Moff Fabian Wolfe arrived late to the meeting, as was his custom, timing his entry precisely in order to make the most dramatic appearance. He wore a robin’s egg blue tunic cut after the fashion of an Imperial military uniform and a gold lamé lined half cape that fluttered behind him as he strode down the length of the conference table and plopped into the very comfortable chair he had reserved at its head. The others in the room watched his entry with the sort of expressionless gazes that could only be cultivated by decades of military decorum and said nothing as he produced a datapad from his pocket and keyed it on.
Vice Admiral Lindsay Tomey stood at the far end of the table, ramrod straight with her hands clasped behind her back. Every strand of her long blonde hair was tucked neatly into a tight braid and wound into a bun on the back of her head. She reminded Fabian of a particularly severe primary school teacher. Not that he would ever say that to her face.
“If you are all ready now,” she said in the clipped tones of the Imperial aristocracy, “I will begin.”
“Yes.” Admiral Wilburn Wildemuth sat on Fabian’s right, a jowly bulldog of a man whose waistline had been expanding in tandem with his military career for several decades. “Do tell, Lindsay. What’s this about? I’m supposed to be meeting with the head of Kuat Drive Yards this afternoon. Nothing could be more important than the defense of our sector until communications are reestablished with the rest of the Empire! Your survey ships can’t have found anything in a week that’s so critical as to disrupt all of our schedules…”
General Roscoe Vanluven growled. That was the best word Fabian could think of to describe the guttural sound he made. The General was polar opposite of Admiral Wildemuth, rail thin with high cheekbones and a bald head that made him look almost skeletal. All of his snow white hair was concentrated in two bushy sideburns that framed his perpetually sour expression. He always looked like he’d just stepped in a pile of bantha poo even when he was in a good mood. Which he never would be so long as Wildemuth was in the same room.
“She would tell us if you shut your damn pie hole,” the General bellowed across the table.
Wildemuth blinked as his large mouth gaped open and closed several times. He looked a bit like a hutt in a human sized naval uniform.
Fabian leapt into the silence. “Gentlemen, please. Admiral,” he gestured to Tomey. “Do continue. There will be no further interruptions.” The older men ignored his glower. Admiral Tomey gave him a tiny nod that from anyone else probably would have been an eye roll.
The blessedly silent fifth person in the room, Major Tawana Rieken, stood out almost as much as Fabian because she was wearing Stomtrooper Corps blacks instead of the drab olive-gray shared by Army and Navy. Her skin was only a few shades lighter than the tunic and she wore her hair in a close buzz cut that spoke of many hours training in a helmet. Another officer of her seniority might have been intimidated by the size of all the rank plaques in the room but Fabian was certain Tawana had never been intimidated by anything in her life.
Admiral Tomey activated the holoprojector in the center of the table and a map of the inner system of New Coruscant appeared with several green dots marking the locations of her survey craft. “This morning at 0600, Prospector 001 entered orbit around Vandor.” She stabbed at the hologram with her pointer and the display zoomed in to show the planet in question. It was an ugly brown world with ice caps at both poles. “Our Geological Survey Scanner is designed to detect mineral deposits buried beneath the surface. It is also capable of detecting other irregularities in a planet’s crust.”
She poked at the display again and it zoomed further to show a range of lumpy irregular hills covered in dull brown loam. “What you see here is not a natural formation. My staff geologists are absolutely certain. These mounds are the remains of a settlement. It is probably many thousands of years old but we are looking at irrefutable proof that we are not the first sentient beings to inhabit the Omega Sector.”
General Vanluven let out a low whistle and leaned back in his chair, eyes fixed on the image in the hologram.
“Could it have been the station builders?” Tawana Rieken asked. “They went to the trouble of stabilizing the rift so they must have come here.”
“That is one possibility,” Admiral Tomey nodded. “Our archaeologists who worked on the rift installation believe that it was constructed during the ancient Sith Empire. If these ruins are found to date to the same period that would be strong evidence the beings who built them came from our own galaxy. We can’t say for sure until we send in a ground team to investigate and collect samples.”
