I got a bit carried away...
The hulking mass of metal and rock floated serenely through space. It wasn’t as old as its comrades outsystem, but it was ancient nonetheless. A collection of strangely angular shapes dotted one side, the edges still shining in the sunlight despite the aeons of dust bombardment. The anomalous asteroid rotated slowly, pointing the inexplicable metallic face first into deep space, then directly at the primary, and now at a planet.
The planet, just as old as it should be, occupied the second spot out from the primary. It had seen life in its deep past, but none of it remained. The surface itself was largely molten, the atmosphere charged with noxious vapors. Debris like the young asteroid spoke whisperingly about an ancient moon where none remained.
The asteroid’s odd angles turned away from the planet, once more looking outwards into the stars. This was to be its last trip around the sun. It could not return home; its home was scattered across the skies like a miniature asteroid belt. However, it did the next best thing, approaching its ancient parent body. The asteroid faced the star.
The star was not remarkable. A small, sullen specimen, it had burned for billions of years and would burn for billions more. Its diminutive size implied it would have a long life. The star had seen wonders. It watched the life of the second planet flourish from nothing. It had witnessed the wonders of the first orbit, the struggles to survive upon the surface and amongst the caves of the long-gone moon.
But it had also seen horrors. An entire moon, split into thousands of rocks. A planet set aflame. And its venturesome children destroyed, utterly and permanently.
For the final time, the asteroid rotated to see the planet rushing up to meet it. The end was near for the rock and its artifact of an ancient, dead race--the last such artifact. The asteroid slid into the corrosive air, the sharp surfaces of the ancient wreckage biting into the wind and swinging the asteroid around. As the artifact watched the stars fade and dim behind the acidic clouds, a streamer of plasma licked over the other, smoother side of the rock. It was soon joined by another, then a dozen, and finally the entire surface was enveloped in a sheath of yellow and white plasma. The asteroid began to ablate, leaving a trail of silicate vapors. The heat reached a pocket of water ice, boiling it and shattering the new meteor with a large explosion. Chunks of rock and metallic ores were ripped off by the hungry air, burning to nothing in the thick fumes.
After a harrowing thirty minutes of fire and plasma, the meteor finally impacted. The rock splattered a plume of thick lava, braking violently to a halt before sinking slightly. Gradually, the rock slid along with the viscous molten silicate, losing a large portion of its mass to the dully glowing substance. The flow slowed to a stop, then hardened, the artifact nearly level with the surface.
As the planet cooled, the clouds began to drop their heavy cargo of water. First tentatively, each drop sizzling on the thin crust, then precipitously, the rains came. Basalt sediment was washed over the artifact, obscuring it from view. It never got to see the sky clear.
Another aeon passed. The artifact had been warped into novel shapes, before being rendered unrecognisable by the actions of geology. It had become surrounded by a vein of some metallic ore, likely enriched by the asteroid upon which the artifact had once resided. During its aeon of sleep, the lump of metal had not once seen the sky, with its sullen, reddish star and its missing moon.
A wave passed through the ore, setting the crystals tremoring.
Though the remnant had not existed in perfect silence, this wave was entirely different from the occasional deep grumblings of the planet. This was a pure tone, precisely exciting the ores.
Another wave passed. The crystals resonated with greater vigour. Then another. The remnant throbbed. It couldn’t take the continual tuned impulse without talking back.
Yet another wave propagated through the ore. By now, the remnant was so vigorously oscillating that it began to send out waves of its own. As if in reply, the waves increased suddenly in intensity.
The remnant began to heat the matrix around it with the violence of its oscillations.
All at once, the waves ceased. The remnant, however, scarcely slowed its resonations before a new sound presented itself. This was one the remnant had experienced many times, though not this loudly or persistently. It was the sound of tormented stone fracturing under extreme stress.
Before long, the crunching, cracking sound reached the remnant. A deep red laser penetrated the ore vein, excising the remnant. The remnant was shattered by the extreme heat of the laser’s spot. The earth above it was likewise pulverised, extracted by the same tractor that would later rip the ore from the ground.
The tractor lifted chunks of the remnant through the shaft previously excavated, bringing them towards the maw of a compactor inlet. In the brief interim between being underground and being packed into that abomination of space that was the interior of a compactor, the fragments glimpsed the enormous wheels of a ground harvester resting upon the grass of a plain. The fragments were wholly shielded from the sky.
