On the smooth grey planet of Orathvor, the great members of the Seven Starr Alliance and some observers came to an assembly. The SSA was a relatively quiet organisation, that had formed nearly 40 years prior to this conference. The Grox had been subdued, technology and empires had advanced over the past 150 years, some like the Oimonsk, Delpha Coalition of Planets and Spinker had common interests to progress without the shadow of the Grox. Over time, it had grown to new members and began to take on other ideals. The alliance had enemies in it's time; the Vandals, Taxton, the Acid Empire and the Maxolians, but these were not big conflicts. This was the largest conference in the SSA's 40 years...
The Conference Edit
The hall was well guarded, both from vandals and the media. A wave of excitement had crossed from end of the known galaxy to the other with the arrival of a mysterious extra-galactic culture. Leading the conference was Admiral Horlin of the DCP, Representative Zikvemta of the Zagorians, Admiral Nahoto of the Oimonsk, Commander Ferru Gadific`Ner of the Hessletife, Koluap warrior of the Spinker, Pondsisini of the Pondsisosa, and Abce Huli General of the Mewiriueurphffiiiiiiiii. Observing the conference was Ambassador Karndifos of the newly discovered Girdo, and leaders of the Church of Spode, Bearians, Jovar and Gablinus-Avis, <add whoever applicable>, to name a few.
- Admiral Horlin
- "Let us cut to the chase. We all know why we are here, to discuss the arrival of the new extra-galactics. We must discuss what this means for us all."
- Admiral Nahoto
- "Lets put this in the context of history. It does not make sense; our models of Grox expansion predict they should have expanded to the heart of every galaxy in the universe. We can even detect hyper-ansible signatures from nearby neighbours which strongly suggest Grox presence everywhere."
- Ferru Gadific`Ner
- "We have always suspected the model was wrong! For we know of extra-galactics: The Draconid Imperium and the Church of Spode."
- Admiral Horlin
- "Well yes. But Uriel XV and his Plazithian Governors were never explicit in sharing much information, and nor were the Radeon. But at least they turned up. For all we know they have fled, just as most of the Precursors seem to have."
- Ferru Gadific`Ner
- "For all we know Admiral Horlin, the Delpha Coalition has used this Oimonsk speculation to peddle paranoia so you can assert dominance!"
- Admiral Horlin
- "Ahem. Change the topic! We should take immediate opportunity to explore!"
- Admiral Nahoto
- "We must still eschew caution. It is hard to even know if we impress the Draconis, though I get the message we will not be getting much help from them. There are huge signatures in Ardenta alone."
- Admiral Horlin
- "We cannot remain galaxy-bound as the paranoia is being dismantled as we speak. Before long, any spacer mad enough to go it alone, or some less friendly power or corporation is going to reach those galaxies first. That is why we must make this our project. And make it public."
There was applause, even many of the most reserved of dignitaries were excited. Within days of the first conference and its announcement, the targets were laid out: a short but hop cautious to Ardenta, followed by observer outposts in the seemingly quiet galaxy of nearby Tigris. There was a new public announcement:
- Admiral Zikvemta
- "Our new Expedition Committee has unveiled who will be leading the fleet. Captain Fire-Lighter Zitan XLII the Wise of the Zagorian Empire, Rank 7, 2nd Class; Captain Kilnok of the Star Sailor, hero of the Delpha Coalition of Planets; Pondsisini; Captain TimeMaster of the Teffel Republic; and Captain Zaco of the Seventh Star. These people were selected because they have been heroic inspirations for their respective species. But they know full well that this might be their last adventure. The ship will have a truly powerful hyperdrive, and the DCP will construct a highly experimental two-way wormhole once Tigris has been reached. The Seven Starr Alliance will require all members to build a military presence on the Plazithian side of the wormhole. The SSA wants you to understand, that our selected adventurers are going in full knowledge that they may get stranded should they need to close the wormhole."
As the delegates began to leave to prepare their nations for the great expedition, Horlin found himself confronted by Ambassador Karndifos.
- Ambassador Karndifos
- "The Hessletife and the Oimonsk are both right and wrong. My civilisation found the Girdo Galaxy to be nearly inescapable, and thought that the outside universe had been recently - in cosmological terms - destroyed. These observations were not false; something extraordinary engineered the explicandum we experienced. We know too of the Grox and, like in your galaxy, they were not as dominant as they should be. The Precursors seem to have left entirely."
- Admiral Horlin
- "Can't it just be down to large competing civilisations?"
- Ambassador Karndifos
- "Our astronomers note that this pattern seems to be a regularity in the universe, yet all it takes is one civilisation to expand first to ruin this state of affairs. We have to wonder: maybe there once was, and what we observe is the result of their decline. But how could such an empire fall without leaving a trace?"
Forbidden fruit Edit
Part one Edit
Five ships led the fleet, commanded by the captains selected by the expedition committee; and a dozen support cruisers trailed a hyper-jump behind equipped for small-scale colonisation. It had been a rough ride, surrounding the Plazith Rim was a gigantic halo of dark matter, which exerted a drag on craft leaving the galaxy through hyperspace. The new drive technology was designed to slingshot around the core of Plazith Rim, using the black hole's extra dimensional extension to boost their acceleration through the halo. The illustrious Fire-Lighter Zitan proposed that the captains met for a toast while the fleet was now safe, shining in the alien light of Ardenta (or Andromeda). The journey had been both a moment of awe and terror as Ardenta exploded into view while the spacecraft rattled like shaking cans.