Admiral Wildemuth cleared his throat. “That seems the most likely possibility, not some local alien threat.”
“It’s far too early to assume that, sir.”
Fabian blew out the breath he’d been holding. “What about the mineral survey? Did the surveyor find enough on Vandor to go ahead with the colony?”
Admiral Tomey tapped the hologram again and green hatch marks crisscrossed the planet’s surface accompanied by text and numbers. “Vandor does have high concentrations of at least six of the minerals our teams have identified as useful, including the solid compound of Sorium that we’ve been refining for fuel. There is considerably more of each mineral than we’ve found on New Coruscant, but most of it is buried deep and will be difficult to extract with the equipment we have here in the sector.”
Fabian considered the numbers and sighed. Some of the best deposits were very near the alien ruins. Probably they had been mining them too. “How much of a threat do you think those ruins pose to a potential colony?”
Admiral Tomey quirked an eyebrow. “Sir, for all I know right now, those ruins could be crawling with ten thousand year old hostile battle droids.”
“That sounds highly unlikely,” said Admiral Wildemuth, missing the sarcasm entirely. “Surely a few crumbling buildings are of no great concern to the military might of the Galactic Empire.”
“That might be.” General Vanluven growled again. “If we had the military might of the Galactic Empire at our disposal. But we don’t. You might have noticed. And they pose a damn credible threat to what we do have.”
Major Rieken cleared her throat before the Admiral could stammer out a response. “I’ll go. The 186th, I mean. There may not be any battle droids in there but there could be booby traps or a leaky reactor or who knows what. My Stormtroopers can secure the site in advance of any civilian landing. It’ll take awhile to put a colonizing expedition together so there will be plenty of time to let you know if you need to scrub it.”
“Now that,” said Fabian, “Is an excellent idea. The rest of you could learn a thing or two from Major Rieken. Useful, practical solutions to our immediate problems.”
“Just doing my job, sir,” she said.
Thirty six hours later the Galleon class transport Epee dropped the 186th Stormtrooper Battalion on the planet Vandor less than half a mile from the site of the alien ruins. By the next morning, Major Rieken had a full report on Moff Wolfe’s datapad with her analysis. The settlement was small, only about a dozen buildings, and empty. The Stormtroopers couldn’t say for certain if the ruins belonged to the Sith Empire but the architecture certainly didn’t look like anything Fabian had seen back in their own galaxy.
Kuat Drive Yards and Arakyd Industries were already working on a joint project to build a droid excavator delicate enough to sift through the ruins for artifacts, a task that would be difficult for humans in the bulky suits required by the world’s environment.
One week after Prospector 001’s initial report, Prospector 002’s Commander Ruben Bouchey sent in survey readings from the second planet, Platoril. Fortunately, there were no more alien ruins. Instead he found huge deposits of Duranium and Vendarite exposed to the surface by the harsh weather conditions of the planet’s suffocatingly thick atmosphere.
Platoril Duranium 42,688,800 Acc 0.9 Tritanium 24,800,400 Acc 0.1 Mercassium 17,640,000 Acc 0.1 Vendarite 22,467,600 Acc 0.5 Gallicite 16,160,400 Acc 0.1
The Sector’s Baleen freighter flotilla was busy ferrying infrastructure to the new Vandor colony but Moff Wolfe sent a directive to Logistics & Supply Command to start moving the Automated Mines the Empire had provided for the task to Platoril as soon as possible.
On January 22nd, dual reports came in from Astrogator 001 and 002 less than an hour apart. All of the Astrogator craft were scouring the system for any sign of the gravitational disturbances that would indicate the presence of Rendili’s “jump nodes.” Now two such locations had been found. Both lay just outside the system’s asteroid belt, five hundred million kilometers beyond New Coruscant’s orbit and just about seven hundred million apart.
By the end of the month, the first colonists had arrived on Vandor and established their settlement near a rich Corbomite vein just a few miles from the alien ruins. The 186th Stormtrooper Battalion moved their encampment to the new settlement to help maintain order until more permanent local governance could be established.
