The battle-scarred remnants of Crash Tyson’s war-torn fleet continued on its journey into deep intergalactic space. In the aftermath of the battle at Matar, the consequences of Crash’s confrontation with the mighty Cren Empire had not yet had time to sink into his mindset. Only a few days had passed since the end of hostilities. The chaotic aftermath of that battle did not allow Crash time to evaluate the incident within any proper moral or historical context. The resulting dreadful cost in lives troubled Crash much more than the fact that the Cren Empire was trying to enslave him, and failing that, kill him. The Matarins in particular paid a very heavy price for the narrow victory obtained by the meager forces that Crash pitted against the vast armada the Cren Empire had deployed against them. Killed on the ground while unarmed, over fifty thousand Matarin citizens never even had a chance to make it on to the transports to escape the vicious Cren onslaught. These unfortunate ones, proud and honorable to the end, died without a fighting chance to defend themselves
These thoughts weighed heavily on Crash’s mind and spirit as he slowly meandered his way through the myriad of corridors in the vast transport ship. Eventually, almost unconsciously, he made his way to the bridge and approached the commanding officer of transport ship #3, Captain Parker.
Approaching him quietly from behind, a subdued Crash inquired, "Have you determined our ETA for the rendezvous with the other transport ships, Captain Parker?"
Slightly startled, Captain Parker responded, "Ah, Sir, I estimate that we are only a few light-years from the rendezvous point at this time. We should make contact with the other transports and their escort vessels in the next few minutes."
"Good," Crash somberly replied, "we need to evaluate our situation as soon as possible. We lost a lot of good people and ships back there. After the beating we gave them, I do not expect that the Cren Empire will let us sit on our laurels for any length of time. They will not ignore us for very long."
"No sir, I don’t expect they will, after what we did to them and their fleet," Parker replied directly but rather soberly.
Crash silently nodded in agreement, as he took note of some of the ship’s flight data. While assessing the SEG drive’s fuel consumption rates, DP entered the bridge, and silently approached Crash. "Sir, I have the final numbers of our casualties and ships we lost during the battle. You’re not going to like them."
"How badly did the Cren hurt us, Sergeant Major?"
"Sir, the chance of any of the crews surviving their ship’s destruction is next to zero, and I assumed as much. In terms of ships, we lost fully 60% of our frigates and nearly 50% of our destroyers plus their crews. Due to their small size and maneuverability, the Icarus class fighters fared quit well as compared to the heavier class vessels. To make a long story short, we have 532 Icarus class fighter-scout vessels, 60 Clark class frigates and 11 Hakarsha class destroyers remaining, and of course, the three transport ships. The energies employed by the Cren cruisers and battleships were simply too vast to even consider any possibility of anyone escaping alive from their incinerated vessels. Assuming that the first two transports and their screening vessels escaped unharmed, I estimate that we lost approximately 3843 of our personnel. In contrast, my best calculation indicates that the Matarins lost approximately 84,457 of their people. The vast majority of the Matarins died on the ground from the extensive lava flows the Cren PAWS units created from their orbital bombardment positions. The remaining Matarins died in battle on their respective ships. To be blunt, sir, the Cren outmatched us in every conceivable aspect of that battle. Boss, in my opinion, we did better than I expected, considering the devastating military superiority the Cren fleets possessed at the start of the battle."
Hearing this news, Crash sat in a numb silence, thinking to himself, In less than one hour of battle, over eighty- eight thousand people died on my behalf. The sobering thing about it, however, is that the Cren would have killed a hundred times or a thousand times that number without as much as blinking an eye about it, all to get their hands on me.
Crash collected himself and reluctantly replied, "Thank you DP, and by the way, you are correct. It could have been much worse than it actually turned out to be. I guess we should feel lucky or something."
"Boss, luck had nothing to do with it. You outfought them and they lost. The Cren fleet’s losses in ships and personel had to be several orders of magnitude higher than that of ours. It is that simple."
"Our ships had a slight advantage over theirs, and that is the only reason we did as well as we did, DP. I’m not sure I would claim credit for that."
"Your ship designs gave us that advantage, sir. That is why we won."
Crash, finally succumbing to a strong feeling of guilt, countered sternly, "My ship designs are one of the reasons they attacked us in the first place, DP. The Cren would willingly destroy entire solar systems to get their hands on me. They want to know what I know! That is what this confrontation is all about. Nothing more... nothing less is involved."
DP frowned slightly at Crash’s opinion, as he personally thought there was much more to the Cren’s interest in Crash than the design of his ships. Now was not the time to expand the conversation, however, so he simply said, "Boss, you are probably correct. There probably isn’t much more to it than that. From our brief encounter with the Cren so far, they appear to be the ultimate control freaks in the universe."
While Crash and DP reflected on the various consequences of the battle, Captain Parker suddenly interjected, "Sir, I have made contact with the other two transports and their escort vessels. We will rendezvous with them within the hour."
"Very well, Captain Parker," Crash replied. "Inform all commanders and department heads to meet us here in two hours."
Crash remained on the bridge and calmly waited for the viewing screen to show the approach of the transports and their escorts. The sight of the mammoth undamaged transport ships and their screening vessels filled Crash with such a feeling of relief that he could not quite describe, even to himself. Nevertheless, the sight of the surviving ships greatly pleased him.
Within the hour, all of the fleet’s Captains were on board transport ship #3. Key department heads of the various scientific disciplines were also present.