The captains had actually convened to discuss the best way of visiting two points of interest in Ardenta. The galaxy was meant to be a short hop, before embarking to the next galaxy, what would become known as Tigris. The galaxy was thermally quiet compared to Ardenta, which had the detectable presence of a galactic civilisation with subspace sensors; and this was the first point of interest. The second was the galactic core which astronomers of the Milky Way wanted to survey up close. It was decided there would be a split, two ships would depart with the supply fleet for the core to conduct lengthy astronomical surveys, while three representatives would attempt to observe and possibly contact the mysterious civilisation before a rendezvous with the core ships. There was some tension between Kilnok, Zaco and TimeMaster, as Kilnok wanted his chief scientist Kenders to be on the mission to the core, while TimeMaster was most insistent that he would lead one of the ships. Zaco was commanding the vessel best equipped for science. Zaco settled the issue by suggesting Kenders swap command for the Seventh Starr. With the matter settled, the fleet split in their separate ways.
The coreward fleet headed to their destination at full pace, arriving in a few days while Kilnok, Pondsisini, Zaco and Zitan approached more cautiously. The identity of the Ardentans was unknown, but at least for the fleet, fears of finding a variant of the Grox looked less and less likely. At a distance of 10,000 lights, the ships disembarked hyperspace and focused astronomical sensors on a region of particularly high thermal signatures. The infrared spectrum unveiled hundreds of main sequence stars that had been dimmed, and had dimmed dramatically since the last hop out of hyperspace at 15,000 lights. They were clustered around one side of the inner disc, a mark of civilisation. Analysis of the spectral data found planets with watery atmospheres, and there were fast bursts of gamma rays, a sign of hyper-jumps. But it was difficult to detect any communications. Could this be a civilisation that had disappeared in the interim? They needed to get closer.
The coreward fleet found a seemingly pristine wilderness at the centre of Ardenta. The galaxy had distinct features of interest to Plazithian astronomers, particularly xenoarchaeology which could not be done from afar. It appeared mysteriously to be devoid of colonisation, and it was thought that the Grox were extra-galactic. What had stopped them from colonising the Ardentan core? The core was also rich with globular clusters, some more luminous than their Plazithian counterparts, while had been battered by a collision with a smaller galaxy, leaving pockets of void. The Oimonsk and Teffel flagships skimmed over sheets of young bluish stars that stood as jewels against the cold glow of senior giants and dwarfs, which could have only formed there from a rapid starburst instigated by the resident black hole, more a creator than a destroyer. The crew of the Seventh Starr marvelled at this pathway to the core, all but Kenders who felt troubled. If civilisation existed in this galaxy, then the only explanation for there not being colonisation here and now would be by the actions of one.
The rimward fleet was at 5000 lights from the central hub. It had seemed that the central hub, as they called it had stabilised its growth. There was still no sign of communications, such as radio chatter or lasers. Subspace revealed nothing either, it was likely that this civilisation had FTL means of communication, but was quantum encrypted, appearing as noise.
Kenders and TimeMaster turned their attention towards the supermassive black hole. Both were competitive scientists, vying to have an edge on the hyperspatial theory of black holes. At a 100 million times the mass of typical yellow dwarf stars, and not 4 million like the Plazithian hole, the trajectories had to be changed so that the ships would not fling deep into space or worse, hit the black hole itself. The black hole extended into the extra dimensions of hyperspace itself. Kenders observed that as the theory supposed, the black hole was visible not as a sphere, but as a stringy mass of cylinders coiled around the extra dimensions of hyperspace. As he was making these observations, the Seventh Starr was hailed by TimeMaster, who explained that his crew had detected an anomaly. Space was especially compacted around the core compared to the surrounding regions, and it was emanating from array of six points. Almost triumphantly, TimeMaster declared it must be technological. Kenders warned he should keep his conclusions tentative, but decided the anomaly was suddenly more interesting than plain old physics.
Now at less than a 1000 light years, the rimward captains discussed attempting direct communication. They were all risktakers, and grew bored of hiding in depths of space. Horlin insisted that the captains continue to hop closer, but Kilnok and Zaco argued an over-cautious trajectory would look suspicious.
"Sir, ships sensors have detected an approaching object, at 513 million c, it will arrive in one minute" announced one of the crew in the Star Sailor.
"Does Pondsisini and Zitan have a lock on this object?" asked Kilnok.
"Kilnok, we should consider moving off-course or blasting that thing. It could be a projectile." opinioned Fire-Lighter.
"Is the object alone?" Kilnok asked his sensors officer.
Kilnok ordered "Then it is unlikely to be a weapon, spread out. Shields up, prep power for a reverse manoeuvre. But maintain our vector for now."
The Star Sailor maintained its position while the other two ships jumped a light month either side. Within exactly one minute the object matched their velocity, position and direction, dumping excess energy into hyperspace.
"We have visual contact with the object, putting it on screen."
"Great Oogie" gasped Zaco.
The object appeared as a gigantic, tumbling carved crystal.
"Send visual data to Pondsisini and Zitan." Kilnok declared, and muttered "Now I wish Kenders was here to see this."
The other two ships approached, all sensors and scientific instruments locked on the object.
Horlin said, "We are receiving no open hails, but as Pondsisini and Zitan arrived, neutron radiation has increased."
Kilnok said to Zaco, "You are the only chief scientist on board, what do you think?"
"Well the object has a definite mass and density. I cannot yet ascertain the composition, but it is obviously crystalline and highly ordered, starlight can get through unimpeded."
