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214
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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.
‘Why?’
‘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.











 
News
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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.
 
******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe from our new home in the Heartland,

And so with the news from the last few weeks,
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***
  • DEN assault FEL base and get wiped out
  • CIA Trade fleet caught and destroyed by the DEN
  • Krell denounce worship of the True One

  •  
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Huge fleet skirmish at the London/Crossley wormhole

    A large fleet of over 700 DEN warships responded to the EMP action in Crossley, where a 4000 hull DEN platform was destroyed. Reports show the DEN ships caught a group of CIA ships napping and inflicted significant losses on the humans. IMP and GTT fleets moved to assist the CIA, matching DEN fleet numbers, but the arrival of over 1200 Hexamon ships seems to have tipped the battle in favour of the DEN-HEX alliance.

    The combined DEN-HEX force pushed through the wormhole into the Heartland area of human space and retaliated, attacking several CIA platforms in response. The outnumbered Empire fleets abandoned the area and fled, they are currently waiting for the larger alien force to make their next move from their hiding places.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Admiral Lord Simms killed after a long and distinguished service to the Empire.

    The Imperial Services have intercepted and serious damaged several DEN ships on the way to the Empire’s home systems. Unfortunately during the action Admiral Lord Simms was injured and reports from the Viceroy indicate he has passed away, fighting the enemies of the Empire like any true Imperial Officer.

    The Viceroy has stated that the officers and crew of the DEN ships have been captured and are now awaiting trial at a secret IMP base.

    DEN continue to strike at the Empire

    Reports are coming in of multiple engagements between the Empire and the Dewiek Elder Nation over the last week. With several battles taking out Empire ships in the Heartland of the CIA.

    AFT turn to piracy

    The Association of Free Traders have, after a long history of neutrality, turned to piracy this week. AFT Drake boarded an IND ship in the Halo periphery, killing several of the crew in the process.
    Independent trader Jarlebanke Langhofdi immediately took to the public communication channel demanding an answer to why supposedly peaceful traders had killed his crew and taken his ship.

    The AFT remain silent over the attack.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Combat Special Edition

    Since the DEN started shooting at those lovable FEL fluffballs things have certainly been heating up. So we through it would be prudent to bring you, gentle beings of the peripheries, a special edition in order to keep you updated with all the latest action in regards to who the DEN are shooting and who is shooting them.

    Felini strike back at Dewiek

    Reports have come in of the FEL striking back at the DEN in the Kallisan system. A huge FEL force supported by the IMP and CIA assaulted DEN positions taking both the platform and base called Lucien. There was much rejoicing in the FEL camp as the Felini proved they were not such lovable fluffballs after all!

    GTT get sucked into the war

    A passing fleet of GTT warships got caught in the fighting and this saw the GTT enter the war. When asked about this CEO Fox pointed out they are not warships at all, they are trade defence ships. So how they came to be in the DEN system of Kallisan is a mystery to us. But the GTT CEO was clear that they only engaged using support and defend orders to protect allies. Needless to say, the CEO commented “We found ourselves on the Dewiek Nation’s enemy lists pretty soon after.”

    Dewiek Nation attacks GTT positions in Orion Spur, breaking DOM system rules

    A fleet of DEN warships has engaged and destroyed a significant number of GTT cargo ships and escorts in the DOM system Monument. The GTT immediately took to the public channels to ask why the DOM were not doing something. In reply the DOM issued a statement to stop, which the DEN ignored.

    The DEN newssheet "The HOWL" published a completely unbiased review of the attack shortly after.

    DOM make a choice

    After the above incident and then further raiding by the DEN, taking out a few GTT cargo ships in the DOM system of Coptuv, the DOM seemed to have been faced with a choice of stopping drinking their tea and doing something or just hoping it would go away. Instead they seem to have decided to abandon the whole idea of being an active affiliation and we have since folded. The lengths some people will go to not to have their elevenses disturbed is truly staggering. We asked the DOM for a statement on their new system rules to share with our readers but have received no replies.

    DOM positions share out

    Just as we were going to press news has come in of various DOM assets being given to other affiliations or sold. Hopefully we will have more on this story in the next issue of your favorite factual newsheet. Yes, that's us at the SSS.

    *** Affiliations ***


    AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
    CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
    DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
    DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
    DEN Dewiek Elder Nation (67) - Urd
    DOM Dominion (57) – we believe the DOM are now inactive
    FCN Falconian Republic (70) - Bacran
    FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Juris
    FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
    FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
    GRC Gracians (13) - HG1
    GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
    GCE Garcia Enterprises (4) - Neil
    HEX Hexamon (23) - Ando
    IMP Imperial Services (51) - Jack Jones
    KRL Krell (30) - Namica
    KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Kal Torak
    KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
    MZC Mizuchi Combine (86) - Mizuchi
    MOH Mohache (73) - Listens
    MIC Mohache Independent Commune (76) - Sleeps with Dragons
    NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
    RIP Regularly Involved in Piracy - Githyanki
    RRH Roy Robert Holdings (39) - Roy Roberts
    SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
    USN Ulian Stellar Nation (34) - Oeipus Prime
    WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

    * Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
    ** Affiliation has no leader but this is the only known contact

    NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS

    Inactive: ANT, BHD, COD, HVE, IDC, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG

    Deceased: CAL

    *** Submission ***

    By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    New pirate threat rocks Corward Arm.

    Several large pirate ships have been spotted in outer rings of Corward systems. Reports forwarded to us at the SSS allow us to exclusively tell readers that traders should keep their wits about them when moving through these areas.

    No existing pirate menace has yet claimed ownership.

    In a possibly unrelated event one of the FET cartel members claimed nothing was happening in the outer ring of Coptov shortly afterwards. But it could be that they are still trying to catch Empire backed pirates and have nothing to do with the new sightings.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****


    DEN continue to shoot innocents

    The Dewiek have made themselves busy shooting at the peaceful and innocent traders of the SSL. Leader of Solar Spices and Liquors Mr TOAD has been vocal pointing out that the Beast-DEN are being totally unfair. News of a go-fund-me appeal are yet to surface though.

    This office is sure that it must have provided the DEN light relief after picking on the equally defenceless Felini. Word is that the DEN faced such an uphill struggle in these recent actions they had to take up Felini inter-breeding to provide some entertainment as the battle reports were rather boring.
     

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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.

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