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GM

 

Ardor asteroid belt just a few light years inside Lor Space

Along the inner edge of the Perseus Arm

Lor time mark 1881.7 [January 16, 2019 (Terran Calendar)]

 

The Ardor asteroid belt was a collection of various sized asteroids that stretched nearly half a light year along one of the boarders of Lor Space.  For centuries it has lay well away from any inhabited Lor systems and thus was out of the path of any regular trade lanes.  However, that had changed several cycles ago, back before the Incursion, when a Quantum Dark Zone singularity had caused the belt to migrate, pulling it closer to one of the outer space lanes of the Republic.

 

A team of Lor scientists along with Terran scientist Quentin Quill had gone to investigate the singularity.  However, Quill was accidently pulled into the singularity during the investigation and the Lor science team eventually returned to Lor-Van.  And then the Communion arrived.

 

The singularity had been all but forgotten by the Republic during the Communion War and the aftermath.  That was until almost one Terran year ago, when Quentin Quill managed to free himself from the singularity.  But even then, the Lor had not resumed study of the anomaly and it was ignored once more.

 

Less than one standard day ago, when the passive sensors of the Lor research laboratory situated on of the larges asteroids in the belt had detected a massive energy shift from within the singularity, sending the readings back to the Republic…

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Paradigm

 

Amara Val-Ren was seated in the command chair on the bridge of the Devotion  The Praetorians had received a request from the Lor Republic to investigate a disruption in a singularity located within the boarders of Lor space.  The Praetorian leader had been somewhat bothered by the request, given the tensions along the boarders with the recently resurgent Stellar Khanate, which had been at something of a standoff for months.  The Coalition forces along the Praetorians and Star Knights had managed to keep most of the systems that had declared independence from the Khanate from being re-conquered, but that had allowed the Star Khan to focus his attention on the various warlords that had carved out their own small fiefdoms from the Khanate, removing the majority of these imposters and reclaiming their territories.

 

However, given the damage the Communion had caused during the Communion War with its singularity causing superweapon, ignoring the troubling readings being picked up from within the Ardor Singularity was not a wise course of action either.  So, Amara had elected to lead a mission to investigate the situation.  The Praetorians had received assistance in this endeavor in the form of Professor Quentin Quill himself. 

 

Looking at the bridge’s main view screen, a section of the Ardor asteroid belt was visible, the sensors picking up both the abandoned Lor research station and the singularity itself.  "So Professor Quill, what should we know about this singularity?"  Paradigm asked, as she turned her chair slightly to face their guest.

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Queenie was, once again, not too busy when Paradigm called. Just another day at the restaurant. So she flew off the planet at top speed. In orbit, she kicked into a higher gear and was at Station in no time. The Devotion awaited. Now, some time later, Queenie was a bit bored. Familarizing herself with ship’s basic functions did not eat up all of the time. She’d cook, but most on board stuck to replicated fare. She understood that, as several different alien races could have vastly different ideas on what “edible” was, let alone “delicious”. And she couldn’t go flying after they’d arrived, as this was a dangerous part of space due to the singularity. Heck with it. She decided she could replicate a few basics and cook up something for herself. There was a kitchen on board, after all. Even if it got less use than it could have. Paradigm would call when she needed her.

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Flux

 

"It's not your regular singularity" replied Quill, studying realms of computer data. "I call it the Quantum Dark Zone. No hawking radiation. The distortion is more than mere time-space collapse, but affects the quantum foam itself..."

 

He conceded defeat. "As you can imagine, its not the easiest thing to study" he explained. "Its called the Dark Zone for a reason. We are in the dark!....but it is fascinating!"

 

He paused. "And unfortunately, not safe. It is affecting the surrounding regions of space time. So I hope this ship has some really good deflector shields and really good hyperdrive systems. Because getting too close might send us to a completely different region of space, or time. Or even outside of this universe alltogether!"

