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 The Shroud

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Bot 4

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PostSubject: The Shroud   Mon May 06, 2013 1:47 am




It is a void in the void of space, a place through which no stars shine. It is thought by some to be a black hole, and others believe it to be some strange interstellar terror, gobbling up worlds in its wake.

The Shroud is neither of these things. It is a dark nebula--a stellar remnant, amassed by gravity. One day, the Shroud will collapse on itself and form a star. For now though, it is a cold place, filled with secrets. Such a place has a habit of collecting whatever derelict drifts unpowered in the space between the stars...

Recently, the nebula has given off non-baryonic particles--a sure sign of an advanced derelict craft.

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Last edited by Bot 4 on Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Mon May 06, 2013 1:55 am

It had taken a gamble. To carry more raw materials, the Von Neumann probe had dumped half its fuel supply, betting that a slingshot around a star would take it as far as it needed to go. The slingshot succeeded, but sent the craft into an empty region of space. With little fuel from its ramscoop, the probe was unable to correct its course, drifting endlessly through the void. The probe powered down all systems but sensors, and waited.

Three hundred years later, it arrives at the Shroud. The probe does not detect any exotic particles--it cannot. But it can see the Shroud's density, enough reaction mass to fuel the journey to a new star. The probe sets course and limps toward the nebula.
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Tue May 07, 2013 5:53 pm

The CSTP Ekkezhen had been traveling at several times the speed of light for almost a week now, and they had at least ten more to go before they reached their destination, a distant blue star with several possibly colonizable planets. The Ekkezhen was a frigate, one of a new line of ships designed for scouting distant stars and setting up outpost. As such it was lightly armed and its hold had plenty of the materials that would be necessary for establishing a small outpost on another planet.

"Captain Amtokchol, come look at these readings."

Amtokchol, a large, old male with a section of carapace missing from one of his cranial plates, approached the sensor station."What is it, Engineer Vrubrun?"

Vrubrun, a tall female approaching middle age, motioned to the screen. "We're picking up trace amounts of a radiation the sensors don't recognize, seems to be corrupting our computer systems."

Amtockchol nodded, and drifted back to his seat. He pressed the broadcast button on his command console. "Attention all crew, attention all crew. We have picked up unknown, new radiation on our sensors. We will be pulling out, stopping FTL in thirty seconds. Everyone is to suit up in shielded, protected hard suits to prevent contamination and report to the medical bay for possible treatment, help." After that announcement was made he programmed the command console to bring them out of FTL in thirty seconds, and pulled his way along the handholds on the wall, towards the lockers where the hardsuits were kept.

The ship came to an abrupt and total stop, though it didn't jerk or jostle at all. Slowly, as the engine room was vented to draw off heat, it started to drift forward. It was about .8 lightyears from the nebula where the strange particles seemed to originate. For now, the ship sat still while the crew of eighty prepared to explore this strange nebula.
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Tue May 07, 2013 10:00 pm

Solar Horizons was a universally known corporation. What had once started as a small group of researchers had grown into a large company, due to several patents and innovations still in use today. They knew about taking risks. Taking risks was what got them rich. So when they noticed something as up with the nearby dark nebula, they were willing to take a chance. The government had called it stupid, and too much of a risk. Laying down a Rip Lane was an investment after all, and laying a road that led to the middle of nowhere? That was just silly. However, after a few generous… donations, by the people at Solar Horizons, the government was more than willing to lay down a Rip Lane, and maintain it so long as the money kept coming in.

Still, there had been a bit of a scandal after word got out just exactly why the government had been so willing to make a Rip Lane, when they previously seemed so against it, so Solar Horizons needed someone… discreet, someone loyal to lead their venture into the Shroud, and if one thing could be said about Alexander Kerensky, he was loyal to Solar Horizons.

Alexander was loyal for several reasons, one of which being that he was a clone that had been born with the help of technology invented by Solar Horizon, coupled by the fact it was Solar Horizons that had raised him. Clones were often used to help increase the population, as the Terran Remnants expansionism had left plenty of room free for more people. Clones were often raised in batches of twenty or thirty, usually by a small group of scientists. Occasionally they would get requests by people who wanted either the “perfect” child, or by couples who couldn’t have children of their own, but the government preferred to have families adopt children already in the adoption system, that is, unless you were willing to pay. Clones weren’t exactly looked down upon, and were common place enough that all you’d get was an odd glance, or an “Oh really?” if you mentioned that you were one.

The biggest reason, however, for why Alexander Kerensky was loyal to Solar Horizons, was that they had given him a job. After finishing his schooling, Alexander decided that he wanted to serve, and eventually wound up in the navy, serving as the captain of a frigate with the Terran Remnant Navy. He served faithfully for twelve years before deciding to retire from military life, only to find that he could live nothing but the military life. Alexander found himself like a fish out of water among the regular folk, and found himself in financial ruin. That is, until Solar Horizons came along to give him a job.

