DECIPHERING A THARGOID MYSTERY
30 DEC 3304 The Hyperion. Landed at the Thargoid Complex in HIP 14909
After my secretive encounter with professor Palin, I came back to Darnielle’s Progress in order to decide what to do next. Without noticing, I walked around the planetary outpost and ended back in the same canteen I have been in my last visit, drinking the same horrible synthetized whisky. This time I mixed it with the local ale. Palin had given me a totally new perspective to my quest. He implied that my father’s disappearance in Merope may not be linked to the Thargoids. There were no corrosion marks on his ship. He suggested that I should investigate what was his mission. What was he doing in Merope. And he gave me two names: Lori Jameson and Bill Turner.
Jameson and Turner. These were not common names. Lori Jameson is the great granddaughter of Commander John Jameson, the most famous member of the Pilots Federation that ever existed. But she is secluded in her own base in the Shirarta Dezhra system. Headquarters of the Pilots Federation. The main Orbis Starport there is named on her notorious ancestor. And only the Elite pilots have a permit to go. It is one of the most restricted places of this galaxy. Way out of my reach. Bill Turner, on the other side, is from the Alliance and based in Alioth, where I have a permit to fly. Bill Turner claims to be the son of Mic Turner, the legendary explorer, one of the leaders of the revolt against the Federation and founder of the Alliance of Independent Systems. The Capital of the Alliance, Garden City, is in Turner’s World, in Alioth, named in honour of Mic Turner. But the most intriguing thing about the idea of getting to meet Bill Turner is the warning that professor Palin gave me: -Mark my words. Do not believe everything that Bill Turner tells you, if he tells you anything at all. He is more than he seems-.
Well, the first step is finding him, so it is time to come back to Wolf 406 and ask around how to get to Bill Turner. Anyhow, I would not like to end the year in this forsaken place in the middle of the war. But before that, there is one last thing I want to do.
Since my visit to the Thargoid Complex in Pleiades Sector MX-U D2-63 I can only think of getting inside of it. There must be a way to open the door I found last time, and if somebody knows how he must be in Donar’s Oak in Delphi, headquarters of Aegis Research. Aegis is a multinational research initiative that is financed by the Federation, the Empire and the Alliance. Its goal is to gather intelligence on the Thargoids and coordinating humanity’s defence against them. The base of their research division is in Donar’s Oak, and I have worked for them before.
As Maia, Delphi is a hotbed of Thargoid activity. Almost every installation there has been attacked. Most civilians were evacuated long ago. If you are in Delphi now is because you are a Xeno-Hunter, a trader doing dangerous supply routes, or a pirate taking profit of the mayhem. First thing I catch on my sensors when I arrive to the system is a huge SOS signal coming from the orbit of Delphi 6, an ammonia world. I head on that direction and, when I arrive, I cannot believe what I see. I have seen the Thargoids attacking megaships and small fleets destroyed by them. But this time they have managed to destroy a full Federation Task Force. I can see the remnants of several Corvettes and Assault Ships scattered around and, in the middle of them, the wreck of a Farragut Battle Cruiser, the most powerful and heavily armed ship ever build. Its two kilometres of hull adrift expelling green smoke in the places where it was pierced by the corrosive weapons. And there was not a single signal of survivors. Not a damn single scape pod. The SOS message was in a loop. I just hope someone managed to scape from this inferno.
A scientist of Aegis Research in Donar’s Oak has told me that nobody has been able to penetrate the Thargoid Complex in Pleiades Sector MX-U D2-63, but there is a complex in HIP 14909 which interior has been explored. Inside, there is a big chamber containing a device that appears alive. When activated it generates a holographic star map marking different systems across the galaxy. It also emits a sound signal with a map embedded that can be seen with a spectrograph analysis. This map has not yet been deciphered. And few pilots have been able to behold these phenomena due to, that in order to enter the structure and activate the device, a Thargoid probe, sensor and link are needed.
Thargoid probes and sensors are found in non-human signal sources. The problem with them is that there are little chances of finding one, and a lot of chances of finding a hostile Thargoid ship on the process. Lucky for me, the dirty drives thruster enhancements that professor Palin installed in the Hyperion allows me to outrun most dangers. Time to put them to test.
I spent the next twelve hours visiting the leftovers of Thargoid attacks, looking among the wreckage of fleets from the Empire and the Federation for any sign of a Thargoid probe or sensor. Sometimes I find survivors in scape pods and collect them. On most occasions, I find Thargoids and have to run for my life.
It seems that the megaships in Delphi have been attacked too. I received the SOS signal of a Hercules Class Bulk Cargo Ship and came to help. The ship had been severely damaged and was expelling cargo to the void. The rescue party arrived seconds after me and managed to complete the rescue of the survivors in minutes. They were not attacked by the Thargoids on this occasion. I could not help but I watched the whole operation with great satisfaction.
I was able to find a Thargoid Sensor among the remnants of an Anaconda that was obliterated, probably, trying to retrieve the same sensor. These things are worth more than three hundred thousand credits. And, finally, my sensors captured the signal of a Thargoid probe floating between the wrecks of an Imperial fleet. That was it. Just when I thought I could not stand more shipwrecks and deaths. I opened the cargo hatch and lined my ship to collect the device.
I approached my objective carefully at one quarter impulse when, suddenly, the HUD of the Hyperion buzzed, the whole ship trembled and I heard a horrible guttural sound resonating inside my head. I checked the sensors and saw an unidentified signal. But this time it was different. I controlled my nerves and collected the sensor crate and then turn around in order to leave the green gas cloud and run out of there as soon as possible. And right in front of me, blocking the path I saw a huge and menacing Thargoid ship. It was different that every Thargoid I have ever seen. Its petals ended in vibrant red spikes, and it was surrounded by an incredible dense swarm of remote drones. It attacked me without a warning. I pulled the stick and boosted out of there hoping to avoid the mass lock and jump, but the critter was almost as fast as my super modified Diamondback Explorer. And it kept firing. By the time I gained enough distance to activate the supercruise my hull was down to less than thirty percent.
I did a last stop in Donar’s Oak to repair and refuel before my trip to HIP 14909. I also proudly delivered to the search and rescue division five scape pods with survivors inside and some black boxes from the derelict ships I have been exploring. I got ready for my trip.
From the sky, the Thargoid site in HIP 14909 looked similar to the one in Pleiades Sector MX-U D2-63. My Aegis Research contact says that more than two hundred of these complexes have been discovered in the last year and a half, but few of them still operative. The function and purpose of these sites is still unknown. I landed as close as possible to the central structure and transferred the sensor and the probe to the scarab. They rapidly started to corrode the systems. I had little time. The tunnel and the door were right in front of me.
On this occasion, the door at the end of the tunnel detected my SRV and opened. Some light electromagnetic interference disrupted my HUD, but it quickly passed. I found myself in an organic-like corridor that leaded to a huge chamber with a strange device in the middle. That must be it. There were what looked like eggs lying on the ground and several remote drones seemed to be nourishing them. Very unsettling. The drones ignored me, like the last time. I approached the middle of the chamber and dropped the sensor and the probe close to the central device. Some energy laces picked them up and kept them floating in front of the device. I still was missing the Link, but the scientist researcher said that there are usually plenty of them inside the structures. I scanned the place and found them in a nearby chamber. They were attached to some kind of pod, so I had to use my plasma repeaters to detach them. But the drones in the installation did not like it and became hostile. It is clear that these things were not engineered with a defensive purpose. They shoot some kind of corrosive liquid but pose no real threat. They are more annoying than dangerous, and very easy to destroy. I came back to the main chamber and dropped the link. According with the scientist in Donar’s Oak the device should be ready to work.
I scanned the device and, something that I can only describe as incredibly beautiful happened. The device projected a starmap, with thousands of stars spiralling around the chamber.
