Casual Play Astrogation

Lambda Tudyk Behr 13c (Xanthi)

As between-space opens on star-speckled void, the first thing you see is a sun. Wide and bright, yellow-orange, it hangs silent in a system where a cluster of rocky worlds sits separated by an envelope of asteroids and shattered worldlets from a larger cluster of gaseous worlds. One of the rocky worlds, an almost Earth-sized planet that shines blue and green in the endless black– something about it catches your interest. Sensors and a mote-probe kick back data immediately. Nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, seventy-three percent of the surface covered by liquid water, ice at the poles– everything lines up right in the green. It's a perfect candidate for colonization.

Or it seems to be, until you start to pick up traces of ruins, huge swathes of leveled, ash-choked cities and soil scoured and saturated with radiation.

A mote-probe flyby confirms it. Lambda Tudyk Behr 13c was perfect, idyllic for human life at one point, but now it's a toxic wasteland, a monument to the destruction of a species, the loss of a culture, of however many dozens of unique, individual alien cultures may have once existed on the surface.

More flybys reveal more data. Feeds fill your mind, images of glassy streets, skyscrapers cut down, gaping at the sky, cracked open like dead and broken teeth. Storms composed entirely of radioactive ash rise, wash over the ruins, wash away even the slightest hints of life. All too quickly, it becomes clear what happened on this world, the horrors that swept it clean of life, left only shadows where a living world and a once prosperous civilization stood. There are no records, but it looks like war. Devastation on this scale– it's usually war. An exchange of nuclear weapons between nations, between inflated tribes ruled by rotten, swiss-cheese governments. It's an all too common occurrence among the stars– Billions of lives reduced to ash in a second, entire worlds of life paying the price for a single finger pushing a single button.

You do a few more flybys in the hopes of finding evidence of survivors, of anything, any kind of life that might have survived the exchange, but there's nothing, not even insects, not even fungi, bacteria, plant life. Whatever was used to end this world, it sterilized the surface, killed everything, hit the reset button on billions of years of evolution, struggle and success.

Burdened by the ghosts of your discovery, you close your eyes to the stars as you withdraw from the mote-probe, set it on a return course for your ship. When it arrives, you put the world out of your mind, let your senses find the controls of your ship again. The integrated intelligence spins up your ship's phasedrive, and you find yourself saying something like a silent prayer for the world, for the people, for the memory of the life that destroyed itself here. It isn't much, isn't anything really. It's a farewell, maybe. A moment of solemn sympathy before you turn, make the jump back into between-space and move on to other suns, other worlds.


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