Fig. 1: Exploring the universe, BFFs 4EVA.
But the good times couldn't last. The price of purple spice collapsed. Ecological disasters multiplied. One of our allies, the Wimpledon Empire, picked a fight behind our back with some folks the next star cluster over, and then when the Naga refused to start a war for them they left the alliance in a huff. The Naga's other allies started getting reluctant to offer ships to our starfleet since so many of the previous vessels had been, uh, accidentally lost in a series of interstellar traffic accidents, as far as they know anyway. And then of course there were the Grox.
Bad enough having these space jerkwads hovering over our heads sending random probes to attack friendly planets, but when we tried to slip past them to explore the center of the galaxy they declared war, and at that point it looked bad for the Alliance of Friendliness and Smiles. The Grox have about a billion star systems in the center of the galaxy, so defeating them is not an option, and their brutal warfleets were perfectly capable of crushing all opposition, as the Naga discovered when their oldest colony was utterly wiped out and cities blasted into atoms on their most important planets. Everything was going off the rails. What could be done?
There was only one option. Rumor had it that at the center of the galaxy was the secret behind the Grox. Would it be some way of defeating them? It was a long shot, but there was no alternative. With regrets, the allied spacecraft were dismissed -- this was a mission the Tranquility and Happiness would have to take on alone. After building turret defenses on every colony to the extent possible, the ship was loaded up with antimatter missiles and colony packages and it set course for the black hole. Then it had to turn right around because some damn pirate raid or other was happening. Then it went to the black hole again. Next stop: the galactic core.
The plan was simple. While the Grox occupy most planets in the Core, there are a few unoccupied systems. Move at top speed towards the Core. Locate unoccupied systems. Drop colonies to build firebases where the Tranquility and Happiness could repair and recharge itself. That way, build a supply route straight to the center.
Fig. 2: The battle plan. Circled star systems are friendly. All the rest are not.
The plan went well. While often a horde of Grox ships would pursue the Tranquility and Happiness to planetfall, and there were a few close calls, once in the atmosphere the antimatter missiles would make short work of the attackers and the colony could then be installed. In this fashion Firebases Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon were constructed. Then, uh, Eta and Theta because I couldn't remember the Greek alphabet after that.
Fig. 3: Firebase Alpha.
The only sad part was hearing the desperate cries for help from home as the Grox renewed their assault. Heartbreakingly, this time their target was Naga Star, homeworld of the Naga. We wanted to turn back, but it would be impossible to get back through enemy territory in time. The plea for help fell silent. What had we done? We'd sacrificed our dear homeworld for the sake of... what? What would we find at the core? Finally Firebase Omega was constructed, a few parsecs from the core, and the next step would be the end of the quest. Tranquility and Happiness flew to the very core of the galaxy itself, and...
Well, you're not expecting me to spoil it, are you?
At the end of it all, bewildered and shaking our heads (or whatever it is we have), the Tranquility and Happiness made its way back down the firebase chain to the black hole and headed for home... or what was left of it. The Grox were undefeated. We'd given up our home in return for something we still didn't quite understand. What was the point in going on any further? Finally, Naga Star appeared in the forward screens...
Fig. 4: Home?!!
Beautiful Naga Star! Completely undamaged and pristine! Its wide orange skies! Its grand cities! Its beautiful wide rolling red oceans, filled with wonderful nutritious algae blooms! The great big ol' volcano belching carbon monoxide and sulfur into the atmosphere! That... giant rock shaped like a skull! Somehow the defense systems we installed had worked, and our homeworld survived!
What's next for the Naga? Well, there's still a few things to play with. While the center of the galaxy is over and done with, they did give us a new quest of sorts. And there's still technology to discover. Primitive species to screw with, er, I mean uplift. It could keep a guy busy for a little while, anyway. In the meantime, one thing I will give away about the trip to the core: It always seemed like it would be nice if we could live on our moon.
Fig. 5: Now we can.