The information presented here represents the most accurate report possible based on records from the Princess Fleet, eye-witness accounts, and information that was eventually teased out of records from the UCSS Destiny and UCSS Triumphant.
Responding to confirmed threats of excess Deimium fuel having been hidden aboard the St Nikolaos by the notorious Sal Vasse, and a threat that the ship's Jump Drive's safety procedures that would normally prevent a cataclysmically fatal jump had been compromised, St Nikolaos leadership rose to the occasion. Cpt. Kaur, Cllr. Haldane, and Lt. McCoy organised their own supporters and forces to begin scouring the ship to locate the fuel, supported greatly by the assistance of black-hat-turned-white-hat hacker extraordinaire, Vyrin Rosen and the nanotechnological genius of Hansel Kassmeyer.
The first unit of fuel was found shortly after the end of the final conference of the Princess Fleet, by the combined efforts of many searching. The others took longer to find: concealed in the depths of the labyrinthian city-ship. However, thanks to the nanobots of Kassmeyer, these were more easily discovered as nanobots were permitted to flow through the ship, reporting back to Kassmeyer and Rosen until a second unit was discovered.
The final unit was eventually discovered by, allegedly, supporters of McCoy, Kaur, and Haldane simultaneously. Each claimed to have been the hero that found the last threatening unit of fuel, though none could be confirmed. Rosen and Kassmeyer confirmed that the ship was safe, and with the threat of explosion gone and the systems' integrity restored by Rosen, the ship was declared suitable for jumping in time for the Nebula Jump Operation.
One threat did remain, however, and Cpt. Kaur and Lt. McCoy were quick to root out the followers of Jack Priest who called themselves the “Cult of Lucifer”. Difficult in such a short space of time to tell whether these people were actually misled or were using the cover of the cult as an excuse to cause trouble, the Captain and Head of Security agreed to have the lot thrown in the brig for the duration of the jumps, whereupon their fates could be properly decided once the Fleet had safely arrived at Terra Libre. (Later sources suggest that many were simply easily led, and that the pressure of the Fleet and its unique position meant they were easily fooled: most were let off with only the requirement to attend psychological therapy sessions).
Many requests for information on the exact happenings on the Asi were met by statements that the details were “above the given clearance level”. What is certain is that Cpt. Milton, and Lt. Giessinger were responsible for leading an operation to eliminate Drs Leonard and Whateley for their cruel and unusual treatment of patients – their bodies were seen expelled from an Asi airlock shortly after the final Princess fleet conference and promptly blown apart by the weaponry of the Asi. Controversial cult leader Jack Priest was reportedly unharmed by the operation.
With the Nebula Jump Operation scheduled for a week after the final Princess fleet-wide conference, engineers across the Fleet wasted no time in springing into action to upgrade and repair the Fleet ready for the operation. Cpt. Rosenberg of the HMCS Renown organised teams led by Kiernan Healy and Julian Shepard to upgrade the cargo capacities of the HMCS Renown and UCSS Ottawa to be able to fit an additional unit of fuel (an operation that involved the knocking down of interior walls of the ships and salvage from several ships floating in space previously brought in by Julianne Relley).
Cpt. Relley was also responsible for the efficient salvaging of ships that were abandoned following the deaths of their captains: the Sanctuary, the Iustia, the Daedalus – the Pelorus was also marked for scrapping but having been fiercely defended by the administration of the Slipstream was later removed from this list.
Katya Thorsen and Jackson Svenson were responsible for additional repairs to the UCSS Triumphant – the squadron of fighters were scrapped in order to acquire material to upgrade the hull one last time, readying the warship for the jumping plans being laid out by Cpt. Phillips, leader of the Union of Independent Captains.
During the conference, teams had determined that a man by the name of “Maxim”, said by Bolygo CEO Decebal Korica to be an expert on the VirtuCon Integrated Knowledgebase Interface aboard the UCSS Resurrection was responsible for the interference during the conference and uploading of a potential apparition into the Conference system. He was pursued from the ship but disappeared onto the Bolygo ship Sohonnai which promptly cloaked itself.
Believing that a hostage situation had unfolded, Jakob van Dalen led the UCSS Hope, lent by Grayson Security, about the Fleet, desperately searching for the cloaked ship. Cpt. Tzalul of the UCSS Destiny deployed Bolygo's supply of drones to assist with the search: scanning ships and the sector for signs of the Sohonnai.
