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An Alien Cache is Discovered

An Alien Cache is Discovered

‘So, what do you think it is?’ Captain Zaro asked. He was only half listening. Likely it was another cinder cone like the last three moons. Years in college studying the finer points of command, another six months trying to get noticed then finally a ship of his own – directing it between the stars, meeting alien species, bartering under triple moons while the night sky is alive with meteorites. Then the reality hit home; go to the backend of nowhere and do repeated scans of dusty little moons around a dull red sun barely indistinguishable from the background starfield hoping to find a few mu’s of collidium, jacium or possibly some stone that would make nice facias on some planet bound bureaucrat’s office. That was two years ago and other than three visits for maintenance in an especially dull outpost Zaro and remaining crew had done little else.

‘… Sir? I said they seem to be artificial.’ Zaro was across the deck in a single stride. One of the benefits of low spin gravity.

He double checked readings as on each maintenance visit anyone that had shown enough promise and competency to get promoted to veteran status was replaced with someone fresh from training. The data however was unmistakable; there was a small cluster of cinder cones on this asteroid that had high levels of complex compounds according to the spectral analysis. Had this been a larger world, they would easily have been overlooked. In fact, there was a much larger featureless ball sunwards that also had quite a lot of dust sectors but nothing in the way of useful minerals. Might be worth double checking if this proved interesting.

As the ship was orbiting only a few kilometres above the asteroid and relying on attitude and manoeuvring thrusters due to the lack of gravity, it didn’t take long to put down. Even so, Zaro and two rookies were suited and waiting in the rotating airlock by the time the grapples engaged with planetary surface.

The small mounds were little more than a dozen metres in height with a typical ascent angle of around thirty degrees. Scaling up the cinder cones proved straightforward enough. Three billion years of cold had effectively welded all but the upper few centimetres of regolith to a firm surface and the micro-gravity made for easy ascent. Dust from each step or jump was quickly left behind, following lazy parabolic trajectories and leaving the boot prints of the team visible for next few hundred thousand years.

The top of the caldera scaled was found to be only a couple of metres in diameter and thick rime of dusty ice lined the inside. This would have once spewed cryo-gases such as nitrogen and possibly oxygen along with carbon dioxide powder and fine dust particles. If sufficiently cold, the oxygen may well have welled up in liquid form, spewing over the top as mud and blanketed the surrounding terrain in a thick layer of dissipating fog. Or something like that. Zaro was always a bit vague over the actual temperature states. Maybe it would have been liquid nitrogen and oxygen clouds. Jack would have known, till some bastard back in the heart of the Empire saw fit to drag him off last maintenance due to his exemplary record.

He dropped a glow globe down the tube. It descended lazily, illuminating ice and silica scintillations while pushing data back up to his heads-up display. Nothing particularly unusual until it got to a dozen or so metres below mean surface level; then things got interesting. As it hit what was presumably a natural bend it popped a relay to maintain signal and carried on though the rock and ice walls had been replaced by something that appeared pearlescent. Organic? Then the feed cut out.

‘Imhez, get down there,’ commanded Zak. Imhez turned from peering into the hole to the captain.
‘Not a chance, I’ve seen what happens. I ain’t going down there. I’ll get another globe.’

Wisdom prevailed though Zak was annoyed that his authority was challenged. Maybe he will file a recommendation for Imhez and promote him off the ship on the next maintenance. In the meantime, while awaiting his return with the replacement globe, Zak had Beili take samples of the material around the cone and determine minerology. This proved as dull as expected until Beili stepped into a crack and his boot came out with flakes of pearlescent material. As Zak jumped down the side of the cone to join the rookie the ground started to crumple and when Zak touched down the terrain had changed sufficiently to send him tumbling in slow motion down the rest of the slope. As he lazily spun he caught a glimpse of gas erupting from the ground where he last saw Beili. Screams first of panic then agony erupted across the coms before the signal started to glitch and within a few seconds dropped out completely. Rock and the shattered remains of Beili were launched up into the black, carried by the dissipating gas.