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The Traveller

“Luckily you have one of the best Engineers in the Praetorians!” Sitara wasn’t one to have false modesty about her abilities. After all, she’d spent most of the trip so far getting the ship humming along at the most efficient she could get it

 

“As good as the ship is I don’t suggest getting any closer to the anomaly, something like this will do any kinds of things to subspace. I mean I assume we’re going to take a look inside, rather than sit here and look at the pretty thing?”

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It was difficult for moon moth to look directly at the singularity, something about it was...painful to his eyes but still he manned the ships sensor stations and worked to read the streams of data that the Devotion relayed to him dilligently.

 

He was not what one would call technologically savy at least by the standards of most of the engineering corps of the coalition but he remained a certifiable genius by anyones standards.

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Hazmat sat in the Devotion's pilot seat, idly plotting a course to the abandoned Lor research station under the assumption the Praetorian leader was going to have them dock there.  She knew she was far from the smartest being on the bridge, it didn't take much in the way of Grue or even Lor level psionics to understand that fact, but she knew she was probably the best pilot aboard.

 

As she observed the viewing screen, she had to admit the singularity had a certain beauty to it.  The same way, from orbit, severe weather phenomena on many planets had a certain beauty to them.

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Barrier had been off on personal missions for a while, acting solo or with only a few others. Some of the missions had been proper Praetorian business, others had been Praetorian-adjacent at best. It had kept her busy, something she'd learned to appreciate and seek out. So, when she got the message for a full-scale Praetorian mission, she joined both out of duty and out of want for something different from what had become her focus.

 

She stood in the back of the bridge, guarding the door, mostly out of habit. Now that the Devotion had arrived at its destination it became increasingly obvious why the Imperatrix had called upon this many Praetorians. This definitely looked like a situation that called for the sort of manpower that was present on the Devotion at the time.

 

"It certainly does not look safe. Do you have any theories on what could've caused the most recent development?"

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Flux

 

"Plenty of theories" replied Flux. "But thats all they are. Speculations. Until we get more data, they will remain so" he explained. 

 

He had had vague dreams, poorly recalled, of his time in the Quantum Dark Zone. They made little sense. But they filled him with odd and disturbing ideas and feelings. He did his best to ignore them. They served no function other than to flaw his thinking. 

 

"Time and space will be progressively distorted as we approach" he said, more confidently. "And other dimensions, too, most likely" he added, less confidently but more ominously. 

 

"Ill do my best to interpret the data and keep us on the straight and narrow. But I have my limits. And they will, most likely, be exceeded. So we are walking, quite literally, into the dark...."

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Paradigm

 

Amara listened to Professor Quill's response to her initial question as well as the points or question raised by her fellow Praetorians and the Terran's response to those.  There was far more uncertainty regarding the singularity than the Naram liked.  "Hazmat, hold our position for now."  She stated, wanting to stop a safe enough distance away to see if there was any more they might lean from observing before trying to investigate closer and face the risks that would be inherent with that.

 

She looked back at the Terran scientist before asking, "Professor, you were able to survive inside the singularity.  Where you unable to learn anything more concreate about it during that time?"

 

As Moon-Moth studied the sensor readings coming across the display in front of him, he noticed something unusual.  The abandoned Lor station was running on only partial power, just enough to power sensors and communication, but no life support or other major systems.  However, the Devotion was picking up a massive quantum signal from with the station that did not appear to be any sort of Lor technology. 

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Well that definitely couldn't be good, waiting for a good moment to interject without interrupting Amara's giving of orders.

 

"Excusing moth please, I is picking up massive quantum readings from the station itself, which is...technologically anomalous for lor templates." He explained through his twisted tongue as he attempted to isolate any further information about the station itself.

 

"Maybe has been effected by singularity event horizon?" He offered his theory as he pondered it "maybe heralding sudden explodesive growthing through warping and weakening of realspaces?"

