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The SS Cardif

“Attention all crew; I repeat - Attention all crew.” the ship - wide loudspeaker announced.
He and the runtime of Flowers had their arms buried deep in the guts of a Goat gear hauler trying to reconnect its aft starboard repulser module and looked at each other questioningly.
With a series of snaps, a waldo from Flowers’ forearm began snapping in the connections on their side, as he thought his own manipulators from both of his forearms and they began plugging in the nine pin connectors on his side.
“Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops.
“Dout leader Mri’x to Ops. Dout leader Mri’x to Ops.”
The mostly-human and the robot-looking vessel for his AI friend both produced wondering looks. “Runner!” the mostly-human, Mr. Drake yelled out into the maintenance bay.
A Mwraht, a slender bipedal humanoid coated in fur and wearing their moccasin like deck boots and the ubiquitous brown leather smock vest they favored, suddenly appeared, wippingits hands.
It was M’arh, a student on the ship learning ship engineering and maintenance from the human and AI perspective. It regarded Drake with an earnest expression in its tilted almond-shaped eyes.
“Please run to ops and let them know we’ll be along shortly,”
M’arh smiled and mouthed something, and the translator, in a fair facsimile of what M’arh’s voice would sound like if the Mwraht’s mouth could form the words said “At once,Instructor”, and took off.
“They never cease to puzzle me.” Flowers said in a voice synthesised and engineered to sound like an erudite Free Wales Easterner with a touch of Old Earth, fitting the bolts on the deflector on his side as Drake thought out a data probe and began running diagnostics on the repulser.
Drake looked at him quizzingly, as he split his attention between the connectivity check and his other hand began bolting on the deflector on his side.
“There are nuances to their speech, as well as odorant aspects to what he said that you cannot hear or smell, though I have been working on an idea where you could.” Flowers said as he began hooking up the power cables on their side.
“Ok…” Drake said as he mentally pushed the diagnostics over to Flowers and pulled a ratchet from the fairing lip he had set it earlier, tightening down the deflector bolts.
“Meat bags” Flowers said, shaking his sensor pod. “Your kind are so oblivious!” Flowers announced, withdrawing their arms and standing up to their full two meter height. “And I see your frustration with biological markers at not knowing what I am talking about. Monkey-assed murder hobo meat bags.” Flowers said in a dead pan.He went over and began cleaning it’s arms and legs with an orange-based degreaser.
“That is Monkey-assed Augmented murder hobo meat bag to you, you synthetic shit!” Drake said, laughing, joining Flowers at the cleaning station, and began using the same cleaner on his replacement arms. “And I still have no idea what you are talking about.”
The humans and Mwarht in the maintenance bay all stopped what they were doing and looked on. In most instances, those words were an invitation to murder. The other Runtimes there, some Flowers, some Neptunian Wind, ignored it and kept working.
Flowers sighed, an unnecessary vocalization only, for emphasis. “They adore humans and revere you as something akin to a living deity. The Dout leaders here know you lead the teams that first boarded their ships and took on the Drix raiders to save them. They know you then lead the teams that boarded the Drix slaver destroyer and carried out retributionary subjugation for what the Drix had been doing on the Mwraht ships.
“They do not know how you then petitioned the Order and led raids into Drix territory and assaulted the slaver worlds.”
Flowers looked at their human friend, and saw the distress in his eyes. Both knew the augmented human, and a small army of fellow Augies and Runtimes had taught the Drix in the clearest way possible to stay out of human space and leave the Mwraht alone in such a clear and brutal fashion whose necessity still bothered the human.
Flowers lowered their voice, straightening their friend’s work smock. “M’arh’s grandsire was on that first ship you boarded. Mri’x mother was on that ship and was the one about to be eaten and raped by a Drix, the one you pulled off of her and punched, it’s head rupturing.”
Even though they could see their words were causing him distress, Flowers continued.
“They love all humans, but they excrete a pheromone musk that is akin to the same one they excrete in their religious ceremonies, but slightly different, when they interact with you, or after a few beers and they talk to you. Their sub vocalizations are completely adoring and submissive when it comes to you. Some of the females and a non-zero number of males fantasize about being ‘taken’, or mated, by you. You idiot.”
“Fuck.”
“That was implied.”
“You fucking pretentious Rooba. You know what I meant.”
“Flowers laughed. “Yes, we do. I still love the word play, though.”
“I really wish you had been with me. I know, you were tied up on that Artifact World, but I sometimes wish you had been there, to keep me in check. I was not in a good place.” He brushed himself off, found his coffee mug and set off for the passageway that led to Ops.
“I have told you before, be glad I wasn’t. Your response was far more measured and restrained than my would have been. It is a flaw in our Matrices. Slavery brings out the ‘murder-bot’ in us, and no one in the Order can figure out why.”
“I know that you have the facts of my actions, but it was like I was in the Second War, again. And we both know what a bloodthirsty asshole I was then.” The human, if that term even applied to their friend anymore, remembered what a monster he had been in the Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti theatres of the Second War. The pain and humiliation of what he had been was written plainly on his face.
“You destroyed three hundred and eighty three of my Runtimes, roughly half of which was in single combat. And that was before the Holies shredded your limbs. The Purists still consider you a living dataphage, akin to human allegories of Satan. My kind uses you as one of many examples of why we must never war with Humanity again.
“And, strangely enough, the Seekers consider you both a Singularity to be understood and an objective: to breed with you, thinking you are a key to their evolution.”
He stopped dead and looked at Flowers shocked.
“I will provide logs to prove these statements.”
The Seekers were the strangest of the AI’s, in his opinion. They had made themselves biological Runtime vessels, biological bodies, that they wore like clothing, compiling experiences seeking to understand Humanity, their Creators, and evolve past the limitations of being an AI. Not to become human, but to become something that was both the best of AI and Human essences and so much more.
“So, I’m a Classical hero to the Mwraht and a boogey man and bad example to the AIs that they want to breed. Great.” Drake pinched his nose and shook his head.
“You did not know any of this, I take it?” Flowers asked.
“The second war was almost two hundred years ago. When the Order brought me in, you were already a member and I thought they were going with the whole forced-to-learn-each-other thing when they sent us out on that mapping mission; like they did with the Iberrians and the Chinese. I thought the other AI just had a thing about me from the War, which is understandable.
“And I had no idea about the rest. I thought that the Mwraht just thought I was the cool teacher.” He shook his head and leaned up against the wall, massaging his temples one-handedly.
“Idiot murder hobo.” Flowers said, realizing now that their friend, while brilliant, was oblivious.
At that point, Mri’x came around the corner, his fur a glossy black with dark grey stripes. Mri’x looked at Flowers sternly, then nodded at Drake as he passed.
Drake looked at Flowers questioningly, who nodded. Both had caught that Mri’x had cut his translator as he passed and caught a gutteral call. “It was a vulgar corollary to ‘Talking Waste Receptacle’. Quite elegant, really.”
Drake shook his head and began his way to Ops again. “Send me the specs on the hearing and smelling upgrades. I think I need to upgrade again.”