After all the deaths, all the wreckages and all the mayhem, I was beholding what only few explorers have seen. This is the last clue in the mystery of the Thargoids. Its message, the last piece of the puzzle, unsolved yet. The ultimate milestone. For now. There are rumours of entire sectors of the galaxy blocked by the Pilots Federation. They exist, but the navigation systems of the ships can not lock them to jump there. Secrets and conspiracies. Always secrets and conspiracies. And I still have one of my own to solve. I left the structure as fast as I could trying to avoid destroying more drones.
I am Commander Jav Marlo, recording this log in the Hyperion, landed in the first moon of the second planet of system HIP 14909. My father disappeared in the system Merope four years ago. His ship was found adrift, but there were no signs of him. Given for dead. Since the Thargoids started to invade the Pleiades, one year ago, I have been thinking that they were responsible of the lost of my father. I even thought that they had abducted him. Now I am not so sure of that. Since I got my Pilots Federation license, I have been trying to figure out what happened. I sought for answers in Alioth, but the Council of Admirals would not receive me. I have spent weeks in the Pleiades, looking for clues and studying the Thargoids. Now these clues lead me again to the Alliance. To Bill Turner. I am coming back. To Wolf 406. To my new home in Hamilton Gateway. To seek for answers.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THARGOID MAYHEM IN MAIA
28 DEC 3304 Palin Research Centre (Maia)
I must admit that Professor Ismail Palin has quite an operation running here in Maia. He tells me that he used to work for the Federation, but when his research programme was abruptly terminated, he decided to establish by himself to study alien artefacts, meta-alloys and anything related with the Thargoids. He was able to set his base of operations in Maia, far from human space and regulations, thanks to the contribution of an anonymous benefactor. And quite a benefactor that might be, because Palin Research Centre lacks nothing. Professor Palin is devoted now to the development of new defence technologies against the Thargoids, and to help the pilots that can afford his services with the thrusters of their ships.
We talked. I told him that my true reason for being there, besides improving the thrusters of the Hyperion, was to ask him about the Thargoids, and their interest in collecting the scape pods of the ships they destroy. I explained him that my father disappeared in Merope four years ago, that his ship was found adrift with no life signs on board and no scape pods. That I had seek for answers in the Alliance Defence Force with no success. Professor Palin said that, despite our efforts, we still know almost nothing about the Thargoids and their motivations. The first reported encounter with a Thargoid ship in the Pleiades after the first Thargoid war was one year ago, but there have been finding Thargoid sensors since three years ago. Nobody knows what the Thargoids do with the bodies they retrieve. That is the nightmare of the xeno-hunters. The Thargoids have existed for millions of years and their hyperspace capabilities are well beyond ours. The could even be from another galaxy. Professor Palin says that maybe my father found by chance a Thargoid ship before anyone else and, if that was the case and the Thargoids abducted him, I should abandon all hope.
And that was it. After all these misadventures, I gained an enhancing in my thrusters and the losing of my hope. I departed Palin Research Centre feeling very depressed, with no idea of where to go from there.
Meanwhile, Maia system is a mess. Mayhem reigns. The war with the Thargoids is rampaging and one could say that there is no safe place in the Pleiades. There are non-human signals everywhere. It looks like the Thargoids are taking over the whole sector. Right after my departure from Palin Research Centre, I caught an SOS. It came from a nearby Sanchez Class Science Vessel. They were being attacked by the Thargoids. I head there and jump out of super cruise and what I saw was devastating. The megaship was orbiting out of control in the dark side of Maia A 4. Green fumaroles everywhere, unmistakable sign of the outrageous Thargoid attack. I can hear the evacuations signals and, then, an explosion in the main deck contrasts with its red fire against the green smoke caused by the Thargoids corrosive weapons. Several other ships must have heard the SOS and come to dock with the vessel and help with the evacuation. I fly around looking for any scape pod that I might rescue. Suddenly, my HUD gets blurry and I hear the taking damage warning. I turn around and find myself facing a Thargoid. From the Thargoid emerges some short of swarm of autonomous attack drones that start to fire at me. Damn, these things can trespass shields. I boost towards the cloud of drones and engage the frame shift drive. The drones are super agile and avoid me. 3,2,1… engage. I leave the megaship and its rescuers to their fate.
I fly in supercruise with no aim, thinking in the doom of the ships that were docking with the megaship. And they say that the Thargoids are getting closer and closer to the core worlds in the Bubble. I detect another SOS signal, but this time it poses no threat. I drop out of supercruise and find the remnants of another battle. This time the Thargoids have destroyed a Beluga Liner. A cruise ship here. Probably it was evacuating civilians to safer places. I search among the debris and find a damaged scape pod. I collect it and decide to take to the nearest port. If I am fast enough, maybe there is a chance to save to the life of the poor soul in the pod.
The search and rescue official in Darnielle’s Progress told me, as soon as I landed, that the passenger of the scape pod was death. It seems that the pod was corroded. No wonder, I found it floating in the green cloud that the Thargoids leave after their attacks. This day is getting even worst. I aim for the nearest canteen in hope of finding some Lavian Brandy. No way with this war and the supply lines compromised. Well, any whisky will suffice.
Darnielle’s progress is a planetary outpost with nothing particular except for the fact that is the only place in the galaxy where you can legally buy meta-alloys. Its commerce is legal but heavily restricted. Darnielle’s Progress recently gained even more public attention because of the theft of a great amount of meta-alloys. The perpetrator was said to be the notorious former senator of the Empire, and now terrorist, Kahina Tajina Loren, also known as Salomé. They said that this Salomé also crossed admiral Denton Patreus, almighty commander of the Imperial Fleet, and even tried to assassinate him. In the end, she found her demise at the hands of one of the most dangerous dreaded bounty hunters in the galaxy in very strange circumstances. I never bought the official version. That young girl is considered to be some kind of messianic figure by many explorers. I have heard pilots talking about her with true devotion. The Empire, the Federation and their conspiracies. Who may know what really happened. And talking about conspiracies. I have just come back to my ship after drowning my despair in some horrible synthetized whisky when I saw I had a message from professor Palin in my console. He wants me to go to a Thargoid installation and retrieve some Alien materials. If I comply with his request, he promised that he will release some sensible information he has found about my father’s disappearance.
A Thargoid Complex. I am travelling to a Thargoid complex. I have heard about them. Pilots talk in the canteens. But I did not know about their emplacement. I had to visit Palin Research Centre again before departing in order to get the coordinates and to equip the Hyperion with a corrosion resistant cargo hold. And now I am about to land in what looks like a huge planetary outpost build by these critters. I have been in barnacle sites before, but this is totally different. The place is huge, and its core seems very alive, pulsing with lights at more than 10 km height. This is very unsettling.
I landed as close as possible to the core of the structure and could see what looked like some kind of drones, not clear if mechanical or biological in nature, roaming around and collecting materials. They were not hostile. Indeed, they ignored me. The place gave me the creeps. In the middle of the structure there was like a small hill, crowned with petals and looking biological in nature that seemed the centre of the activity. It was not a good idea to land here at night. Maybe I should have waited. I remained seated in the cockpit of the Hyperion watching the drones coming and going while scanning the place looking for the samples Palin wanted. I did not want to run around in the SRV among these drones more time than the necessary. Soon I found what I was looking for. Two kilometres away, behind one huge tentacle structure that I would have to surround. Damn luck. No way to land close. I decided to risk with the scarab.