When Crash entered the meeting room, Lynn had already organized the seating arrangements for all those present. She arranged for Crash’s original team of DP, Nessi, and herself to sit in a single row on a small raised platform in front of the other department heads and military officers. On the left side sat Crash’s science and technical team leaders: Professors Hughes, Shinn, Sonigan, and Shutzen. On the right side sat his commanding military officers, comprised of Colonel Laughton and Captains Kohl and Parker. Next to them sat Nengis Herthos, the Matarin religious leader and Ra’i Giz, the leader of the Homamdar, the keepers of the ancient Matarin knowledge.
Crash began the meeting by warmly greeting everyone. He then got down to business without any fanfare.
"As you all know," he stated rather solemnly, "we have just experienced an incident unprecedented in Human history. Our Matarin friends experienced a somewhat similar incident many thousands of years ago when their civilization reached a similar level of scientific and technical competence that we, as Humans, have just recently achieved in our own history. As we all now know, they also suffered a large-scale attack on their culture and infrastructure by the Cren Empire, which reduced them to the perpetually backward agrarian society that it has remained to this day. These historical facts, clearly described in their ancient Holy Book of Quan, have rigidly guided their culture since that time. One thing has become abundantly clear to me through all of this, and that is that the future of the Human and Matarin cultures have become inexorably and permanently joined and dependent upon each other. We are much stronger together than struggling on our own."
"Therefore it is my intention to offer the leadership of the Matarins a full and equal alliance and partnership between our two peoples. Qa’id Nengis, would you accept such an arrangement on behalf of your people?"
Seemingly stunned by this offer, Nengis did not know quite how to respond. He turned to Ra’i Giz, and asked him for guidance on this matter.
Ra’i bowed reverently replying, "Qa’id, our people’s situation has drastically changed since the Ta’irjaun of the Cren destroyed our planet in the great battle we have just fought. We have nowhere to go, nowhere to live. If we are to survive, we must join with Mufrid Tyson and aid him in his quest for freedom. He has proven an honest and reliable protector. This offer is our only viable option to ensure our peoples’ continued survival. We have no other alternative, my Qa’id."
Nengis contemplated his options for some time before he responded to Crash’s offer. He then stood up and said, "Mufrid, it has long been prophesized of your coming to us. You have fulfilled and confirmed the validity of the scriptures of the Holy Book of Quan. I believe that we have no alternative but to join with you. Together, both our peoples can prosper better than each of us can on our own. Therefore, on behalf of my people, I accept your offer."
Nengis’s acceptance of his proposition greatly pleased Crash. It simplified many problems he foresaw in the acquisition and outfitting of the new ships that he must build before the Cren made their next move against them. He enthusiastically replied, "That is a wise decision, Qa’id Nengis. After we finish here, meet with DP and coordinate with him the merger of our two people’s governmental authorities and structure."
Nengis bowed reverently to Crash and sat down. He turned to Ra’i and simply smiled at him with a feeling of accomplishment.
Crash then continued, "The next order of business is that I would like to announce the promotion of Colonel Laughton to that of Admiral of the Air and Space Forces. His expertise has saved many of our lives and cost the enemy many more of theirs. In addition, I have promoted Captains Parker and Kohl to the rank of Colonel. Their performance, expertise, and skill also greatly contributed our success."
"I would also like to announce, and against my better judgment I might add, that Sergeant Major Decker Payne has declined to accept a promotion to become General of the Land Forces. He feels that he can better serve our cause in his current position. If in the future he has a change heart, the position will be held open for him."
DP simply looked toward Crash and grimaced at the thought of becoming an officer, and a general to boot. Crash chuckled under his breath at DP’s hardheaded obstinacy.
Crash then continued, "What I would like to address next is the condition of our surviving ships. I would like each Captain to have a full and detailed damage report submitted to DP and Admiral Laughton by this time tomorrow. It is imperative that we expedite our plans for repair. We must find a suitable planet on which we can implement those repairs in an orderly and expedited manner. Practicalities would dictate that it is quite impossible to complete the needed repairs out here in the middle of empty inter-galactic space."
"We also have to acquire a re-supply of our expendable resources. In front of each of you is a 3-dimensional map of the local galactic cluster. The red ’x’ marks our relative location at this time. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where we might go to accomplish these tasks?"
Dead silence gripped the room for quite some time. Crash’s’ piercing gaze spread out to all those present, as he waited for a response. After a prolonged pause, Professor Hughes, the eminent physicist, finally broke the silence: "If our goal is to lay low and recuperate, I would suggest that we consider going to Star Cluster 2419. It appears to be a free-roaming Star Cluster not gravitationally bound to any particular galaxy. It would afford us relative seclusion as well as an unobstructed view of anyone or anything that might come our way. Surly, we could find some planet there with the resources to meet our needs."
"Professor," Crash responded, "I have already come to a similar conclusion. Does anyone see any reason why we should not go there to regroup?"
Again Crash’s steely gaze roamed over the crowd looking for any dissension. No one raised an objection. He smiled at everyone and stated, "Very well, it is settled then. We shall take the fleet to 2419. Admiral Laughton, see that we get the fleet underway as soon as possible. The rest of you return to your ships and make ready for the journey. That is all."
After the room had emptied, Ra’i and Lynn remained behind. Ra’i approached Crash first and said, "Mufrid, there is a matter of great importance of which I must speak to you."