After entering Titan orbit within five hours of each other, the Lewis & Clark, Smirnova and Marco Polo came into range of the pair of presumed derelicts soo thereafter, though it did not stop them from starting to make their claim of the two derelicts much earlier.
One of the spacecraft was shaped like a flat stubby pencil and slightly larger than the Marco Polo. It was covered all over by what appeared to be armor panels. Six large tanks were visible on the outside, moored into six bays within the armor plating of the spacecraft. Three massive magnetic field nozzles seemed to be part of the crafts propulsion system. There was also some visible weaponry in the form of eight ball turrets in the front part, as well as four in the back, apparently as chase armaments. Four fixed tubes were grouped in the front appeared to be kinetic weapons of some kind, while four larger cutouts in the armor were presumed to be missile tubes. The lack of any visible radiator panels was attributed to be battle damage, as four struts stuck out of the side of the spacecraft.
The other spacecraft was less streamlined and armor covered, and had stubby design with four magnetic field nozzle thrusters and exposed structure. The only clearly visible piece of armor was in the front, a massive three meter thick disk of material, presumed to be made of beryllium or any other dense material. Eight massive radiator panels provided cooling, while eight ball shaped turrets stuck on eight long struts provided a near full sky coverage for the weapons. Other weapons were not visible.
Both spacecraft showed damage to their armor and structure, but there was nothing that could explain why they were stuck in Titan orbit. Had they fought each other in extremely close range? Or had they been allies, fighting against another unknown enemy?
While the three spacecraft were on a heightened state of alert and ready to defend their claim the crews still talked about what was going to happen, while the situation within the United Nations heated up, where all three policies were sticking to their claim vigorously.
The situation got even more complicated when the derelicts turned out not to be as they appeared. One of them powered up, revealing itself to be a combat spacecraft controlled by an artificial intelligence, tasked with protecting a group of alien survivors, who were in suspended animation at the time. These turned out to be the Quetzal that had been discovered all over Earth in earlier decades.
This shocking revelation silenced any claims of the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Union before it could come to any exchange of fire.
The Soviets were ready to destroy the AI controlled spacecraft and then claim the wreckage and went as far as arming their nuclear tipped rockets and painted the spacecraft with their radar systems. The US and the EU were more willing to listen, and the commander of the Lewis & Clark even threatened to attack the Smirnova, should it launch missiles at the alien craft. The crew of the Marco Polo held back, mindful of the Chinese survivors on board and not as ready as the Soviets and the US to cause a major international and even interstellar incident. Instead they asked to talk to a real Quetzal in charge.
Around that time, the second presumed derelict powered up and contacted the three human spacecraft as well. This one turned out to belong to the race that had landed in Australia, the Turukal, after it switched to a audio and video communication two hours after initial contact, showing a computer generated image of the wombat like intelligence. Rather than being AI controlled, it was controlled by a disembodied brain of a Turukal, who had volunteered to become the controlling mind of a combat spacecraft after a massive accident only left the brain in a survivable state.
The AI, named Enthat, supported by the Turukal, Em’beli, claimed to be the survivors of a massive war. It had involved four different races, the Quetzal, the Turukal, the Sleallver and the E’gtf, fighting against an enemy that had never been identified correctly during the entire war. The Enemy had just destroyed any spacecraft, space station and habitable planet it came across. Even though it all happened about three thousand years ago, it confirmed the existence of a possibly deadly threat to the G-12 powers
According to Enthat, the survivors that had made it to the Sol system, were the last of the once proud races of the Quetzal and the Turukal.
The Quetzal had about ten thousand survivors in suspended animation, about two thousand of them part of an actual contingency plan of the five most powerful Quetzal nations to rebuild their civilization, while the rest were hanger ons, escapees and survivors that were picked up along the way, largely military and civilian spacecraft that had fled the various battlefields and wanted to get away. Enthat urged to add them to the contingency plan to have a larger genetic baseline for future generations.
The Turukal had about three thousand survivors, who were all part of a Turukal Ark project to save their race. The Turukal worlds had fallen to The Enemy before the Quetzal, yet had saved more of their various cultures, as well as about half a million sperm and egg samples, allowing them to repopulate their species without any possible genetic bottleneck.
About two days after the initial contact, a chosen few Quetzal, who were the representatives of the initial project to save the Quetzal race, were fully awakened by Enthat and, while weak from nearly three thousand years of suspended animation, could talk to the crews of the three human spacecraft, as well as the United Nations, though the latter would be limited due to a lightspeed lag of ninety minutes.
The first thing they did was to officially ask for asylum on Earth. As a result some Earth nations, like the US and the Soviet Union, instantly offered shelter to the fugitives, mainly thinking of the opportunities of new technologies and science. Others were more cautious, as they didn’t know what to expect and saw quite some risks involved. In the end the potency of the benefits outweighed in this choice and eventually many more agreed to offer asylum as well. Only very few nations denied, but politely. But before shelter could be granted, they needed to get to Earth.
The human spacecraft had to wait for a transfer window where they could launch back towards Earth as fast as possible, though it was noted that the speed did not really matter anymore. Launchwindows were calculated to be opened up again around May 2018. It was agreed that all craft would leave simultaneously. For one to ensure more safety as no one knew what to expect with these newfound vessels. For another to make sure no one human side would leave last and play a trick to claim anyways.
As ten thousand Quetzal could not fit within the hull of Enthat, nor three thousand Turukal into the hull of Em’beli, the question arose where the survivors were. As it turned out, the survivors had been able to create something of a hiding cavity within one of Saturn’s smaller icy moons, Atlas. They had molten a large hole within the surface with the fusion engines of their spacecraft and moored them into the moon, before an a few meters thick layer of ice had been used to cover the hole, acting as radiation shielding as well as optical shielding while the two combat spacecraft were keeping watch from Titan orbit.
