Through the Looking Glass Originals

Challenge 2 by Ezekiel Reistrup

When our coalition’s exploration drones found the Sol system, we knew just from initial scans that there was nothing much of note there. Most of the planets there were completely devoid of life of any kind; just a handful of barren rocks and gas giants. The only planet that was interesting was the third planet, which scans showed to be filled with life.


Over the next several days, our probe scouted the Earth. While it could not see much through the immense amount of space debris that littered the planet, apparently from failed launches into space, it got some intel on what was on the surface. There was a diversity of flora and fauna, an abundance of liquid water that shockingly was littered with specks of stagnant islands of debris, and a sapient species known as humans that seemed to be the cause of the somewhat common structures and the aforementioned space debris. Scans showed there to be just about eight billion members of this race.


The probe continued onwards after a couple weeks of scanning the surface. Its primary mission was to explore a newly discovered system that seemed to be rich in resources, and it wouldn’t stop for some out-of-the-way planet on the edge of nowhere. Sure, the humans had realized that they could go to space, but by the amount of debris hovering around their planet, all of their attempts had basically failed. It seemed to most scientists that the humans would need another four hundred years before they made ships capable of leaving the Earth, and even more to discover FTL travel on their own. We had never seen such a pitifully slow race before. Most species that tried to get to space would immediately make it their main goal, to break the confines of their home planet.


Except the humans.


Sometime later, a conflict broke out between two member races of the coalition: the powerful, warlike Xanzi and the somewhat newer and the much more docile Dan’ik. Everyone knew the Dan’ik were the victims in this war, but knew that they would face the wrath of the Xanzi’s powerful military if they interceded. So the Xanzi ships easily glassed and sterilized one world, captured their other planet without so much as a sweat and used their influence in the Senate to convince their allies and some swing races to kick the Dan’ik out of the coalition.


Nobody tried to defend the Dan’ik; they were a fledgling member race, with no representatives in the government, with few outstanding qualities to speak of. Only ten billion members, a nearly nonexistent military (which may have been part of the reason why the Xanzi invaded), and only a handful of FTL capable ships. They were almost as pitiful as the humans, as one Senator noted, and it might be best to send them to the Sol system and test the humans. It would be a waste of resources, after all, to send an actually important race and a new fleet to greet the humans; why not use the Dan’ik?


So the fifty-two large Dan’ik colony ships and numerous smaller civilian freighters and transports, all carrying their share of the seven billion who survived the war and weren’t enslaved by the Xanzi, jumped on their own to the Sol system, with no support and no turning back. Their ships were packed to the seams with refugees, people with no home to go back to. Nobody would be happy to greet them in the state that they were in.

Except, apparently, the humans.

Several weeks went by before our second probe reached the Sol system, purposely built to study how the human and Dan’ik races interacted. By the time it arrived, it brought back news of what happened: the human governments of Earth (and yes, there were many of them) had accepted the Dan’ik into their society. Their planet was teeming with construction, and about half of the ships that arrived at their destination were still orbiting space. Most of the space debris, curiously, was cleared out. It would be a while until they were fully adapted, though. Nobody could handle so many refugees at once.


Except, as we found out, the humans.


As the few researchers tasked with watching the drone footage saw, the residents of Earth adapted extraordinarily quickly to their new situation. They built new structures at blistering speed, utilizing massive machines that simply printed entire cities in just a few weeks. Dan’ik freighters that once shipped cargo now moved in the asteroid belt, mining materials to build new structures and, most surprisingly, new ships. The humans had apparently learned to reverse-engineer virtually every technology the Dan’ik had to offer, from particle shields to FTL drives. Vehicles that once were wheeled or tracked were converted to hold antigravity nodes; new unique ships, supposedly of human design, were built, and to our shock they proved even faster than the Dan’ik ships to precede them.


Never had we seen such industriousness before. On most planets, it took months to build a new ship, and another month if it was to have an FTL drive, which were somewhat rare throughout the coalition. Most coalition ships relied on sunlight engines as FTL drives were too complicated to mass-produce and too expensive to make standard-issue; only wealthy inter-system traders or large military carriers or battleships had them, while most other smaller ships like cruisers and frigates didn’t have them at all. And on this previously ignored planet, new ships would be built and launched in a week. While some would hover around Earth or the local moon, most would immediately make use of their FTL drives and punch a hole in time-space, traveling to who knows where.


By now, our leaders were growing both curious and anxious at this new threat to their way of life. Xanzi generals were vocal about seizing whatever made the humans so efficient, and our Senate capitulated and allowed the Xanzi to assemble a strike force to take back what they believed was rightfully theirs. A hundred massive ships, including carriers, destroyers, battleships, frigates, and even a planet-killing dreadnought, all packed with enough firepower to simply subjugate another member race if they wanted. Thousands of small fighters, hundreds of troop transports and landing craft for the eventual takeover of planet Earth. A single planet against the might of a full Xanzi fleet was a pushover, no matter how prepared you were. And there was no way Earth was prepared, after only a year since the Dan’ik first appeared at their doorstep. Most races would surrender immediately and hope to get away with their lives, as the Dan’ik did after just two days of fighting.


