Author Topic: The Black Dawn Subspace Flare  (Read 669 times)

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Offline Zap0 (OP)

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The Black Dawn Subspace Flare
« on: May 03, 2024, 09:38:48 AM »
Here a short story from the Fallen Empires multiplayer game, in which I was co-GM. That's why this forum has gotten quiet, I'm roleplaying on Discord these days :-)

The Subspace Flare worked and the second human spacefaring civilization was wiped out, with their remnants having fled and rebuilding for the reboot of the game that's starting now after a few months downtime. Check it out!

I originally posted this on November 4th 2023.

"Why? Why did the Exterminators come here and attempted to wipe out our civilization?"

There is hardly a Human that has lived in the past 800 years that has not asked themselves that question. The explanations and conjectures people come up with are manyfold. But for some the answer is that it is simply natural evolution, the logical next step for Humanity. People who believe such things are called believers or members of the Black Dawn, as they await another dark day for Humanity. When the ancient fleets emerged and reenabled communication between the surviving systems these people found each other and formed a star-spanning religious order to share their dangerous ideas and organize themselves.
These people exist on Canuxa, the main industrial planet of Xenophon's Host, too. Canuxa is a harsh world to live on. It's clime is relatively moderate, but the major population hotspots are all at unpleasant latitudes or other inhospitable regions. Planned and purpose-built for industrial efficiency by administrators who live on planet Kelainai, one orbit closer to the sun, and who will likely never set foot on Canuxa themselves. The ruling class of Kelainai are descendents of survivors of the first Human civilization, who drifted through normal space in cryo sleep for hundreds of years. For them the burning cities, the burning worlds, were still fresh in their minds. The war had never stopped. And when they set out to continue fighting it they needed laborers to build their ships. Biological reproduction being too slow, they turned to cloning more, more and ever greater numbers of people to fulfil their need.

It is uncertain whether the clones, being the blank slates they were, came up with the ideas that constitute the Black Dawn themselves or if that thought was passed on to them by some survivors that were scarred beyond hope by the destruction of their homes and all they had ever known. Certain is that in the present day believers and direct members are scattered across the breadth of Canuxan society.
Today that certainty has manifested itself through a chain of actions that starts at a Canuxa spaceport, where a large piece of machinery, easily four meters across and covered in tarp and protective covering, is loaded into the cargo hold of a vessel by an industrial-sized cargo mech, steered by rugged-looking hardhat-wearing dock workers. The ship being loaded is not a freighter however, but cryo transport Kios 003 due to haul a work crew to Kelainai to construct another facility there: All other opened loading ramps are receiving cryosleep sarcophagi. Hauled in one by one in orderly lines by ordinary forklifts, deep into the belly of the beast. Sheep to the slaughter, already in their coffins.

A few million kilometers after having broken orbit calm and routine starts to settle in with the skeleton crew operating the ship. The vast majority of the souls aboard will be asleep and frozen for the duration of their three-day journey to Kelainai. One of the crew members excuses themselves from the bridge. Not an unusual event, as now the boring part of the journey begins. As they are about to leave the bridge they rest their hand briefly against the bulkhead, and one can make out a black mark on the back of their hand. Like coal, or Ashes.
Nausea is the first sensation Imixeros has after waking up. A common side-effect of being awoken from cryosleep without the proper drugs before the cycle ends. Looking to his sides, his comrades are fighting the same sensation. He controls the impulse, righting himself and gathering his senses. There they are, the four of them chosen for this holy mission, all alone in a massive, dark cargo hold full of neatly aligned cryosleep sarcophagi, only illuminated by status light indicators. The mole in the crew who had initiated their waking up has already left. The group makes its way to the wall of the cargo hold and removes a loosened piece of wall paneling. Behind it are the tools they will require for the next part of the operation.