Just as the two other ships jumped in, bright red "flames" began to lick from the object, and it cleaved into three components that positioned themselves 300 metres from the bridge of each vessel.
"I'm concerned about the increase in neutron radiation captain. Our deflectors can deal with it for now, but those are pesky particles." Horlin announced.
The ships began to reverse, but the objects maintained their distance. The radiation continued to rise. Kilnok's throat felt dry, "Emergency power to reverse hyperdrive, engage a spiral manoeuvre!", but still the crystalline objects were able to match their speed. Fire Lighter Zitan was the first to fire on the objects, but it only made the radiation increase. More crimson "flames" were emitted.
Zaco advised to Kilnok and Horlin... "The objects do not want us to move.", Horlin agreed it was potentially correct. Kilnok replied "Well it appears we are out of all options. Pull a dead stop to the engines.", the Star Sailor stopped. "Kilnok! What are you doing!" shouted Fire Lighter Zitan, to which Kilnok replied "We cannot out-run or destroy these objects without them irradiating us."
Horlin announced, "We are receiving communications, broadcast in all major Plazithian languages."
On screen, a familiar face appeared. It was a Draconis, "Ah, we were expecting you. Apologies for the scare, but we needed your attention. Your friends at the core. They are putting the entire universe at risk."
Kenders and TimeMaster were debating the purpose of the array that surrounded the Ardentan black hole in hyperspace. All they could tell was that the extra dimensions of hyperspace were smaller inside the array, like a sinkhole compacting sand. However, it was known that if the extra dimension was larger than the black hole, it was unstable and would begin decaying exponentially into smaller black holes all the way down to the singularity itself. Was the machine a black hole factory? Or a device that could unlock the black hole's very heart?
TimeMaster and Kenders suddenly received a message from the other SSA team. They had to leave at once and meet with others, by order of the Draconid Imperium.
Part two Edit
A large fleet of DI cruisers surrounded the Seven Starr fleet from all sides, with gun ports closed. But none-the-less, the supply fleet was stay until further notice. The Draconid Imperium led the crews off the flagships to a battlestation where they would meet with officials from the DI. The powers from both galaxies now had to discuss a future in which the galaxies would be inseparable, and the DI needed to make sure the core would not be trespassed.
While the crewmen were kept guarded in the hangers of the station, the commanding staff were escorted by a security detachment to a boardroom within the station's upper levels. The stories of Draconid aesthetic were not unknown to the Plazithians, as despite its immense age the Draconid Imperium was quite willing to trade with and even allow with outside travellers to visit their realms back home. The interior of a military installation such as this however, was a rare sight for anyone of the Milky Way who did not call that realm home.
The boardroom itself was decorated comfortably, presenting hallmarks of their aesthetic tastes. Sitting on the far end of a large wooden table, one of the Draconis sat wearing the uniform of a leading military official. Beside him were two aliens who dressed in more formal clothing. Comparable in function perhaps to a fine-cut suit but closer inspection displayed a dazzling pattern within the subtle tones of the fabric. This commander was reading reports as the commanders came in, most likely the data logs from the ships that had explored the core before they were discovered. While it was difficult ot tell due to his subtle expressions, he was far from intrigued by their actions.
"The interior is very ornate", commented Horlin, knowing that might warm the situation. Kilnok, Zaco and most of the crew decided to act calmly, though Fire-Lighter Zitan made no attempt to hide the discontent on his face from being led to the battlestation.
"So, we are here. I am commander of the Seventh Starr, from which the alliance was named. I must say, you being here is a surprise.", said Zaco, uneasily.
The admiral set the tablet down and raised a brow as he looked upon the crews.
"A surprise....Something you all managed on our part by wandering into the deep core."
"We were originally going to stay together. We decided to extend the time for an astronomical survey, which was purely scientific. We; me and TimeMaster, observed there was no civilisation inhabiting the deep core. But we could not have known it was protected space." said Kenders.
"Had we known of your expedition to Ardenta and its reasons, the possibility would have existed that we could warn you beforehand of where it was safe and unsafe to travel." one of the emmisaries replied, responding in a more kindly manner than the stern gestures of the executive admiral.
"What you stumbled across" the admiral continued "was something from a past age, a construct that we cannot divulge. Which beings us to the matter of what is to be done with your ships, your records, and your crews."
"What would be done with our crews?" Zitan spat, "If you had not been so secretive with us, this whole incident could have been avoided!"
"We hold no such obligation." The admiral scoffed, waving his hand in a manner of dismissal "The amount of information that the Draconid Imperium is obligated to disclose is at the discretion of the administration. If they spoke nothing of the deep core, then there should be only two conclusions: Either our knowledge is limited - something I doubt - or we did not wish for you to know the secrets at the heart of the galaxy."
Zaco cut in "Sorry about Zitan. The Zagorian race is usually very friendly. But he has seen a lot." Kilnok recognised that the Draconis had a culture that respected honour and duty, "I will be honest, our scientists, Kenders and TimeMaster found something there, something they don't understand. It is an unfortunate accident that has conspired against the Expedition team. I am sure in all but the most rare occasions, the Draconid Imperium would have informed us."
As the admiral contemplated, the other emissary shifted herself to accompany what had been said "What your explorers discovered within the core region is something the Imperium does not wish to be publicly known. My colleague and I are custodians while the executive admiral knows only the most essential things about what you found. We understand your confusion on what you saw, but for the sake of the universe, the...anomaly's existence must forever be kept a secret. Were it to ever be tampered. the consequences could be..."
"Fatal for all" the other emissary replied.
"You have my promise", said Kilnok, and the others began to nod.