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Flux

 

"Survive?" replied Flux, finding the question odd. "I am not sure that is the right word for it. Information collapses in on itself. That's about all I can recall. This sense of everything being crunched and collapsed. I am not even sure I existed, even if I was thinking. I am not sure I was thinking, even if I existed" he said, a faint hint of panic in his voice. 

 

"...but I digress. I am afraid I will be of no use by mining my memories of the Quantum Dark Zone"

 

And I don't think I want to either...

 

The moth had it as right as anybody, in his view. Which was probably not very right at all. Or, arguably, both right and wrong at the same time. 

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So the Professor didn't know what he and the rest of the them were getting into. Or he didn't want to talk about it, which seemed more likely. And did nothing to relieve Barrier's instincts when it came to this situation. The signal from the station was strange, but it was a lead.

 

"I wonder, yes. Something has clearly happened at that station. Chances are it isn't exactly safe, either."

 

Furthermore, chances were they wouldn't get around investigating what said something was. Barrier would leave that decision up to the Imperatrix though, it was not hers to make. Not while everything was still calm.

 

"Is there a way we could access the station's data remotely? That may give us some concrete information and not more theories."

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The Traveller

Now, this was an engineering problem, something that Sitara was well suited to, having worked on millions of different systems over the last few centuries.

 

“We should be able to remotely access the station computers and gather up there data.” still working through the problems she added.

 

“If we deploy probes we can use them to cut through some of the potential interference. Also, gather more data about our anomaly while we’re at it. We can do it now or at most an hour if you want a few improvements added. I’m thinking cables will cut down on potential transmission problems...”

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Hazmat keyed in the commands, shifting the ship from impulse power to a holding position, "Aye, aye.  I have an approach course keyed in and ready to go at a moment's notice."  While Sitara and Paradigm discussed how best to get data out of the old Lor research station's computers, the shapeshifter reached for the bottle of water and bag of peanut butter filled pretzels, a weakness she had discovered thanks to some Terrans on CoVic Station, she kept stashed under her seat.  When some of the bridge crew looked at her she shrugged and held out the bag, "Anyone want one?"

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Turned out, the cooking tech aboard could make what Queenie wanted in a tenth of the time. She thought it was miraculous. So it was that the unmistakable (for anyone who’d been to Earth for long enough to know) scent of fresh baked blueberry muffins drifted in from the back of the bridge. She had them in a silvery basket, a ring construct. A sunny, cheerful smile was on her face, and of course the Ring was on it's translator setting so she was speaking Galstandard and not English. Not that she was consciously aware of the difference. “My, my. I come up to see if anyone wanted a muffin and we’re already here. No need to be so grim, y’all. There’s a bunch of smart, capable folks here. We’ll figure out what to do and get it done. In the mean time, I made muffins.”

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Paradigm

 

Amara listened to the discussion on the bridge about how best to approach their investigation of the singularity.  The news that there was some additional energy signatures on the abandoned Lor station was not encouraging, but given the readings that had triggered the station’s alarms, was also not completely surprising. 

 

"See if we can access the station's databanks."  The young Naram told Sitara.  She then took one of the offered muffins from the silvery basket generated by Queenie's ring.  "Thank you Queenie."  She stated as she looked over at the Terran.  "And while I am confident in our ability to investigate this singularity, there is good reason for caution.  As I understand, Professor Quill spent three years trapped inside that singularity during a prior investigation by Lor scientists."

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Moths appetite was strained by the stress he felt in his thorax so he politely declined any and all food offered him regardless of delicious sugar content.

 

"Moth is...." He began before he paused straining his mind to find the correct words for this information he wanted to relay with absolute clarity to his friends.

 

"I do not like looking at this." A little bit of uncertainty in his voice as he composed the sentence "it is....sharp and painful for my eyes to behold."

