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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 1:47 pm 
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Location: MLC, Lyran Alliance.
"Where exactly are we again?"

Captain Laperouse of ARS Astrolabe sighed at the oft-repeated question from his young deck officer. Of course, the ignorance wasn't his fault; this was Lieutenant Yoder's first deployment as a Pioneer, and as an Omniss refugee from the Raven Alliance, he was still relatively new to space travel and high technology. Though to his credit, the Captain silently noted, the practical Omniss had been learning fast.

"Good question," the Captain replied with only a slight hint of the sarcasm he felt. He gestured to the navigation display as the ship burned along at 1 G. "You know we call this region the Eastern Dark." He pointed to the western edge of the map. "Terra is several hundred light years that way. That tagged system there in the middle left is Jardin, and the one southwest of that is Calais, the closest systems in the Astral Republic. Home is about three long jumps away."

"Is that all? It seems like we've been out here a lot longer than that." The Lieutenant paused as an idea hit him. "But then, we've not been going in a straight line; just system hopping."

The Captain smiled. "Time passes differently on deployment, and especially so out here." He pointed to the eastern side of the map; it was frighteningly empty, with only a few named landmark systems and no major worlds. "Very few humans have ever set foot out here east of the Republic, so far as we know. Missions like ours come out here to check up on previous finds, and add to our knowledge as we roam outward."

"What previous finds?"

The Captain tsked. "You have not done your mission homework, have you?"

The young Omniss looked ashamed. "No sir. Not all of it."

The Captain sighed. "Very well." He began pointing out tagged systems. "These green systems are habitable. We have done pre-colonial surveys there, preparing for expansion of the Republic."

"What about that one with the red circle? Romero? It's tagged as habitable..."

"Technically habitable," the Captain interrupted, "but off limits due to biohazard. Full quarantine, deadly force authorized. Our navy uses it as a bombardment range. Partly to get some use from it, partly in hope that someday, the biohazard will be eliminated."

"Oh." The Lieutenant's attitude darkened. "Now I remember. The zombie world."

"Some call it that. We will make a system hop there later; recharge and data recording only, no landing. You will get the full story then."

The Lieutenant nodded. "The white circled worlds have active missions, correct?"

"Yes. And you might note the yellow circles for controlled access." The Captain pointed out one system. "Ys is, or was, a pre-Republic colony from Terra that died out before the Reunification War. The ruins date at least to the early Age of War, perhaps even the First Exodus. The Clan Homeworlds are farther from Terra, but Ys definitely pushes the boundaries of humanity in this direction."

"Ys is an odd name, isn't it?"

"We do not know the original name; Ys is the name we gave it. A Breton name from an ancient Terran legend about a lost city, so I am told. It seems fitting. But tell me," the Captain said as he pulled something from a pocket, "what do you think of this?"

The Lieutenant slowly turned over the small object which the Captain had carefully handed him. It was heavy and shiny, almost golden in color, and shaped like an eight-sided die. The edges were precisely cut and rounded and the faces smooth, save for the different rune-like symbols etched crisply into each face.

"Pyrite?" The Lieutenant said as he held it up to the light. "It looks like someone polished an iron pyrite crystal, but I don't recognize the symbols."

"Correct on the geology. As for the symbols, nobody knows." The Lieutenant looked hard at the Captain as he took the object back and continued. "I found that two missions ago on another world we will be visiting. One of many odd things there. But first," he pointed to the main screen as he climbed into his command chair, "we have something odd here." He sounded the maneuvering alarm and keyed the announcing circuit. "All hands, this is the Captain. Taking station, stand by for zero G."

The Lieutenant jumped into his own chair and buckled in along with the bridge crew. "Taking station?" He looked at the emptiness on the view screen, where just a few distant stars twinkled. "Taking station on what?"

"The Eye," answered the helmsman. "Standard safe point, Captain?"

"Aye."

"The Eye?" Lieutenant Yoder repeated. "What is..."

The ship slowed and pivoted, and with the change in position, the closest star on screen suddenly smeared into a lopsided puddle of light, fading from blue on one side to red on the other.

"Oh my God."

It was a gravity lens, the Lieutenant realized. Light shifted by the Doppler effect and distorted by massive gravity. A common sight in interstellar astronomy, except that it was RIGHT THERE, relatively speaking, at a distance measured in AU's instead of light years. A swirl of rainbow fire around...NOTHING. A dark pupil in a glowing eye that seemed to draw his gaze into it, even at this distance.

"A black hole!" The Lieutenant exclaimed.

