Aboard the bridge of the interstellar military vessel Crucible, the air is tense. The bridge is a hive of activity, filled with gleaming screens and pulsing holographic displays. At the command center, Captain Forlen, a commanding figure with a sharp gaze, swiftly navigates through holographic star maps.

Suddenly, Ensign Griffin interrupts, “Captain! We’ve received a distress call from the Revelation, two light-years away!”

Without hesitation, Captain Forlen commands, “Put it on the main screen, now!”

The view screen flickers to life, revealing a chaotic scene aboard the Revelation. Amidst the backdrop of crew members scrambling, a grim-faced man with a dirt-smudged face urgently reports, “This is an SOS from the Delta Star System. Coordinates are embedded. We’ve found a massive deposit of DNC but are under attack by an unidentified warship!” The transmission cuts off abruptly, leaving a heavy silence.

Captain Forlen turns sharply to Lieutenant Barton. “Details, Lieutenant. I need the age of this message, their exact location, and our fastest route there!”

Lt. Barton scans his data quickly, then reports, “The distress call was sent 7.3 hours ago, Captain. They’re precisely two light-years away. We can reach them in four hours with two jumps, allowing our engines to recharge, or we can push for a single, aggressive jump that takes only an hour but will deplete our DNC reserves, leaving us reliant on slower nuclear fusion for the return journey.”

Captain Forlen’s eyes narrow as he weighs their options. “Prepare for the single jump. Time is of the essence. We’ll deal with the consequences later.” His voice carries a determined edge, signaling the gravity of the decision. The crew leaps into action, aware that the fate of the Revelation hangs in the balance

Tension grips the bridge of the Crucible as the crew members await Captain Forlen’s command. Humanity’s dwindling supply of DNC, the critical energy source discovered a century ago behind the enigmatic Chthonian portals on Earth, hangs in the balance. The recent discovery of a significant DNC deposit by the Revelation could mark a turning point in humanity’s fortunes, yet it is threatened by an old, formidable enemy. Failure here would not only cost them this precious resource but might strand them light-years from home, their return journey prolonged indefinitely.

Captain Forlen, his expression a mask of resolve and deep contemplation, finally breaks the heavy silence. “Ensign, open a shipwide comm,” he orders. The ensign responds promptly, activating the ship’s communication system with a few swift taps.

“This is Captain Forlen,” his voice booms through the ship, stern yet infused with a motivating force. “Moments ago, we received a distress signal from the Revelation. They’ve unearthed a massive deposit of DNC but are under attack by an unidentified enemy warship. The stakes couldn’t be higher; this new source of DNC is vital for humanity’s survival. We’re making an immediate jump to their position, which will deplete our DNC reserves entirely. Success means securing this critical resource and returning as heroes. We depend on each other, and humanity depends on us. Prepare for battle. We jump in five minutes.”

The ship stirs to life, vibrating with the humming energy of preparation and anticipation. Officers exchange quick, determined glances as they ready their stations.

Minutes later, the Crucible leaps through space in a blinding flash of white light, folding space and time in a breathtaking display of interstellar travel. The transition is nearly instantaneous, yet each jump leaves its mark—disorientation and vertigo grip the crew as they emerge in the new sector.

With the DNC crystal now depleted and no longer a dark crystal but completely white. It takes the Crucible’s interstellar Jump Drive offline, leaving them reliant on slower nuclear fusion propulsion. As they navigate this new and perilous situation, the stakes are clear: secure the DNC deposit and fend off the enemy, or face an uncertain and daunting journey home.

As Captain Forlen’s head clears from the jump’s disorienting effects, he barks out orders with a renewed sense of urgency. “Lt. Barton, set a course for the Revelation immediately. Ensign Calala, assemble our top fighter pilots in the war room—now!” The lieutenant and ensign acknowledge in unison, “Yes Sir!” before scrambling to carry out their orders.

Captain Forlen strides purposefully from the bridge, navigating the metallic corridors to a strategic planning room just a few doors away. The room, equipped with a long table, eight chairs, and a state-of-the-art holographic display at its center, quickly fills with twenty-one determined men. The air is thick with anticipation as they jostle for space, each fully aware of the mission’s gravity.

Once the last pilot has entered and sealed the door, Captain Forlen doesn’t waste a moment. “My esteemed pilots, time is against us. We have 30 minutes until we reach the Revelation’s last known position, under attack by an alien vessel.” With a swift gesture, he projects an image of the enemy ship above the table. It’s a sleek, menacing craft, distinctly non-human. “Notice the design—this isn’t ours. And these smaller ships,” he zooms in on a tiny assault craft, “are about the size of our fighters.”