As soon as I collected the samples with the SRV they started to corrode the systems. I could not lose them, so I ran to the Hyperion jumping between the tentacles of the structure. The low gravity helped. I parked under the ship and transferred the cargo to the new corrosion resistant rack. All systems nominal. My ship was not corroding and the SRV had just taken minor corrosion damage. I was about to embark when I saw what looked like an entrance to the core of the complex. There was a way to come inside. I approached slowly and carefully with the scarab. There was a tunnel coming inside the structure, but it was blockaded. At the bottom there was some short of door, but it looked like heavy damaged. Like if the ceiling behind had collapsed destroying it. If only I could find the way to penetrate this structure. Who knows what lies in the interior. Frustrated, I returned to the Hyperion and departed heading straight to Maia again.
I was coming back to Maia as fast as I could, jumping from system to system without even scooping, and checking the cargo hold every five minutes when, in the last jump, I experienced something that definitely killed the little morale I was holding. In the middle of the jump the controls went crazy and I was pulled out of hyperspace. And right after that, all my systems shut down leaving me floating defenceless in the middle of nowhere. Alone in the void. I was punching every console and screaming to the COVAS with no success when I realized what has happened. In front of my inert ship there was a Thargoid scanning me. This damn thing was able to interdict me out of hyperspace. How can they do that? I thought that was impossible. And after the interdiction it had disabled me with some kind of energy pulse. For a moment I thought that I was going to share the destiny of my father. I prepared to die but, suddenly, all systems came back to life. I boosted reaching more than 450 meters per second thanks to the enhancements in the thrusters made for Palin and activated the frames shift drive. I was mass locked by the Thargoid, but gaining distance. 3,2,1, engage.
I landed again in Darnielle’s Progress as instructed and delivered the Thargoid samples. As soon as I collected my payment, Palin contacted me and asked to visit him in his base. I landed in Palin Research Centre and was surprised when I saw the professor himself waiting for me in the landing pad. He asked to come inside my ship. That was weird. He said that the walls have ears and what he had to said was just for me. It seems that after my first visit, he checked the logs about the incident of my father and discovered something. According to the report, the ship was found adrift intact. There was no indication of corrosion marks on it.
Palin said that, if I wanted to know the truth, maybe I was asking the wrong question. That maybe it was not about what happened to my father, but about what was he doing there. What was his mission. He suggested that I should talk with two persons: Lori Jameson and Bill Turner. They both will not be easy to reach. Before he departed me with no more explanations, he said something more: -Mark my words. Do not believe everything that Bill Turner tells you, if he tells you anything at all. He is more than he seems-.
THE QUEST FOR PROFESSOR PALIN
26 DEC 3304 Palin Research Centre (Maia)
Once I got the permit for Sirius, I jumped to the system and headed for Patterson Enterprise, a Coriolis Starport orbiting the gas giant known as Waypoint. Meeting Marco Qwent was not going to be so easy. I still had to perform one last mission for Sirius Corporation in order to be invited to Qwent Research Base and, on this occasion, I had to spy a surface base in the neighbour system of Epsilon Eridani, Federation’s favourite tourist resort, but my mission was no tourism. I had to infiltrate Klimuk Market, a base owned by the Epsilon Eridani Future faction. I flew over the base and checked that there were no ships patrolling the perimeter, so I decided to give it a try with the SRV. Security was not tight, but I had to find a way to penetrate into de base, which entrance was protected with an energy wall. I drove around the base until I found an unprotected power generator and blew it up with the plasma repeater turret of my scarab. Suddenly the quiet base came to life with alarms, defensive turrets fire skimmers and chaos. I ran to the now open entrance zigzagging to avoid the fire and managed to locate the communications tower. I scanned it under heavy fire and had to use the booster jets to jump out of the base avoiding this way the skimmers. I made it back to my ship with less than fifty percent of my hull, but the mission was accomplished.
Marco Qwent requested some Modular Terminals in order to meet him, so I still had to fly some missions to get them, but that was easy. Finally, I made it to Qwent Research Base and the engineer tinkered a little bit with my power distributor to enhance its charge performance. And what is most important, he recommended me to Professor Palin, the Federation scientist and engineer and the maximum authority in the research of the Thargoids. I know professor Palin is very fond of explorers and I wanted to cause a good impression, so I decided to come back to Hamilton Gateway in Wolf 406 in invest my money in a new exploring dedicated ship. My previous experience with exploration was in a luxury Dolphin where I was able to reach Flyeia Hypai FH-X c17-16, a round trip of more than 16.000 light years where I discovered many stellar bodies including Earth like worlds and ammonia planets.Not bad for sucha ship, but this time I wanted to look like a true seasoned explorer, not a luxury tourist ferry, so I chosed to buy a Diamondback Explorer. I painted it red and called it the Hyperion, honouring the titan of watchfulness, wisdom and light. I payed a visit to Felicity Farseer, who dramatically increased the Hyperion’s jump range to more than 50 light years and then, properly equipped, I headed to the Pleiades.
My first trip to the Pleiades from the Bubble took me more than twenty jumps in my first exploring ship, an unmodified Adder that I called the Hesperides. The Hyperion did the same trip in less than ten jumps. I came to the Pleiades the first time because I wanted to know what happened to my father, who disappeared in the Merope system four years ago. His Asp Explorer was found adrift with no signals of life aboard and no scape pod. In my first trip here, I could observe the Thargoids for the first time, and I witnessed how they syphoned the scape pods of the ships they destroyed. Now I am back with a more able ship and an invitation to meet the biggest specialist in Thargoids in the galaxy. I hope professor Palin can seed some light to the mystery of my father’s dissapearance.
The first thing I do when I arrive to Maia system is contacting Palin Research Centre to inform them of my arrival. The only answer I receive is that professor Palin will agree to meet me upon the delivery of some fragments of Thargoid sensors. I was not counting on that. I do not even know what these things are, so I decide to go to Donar’s Oak, the headquarters of Aegis Research in the Nearby Delphi system, one of the hotbeds of Thargoid activity and a place where I gained some reputation time ago hunting pirates with the local authorities.
According to Aegis Research, Thargoid Sensors are devices that have the ability to self-repair themselves by extracting materials from their environment. This mechanism can severely damage starships and other machinery when nearby. A number high enough of these devices can even shut down a space station, and they haven been used for that in several occasions. They are known to scan nearby vessels and celestial bodies, and transmit this information encrypted with unknown purposes. And, on top of that, they are corrosive and can destroy the systems of a ship in minutes when collected. I am not sure If I want to put one of this things into my ship. Lucky for me, professor Palin just want them in pieces.
Now I need to know where to find them. According to Aegis Research, Thargoid Sensors sometimes can be found in Non-Human Signal Sources in the systems surrounding Merope, but the Xeno Hunters in one of the canteens in Donar’s Oak gave me a better idea. I gave them some Kamitra Cigars I was keeping from my visit to Hera Tani, and they told me about the fourth planet of system Hip 17403 and its moon, where in its surface I can find the shipwreck of a Thargoid Interceptor. The Xeno Hunters say that the place has a bad reputation among the pilots, because several ships have disappeared in the system and the place is surrounded with the wreckages of human vessels. But, despite that, the place is periodically scavenged by the few pilots desperate enough to get Thargoid technology from there. Well, I need those sensors so, I guess I will have to do some Thargoid scavenging myself.
I arrived to Hip 17403 and explored the system with the ship’s scanner. The HONK showed all the celestial bodies and I headed towards the fourth planet. No way to get lost. It has just one moon where I could land, an uninteresting rocky body… apparently. I decided to try the new surface scanner and launched some probes to map the body. Eight signals detected, but just one Thargoid. I lock the coordinates and started the landing approach. This side of the moon was at night and the darkness was pitch black, contributing to make the situation even more unsettling. I landed among the pieces of a ship, clearly alien in origin, that were scattered among the wreckage of several human vessels. I could clearly distinguish an Anaconda. The alien ship looked like the ones I have seen before in Merope, but it is said to be more than one hundred years old. It looked inert. I jumped into the SRV and drove around the pieces. There were crates with beer and narcotics lying around. And they looked new. That was weird. I wanted to leave the place as soon as possible. I drove towards what looked like the core of the alien vessel and the scans soon detected the fragments of a Thargoid sensor. They were around the remains of a scarab SRV. And this one looked like if it has been there for a while. Very creepy!
