Commander Junior Nephew, captain of the Imperial survey ship Prospector 001, was in the head when the general quarters klaxon sounded, a possibility that none of his instructors at Naval Academy had ever bothered to prepare him for. His undignified scramble to the bridge was nothing at all like he had imagined in his youthful fantasies of commanding an Imperial starship. He staggered up to the observation deck winded and red faced with half the tail of his uniform tunic stuffed into his trousers but fortunately the crew in the pits below were too preoccupied to notice.
His usually unflappable First Officer, Lieutenant Zella Andres, sagged visibly with relief when she saw him. “Captain! I’m sorry! I didn’t know what to…”
“It’s okay, Zella,” Junior tried to smile reassuringly. “What’s wrong? Is the reactor about to go?”
Before she could answer a petty officer in the crew pit called out, “Second contact, ma’am. No, three! They’re maneuvering. Speed is,” the man’s voice broke slightly as he stumbled over the numbers. “Their speed is 5-2-3-7 kps.”
Junior gaped at them both like an Agamari yokel in a Coruscant bazaar and then whirled to face the monitors. “That’s… those aren’t ours.” It was a stupid thing to say but his brain didn’t seem to be working at the moment. Three blue dots streaked towards Prospector 001 from the inner system, moving impossibly fast. More than twice as fast as his own craft.
“Sir, what are your orders?” Lieutenant Andres asked.
Orders? What kind of order could he give? Prospector 001 didn’t even have weapons. His job was scanning planets for minerals. It was a good job. He was good at it. The Moff had given him a medal. He wasn’t supposed to be in combat!
Academy training sliced through the haze and he barked, “I have the conn. Helm, reverse course! Make for the jump node at maximum acceleration. Comms, broadcast to incoming on all channels. Tell them we are an unarmed exploration vessel. We meant no harm.”
“Missile launch!” The sensor chief called up from the pit. “Six. Twelve. Eighteen. Confirmed. Eighteen incoming at 35 thousand kps.”
Thirty five thousand kps. For the first time since the alarm sounded Commander Nephew was glad that he had already been to the head. That asinine thought was his last as all eighteen high tech alien missiles slammed into Prospector 001 and tore the ship apart.
There was no Holonet in the Omega Sector. No satellites to pick up the automated distress signal wailing from the charred emergency beacon that flew out of the explosion. The beacon hurtled towards the jump node shrieking endlessly into the void.
Prospector 001 had departed New Coruscant a few weeks earlier via Charis for the Kotzebue system. Two new jump nodes had been detected there and needed to be explored. If the systems on the other side were large it might take a year or more to accomplish a basic survey and report back so no one missed the ship or had any reason to check up on her progress.
It was now well into the second year since the rift collapse that stranded the denizens of the Omega Sector but most still believed it was only a matter of time until the Empire came back for them. Exploration of surrounding systems continued to be the primary activity of the Navy under Admiral Tomey, while Admiral Wildemuth and his friends at Kuat Drive Yards daydreamed about “proper” warships that wouldn’t be buildable in New Coruscant’s small slipways for decades.
The four corvettes of the 42nd Raider Squadron (Abductor, Accelerator, Pincher and Razor) completed their refits and joined the Sector Fleet bringing its total combat capability up to 48000 tons with less combined firepower than a single Victory Star Destroyer.
Beyond Uvena, the Astrogators discovered three more systems: Vinsoth, Ciutric and Amorphiia. All had at least a few planets, some even had mineral resources, but none were half so enticing as Semichi, which remained the primary target for colonization.
Semichi-A I Duranium 56,010,528 Acc 0.1 Neutronium 2,286,144 Acc 0.1 Corbomite 25,765,776 Acc 0.1 Tritanium 46,656 Acc 0.2 Boronide 9,144,576 Acc 0.1 Mercassium 236,196 Acc 0.6 Vendarite 3,572,100 Acc 0.1 Sorium 4,210,704 Acc 0.1 Uridium 4,901,796 Acc 0.1 Corundium 20,575,296 Acc 0.2 Gallicite 7,001,316 Acc 0.1 Semichi-A III Duranium 106,580,000 Acc 0.1 Corbomite 54,760,000 Acc 0.8 Tritanium 6,250,000 Acc 0.1 Mercassium 47,610,000 Acc 0.1 Vendarite 28,090,000 Acc 0.6 Gallicite 11,560,000 Acc 0.1 Semichi-A IV - Moon 5 Duranium 453,152 Acc 0.7 Neutronium 268,324 Acc 0.3 Tritanium 44,100 Acc 0.7 Boronide 1,623,076 Acc 1 Vendarite 396,900 Acc 1 Sorium 451,584 Acc 0.6 Corundium 509,796 Acc 0.4 Gallicite 753,424 Acc 0.9 Semichi-A IV - Moon 12 Duranium 486,098 Acc 1 Neutronium 210,681 Acc 0.8 Boronide 14,161 Acc 0.8 Uridium 2,553,604 Acc 0.8 Comet #2 Neutronium 277,495 Acc 0.9 Corbomite 27,170 Acc 0.8 Boronide 18,446 Acc 0.5 Mercassium 55,512 Acc 0.9 Vendarite 170,289 Acc 0.8
Commander Bouchey of Prospector 002 passed through an unexplored jump node in Elidere and discovered a K-type system with four planets which, in a fit of whimsy, he decided to call Manticore. Manticore III was a near habitable planet with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere and rich deposits of all eleven minerals including an estimated 100 million tons of Duranium just beneath the surface.
