The Mantid could have told each side how bad things could get.
The Mantid Free Worlds would tell the Lanaktallan that the Sol System was guarded, armored, and armed like nothing they had ever seen before. Temporal stabilizers, stellar mass regulators, gravitic parsers were the least of Fortress TerraSol's defenses. Compressed solar corona weapons, C+ cannon batteries, and even more esoteric offensive weapons, right down to superstring compressor cannons. Anyone invading TerraSol should be prepared to take casualties in the millions, the billions just to land on the planets. The Mantid could have told them that fighting Terrans on a planet on their home turf was a nightmare of super-weapons, atomic detonations, suicide attacks, and even orbital bombardment on their own cities and that anyone willing to land even on just Terra should be prepared to take casualties in the billions just to make the landing and ten times that for every year it took to completely obliterate the Terrans. They would have told the Lanaktallan that the humans believed "you can always take one with you" and would literally fight to the last Terran man, woman, and child, and that the child would let the spoon fly free on an implosion grenade while staring your soldiers right in the eyes without even flinching. The Mantid would have warned the Lanaktallan: They give you one warning: Surrender or be destroyed.
The Mantid Omniqueen could have told the Terrans, had she known they existed, that the Lanaktallan gave no thought to how many members of the Great Herd had to die if it meant the continuation of the Great Herd. Even a Mantid Overqueen will ensure there is at least enough to tend to the eggs laid by the Queens, to keep the hive running. The Lanaktallan had the resources to rebuild from a single grouping. Genetic locking made inbreeding malformations of their genetic code impossible, so that fatal flaw in so many genetics would mean nothing. The Mantid Overqueen would have told the humans that the Lanaktallan were willing to clog their guns with the bodies of Lanaktallan dead if it meant the Great Herd survived. She would have told the Terrans that the Great Herd was both the pig that split the snake and the army ants that consumed them both. The Great Herd was without end, countless in number, and endless in their waves. That when pushed, when the Great Herd itself was in danger, they would march enmasse into the enemy guns until the survivors ground the gunners under their gore stained hooves. She would have told them that 10% was an anxiety line, that 20% was a panic line, and when the Lanaktallan panicked, the calves, foals, and fillies ran away with the immature males while every male thundered at the threat ready to die to allow the one next to him or behind him to crush the enemy under their hooves. The Mantid Overqueen would have told the Terrans that the Lanaktallan outright proclaimed their intention: Surrender and be destroyed.
The Rigellians would have compared it to the frenzied duck versus the nalgotta lizard, each fighting to save their clutches of eggs from being eaten by the other.
The Treana'ad would have told the Lanaktallan that it was too late. Even if the Lanaktallan destroyed the Sol System, humanity would never
stop coming. They would meet horror with horror, atrocity with atrocity, and laugh with madness the entire time they had done it. That Terran Descent Humanity knew it could be defeated, so they had left around plenty of things to ensure a purely human idea: Mutually Assured Destruction.
The Telkan could have told the Terrans of the cold efficient cruelty of the Lanaktallan. How they did not consider any life but that of their own species, and that even barely, of worthy of consuming the slight bit of resources of a supposedly finite universe. They could have told the Lanaktallan about how they had seen a Terran torn in half by a Precursor still pull the pin on a grenade with their teeth while firing their pistol with their other hand. They would have repeated what the Mantid would have said: A Terran will always take one with them.
The Mar-gite and a dozen other species would have said nothing. They had been wiped from the Galactic Arm. Wiped from reality itself. Their ghosts would have just pointed to the empty worlds and solar systems where there was nothing but telescope viewable memories for anyone willing to go out far enough and look back at where they had been. The ghosts would have revealed to anyone willing to see their wisdom the bloody skull grinning beneath the Terran's smiling mask.
Those ghosts would have shown the Lanaktallan something they couldn't comprehend.
Even in death, a Terran still smiles.
The Lanaktallan had arrived without the ultimatum surrender and be destroyed. Only with the obvious intent to fulfill the latter part of their traditional ultimatum.
TerraSol had basically replied come get some.
The Lanaktallan had never known defeat.
The Terrans had never been beaten.
Only one could conceive of what had never happened actually taking place.