I collected the fragments, checked that they were not corrosive and headed back to the Hyperion. I hope professor Palin likes what I got for him. I would not like to come here again.
I have just arrived to the Maia system again and I am recording this log in the Palin Research Centre. Professor Palin has finally agreed to talk with me. I hope he can help me with my quest.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE HUTTON RUN
23 DEC 3304 Hutton Orbital (Alpha Centaury)
I hate mega corporations, and Sirius Corporation is the biggest and oldest of them. It is even bigger than Faulcon DeLacy, the ships manufacturer. Their only allegiance is greed. Sirius Corporation fuelled for years the war between the Federation and the Empire, prolonging the conflict with the result of millions of deaths. Nowadays, they monopolize the new Frame Shift Drive technology, which means vast amounts of wealth and influence, to the point that their CEO, Li Yong-Rui, is one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. Sirius Corporation is a power that controls its own space in The Bubble, but they do not need to conquer systems by force, they just buy them.
I have been in that forsaken outpost of Bruce Prospect in the Avik system for a week, working for the Sirius Corporation in order to get a permit to Sirius system, where I want to meet the engineer known as Marco Qwent. Getting the Alioth permit was easy. Sirius Corporation made me pay the price. After the usual petty transport missions, soon they started to charge me with illegal infiltration missions in surface installations. I barely survived one of those. The plan was to travel to system YZ Ceti to spy one base of the Sublime Order of Van Maneen’s Star, a religious sect with origins in the Federation that believes in maximum hardship and likes to live underground. It sounded pretty easy, but once I arrived to the planet YZ Ceti A 10 b I flew over the compound and observed that it was no base, but a big planetary settlement with lots of buildings and a tight security. A strange place for a group of theocrats that likes to live underground. The night was dark, so I decided to give it a try with my SRV. I landed in a crater far from the settlement and headed there on the Scarab. To the city shining in the dark. But as soon as I trespassed the perimeter, a couple of Eagles took off from the settlement and started to pursue me firing missiles. I ran zigzagging back to my ship avoiding most of the explosions and was able to take off and boost out of the planet losing my shields and most of my hull integrity in the process. Damn zealots!
I had to fly many more transport missions for the Sirius Corporation to compensate for my failure in my last surface mission. And things were not going good in Bruce Prospect. Conflict within the system was rampaging and it was getting very difficult to keep the supply lines. I was interdicted every time I flew with something in my cargo hold. Lucky for me, the Electra is incredibly fast and can scape most situations. The scalation was so big that even the station got damaged in one of the skirmishes. I was so eager to leave this forsaken system that I even bribed the Sirius Corporation representative with some million credits in order to accelerate my permit delivery. As I said before, I hate these greedy mega corporations.
The last mission I got before obtaining my permit to Sirius was a curious one. I had to deliver some critical data to Hutton Orbital outpost in Alpha Centaury, a notorious place for being extremely far from the system’s hyperspace jump arrival point. Hutton Orbital orbits Eden, the only planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and the first planet on which liquid water was detected by spectroscopic methods back in 2038. Coming to Hutton Orbital is considered to be some short of pilgrimage for emerging explorers, because it takes ages to fly the 0,22 light years of distance in super cruise and you can reach speeds of more than 1.800 c. I had to go there.
I make myself ready for the long hours flying straight and depart Bruce Prospect. Upon arrival to Alpha Centaury, I scan the system and head straight to Hutton Orbital. Estimated time of arrival more than 5 days, but it will get shorter as I accelerate. Soon I notice that I was being followed by a Fer De-Lance. They said there was a chance that I will be pursued, but I am not worried. The Fer De-Lance is not close enough to interdict me, and as the Electra leaves the influence of the gravity of Alpha Centaury the acceleration will rise more and more. It is a long trip before the gravity of Proxima Centaury makes us decelerate again. The Fer De-Lance can not keep the track and soon it disappears from my HUD.
The rest of the trip goes without incidents. Just me in the Electra alone in the void. A lot of time to think. I am not really interested in meeting Marco Qwent, but he can help me reach professor Palin, the biggest expert in the Thargoids in the galaxy. Maybe he could help me understand what happened to my father when he disappeared in Merope four years ago and, besides, he is also an engineer with unmatched expertise in thrusters systems. Still a while to go. Halfway, I cross my path with a Hauler of the Hutton Orbital Truckers Co-operative, a faction committed to keeping the supply lines of Hutton Orbital, do not mistake with the Hutton Orbital Truckers, the association of independent Commanders that do to crazy transport missions and defended Hutton Orbital from the blockade of The Code and the Smiling Dog Crew three years ago.
I finally make it to my destination. Upon arrival to Hutton Orbital I detect a signal with the remains of a combat, so I decide to take a look. I do not know if it is because they never found my father’s scape pod, but I am very sensible to the idea of leaving someone floating in space on their own. I find two intact scape pods. I collect them and land in Hutton Orbital. The search and rescue contact of the station pays me for my efforts and informs me that the passengers of the scape pods are still alive. I hope they have a good insurance, other way is going to cost them a lot a transport out of this place. Satisfied, I deliver the data I was carrying and run to the gift shop of the station to get my Hutton Mug. Hutton Mugs are made from the salvaged frame shift drives plates of ships that run out of fuel before reaching the station, and they are only sold to Commanders who make the painfully long journey to Hutton Orbital. You can buy fake Hutton Mugs in many places but, for the real one, you have to come here.
I am recording this log at the canteen in Hutton Orbital, sipping tea from a bag in zero gravity. I wish I could use my new Hutton Mug, but I guess I will have to wait until I can enjoy gravity again. It is said that it feels like if there were latent frame shift energies keeping your drink warm when you use it. And now, here in this remote place, I look out of the window and can see the planet Eden while I think what a milestone in space exploration was the discovery of water there, centuries ago, when the humanity was still confined to the Sol system. Before the Federation, the Empire, the Alliance or the Thargoids. And suddenly I realize that I have never been there. In Sol system. I have never set foot on Earth or Mars and never give it a thought before. I guess is the influence of being in Alpha Centaury. So close. Maybe one day. But first, I must go to Sirius and find Marco Qwent.
Jav Marlo signing out.
MECHANICS, SCIENTISTS AND TINKERERS
16 DEC 3304 Bruce Prospect (Avik)
I am exhausted. I have run tens of missions during the last week and travelled all around The Bubble, from Alliance space to the Empire territory. I have been chased, interdicted and attacked more times that I can count. I have worked for the Empire, the Eurybia Blue Mafia and I have sell illegal commodities in the black market. And all of this for a scanty pay. I just hope that in the end all this effort will be worth it.
Since I decided to contribute to the AEDC efforts and stablished myself at Hamilton Gateway in Wolf 406, I have been trying to build a reputation with the local Alliance factions, mostly flying missions for the Wolf 406 Transport & Co. After the usual petty transport missions, where the Electra showed again its capabilities for avoiding interdictions, soon I was charged with less legitimate tasks, like illegal recoveries operations, and trespassing surface installations for spying.
I even was charged with disabling the turrets of a Dionysus-class Cropper megaship in system Wolf 504, alas I had not enough fire power to accomplish the task and had to run away when the local authorities appeared. All these adventures, plus the fact that almost all factions in Wolf 406 are currently at war, made me thought that I may need more fire power in the future.
