Master Marcus’s mind spun with a thousand possibilities as he strode down the short corridor to the observation deck. A whole fleet of ships were docked in Infinity Station. Surely General Uchama would deploy them all once he learned the news that still impacted Marcus like a kick to the chest.
But arming and supplying and sending all those ships to the front lines would take time — time they didn’t have. Every second ticked toward disaster for the universe.
He punched the button to the side of the doors and they slid open to reveal General Uchama silhouetted against a dying blue giant star. The General seemed so calm standing at the panoramic observation window, hands clasped behind his back. Marcus was about to change all that.
“I’ve just come from the briefing,” Marcus announced.
“And the Rift is moving faster than anyone anticipated,” General Uchama answered without turning around. “It’s taken sector H4.62 and is picking up speed.”
Marcus stopped, his boots squeaking on the polished metal flooring.
“Intelligence corps just released that information in my presence,” he stammered. “There’s no way you can already know.”
“Intelligence corps isn’t the only intelligence out there.” General Uchama turned his head toward Marcus just enough to reveal a mysterious gleam in his eye. “You’d blush if you knew whose direct contact codes I have in my comms.”
The General returned his gaze to the dying star on the other side of the thick polymer window. Marcus approached, pulse thundering with the knowledge of the Rift’s seemingly unstoppable approach.
“If you already know,” Marcus said, wanting to grab the General by his sleek lapels and shake him into action, “Why aren’t we already signaling the alarm to deploy?”
“Is that what you would do, Master Marcus?” The General turned toward him and stood at his full height.
“To what end? Almost every ship we’ve sent has failed. Any battles won seem to have been accidents, not victories.” General Uchama’s voice echoed through the empty observation deck. “You would send our ships without any tactical advantage?”
“We could learn along the way. Study those accidental victories for any clue we can use to our advantage.” It might get him court-martialed to talk to the General this way, but the news was too dire for Marcus to care anymore. “General, we are not the Equinox, content to sift through libraries while the universe succumbs to a digital nightmare around us. We are the Federation and we are here to fight the Rift.”
“A moving speech.” The General stared at him, sadness in his eyes. “They should make you general and then I will enlist under you.”
“You’re not stepping down…” Marcus couldn’t add any more complications to the lists of possibilities he was still trying to manage in his brain.
General Uchama shook his head. “The Rift will have to kill me, like it has so many of the Federation soldiers.”
“So send the ships.”
“All of them?”
“Yes,” Marcus implored. “All of them.”
“No,” General Uchama responded firmly.
“We’re just going to — ”
“Send one ship.” The command came without question.
Marcus couldn’t tell if the General was merely toying with him. “What good will one ship do?”
“One special ship, carrying one special weapon.”
“I…I don’t understand.” Marcus suddenly felt like a raw recruit trying to find his way through the endless hallways of a hunter-killer class starcruiser.
“You don’t understand because you rely on Intelligence Corps.” The mysterious gleam returned to the General’s eye. “Go to the Supreme Council, have them call an emergency meeting.”
“On what grounds, what do I tell them?”
“Tell them the situation is grim enough for me to set into motion the plan they never wanted to talk about.”
All of the urgency Marcus had arrived with washed away under a cold sweat. Fighting against the Rift was a nightmare, but at least he knew who the enemy was and where the battle lines were. The war was about to turn darker than starless space.
General Uchama pointed to the door. “Tell them that I am invoking Plan Sigma.”