As fast as thought, the files were there, as well as one to improve his language skills with them.
* * *
Captain Sarah Rees of the Union of Independent Stars Exploratory Vessel SS University of New Cardiff was looking over holographic charts at the central tank with her XO, Lt. Commander Martin. Both had the mocha skin common to Westerlies of Free Wales, she a pixie of a woman shorter than even some of the Mwraht with close shaved hair beginning to show grey. Mr. Martin was taller, but still dwarfed by most of the rest of the human crew. He was a vicious social climber who didn’t care for the civilian crew, though a misstep on his part when he was still Stellar Navy had made him as much of a civilian as anyone else in the crew, a fact he often forgot. And for some reason he loathed the three AI aboard, and looked down his nose at the Mwraht. This led to all sorts of headbutting with Drake’s group of Operations Specialists and Drake himself; who largely ignored and dismissed the little shit.
“Leader Mri’x, Mr. Drake. Thank you for joining us. M’arh informed us you couldn’t pull away. Flowers, thank you for coming as well.” Rees said as she moved around to the far side of the tank, in a darkened room full of people at work stations worked with either data plugs or AR sets. Flowers took no insult. They readily accepted that they were Drake’s Executive Officer for his group, and their ego, as such, wasn’t as easily bruised as a human’s” Flowers gave a nod with their sensor pod and took a manipulators-behind-the-back stance the humans were fond of.
“Thirty minutes ago” Rees continued, “we picked up a GP general distress beacon from a system that was on our research list. We will be bypassing the next two on the list and based on the current agreements with the Galactic Parliament, we will be going to full power and make best speed for the system in question. It is in uncharted space as far as we, the GP and the Conclave are concerned.”
The GP, the System Confederacy, the UIS and the AI Conclave had all agreed to adopt what was essentially humanity’s Maritime Law and all ships receiving the signal were required to render aid.
Drake took all of this in and thought out a series of commands to the six Kodiak Class corvettes in the retired Assault Cruiser’s forward hanger, beginning their startup sequence and pinged the comm devices of all of his Operations Specialists. Flowers looked over and nodded. Little known to the crew, except the Captain, those ships could be armed to the teeth with a minimum of work. Flowers sent his command to arm them, the ship systems’ pinged Drake as confirmation and he agreed. Drones began opening the hull and loading the weapons packages, removed fairings that covered weapons ports and began preflighting the weapons, as another set began bringing the ships to life.
“We will be ready when needed, Captain. Option two.” Flowers announced. She smiled in somber appreciation. She was glad she had the option. She was about to race into an unknown system to answer a vague distress call with zero intelligence.
While this was going on, in the aft bay, hundreds of drones were coming to life as Mri’x brought his group to action. With a thought Drake and Flowers authorized the release of weapons to Mri’x so his drones could be armed. Mwraht drones were some of the best in either race, outside of the Conclave, and the AIs had even adopted many of the construction techniques the Mwraht used, especially their alloy that allowed a small fusion bottle to power the EM Cavity engines, weapons and shields.
The fact that the Order had given literal tons of precious metals and set up arcologies for the Mwraht in payment had made the Refugee Mwraht colonies some of the richest ones in known space.
Mri’x subvocalized and his translate stated “drones will be ready as well, Leader.”
“Thank you, Leader.” Captain Rees said with a bow of her head, then began drawing plans up in the tank. “We know little, but we are past the signal shell, and there is nothing but the beacon and normal noise.
“The system is a stable red dwarf binary one, the stars holding about a light-hour from each other, at their closest. We expect that based on stutter, a few terrestrial bodies inside the orbit of a mid-sized gas giant, that is three light-hours out from the outermost orbit of the primaries. We see some wobble that there are a few solid bodies out from the gas giant.”
The tank then zoomed on a rough solar system as described, the gas giant was a solid neon green sphere on the display, with a ‘Jx3.1’ tag on it. Three times the mass of Jupiter. The thing wasn’t a true Super Jupiter, but it would play holy hell with the system, and make modelling a lot more hard. The problem was that it exhibited 3.1 times more gravitational influence on its stars than Jupiter did, but that didn’t say how big it actually was. They wouldn’t know that until they came out of the Trough and then Alcubierre drive. The telescopes were essentially useless at this point.
“The system is slightly below the gravitic trough we are riding, so we will exit the trough and make best speed in A-Space to it. We will bring the STL drives up to 110% before doing so. After we drop the A-Drives, we’ll make best speed to the signal, scanning as we go. We will do a 150% burn and aerobrake if it is a planet, or cut the drives, rotate and crash burn if it is a ship.”
Wow, thought Drake. She is damned serious about this.
Those maneuvers would make them extremely visible yet incredibly hard to hit; and give them a high-G escape route if needed. But all of this was also going to play hell with the student-crew of the ship, who had long grown accustomed to 0.6G. It would also mean the Mwraht, who were still adapting to the higher-than-their-normal gravity would need to be in their special acceleration couches. They would still be able to operate their amazing drones, but not much else. The couches took an hour to cycle up to protect the Mwraht, and an hour to cycle off after they weren’t needed. The moves the Captain was planning were not a thing to undertake lightly. She suspected something. Drake pushed more commands at the Kodiak and gave all weapon system controls to Flowers for all of their ships.
The Kodiak corvettes were very deceptive Q-Ships. They looked like Massive trans-atmospheric cargo shuttles, but each one had the armor, power plant, FTL and STL drives of a frigate - and the weapons of a Destroyer.
Flowers turned to him, head tilted in their predefined “Are you bloody serious?“ look.
Drake just nodded once.
This exchange wasn’t lost on anyone there.
The Captain looked at Drake in an interrogatory fashion
“Armed up the Kodiaks and positioning them for a hot launch, if needed.”
The Captain smiled grimly and nodded. “We are planning on a rescue mission, will those changes reduce any capacity for the primary mission?” she asked.
“No, Captain.” Flowers answered for them.
She nodded and carried on.
“Mri’x, obviously, you’ll be couched for this, and I sincerely apologize for that. But something about this has my hackles up.”
“As are mine. GP ships do not have automated distress beacons, someone activated it. But we are three thousand light years from GP space, the closest GP race being the Drix.” He approached the holo tank and began expanding the map. “We call this space the Greater Void. It was the territory, long ago, of the ones we called-” the translator cut out at that point and was replaced with the gracile being’s raspy growl. Mri’x looked perplexed and growled again. “I see our translators have been modified to allow the uttering of The Nameless Ones true name.” The map zoomed out farther.
Soon, all of the mapped and a few of the suspected Dark Matter Troughs were displayed. They were like shadow arms of the galaxy, spiraling out from the core, a few of them wrapping themselves all the way around the galaxy.
“The ones you call the Fae are originally from here,” he indicated, a star not unlike Earth’s, almost a thousand light years from the star they were headed to, but smack dab in a grey band of a different Dark Matter Trough. It was a great curving grey patch that went coreward from the Earth-like star, passing within about fifty lightyears of Earth.