I have been observing the ships the veteran Commanders of the Pilots Federation fly. They are big and expensive. I cannot afford them right now. But the most important thing, it is that those ships have been heavily modified. When Commander Oedifastus knocked me down several weeks ago in the Pleiades, he was flying a huge Federal Corvette that was able to outrun my superfast Viper Mk III. How could this be possible. Every module of my Viper, the Achilles, was A-rated, and a Federal Corvette matched my speed. That was not a conventional ship.
There is a group of reclusive mechanics, scientists and tinkerers with huge resources that call themselves the Engineers. Felicity Farseer is one of them. They offer to modify the ships of the independent pilots. Of course, most of these modifications are experimental, not guaranteed by safety regulations and, in most cases, illegal; but with them a civil vessel can outperform comparable military-spec ships. The problem is that those engineers live in their own bases, have different allegiances and are not willing to receive visitors without an invitation. Besides, I learned from Farseer that these modifications do not come cheap. Different materials are required, and some of them are very rare and difficult to find.
I have equipped my Cobra, the Electra, with a collector limpet controller, and starting to explore the surrounding systems looking signals of derelict ships to collect crafting materials. I also have landed in many planets looking for different minerals to gather with my SRV. I have visited Felicity Farseer and improved significantly the jump range of the Electra, and installed a dirty drives modification in my thrusters that allows me to boost over 500 meters per second.
After my visit to Farseer Inc. I decided to hear the invitation of Tod “The Blaster” McQuinn, a former bounty hunter and CQC Arena champion with an expertise in kinetic weapons. He just respects bounty hunters, so I stopped in the nav bouy of Wolf 397, where his base of Trophy Camp is, and waited patiently until a wanted ship arrived. I needed to collect some bounty vouchers to prove my combat abilities to “The Blaster”. Several minutes later, a Krait Phantom appeared. I scanned the ship and saw that if belonged to one of the local criminal organizations. It was a very difficult prey, much superior in fire power, but I was able to handle myself in the combat thanks to my superior maneuverability until the local defense force came in my aid. That was it. A big a juicy bounty voucher worth more than 100.000 credits. Enough to impress “The Blaster”.
After Tod “The Blaster” McQuinn had tinkered with my multi-cannons, I decided to go to system Wyrd, to pay a visit to The Dweller, a mysterious figure of the underworld, with deep knowledge of thermal weapons and power distributors. Reaching him was easier than expected. Due to my activity collecting materials from derelict ships, I found also too many times commodities crates that I sold in the local black markets. These contacts in the black markets told me about the location of The Dweller’s base, Black Hide. Once there, The Dweller just asked for 500.000 credits to access his services. We talked and he suggested that I should modify my pulse lasers for long range engagements, so I can keep a safe distance with my opponents while inflicting damage at the same time.
My next stop was the system Khun, where I visited Elvira Martuuk on her camp, Long Sight Base. Elvira Martuuk is a well known explorer, with expertise in frame shift drives and shield generators. She is also rumoured to have once been a deadly assassin. Better not cross paths with her. She can freeze you with a glance. I took some Soontill Relics with me, a very rare commodity Elvira is very fond of, to ease the deal. In return, she improved my shields making them more resistant to thermal damage.
From there I traveled to the system Eurybia, in order to meet an engineer called Liz Ryder, a demolition expert working for a crime syndicate known as the Blue Mafia. I had to do some missions, nothing illegal, for the Eurybia Blue Mafia before I was granted an invitation Liz Ryder’s base, Demolition Unlimited. I was also asked to brought 100 tons of landmines with me as a gift. That is a big cargo for the Electra, so I arranged for my Type 6 Transporter, The Pallas, to be transferred to the planetary port of Atiyah Relay in the Kongan system, the nearest place selling land mines. After a very stressing trip, being interdicted in every system I jumped, I was able to reach Demolition Unlimited with my cargo hold full of land mines. Once there, Liz Ryder convinced me to change my multi-cannons for seeker missile racks, and she tinkered with them to add more ammo capacity.
The Electra was becoming in quite a ship little by little. Liz Ryder suggested that I should pay a visit to Hera Tani, an old contact of her from the criminal circles. The problem is that Hera Tani only receives pilots with a reputation in the Empire. Being a fresh recruit of the AEDC and born and raised in the Alliance, the idea of working for the Empire makes me feel very uncomfortable. I looked for an imperial system as far as possible from the Alliance space and found Agartha, a nice system with a service economy and a nice fancy Coriolis starport not far from the main star, Enoch Port. I have never set foot before on an imperial station and must admit that I found it quite opulent with its gardens and promenades. Imperials may not be the champions of freedom, but they know how to make an impact on a foreigner visitor. I took a walk around the station and mingled with the locals feeling like a beggar in my flysuit. Outside the landing pads and working areas, everybody was wearing incredible flamboyant costumes and jewelry. Some of the men even carried swords. I am not sure if I crossed paths with any imperial slaves, but given the circumstances, I probably did. And if I did, I honestly could not find any difference with any other imperial citizen. And there were the women. The exotic and mysterious imperial women. So difficult to focus on my mission with so many stimuli. I took some innocent courier missions for the local factions and soon gained the rank of Outsider for the Empire. With that, and a bribe of 50 tons of Kamitra cigars that were very tedious to obtain, I gained access to Hera Tani, who dangerously overcharged my powerplant dramatically improving its capacity.
My next contact was another former criminal, Zacariah Nemo, the leader of a small cult-like commune, the Nemo Cyber Party. Rumours say he is a genius with projectile weapons, they also say that he has a cyber-enhanced brain. Nevertheless, I took some Xihe Companions with me as a token, I have heard that he is a fanatic of robotics, and these biomorphic animal are the most realistic and exclusive robo-companions in the market. In exchange, Zacariah gave me some advice on adding some frag-cannons to my ship if I want to go bounty hunting. He also recommended I visit a partner of him, Marco Quent, a technological guru linked with the Sirius Corporation. The problem with Marco Qwent is that he is in the Sirius system, and I need a permit to go there.
So here I am now, recording this log in Bruce Prospect, an isolated outpost in the Avik system, the only station there, but near to Sirius and a discreet place to contact a representative of the Sirius Corporation. I cannot believe that there is an office of Interstellar Factors here where I will be able to clean my record. Well, as I said, it has been an exhausting week, and there is no Lavian Brandy in this forsaken place, just the insipid local ale. I want to go back to Alliance space as soon as possible. Let`s hope that all this effort will be worth it.
Jav Marlo signing out.
ANSWERING THE CALL. JOINING THE ALLIANCE ELITE DIPLOMATIC CORPS
11 DEC 3304 Hamilton Gateway (Wolf 406)
I finally made it back to Alioth. My first long distance expedition has been a success. A 16.000 light years round trip in a Dolphin with a jump range of just 20 light years. Not bad for my first incursion in deep space. I also visited a black hole, surfed a neutron star and discovered my first ammonia planet, a water world and an Earth like planet. An unforgettable experience. I dream with exploring the galaxy someday, but I have more important matters now, so I shake hands with my passenger, the explorer Peter Mays, and say goodbye.
My first stop is the passenger lounge, where I collect from the Alioth Independent Constitution Party my meagre payment, just 8 million credits for such a trip. But then I visit the Universal Cartographics office in Donaldson and I get paid more than 25 million credits for my exploration data, plus a straight promotion to Ranger of the Pilots Federation. It seems that I have discovered many systems too. Who would think that exploration could be so profitable? Now with my mission accomplished, I can focus my attention in the mysterious message I received from Commander DNA-Decay.
I log into the Galnet an open the message. Commander DNA-Decay introduces himself as a veteran of the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps or AEDC, an organization of independent pilots that supports the Alliance with every available method. When I check on them I find that they have been operating for several years, most of their activities are secret, but it is well known their involvement in some major military operations like the liberation of Leesti. They also have the support of many influential organisations and individuals, like the notorious business magnate Victoria Wolf and Commodore Helena Stone of the Alliance Navy. Commander DNA-Decay says that he has checked my background and thinks that, with some mentoring, I could join the AEDC.