Liquid bubbled in the newly formed hole, boiling and forming thick mist, spreading out and quickly rolling up the sides of the cone and sweeping over the captain. The sudden increase in pressure sent his suit into critical as it detected rapid temperature drop across the membrane. Emergency response kicked in, inflating the suit to near spherical shape with a gas injection to act as a pressure barrier between the cryo-liquid exterior. This also had the effect of popping him to the surface and washing him downhill.
Within seconds it was over. Zak, his suit now deflating was more than a hundred metres away from the slowly crumbling cone. The liquid had all but boiled off and dust was slowly returning to the ground. His coms were rebooting and pins and needles were throbbing in his fingers and toes. His face shield was covered in a thick layer of frozen icy mud that the visor wipers was having difficulty removing. It settled for partial success and Zak slowly returned to his feet, holding his head an odd angle in order to get a half decent view of his surroundings.

Eventually his coms kicked back in, hallway through what was likely a running monologue from Imhez, both excited and petrified, with a repeating refrain that Beili vanished.

He staggered over to where Imhez had stopped on the far side of a large crack in the ground extending from the now inverted remains of the cinder cone. Looking down revealed the pearlescent lining of a roughly cylindrical cave maybe a two kilometres metres deep and approximately sixty in diameter though occasionally drawing in not unlike a stack of bubbles.

‘What is it?’ asked Imhez.
‘No idea. Mine shaft?’
Suspended on translucent threads extending inwards from each of the narrow section at the top of the bubbles was a small blob maybe a couple of metres in diameter.
‘You think those things made this?’
‘Yup,’ replied Zack.
‘Beats me. You drop that globe you are holding and let’s see if we can find out what the hell they are.’

A few days later, having finished the accident report, Zack and Imhez looked at the fifteen blobs, now neatly stacked in the cargo bay. They still had no idea what they were for, but testing had discovered that they could convert a mass of rock into base elements, excavating a volume equal to a standard cave. Unfortunately, when their connectors to the walls were severed the pearlescent sphere quickly decayed and the entire cave became unstable and collapsed in on itself within a matter of hours. There were still a few of the blobs buried deep under unstable rock and ice and no doubt there they will stay forever.

Zack finished the report stating that the true purpose of the blobs is unlikely to ever be known and when they tested, they couldn’t find a way to keep the blob from shrivelling up into little more than a husk and risking the rest was considered a waste. On the plus side the hole created was stable unlike the ones found initially. With suitable drilling equipment, power and facilities they could be used to create a series of cave extensions to a base.

Time to check out that dust world. There may be more cinder cones and more of those strange artefacts below.

Pearl Cave Module
A free special action can be used by a base in a land sector to exhaust Pearl Cave Modules in order to create a quantity of cave complexes equal to 10 times the Cave Modules exhausted.

GTT step forward to control protection and peace in the Stellar Empire.

With the retirement of Jack Johns and various lower-level IMP officers from public life, the Imperial Services were left on the verge of being unable to fill their role as protectors of the Stellar Empire. Due to the serious nature the Imperial Services found itself in, the Emperor recently travelled to GTT HQ to attend a board meeting with the directors of the GTT.

With Galactic Trade and Transport being one of the few remaining loyal Imperial Chartered affiliations, who also supply well over half of the war material to the Imperial Services, the Emperor sought the position of the GTT with regard to the Imperial Services becoming overburdened with bureaucracy and lacking effective leadership. Effectively the Imperial Services were at the point of collapse. A position highlighted when an opportunistic supposed ally subverted four Imperial Outposts in the Inner Empire, thinking their asset grabbing would go unnoticed.
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  Star Date: 221.30.5

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A Forlorn Hope

The seat of Dewiek Government has fallen. What began as a small group of Architect ships picking up retreating DEN forces, amalgamated into a much larger force. The bombardment fleet comprised dozens of Adult ARC ships plus several Planet Killers. The force made short work of the impressive fortifications of the planetary orbit of Newstart. Multiple heavily armoured and maximised deflector shield platforms crumbled. They did so only after releasing their volleys of antimatter and nova weapon batteries. Any DEN warships that remained from earlier encounters also stood the line. But within the week, the last defence was gone.