Little did van Dalen know that during this time, preparations were being made by the Pharmaceutical company to upon their return kit out the drones aboard the UCSS Destiny with units of FTL fuel, and that Ms Korica aboard the Sohonnai was hacking into her own FTL Drive for less than innocent purposes, with the assistance of the so-called “Maxim”.
With preparations to jump complete, the ZG5L Princess jumped away with a skeleton crew along with Ari Price, Ray Dawson, and Magnus Hammarberg. The fate or purpose of those who jumped remained unknown, but with Alexis Holttman transferred to the UCSS Triumphant, speculation began as to whether we would be seeing the ZG5L again.
In accordance with the plans of Cpt. Phillips and research provided by Dr Salas aboard the Asclepius, the crew of the UCSS Triumphant (notably including Cpt. Knight, Cpt. Pullman, Lara Stryer, Tom Wayne, Lucas Calderon, Alexis Holttman, and over a hundred crew and civilians, harbouring the Zwei, Hawkwing, and Bucephalus in its hangar) began the spool cycle for the ship to jump into the Nebula. The plan would have the UCSS Triumphant jump all the way through to the planet in Eta Helion and then, if no bad news was heard within a large margin window, a second wave would jump.
Approximately 20 minutes after the UCSS Triumphant began its spool cycle, the UCSS Destiny and UCSS Resurrection – the battleships owned by Bolygo Pharmaceuticals – began their own spool cycles. Immediately, it was demanded that the explain their operation, but Decebal Korica explained that since the Destiny and Resurrection could rely on the Bolygo system for navigating the Nebula, it would not be necessary for them to wait on the Triumphant. Careful diplomacy ensued, and though many were satisfied with Korica's explanation, key figures about the Fleet, including Cpt. Dexter of the UCSS Ottawa, began to be on edge.
The majority of the twelve hours of the spooling of the UCSS Triumphant went without incident. Though the Fleet was tense, little occurred that could have jeopardised the jump. That is, until exactly 10 minutes before the Triumphant was due to jump.
An unregistered Jump Drive began spooling. Captains across the Fleet received this warning notification: a Jump Drive from a ship that had been reported completely destroyed: the UCSS Persistence – the escape pod that Charmaine Lockhart had escaped from Vega 7 in. The spooling signature was coming far from the Fleet in the direction of Bolygo ships in the Fleet, and though the link would not have been made normally, the Fleet was on edge and connections began to be drawn, but Decebal Korica cut through this chatter declaring “This must be the Sohonnai”, and ordering the two battleships to speed toward the location of the signal, deploying drones to scan the area for the ship, accompanied by Jakob van Dalen on the UCSS Hope.
5 minutes after it had started, the spooling signature stopped: a jump had occurred. There was quiet for all of 5 seconds before captains across the Fleet received warnings on their systems. Those who had fought the HMCS Sydney before looked in horror at a signal they had seen too many times before: NUCLEAR WEAPONS HOT. The immediate scan showed the signal coming from the UCSS Triumphant, but communications from the UCSS Triumphant indicated that none of the remaining missiles on the ship were live. Something was seriously wrong.
Immediately uneasy, ships in the Fleet started edging away from the Triumphant, and from the location that Bolygo ships were currently scanning with van Dalen. Particularly uneasy, Cpt. Dexter kept a firm eye on the situation.
Teams aboard the UCSS Triumphant scrambled to find the source of the radioactive signal, getting more and more desperate as time ticked by until Geiger scanners across the ship pinpointed the location of the signal: behind a bulkhead near the cargo bay. With a minute to jump, engineers aboard the ship tore the wall down to find…
“It's a b-”
The ship jumped. Silence followed only briefly before more alarm bells started ringing as the Sohonnai's Jump Drive was seen spooling near the location where the other drive was previously spotted. Immediately, Bolygo drones were dispatched as Decebal furiously searched for his sister, the UCSS Hope getting in closer for a look. Sympathy rushed out for Decebal's kidnapped sister, and ships did begin to return, but vigilant minds, particularly those of Cpt. Dexter and Cpt. Haywood marked the situation as “very convenient”, and as drones swarmed over the presumed location of the Sohonnai, ordered ships to begin pulling away from the Bolygo ships.
And that's when van Dalen saw it: units of Deimium fuel being expelled from the UCSS Destiny and UCSS Resurrection toward where the drones were swarming and a solitary Jump Drive floated in space. He radioed the ships “What the hell are you playing at?!” but was met by hyperbole for only seconds before the two ships jumped out of the system.
Silence. For moments. And then an explosion.