I do not know how I came under the radar of this group, but it is the opportunity I was looking for. I came to Alioth looking for clues about the disappearance of my father four years ago in Merope. My plan was to get some reputation with the local factions in hope of getting an audition with the Council of Admirals. Alliance security is to tight nowadays due to the terrorist attacks of the League of Reparation, and soon I realized that they will never receive me, but maybe if I ally myself with a group connected with notorious Alliance individuals, my chances of getting to the Council of Admirals may increase. Well, my father was an explorer of the Alliance Defence Force, I was born in Dublin Citadel and I do not like the Empire or the Federation interfering in the Alliance systems. I think it is time to answer the call of the AEDC.
Commander DNA-Decay has suggested that I should go to Hamilton Gateway in Wolf 406. He also notices me that Diamondback Explorers and Asp Explorers are at a discount there. Maybe he is implying that my Dolphin, the Ariadne, is not a suitable ship for the task ahead. So I fly to Seddon Gateway in 78 Ursae Majoris and recover my MkIII Cobra, the Electra. How much I have missed this ship! It is time to arrive to Wolf 406 in some style.
The moment I arrive on Hamilton Gateway I am contacted again by Commander DNA-Decay. I guess they know everything that happens in their headquarters. He is not nearby, but he introduces me through the commlink to other veteran members of the AEDC. He suggests that I make myself comfortable and pick some jobs in the system while waiting for an operation in which to participate. I think it will be a good idea to build a reputation with the main faction of the system, so I pay a visit to the mission panel and decide to take a job for the Wolf 406 Transport & Co. The task is to deliver some weapons to Russell Gateway in Cupinook. The mission agent warns me: they could send hostiles against me.
I load the weapons in the Electra and prepare to depart. Cupinook is just at one jump distance. I do not want to screw up things in my first mission for the Wolf 406 Transport & Co, but I am not worried because I know my ship is fast and can scape form most situations. I arrive to Cupinook without incidents and head for Russell Gateway, my destination. Seconds later I receive a message informing me that I have a ship in pursue and almost at the same moment I am interdicted. Damn it! They must have been waiting me in the main star, and now I have them behind. I fight frantically with the controls to avoid being expelled into normal space when I realized that I have been intercepted by a Cobra MKIV and that there is supplement in my pay if I destroy it. Well, I have a Cobra too and know how to make it dance. I cut off impulse power and surrender to the interdiction.
I am expelled back to normal space with a violent spin and, as soon as I recover, I lock in my HUD my opponent ship. It is registered to someone called Stubbs, mostly aimless. I guess he is just a petty pirate who got the notice that there was a shipment of weapons and thought that these could be an easy prey. I am sure that he was not expecting another Cobra, and less a heavily armed Cobra. I have killed pirates by the hundreds in my Viper when I was in the Pleiades, so I ignore Stubbs’s orders of surrendering my cargo and hope he is not stupid enough to attack me. He is. He opens fire and we engage on a dogfight over planet Cupinook 6.
I vaporize easily the MKIV Cobra with my pulse lasers and some missiles. Poor bastard! I can see that, before exploding, the Cobra has dropped two canisters of liquors out of the cargo bay. That confirms my theory of the pirate. It is stolen property, but I take the canisters hoping to able to sell them later in the black market. Better than let them to waste.
I enter back in supercruise and aim again for Russell Gateway to finish my mission. I am about to arrive when I see an unidentified signal source in the HUD. I am on schedule, so I decide to take a look. The scanners say that it is a deteriorate transmission that poses no threat. I jump out of supercruise and find myself flying in the middle of a debris field. Much of the derelict metal pieces flying around are bigger than the Electra. Whatever ship was this wreck, it was huge. There is a sill functioning communications buoy in the middle of the debris and I am able to download some data. I hope it seeds some light on what happened here. Suddenly, behind one huge metal plate, I see what looks like an intact Diamondback Scout. I maneuver the Electra using the thrusters and approach the ship looking for survivors. The ship looks intact, but the canopy is destroyed. No signs of the pilot. – What happened to you? Are you still alive? Were you able to evacuate before the demise of your ship? – I knew I was in danger when I went to the Pleiades in an unprepared ship and faced the Thargoids. But the Bubble is not safe neither. This is a cutthroat galaxy. And I should make myself ready for the worst in the times to come if I do not want to end like the owner of the ship in front of me.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE BEAUTY OF EXPLORATION (PART II)
06 DEC 3304 Deep Space (Thailae NO-B c16-35) Heading back to the Alliance Space
I think I have developed a hunger for exploration. The attraction of the void, the loneliness, the helplessness, and the feeling of going where no man has gone before. I find it very appealing. The frame shift drive technology was introduced in 3290 and had been monopolized by Sirius Corporation since them, but assuring it was distributed to all powers and factions. Since 3300, every space ship comes with a frame shift drive incorporated. Nowadays, commanders can travel in seconds distances that took days before. Frame shift drive technology has made possible to reach the far corners of the galaxy. And it has been done. The stories of pilots like Commander Zulu Romeo, who flying his Cobra MKIII was the first man to go to the galaxy nucleus, the system Sagittarius A, and confirmed that there was a super massive black hole there, or Commander Erimus Kamzel who visited the farthest point of the galaxy, system Beagle Point named in honour of his Asp Explorer, are now legendary among the Commanders who wants to make an impact too themselves in the Milky Way.
I am a rookie explorer on his first trip out of The Bubble. But I want to contribute to the mapping of this galaxy. And soon enough I make my first significant discovery. Phylucs KO-Z d13-2. An undiscovered system containing two water worlds. A pity I did not brought a detailed surface scan with me. I still have much to learn about exploration, Nevertheless, I scan the whole system. I feel exultant and decide to take a closer look to the planets. Tiny beautiful blue pearls in the void.
Peter Mays, my passenger, the seasoned explorer who is mentoring me in the navigation techniques and the secrets of exploration, congratulates me on my discovery, but insists that we should arrive soon to his destination. I understand. No more distractions. Some hundred jumps and a couple of days later we arrive to system Flyeia Hypai FH-X c17-16, our goal. More than 8.000 light years away from Alioth.
The first planet in orbit of system Flyeia Hypai FH-X c17-16 is a small heavy metal planet with vivid red colours that orbits very close to his K-class star. Universal Cartographics has set a tourist beacon there, in a strategic place with astonishing views. Peter Mays asks me to approach the beacon an stablish a link. I do as he says. He does not explain his motives and I do not need to know them. I am just mesmerized with the scene. Lucky me, I brought an SRV on this expedition, and I take my chance to enjoy driving around on the beautiful crater where we have landed.
Well, it seems that Peter Mays got what he was looking for and now we can go back to Alioth. We have four days remaining to do the trip back on time, so maybe I could indulge myself and do a little detour. I want to see a black hole. So, I search in the nav map for systems with huge mass signals and find Flyeia Hypai AA-A h41. There I go. I can see that it has already been discovered, so no chance of finding the black hole untagged; but for my first exploration trip I am content with just seeing it.
I am on my way to my first black hole, just quick searching every system I jump looking for something interesting when I see it. Something I have never seen before. A big brown planet emitting a signal new for me. It seems that it has an atmosphere, but made of what? Peter Mays suggests that I should scan it, so I make an approach while the scanner tries to identify the planet in front. After some seconds, that seems like hours, I get a result. Flyeia Hypai EO-U b35-0 2. An ammonia world with four times more mass than Earth. And I am the first human to find it. They say that the Thargoids may live on these planets. I have to take a closer look.
