Peg crosses her legs and takes a deep breath, settling into a storytelling rhythm. "This story is true: about two and a half thousand years ago, when all of humanity lived on less than a dozen worlds, they were attacked by the Thurisaz, who I mentioned earlier, the aliens who created changelings. The war was long and terrible and I'm going to not even try to do it justice, because it's not actually the one I meant, but you need to know about it because that's when the first synths were developed. Creating new ones was banned after the war ended, which practically speaking meant those with the knowledge and the tech to do it went where the government couldn't or didn't care to reach, and those places were a lot less common then than they are now.
"Skipping ahead to around ninety years ago, we've figured out how to work the Stygian Gates and gotten better at terraforming and spread out across most of the galaxy when colonies start going dark. Once survivors are able to report back, they tell stories of telepathic aliens, invisible to scanners and targeting systems, with ships and weapons unfathomably more advanced than ours, leading... our own troops. They'd been infected with the Red Plague, which we thought was stamped out even before the Thurisaz war, and it had changed them. Humans die yet keep moving, animated by the will of the Silent Legion. Anyone supernatural-" she swallows, "-turns on their friends and allies, with unquenchable rage and alien cunning and every gift or talent they possess. And it spreads, even as far as the Core, because it has a long incubation period so refugees bring it with them all unknowing as they flee.
"The Silent hit Sector 1 first, and hardest: many are the worlds with no one left to mourn the dead. Every force in the area scrambles to hold them back- the Marines, the Expeditionary Force, mercenaries, even rival corps' security who days before were at each other's throats. But they're not prepared for a full-scale war, not with this enemy, and paranoia spreads as swiftly and silently as the plague itself. So as they're pushed back, slowly but steadily, the Protectorate ramps up to a full war footing as fast as it possibly can, and never mind the cost to get there. They commandeer ships and build shipyards, they start conscripting- Ida here was already under martial law at the time, 's why the plague didn't hit us as hard, but that's a different story..." Peg closes her eyes briefly and takes a breath. "And they call back the corps with Synth tech from the fringes of inhabited space, and they set them up with bright new labs, to churn out pilots for the ships and hands for the shipyards and bodies to replace the conscripts and all the soldiers they could want.
"And it's enough. After twenty-six years, it's enough. Don't believe anyone who tells you they're gone for good, not for a second, but no one's seen a trace of the Silent since the invasion of Dumah in '57."