An enormous explosion. A fireball engulfing an enormous section of the system, taking with it the UCSS Hope, the Seranata, and the Spirit of the Century all in their entireties. Any survivor of Vega 7 recognised it: the sheer destructive power of the FTL Bomb.
The fireball disappeared: completely empty space stood in its wake. Bolygo were gone. Jakob van Dalen, and the crews of the ships were dead.
A state of panic erupted across the Fleet, but held under control by Cpt. Phillips, Cpt. Milton and Cpt. Rosenberg. Cpt. Dexter immediately wanted to head after the Bolygo ships, and though a lack of their appearance in nearby sectors indicated that they must have headed into the Nebula, Dr Salas reminded him that there would be no way to find the ships in the Nebula – all they could do is stick with Cpt. Phillips's plan and mourn the dead while they waited to hopefully hear nothing from the UCSS Triumphant, which would hopefully indicate to them that the planet in Eta Helion was still a valid colonisation opportunity.
5 minutes remaining
Red lights flashed across the ship. Sirens blared. The nuclear bomb found by the engineers which must have been jumped into the ship was ticking down fast. There was no way to evacuate the entire population even onto the Bucephalus, but eye-witnesses report seeing Tai Pullman in a state of serene bliss: moving throughout the ship, ordering people to get up and run to the Bucephalus: her friends, those she brought aboard, anyone she could get to the Bucephalus fast enough. They ran, as the timer ticked and ticked. Fuel was desperately transferred. An argument broke out about who should stay, eventually resulting in Tai forcibly grabbing Knight and leaving the consenting Alexis Holttman in command of the ship.
1 minute remaining
The ship started, piloted by Tom Wayne, the engines were warmed up and the ship took off from the hangar of the warship.
Desperately, pushing as fast as the engines of the ship could go, the Bucephalus flew from the UCSS Triumphant.
The detonation was bright. The ship groaned and shook under the force of the nuclear explosion which ripped through the hull of the ship from the cargo bay, fracturing it across and vaporising many within a single moment. The force was strong, sending the Triumphant careering off into the stardust of the nebula: any hope of reaching Eta Helion in it, or even finding the ship again, lost in a single, horrifying moment.
The crew of the Bucephalus were stunned, before Tom Wayne began the spooling. His job, he iterated, was to come back if something went wrong and to warn the Fleet: and that's what he was going to do.
A good 10 minutes after the explosion of the Sohonnai, a new contact was registered in the system: the Bucephalus had returned, and considerably earlier than it would have been expected. The news was grave: the UCSS Triumphant had been struck by a nuke from the inside, and had disappeared off into the Nebula. 45 survivors were crammed aboard the Bucephalus and escaped: and the lot were quickly transferred to the UCSS Deliverance for debriefing.
Their stories checked out with what was seen in Deep Space Sector 10: whatever Bolygo were playing at had had a nuke jumped into the UCSS Triumphant to disable it before they tried to kill everyone else with the FTL Bomb. Why? Nobody knew.
After hours of determining what had gone on, the question was raised: what to do next. By Cpt. Phillips's plan, the Fleet wouldn't jump on unless the planet in Eta Helion itself was determined to be uninhabitable for any reason and, as far as they knew, the problem was caused by Bolygo action and only extended to the Nebula. As such, a new recon team would be needed: Cpt. Phillips volunteered aboard the Bucephalus, and was joined by Cpt. Dexter aboard the UCSS Ottawa (for fire support should Bolygo reappear), and Cpt. Relley aboard la kesma'ecikre for fuel supply should a warning party be necessary to go back and tell the Fleet not to follow (as per the original plan).
The second jump party was prepped and ready to go within the hour: they began spooling and all ships were gone in 30 minutes.
The trio of the UCSS Ottawa, the Bucephalus, and la kesma'ecikre – using Darwin's Interial Referencing System and NAMES – passed through the Nebula without incident. As predicted, the UCSS Triumphant simply could not be found for its unpredictable trajectory and the impossibility of scanning within the Nebula, but the ships pressed forward to Eta Helion.
Upon arriving, though, all was quiet. Scans confirmed that Eta Helion is not in the Nebula but is surrounded on all sides by the Nebula. Scans further confirmed what Bolygo Pharma had said: a planet in the system was hospitable and colonisable with little terraforming effort. The news was amazing, and in accordance with Cpt. Phillips's plan, all they had to do was wait: that would tell the Fleet that all was fine and to jump on through, and so began the waiting game.
Back in Deep Space 10, hours ticked by and with nothing heard from the Second Party well outside the margin for hearing back. Luuk van Dalen, organising the remaining waves of jumps, gave the order and the second wave of the St Nikolaos, the HMCS Renown, the UCSS Deliverance, and the Memorandum began spooling to jump into the Nebula.