I arrive to Flyeia Hypai AA-A h41 and cut the impulse power as soon as I jump. There it is. The first black hole I can see with my own eyes. Or more correctly, the first gravitational distortion of a black hole that I can observe for real. Black holes are the stellar remnants of super massive stars that have reached the end of their lives. Nuclear fusion has ceased, and the star has collapsed to a point where gravity is so extreme that light itself can not scape. They are only visible by the distortion they make in their vicinity. One of the great mysteries of the Universe. And I am in front of one. But it seems that Commander Skyflyer found it before me.
With my exploration urges satisfied, I trace a path back straight to Alioth in the nav com. No more detours. I have a mission, a schedule, and I will fulfil them. Back to the tedious jump, scoop, honk, check and jump again. I promise myself that I will just stop if I see something extraordinary. And still travelling through the Flyeia region I see something very familiar, but extraordinary at the same time. An Earth-like world. I aim the planet and see that the signal of the scanner is very similar to that of an ammonia world. The first Earth-like world I discover. Flyeia Hypai CM-K d9-28 5. And it is not so far from The Bubble. Maybe one day there will be a human colony here. This exploration trip is fulfilling all my hopes and more.
I am now not too far from The Bubble, in Thailae NO-B c16-35, a system without planets but with four scoopable stars. Two of them orbit the main star creating quite a spectacle. I have stopped to refuel and enjoy the view. I am thinking that if I stay here long enough I could get a nice tan, when something catches my attention. I have a message in the GalNet from Commander DNA-Decay. He introduces himself as a veteran of the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps, and he wants to talk with me. That is very intriguing. I wonder what the AEDC may want of me. I need to go back to Alioth ASAP. This may be the opportunity I was looking for.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE BEAUTY OF EXPLORATION (PART I)
06 DEC 3304 Deep Space (Thailae NO-B c16-35) Heading back to the Alliance Space
After some tens of transport missions for the Alliance factions in Alioth my ranks rose and soon the Pilots Federation promoted me to Merchant and the Alliance started to consider me an ally. Alas, that did not get me any significant contacts or clue about how to reach the Council of Admirals in Garden City. They will never concede an audience to an emerging independent merchant pilot. I needed a new plan. And then, I saw it. I was in a landing platform in Irkutsk overseeing the refuelling of the Pallas when an incredibly elegant and nimble white ship flew over me and landed on the nearby platform. It was a Dolphin, a small luxury passenger liner manufactured by Saud Kruger. I know that the wealthy imperial patrons fancy a lot this kind of ships, but they are not such a common sight in Alliance space. And that gave me an idea. I thought that maybe I could build a luxury limo business inter Alliance space stations. That way I might attract VIPs with connections in the Alliance Defence Force and, perhaps, get an audience with the Council of Admirals.
I found a dealer in Irkutsk shipyards willing to sell a Dolphin, bought it and outfitted it the best I could for taking luxury passenger transport missions. I decided to keep the original white elegant painting design and call it the Ariadne, bride of Dionysus the god of hedonism and wine. Perhaps I should acquire some Lavian Brandy to offer to my passengers. Welcome to Jav Marlo’s Luxury Shuttle, may I offer you a drink to make your trip more enjoyable.
I took some businessmen from Donaldson in Alioth to Vizcaino City in STF 1774, and I was back to Donaldson, looking for another easy fast shuttle service when I was approached by a man that did not look like a VIP who asked me about my Dolphin’s jump range. His name was Peter Mays and he was a famous explorer working for the Independent Constitution Party, a democratic faction of the Alliance that controls some of the stations in Alioth. He and two of his men needed transport to a planet that was more than 8.000 light years away in the Flyeia region and none of the local independent pilots were willing to take them there. They were offering just 7 million credits for the trip. That was a lot more that I was never paid for a mission before, but far not enough for all the risk and the time that would took to reach that system. It could take us a week to arrive there. I could make much more money taking short range transport missions on that time. And besides, I have never been out of The Bubble before. It was crazy, a bad deal, above my skills and my rank, but I accepted. And the reason was that Peter Mays offered to mentor me in exploration techniques during the trip.
So here I am. In the black. Heading to a system 8.000 light years away, in my first trip out of the Bubble, flying in a short range Dolphin luxury shuttle that can barely jump 20 light years. And despite everything I am enjoying the experience. I know that for any seasoned explorer this trip may feel like popping to the corner shop, but for me it is my first adventure out of civilized space. According to Universal Cartographics, just 0.0076 per cent of the Galaxy has been discovered. Even with the introduction of the new frame shift drive technology fourteen years ago, it will take thousands of years to map the whole galaxy. Peter Mays, my passenger, says that we are living now the golden age of galactic exploration. And that you can find undiscovered systems just 1.000 thousand light years away from The Bubble. And then it happens. I jump to Praea Euq WG-H b51-1, upon arriving I activate the advance discovery scanner of the Ariadne, I wait for the HONK, check the system map and there it is: an untagged star with no commander’s name on it. It is just a red dwarf in a valueless system that just contains another brown dwarf. But it has never been tagged. Peter Mays is amused by my excitement. He says that is unlikely that any commander will find this system before we return, so I will be able to sell this exploration data to Universal Cartographics and tag the star with my name. It is a scoopable star, so there are chances that some commander stops here in the future. I contemplate the red glare of the star and fill of pride while I imagine a commander refuelling his ship in this system after a long range mission in the void while he reads in his nav map: first discovered by Commander Jav Marlo.
The days pass as we advance, slowly but steady, towards Fleia region. The Ariadne has two passenger cabins, one luxury and the other first class. I give the luxury cabin to my passengers and take the first class for myself. I must say that it is quite a change. Being used to the living quarters of my Type 6 and my Cobra MKIII with its lack of luxuries and tiny bunks, this is a totally different way of travel. I even have some Lavian Brandy to indulge myself. I should not get too much comfortable or I will soften.
After the discovery of my first star, now I want to explore and tag any new system we jump into, but our schedule is tight. Besides, Peter Mays explains to me that many systems are not worth exploring, and that I should aim mainly for the high-metal content terraformable worlds, the water worlds, the ammonia planets, the Earth-like worlds and some gas giants, instead of trying to scan any rocky moon I find. I think he says that because I have spent the last hour scanning every stellar body I found in the Praea Euq KZ-B B54-2 system. Looking at the system map I thought that one of the planets may be a water world, and I was right, alas Commander FLYBOYBS found it before. I lock the next system in the nav map and prepare to engage the frame shift drive when the sensors catch an unidentified signal. That is weird so far from The Bubble, so I decide to take a look. It is a deteriorate transmission. I jump out of supercruise and find the debris of an unidentified small ship. Among the remains adrift there is the source of the signal, a small survey data cache. Peter Mays says that we should collect it and bring it back to civilized space, maybe there is a clue about what happened to the destroyed ship or valuable exploration data. Or perhaps an explanation of why Commander FLYBOYBS scanned just the water world leaving the rest of the system and its star unexplored.