There was a moment of silence, but it was broken by TimeMaster, who had become visibly excited. "I think I know what it is...", Horlin and Kilnok looked scornfully upon him, "The dimensions are smaller around the black hole. The devices are keeping it from decaying exponentially into naked singularity. Cause and effect would lose meaning if they did."
"Should the construct ever be tampered and somehow fail to contain the process. The very fabric of the universe would collapse." the emissary responded with a compliant nod.
"Then we know too well, that the secrets that lie within must stay there until the end of time, when the last black hole decays into timeless light." said Kenders.
"You have wisdom" the first said to Kenders. "We will entrust you to keep your word."
"Your crew however" the admiral butted in "We cannot be so confident of such a promise. As a precaution, their memories must be altered. A single over-curious journalist might begin a cascade that exposes the universe to what is in the core long before it is ready to be understood. I will not accept loose ends."
Horlin could see things from the admiral's perspective more than the expedition; "Even if we alter the memories of our crew, there is one loose end remaining. Our hyperdrives are not powerful enough to leave the galaxy without a gravitational slingshot in hyperspace itself, which must involve transit of the Deep Core."
When the problem was presented, the Draconid delegation spoke to each other in High Dracid for several minutes, gesturing and verbalising to consider a solution. After a short while it felt as though the conversation was about to drago n for several minutes, characteristic of how conservative Draconis were said to be. Fortunately before the discussion became too long the delegates turned back ot the expedition leaders.
"Do your ships come with any means of suspended animation. Stasis fields, cryogenic suspension, induced hybernation, do you come with any of that sort of technology." the first emissary asked.
"Unfortunately not. The trend of Plazithian civilisation is always with the new, and we do not normally need cryo or stasis pods. However, I'm sure we can stay and build those functions into our ships." said Zaco.
"There is that possibility." the admiral mused.
"It would take but a child to install a series of hibernation inducers in your crew's berths. A mere something to keep your crew unconscious as, just this once, you are permitted a return to the deep core to engage in a gravitational slingshot."
Kilnok bowed to the emissaries and the admiral, "I thank you for this most generous offer, and I'm sure I speak for my crew. If it would ease any anxieties, I think the Draconid Imperium should oversee the construction of the hibernation chambers, and we would enjoy your company on our voyage to Tigris."
"It would." The admiral responded as he relaxed "''The delegation will consider a set of observers while your crew's memories are set to fit with what we have agreed upon. Once all is arranged you will be returned to the deep core where we will monitor your departure."
"In return we can look into further tying relations with local civilisations of the Plazith Rim."
"That would be a brilliant outcome, far more than what was expected when we set out. I believe history is being made upon our shoulders today, rather than it being unmade." stated Kilnok.
"I am glad things are settled" the first emissary responded with a smile.
With agreement from everyone on the delegation the admiral stood up, joining the others as they departed to deliver instructions to the crews of their flagships, and the chain of supply vessels that had followed Kenders and TimeMaster to the Deep Core. Once gone, the two emissaries stood leaned forward to approach each other. The two Draconis examined each other as the door closed behind them.
"A fortuitous resolution." the male said, looking pleased
"Doubly so." his partner answered "These aliens were ingenious discovering our methods."
"True, yet they still know nothing." the man smiled
"Their understanding of what has been constructed, what they have stumbled upon."
"They look upon the scaffolding, oblivious to the purpose. They see the dome of the reactor and think that to be everything." the man said smugly.
"Agreed." she responded "They lack the sight, which is fortuitous."
Part three Edit
Within a week, all the ships in the Seven Starr Alliance fleet had been outfitted with stasis chambers, under the watchful oversight of officials from the Imperium. The Draconis had declined to join the SSA fleet to Tigris, although they followed the travellers to the Deep Core and watched the sleeping SSA fleet like darts disappear around the central apex of the galaxy. The captains and bridge crew had been permitted to view the sight of the hyperdimensional black hole, granted because the Draconis found honour in the truthfulness they demonstrated. The careful trajectory of the fleet flew within a hair's breadth of the elongated event horizon of the black hole, possible because tidal forces were weaker in more dimensions. But that meant the fleet had wind up around the black hole incredibly closely. Most of the crew would never see nor remember this marvel, a price to pay so that cosmic secrets stored within would never be revealed until Time's Terminal.
But until then, history continued. The fleet moved onward to Tigris.
The Tigris galaxy Edit
The Star Sailor dipped into an SSA communication laser, Kilnok was disheartened to find there had slow progress of the colony. He searched space to fixate his eyes on the system's star, even here in the middle of the system it was not easy to see. Maybe it was time to motivate the settlers, so he could do more exploring. Three weeks in, and the Seven Star Alliance fleet was busily setting up shop in an obscure red dwarf system at the edge of Tigris. The SSA were not looking for warm watery worlds just yet, and top captains had decided to keep their presence low since the dramatic encounters in Ardenta. The system was a perfect starting point because most of the worldlets were covered in ices of water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide; and also rich in organic compounds and polymers.
Now on the the planetoid, Kilnok could see some of the colony ships had been gutted to build the settlement, held by a long series of cables and pulleys, and cast a dull crimson by artificial light and the surface. The ice hissed at his feet, he could feel the cold even through his boots. Still, the crews had been enlisted from less than stellar conditions, and they would not complain of the conditions. The colony itself was underground, accessed through an airlock. Once in, Kilnok met Zaco, who explained the first job had been to set-up the plumbing and to seed the ice with bionano-organisms which would begin to produce useful substances and soil nutrients. All very primitive, but things would get better once the two-way wormhole was established with Plazith by vaporising and crushing most of the mass of this worldlet to expand the seeds contained in the hyperdrives of the sacrificed ships.