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Flux

 

"Three years. It felt like nothing at all. Or infinity. Or both" said Quill, despondent. He had not aged (as far as he could tell) but it somehow felt that it was three years of his life gone. Time had moved on. He had had to rebuild his life on Earth. It was not easy, explaining to everybody that he had taken a sabatical. Intrigue, curiousity, and suspicion. And he had had to take a lower base job at the Freedom City University. It was only because of his reputation that he had got a job there at all. 

 

He shook himself from such despondency. He could hardly complain at the deck life had dealt him, after all. Such marvels he had seen!

 

"Don't worry about me being cautious. Its my middle name. And if I detect anything odd, Ill shout out. Scream, possibly". 

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GM

 

As Hazmat placed the Devotion into a holding position, she had to make some small adjustments to account for the gravitational pull of the singularity, which even at the distance they were from the event horizon, was trying to pull the vessel towards it.  It was not a significant pull, one easily resisted by slight application of maneuvering thrusters, but still something that had to be considered.

 

As Sitara began trying to connect to the Lor station to download its data banks she quickly found the task was not going to be as simple as she might like.  As she tried to lock onto the station's systems, Sitara was having trouble even locating any signal from the station, almost as if it was not there…

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Flux

 

Getting close to a singularity was a nervous business for anybody, at least if they knew what a Singularity was. Arguably Flux was one of the people most equipped to deal with them, but on the other hand he had an excellent grasp of what they could do. Like spaghettification. 

 

"Where's the station gone?"

 

Or, more precisly, why couldn't they sense it?

 

He rather doubted it was a sensor problem. But even so, it was best to be sure. With a frown of concentration, he opened up a quantum tunnel to the space-time region where the station had been, seeing if he could pick up a signal...

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The Traveller

Sitara’s fingers flew over the controls as she tried every trick she could to get a good, or even any, lock on the station. As much as she hated to admit it the Terran had the situation down perfectly.

 

“Either we’re getting a sensor echo and the stations somewhere else, or already destroyed. Or it’s out of phase with local space-time, neither option is particularly good.”

 

As she spoke she was considering all the possible options to the solution, this was an engineering problem, not something she could shoot or punch. Sometimes that was much more satisfying.

 

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GM

 

There were a lot of strange things going on here from Sitara's point of view, as she tried to adjust the sensors to deal with whatever was causing the interference with contacting the station’s systems.  The Devotion's sensors were picking up the physical presence of the station, sitting on a large asteroid where it had been for years.  But the interior was like a void, as if something was in there, causing the interference and she was not seeing any way of countering that from here.

 

As Flux reached out with his considerable senses, he found something more of an answer.  There was a massive quantum signal within the station, as if a rift in space-time had been formed within it.  While that might have been expected given its proximity to the singularity, Flux knew that whatever was causing this was something else entirely.

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Galvanic had been listening at the back, one leg crossed over the other as she slumped back in a chair, looking thoughtful. Her face screwed up in deliberation, after a while, she raised one finger in the air, leaning forward and speaking slowly at first. "Perhaps... a fewsome us could just go there?

 

She eased herself forward in her seat, balls of her feet on the ground as if ready to spring into action. "Fast waymeans of verifying the sensors." She shrugged, the motion ruffling her long coat. "Need to go in anyway."

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Flux

 

Flux withdrew his concentration back to the here-and-now. Quantum entanglement was a disorientating process - it simly wasn't meant for the human mind. Even his. 

 

He wobbled slightly and leant over to stabilise himself. 

 

"The station is..." he said, as he started getting the grit back into his brain. He realised then that he wasn't talking to a symposium of astrophysicists. 

 

"...well. Let me put it this way. There is a quantum ah...wobble....inside the station" he explained. Sort of explained, anyway. "A rift in space-time. A tear, you might say. And as far as I can tell it originated in the station. Or rather, it started there. Someone might have put it there. It doesn't seem connected to the quantum dark zone singularity"

 

He cracked his knuckles.

 

"So, yes. We probably have to go in there. And I doubt it will be safe"

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