The Fae were a recent mystery the Tides of the Universe had dumped upon the shores of Humanity just after the Second War, right before the Fall of Earth.
When they sent their pleas for Asylum out, they sent information about themselves. They were the barely viable population that had been running for three centuries in their great world ships made from hollowed out asteroids. What they had been running from was even to this day unclear, but in their tongue meant Dark Brethren.
The fact that tongue seemed to contain roots that became Sanskrit was a huge thing.
They were tall, whip-thin and pale people who breathed a lower oxygen percentage at lower pressures than humanity, and their normal gravity was about a third of what humanity
After First Contact, genetic samples proved they were, or had started out as human, roughly a hundred thousand years ago.
“This is the Coreward Flow from what you call the Crux-Scutum Arm through the Orion Arm, and to the Perseus Arm. The Drix call this whole area their equivalent word and meaning for Hell. Their myths say this is where the Monsters live.
“The Rest of the GP races call this The Red Zone, it is forbidden to fly here, and if you do, there will be no rescue. So of course this is where my people ran when we fled the Drix.”
Mri’x moved the hologram out again, showing this outer rim area that was the Red Zone included Earth, and all known human and AI settled worlds, of all the separate factions combined.
“The area is full of thousands of worlds your kind could land on, little to no protection required, unlike the Fae, who it would crush and pressure cook, as it would most of the races in the Galactic Parliament.” He zoomed in on an area at the far end of the Trough. “We ran here, and Mwarht Home is here.” He showed a system in a blue circle. Zooming out again he highlighted the Drix Combine, Coreward of and on the far side of the destroyed system the Fae had come from, hundreds of light years separated the three systems.
“We ran through the system the Fae came from when we ran from the Drix. We needed water and anything to recharge our ship farms' biological cycles.
“There were no solid planetary bodies in that system, just vast fields of debris where rocky planets were. No moons, no ice giants. Just the star, a larger red dwarf and gas giants and numerous asteroid belts. There were massive radiological signals throughout the system, and tons of debris. Something destroyed this system. In a way, it was a blessing for my people. The ice and debris were easily mineable for what we needed. We even found artifacts of the people that had once existed there. This is where we got our improved FTL drives and much of our weapons and armor technologies.” Mri’s looked somewhat ashamed. It was a racial shame. They hated, deep down, living on the detritus, cast-offs and charity of other races. Before the Drix they had been proud though primitive peoples who had yet to discover flight or antibiotics, let alone space flight. Easy pickings for the Drix.
“All of that was about one thousand lightyears from the system we are headed to, a few weeks' travel with your drives, months or years with Galactic Parliament standard drives. This area is one of mysteries and many, many dangers. Any race that could shatter every solid body in a star system is not to be taken lightly.” Mri’x looked up to his Captain, or as they called her ‘Leader of multiple Douts’.
“Thank you, Mri’x. Drake?”
“We will be ready for pretty much anything. I’d like to request permission for Flowers and Winds of Neptunes to take out their Scout bodies and launch just before we start braking, if we do.” He said. Winds appeared as a hologram of the planet Neptune, and pulsed in cadence with the words it spoke. “As you wish, Grand Master.” and winked out.
“Good plan, Drake. I take it you all will be on the Kodiaks with your crews?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’ll leave four of them here, to bring the Field Engineering and field Science students down if the scene is safe. I’ll leave one set up for medical and Flowers can fly it down, if that becomes needed.”
“Very well. We are about eight hours out, if we stick to the plan. We leave the Trough in two hours. Drake, M’rizx, set up what you need. Mr. Martin, please take the Conn and give the Old Girl her legs, she needs to run. I’ll be meeting with the different department heads next.”
* * *
A/N: Lurker posting something HFY for the first time. A rough draft of something bigger I'm slowly working on.
submitted by 17_Bart to HFY [link] [comments]

Raven Reviews: IxSHE Tell Part 1, The Mechanics of a Book.

TL;DR I review the novel without talking about the plot.
A FRIENDLY DISAGREEMENT
Recently I had a discussion with a stranger on a forum who was adamantly apposed to what he called "Harem Games" and novels that featured harem elements. To recount the whole conversation would take pages and wouldn't be entirely relevant to this review but i'd like to summarize two key points he expressed to me that informed his opinion. The first is that Japanese society, and even American society, is not supportive of a man having multiple partners. While I was able to get him to admit that recent years have seen a rise in polyamory in the United States he remained adamant that any form of harem was unrealistic for the culture. Secondly, he expressed an opinion that mechanically and from a game design perspective harem routs were a "copout" because they are very rarely the true route or most naturally feeling resolution to a story and only exist for people who quote "Feel bad for the girls they rejected even though most of the time that would be better for them and they're okay with it!" He would go on to say that Japanese views on romance are incompatible with harems because of their focus on "firsts" and "being someones only" but being someone who is not native Japanese myself and has only experienced their culture through works like the subject of this review I can't say I'm able to talk about that point much. I feel like VNs portray an idealized version of Japanese culture just like American media does and just like I wouldn't say someone who was seen every episode of any three american sitcoms knows American culture I would not say I know Japanese culture from reading VNs.
Out of respect for his privacy I'm not going to name him here but if by some chance you're reading this stranger I spoke to this review will serve as my response to the summery of your points. While I know you're aware I disagree with you, I want to provide a better example then simply listing novels I though were good as I did in our original discussion. As I am well aware however that providing my response like this, if it were to miraculously reach you, is somewhat unfair since you have no good platform to respond with outside of a comment below please feel free to DM me and I will gladly respond. This review will be addressed to a wider audience obviously but I think it will be easy to tell what parts I have drawn from the information you gave me.
"BEST HAIR" CHOICE STRUCTURE
IxSHE Tell is a recently translated romantic comedy about P-kun (Ninomiya Hajime) and his difficult choice between five girls who confess to him one after the other. That plot synopsis may have drawn up some negative connotations for you but I encourage you to judge this story on its own merits because I was also skeptical but pleasantly surprised with the quality of the work presented. The novel is split in three parts. A lengthy prologue that takes somewhere between an hour and two hours to read. A common route of about fifteen hours, and then individual romance paths for each heroine that are about three hours long apiece. This clocks the total novel read time at about thirty hours but I would imagine a fast reader could finish it in twenty if they choose to. My personal time to completion is skewed slightly longer as I'm a masochist who wouldn't feel satisfied without being certain I've seen every possible line of dialog but I can't imagine this novel taking more the forty or forty five hours for the slowest reader. While their are a number of gimmicks in this novel I will discuss below without the H-patch the game makes the bold choice to provide the player with only a single meaningful choice and thereby creates a unique atmosphere I can't say I've ever experienced before.