On June 2, 2017 the crews of the remaining spacecraft were awakened, though their freight remained in suspended animation. The layer of ice was destroyed and the spacecraft broke free, before rendezvousing with the human spacecraft at Titan.
All combined, the Quetzal/Turukal ‘Rag Tag Fleet’, as it had quickly become known as, was about thirty spacecraft large.
On the Quetzal side were twenty three spacecraft. Aside from Enthat it contained two conventional Quetzal combat spacecraft, one cruiser analogue of two hundred fifty meter length and one frigate analogue the size of Enthat. A third combat spacecraft was another AI controlled combat spacecraft, named Haing. That Haing had not been at Titan was based on the fact that he was the AI equivalent of a just about functional autistic.
Of the other nineteen Quetzal spacecraft, five were large freighter craft that had been modified to contain the ten thousand survivors, three were bulk freighters containing everything the ‘Quetzal Survival’ mission had intended to use to set up a functional colony, two fuel tankers and the remaining various other commercial and privately owned spacecraft.
The seven Turukal spacecraft were divided into Em’beli, a two hundred meter long destroyer analogue, four spacecraft that were part of the Turukal Ark and a single tanker.
This selection of unique spacecraft and the possibilities of making use of them caused the Earth to go into a frenzy of persuading the aliens to part with their ships. However over the remainder of June it cooled down, as it became clear that the survivors would keep a hold on their spacecraft. Another issue was that there was going to be a major problem concerning fuel.
The fusion engines of the ‘Rag Tag Fleet’ were using conventional water as propellant, as it was easy to get within any solar system and was also easy to store. The problem however was that they needed a Helium-3/Deuterium mix as fusion fuel and they only had just enough to reach Earth, as much of the fuels had slowly evaporated through the tank walls during the time of hibernation.
Another problem for the G-12 nations was the fact that there was indeed an alien enemy out there. One that had already destroyed at least four alien species. And while that had happened over three thousand years ago, it did not mean that the unknown enemy wasn’t still present, possibly even waiting to come over to the lesser developed planet Earth.
The G-12 nations officially released part of the information about The Enemy to the rest of the world, but they kept their prior knowledge to themselves to avoid any unnecessary panic or defeatism. With everyone knowing about an alien threat, it became much easier making Asteroid Patrol into an international office that looked for alien spacecraft in the sky as well. Essentially it was turning Asteroid Patrols unofficial work official.
It also could have given them a reason to begin with the planning of additional orbital weapons platforms as well as armed spacecraft. The very real possibility of gaining advanced weapons and armor technologies through the Quetzal and Turukal however made them think twice about using humanities current technology for armed spacecraft and was put on hold for the time being. Perhaps in only a few more months, when new technologies were around, these would become much more effective.
The survivors were informed about this and the remaining military of the survivors noted that any weapon that could be used against an enemy, whether it was The Enemy or not.
Another situation that got addressed was what to do with the aliens once they had reached Earth sometime in mid 2019. Several nations pointed out that they needed to be quarantined over a longer period to make sure that they neither could infect humans with alien diseases, nor that the aliens could be infected by earthly diseases. Such would threaten either one’s survival, and to a degree humanities chance of gaining advanced technology quickly.
Although there were voices that noted both alien species being largely biochemically incompatible with the Earth biosphere, the concern over any disease remained.
To facilitate quarantaine, there was need for a remote location, yet one that could be easily reached and where the infrastructure for the alien could be build up. It quickly became clear that the best location would be a remote island in an area with relatively stable weather. Two possible locations were presented, Diego Garcia, an island under british control in the Indian Ocean, and Johnson Island, a largely artificial American island in the Pacific Ocean.
As the Soviet Union and China were against just giving the United States full access to the aliens, Diego Garcia was selected. During the 1970s the island had been intended to be used as a US Naval Support Facility, but the Oil Crisis and its aftermath had destroyed those plans. The United States had already built up some facilities, including a 3659 meters long concrete runway and several landing docks for large freighters, making the island perfect for a quarantine facility.
Great Britain, and by extension the European Union, were willing to make concessions, by placing the island under the control of the United Nations and suggested the formation of an UN organization to handle the situation.
By September 5, 2017, the United Nations formed the United Nations Extraterrestrial Affairs Organization to deal with the situation. On September 21, the first work crews landed on Diego Garcia to prepare the island for the arrival of 13000 aliens that were to live there for at least one year under quarantaine.
That left the problem of how to get the aliens from their spacecraft down to Earth. The problem soon proved to be non existent as both the Quetzal and the Turukal had a number of aerospace craft and cargo SSTOs meant to get the survivors onto the surface of a planet.
The number of spacecraft in orbit around Earth presented another problem as no one actually wanted them drifting about in orbit without control. Especially the Soviet Union and the Chinese were vocal about having all spacecraft in one place to make sure that the United States and to a lesser degree the European Union could not get any advantage over them.
To placate the Soviets and the Chinese, as well as trying to prevent the Soviets and the Chinese to gain the same advantage, NASA proposed a relatively light orbital scaffold in Medium Earth Orbit, where the alien spacecraft were to be docked. Additionally the alien combat spacecraft were to stand watch over the scaffold with the alien spacecraft, until it was decided what to do with them.
As the Soviets and the Chinese had tried to gain an advantage, they supported the scaffold suggestion as to not be called out on it. They however wanted to take part in the construction.
The construction of the orbital scaffold quickly turned into an international project with the four big space powers taking part in it and for the first time constructing an orbital structure according to a newly created standard. It was also the first project containing alien technology that was actively shared by aliens as the spacecraft of the two aliens species had docking and berthing ports that were incompatible to existing human designs.