"Correct," the Captain said calmly. "Only eight solar masses, a relative baby. Harmless at this calculated safe point; we will jump from here shortly. The Eye is inactive now, since there is nothing left nearby to feed it. But we still keep our distance and stay clear of the poles to avoid jets." The Captain smiled. "We stop here occasionally to collect scientific data, which has proven useful in gravity and jump related research. We Pioneers are among the very few humans to have observed a black hole directly."

"How did you find it?"

"Serendipity. Today's stars are not the first generation of the Widow's Tears, so it seemed reasonable to watch for remnants of their ancestors. Eventually, we found the Eye. Since it is inactive and isolated, it is practically invisible; we found it by catching it lensing a star, as you see it now. Most likely, the Eye was born as a massive star in the Widow's Veil, whose death then played a role in the birth of the stars we inhabit today."

"Amazing."

The Captain grinned. "We are just getting started, Lieutenant." He looked first at the science officer busily recording data, and then to the helmsman. "Prepare the ship for a jump to Zeno."

The Lieutenant perked and looked away from the Eye to the Captain. "Zeno?"

The Captain's grin didn't fade. "The system where I found this," he said as he held up the carved pyrite. "Welcome to the Eastern Dark, Lieutenant. Where we Pioneers live up to our name."

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Be careful what you wish for. I might let you have it. :evil:


Last edited by Shades of Grey on Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:47 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 7:33 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10690
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Okay I am hooked

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Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

http://karagin12.livejournal.com/

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:16 am 
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Antisocial General
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Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2003 8:35 am
Posts: 7837
Location: MLC, Lyran Alliance.
Thanks. Since the Republic itself is basically the border of the eastern Deep Periphery, very few humans have ever set foot in the space beyond it. That's the Eastern Dark. I want to work up some stories which delve into the aspect of exploration and discovery of what's out there. Amazing things, terrifying things, mysterious things, and some or all of the above at once...

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Be careful what you wish for. I might let you have it. :evil:


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:13 am 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:00 pm
Posts: 1926
Location: At the base of America's Mountain
A good start. Can't wait for more.

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I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. - Confucius
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 2:13 am 
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Loki
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Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
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Location: Minnesnowta
I like it.

I shall await more. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:38 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1782
Great read. I hope to see more soon.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 5:52 pm 
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Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
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Location: Huber Heights, OH
I'm looking forward to more.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:19 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2003 8:35 am
Posts: 7837
Location: MLC, Lyran Alliance.
"So this is Zeno," Lieutenant Yoder said as he looked about. "Doesn't seem very different." He zipped his jacket against the breeze. "Feels like fall back home."

"It is autumn here, actually." Captain Laperouse replied. "You notice the trees changing color too. We constantly find parallels and similarities between worlds, some so much that we cannot really call them alien. It really makes one wonder about the panspermia theory, sometimes."

The two men were standing in a rolling field of short scrubby grass marked by patches of light woods. Their Breton shuttle, with its boxy body and wide wings like a spacegoing cargo plane, was the only "alien" thing in sight. Otherwise, their landing site could have been a typical dryland plain on any of ten thousand worlds, including Terra. The sun overhead was slightly cooler and more orange than Sol, but not enough to notice unless it was pointed out, which the Captain did as it was lowering toward the horizon.

"We still have a few hours of daylight," the Captain said. "That is enough for a useful tour for you, then we will be off." He paused darkly and crossed himself. "I would rather not spend the night here."

"Why?" It was the first time Yoder had seen the Captain look so concerned.

"This." The Captain held up the strange object he had showed Yoder before, the polished pyrite crystal with its weirdly carved runes. "Come, I will show you where I found it." He led Yoder into the nearest patch of woods. It turned out to be an oasis of sorts; a spring-fed pond welled up from the dry plain, its water feeding the island of trees in the grassy sea. The Captain led Yoder around the pond to a clearing in the lee of a low hill, which was marked as an archaeological site. They ducked the boundary ropes to enter, and the Captain stopped. "Here," he said as he pointed to a numbered stake in the ground. "That is where I dug it up."

Yoder looked at the spot, and looked around with the eyes of a seasoned outdoorsman. The Omniss was sometimes out of his depth in space, but not in the woods. "Access to water, shelter from the weather. A natural camping site."

"Yes. In fact..." The Captain took two steps to another stake, stuck his entrenching tool in the ground, and twisted it to expose the soil beneath. "...there is a fire pit right here." The layers of black charcoal and ash were unmistakable. "And it was used for a good while." He patted the dirt back down to re-cover and preserve the site, and nodded at other stakes nearby. "We also found shelters made from local materials over against the hill, and there was evidence of past digging into the hillside. That area was filled up, though, and we have not excavated it yet."