Bombardment of Wolf Lair starbase proceeded without further resistance from the Dewiek. ARC Plasmas ripped through starbase shields. They demolished tens of thousands of factories and research facilities. The ARC demolished the huge military recruitment and training facilities on the planet. Over half a million trained troops evacuated from deep bunkers, leaving a token ground defence.

The ARC were not satisfied to burn the facilities and murder the workers. They deployed repeated salvos of their Virus Bombs on the wider population. Reports began to arrive of civilians of the world regressing. Leaving settlements and returning to nature. Much as the Dewiek found themselves some decades ago when they started to recover from the First Great ARC-DEN War. This time there was no High Lord Magnus willing to obliterate the world to save a remnant of the people. Newstart was already lost.

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Newstart is lost

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  Star Date: 221.27.2

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End Game Lost

A short-lived period of peace followed the Dewiek Elder Nation’s historic and Saga-worthy defence against the Architect Planet Killers. A handful of the more typically encountered ARC ships were spotted picking off DEN support ships in Forlorn Hope before more than forty of them appeared back in End Game.

While the ARC “Adult” class ships, as the DEN had previously classified them, were eight times smaller than the “Planet Killers”, they were still as big as the largest ships any other species has managed to produce. Including the otherwise technologically advanced Dewiek.

Forty-four of these Plasma armed organic vessels smashed through the DEN forces left circling the orbit of Beacon, End Game. The mass of ARC weapons bombarded the DEN Shipyards at Ragnorak with their superheated ionized gas, razing the entire outpost to the ground.

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ARC Plasma weapons devastate End Game

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  Star Date: 221.22.5

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Assault on End Game

The ancient Architects have declared war on the Dewiek Elder Nation. The first sign of the conflict was subspace transmissions in a remote system in the Pocket Periphery. This followed reports that the ancient Ragnarok shipyards on Beacon were malfunctioning. In response, the Wolf Mother sent urgent orders to several Dewiek scout ships to patrol the End Game system.

The Konungr Smidamadr was the first to encounter the gigantic, “Planet Killer” class ARC ships. Measuring in at thirty-two hundred heavy hulls and armed with a hundred ARC plasma weapons, the ship was more like a mobile armed platform. It is certainly the largest vessel ever recorded. The scout ship was vaporised instantly.

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ARC Planet Killer dwarves largest DEN warships

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  Star Date: 221.11.4

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Caste Apart

The Flagritz Republic is (very nearly) no more. In its place, a single Hexamon and Flagritz power has arisen. The new Collective has absorbed much of the Flagritz holdings with only a handful of Clique-caste Flagritz systems choosing instead to align with the other Elder species, the Dewiek.

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Flagritz and Hexamon Hybrids - A hope for the Future?

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  Star Date: 221.3.3

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Meklan scout ships continue to be seen around the Orion Spur periphery. These cyborg creatures in service of hidden ancient masters appear to be terrorising the Wimble Nation in particular. Despite public lamentations against the hardship of defending themselves, the Wimble leadership have not yet responded to our request for comment.

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Artist's impression of a Meklanised Wimble

However, Xavier Fox, CEO of Galactic Transport and Trade, did give us the following statement:

“We have engaged several Meklan ships, although currently the source has not been identified. GTT Directors have been running patrols and have engaged and destroyed numerous ships that have attacked outlying outposts belonging to different affiliations. The pattern of ships encountered leads us to believe there is a central source, but until that is found we would suggest any affiliation with assets in the area provide adequate defences.”

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Doomsday On Pause

At the site of the Thete anomaly, the Dewiek Nation has sent media sensation Sharon Aleman to the scene. Aleman, whose cybernetic enhancements allow her to directly interface with her ship’s sensor array, led her hardened crew into a dive of the outermost “edge” of the anomaly. After spending several days collecting and analysing data (mere minutes to the rest of us outside the anomaly), Aleman reported her shocking discoveries.