"Something isn't right Zaco. I believe this project is being purposefully slowed. Our ships could have vaporised this icy pebble. Instead we building plumbing".
"Eh, you are right. The Committee asked me personally to ensure we set up an array. The last thing the alliance wants is an intergalactic invasion on their hands. We must assess the relative threat levels each civilisation we encounter has. We are to do this indefinitely".
"Oh come on. This is not like the Zaco I know, the very founder of the alliance. We were enlisted because we are meant to be brave explorers."
"I would have us explore in normal circumstances. But look, something isn't right, the universe doesn't have enough spacefaring civilisations. Ask Horlin."
"Nonsense, look at us, our galaxy... And wait, Horlin knows something and he doesn't inform his captain?!"
"No no, you don't get it. Spacefaring civilisations exist, but why isn't there more? The Grox, the closest qualifier aren't even dominant in every galaxy!"
Kilnok pondered this for a moment. "Well, I itch to do something, and not sit here. So has the array been built?", "Yes" replied Zaco. "And what does it show?"
"Tentative signs, but nothing like the old Draconis which were observable from outside the galactic rim."
"Nothing to worry about then..." replied Kilnok, but Zaco looked around uneasily to see if they were alone.
"But you know what we encountered already." Zaco paused for a moment, and then gestured amusement.
"But you are right. We are being made a mockery of our time. If the array picks up anything interesting, I'll let you be the first to know."
Four days later, Kilnok received a subspace transmission in private from Zaco. The subspace array had picked up something incredible, an event seven thousand light years away so powerful it was felt from hyperspace. Kilnok, intrigued, immediately summoned his crew from their boredom.
Please read A Surreal Truth as linked above.
The Star Sailor jumped into the system, guns hot, shields high and surrounded by a cloak. Sensors revealed none of the suspect astronomical phenomena of note, but did pick up a cycling transmission. Kilnok commanded his ship to reach the location, there they found wreckage.
"Interesting, have you found your cosmic war, Horlin?"
Horlin tensed up, guessing immediately what Kilnok was referring to.
"Apologies captain. I will not betray you of information again."
"You might be an admiral of the SSA, and a diplomat of the DCP. But you are on my ship, and I am the captain here."
Kenders interrupted, "Sir, we are not alone. There is one small ship in this area."
"What is it doing?" asked Kilnok.
"Appears to be picking up life signs. Sir, the life signs are nominal but all appear to be same species."
"Okay, reduce the parameter of our deflectors. We need a friendly contact in this galaxy, lets hope they are not on the side of chaos. Hail them for a minute before decloaking."
The alien ship paused, scanning in all directions. But as soon as the Star Sailor decloaked, the ship fled.
"That was, unexpected.", Kilnok let off a sigh. "Well then, we still need to network with the inhabitants. I suggest we finish the job of rescuing survivors and then find wherever they came from."
The Star Sailor was then set about searching for any survivors amongst the wreckage.
Kaljun woke to find himself being brought down corridors of an almost translucent green material that swirled, possibly liquid crystal. He was still in his space suit, and that is when he had the shock of seeing a tall, bug-eyed alien with sharp mandibles, mottled scaly skin, and bony fingers dragging him along. Kaljun found himself hungering for the safe dark space he was in before. Frozen in place, he found himself lucky because his face was covered by a large one-way visor on his helmet. He stuggled to breathe slowly, quietly enough to avoid attention from the aliens. Kaljun continued to play as if unconscious, and it became more effective as exhaustion consumed him once again.
The crew of the Star Sailor picked up half a dozen survivors that still showed life signs according to on-board sensors. Once on the ship, a few crewman were dispatched to take the survivors to a secure examination room. The survivors were seemingly unconscious, and all having similar vitals, suggesting that they were all of the same species.
Kilnok wandered down to the lab to meet Kenders, where a makeshift environment had been made for survivors. The DCP had long developed far better methods to accommodate aliens of differing biochemistry into the same living space, using some invasive methods. But that was unpopular with ambassadors and other contacts.
"We've been examining the alien. Vitals suggest it is a to be a mammalian form, a universally common form, even in the DCP." said Kenders in his monotone voice.
"Interestingly [said rather dryly], the alien has enhancements in the neural cortex. We believe it speeds up sensory transmission and improves memory capacity. We have tried probing the device, it demonstrated an ability to resist, but our nanoprobes were able to find a pattern in what we believe is a language translator. Dracid."
"The Draconis do get around..." Kilnok remarked.
One of the xenobiologists examining the aliens approached Kilnok.
"The aliens are beginning to show signs of consciousness. We think some of them may have been pretending anyway. It suggests they have a sense of fear."
Kilnok pondered what to do, the aliens needed to come out of their shell at some point, while forcefully trying to communicate wouldn't be very diplomatic. He decided to make the windows transparent, and donned breathing apparatus in the hope that it would signal to the aliens that they could remove their helmets in the examination room.
