Casual Play Astrogation

Theta Barlowe Wadi 12r (Xanthi)

Burning along a thread of between-space, you coast through and back into the starry void near a dull, red-brown sun. Sensors come alive, primed by your ship's integrated intelligence, find the space around you littered with rocks, with shattered chunks of what must have been a dozen metal-rich planets. Readings scroll in, ebb and flow at the edge of your mind as sensor suites finger through the debris, analyzing, cataloging–

There's a ping, a single, simple burst of data that immediately alerts you to the presence of another ship. Data feeds leap out of the rocks, jump to fix on the vessel, query for identification codes, get nothing in response. A second ping flickers through the comm, as simple and direct as the first, then a burst of unintelligible information comes that, at first glance, seems ominous, almost threatening. Immediately, your ship's integrated intelligence goes to work on the burst, starts building a translation matrix capable of making sense of the data. Other strings of consciousness you share with your ship track fast through a catalog of known alien species and vessel types, turn up nothing familiar. Not wanting to appear aggressive, you kick a burst into your vessel's fore-mounted maneuvering thrusters, push yourself back, drift to put some distance between yourself and the other ship.

Another ping, another burst of data that rattles across your comm. Your ship's integrated intelligence gobbles it up instantly, sifts through it, uses the new pieces to try to make sense of what it has already gathered. Loose translations come together, one word appearing over and over again:


Tension ebbs as the messages rattle together, coalesce into broken half-gibberish. The basic gist is clear– the debris field has been claimed by a star-faring alien species humanity has never encountered before. The bursts of data are half territorial credential and half invitation to make a deal. Using your ship's janky translation protocols, you construct a short, polite apology, make an offer for a trade of information and piggyback the whole thing on a sequence of layered signals that translate the message into a dozen different alien languages.

Some of the tension creeps back into the silence that follows. You can see the ship now with your physical eyes, dark and red against the void, like a shadow cloaked in the gore dream of the star burning ember-esque behind it. At the edges of your mind, your ship's integrated intelligence ticks and tweaks at the translation matrices, busying itself while you wait.

And then, without warning, the alien vessel shifts, turns and leaves. A trio of white-blue trails from chemical thrusters chase the shadow-ship back into the darkness, and after a moment, even their light is lost among the rocks. No ping, no reply message. Uncertain, you linger for a few moments to see if anything else comes, but the channels are all completely silent.

A gentle nudge from your ship's integrated intelligence is all it takes to bring you back. Your eyes shift across the stars, the curiosity that drives you to explore the cosmos flaring again within you. A single thought triggers the spin-up sequence for your ship's phasedrive, and then you turn the nose of your little ship toward a new point of interest, toward a new star waiting to be seen, new experiences waiting to be shared.


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