Interspace Brush War Part 1

A brushfire war between the Umbral Empire and Confederated Syndicate.


David Beverley

2/9/20245 min read


The political situation between the Umbral Empire and the Confederated Syndicate had been deteriorating for years. Both interstellar nations had elected expansionist minded governments after the pair of nations had aggregated their forces to defeat the neighboring Aeliran Empire. The war had been a short and bloody massacre of the aliens on the edge of human occupied space. Following the abandonment of Aeliran worlds by those aliens the temporarily allied nations had a nasty combination of military assets and political masterminds that believed their nation was far and away the superior force in the galaxy.

Luckily for the peoples of both nations, the military high commands that had just finished the annihilation of the alien threat on the edge of human space knew from experience that an open war between the nations would lead to billions dead. The Confederated Syndicate was the first to de-escalate tensions between the nations and begin focusing their expansionism towards the newly available region of space rimward. The Umbral Empire was not long behind in this endeavor and soon a new great migration of humanity was underway. And while a massive percentage of both nations' fleets were tasked with securing the frontier space and protecting colonists neither side was willing to completely demilitarize their shared border. While this turn of events reduced the risk of widespread genocide the decades of militant rhetoric and technological advances were more than enough to keep local tensions high.

I sat in front of the weapons control console of the The Watchman preparing for interstellar transit. Behind me our newly commissioned captain, Captain Pace, called out orders for each member of the the crew to complete. It didn't seem to matter to him that the orders were already part of the standard protocol or that he had already given them only a few minutes prior. As a destroyer class vessel in the Umbral Empire Interspace Fleet it was highly unlikely that this picket duty would result in much more than an empty coffee reserve in the galley. Regardless of the redundancy I did my best to focus on the overenthusiastic Captain to appear attentive while waiting to hear new information. To my left I saw the communications officer punch in a sequence into her console and a broadcast began playing throughout the entire ship.


I thought that even the broadcast recordings were starting to seem old on this ship and had to stifle a chuckling groan. During my transfer to this posting I had been transported onboard a top of the line cruiser that had been heading rimward towards the expansion zone. Everything from the armaments to the crew compartments and even the broadcast recordings had been updated by what felt like a century of development. The Watchman was showing its age in almost every way despite its capability to render more destruction than most vessels built in human history.

The repeating broadcast began a countdown and I made sure to secure myself to the couch at my station even though the transition shouldn't even be physically noticeable. The countdown finished and every instrument on the bridge flickered and recovered after a moment which indicated that we were able to transition successfully. As everyone aboard the vessel had the Interspace gene required to tolerate the exotic conditions in Interspace the alert simply notified the crew of transition and went silent. Flight through Interspace was always the most tense time for an Interstellar ship crew. Despite The Watchman being a warship that would potentially see combat upon exiting to real space the unknowns of Interspace were always less preferred. It had been many years since a significant combat had occurred in Interspace and longer still in this region of space. All that said there was always the possibility that any number of horrors, alien species, or exotic hazards could damage or destroy our ship. With that in mind I took my detail seriously and validated the reports from the weapons engineers that all equipment was still in ready status after the transition.

The next few days were to be boring beyond comparison. While Interspace travel was significantly faster than light it didn't remove all of the travel time. Safely tucked away in what I was told amounted to a pocket dimension of space that ran parallel to our universe; we got bored. Each day was quickly a variation on the same routine. Wake up and eat some breakfast. Report to duty station. Try not to fall asleep staring at a boring console. Eat again. Go to sleep. Until we were either attacked or reached our destination there was very little for a weapons officer to do aboard a ship. Midway into my third day of Interspace duty shifts the helm officer that was sharing the bridge started up a conversation that took away some of the usual boredom.

"So Jarrett, do you think we're going to see any significant combat this time out? I'm getting tired of watching the sensors guys have fun while I just 'keep it steady', " She had said the last of her sentence in a mocking tone.

"Doubt it," I replied, "According to the brief there shouldn't be much more than merchant vessels where we are headed. Any pirates would have to be insane to engage us. And the Syndicate pukes don't even have the capacity to station the entire border."

"I don't know. I heard a rumor in the galley that there was a skirmish a few systems up the chain. A few frigates on both sides fired off a couple salvos before retreating back to their home ports. One of the other pilots said they heard one of the shots even crippled their water reclaimers. Said it was a hell getting home after their water stores got vented."

'Bullshit!' I refuted, "They would have put the entire fleet on higher alert code if there was significant damage to a ship. Even just a frigate."

"Not a chance. Any fleetwide broadcasts like that could spark a full-scale shootout. I think both sides are happy to let the smaller ships take potshots for a while. Use the skirmishes in their re-election campaigns, but keep the casualties down."

I couldn't argue with her logic. The bad news for me was that The Watchman would definitely qualify as a 'smaller ship'. As high-strung and promotion-minded as our Captain was it wouldn't surprise me if he gave the order to provide a show-of-force if we met any Syndicate navy ships. I would take no issue in defending myself; I was a weapons officer aboard a UE Interspace Navy Ship after all, but I was worried at the prospect of firing the first shot on a ship that was not a declared enemy. For my hand to be the one which could start a war to kill millions, or more, was too much to contemplate right then and there.

"I need another cup of coffee. You want any?" I asked. The pilot looked confused and shifted her gaze downward slightly. Following her gaze, I looked down dumbly at the nearly full mug in my hands.

"You okay Jarrett?"

"Yeah. Sorry," I lied, "Just didn't get any sleep. Still trying to shake it off."

"Right. Well, when you're done with that and go for a refill, I could use one. In the mean time let me know if you need to talk. Its no good having a weapons officer in bad condition."

I involuntarily scrunched up my face at the implication of what she had just said.

"Sorry, that sounded worse than what I tried to say. What I mean, is that I know this situation has to be particularly stressful on you. I am here if you need to talk, or need someone to help square you away. Alright?"

"Thanks Tiff," I said, "I'll keep that in mind."

We smiled at each other and I returned to my station to finish reviewing and filing the daily reports that were omnipresent in every officer's life. For once I was thankful that they were there to give me something to keep myself occupied with. It was going to be nearly a full twenty-four hours until we exited Interspace into the system that we were to be picketing and I knew it was going to be a dreadfully long wait.