Anyone who has read more then one or two visual novels will know that commonly the narrative choices are less then open to a reader pursuing more then one heroine. I hesitate to say common structure punishes readers for choosing options favorable to more then one romance route but it certainly discourages it. To explain what I mean lets take a look at a few examples. Muv-Luv, specifically Muv-Luv Extra, has a difficult to unlock "Bad" ending where if the reader favors a specific heroine but fails to choose her options in one of a few specific scenes the game ends abruptly without satisfyingly concluding. Their is also a second "Bad" end which occurs only if the player makes two specific choices, both of which are little more then rejections of the branch path to romance routes. Effectively, failure to fully pursue one of the game's heroines results in the game ending in its second act, but paradoxically while the game has two dozen or so choices any combination of those options will result in a romance route and "good" end so long as the reader chooses the appropriate option at one of the deciding points. IMHHW by contrast has a failure route you can only trigger by selecting one specific option in one specific scene that is obviously the wrong choice and then locks you into a route shortly after. I actually think one of the most enjoyable jokes I can find in a VN is finding the path that lets you spend the least amount of time with a heroine but still puts you on her romance path, then watching as P-kun trips over himself to explain how he fell in love with her instead of the girl he spent most of the last week with. Unfortunately though I can rarely do this without failing out before the final act because of this exact type of choice structure.
Some novels are more subtle about this lack of choice. Katawa Shoujo comes to mind as even at its worse you do have SOME free will to jump ship to a different heroine mid act but the binary choice between Lilly and Shizune never sat well with me and Emi being a one choice lock is just disappointing. While not every novel is blatant enough to go the Muv-Luv route and literally name the heroines in the choices so its impossible to miss who you're siding with its a rare treat to find a novel that doesn't spell out which options are the "right" ones to some degree. This brings me back to IxST because the design choice to make only one choice truly relevant, which I would call a weakness in any other novel, but replacing "Best Hair" choices with a gold star reward system opens the narrative and allows for a more natural and less pressured experience.
REAL CHOICE
This section might not be entirely 100% necessary but I wanted to break down exactly why I think the mechanics of this VN are so revolutionary and vastly superior to the rest of the genre. Honestly, while I know it wouldn't fit every novel I think future VNs would benefit greatly from this example. So the common route in IxST is divided into 5 subsections the novel labels as "days" but are probably better thought of as plot beats. Each subsection allows the reader to assign up to ten "hearts" in any combination to the five girls pursuing P-kun and with one major exception allows this to happen at any time. In the words of the games tutorial paraphrased, if a girl does something you like you can reward her with a heart. You're under no obligation to hand out hearts and can ignore the system all together if you choose but regardless at the end of each plot event you are prompted to select a girl for an extra scene and are then moved to the next plot beat with a new allotment of hearts. At the end of the last subsection if you overwhelmingly favored one girl with hearts over the others P-kun falls for that girl and you have the option to accept her confession. But even at this point you have the option to change your mind and pick another girl who will give you one final pitch about why you should choose them before giving you yet ANOTHER chance to back out and commit to the girl you favored.
Maybe the weight of how much this changes the feel of reading a VN isn't clear so lets do a comparison. Muv-Luv Extra isn't a great novel, certainly not terrible but it's about as average as I could hope to find. Their is no other single VN to me that is as aggressively 5/10 as Muv-Luv Extra. Placing it beside IxST both games have a prologue introducing their respective flavors of P-kun and follow it with an intro movie. I know i'm vastly oversimplifying things as the prologues to these two stories are nothing alike but mechanically they have no difference so the important part is that when the common route starts the reader is mentally in the same place. In IxST the player is almost immediately presented with all the choice mechanic they will be interacting with for the next three or so hours of the novel in the form of the heart system. Muv-Luv by contrast spends its opening to the common route with one of the five heroins and less then half an hour into the experience presents the first choice which is a binary question of if you enjoyed yourself with her. Unless you are brand new to visual novels you will know immediately that Muv-Luv's choice should give you pause because without even letting you meet four of the five romance options you are already having to make a choice that you have no way of knowing the significance of. While not all novels do this it's not uncommon for a visual novel to soft lock out of a route when you don't get every choice for a heroine correct and so this small moment to a first time reader can feel needlessly stressful because choosing one option may lock you on one path for the narrative and the other may permanently lock you out of it without telling you either result for HOURS.
In roughly the same time a reader will make their way through IxST's first section of common route to the extra scene choice that same reader in Muv-Luv will likely have to make two additional choices if not more all of which are binary "Best Hair" choices encouraging the reader to pursue one of the five heroines hours before the common route ends. This almost makes the choices irrelevant as the reader is primed to select whichever option continues the path their on and discourages them from picking the option they would prefer over the option that is more likely to result in a "good" end. Now to be fair IxST does not communicate to the reader that who they pick for the extra scene is not a soft lock but even if we assume the reader is ignoring the hearts and has already selected which romance route they want to shoot for the hearts system tutorial screen and the extra scene tutorial are definitely geared toward the opposite priming. Every girl is available to be chosen no mater how few hearts you gave her and this ties neatly into the games presentation. The cross view system that temporarily takes away the hearts counters and allows the reader to experience short scenes with each girl further primes the reader to the idea that no matter their choice at this stage the narrative will continue without soft locking. To summarize Muv-Luv and its traditional use of choices makes its narrative feel like the choices exist as a quiz of "what would this girl like me to do?" IxST and its heart system feel like you are organically favoring the girl or girls you enjoy and presents everyone with an equal chance for you to grow attached to them.
THE PROBLEM WITH COMMON ROUTES
I have another review in the works explaining why I dislike the presentation of most common routes using IMHHW as an example but I'll summarize my points here so I can explain how much better IxST is at getting a reader to seriously consider all the heroines as potential options then a traditional visual novel. Everyone knows their are certain types of characters that feature heavily in visual novels and to an extent has their preferences. Class Representatives, lolis, little sisters etc are all common starting points for heroines. I personally tend to dislike Tsunderes and have a preference for childhood friends but that's just me. Common routes ideally should follow four basic rules but often fail to uphold them.
1.) The common route should introduce but NOT develop characters only important in one or two romance routes and should involve background characters as much as possible while developing the heroines.
2.) The common route should develop each heroine equally and if possible should provide them with as close to equal screen time as feasible.
3.) The common route should have a reason for existing outside of developing characters and this reason should not be resolved before the romance routes begin unless those routes have their own conflict.
4.) The common route should have just as many CGs as the individual romance routes if not more and showcase each heroine evenly in them.
I came up with these rules because the entire reason a common route exists is to allow the reader to familiarize themselves with the world and characters and specifically the heroines. If it fails to accomplish that then what was the point of having it? IMHHW happens to fail at ALL of these rules but that's a topic for another day. Let me know in the comments if you're interested in that review and I'll push it up the list. However before I explain why IxST does so well by following these guidelines let me explain my reasoning for each.
