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The Expanse

Season 1, Episode 1
“Into the Expanse”

“Welcome, conquerors.”
Emperor Abor XXIII greeted the assembled guests in the great dining hall.
His words echoed through to the high ceiling and to every table, but were soon
drowned out by fevered applause. After the clamoring of the nine hundred
attendees died down, he continued.
“You all know why you’re here, gentlemen. You are the men who will take
our great empire even farther into the future. As your way has been paved by
your fathers and grandfathers, you shall pave the way for your children and
grandchildren. May their faces be a constant reminder for you of the importance
of this undertaking. We are all counting on you, and your success. But, if I may
say so, the task could not have been given to a more worthy group of men.
“Tonight you shall dine on the finest food and drink in the galaxy. Enjoy it,
for you shall not eat so well for many years. Such is the way of a conqueror, and
of a true follower of the Three. I fear that not all of you shall return from this
great Expedition. But be assured that your death will be for the good of the
ADM, and of the people therein.
“Do not show mercy or compassion to anyone you meet along the way.
They are inferior, as you know from history and from genetic comparison. Spare
them not, for they will kill you if given the chance…as they have killed so many
of many of us in times past.”
“But, to more encouraging words; you are more powerful than any force in
this galaxy. You are even more powerful than your predecessors of the last
Expedition. You take with you new technologies, improved strategies, and
bright, young minds to wield them. Fear no enemy that opposes you.
“And finally, remember above all else; we will be here when you return.”
Another great cheer rose up from the crowd and filled the hall with an
exuberant energy. The words of Emperor Abor were spoken in the true form of
the First Generation, and thus they inspired the men in a deeper way than
simple verbal expression ever could.
On the morrow, the Expedition would disembark on their way to the
border. They would not see their family for a long time, but all of them were
prepared. Each of them from the lowliest ensign to the First Leader himself had
been trained all their life for this moment. Many ate more than they had eaten
before. It was a symbolic act, but important, nonetheless. Legend said that a
man who did not eat his fill on the Night of Consequence would not return from
his Expedition, and all the men believed this. For why would they have reason to
believe otherwise? Anything they could do to quell the unease most of them had
in their gut. Though none of them knew why, each felt a dread that this
Expedition would be different from the others.

General Preston Grant walked deftly through the corridors of his ship, the
Avenger. His fist clenched and unclenched at his side. Although his mind was
still filled with the words of the Emperor, his gut, for one reason or another, was
ever unsettled. He just couldn’t put his finger on why.
The door to the bridge then appeared in front of him. Apparently he’d lost
track of his movements. Letting out a deep sigh, he stepped through it.
Before him a solid glass canopy sloped from the front of the room all the
way up to the top of the third bridge-level. Each level of the bridge was designed
so that it overhung the one below it but did not extend all the way to the glass.
The lowest level sloped gradually down from the rear weapons stations at the
back of the room to the forward-facing helm console in front. Between the two
groups of stations a platform rose up from the floor and on it stood the captain’s
chair. It was surely the grandest of bridges on all the ships in the fleet.
Grant walked down the center aisle between the weapons stations,
nodding at each of the officers manning them. As he took his seat in the center
chair, the helm officer walked up to greet him from the lower helm console.
“It is a pleasure having you aboard, sir.”
Grant found it a bit awkward looking down on the officer from his chair,
but he didn’t let it show. “Thank you, Mister…?
“Arken, sir. John Arken. I am the helms officer as well as your second-in-
command.”
“Well, then I look forward to serving with you mister Arken.” He looked
up and around bridge as he continued, “As I look forward to serving with all of
you. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years, so don’t hesitate
to fraternize. It’s all right with me. Personally, I was never one for unquestioning
obedience from my men. But, I do expect each and every one of you to follow my
commands to the letter. Nevertheless, I encourage you to make your thoughts
known whenever you must, as long as they contribute to the Mission and to the
success thereof. Understood?”
Each of the officers on three levels of the bridge replied with a respective
“Yes, sir.”
“Good, then lets—“
“Sir,” Arken interrupted. “First Leader Deveston is hailing all ships.”
Grant nodded. “Put it on the main Projector.”
At the front of the bridge, a portion of the glass canopy turned opaque and
an image of the grey-haired but stout-looking First Leader appeared on it.
“Gentlemen, prepare for departure. All cruisers, fighters, and Outpost
transports have been accounted for and we all ready to get under way. Set your
heading for the Border and prepare to engage Hyperspace on my command.”
The visual transmission ceased and out the window in front of them the
First Leader’s great Menthallion-class battlecruiser loomed in space. It took up
position at the head of the fleet and its four mighty Ion Accelerators flared blue.
The Avenger began to vibrate a bit and over the still-open comm. channel
Deveston’s voice could be heard.
“Engage.”
The Menthallion disappeared in a blur of blue and white energy as it
streaked into the blackness. Shortly afterward the Avenger’s own IA’s fired and
rocketed the ship into hyperspace velocity. The Menthallion then appeared
again directly ahead of them, and the stars streaked by in a blur as the ships
settled into Cruising.
“I’ll never get used to that,” someone remarked from the second level.
Grant smiled. The uneasy feeling in his stomach had ceased for the
moment, and he felt the adrenaline pulsing through him. This was adventure in
its purest form, and he was experiencing it first-hand.
How lucky I am, he thought.