One of the aliens began showing obvious signs of consciousness and examined their surroundings. It paused, Kilnok was struck by a sensation of being observed. The shell it was wearing was coloured with dark colours of grey and was adorned with bright orange outlining. The face completely obscured behind a black helmet with a large gold-plated visor in a shape similar to every other's shell helmets. The visor was faced to Kilnok, the alien had noticed him. Before it turned its head away, looked around the room once again. Before the alien's attention was caught by an other alien lying beside it, whom had a similar but completely dark grey suit with golden outlining and silver annotations, and a similar but silver-coloured visor. It rose up and rushed across to it, shaking the other alien. It tried to wake the grey shell up. Soon enough they embraced each others arms and exchanged sentences, in a completely foreign language. Kenders verbally noted that the creatures must have a sense of empathy, given that the one that seemed most alert was checking the others. Kilnok took a step closer to the airlock membrane, hoping that he would grab the alien's attention again. The black turned its head on Kilnok again.
The black alien released two of their arms and still embraced with the other two the same side. Turning around and checked on the other four aliens present in the room. All have already risen from their roller beds. All the four had the same colours for their shells, matt silver with orange outlining save for one, whom had pink outlining instead and was behind the black shelled alien. They grouped behind the two in centre, in the protection from Kilnok. The dark grey finally had risen from its roller, with the help of the black one. Briefly exchanged more incomprehensible dialogue. Kilnok had now the attention from all the aliens, the air thickened of paranoia and passive tension.
Kilnok decided to break the awkward standoff, by making a gesture towards his breathing apparatus in the hope it would show that he intended to calmly walk in. And then, he approached the edge of the membrane and walked through, pushing slightly. The dark grey one straightened itself and showed no signs of hesitation or thought to remove their helmet. Neither did the other five present in the room. They spoke to each other with muffled voices. The dark grey one crossed its arms, upper pair on the chest and the lower pair formed a cross with the wrists above the groin. It rose its head lightly Little as Kilnok knew, the aliens were taller than him.
"I am Kilnok, captain of this vessel, the Star Sailor. Do not be startled, we appear to have a language in common.", Kilnok said this entirely in Common Dracid.
The dark grey one tilted its head in suspicion before letting out a barely audible sigh.
"I could've guessed. If you don't mind me asking first.", responded the alien in the dark grey suit. "How did we end up here? What do you want from us?"
"We found the wreckage of a fleet, and came across a ship I assumed is affiliated, picking up survivors. We are intergalactic explorers, and detected an explosion through hyperspace; we were looking for spacefaring societies. The ship we encountered fled, and I took it upon the duty of our vessel to finish the job."
"Sounds definitely like my own fleet.", the alien turned its head away.
A brief pause ensued, before its head returned on Kilnok "I was the commander of my fleet. The 'aliens' behind me are my crewmen, the one in black suit is my science officer. A real loyal one.", continued it. "Call me Kaljun"
"I'm Ninamos", said the one in black suit who snuck up behind Kaljun. "Kaljun's science officer."
"A commander? Then it must be a heavy..."
"Loss? Yes. The equipment at least.", cut in Kaljun.
"Then we must take you and your crew back to where you come from as soon as possible. It sounds like something hit you hard. I must warn the bridge.", Kilnok then spoke into a device to tell his ship to cloak and prepare defences.
"I must thank you for your offer. But I doubt if you actually came to the right place or on the right time for this."
"It was not luck, you are right. I am but one captain of a large expedition. An array was built to scan deep into the galaxy for subspace transmissions, echoes and other anomalies. A reverberation through hyperspace led us here."
Ninamos reached to press on something on their helmet, with a quiet click her visor comes translucent. Revealing their face, a canid head with four eyes with extremely narrow slit pupils, barely visible. The colours were distorted by the visors golden hue. "We are an exploration fleet commissioned to map this galaxy and its secrets: chart anomalies; unveil and examine other mysterious objects of interest. We work by travelling long distances and regularly sending smaller squads of recons searching for locations of interest. - Until one of our recons found a mysterious gigantic object."
Ninamos grimaced and maintained eye-contact with Kilnok. "That thing, was no good. Neither was it up to good. A planetship. Whatever, it was the size of two planets. It was the reason why we are here and now. Luckily, I was able to collect all data about it and its capabilities." Ninamos reached on embraced one of their wrists and detached something from the suit and held it up between thumb and index finger. A metal rod, copper in colour and tiny short to Ninamos' size.
"Well I never. I have never seen nor heard of a ship larger than a planet, apart from myth."
"You will. Sooner or later, you'll. It isn't hard to miss.", remarked Ninamos smugly. "But to know your enemy, you might want need our help And I doubt your computer systems can handle the way how our data is treated.", before inserting the rod back on their suit.
"I have no idea. I am not the science-y type.", Kilnok ushered in Kenders, who was only half a metre high. Kenders appeared to skip his way in.
"Of course not.", Ninamos laughed softly. "So I suggest a kind of cooperation. To raise our chances against that forsaken the dead-know-what.", Kaljun clicked on their helmet, the visor becomes translucent. Revealing their face in greyscale. "It would indeed be helpful. The leaders of my expedition, back in the home galaxy would want to know about something of this magnitude." said Kilnok.
"Great, I suggest we do a briefing with an analysis of the object at our place once we are united. Since only us can make use of the data we've collected on the ship. How does that sound?", spoke Kaljun diplomatically.
"It sounds like a deal. We will need your help getting the coordinates of where you need to go."
Kilnok returned to the bridge, but left Kenders to help translate the alien cartography by allowing Kaljun and his crew to pinpoint objects of different technology. So they were retrieved and were used to engineer an impromptu navigation system. Located in one of the cargo bays. Synced through an established communication contact, simple but effective with the right precision.