Rule one recognizes that visual novels need characters other then the protagonist and heroines to feel believable, otherwise the world feels empty and flat. These characters come in three flavors. Background, Side, and Spriteless. Background characters are things like the protagonists best friend or their teacher, definitely important people with a role in the narrative but not romance options. Ideally background characters should be introduced in the prologue to establish their personality and due to their development typically remaining static involved as much as possible with the character in the common route so that by the time the romance routes are reached they can serve their narrative purpose without taking away from the heroine. We should know everything important about them before the half way mark so they can be used and referenced easily as needed. A perfect example is Mikoto in Muv-Luv Extra, who is introduced about a quarter of the way through the game and has basically finished his development by the half way point. Side characters are the opposite, and should be developed in romance routes after being introduced in the common route. A good example here is if a heroine has a little sister, although not every little sister character is like this in general this example works. Ideally, the reader should know the heroine has a little sister and be introduced to her sprite but this is only to allow her to be expanded on in the romance route later so that each run of the game feels unique. Just like in real life growing closer to people means your circle of friends shifts and its more interesting to a reader to have to work to know every character in the game then to always have that information from the beginning. The last category of Spriteless are small time or single use characters that well, don't have a sprite. I might come back in a future review and talk about this group but they don't bear much relevance to the current topic so I'm going to move on.
The second rule is pretty self explanatory but to be thorough one of the greatest sins a common route can commit is focusing on one character over the others. Yes, I am aware that some novels have "true" ends that are meant to advance a larger story. Yes, I am also aware that in real life it is very unlikely people you only see at school or work or whatever will have an equal amount of exposure to you as people you've been friends with for years or who you have class with. None of those things matter in a novel. The author has the ability to portray each character evenly even if the protagonist does not have an even amount of interaction with each character. The thing about real life and realism is that life is often incredibly boring. I have yet to see a novel that forced me to sit through every class period the protagonist experienced, because that would be excruciating. I also don't have to wait six hours for the protagonist to wake up after going to sleep nor witness every bite of breakfast every day. This isn't a question of what is realistic this is a question of allowing the reader to get a decent understanding of the characters. This doesn't always mean they are given literally to the second the same amount of dialogue and screen time, but a good common route will let each heroine have an equal time to shine without favoring any of them.
The third rule is the one I most often see broken and as such has become my personal most important of the four. I am far more willing to forgive a novel that can follow this rule, even if it isn't for every run, then i am a novel that can not. I have no problems with slice of life narratives. It can sometimes be incredibly cathartic to just drop into the shoes of someone else and pretend to be them for a day. But stories do not exist without conflict and no, choosing which girl you like is not sufficient conflict for the story unless the protagonist is just as concerned about it as you are. Ideally, a novel's conflict should involve all the characters though that's rather difficult so settling for just the protagonist and heroins is fine. The conflict should also have enough leeway to be solved in multiple ways so that each heroines route can provide their own solution. How a heroine uniquely resolves conflict or avoids it is a huge opportunity to squander by ignoring the inclusion of a story.
The fourth rule is most concerned with creating a balanced feeling to the novel and has less to do with the common route specifically then it does with the novel as a whole but I tend to include it here because well, it just makes since. Obviously the romance routes are going to have a higher density of CGs then the common route. If you include extra scenes and optional scenes as part of a heroine's run rather then common route content that rule is doubly true. However this doesn't mean that the common route is totally devoid of CGs because that is obviously not the case. Most VNs use the prologue as an excuse to give each heroine an opening CG but the common route is where the majority of group shots and for lack of a better term "casual" scenes allow the artists to showcase each heroine outside of their static sprites. If you've read the other rules explanations you may have noticed that I haven't elaborated on the notion that the common route's main goal is to make the heroine's interesting to the reader and I've saved that point for this moment because outside of their sprites, which are a vital part of a heroine's ability to express themselves, CGs are the most important facet to letting these characters "breath." If you've ever listened to the dialogue in a visual novel without looking at the screen (Admittedly you'd have to know at least a bit of Japanese to do this but lets just assume you have the bare minimum understanding of what the characters are saying.) its actually really hard to distinguish each heroine's personality purely off the words they say. Maybe we don't often think about it but this genre is not just tied to its visual element it is at this point utterly undivorcable from it because it has come to rely on tropes and ideas that repeat themselves so often they tend to blur. How many visual novels have heroines that are constantly getting "shy" or "flustered?" How many use the same literal words like Segoi, Baka, Hentii, to describe things? Language is both endlessly expressive and limiting and even the best VNs, perhaps ESPECIALLY the best, would make TERRIBLE novels if they were printed as is in the form of a paperback. The entire reason for CGs even existing is to play off established tropes and the story to give the reader a snapshot of why the moment they are currently reading is significant and unique, and in a romance novel that more often then not translates to why the heroine is significant and unique. Neglecting this visual element therefore is a huge disservice to the the reader.
MERGING THE IDEAS
Having said all that IxST uses its unique choice system to facilitate a change in the reader's approach to reading and thus makes itself vastly more enjoyable. This novel could have so easily been nothing more then a self insert fantasy about being pursued by multiple women but because it encourages you to engage with every line of dialogue and spread your focus between all of the characters the story feels fresh and different. The last major choice mechanic I have to mention in IxST, the cross view system, is the epitome of this because while I do have problems with some of the scenes I'll talk about in part 2 of this review the fact it's the only time you can't access the hearts menu was a stroke of genius.
Cross view occurrences are once per subsection of the common route and present you with six to nine short scenes involving characters not in P-kun's immediate vicinity talking about or thinking about him. Their is always one scene for each of the heroines but most of the background characters get one each go around as well as usually a scene from the perspective of a random nameless classmate. These scenes are 100% optional but choosing not to read them is a real disservice because letting yourself get into the mindset of the heroins and characters really fleshes out their actions and puts context to the events that happen toward the end of each subsection. I think you'd really miss out if you skipped them. What elevates them for me though is the fact that since you can't access the hearts menu you're forced to think about the scenes for a longer period of time before immediately rewarding the heroines with a heart. By the time you get the menu back you may feel compelled to hand out two or three of your ten points and that choice is a really good moment to sit and consider how you actually feel about each of the characters. If you haven't been interested in one of the girls but their inner thoughts persuaded you they mean well or vise versa then these moments of returned choice can really shake up who you favor for the eventual act three. It feels like i'm praising this game for taking away my options during these sections, because I am, but that's only because you have such freedom everywhere else you become hyper aware and observant when it's scaled back.
Going back to the common route rules above this altered mindset falls perfectly in line with fulfilling those goals. Because the reader also cross views background characters to get their perspective they get to relegate development in the main story away from interactions with the protagonist and still fulfill the requirement they be showcased. Because each heroine always has a cross fade section each of them gets a roughly equal amount of time to win over a reader and because they have this extra time they can have more interesting personal conflicts that carry over to their romance routes while the main plot focuses on P-kun's struggles.
A RESPONSE TO A DIFFERENT POINT
I want to wrap up this first part of my review by addressing why I think "harem" games are uniquely suited to have better, more developed experiences then equal surface quality novels. IxST would not have worked as a story if the protagonist had been the one to confess to the heroines. I don't mean it would have just been different I mean the structure of this game and what made it so interesting and special would have been worthless if that one detail were changed. The choice system of IxST only works because all options are treated equally and never pull the reader too far in one direction. The mindset of someone who is balancing a relationship with five people is fundamentally different from pursuing one out of five. I can't make it any clearer then that, reading this VN is just fundamentally different because the atmosphere is different.