All four Worldshaper platforms were towed over from New Coruscant to begin scrubbing Carbon Dioxide out of Vandor’s atmosphere. The planet would need a lot of work to become habitable but the navy’s Industrial Command ensured Moff Wolfe the Wordshapers were up to the task. In less than a decade humans would be walking freely on the surface.
Vandor Duranium 221,778 Acc 0.3 Neutronium 6,708,100 Acc 0.1 Corbomite 2,896,804 Acc 0.4 Vendarite 7,496,644 Acc 0.4 Sorium 7,907,344 Acc 0.3 Uridium 395,641 Acc 0.1
Commander Junior Nephew, flush with success from Vandor and due for an Imperial Medallion of Service upon his return, took Prospector 001 on a tour of the outer planets and confirmed the presence of frozen Sorium gas in both of the system’s giant planets. The outermost giant, Stentat, about 2.6 billion miles beyond the orbit of New Coruscant, was selected as the most promising site for a fuel refining operation.
In May, Prospector 002, under Commander Bouchey, became the first Imperial ship to successfully transit through a jump node using the experimental Rendili drive. The little survey vessel found itself in a wide binary system: two red dwarfs separated by more than 30 billion kilometers. The primary had no planets and the secondary was too far away to be of interest so Commander Bouchey returned immediately to New Coruscant.
The second jump node turned out to lead somewhere only slightly less boring: a quaternary system of red dwarfs with no planets at all. Moff Wolfe led a sector wide referendum to name the new systems. The winning monikers were Balosar and Charis.
The gravitational survey didn’t find any more jump nodes in New Coruscant so the Astrogators moved on to the new systems as soon as possible. It didn’t take long to discover additional jump nodes in both of them. Balosar had only one node leading to a K-type star with one barren planet that the survey crew named Uvena. Charis, on the other hand, proved to be a crossroads of sorts with a total of four jump nodes.
Beyond Charis lay the K-type star Elidere whose inner most planet was a blistering desert like Tatooine and whose second planet was a frozen ice ball that made Hoth seem inviting, both with thin nitrogen-oxygen atmospheres. The second system was called Kotzebue, a G-type star whose third and fourth planets both possessed breathable atmospheres but extreme temperatures. The best of the lot though was the A-type star Semichi.
Semichi had a near habitable inner planet with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere and substantial liquid oceans. In addition there were six other planets, over ninety moons and hundreds of asteroids. The planet Semichi I contained huge quantities of all eleven critical minerals, albeit at low accessibility, and the survey discovered rich deposits on several other planets as well. It quickly became clear that Semichi was the best prospect for near term interstellar expansion.
The biggest problem facing that plan was the infeasibility of constructing a jump drive large enough to transit the 80000 ton Baleen class freighters. So far, the only thing Rendili had managed to jump was the 6000 ton survey craft. Their engineers predicted that it would take years to prototype and test a jump engine of the size required.
An alternative proposal came from Dr. Suzan Klug, a scientist employed by Kuat Drive Yards who split her time lecturing at the Academy of New Coruscant on gravitational studies and propulsion. Dr. Klug’s team at the Academy had been doing theoretical research into the nature of jump nodes and she suggested that with the proper equipment they could be stabilized, like the rift that had led them to the Omega Sector. Once the process was complete the node would be open for passage by any ship, even without a jump drive. Moff Wolfe instructed the engineers at Rendili to work with Dr. Klug on a node stabilization device that could open all of the nearby systems to exploitation by the Empire.
By the end of the year the population of Vandor colony had grown to almost 2.5 million and additional droid mining colonies had been established on Platoril and the 29th Moon of Muscave, with a total of 100 automated mines between them.
Muscave - Moon 29 Duranium 447,434 Acc 0.8 Neutronium 7,726 Acc 0.6 Corbomite 576,066 Acc 0.5 Sorium 20,431 Acc 0.6 Uridium 139,852 Acc 0.8