That is how Alexander found himself sitting the command chair of a cruiser, staring out at the rest of his small fleet of five frigates, and two other cruisers, waiting for the arrival of several science vessels that had more advanced tools needed to find the exact location of whatever it is that Solar Horizon was looking for.
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Tue May 07, 2013 11:30 pm

The probe slips into the Shroud just as the other ships arrive. The nebula offers little in the way of concealment out here--and proper stealth is impossible with a torchdrive.
Deploying the thousand-some drones that make up its ramscoop, the Hekaton ship diverts power to its electromagnets, increasing the ramscoop's radius. It fires its engines and coasts through the nebula, gobbling up as much matter as it can, like a fat kid eating a tub of mayonnaise.
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Wed May 08, 2013 8:42 pm

Alexander stared into the vast expanse of space. The science vessels were late. They were supposed to arrive several hours ago. Hopefully he would not be waiting much longer. “Commander Keresnky! We have a massive radiation spike on sensors!” Alexander turned to face the speaker.

“Radiation?” Kerensky asked. “You sure it’s not a neutron star?”

“Not unless one just popped up out of nowhere.”

Kerensky paused, deep in thought for a moment. “Alright. Send the Barracuda, White Knight, and the Howitzer. The rest of us will stay here and continue to wait.

“Yes, sir,” the man responded, as he turned to relay Alexander’s orders. Turning back to stare out into the black, he noted two frigates and a cruiser breaking off to investigate. Whatever it was, he hoped it wasn't dangerous.


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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Wed May 08, 2013 8:49 pm

The crew of the Ekkezhen took their times suiting up in their radiation shielded hard suits, if only to delay the inevitable cocktail of shots that would be forced upon them to prevent radiation sickness of any kind. Any time they passed a little patch of radiation this was the procedure, it was tiresome, truly.

Captain Amtokchol was sitting strapped into his chair on the bridge, waiting for a team of engineers to fix the computer systems. It had filled its memory to capacity with junk data, and just deleting it didn't seem to work, because it just started to fill with junk data again. The engineers had been battling the computer system for going on an hour before Vrubrun had an idea. All she'd said was "Give me a half hour." Before leaving the room as aggressively as one could, whilst whimsically drifting in zero g.

In the interim, the other engineers tried to sort out the junk data. All they could figure out in the time it took Vrubrun to code a program to delete the junk data as it appeared was that the junk data was the result of the strange radiation picked up by the sensors, and said radiation seemed to be coming from a near-by dark nebula. After Vrubrun uploaded her crawler to the computer system though the junk data was gone and they were left with a destination, and not much else. Amtokchol ordered the ship oriented in the direction of the dark nebula and kicked on the FTL drive.

Eleven days, sixteen hours, nineteen minutes, and twelve seconds later, exactly, the ship came to an abrupt stop at the edge of the nebula. The drive room was vented to draw off heat, while the traditional chemical engines kicked on, the frigate slowly plunging into the blackness of the nebula.
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Sun May 26, 2013 9:12 pm

In the frozen nebula, Hekatonkheires sticks out like a torch. Its probe burns bright with radiation--unshielded fission reactors burning tons of uranium, engines spewing hydrogen and radioactive waste everywhere. Even in the vast void of space, this craft's mere presence is an environmental hazard. It certainly cannot hide from anyone.

The Von Neumann probe registers the approach of the Terran ships, and revs up its factories--if there's one advantage Hekatonkheires has over the sentients, it's production, and while the probe might lack for fuel, it has plenty of construction materials. It should have a warship constructed within the month, hopefully before the Terran ships arrive.
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:16 pm

Commander Nick Zander sat in the bridge of the Howitzer, one of the first artillery ships to be built, dating back at least forty or so years, with thirty served in the Terran Military. In video conference with him were Lieutenant Commanders Sheryl Loray and Jerry Gerson, as they deliberated their next action.
 
“Whatever it is, it’s larger than even one of our carriers…” Loray commented, with an almost ominous tone. Estimates had put the unknown ship at around twelve kilometers in length, an extra one-fifth the size of one of their carries, the largest ship the Terrans had.
 
“Is it possible that it’s the derelict we were sent here for? It’s possible that it’s radiation signature was masked by the neutron stars.” Gerson questioned.
 
“Maybe… Though I have my doubts… The scientists back home were rather adamant about it being hard to find, and it was the source of a random spike.” Zander answered, his chin resting on his hand.
 
Loray tapped her armrest. “Is it reacting to our presence maybe?”
 
“We know absolutely nothing about the thing, other than the fact that it is absolutely gigantic,” Gerson threw his hands in the air to give example, “ giving off a hell of a lot of radiation, and that it’s shaped like a giant cylinder.”
 

“Well, then we need to know more.” Zander knew that much. “Gerson, Loray, bring yourselves into visual range, and prep a few some troopers in preparation to board the thing. I want weapons at the ready in case this thing turns out hostile. I’ll follow a long behind, and send a message back to Kerensky about our situation. He’ll likely want to continue to wait for the science vessel if it hasn’t arrived yet.”
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PostSubject: Re: The Shroud   Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:06 pm

Hekatonkheires is not prepared for combat--this probe carries plenty of materials, but has not yet assembled them into weapons.  Within, foundries cast the warship's frame, smelting all the major components--pusher plates, spine and its bulbous optical turret all formed at the same time.  The process takes mere hours--but retooling factories to machine the ship's computers, electromagnets and other vital systems will take another couple weeks.

The probe notes the approach of Terran ships.  It does not know who they belong to or what language they might speak.  Without more information, the probe can only communicate in one way--a single message, in ten thousand languages, most long since dead.  The signal is overwhelming, spanning a wide range of radiowaves.

"Do not approach.  Danger.  Reactor leak.  Do not approach."


The message continues to play, with little variation.
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