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[S] Expanse
Topic Started: Aug 14 2017, 01:35 AM (58 Views)

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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

TP-227, Uncharted Regions

"Listen up, we're searching for artifacts or anything of interest. Our procurer will be paying top credits for results. Move quickly, atmospheric conditions are beyond what our suits can handle. Move out!"

Naylor addressed his team in the ruins of a once great city. He had personally never seen something of this size. It was his first expedition in the Dead Zone. He had heard the rumors but he never believed them. He knew many explorers that have gotten obscenely wealthy off their exploits. All it took was a mere jump or two in the Dead Zone, find something of value and jump back. Simple enough.

He just never anticipated something like this. Towers - that according to simulators rose several miles into the atmosphere. A spaceport that looked like it held more traffic in a single day than all of the Human Sphere combined. Industrial factories that stretched for miles.

Now, it was a wasteland. There were signs of nuclear detonations but nothing near the scope required to level a planet like this. Breaking through the atmosphere was another small explorer vessel. Naylor watched them struggle to break through the cloud cover as ion storms rattled the ship.

They were told TP-227 was of great interest to this particular procurer. There was no mention of any expeditions to this planet before but the contract award was noticeable enough that several expeditions were made simultaneously to TP-227.

As Naylor walked down a large avenue, he could only wonder what civilization existed before it fell. It reminded him of Earth - or at least of the pictures he saw. He closed his eyes to ponder the possibilities.

"Uh, guys. We're picking up some biological - unknown biological agents."

Naylor opened his eyes. "Say again?"

"I don't know, the scanners are going beserk. Says we're in the middle of a cosmic anomaly. Long range communications are down. Nothing is going through."

"It sounds like those ion storms are interfering with our sensors. We don't have anything shielded against that - "

"It's gone. No more alarms."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, maybe you should head back to the ship to check it out."

"Roger," said Naylor. He sighed, took one look of the landscape around him and proceeded to walk back to the ship.

Something felt off, but he could not figure why. It didn't feel ominous, yet. It just felt as if something was off or that the humans on TP-227 could not perceive what was wrong. With the ship in sight, Naylor was looking forward to the several decontamination baths that would soon occur. Not even their suits could adequately protect them against this and they still were not entirely sure what chemical or biological agents were present on the planet.

It was then Naylor froze in place - the ground began to shake.

"Uh, what's going on?" said the voice from the ship.

Naylor then saw black pikes protrude from the ground. Some were beneath the ship. They were moving quickly in all directions.

"I need you to take off now! Emergency exfil!"

"Holy shi - "

It was too late. One of these spikes pierced right through the ship, its shield of no help. The ship was cut into two before torn into a thousand pieces by explosive decompression. Naylor could only watch in horror as this entity continued to push higher into the sky, taking whatever remains of his ship with it.

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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

TP-227, Uncharted Regions

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Naylor could only remember the expedition contracting like it was yesterday. He was told it was going to be a simple bump and grab with a high payout. They never mentioned risks like these. He was now stranded on an alien planet with no recourse. How long would it be until help arrived?

"All teams, all teams, status," said Naylor after he finally composed himself.

"Shit, what the fuck happened?" said one voice over the network.

"Man, we got to get the fuck outta here stat!"

"Is our carriage still active?"

"No," said Naylor. "It's gone. We're stranded. We need to meet up - two klicks from here, I am transmitting the rallying point."

"Aye skipper."

After nearly an hour of transversing the dead metropolis, Naylor found the remnants of his expeditionary group. There was only a handful of survivors. Some may have fled altogether, deciding it was now their own prerogative to survive on their own.

"Look, I do not know if the emergency transponders were set but we need to find cover soon. Our suits will not last much longer in this environment," muttered one of the survivors.

Naylor nodded. "Agreed - we need to find cover and then we can assess the situation."

It shocked him how calm they all were. Maybe it's the realization they were deep in uncharted space in a place they weren't supposed to be that calmed them. Any emergency quick reaction force would surely dismiss the call. No trained police force station in the Orion March would respond to a distress call this far out - only fellow travelers in the Dead Zone will.

"We've got about three more hours on the surface before our suits can no longer protect us. Have any of you seen possible locations for cover?"

"Yeah, a subway network. It looks like it was designed to be shielded from orbital bombardment."

"OK, let's head out."

After several minutes of traveling, they found themselves near the entrance to the underground subway network. There were no signs - just a crater peering into the tracks that presumably ran trains. It'll do for now. They had no choice otherwise.