The room falls silent as the stakes become evident. “We might not know the specifics of their weaponry or defenses, but I’m counting on our numbers, our firepower, and the element of surprise. We’re deploying in seven teams of three,” he continues, swiftly assigning each pilot a team and role.

“Teams one to three will engage the main enemy ship, drawing fire and disrupting their operations. Teams four through six, your task is to cover the Revelation, assist them if they’re still operational, or engage the enemy’s smaller crafts if not. Team seven, you carry the critical strike—use your Tak. Missiles on their engines. Take them out, and they’re immobilized. Then target the bridge.”

As he outlines the strategy, the holographic display illuminates various tactical points and potential vulnerabilities on the enemy ship.

Just as the briefing appears to conclude, Ensign Midan, a young pilot with a spray of freckles across his face, raises a crucial question, his voice tinged with apprehension. “Sir, could these be the Chthonians? It’s been over a century since we last encountered them.”

Captain Forlen leans in, his gaze piercing. “Are you ready to find out, Officer? Because in 20 minutes, we’ll be face-to-face with them.” His words hang heavy in the room as he dismisses the squad.

The pilots exit swiftly, their minds racing with the potential enormity of what lies ahead. As they suit up and slide into their cockpits, one question dominates their thoughts: Who exactly is this unknown enemy, and who among them will return to tell the tale?

Minutes after settling into their fighter ships, the pilots aboard the Crucible feel the ship decelerate. The light above the large airlock flicks to green, signaling it’s time to launch. One by one, the fighters roll out into the void of space, transitioning smoothly from the mothership into battle formation.

Ensign Midan, piloting his S-74 Chimera, joins the formation, taking his position as a wingman in Team Seven. They hold back as the initial waves of fighters dart forward, engaging the enemy to distract and disorient them. Midan listens intently to the communications buzzing over the channel:
“These guys are definitely not human!”
“Their ships are fast and their hulls are incredibly resilient!”
“The main ship is bristling with weapons. Fly low to avoid fire!”

Meanwhile, Teams Four through Six make contact with the Revelation, which has crash-landed near the DNC deposit. “Protect the Revelation at all costs!” comes the urgent directive as coordinates are broadcasted.

As Team Five swoops in low, they spot six alien warriors clad in skin-tight suits, glowing with ominous purple lines, aggressively defending their position. The aliens, wielding elongated weapons, open fire. “I’m hit! My wing’s been breached!” cries a pilot.

“Pull back and cover; we’ll handle this,” commands the leader of Team Five. A torrent of gunfire rains down on the alien squad, effectively neutralizing the threat. “Bet they weren’t expecting that!”

Swooping low around the colossal enemy vessel, Leader Two spots a critical maneuver. “Crucible, this is Leader Two. The main hostile ship is pivoting—guns aiming directly at you,” he reports crisply through his helmet comm. Captain Forlen’s voice crackles in response, sharp with resolve. “Acknowledged, Leader Two. We’re primed and targeting now. Teams one, two, three, and seven, execute a low-altitude pass—we’ll strike from above.”

The moment is electric. The Crucible’s cannons roar to life, a thunderous blast echoing through its steel corridors as it unleashes fury. The projectile slams into the Alien Warship with a searing impact, inflicting superficial damage but proving their firepower. Undeterred, the enemy warship retaliates, its massive guns blazing a salvo that whizzes perilously close, just over the Crucible’s bridge, a glaring miss that could have spelled disaster.

Meanwhile, with the ground forces momentarily subdued, Team Seven sees its opportunity. The enemy’s main ship, now less protected as Teams One through Three engage the few remaining fighters, becomes the primary target. “Let’s knock out those engines,” Team Leader Seven commands, voice steady but intense.

Executing a daring maneuver, Team Seven dives low, then swoops upwards at the last moment, launching their tactical missiles directly into the engines of the Chthonian warship. The missiles pierce the hull and detonate silently within, a muted but devastating blow.

Over the comms, Captain Forlen’s voice cuts through, weighted with significance, “We now know they are truly the Chthonians from the last war on Earth. They have reignited this conflict, and we’re here to finish it.” As his declaration echoes across space, the main Chthonian ship suffers an unexpected catastrophic explosion, its demise spectacular yet tragic as it claims Teams One and Two, who are unable to clear the blast radius in time.

The shockwave reverberates through space, a solemn reminder of the thin line between victory and sacrifice. Midan and the remaining pilots regroup, their resolve hardened, ready to end this reignited war once and for all.