuned right. The effect was immediate panic among the public. An alien fleet, considerably larger and, in all likelihood, more powerful than anything we had had for thousands of cycles, was on a direct heading for Cornucopia; expected to arrive in less than three cycles. To make matters worse, it was obvious these aliens were not one of the members of the former sector-wide empire. That their message was one promising our complete eradication, didn't help either.

Once they realized the seriousness of the situation, however, our government finally reacted. Extended martial law was declared in Cornucopia, transport fleets redirected to evacuate the colonists, and construction of planetary defenses capable of firing on ships in orbit rushed. The entire Bulrathi fleet was dispatched to Cornucopia - all three missile destroyers. Other efforts were also taken - but in vain.

When the enemy fleet finally approached us, nearly three million colonists had been evacuated to Ursa. I, and many of the settlers of my generation, chose to remain, in order to fight when the enemy ground forces arrived. We seriously believed they were attacking to conquer. We were wrong.

At first, we were surprised to find out their course was not for Cornucopia II, the world nearest them, but for our world. However, we quickly rationalized they were going for the most valuable - and difficult - target first. It was not until then we realized the true nature and composition of their fleet. Six frigate-class vessels, three destroyer-class, two cruiser-class and one battleship - and no troop transports. This news was very discouraging for us on the ground. We would be denied an opportunity to fight for survival. Still, our lines held, few lost their composure and determination to symbolize resistance, even when faced with certain death.

The battle began. And ended. It took the enemy no more than minutes to destroy our three destroyers, whose weapons, combined with missiles launched from the planet surface, did nothing more than destroy one of their frigates, and damage another. It was then the rain of doom began.

In a futile act of resistance, our commander ordered us to aim our laser rifles at the sky, and fire. It was all we could do. At first, the incoming bombs seemed like a spectacular form of fireworks, as some were detonated high in the skies when hit by our sporadic laser fire. They would turn into nightmares quickly enough.

The first bombs impacted near the makeshift missile base. At first we were unsure if the tremendous explosive effect was due to all the ammo stored there, detonated simultaneously, or a combination with the enemy bomb. When the auto-factory was hit moments later, it was made clear the violent detonations was caused solely by the bombs. Our lines broke, we all fled, trying to get away from anything that could constitute a target. We were not fast enough, even in the pleasantly light gravity. I could see the bomb approaching my group. I felt the heat and shockwave of its impact and detonation as it threw me to the ground, face first. It took me many seconds to realize I was still alive, even longer to notice I was barely hurt - and why. On my back, one of my childhood friends' mangled body rested, his torso filled with gaping shrapnel wounds, his head absent. I recognized him by his ID tags. My insides turned. Throwing the weight off me, I looked around for other survivors. None were anywhere near. I fle d towards the jungles, trying to escape the continuing bombardment.

In the depths of Cornucopia Prime's biosphere, I was reunited with other survivors. We were few. Even though the enemy had left, their visit made a continuous impact. Planet-wide forest fires still raged, and combined with the enormous amounts of dust whirled up in the atmosphere from the bombardment, the sky slowly darkened, shutting out the sunlight.

Two weeks after the rain of destruction, a transport from Cornucopia II arrived. We were greatly, but pleasantly, surprised. Why the enemy had completely ignored the ocean world, is still not known. Even our best guesses have been deemed inadequate attempts to solve that mystery. Most of the survivors were brought to Cornucopia II. I and a few others decided to return to Ursa, to report our experiences and rejoin our relocated families. It's now been two cycles since the attack. Our scientists report our paradise world has already recovered. Only one thought drives us now. We will survive. We will evolve. We will return.

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