From the helm station at the foot of the bridge, Arken reported that the
fleet had crossed the border of ADM-held space. “We’re in the Expanse,” he
remarked plainly.
Grant subconsciously tightened his grip on the arms of this chair. His
grandfather had told him stories about the last Expedition. He had told of the
many dangers that had awaited them even right outside the border. Preston
wondered to himself if he would have such stories to tell to his grandchildren.
Part of him hoped he would, but then again part of him feared what the tales
could be about. Danger was a vague term, and applied to so many things that he
didn’t even want to begin to consider them.
The Fleet was now headed to a star system a few light-years from the
border, it had been charted by probes in the early stages of planning for the
current Expedition. Its planets had been found to contain many valuable natural
resources, so many that Command had given explicit orders for the first of the
Seven Outposts to be established there. It was that important.
“Arken, what’s our ETA?”
The officer checked his console and replied, “We’re about ten minutes
away from Typhon-428, sir. Deveston has ordered that the fleet drop out of
hyperspace a few million kilometers away from the outer rim of the system and
approach it in small groups from three directions.”
Grant nodded. Although he was familiar with the strategy already, he had
let Arken continue, to see how well the Lieutenant knew it himself. The General
was impressed with Arken’s aptitude, and was pleased that Command had
selected such a fine officer to be his Second.
Several minutes later the fleet dropped to sub-light speed and split into
nine groups. The Menthallion went with the Outpost transport that would be
entering the system. Seven other groups fanned to the sides and the remainder
of the fleet stayed behind with the other six Outpost transports to guard them.
The Avenger was grouped with two other cruisers and three squads of
fighters. They would approach the third planet and secure it for landing.
From the weapons station, Lieutenant Carrey spoke up. “Sir, I’m detecting
a large group of Zyvian attack ships approaching the main group. No wait, make
that two large groups. They appear to have a base on the fifth planet, a big one. I
can’t get a clear reading but it looks like a Hub.
Grant cursed under his breath. Apparently the Zyvians had seen the
benefit of this system as well, and had gotten a foothold. Taking it would be
harder than he had first expected.
“Incoming hostiles!”
Preston glanced out the window. Dozens of small, black ships were
approaching their group at high speed. He quickly pressed the manual control
button on his chair and a control stick rose up from a compartment below his
feet and positioned itself in his lap. Grabbing the controller he charged the
Avenger’s two forward cannons and prepared for the ensuing melee.

To Be Continued…

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