The compactor was entirely dark and timeless. It may have been an instant, it may have been a century, but eventually the compactor disgorged the rich ore and fragments into a hopper. They tumbled down its maw, landing on a belt. The ore dumped into a huge furnace, already full of molten metal. The fragments plunged through the layer of slag floating atop the melt and swiftly became one with the fluid. The melt was continuously drawn out of the bottom of the furnace down a channel, which then drained into a selection of smaller alloying furnaces. Streams of various other metals likewise drained into these furnaces, though in smaller quantities.
As the melt emerged from the alloying furnaces, small bubbles began to form. The melt was quickly cast into a great block, where the bubbles frothed up and filled the mold. The block of metal foam was cut, clad, and packaged back into the darkness of compactor-space.
After some indeterminate time in the void of the compactor, the metal-foam laminate plating was unpacked into the vacuum of space. For the first time in an aeon, the dispersed artifact once more saw the light of the sullen star, still just as it had been. For the first time in an aeon, it once more beheld the stars. And for the first time in an aeon, it once more witnessed the empty spot in the sky, where once a moon had orbited.
The plates were transported by robotic arm to the skeleton of a starship, its ribs bare. The sleek lines of the spacecraft were evident, even in this incomplete stage. A trio of great nozzles protruded from its stern, their origins obscured by partial plating. Each of the laminate plates was placed precisely where it belonged, fitting exactly to both the rib and its neighbors. The robotic arm exercised its entire range of motion as it placed plates around the myriad turret hardpoints.
At last, the ship was plated. It was a wonder of engineering and art, with a graceful shape and enough turrets to rival a capital ship. As the last turret was inserted, received, and secured, the arm retracted back into the main part of the shipyard. The hull resonated softly as the ship jumped its reactors off of the shipyard’s power. The umbilicals fell away, retracted back into the shipyard’s hull. As the last clamp released, the starship pushed away and moved to a higher orbit to join its comrades in formation.
After a shorter wait of only a couple of orbits, the formation of warships burned towards an unseen threat--one which did not want to remain unseen. The turrets unlimbered, training on some infinitely distant target.
And then, all hell broke loose.
The ships moved as one, weaving one way, then the other, apparently dodging kinetics. The small turrets on each ship danced, releasing spears of light. The target hove into sight, a massive, almost planetary hulk. Lasers lanced out from its center, striking some of the warships. Missiles popped around from its far side, streaking towards the formation. Most were shot down by the point defense. A cloud of drones swarmed out of the craft, harassing the fleet.
The fleet formed into a bottomless cone, whose mouth opened towards the aggressor. A continuous volley of rail rounds sped towards the massive target. Powerless to dodge thanks to its extreme size, the moonlet-turned-ship took every hit dead center. Despite the extensive cratering, the oncoming ship did not falter. It continued firing, disgorging drones, and accelerating.
The invader’s proximity reached dangerous levels for space combat. With a separation of only a few hundred kilometers, the formation began to feel tidal forces thanks to the extraordinary mass of their foe.
Suddenly, the surface of the incredible ship was wracked with explosive shocks. A large area in the center collapsed inwards. Every ship of the fleet fired for the weak point. Rail shell after rail shell impacted, drilling the crater deeper. The range closed to under a hundred kilometers, when the absurd ship lit up like a city. The entire prograde surface of the ship was composed of gunfire. Armor-piercing rounds filled the vacuum, blowing half the fleet away like leaves in an autumn wind. The fleet, however, was traveling too fast for this to be enough. After only a couple of seconds, the frontmost members of the fleet began to impact the ship. Thermonuclear explosions drilled deep into the core, finally hitting the planetoid’s power. A massive flash of gamma radiation, and the planetoid was ripped in half. Secondary explosions finished the job, while the remainder of the fleet splattered on the surface like gnats. The relic-clad vessel hit a chunk of rock with force enough to penetrate its surface, becoming embedded while its reactor lost containment and exploded.
A couple of hours later, the expanding rubble cloud reached the planet. Though much of it entered the atmosphere and either burned up or impacted, a large quantity swung by and disappeared into an orbit around the sullen, reddish star. The relic-clad ship was one of these, fated to watch its world burn a second time. The debris coating one side of the too-young asteroid had been blasted to a shine by the reactor failure. It glinted in the sun as the asteroid spun slowly, facing first deep space, then the primary, then the planet. The planet had been engulfed in a firestorm; everything which would burn was burning. Certain spots showed the characteristic red and yellow blotches of molten stone. The debris, one of the last artifacts of a civilisation for the second time, spun around to face the stars and watch the aeons go by, under the long-lived star’s sullen gaze.