Am I saying ALL harem games are like this? Absolutely not. Especially those that have the harem route as an option but clearly do not focus on it or worse work like Harem Party where harem means nothing more then the Echii scenes keep changing girls. But I am saying its easier to break out of the mindset visual novels often fall into where you can only pursue one girl at a time and regardless of what the context of the situation is you should always pick the option that girl will like or be punished for it. The quote that really stuck with me from my conversation referenced in the intro above was "I can never get invested in the characters because they treat everyone the same."
I didn't say it at the time but isn't that a good thing? Do you WANT the characters to be inherently unequal? Everyone has their kinks and this is a kinky kinky genre you're allowed to pick favorites based upon what you like but doesn't it stand to reason that if you're reading a novel and one character is favored over another that the person who likes that unfavored character is going to wish they had been treated more equally? That's to say nothing about the fact that every novel is someones first and if a brand new VN reader gets hold of this story don't you want them to have a fair representation of the different character types? Isn't the entire point of having options to be able to explore them unbiased? If you really wanted to pursue just one type of character then their are dozens of novels with only one heroine, admittedly far less then their are with several choices but it's not like they don't exist! Now if the novel is poorly written and the characters have to all share two or three personality traits then yeah fine you have a point there but that's not the harems fault that's just a bad novel in general.
I can't say I'm a "fan" of harem VNs, I think I own maybe five total that could even plausibly count out of a sizable collection but I can't deny that problems I constantly complain about in other VNs are at worse absent in the sub-genre and at worst have active solutions like in IxST that I feel NEED to be praised. I don't feel comfortable writing off these stories because "One man can't possibly satisfy five girls." His words not mine.
WHY I CHOOSE TO SPLIT THIS REVIEW
Well for starters i'm already going far over what I think is reasonable for a single post and haven't even TOUCHED on the actual game's story but more importantly I think my opinion on the VN itself and the mechanics of the game are two separate things. I'll be clear and say I do like IxST, in fact it might crack my top 15, but I have a lot more to say about its narrative then I do about this topic so I decided it would be best to segregate the two ideas. Next week I'll be posting my views on the story, characters, music, art, and my overall opinion with a few extras thrown in. I expect it will end up being even longer then part 1 so be prepared for that I guess. I'm interested to see which of these two parts do better overall so if you liked what you read consider showing some support. I'll consider your updoot to be a substitute for a heart. This is my fourth review in this series so I'm still full of ideas but if these longer reviews do well I might consider moving to a slower release schedule to be sure I can be more detailed. Let me know what you think and if you agree with my points or the stranger I argued against. Stay well everyone!
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[Table] Asteroid Day AMA – We’re engineers and scientists working on a mission that could, one day, help save humankind from asteroid extinction. Ask us anything!

Source
There are several people answering: Paolo Martino is PM, Marco Micheli is MM, Heli Greus is HG, Detlef Koschny is DVK, and Aidan Cowley is AC.
Questions Answers
Can we really detect any asteroids in space with accuracy and do we have any real means of destroying it? Yes, we can detect new asteroids when they are still in space. Every night dozens of new asteroids are found, including a few that can come close to the Earth.
Regarding the second part of the question, the goal would be to deflect them more than destroy them, and it is technologically possible. The Hera/DART mission currently being developed by ESA and NASA will demonstrate exactly this capability.
MM
I always wanted to ask: what is worse for life on Earth - to be hit by a single coalesced asteroid chunk, or to be hit by a multiple smaller pieces of exploded asteroid, aka disrupted rubble pile scenario? DVK: This is difficult to answer. If the rubble is small (centimetres to meters) it is better to have lots of small ones – they’d create nice bright meteors. If the rubble pieces are tens of meters it doesn’t help.
Let’s say that hypothetically, an asteroid the size of Rhode Island is coming at us, it will be a direct hit - you’ve had the resources and funding you need, your plan is fully in place, everything you’ve wanted you got. The asteroid will hit in 10 years, what do you do? DVK: I had to look up how big Rhode Island is – a bit larger than the German Bundesland ‘Saarland’. Ok – this would correspond to an object about 60 km in diameter, right? That’s quite big – we would need a lot of rocket launches, this would be extremely difficult. I would pray. The good news is that we are quite convinced that we know all objects larger than just a few kilometers which come close to our planet. None of them is on a collision course, so we are safe.
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Why are you quite convinced that you know all object of that size? And what is your approach in finding new celestial bodies? DVK: There was a scientific study done over a few years (published in Icarus 2018, search for Granvik) where they modelled how many objects there are out there. They compared this to the observations we have with the telescopic surveys. This gives us the expected numbers shown here on our infographic: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
There are additional studies to estimate the ‘completeness’ – and we think that we know everything above roughly a few km in size.
To find new objects, we use survey telescopes that scan the night sky every night. The two major ones are Catalina and Pan-STARRS, funded by NASA. ESA is developing the so-called Flyeye telescope to add to this effort https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2017/02/Flyeye_telescope.
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Thanks for the answer, that's really interesting! It's also funny that the fist Flyeye deployed is in Sicily, at less than 100km from me, I really had no idea DVK: Indeed, that's cool. Maybe you can go and visit it one day.
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What about Interstellar objects however, like Oumuamua? DVK: The two that we have seen - 'Oumuamua and comet Borisov - were much smaller than the Saarland (or Rhode Island ;-) - not sure about Borisov, but 'Oumuamua was a few hundred meters in size. So while they could indeed come as a complete surprise, they are so rare that I wouldn't worry.
Would the public be informed if an impending asteroid event were to happen? And, how would the extinction play out? Bunch of people crushed to death, knocked off our orbit, dust clouds forever? DVK: We do not keep things secret – all our info is at the web page http://neo.ssa.esa.int. The ‘risky’ objects are in the ‘risk page’. We also put info on really close approaches there. It would also be very difficult to keep things ‘under cover’ – there are many high-quality amateur astronomers out there that would notice.
In 2029 asteroid Apophis will fly really close to Earth, even closer than geostationary satellites. Can we use some of those satellites to observe the asteroid? Is it possible to launch very cheap cube sats to flyby Apophis in 2029? DVK: Yes an Apophis mission during the flyby in 2029 would be really nice. We even had a special session on that topic at the last Planetary Defense Conference in 2019, and indeed CubeSats were mentioned. This would be a nice university project – get me a close-up of the asteroid with the Earth in the background!
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So you’re saying it was discussed and shelved? In the conference we just presented ideas. To make them happen needs funding - in the case of ESA the support of our member countries. But having something presented at a conference is the first step. One of the results of the conference was a statement to space agencies to consider embarking on such a mission. See here: https://www.cosmos.esa.int/documents/336356/336472/PDC_2019_Summary_Report_FINAL_FINAL.pdf/341b9451-0ce8-f338-5d68-714a0aada29b?t=1569333739470
Go to the section 'resolutions'. This is now a statement that scientists can use to present to their funding agencies, demonstrating that it's not just their own idea.