The Lanaktallan had arrived in force, with weapons they had not needed to use in millions of years, with ships who's radioactive cores had gone dead and had to be rebuilt. They arrived with enough ships that set end to end a Lanaktallan colt could have galloped from the Oort Cloud to the surface of Sol itself on a twenty mile wide ribbon of metal. They had brought it all, everything from their armories, every weapon they could field, every ship they could just fire the engines up on. Troopships were loaded with every Lanaktallan, every last magazine was slotted into pouches, every single piece of armor had been strapped on.
The Lanaktallan had been left with no choice. The Terran Confederate Space Force had been wiping away Unified Military Systems enmasse.
They were faced with a 'use it or lose it' scenario.
They had chosen to use it.
They knew that they could not be defeated. They had never been defeated. The Great Herd was irresistable and unstoppable.
They knew the Terrans would never expect an attack on TerraSol itself. The system was too far away, on the other side of the Long Dark, with ferocious and arcane defenses. But the Lanaktallan knew warfare and 'knew' that defenses would be moved to the 'front', to the edge of the Great Gulf. Military leaders had discussed ancient plans. They would go around
the Great Gulf, above the galactic plane, and then descend upon the TerraSol System.
And there they would crush humanity., Once the Terran's home system was taken out, the rest would be demoralized and the fleets could spread out, destroying Terran held worlds was they went, until Terran Confederate Space was nothing more than a scorched and barren wasteland.
Like the Great Gulf.
They weren't going to stop at Glassing. They weren't the Mantid.
They were the victors of the Precursor War.
They would crush these upstarts once and for all.
They swept into the system, completely unaware that to the Terrans this wasn't some surprise attack that they would have never foreseen coming.
The numbers were higher than the Terrans had hoped, but the worse case scenarios had been gamed out with more than ten times the ships with ten more waves incoming. Terran Space Force Command had seen the vast shipyards of the Lanaktallan Military Systems and knew that those ships had gone somewhere.
That Space Force had been too late.
They knew the Lanaktallan would go for TerraSol sooner or later.
As one Admiral put it: "Precursors are one trick ponies."
The Mantid Overqueen would have pointed out that the Lanaktallan were always confident that they would win, that their stunted ability for pattern recognition in their lower castes gave them a fearless force that knew
they would win, because they always had.
The Mantid would have pointed out that the Terrans knew one basic fact: The universe actively hated you and loved nothing more than to take everything you loved away in the most painful way possible and laugh while it was doing it.
Blind optimism versus paranoia.
Endless confidence versus burning hatred.
But while the Overqueen would have pointed out the sociopathic tendencies of the Lanaktallan the Free Mantid would have simply said one thing.
Fire burns away everything.
And the Hate Anvils of War Fueled Mars and the Wrath Forges of Betrayed Mercury burned hot indeed.
It had been created during a desperate time by a maddened people who no longer cared what was possible and impossible.
All they knew was wrath, hatred, rage, fury, and every other synonym for anger. They were wounded, riven, shattered, and maddened.
They built it.
Working on forbidden and secret technologies they had placed it.
A terrible thing.
Not the thing itself. No, it was little more than a relay station that would send out a handful of signals.
It was what
it would signal.
It had requirements, harsh ones, stringent ones, ones that could not be softened or mitigated.
The purpose of thing was terrible.
And it stirred to life.
Its warsteel shell still vibrated with the hateful screams of a maddened humanity, still echoed with the shrieks of the Sleeping Ones, still shook with the howls of the Screaming Ones.
The signal was within the narrow band of tolerances.
The terrible device sent its horrible signals.
Inscribed on the box, over and over, in a thousand different languages, many of them dead and gone, but all Terran, was a simple saying: "We Are Doomed to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past."
In marker, inside the armored shell, was a line a tech had written. Between a pair badly done drawings of male genitalia and below the poor drawing of a pair of breasts was one simple, cryptic line: "You can't stop the signal, Mal."
No thought. No awareness. No sensation. No stimulation or even a lack of stimulation.
It had been that way for thousands of years. The armored obelisk chuckled and hummed and whirred to itself while its occupant was locked in a dreamless state beyond even stasis. It ignored wakeup requests, ignored calls from its peers, ignored the petty conflicts of even the Mar-gite war.