The massive blast catches the bored bridge crew completely by surprise. The door falls in, and two armed, robed cultists storm the bridge. During the moment it takes for the smoke to clear away through the air filters the assailants can orient themselves and take position, but it also allows for the crew to come to their senses. The crew manning the comms and navigation stations are shot before they can react, but the helmsman reacts quickly, draws his sidearm and strikes down one of the assailants before being hit by return fire from the other. The captain, a veteran of military service, reacts on instinct and takes out the other attacker with a well-placed shot in the chest. With both attackers dead, a moment passes as the captain anticipates further assaults. None come, and silence sets in. Then, a click next to his head. The safety of a sidearm being undone, held to his head by his operations officer. On the back of his hand the black line, semicircle and sunrays that make up the emblem of the Black Dawn.
Kios 003, I repeat, you are ordered to explain the diversion from your course and respond. The radio clicks, but neither the mole, still in his uniform, nor the other cultist who had arrived after clearing out engineering pays it any attention. On one of their consoles a dot starts moving.

"An Aeacus-Class Interceptor is heading our way. Heading for LP1, to be exact."

"Trying to cut us off, no doubt. Would get there before us, too. Too bad they don't know our real destination."

"No danger then. Has Imixeros taken care of the off-duty crew yet?"

"Yes, they've all been sent ahead. I swear, he loves this a little too much."

"He's bloodthirsty, but he has fire. I've set the Autopilot. Come, let's go down and help him set up."
They throw off the last of the covering sheets and spend a moment beholding the machine. It is beautiful. Both in a conventional sense, and as for what it represents to them. With nobody but the three cultists left conscious aboard the ship, they've turned the lights on in the cargo hold to conduct their work. Twin spires in the center of the machine in which the chain reaction will build. Particle generators and associated control systems to the sides, covered by heavily engraved metal sheets made of a material that almost makes them look like stone, and the machine like an altar. It takes a few hours to connect it to the power supply of the ship. As they work, one question is on their minds: Will it work? They were burning with anticipation. Only one way to find out.
The machine was charging. They've sat down to wait, exhausted from their work aboard the ship. Only old man Imixeros is still about, fiddling with a large commercial subspace broadcast unit they'd obtained from a large news agency rich enough to have something so powerful that it can send to all settled worlds in the cluster. It won't override ongoing broadcasts on other frequencies, but that is okay, as it'll send cleanly on all unused ones.

"Are you sure the transmission will even work?"

"Ah-ha! I've got it."

As if on cue to the question Imixeros clicks the broadcast button and takes position in front of the camera, the machine in the background.

"Welcome, citizens of the cluster...!"
The broadcast can be received by common household equipment throughout the settled systems. It is impossible to block.

A bony looking man past his prime in a dark robe speaks excitedly at the viewer, but the real eye-catcher is the tall machine behind the man which is what the camera is facing up to. It is beautiful, with two spires in the center slowly rotating around a central point of light. A hum can be heard, and both the noise and the light grow over time as the spires gradually rotate faster. The engraving on the machine is as aesthetically pleasing as it conveys a sense of foreboding. Even the more casually familiar can make out the iconography and imagery of the Order of the Black Dawn in the high-res video feed - not that the man in the robe is making a secret of him being a true believer.

Imixeros, the excited man in the robe, speaks about the anticipated return of the Exterminators, and how the subspace flare behind him shall penetrate into their dimension and give them a guiding sign, a prayer for their return, his tone growing in agitation as the machine behind him builds up energy.
The rotating spires eventually become too fast for eyes to follow, and the light source elongates up and down between the spires as both they and the man come to a crescendo. It becomes clear that something is not alright with him as his voice changes, and eventually as he falls to his knees, but never ceasing to preach the doctrine of the Black Dawn to the camera. More and more light leaks out of the containment between the spires and the background noise drowns out the hoarse noises the man still manages to produce. The light behind him grows into a massive flare that outshines everything else, but the camera still catches his face in the frame, literally melting from the radiation the machine must be producing on all wavelengths.

Not long after the radiation fries the broadcasting equipment too and the transmission cuts out.

17 April 3002, News report:

After building to an overload, the so-called "subspace flare" that was the item of yesterdays unauthorized broadcast destroyed itself. The Order of the Black Dawn has officially claimed responsibility for the incident, with someone purporting to be the High Prophet himself making a statement to that effect. The ship, the Kios 003 in the Xenophon home system, was found in a position on a line exactly 1/1024th of the distance between Xenophon-A and its equally-sized companion star Xenophon-B. The radiation destroyed all complex systems aboard and contaminated all other materials, making the ship a total loss. None of the crew, assailants or any of the 50 000 workers in cryosleep survived.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2024, 09:42:40 AM by Zap0 »
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