"We're losing sunlight now too," said one of the survivors as they made their way into the crater.

"Did you hear that?" asked one. "Sounded like a wolf."

"Forget about it - we need to set up the environmental tents. Let's move."

As the team made their way into the subway network, one of the survivors couldn't help but feel something was watching them. She looked around to see if it was nearby but there was nothing. She then ran a scan, maybe his neural net could pick up any lifescans - still nothing. It must be her mind playing tricks.

It just seemed too ominous - a dead metropolis that looked more like a mausoleum than actual city.

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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

TP-227, Uncharted Regions

It was a long night. Naylor and other fellow survivors huddled together in a damp subway system to recuperate. None were entirely sure if emergency distress beacons were sent out in time. They also were not aware of fellow expeditionary teams on the planet - did they survive? For now, they would assume no.

Topside, a fierce storm ripped into the skeletons of the towers that stretched miles into the sky. Some of the structural supports began to melt, others crumble into ash. When the survivors emerge from their hole the following day, they would see an entirely new landscape.

As Naylor fiddled with his personal communications device, he began to pick up bizarre frequencies - nothing the like he has ever experienced. There was just an erratic beat of static over it. It sounded almost deliberate. It wasn't Morse code. It was something else. Whatever it was, it didn't sound human.

"Hey, listen to this," said Naylor as he shared the audio feed with another.

"Sounds like Morse code," muttered a survivor after several seconds of listening.

"It's not. Or they don't know Morse code at all," replied Naylor.

"Can you pinpoint?"

"About 1.5 klicks from here, southwest. Coming from that large avenue we landed in - so now where that crystal structure is."

"So it's the ship?"

"No way it is. They aren't on proper channels."

"Maybe it's the Expeditions Group?"

The Expeditions Group. How did one of the survivors know of that? They existed in an official unofficial capacity. They were more like rangers than they were pioneers. Pioneers were to find new worlds for the Orion March to harvest. They were doing none of that. But if they were on TP-227, how did they evade detection?

The more Naylor thought about it, the more uncomfortable he felt. If the Expeditions Group were on TP-227, then were they guinea pigs? Were there larger forces at play here? He closed his eyes to regain composure. He was panicking due to isolation. There was no possible way. Ostara wouldn't do such a thing.

"I think we should go check it out in the morning."

"Agreed. Signal looks strong enough to broadcast to Veles. Could be our ticket out of here."

"Get some sleep, we'll check it out when there's sunlight."
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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

TP-227, Uncharted Regions

Naylor sat outside, awaiting the local star to break through horizon. For them, this was their count on how many days they have survived. There were no projections at this point, just a singular count that occurred once a day. Among the survivors, many began praying to various deities of dead religions to the new religions, namely in the form of Garudanism. Officially, the Orion March tolerated all religions allowing for freedom of religion. Unofficially, there was no statute explicitly forbidding the governing agencies from conducting interference - not that it would have mattered anyways.

Garudanism in the Orion March has been an ongoing divisive issue. It is believed many of the homegrown terror groups are Garudanist by nature, and some have gone as far to claim they are receiving funding by the Aurelian Dominion. Others say it is a result of government interference on their practices. What is happening in reality is complicated ultimately. On official records, there is no definitive proof of Orion March interference yet there is a seemingly endless supply of sources claiming most if not all terror related attacks are due to this "religion".

Despite such prejudices at home, there was no need for them here. They are huddled together around the same fire on a foreign planet many lightyears away.

"How many days has it been?" asked Britta as she sat down next to Naylor.

"I think it has been seven. How are our food supplies?" said Naylor in respond.

"Stable. One of the botanists has managed to build a makeshift greenhouse. There is a fair amount of water supplies on this planet. We just need a proper filter."

Naylor nodded. "Could we salvage one from the ship debris?"

"It's possible, except for that crystalline structure in our path. It responds to biological agents near it. I think it may be a living thing."

One could see the dread in Naylor's eyes. If that thing was living, did it attack them? If so, why hasn't it chosen to finish them off? This was something extraordinarily off the path for them. No references in any biological or anthropological databases. Absolutely nothing. It's chemical structure was unknown too. Despite all of the marvels of human advancement and technology, they had nothing for this planet, TP-227.