Except, of course, the humans.


As soon as the Xanzi fleet arrived near the system’s largest gas giant to regroup and begin their attack, a small fleet of a dozen cruiser-class ships assembled near Earth to defend their home. As the Xanzi approached the asteroid belt, the fleet grew steadily until it matched the Xanzi in size, as more ships jumped in from seemingly nowhere. And when the Xanzi crossed the belt, the human fleet sped to meet them in the middle, on a small red planet called Mars. When both forces collided, the battle was more even than anyone thought it could be; although the Dan’ik ships originally had poor shields and armament just a year prior, the human cruisers and battleships seemed to match their Xanzi counterparts, trading blow for devastating blow. The Xanzi fleet was whittled down to fifty ships, including their flagship dreadnought and a few carriers meant for subjugating a planet, battling against sixty human cruisers and destroyers all intent on driving back the enemy.


Eventually, the Xanzi decided to retreat. The dreadnought turned away from Earth, attempting to jump back to friendly territory before it was destroyed. Before it and the remaining ships could, though, the three largest human carriers released a small wave of fast troop transports, numbering nearly five hundred, each directed at a specific Xanzi ship. While the fleet was attempting to flee, they failed to see the transports punch into their ships’ hulls and lock in before jumping away into a nearby allied system, human marines in tow. The scouting probe watched as the human ships hovered near Mars, as if waiting for the Xanzi ships to return and renew their attack. But the Xanzi ships were gone for good; they had retreated. Never once had a Xanzi full fleet been so battered that they were forced to fall back; no race’s military was capable of standing up to them in a battle and going toe to toe.

Except, evidently, the humans.


The Xanzi leaders were shocked at the defeat. An entire full fleet and four million servicemen, reduced to quarter strength, by the effort of a single planet and what were a bunch of fumbling apes just four hundred days ago? There was outrage at this turn of events, and the Xanzi generals called for the flag admiral to be reprimanded, executed, and perhaps even demoted to midshipman afterwards. However, communications with the flagship dreadnought were never answered, and the ship was presumed destroyed. This was even worse; one of their prize flagships destroyed? Those ships were the top of the line, and there were only nine of them in the entire coalition; it was unfathomable! The Xanzi prepared to mobilize their entire military (since the rest of the coalition didn’t want to step in for a number of reasons); their four remaining full fleets combined together and prepared to rendezvous with the survivors of their expeditionary force.


On arrival, the fleet admirals were in for a pleasant surprise; their prized dreadnought was not, in fact, destroyed. It hovered in place, surrounded by its supporting carriers and battleships, all four massive planet-killing cannons...charged and ready? This too came as a surprise to the fleet admirals; it was standard protocol to never keep dreadnought cannons charged unless you were ready to fire; otherwise, your ship’s power would be drained, your shields would falter, and your cooling systems would eventually fail to do their job.


It was too late that the four Xanzi admirals realized what had happened. By the time the call went out to engage evasive maneuvers, to divert all power to shields, to charge their own cannons, or to abandon ship entirely (as all four flagships had, in the chaos, forgotten to communicate with one another), the dreadnought facing them had fired its cannons with perfect accuracy. Each huge blast of energy, with the power of a thousand nuclear warheads behind it, hit its target head on. The force of the explosion wasn’t enough to completely destroy the dreadnoughts, but it eliminated their shields, knocked out their main and backup reactors, and obliterated most of their support ships in the direct vicinity. As the four flagships went dark, all systems offline, the admirals watched through the glass windows of their bridges as the sixty human ships their colleague had faced in battle jumped in, turned towards the dreadnoughts, and launched waves of strike craft…


Four days later, the Xanzi signed a treaty of unconditional surrender to the newly formed Terran Union. It surrendered all of their slaves, surrendered their technology, and stated that they no longer owned the five dreadnoughts that the joint human/Dan’ik military now occupied, hovering ominously over the Xanzi homeworld’s capital. Never had anyone stood up to the most powerful force in the galaxy and turned its own weapons against it. Not once had the Xanzi suffered a defeat so crushing, a defeat that would never again allow them to be as mighty as they once were. It seemed that nothing would ever be as powerful as they once were.

Except, well, the humans.

Brayden Phipps

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Akita Hightower

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Carlyn Phillips

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Leo Chen

Finley Esch

Jack Maxwell

Sarah Wang

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Eva Moroz

Augustine Van Doorn

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Alice Stöckli

Jules Kellogg

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Skylar Smith

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Andres Ripstein

Sadie Balling

Starz Hinson

Tai Gadnis

Madison Finch

Bella Huckaby

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Lucas Heddlesten

Evangeline Van Meter

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Katie Grant

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Emma Luddy

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Sahar Momnani

Charlotte Ho

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Robert Neathery

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Mariam Sajid

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Sadie Balling

Jawad Bataineh

Ian Nohrden

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