Bloodied and battered, Raiden was dragged before the major, the rumbling of battle still reverberating through the rogue station.
“That’s awfully formal for the occasion.” He spat on the major’s tactical boots. A gash above his hairline dripped fresh blood through the canyons of deep wrinkles across his face—more than she would have suspected for a man of his youthful age. “Call me Raiden. Welcome aboard. Who the fuck are you?”
“Major Adley of the Ninth Fleet, operating under the authority of the Predominance. You’re being taken into custody, charged with construction of unsanctioned military-grade equipment, conspiracy to incite violence, inhabiting undeveloped space without a license, suspected kidnapping, and suspected murder. How do you respond to these charges?”
He wiped off his forehead on his sleeve, the guardsmen still holding him firmly above the elbows. “I’ve been fighting a war for ten years—a war we’re on the same side of. Get your head out of your ass and look at the evidence. The Ex Nihilo are working to kill us.”
“Enough. The Judiciary finds you guilty.” She turned to the guardsmen. “Space him.”
Raiden scowled at the major as he was dragged into the lock, but he did not fight. The guardsmen shut the hatch, but his face was still visible through the small window. He spoke through the intercom as the safety mechanism fought the override.
“The Bulk has only a finite amount of energy, and they don’t want our universe wasting it with stellar fusion and intelligent life.
“Hurry up,” Adley said to the guardsmen. She was uncharacteristically short and stern today.
“That’s why they have accelerated our universe’s expansion. Long-term means something rather different to them. They’re attacking us with heat death, and we have to strike back.”
“Almost there, Major.” The guardsman twisted together two frayed ends of wire.
“The fleet I’ve assembled is hiding in the Bulk, watching. A fleet of the likes you’ve never seen.”
“You may kill me, but you will not stop our work, and you will not leave this system.”
Raiden was pulled away from the hatch in painless silence, and within moments his tumbling body was but one spec at rest among many. The major and her guardsmen marched away, their objective accomplished, and did not witness the rent tear open in the sky, out of which emerged a fleet of the most unusual starships outnumbering all of the Predominance’s twelve fleets in their totality.
“Major,” she heard over the comms in her helmet. “Something is happening.”
“That’s fairly unspecific. What is happening?”
There was a pause. “I’m not sure, ma’am. I think we might be surrendering.”