Casual Play Astrogation

Sigma Caadium Persea 6y (Xanthi)

Coming out of between-space, you find yourself coasting at the extreme edge of something huge and blindingly brilliant. Quick scans label it as a massive disc of superheated gas spinning out from a far larger central star. Figures come in– the disc itself is so wide that it spans a distance of almost seven billion kilometers, but the gravity of the star pulls the raging inferno in against the plane of the ecliptic, keeps it from spreading out to become more than a few hundred kilometers in thickness. Putting some space between yourself and the heat, you rise above the plane of the disc, turn to look down upon the star shedding its light and fire into the heavens.

Sensors slip across rippling grooves in the disc, and immediately you notice a series of small, metallic planetoid bodies sitting in amongst those grooves. Slowly orbiting the star, almost invisible, their readings come inconstant even under the steady, hunting sweeps of your ship's scanner suites. Curious, you drop a mote-probe toward the disc, set it on a course for one of the spheres, wait for the tiny eye to make contact.

The readings that come back at first are no more enlightening than what you're already getting– strange spheres, impenetrable to scans, slowly sliding through a spinning, superheated disc of gas and fire. Only when the mote-probe gets close enough to pick up strange oscillations in gravity and time near its target sphere do things really start to get interesting. Spikes in the data show strange power surges around the surface of the sphere, but before you can get much more, the planetoid shivers, ripples within the disc, then vaporizes your mote-probe with a powerful, precise bolt of lightning.

The shock of losing the probe, of being kicked from the data stream throws you for a moment. Coming back, it takes you a minute to shake off the static in your brain, to make sense of what happened, what you've seen. Your ship's integrated intelligence skims through the fallen probe's data, looking for anomalies, tying ideas together, and then suddenly pings you with an analysis. The spheres– they're responsible for the disc. They're exerting some kind of force on the star, exciting its surface, pulling streamers of light and gas out to create an environment perfect for the harvesting of energy. In a way, the spheres are like batteries, your ship's integrated intelligence posits. They're gathering and storing power for something, for someone using methods that humanity has never encountered before.

As if on cue, one of the spheres rises suddenly from the inferno, stops a few thousand kilometers above the disc. Your muscles tense as you fix every sensor on the sphere, watch it turn slowly, enigmatically, then flash suddenly out of existence. Where it once sat, now only darkness remains. Darkness and the flickering firelight thrown off by the disc.

You wait for a few minutes more, but none of the other spheres leave the disc and no one comes to collect them. The star spins on, fueling some unknown alien species' need for power. Slowly, cautiously, you turn your back to the disc, then spin up your ship's phasedrive. The jump back to between-space comes quickly, easily, and as you leave Sigma Caadium Persea 6y behind, you wonder briefly about who built the spheres, why they exist, and what purpose they might be harvesting so much power for.


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