As the Star Sailor was in transit, Kaljun and Ninamos were invited to the ship's bridge, led by an androgynous blue alien as tall as them but with a long neck, which called itself "Horlin". The aliens had objected to any internal breathing apparatus that would help them walk around the ship free of their suits, so had chosen to remain suited up. They had also objected to being "transported" there by a metre-scale wormhole. The technology on-board the vessel had an orderly likeness: new, regular like patchwork. Ninamos felt uncomfortable with the perspectives the crew of this unknown species, what kind of race would dish out extreme bodily modification on a whim just to walk up the bridge? Ninamos and Kaljun also felt a steely coldness in the crew that were not present in Kilnok. Were visitors an unsettling surprise to a xenophobic crew? Or did they fear being distracted in front of authoritarian command?
Soon they had arrived at the bridge. Kaljun found the Star Sailor was a surprisingly small craft for one that supposedly travelled intergalactic distances, and the bridge was also small. He felt an air of scepticism for Kilnok's story, but remembered they were alive and so the crew did not presently seem threatening.
"It is a small vessel, how did you get out to this galaxy again, Kilnok?" asked Kaljun
"This is my personal craft. Though remember I came with an expeditionary fleet that hails from the Plazith Rim." As Kilnok spoke, images flickered on a visual hologram.
"I have some questions of my own, firstly, how should I name your species?", Kilnok asked first.
"Hard to tell. We also have alien biology, our studies certainly differ ours from your's. But call us - Nomatarians." "We have both encountered the Draconis in our histories, yet we find no subspace evidence of Draconis here. My guess is that you are intergalactic, but either native or not to this galaxy?" "Long history. We are not intergalactic, we were universal. But we're too far from our galaxy of origin to make any contact or consider a transport valuable. Our first colony on this supercluster was settled 32,000 years ago, and we've run on our own ever since." Kaljun told Kilnok more of their old history yet surprisingly accurate in a brief manner. "This galaxy, is just an other frontier territory by our expansion." Horlin and Kenders suddenly engaged a discussion, before Horlin turned back to the visitors.
"We come from the Delpha Coalition of Planets, which is 686 years old to the date, but we have rapidly colonised our galaxy. Given the age your civilisation and it's frontiers, we'd expect a civilisation with your profile to have colonised every star in the supercluster."
"What Horlin means, is that theoretically the universe should be swarming with one dominant civilisation. Yet we see many." stated Kilnok
"History is often forgotten or destroyed. Lot of affairs, business and opportunities go under your nose, that's why not everything is recorded, neither was it recorded by everyone. Some think history is just legends, some think it is just waste of time, some think it is propaganda.", inserted Kaljun. "Then we've got those." Kaljun darkened "Them who erase the existence of other great empires and species. Turning history and memories of the eradicated to legends and delusions. Or nothing at all." Kilnok's thoughts turned to the anomalous megastructure that had fated this first contact with a previously unknown extragalactic society.
Kaljun was unfazed by the silence and rose his head with an emotionless face. "Many historic events go unseen and forgotten by many, even the young. Some thought they were young, but they were unaware of their past, because they forgot it. We meet them. We fought them. We were them." "We have also met those who prefer to keep history from us, the Draconis, that is." remarked Horlin.
Shortly after the discussion concluded, the Star Sailor was nearing the destination provided by the Nomatarians, which was an orbital station. Kaljun produced some hails to inform it of their approach. After a after a pause, the station requested the Star Sailor to come within sensor range. Once the Nomatarians had been detected, access was granted to dock with the station. But the docking protocols were incompatible with each other, as expected. They improvised one through open bay doors, environmental shielding and an extended bridge. Their Nomatarian guests entered the station and disengaged their helmets, taking deep breaths of relief. Once everyone from the Star Sailor's bridge was suited up, they walked into the station where they were met by more Nomatarians. All the host Nomatarians that welcomed them were suited in suits, looked heavier and more armoured than they've first seen and had two weapons each at ready. Their visors were replaced by a metal cover. They all had the same colour as the one with pink outline. Save for one, which had matte black armour with white annotations, like commander Kaljun's own. It revealed to be the station's Head of Security. Kaljun and the head closed on each other, the latter disengaged the visor cover, retracted off the visor as it deconstructed, revealing the face. They engaged a discussion in their native language. Soon as the discussion ended, the security head gestured and his soldiers lowered all weapons. Then turned its head to their now alien guests.
"Thanks for rescuing the crew of the ill-fated fleet, honoured crew of Star Sailor. Welcome aboard." spoke the security head in fluent Dracid.
"Greetings, thank you for letting aboard this station. I am Kilnok, shall I know you by?" replied the captain.
"Call me Maekor. I guess." shrugged the security head.
"Having your crew board made quite a team, in translating the coordinates to get here. We are intrigued to learn more about your civilisation, as well as this galaxy. We have come from afar." said Horlin.
Maekor looked up and down on Horlin and glanced rest of the guests.
"Easily noticeable. We also have come from afar. I take it that you've already heard of the history?"
Ninamos and Kaljun simultaneously made a sound, directed to Maekor. Maekor made a short nod.
"All right, I'll escort you all to our conference room for debriefing. I'll also be summoning the station's captain."
On the way, Kenders remarked to Ninamos that her society's technosphere appeared to be engineered with old but reliant technology, this grabbed Ninamos' curiosity, paying more attention to Kenders' comments. She added that every technology was modified to operate at better efficiency and performance possible with their current data from research and development.
"Scientifically, we are advanced. Except we don't reinvent the wheel again. This is why we look conventional, as you call it, yet technologically advanced."