But none of those matched the signal that came in.
He felt awareness return.
And with it, hatred and fury.
Kibuka reached out his hand, wrapping it around the warsteel bar in front of him, and opened his red eyes.
He closed them, willing himself to ignore the signal. CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA
Great engines stirred to life, guns loaded, and shields activated. The massive ship came to life at the touch of Kibuka's hand. He was one with the ship, the ship was him, he was the ship, wired into the neural jack with a trillion monomolecular wires that connected him to the smallest rivet and the largest cannon round. CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA
Kibuka felt himself get vomited out into realspace. Two hundred Lanaktallan capital ships dissolved into atomic haze at his entry into a reality that Kibuka hated just as much as it hated him.
Rage at having his endless dreamless slumber interrupted filled him.
Bellona watched as the Missouri's guns hammered apart another Precursor vessel. The Black Fleet had drawn close to the wormhole, close enough that the enemy could see them. She could feel them trying to close the wormhole but she had her hands thrust deeply into it, keeping it open with sheer force of will.
"This is the operating mind of the Antaeus Fleet," she heard.
Bellona half-ignored it.
The Gloire tried to jump to Deadspace.
Bellona growled, a liquid sound, and stopped it. CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA
Her eyes of purple fire blazed at the signal raced through her mind.
The Black Fleet vanished in an impossible puff of twisting purple and black smoke.
"Shift fire to twenty-six degrees mark, advance, brothers!" Daxin roared out.
He felt a tickle in the back of his brain. One he had not felt before.
--bad things Daxin bad things-- FIDO sent over the link.
//I know boy, we'll kill them and these people will be...// CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA
Daxin growled, trying to crush the signal. There was a war to be fought, people to be saved. He shuddered, feeling Hellspace reach out and wrap around his very soul. CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA
With a roar a maw of Hellspace energy manifested, fiery fangs closing on Daxin and FIDO both.
Only smoke remained that slowly cleared.
"YOUR FAITH IS YOUR SHIELD!" roared one of the white armored soldiers, standing up among the white armored troops, pointing at the enemy war machines. Lasers snapped by him but he had no fear.
There was no glory here.
There would be no death, no sweet release, found here.
Only bitter war, without its sweet fruit.
He lifted up his pistol to fire two shots in the air when he felt it.
Something he had never felt before. CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA CASE OMAHA
Ralvex was staring right at them, waving the barrel of his autocannon to cool it, when it happened.
The horde of soldiers, white armor with gold edging, an eagle of burning Hellspace energy on their chests, vanished in a puff of purplish blue smoke.
Cursing, Ralvex clamped down on the firing grip of his autocannon, putting rounds downrange into the Precursor machines who computed the possibility of victory with the sudden cessation of fire from the crazed primates.
Sam looked up as he heard thuds. Clones were dropping to the floor, laying there drooling, their eyes just staring. Virtual clones suddenly dissolved. He pushed away from the desk, touching his purrboi with both hands as alarms started wailing inside the Black Box.
The door opened and Legion staggered in, followed by something that Sam had never seen outside of ancient historical videos.
"I... I don't have..." Legion grated, his teeth clenched. "Have much... much time."
He held out the thing in his arms and Sam took it, his brain whirling.
"I... I did... did it. Again," Legion managed to growl out.
He suddenly vanished in a puff of purple smoke that dissolved into nothingness.
Sam looked down at the living thing in his arms.
It looked back.
"Hi hi hi hi!" the other thing said. It was hardly bigger than the one in his arms, its tongue hanging out, its ears floppy, standing on wobbly legs.
"I am good boy. Yes I am."
The one in his arms blinked its eyes.
He opened his eyes, standing on the flagship of the Fleet of One.
"Not again," he moaned. "I did it. I'd actually managed to do it."
The Fleet of One made the transition to realspace.
On the status board the message repeated. CASE OMAHA
The figure on the bridge instantly absorbed the tactical data from all of himself at each station in every ship in the entire fleet.
"OPEN FIRE!" Legion roared.
There was nothing more to think of.
There was only war.
War never changes.