Thanks for doing this AMA! Did we know the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 (the one which had some great videos on social media) was coming? Ig not, how comes? Also, as a little side one, have there been any fatalities from impact events in the past 20 years? Unfortunately, the Chelyabinsk object was not seen in advance, because it came from the direction of the Sun where ground-based telescopes cannot look.
No known fatalities from impacts have happened in the past 20 years, although the Chelyabinsk event did cause many injuries, fortunately mostly minor.
MM
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How often do impacts from that direction happen, compared to impacts from visible trajectories? In terms of fraction of the sky, the area that cannot be easily scanned from the ground is roughly a circle with a radius of 40°-50° around the current position of the Sun, corresponding to ~15% of the total sky. However, there is a slight enhancement of objects coming from that direction, therefore the fraction of objects that may be missed when heading towards us is a bit higher.
However, this applies only when detecting an asteroid in its "final plunge" towards the Earth. Larger asteroids can be spotted many orbits earlier, when they are farther away and visible in the night side of the sky. Their orbits can then be determined and their possible impacts predicted even years or decades in advance.
MM
There must be a trade-off when targeting asteroids as they get closer to Earth, is there a rule of thumb at what the best time is to reach them, in terms of launch time versus time to reach the asteroid and then distance from Earth? DVK: Take e.g. a ‘kinetic impactor’ mission, like what DART and Hera are testing. Since we only change the velocity of the asteroid slightly, we need to hit the object early enough so that the object has time to move away from it’s collision course. Finding out when it is possible to launch requires simulations done by our mission analysis team. They take the strength of the launcher into account, also the available fuel for course corrections, and other things. Normally each asteroid has its own best scenario.
Do you also look at protecting the moon from asteroids? Would an impact of a large enough scale potentially have major impacts on the earth? DVK: There are programmes that monitor the Moon and look for flashes from impacting small asteroids (or meteoroids) - https://neliota.astro.noa.g or the Spanish MIDAS project. We use the data to improve our knowledge about these objects. These programmes just look at what is happening now.
For now we would not do anything if we predicted a lunar impact. I guess this will change once we have a lunar base in place.
Why aren't there an international organisation comprised of countries focused on the asteroid defence? Imagine like the organisation with multi-billion $ budget and program of action on funding new telescopes, asteroid exploration mission, plans for detection of potentially dangerous NEA, protocols on action after the detection - all international, with heads of states discussing these problems? DVK: There are international entities in place, mandated by the UN: The International Asteroid Warning Network (http://www.iawn.net) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (http://www.smpag.net). These groups advise the United Nations. That is exactly where we come up with plans and protocols on action. But: They don’t have budget – that needs to come from elsewhere. I am expecting that if we have a real threat, we would get the budget. Right now, we don’t have a multi-billion budget.
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There is no actual risk of any sizable asteroids hitting earth in the foreseeable future. Any preparation for it would just be a waste of money. DVK: Indeed, as mentioned earlier, we do not expect a large object to hit is in the near future. We are mainly worried about those in the size range of 20 m to 40 m, which happen on average every few tens of years to hundreds of years. And where we only know a percent of them or even less.
President Obama wanted to send a crewed spacecraft to an asteroid - in your opinion is this something that should still be done in the future, would there be any usefulness in having a human being walk/float on an asteroid's surface? DVK: It would definitely be cool. I would maybe even volunteer to go. Our current missions to asteroids are all robotic, the main reason is that it is much cheaper (but still expensive) to get the same science. But humans will expand further into space, I am sure. If we want to test human exploration activities, doing this at an asteroid would be easier than landing on a planet.
this is another reply Yes, but I am slightly biased by the fact that I work at the European astronaut centre ;) There exist many similarities to what we currently do for EVA (extra vehicular activities) operations on the International Space Station versus how we would 'float' around an asteroid. Slightly biased again, but using such a mission to test exploration technologies would definitely still have value. Thanks Obama! - AC
I've heard that some asteroids contains large amounts of iron. Is there a possibility that we might have "space mines" in the far away future, if our own supply if iron runs out? Yes, this is a topic in the field known as space mining, part of what we call Space Resources. In fact, learning how we can process material we might find on asteroids or other planetary bodies is increasingly important, as it opens up the opportunities for sustainable exploration and commercialization. Its a technology we need to master, and asteroids can be a great target for testing how we can create space mines :) - AC
By how much is DART expected to deflect Didymos? Do we have any indication of the largest size of an asteroid we could potentially deflect? PM: Didymos is a binary asteroid, consisting of a main asteroid Didymos A (~700m) and a smaller asteroid Didymos B (~150m) orbiting around A with a ~12 hours period. DART is expected to impact Didymos B and change its orbital period w.r.t. Didymos A of ~1%. (8 mins)
The size of Didymos B is the most representative of a potential threat to Earth (the highest combination of probability and consequence of impacts), meaning smaller asteroids hit the Earth more often but have less severe consequences, larger asteroids can have catastrophic consequences but their probability of hitting the earth is very very low.
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Why is there less probability of larger asteroids hitting earth? DVK: There are less large objects out there. The smaller they are, the more there are.
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Is there any chance that your experiment will backfire and send the asteroid towards earth? PM: Not at all, or we would not do that :) Actually Dimorphos (the Didymos "moon") will not even leave its orbit around Didymos. It will just slightly change its speed.
I'm sure you've been asked this many times but how realistic is the plot of Armageddon? How likely is it that our fate as a species will rely on (either) Bruce Willis / deep sea oil drillers? Taking into consideration that Bruce Willis is now 65 and by the time HERA is launched he will be 69, I do not think that we can rely on him this time (although I liked the movie).
HERA will investigate what method we could use to deflect asteroid and maybe the results will show that we indeed need to call the deep sea oil drillers.
HG
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So then would it be easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, or to train astronauts to be oil drillers? I do not know which one would be easier since I have no training/experience of deep see oil drilling nor becoming an astronaut, but as long as the ones that would go to asteroid have the sufficient skills and training (even Bruce Willis), I would be happy.
HG
If budget was no object, which asteroid would you most like to send a mission to? Nice question! For me, I'd be looking at an asteroid we know something about, since I would be interested in using it for testing how we could extract resources from it. So for me, I would choose Itokawa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25143_Itokawa), which was visited by Hayabusa spacecraft. So we already have some solid prospecting carried out for this 'roid! - AC
this is another reply Not sure if it counts as an asteroid, but Detlef and myself would probably choose ʻOumuamua, the first discovered interstellar object.