Manticore-A III Duranium 103,363,442 Acc 1 Neutronium 28,858,384 Acc 0.1 Corbomite 47,238,129 Acc 0.1 Tritanium 2,253,001 Acc 0.1 Boronide 51,681,721 Acc 0.1 Mercassium 8,543,929 Acc 0.1 Vendarite 9,012,004 Acc 0.1 Sorium 99,856 Acc 0.1 Uridium 61,168,041 Acc 0.1 Corundium 624,100 Acc 0.8 Gallicite 21,724,921 Acc 0.8
The Rendili jump stabilization project produced designs for a huge 70000 ton construction ship its designers named Colossus and it was currently under construction at the Rendili yard for delivery in April of the Year 4 OS. As soon as the ship was finished, it would be dispatched to stabilize the chain of nodes between New Coruscant and Semichi.
After the discovery of Manticore, Moff Wolfe decided to focus all initial Imperial expansion into the systems immediately surrounding Charis, ignoring for now the less glamorous systems that lay beyond the Balosar node. He ordered construction of a second jump stabilization ship to begin as soon as work on Colossus was complete. It would be named Titanic.
The manufacturing apparatus continued to progress on adapting the minerals of the sector for both military and civilian applications. Taim & Bak’s managed to build a full sized turbolaser prototype using the gas Boronide in place of the more traditional Tibania, Arakyd Industries promised increased warhead yield from future Concussion Missiles built with Tritanium and Kuat Drive Yards had developed a composite material they claimed was almost twice as effective as pure Duranium for armoring starships. Their engineers were also pursuing research into Corbomite powered deflector shields that would not exhibit the same explosive side effects as the old models. These were seen as a necessary component for the construction of Admiral Wildemuth’s “proper navy.”
The All Terrain Xenoarchaeology Excavator (AT-XE) made its debut. Fifty of the droids were constructed and sent to sift through the ruins of Vandor. That colony now had more than six million people calling it home. The Worldshapers had finished scrubbing the atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide and moved on to pumping it full of the powerful greenhouse gas Aestusium to warm the surface. Once that had been accomplished to a sufficient degree they would begin seeding the planet with more oxygen producing organisms.
AT-XE: All Terrain Xenoarchaeology Excavator Transport Size (tons) 218 Cost 8.72 Armour 16 Hit Points 32 Annual Maintenance Cost 1.1 Resupply Cost 0 Xenoarchaeology Equipment: Xenoarchaeology Points 0.5 Xenoarchaeology Equipment: Xenoarchaeology Points 0.5 Non-Combat Class
At the beginning of the fourth year, Suzan Klug, in her role as lead propulsion engineer for Kuat Drive Yards, made a massive breakthrough in Sorium burning engines. The new baseline engine would be 25% powerful and more fuel efficient than previous designs.
In April, the Colossus finally left the yard and began the process of stabilizing the Charis node. No one was quite sure it would work until a few months later the huge ship successfully passed through the node to repeat the process on the far side. Moff Wolfe began organizing a massive flotilla of cargo, transport and tanker craft to make the passage to Semichi I as soon as the route was opened.
On July 3rd, Astrogator 003 finished the gravitational survey of Kotzebue having found no more nodes than the two previously explored by Prospector 001. That ship had still not returned after eighteen months and Exploration Command counted her as overdue but suspected that one or both of the Kotzebue jump nodes must lead to large binary systems. Commander Nephew, being the thorough sort, was probably surveying every asteroid. Astrogator 003 was ordered to continue down the chain and carried a personal message from Admiral Tomey to Commander Nephew telling him to hurry up and get back to New Coruscant with whatever survey data they had. Prospector 001 was nearing the end of its deployment life and due for overhaul.
As soon as Astrogator 003 transited the first jump node out of Kotzebue, she detected a K-type star with three planets and the still wailing distress beacon of Prospector 001. Her Commander waited just long enough to be sure they had received all the sensor data from the beacon before turning around and running for New Coruscant as fast as the ship could go.