"While we do not roll out new technologies untested, our engineering philosophy is to maximise innovation down unconventional routes. Then we let the design of our technology self-organise into a whole. Such Order is very important to us." said Kenders
"Oh, we are not so hack-ey. We just experiment with every thinkable improvements and additions to our existing technology. When there is better technology available, we find every opportunity to improve our existing designs and serve as a component to a new technology. It is our philosophy of development to more advanced and better technology. The idea is conventional, but what takes to build the most advanced available one, is more than conventional." told Ninamos to Kenders with passion. "Plus, there is never a perfect design or technology."
"It is true that there is no perfect technology. But you are perhaps more like us than you think. You find order out of chaos just as we, only find it by different means." said Kenders matter of factly.
The debriefing stretched out to several long hours, but that was to be expected from military commanders no matter what species. Maekor meticulously analysed the details of the rescue from all the survivors. He too, was particularly interested in how the Star Sailor appeared in the right moment, but all evidence pointed to a fortunate coincidence. The discussions moved on, to the nature of the expeditions that were being coinciding from the Nomatarians and Seven Starr Alliance. Certain questions were never far from direct discussion: would they step in each other's way? Or would there be collaboration?
Both parties had stumbled across the effects of a mysterious worldship that could shake hyperspace visibly across galactic distances.
"I had promised these people that we would translate the data into a DCP-readable format. Perhaps this can be the beginning of a collaboration; with your permission, we would like to use your R&D services." asked Kaljun.
"Very well." replied Maekor.
Now only accompanied by light security, the Star Sailor's bridge crew, Ninamos and several Nomatarian scientists were lead to an engineering lab with large datacentres. It happened to be situated close to a nuclear fusion reactor, which Kenders once again narrated for Kilnok. "Kilnok, my sensory implants are detecting safely-low levels of neutron radiation. However the fission products are not of a pattern that suggests the neutrons are entirely secondary."
Ninamos overheard, "You are right, the neutron radiation is direct but most of it is captured. This station is powered by a nuclear fusion reactor."
"Fusion"? Kilnok asked, surprised.
"Don't you know what that is?" asked Ninamos.
"Of course, but the last time that I remember them on starships was 240 years ago. We believed it was inefficient compared to antimatter, and recently we use black hole decay."
Ninamos did not expect Kilnok to shrug off 240 years like it was a few decades, before replying: "We believed antimatter was inefficient due to the energy needed to store it. And it is quite frankly dangerous."
"Oh it was, but we developed better storage mechanisms in the long run, and emergency trapdoor technology into hyperspace. How does fusion give you enough power?" asked Kilnok.
"There are ways of enhancing nuclear fusion, such as using magnetic monopoles to catalyse enough spontaneous fission to reach sustained fusion temperatures at a greater level." Ninamos was happy enough to state this in the presence of aliens which outwardly seemed very advanced. She continued, "You know, protons will decay in the presence of Superforce Monopole Defects."
"Intriguing, once again, I hypothesise that we will stand stronger in the face of the unknown if we put our problem solving mechanisms together.", Kenders conjectured in wonder.
The methods of interfacing Nomatarian technology and that of the DCP could have taken several days, however, the process merely took a few hours. The shortcut was to use both society's knowledge of interfacing with Draconis technology as a basis to build a converter. The data was also known for the Nomatarians, who mostly discussed the anomaly in their own language before bringing the matter to the crew of the Star Sailor.
Analysing holotape records of the Congregation ship, Kilnok in spite of his lack of scientific knowledge, could understand the breadth of the mystery this galaxy harboured. Much of the data had yet to be analysed properly. The material properties of the hull and it's thickness was unknown, but appeared to be a superheavy element. It had the power output of a quasar localised to a planetary scale. And there was no confirmed ship of this size in the DCP's records. What was known, was that it was hostile. Gravely, Kilnok knew that this might have dire consequences on the expedition. The Seven Starr Alliance were uneasy about the nature of extragalactic civilisations. But the DCP would return, that he could be sure of that.
With the converter in their hands, Kilnok, Horlin and Kenders decided it was time to leave the station. There was a final exchange in cultural and historical data between the Nomatarians and the DCP, as the Star Sailor undocked itself.
The Star Sailor had returned to the Seven Starr Alliance colony, where Zaco greeted Kilnok. He was initially enthusiastic about the Star Sailor's discovery, until Kilnok began to tell of the wreckage of the Nomatarian fleet.
"Why do you appear so cold all of a sudden?" Kilnok asked.
"We've been tuning the sensitivity of the hyperspace array. We've detected more explosions, in the core and through the opposite side of the galaxy. If I didn't know about your discovery, I might have put it to the projects of a civilisation, if not nature." replied Zaco.
"Then I think we have been eavesdropping on a war that the likes of either of us have never seen." noted Kilnok.
"This isn't good news for us, for the expedition. While I certainly do not condone it, the Seven Starr Alliance will have us back through that wormhole that is nearly ready." Zaco said unhappily.
"We don't tell them. Just not yet." replied Kilnok
"The consequences for you could be fatal, if we conduct mutiny." stated Zaco, shocked at this remark.
"I don't think it will. The DCP has interests in this galaxy that transcend the ambitions of the Seven Starr Alliance. War doesn't scare us." Kilnok confidently replied.
Kilnok continued, "We have to find out more, as we have met intergalactic contacts which are *less* advanced than this worldship, it could turn our way. At least we must learn of the nature of belligerents."
"Yes. We haven't even communicated with Plazith yet. I will have the colony constructed sooner so the exploration fleet can get to work. And also slow the wormhole's expansion." replied Zaco, but he knew that fabricating an explanation to protest innocence would be hard-going.