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"Yavoch!" cried captain Decker, "The game is afoot. The time has come for war."

The year is 2319, Earth forces have prepared for battle against the Ainur, a warrior species who control more than a dozen inhabited planets across the galaxy.

We didn't want this war, but we had no choice. Seven years ago we received our first contact from the Ainur. It was a short message and devastatingly to the point:

"To all the people of Earth, you know us as the Ainur. It is our destiny and our right to conquer all inferior species in the galaxy. We claim this right as a law of nature. Just as all stronger species everywhere consume and exploit the weaker ones in every eco-system on every planet, so shall we among all the inhabitants of our galaxy.

"But we are a species with honor. This message is fair warning so you have time to prepare. You have two choices: Accept your fate and take your place as our servants, or try to escape and be hunted as our prey. You may try to escape if you wish, but understand this- we love a fair game, and we will gladly hunt you down for our amusement. You have one Earth year to reply."

Of course, we immediately began our research. We soon learned the Ainur are notoriously brutal and swift in their conquests. They invade and control every world they encounter with devastating force. Our hopes for a peaceful solution were crushed like the delicate petals of daisies under the footsteps of a thousand marching stormtroopers. But we crushed those flowers willingly, because these are our stormtroopers, preparing to defend our way of life, our liberty, and our freedom.

We also learned that the Ainur value honor above all else. Like all advanced warrior species in the galaxy, honor is the only thing that keeps them from destroying each other. Honor keeps their culture stable. Honor is their currency, the first commandment of their religion, their primary civic duty. We knew we had only one chance to keep them away from our home world. They say they love a fair game, so we made a bold move: We challenged them to a duel of honor.

Our response to the Ainur was this, "To the people of Ainur, we too are a warrior species. In our culture we value both honor and liberty more than life itself. We are prepared to fight to the death to protect our independence. You claim to be superior, but size is only one quality to measure, and it is not very convincing. How cunning are you? How good is your strategy? We assert that our species is superior in these qualities, and If you assimilate us through force, we will defeat you from within.

"But we will give you an opportunity to prove us wrong and avoid that fate. We challenge the Ainur to a single battle of equal forces to test each other's skill. If we lose this fight, we will be honorable and accept our fate as denizens of the Ainur. But if we win, the Ainur shall forever leave us in peace and never interfere with humanity, nor any of our intergalactic allies ever again."

To our surprise, the Ainur accepted. It seems they rarely encounter a worthy challenger, and our bold move intrigued them.

The designated battlefield is a mysterious region of space between two distant super-massive black holes. Here, the clashing gravity waves have created an unusual kind of sheared space-time, fractured into layers. Among these layers we've plotted five navigable planes. To our dismay a field of astroids has polluted the center plane.

This asteroid field is strangely chaotic. The gravity waves vibrate subtly, but they are strong enough to make the asteroids collide and jostle with unpredictable direction and velocity. They jump and move without warning in potentially any direction. It will be impossible to map this field. Movement through the asteroids will be risky. We'll have to be on constant alert, but it's the only way for us to get to the enemy--and them to us.

The Ainur have insisted our fleets must be exactly matched. Apparently, they want this to be a balanced fight. It's the honorable thing to do of course. But they are unwilling to abandon their technologies. So, to make things even, they've given us some amazing new tools. Among these are the teleport gates, field-effect bombs and the hop-drive.

Each pair of teleport gates is connected by a kind of wormhole outside of normal space-time. We don't understand exactly how they work, but we understand how to use them. Go into one, instantly come out of the other no matter where it is or how far away. Unfortunately, we have to move them into place first, and this movement is restricted to ordinary space transit. In other words, it is slow to move the gate. But once in place, it's a quick way to move ships across vast distances.

The field effect bombs have an interesting feature; they disrupt all normal matter within a two-dimensional radius along the skewed planes of the battlefield. Anything in the blast zone that is surrounded by an encoded energy field is protected from the blast, like a tuned deflector shield. This makes it possible to set off a bomb among our own fleet. None of our ships will be affected, but anything else within range is completely and totally obliterated.

Unfortunately, the ship carrying the bomb cannot be protected this way. The ship itself is the bomb, and has to be free of any energy fields in order to detonate.

At first, the hop-drive was incomprehensible to us. Completely by accident one of our artificial intelligence experiments involving bird brains managed to activate it. They navigate in three-dimensional spaces over a two dimensional landscape. This means they can think in fractional dimensions between two and three, also known as fractals. Their brain patterns activate the hop drive and make it possible to move in two planes at once, traversing multiple vectors in multiple dimensions simultaneously to arrive at a single destination. It is impossible to block these movements.

This discovery inspired us to build more artificially intelligent ships based on other types of animal minds. It was our theory that these indigenous Earthly-based navigation styles would be unfamiliar to the Ainur, and therefore might improve our odds of defeating them. Our planet is full of life forms that live and move freely through environments which are difficult or nearly impossible for humans, so we leveraged their brain patterns to create several new classes of semi-autonomous ships.

From the minds of birds we built the Neornithes with the hop-drive.

A new class of ship called the Squam will make use of a hybrid reptilian mind based on tree lizards and snakes. Because of the complex realm of surfaces inhabited by these reptiles, we expected the Squamata to be our second fractal thinker able to use the hop-drive. But the Squam mind appears to be too weak to activate it.

Lastly, from creatures in the depths of the open ocean we built the Archids. We also thought the Archids might navigate somewhat like the birds. They did not. The complete lack of landmarks or surfaces of any kind in the mid-waters of the deep open ocean is a non-fractal, fully 3D realm, devoid even of sun, moon or stars for navigation. But the Architeuthidae were smarter than we realized. While they prefer to move in straight lines, the Archids are able move very fast and can slice through the gravity waves like no other ship can, like a fish through water.

We didn't leave out the insects, ever ready to protect the colony at all costs including their own demise. The insect creatures were the perfect choice of intelligence for the field-effect bombs. We named them the Trych.

The Trych move slowly, and when commanded to do so, they explode in a finely tuned disruption field that destroys only enemy ships, leaving nearby friendly ships unscathed and unharmed.

Unbeknownst to us, the Ainur had watched us develop these ships. They accused us of being without honor and threatened an immediate full-scale attack unless we shared our technologies with them. We had no choice but to give them our animal-brain based AI systems.

All of these ships are only semi-autonomous. Their artificial intelligences control how they move in space, but we Sapients--both human and Ainur--determine targets and strategies. We Sapients occupy the Command ships, one master ship on each side. Without the Command ship, all is lost.

Being the only manned ship, the Command ship is slow and necessarily large to accommodate all the life-support system, supplies and accommodations. Of course, since this is a battle situation, we anticipate damages. All systems are doubly redundant. This makes the Command ship far too large to fit through the teleport gates, and movement through the asteroid field between us and the Ainur is too risky. But as slow as we are, the Command ship is not lame in this fight. We are equipped with a particle beam cannon so powerful it can destroy whole planets in a single shot, but it also has immense energy requirements. Its use will be limited.

And with that, our best scientists and engineers constructed our fleet. Our strategists and tacticians trained furiously. The aliens gave us some amazing technologies. We intend to use them well. Our long range surveillance system has confirmed that they held true to their word. Their fleet and ours appear to have the same technology, same numbers and same capabilities. It looks like this will be a fair fight after all. Victory in this battle will be the result of superior strategy and decisive action, and maybe even a little bit of luck.

Captain Decker called out, "Attend to formation, activate automatons, prepare our moves. The enemy shall taste defeat today, and it is we who will feed it to them. Yavoch!"