The two men paused a moment, considering the silent remnants amid which they stood. Remnants of what? After several seconds, Yoder looked at the Captain, "You know, I noticed the name you gave this world. Zeno. Not the philosopher; you were word playing on Xeno, as in alien."

The Captain smiled. "Yes, my sense of humor." Then he gestured to the hill. "What else could it be? We have clear signs of habitation, similar to primitive human habitation. Stratigraphy is a work in progress here, but even a fair guess still makes this site at least centuries old, if not millennia. Humans as we know them probably had not left Terra's vicinity yet when this site was inhabited." He paused. "And then of course there is this." He pulled out the shiny object again, contemplating it with a grimness that Yoder could not help noticing.

"You're looking at that like it's a skull or something," Yoder said. "You know more than you're telling, don't you?"

"No. I do not like to make statements without facts. But I do have some guesses."

"Which are?"

The Captain considered his words carefully. "I found this object at the surface, exposed by erosion; that was what tipped us to the site in the first place. Obviously, to be so near the surface, it must date to the end period of this site. Or perhaps after; there is room for error in my theory. But we have found no tools here capable of carving this, and nothing else here that matches it in style or technical level."

"So it came from elsewhere?"

"That is part of my guess."

"And the rest is that whoever made that, was not the same as whoever lived here. And the one may have ended the other."

The Captain smiled. "You are getting to know me too well."

The Omniss smiled back. "Show me one end of a chain, and I can usually follow the rest of the links myself."

"That ability will serve you well in the Pioneers." The Captain glanced at the lowering sun and sighed. "Time to get out of here."

"Why?" Yoder asked. "You've been grim this whole stop. Are you afraid of something?"

"Afraid, no. Abundantly cautious, yes."

Yoder grinned at the word play. "Abundantly cautious about what?"

The Captain looked Yoder square in the eyes. "Call me crazy," he said flatly. "But whenver I look at this," he held up the gleaming octahedron, "I get the oddest feeling that whoever made this, is still out here somewhere." He put the object away, then turned decisively toward the shuttle. "Let us be off."

Yoder looked at the Captain's back as he departed, and hesitated a moment to look around as the shadows deepened. "It looks so familiar," he muttered to himself. "But when you start digging for the details, you realize it's not familiar at all." A CRACK startled him, and he spun to point his pistol at a furry squirrel like creature chewing a stick. He smiled sheepishly at that, and nodded to himself as he walked after the Captain. "C'est la."

_________________
Be careful what you wish for. I might let you have it. :evil:


Last edited by Shades of Grey on Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:34 am 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10690
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Can I get passage on this ship?

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Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

http://karagin12.livejournal.com/

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:34 pm 
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Team Bansai Special Forces Commando
Team Bansai Special Forces Commando

Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2002 8:00 pm
Posts: 1399
Location: Dunbar, West Virginia
I like, so is this going to be a yearly posting.

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People like you are the reason People like me need medication.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:00 pm 
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Antisocial General
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Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2003 8:35 am
Posts: 7837
Location: MLC, Lyran Alliance.
Round to it posting. I don't control when the ideas come.

Let me introduce the characters here...

Captain Laperouse is a veteran Pioneer officer and professional explorer. As you may notice from his formal speech, he is a true Astral and a native of Normandy. As a commander, he is much like the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant; he speaks with certainty in his own authority, and faith in the expected results of him simply saying so. As a person, he is rational, broadly educated in science and history, and has a dry, somewhat nerdy sense of humor. He faces the unknown with both scientific awe, and a certain spiritual sense about danger which has served him well over his career.

Lieutenant Yoder is an Omniss refugee from the Raven Alliance. The Omniss generally are pacifist and anti-technological, much like the Amish or Mennonites of today, and significant numbers of them have fled the Outworlds Alliance since the arrival of Clan Snow Raven, whose warrior mentality is in obvious opposition to their own ideals. Some of them have fled to the Astral Republic, where they have taken residence on Gevaudan and begun tackling the challenge of helping to rebuild a war-ravaged world. Some of the younger and more adventurous Omniss have become interested in seeing more of the larger universe outside their farms and villages; Yoder is one such individual. He is a practical farmboy and outdoorsman who often feels ignorant and out of place in the high tech realm of the Republic, but he is a fast learner and fully committed to his new life with the Pioneers.

_________________
Be careful what you wish for. I might let you have it. :evil:


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