Why was it even designated TP? TP stood for terran planet or more bluntly, a possibly habitable planet. Their sensors were tricked. This planet was environmentally degrading and it has been an absolute miracle they have survived so far. Only those with the heaviest of protections could survive for so long before dying of exposure. Even their vessel was reporting structural decay mere hours into the expedition planetside.

"How is everybody else?" piqued Naylor.

"Fine, for now. It won't last forever. Have you made contact with the other survivors?"

"They're beyond a ridge. We can't reach them nor contact them via short range networks. I think they're gone."

Britta looked down. "I suppose we're truly on our own then."

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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

Veles, Acheron System

Delara Everett slid her way into an alleyway. She wasn't supposed to be on Veles. After her so-called "meeting" on Ades, she was tipped off by a local informant that word had spread she was last sighted there. Between security forces and local bountyhunters, she would have faced a small army. She had to flee - to Veles via Vespia. She had help of course. He was waiting for her in at the safehouse.

Between the torrential downpour that frequents Veles, heightened security presence and general lawlessness of Veles, she hoped her time here would be minimal.

Upon reaching the safehouse, she sighed, and opened the door, quickly closing it behind her.

"I was wondering when you would show." muttered Stechner. He was already a quarter of a way into a bottle of whiskey.

"I explicitly told you not to contract me out to third parties like a cheap whore," said Delara as she took off her jacket. "It is imperative they do not find where I am."

"My apologies," said Stechner, in a half mocking tone. "I needed you here for something else and I knew I had to flush you out to get you here."

Delara closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This was Stechner being Stechner. She can't trust a government spook. He may be a trove of valuable intelligence and she lost count how many times he personally shielded her activities from the ever watchful eye of the Orion Investigations Service but he was still too shifty - too untrustworthy.

"You put at risk the entire ope - "

"We have something better," said Stechner, immediately interrupting her. "Something you would find, transformative."

"What we're working on is that. It achieves what you want, and what I want."

"No, this is different," said Stechner as he took out a manila folder. Non-electronic data? Delara looked at Stechner perplexed. If that's the case, then it must have never made its way into the databases. Somebody spent the time to ensure it never made -

She then realized what was happening. She was working for them now. But who was them truly?

"You take me for a pawn," said Delara, ignoring the folder presented in front of her.

"Trust me on this. If you find it interesting, it's yours. You're free to do what you want."

"And if I refuse?"

"You won't. I know you. I know where your passion is. This - what's in this folder changes everything."

Delara took the folder, clearly unhappy with the decision. She combed through the photos, each one was so ... peculiar. She couldn't seem to understand she was looking at it.

"What is this?"

"We don't know. But it looks like a weapon."

"How long have you sat on this?"

"About a week. It came through a data transmission packet on a distress signal. Nothing the geospatial reconnaissance guys have ever seen, and between you and me, adventurers aren't the only people operating in the Dead Zone."

"Wait," said Delara, borderline in a state of shock, "this is in the Dead Zone?"

"Correct. You think any state within the Human Sphere is capable of designing something like this? What these expeditionary parties fail to recognize is the ground they walk in the Dead Zone - it's hallowed ground. There is tech there that is miles ahead of ours, of others and of the Venkath."

"And where do I fit in this?"

"Well, it's yours if you can figure it out."

Delara raised an eyebrow, "And there is no state involvement?"

"None, none at all."

"You do recognize that whomever can weaponize this - judging by the photos - could be more powerful than entire governments? It looks biological in nature, infecting organic and the planet itself."

"Correct," said Stechner as he took out another folder. "We found similar stuctures on asteroids a few months ago."

Delara bowed her head. She felt she was being played. But for a state like the Orion March, a weapon like this changes everything. The traditional power structure in the Human Sphere would mean for nothing. No number of RCD devices can quantify the value of this theoretical weapon. An RCD was an instant death, this was a long march to death. It would linger, fester and multiply. She could only imagine the leverage.

Even if the Orion March did not wish to utilize it, there would be other eager buyers. Thesia, the Dominion, the Ascendancy ... just to name a few.

"I want a sample," said Delara after a full minute of dead silence, thinking.

"I assumed you were going to say yes," said Stechner smiling, "I have already sent a team. Now," he said as he poured two glasses of whiskey. "Let's talk logistics."
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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

UTP-482, Dead Zone, Unchartered Space

Nestled barely within the Dead Zone is Uninhabitable Terran Planet 482, or put more simply, UTP-482. Cause for its inhospitably is relatively uncertain but signs point towards orbital nuclear bombardment. Whomever these predecessors were, they were thorough in their destruction. Some analysis has indicated that speed of the warheads far exceeded anything publicly known in human archives and databases.