Peter Mays explains to me that Universal Cartographics pays depending of the star type you can discover, being the most valuable the neutron stars, the black holes and the incredibly rare Wolf-Rayet stars. Bad idea. Now I want to see them all. Wolf-Rayet stars are very difficult to find and it will mean a big detour to visit one, but neutron stars are far more common and easy to find trough the nav map. Besides, a pilot with the skills to surf its jet cone can overcharge its frame shift drive and multiply its jump range by four. The problem is that this practice is incredible difficult and dangerous as it inflicts a huge stress for the ship’s internal systems and it damages the frame shift drive. So, let’s give it a try. We search for a nearby neutron star and find Drojia VL-J d10-18, a system discovered by Commander Pygoscelis that just contains a beautiful neutron star asking to be surfed. I cut impulse power as soon as I jump into the system because Peter Mays says that the huge magnetic field of the neutron star can be treacherous and expel us out of supercruise in an instant without noticing. I take a moment to contemplate the beauty in front of me. A tiny blue star with such a huge mass that it cannot retain it and it is expelled to the space in the form of whirlwind plumes that creates a huge turbulence. Beautiful and deadly. I brace myself, take a deep breath and head for the jet cone. I approach swiftly, one quarter impulse, and soon find myself merciless spinning in the turbulence of the cone. The huge force expels me out spinning out of control. It takes me a couple of seconds to recover, but Peter Mays is yelling me: -NOT ENOUGH, TRY AGAIN-. I enter into the cone again and this time I cut off the impulse as soon as I am in the inside. I let the Ariadne spin at the mercy of the spiralling forces surrounding her and suddenly the cockpit voice assistant says: - DANGER, FRAME SHIFT DRIVE OVERCHARGE BEYOND SAFETY LIMITS-. This is it. I wait for the turbulent forces to expel me out of the cone, I take some distance and open the nav map. That is amazing, I can lock stars 90 light years away for my next jump. Here we go. 3, 2, 1… ENGAGE.
KEEPING A LOW PROFILE IN ALIOTH
30 NOV 3304 Irkutsk (Alioth)
Finally, after tens of transport and courier missions for the Alioth Independents, I got my permit to fly to the system Alioth. At last, I was going to visit the beating heart of the Alliance of Independent Systems. Epsilon Ursae Majoris, the white giant star. The disputed system. Coveted by both, the Federation and the Empire. Ilegal to visit for the majority of pilots and factions. And what was most important for me, headquarters of the Alliance Assembly and the Council of Admirals.
My father was flying a secret mission for the Alliance Defence Force when he disappeared in the Merope system four years ago. His ship was found adrift and he was given for dead, is all the explanation I got. The corpse was never found though. Well, I have travel a long way to be here, and I need some answers. The Council of Admirals commands the Alliance Defence Force. Their headquarters are in Garden City in Turner’s World. I need to go there, but it is not going to be easy. Getting the permit to Alioth was the easy part. Now, with all this madness about the terrorists of the League of Reparation, the security around Garden City is adamant and nobody gets there without an invitation. I need to figure out what to do. In the meantime, I will try to keep a low profile as I was recommended, and get friend with the local factions.
My current ship the Electra, a modified Cobra MkIII, is a little bit blatant to fly to Alioth avoiding attention, so I have bought a Type 6 Transport in Sheddon City in 78 Ursae Majoris System. I call my new ship the Pallas, like the mythological giant, because it is my first medium sized ship and I have outfitted it to carry 100 tons of cargo. Time to do some transport missions, the real profitable ones.
So here I am now. In Alioth at last. Taking transport missions for all the factions related with the Alliance and visiting all its space stations, from Donaldson to Irkutsk. I hope that if I work for them enough time, I can build a reputation here, enough for the Alliance to consider me an ally. Maybe then they will admit me in Garden City. So I spend all my time moving food cartridges, medicines, hydrogen fuel and biowaste between the remote outposts of the Alioth surrounding systems. Some of the factions I work for have noticed that I have quite an acceptable combat profile, so they offer me some assassination and bounty hunting missions, but I decline them all. I am keeping a low profile now. Quite a change after being hunting pirates in the Pleiades and running away from the Thargoids.
Jav Marlo signing out.
COMING BACK HOME
27 NOV 3304 Dublin Citadel (Gateway)
The trip to Deciat went without problems. I was worried because I have heard that the Thargoids tend to interdict ships carrying meta-alloys, so I did the trip without deviations, just jumping and scooping, and twenty or some systems later I was in Deciat. I deep scanned the system looking for signals of Farseer’s base and soon I locate a station called Farseer Inc. That must be it. Minutes later I was flying over the base that is embedded in one canyon on the planet Deciat 6A. I wonder how much money did Farseer won on his exploring days to be able to keep a place like this.
I found Felicity Farseer quite approachable once I told her I was carrying meta-alloys. It seems that she is researching Thargoid technology and that her main fields of expertise are frame shift drives, sensors and thrusters. I told her that I arrived to the Pleiades flying in an Adder and that I have been observing the Thargoids with that ship. I think that impressed her. She is very fond of explorers, and willing to improve the systems of my ship. Sadly, most of the modifications she can make require very exotic components that I do not have, so she only was able to slightly improve my thrusters. Now, with the dirty drives modification, the Electra can reach nearly 500 m/s. I said goodbye to Farseer and promised than next time I will carry all the necessary for more deep modifications. I am amazed by the potential of the engineering modifications. Next stop, Gateway.
I was born here, in Dublin Citadel. Never knew my mother, as she died during my birth. My father was based here, but spent most of the time flying in missions for the Alliance Defence Force. He was not a combat pilot, mostly some kind of scout, and that is even worse because he used to spend long periods of time flying alone in missions exploring far systems. So I grew up mostly alone, under the care of the Alliance Social Services. It was not that I was an orphan, because I had a place of my own in the station, my father’s apartment, and mostly due to the high rank he held on the Alliance military. But I was alone in any case, and got into trouble too many times. I was a good student, but liked to mingle with the local petty criminals of the zone, and soon I took the attention of the Gateway Jet Brotherhood, a local powerful crime syndicate. They asked me to hide some crates with weapons in my place. Being my father a navy official, they thought it could be a safe place. Dad was in a mission, hundreds of light years away, and I stupidly accepted. I just wanted to impress them. Some guys from the crew brought the weapon containers, hide them in my place and then we went to a bar to celebrate. When I came back to the apartment the weapons were not there. The Brotherhood did not understand, so they tortured me. They cut my face from side to side with a knife. From that moment, I have told everybody that my scar was the result of a bar fight, because I was ashamed of the truth. Anyhow, when I thought it was my end, the authorities appeared and arrested them. The weapons were a decoy. They took them. Their real plan was to ask my father for a ransom. Luckily, my father had asked one of his friends to keep an eye on me. Sadly, he did not arrive before they cut my face, but even so I am grateful. My father trusted him. He was one of his closest friends. He helped me in the past. And now I am asking him for help again.
Ironically, the incident with the Gateway Jet Brotherhood was what joined Dad and I. From this moment, he started to take me with him on his regular missions and we wandered across all the Alliance space. I never set foot again on Dublin Citadel. Whenever he was on a classified assignment I stayed behind taking temporary jobs until his return. I had become a quite skilful ship engineer by that time. But he never liked the idea of me piloting a starship. Well, one day he left me in Baker’s Prospects in the Asellus Primus system, and one month later the Alliance Defence Force sent me a message saying that my father’s ship has been found adrift in the Merope system and he was given for dead. That is why I applied for the Pilots Federation and that is why I am now back in Dublin Citadel, after four years, asking my father’s friend how can I get a permission to Alioth. I need to go Garden City, where the Council of Admirals is, and find out what happened to my father.
It never was easy to get a permit to fly to Alioth system, but nowadays, after the terrorist’s attacks of the League of Reparation, the security is tighter than ever. It seems that this crazy Admiral, Riri McAllister, directed an organization that was killing high ranking officers of the Empire and the Alliance due to some kind of crazy retribution crusade. It is madness, a member of the Council of Admirals of the Alliance. And I want to reach their headquarters. This is not going to be easy. My contact tells me that there is a minor faction, the Alioth Independents, that is getting quite a reputation within the Alliance. He suggests that, maybe, I should work for them. He also insists that I should keep a low profile. Any record in my profile about criminal activity in the vicinity of an Alliance system can jeopardize my chances of getting a permit to Alioth. So here I am. Doing courier missions for the Alioth Independents and flying the Electra between the most remote outposts of the Alliance space.
Jav Marlo signing out.