Almost a day after the nuclear catastrophe, and Bolygo's betrayal, the ships in Eta Helion remained the Bucephalus, the UCSS Ottawa, and la kesma'ecikre. With fuel transferred from la kesma'ecikre to the Bucephalus for a quick get-away if needed, the ships waited for contacts, and contacts they received.
Just one, at first: the UCSS Triumphant. Or, at least, what remained of it.
The ship arrived in the system warped, twisting, parts of the ship fracturing off from the force of the jump and flying off into space. Steam and air was being vented, and the ship was shaking with the force of the jump.
Communications were received, and hesitantly – wary for apparitions – Cpt. Phillips answered. Phillips reported being able to hear the sounds of sparking electronics, people calling out in pain, alarms blaring, explosions and groaning of the ship in the background but the voice was what mattered.
“This is Captain Alexis Holttman of the UCSS Triumphant. Come in, Bucephalus.”
Holttman's voice was cracked, and hoarse: her speech punctuated by coughing, but it checked out: the UCSS Triumphant had returned. But at cost…
“We faced a choice, Captain. Be lost forever, or make one last leap of faith,” Holttman coughed, “We… we jumped. Blindly toward Eta Helion: a job to be c… completed.”
“You made it, Captain Holttman,” Cpt. Phillips replied, “You survived.”
“Not quite,” Holttman said, hoarsely, “Major structural damage across the ship… and in… in the bridge. Debris fallen. Heavy casualties. Myself…”
There was a pause. Phillips prompted, “Yourself?”
“Girder from above fell and impaled me. I'm not going to make it.”
“Just hang in there, Captain, help will be on the way.”
“Don't be a fool, Phillips, I know as well as you do that this ship is full of deadly radiation. It's too late for me.”
“We have radiation suits, there's time!”
There was silence. Coughing, and then she spoke one last time: “The human race must survive, Captain. We made it this far… keep going. And don't forget who our enemies really are.”
“Holttman over and out.”
Silence prevailed momentarily, before Cpt. Relley, donned in a radiation-proof EVA suit headed over to the UCSS Triumphant to help assess the damage, to help survivors and keep the ship in one piece. Not 15 minutes after the arrival of the UCSS Triumphant, however, more contacts were seen on the scanners of the Bucephalus and UCSS Ottawa: the Destiny and Resurrection.
Bolygo had arrived.
Immediately, the UCSS Ottawa primed itself for action, and the Triumphant under standing orders from Knight and Holttman, and now active orders from Cpt. Phillips did likewise. Communications opened and the voice of Decebal Korica was heard. It's not clear from records what was said, but what records do clearly show is the sound of Cpt. Dexter's voice shouting “BULLSHIT” shortly before the UCSS Ottawa opened fire.
Hundreds of small missiles erupted out of the experimental weapons systems of the UCSS Ottawa, streaking across space toward the heavily armoured UCSS Resurrection which opened fire in response. The UCSS Ottawa taking a beating from the gun batteries of the UCSS Resurrection before the UCSS Triumphant could open fire and with a broadside of nuclear missiles laid waste to the capital ship of the Bolygo Fleet. Cannons turned to the UCSS Destiny, but the ship, lacking in its own weapons, did not fire back and fire was shortly ceased as a boarding party from the UCSS Ottawa was assembled to search the ship and find any Bolygo personnel. None, however, were found.
The burned body of Decebal Korica, however, was: floating in the radioactive debris of the UCSS Resurrection: the CEO, and orchestrator of the master plan, reduced to radioactive dust.
Curiously, and of alarm to the ships present, the Sohonnai was not found: nor were Ilonara Korica, Maxim, or Gal Tzalul: but with the UCSS Resurrection destroyed, this was considered an issue for another day.
Soon, the second wave appeared. The HMCS Renown was surprised to see the UCSS Triumphant alive, as were the Memorandum, St Nikolaos, and UCSS Deliverance to see the wreckage of the UCSS Resurrection. Nevertheless, all was well, and within the next day the rest of the Fleet in a third wave organised by Luuk van Dalen jumped through the Nebula and to Eta Helion.
The planet was colonisable: terraforming could begin. With the ZG5L gone in another direction, hopes were high that humanity might now be safe from apparitions. Operations were soon to begin, but first an important task: naming humanity's new home.
Names were suggested, and votes cast, and eventually it was declared: Terra Libre – free Earth.