Its thick irradiated cloud cover also provided something else, safety. Expeditionary parties or artifact hunters often avoid planets with cover like this just in case they were stranded. For individuals like Delara Everett, it is the perfect location to run operations. Out of sight, out of mind.

After a brief trip to the Acheron system, she was glad to be back on UTP-482. It is an incredibly risky venture for her to be sighted within the Orion March. While there is no shoot to kill order, she would warrant the attention of virtually every security agency in the sector.

She was thinking about her recent encounter with Stechner. Before she accepted she was notified of her courier's departure to the location. If Stechner was not lying, the resources they would obtain could suddenly upset the power dynamics within the Human Sphere. But that was only speculation.

As she entered her office, she noticed some of the decayed power armor suits found on UTP-482 were missing. Everything else was present. Weapons, artifacts of interest, human weapon, etc. were all in their appropriate mounts and stands.

"Inquiry, where are the suits, SASHA?" asked Delara, despite nobody present in the office.

"They have been moved to Engineering by request of Fuentes, Ms. Everett," replied a cold voice emanating from the center of the room.

Delara paused and sighed. Fuentes was running his own side projects again. He strongly believed that they could reverse engineer the technology present on them but even then carbon dating indicated they were almost several hundred years old. It would be a long shot at this point.

"Inquiry, data packet transmissions past 24 hours."

"We have received a single transmission from Alpha-9-2-4-6-3-Golf-Lima-3-5-2-6. It is a transmission frequency, shall I add it to our navigational charter?"

"Yes. Label, Running Man. Classify, me only."

"Completed. Running Man only accessible to: Delara Everett."

"Excellent. Inform, Running Man distance from here to package location decrease. Start, now."
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What is beyond the veil of an event horizon?

TP-227, Uncharted Regions

It had been several months since Naylor and his team were stranded on TP-227. Some have died of exposure, others wandered into the wasteland on their own. For those that had stayed together they managed to erect an environmental habitat complete with a small garden. They discovered the underground metro still had fertile soil and moisture was present making it the perfect place to set up camp. This was their daily routine, preparing for the worst that no help would ever arrive.

Until today.

Naylor sat on the ground near the entrance to the cave that led to their camp when he noticed something in the sky. It was difficult to make out with his eyes, but there was illumination beyond the thick cloud cover. Realizing what it was, his eyes widened and he rushed into the cave to tell everyone. They were to be rescued.

Upon touchdown, Everett took the first step. She personally wanted to be part of this, to see if Hummingbird was not lying.

As she surveyed the wasteland, she motioned for two crewmen to begin deploying autonomous units to collect samples. While she had no interest in soil or environmental readings, it will be valuable information on the expeditionary market, possibly enough to finance her operations for the coming years. Out in the distance she could make out a distant figure coming towards her.

"Proximity alert," said one of the guards. "I don't have a read, what are our orders?" He then raised his rifle and pointed in the distance of the unknown figures coming their direction.

"Hold fire," said Delara quickly. "If it's hostile, gun it down."

Realizing their saviors had firearms pointed at them, Naylor and his crew stopped moving towards the ship. They weren't rescuers after all. It was another expedition. Would they scuttle their mission to save them? Doubt began to fill his mind as he began to slowly walk towards the ship.

As they got closer, Delara and Naylor both recognized they were humans. Her guards slowly lowered their weapons.

"Who the fuck are you?" asked Delara when Naylor was within speaking distance.

"Are you the rescue party?" asked Naylor in response.

"Rescue party?" Delara counted eight survivors, a little under half of what a typical expedition was. "How long have you been here?"

"Several months. Please, take us home."

Delara looked at Naylor's eyes, and slowly nodded. "We are here to collect samples first. Collect your materials and rendezvous back here in an hour."

Naylor nodded and stuck out his hand, expecting a handshake. Delara merely looked at his hand and turned back to her work. For now, she had more important tasks to do. After Naylor was outside their communication range, she turned towards one of her guards motioning him to shadow them.

"Monaschi, do you think - it is possible they may have been...?"

"I noticed one of their suits has rapidly degraded. It may be prudent to take one back home for surveillance," replied Monaschi.

"Good," said Delara as she then turned towards a black crystalline structure behind the craft. "Now it is time we do what we came here for."

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