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  Star Date: 220.50.5

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Veil Lifted on Flagritz Home Space

As the Hellcadium ISR field continues to fluctuate, one of the newly exposed systems is Junista inside the previously hidden and inaccessible home periphery of the Flagritz Republic.

Over the past few weeks Flagritz Republic patrols and platforms have dealt with a number of scout ships from the Human Empire as the IMP wasted no time in exploiting this opportunity to poke around in their old enemy’s backyard. It is understood that at least one of these unarmed scouts was destroyed with no one willing to estimate how many more might be buzzing around.

Coincidentally, suspected IMP lackey, SSL TOAD, has also been overheard showing an obsessive interest in the Flagritz periphery. However, we have received no reports of this being anything other than his usual drug-fueled, barely decipherable mutterings at this stage.

Either way, this sudden, uninvited interest in the Flagritz Periphery has left the FLZ leadership muttering darkly about appropriate measures being taken. Defensive fleets and supporting structures are being deployed in the Junista system and beyond in expectation of further uninvited guests.

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When You stare into the Flagritz Periphery...

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Thete's Timey-Wimey Tease

Investigation into the Thete anomaly continued in the Dewiek Pocket Periphery. The anomaly was scanned from all angles by a number of the Dewiek Nation’s best sensor ships and officers. The data, collected over several weeks, was sent to one of the DEN’s most advanced scientific laboratories for analysis.

What they found will shock you!

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  Star Date: 220.45.1

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Perfidion Reached

Long speculated by theoretical Stellar Cartographers, Perfidion Reach finally opened in the last few weeks. Immediately, the Detinus Republic boldly staked a claim on the first accessible system, Hellcadium. Only time will tell the true value of this strategic move but their much-taunted bureaucracy may have finally proved its worth.

Early reports from scans of the system reveal a wildly fluctuating ISR field. Rumours suggest that at least one ship was destroyed as it was forced into an asteroid belt chasing a stable jump field attempting to exit the system. Casual travellers are warned away from the system at this time for their own safety. Leave it to skilled explorers and navigation officers.

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Mathematical model of Hellcadium ISR Field.

We spoke to Captain Zakiyah Ummahi via subspace link. Zakiyah led the first DEN expedition into the Perfidion Reach. "Spirits remain high but this is largely down to the extended R&R we were all forced to take immediately prior to jumping into this hole. Initial scouting reports show at least one planet with plenty of forests and grasslands which might help if we're going to be stuck here for Folkvar knows how long waiting for this damned ISR field to stabilise."

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Valhalla Stargate Reopens

Dewiek engineers and scientists have finally managed to re-enable Stargate Valgrind this week and the protective Exclusion Zone is to be lifted. If DEN investigators discovered who caused the gate to malfunction, or why, they were not willing to share it with us. Military sources, however, have announced a project to provide a significant boost to the already formidable defence platform in the stargate’s orbit.

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*** Inter Galactic News ***

Empire - DEN action grinds to a halt

After months of tension relations between the Empire and the Dewiek Nation, which rose to several large scale fleet actions ending in the DEN losing over 60 Direwolf warships in Solo, things appear to have moved from antagonistic to unfriendly. With the Solo system being a particular issue an agreement has been reached between the Wolf Mother of the DEN and Xavier Fox of the GTT. Since this things have become very quiet, not just because the shooting has stopped, but also because my reporters have been on their summer holidays.
News For Discerning Naplians!
---- Special Galactic Edition ----

(The Host sits at his desk as the studio lights dim, and a single spotlight bathes him in light. He looks straight into the camera and begins to speak: )

Host: Naambta!
Good Greetings, and welcome to the show.

This is News for Discerning Naplians, and i’m sure you are all showing much impatience to see this week’s Panel Discussion. We will be discussing religion with the Lady Ghadir of the Temple of Ya Zoon, renowned neo-naplian spiritualist Chairman TonTon, and a very special guest from our imperial neighbours, Bishop Samantha Porteus of the Brotherhood. But before we get to that...

(Looks demonstratively at his digital wrist watch. )

... it is time for a word from our sponsor.

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I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).