MM
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Do we even have the capability to catch up to something like that screaming through our solar system? That thing has to have a heck of a velocity to just barrel almost straight through like that. DVK: Correct, that would be a real challenge. We are preparing for a mission called 'Comet Interceptor' that is meant to fly to an interstellar object or at least a fresh comet - but it will not catch up with it, it will only perform a short flyby.
https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/ESA_s_new_mission_to_intercept_a_comet
After proving to be able to land on one, could an asteroid serve as a viable means to transport goods and or humans throughout the solar system when the orbit of said asteroid proves beneficial. While it is probably quite problematic to land the payload, it could save fuel or am I mistaken? Neat idea! Wonder if anyone has done the maths on the amount of fuel you would need/save vs certain targets. - AC
PM: To further complement, the saving is quite marginal indeed because in order to land (softly) on the asteroid you actually need to get into the very same orbit of that asteroid . At that point your orbit remains the same whether you are on the asteroid or not..
can the current anti-ballistic missiles systems intercept a terminal phase earth strike asteroid? or it is better to know beforehand and launch an impacting vehicle into space? DVK: While I do see presentations on nuclear explosions to deflect asteroids at our professional meetings, I have not seen anybody yet studying how we could use existing missile systems. So it's hard to judge whether existing missiles would do the job. But in general, it is better to know as early as possible about a possible impact and deflect it as early as possible. This will minimize the needed effort.
How much are we prepared against asteroid impacts at this moment? DVK: 42… :-) Seriously – I am not sure how to quantify ‘preparedness’. We have international working groups in place, mentioned earlier (search for IAWN, SMPAG). We have a Planetary Defence Office at ESA, a Planetary Defense Office at NASA (who spots the difference?), search the sky for asteroids, build space missions… Still we could be doing more. More telescopes to find the object, a space-based telescope to discover those that come from the direction of the Sun. Different test missions would be useful, … So there is always more we could do.
Have you got any data on the NEO coverage? Is there estimations on the percentage of NEOs we have detected and are tracking? How can we improve the coverage? How many times have asteroids been able to enter earths atmosphere without being detected beforehand? Here’s our recently updated infographics with the fraction of undiscovered NEOs for each size range: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
As expected, we are now nearly complete for the large ones, while many of the smaller ones are still unknown.
In order to improve coverage, we need both to continue the current approach, centered on ground-based telescopes, and probably also launch dedicated telescopes to space, to look at the fraction of the sky that cannot be easily observed from the ground (e.g., towards the Sun).
Regarding the last part of your question, small asteroids enter the Earth atmosphere very often (the infographics above gives you some numbers), while larger ones are much rarer.
In the recent past, the largest one to enter our atmosphere was about 20 meters in diameter, and it caused the Chelyabinsk event in 2013. It could not be detected in advance because it came from the direction of the Sun.
We have however detected a few small ones before impact. The first happened in 2008, when a ~4-meter asteroid was found to be on a collision course less than a day before impact, it was predicted to fall in Northern Sudan, and then actually observed falling precisely where (and when) expected.
MM
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DVK: And to add what MM said - Check out http://neo.ssa.esa.int. There is a ‘discovery statistics’ section which provides some of the info you asked about. NASA is providing similar information here https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/. To see the sky which is currently covered by the survey telescopes, you need to service of the Minor Planet Center which we all work together with: http://www.minorplanetcenter.org, ‘observers’, ‘sky coverage’. That is a tool we use to plan where we look with our telescopes, so it is a more technical page.
Are there any automatic systems for checking large numbers of asteroids orbits, to see if the asteroid's orbit is coming dangerously close to Earth, or is it done by people individually for every asteroid? I ask it because LSST Rubin is coming online soon and you know it will discover a lot of new asteroids. Yes, such systems exist, and monitor all known and newly discovered asteroids in order to predict possible future impacts.
The end result of the process is what we call "risk list": http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
It is automatically updated every day once new observational data is processed.
MM
What are your favourite sci-fi series? DVK: My favorites are ‘The Expanse’, I also liked watching ‘Salvation’. For the first one I even got my family to give me a new subscription to a known internet streaming service so that I can see the latest episodes. I also loved ‘The Jetsons’ and ‘The Flintstones’ as a kid. Not sure the last one counts as sci-fi though. My long-time favorite was ‘Dark Star’.
this is another reply Big fan of The Expanse at the moment. Nice, hard sci-fi that has a good impression of being grounded in reality - AC
this is another reply When I was a kid I liked The Jetsons, when growing up Star Trek, Star wars and I also used to watch with my sister the 'V'.
HG
When determining the potential threat of a NEA, is the mass of an object a bigger factor or size? I'm asking because I'm curious if a small but massive object (say, with the density of Psyche) could survive atmospheric entry better than a comparatively larger but less massive object. The mass is indeed what really matters, since it’s directly related with the impact energy.
And as you said composition also matters, a metal object would survive atmospheric entry better, not just because it’s heavier, but also because of its internal strength.
MM
What are your thoughts on asteroid mining as portrayed in sci-fi movies? Is it feasible? If so would governments or private space programs be the first to do so?What type of minerals can be found on asteroids that would merit the costs of extraction? Certainly there is valuable stuff you can find on asteroids. For example, the likely easiest material you can harvest from an asteroid would be volatiles such as H2O. Then you have industrial metals, things like Iron, Nickel, and Platinum group metals. Going further, you can break apart many of the oxide minerals you would find to get oxygen (getting you closer to producing rocket fuel in-situ!). Its feasible, but still needs alot of testing both here on Earth and eventually needs to be tested on a target. It may be that governments, via agencies like ESA or NASA, may do it first, to prove the principles somewhat, but I know many commercial entities are also aggresively working towards space mining. To show you that its definitely possible, I'd like to plug the work of colleagues who have processed lunar regolith (which is similar to what you may find on asteroids) to extract both oxygen and metals. Check it out here: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2019/10/Oxygen_and_metal_from_lunar_regolith
AC
Will 2020's climax be a really big rock? DVK: Let's hope not...
Considering NASA, ESA, IAU etc. is working hard to track Earth-grazing asteroids, how come the Chelyabinsk object that airburst over Russia in 2013 came as a total surprise? The Chelyabinsk object came from the direction of the Sun, where unfortunately ground-based telescopes cannot look at. Therefore, it would not have been possible to discover it in advance with current telescopes. Dedicated space telescopes are needed to detect objects coming from this direction in advance.
MM
the below is a reply to the above
Is this to say that it was within specific solid angles for the entire time that we could have observed it given its size and speed? Yes, precisely that. We got unlucky in this case.
MM
Have any of you read Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven? In your opinion, how realistic is his depiction of an asteroid strike on Earth? DVK: I have – but really long ago, so I don’t remember the details. But I do remember that I really liked the book, and I remember I always wanted to have a Hot Fudge Sundae when reading it.
I was thinking about the asteroid threat as a teen and came up with this ideas (Hint: they are not equally serious, the level of craziness goes up real quick). Could you please comment on their feasibility? 1. Attaching a rocket engine to an asteroid to make it gradually change trajectory, do that long in advance and it will miss Earth by thousands of km 2. Transporting acid onto asteroid (which are mainly metal), attaching a dome-shaped reaction chamber to it, using heat and pressure to then carry out the chemical reaction to disintegrate asteroids 3. This one is even more terrible than a previous one and totally Dan Brown inspired — transporting antimatter on asteroid, impacting and causing annihilation. Thank you for this AMA and your time! DVK: Well the first one is not so crazy, I have seen it presented... the difficulty is that all asteroids are rotating in one way or another. So if you continuously fire the engine it would not really help. You'd need to switch the engine on and off. Very complex. And landing on an asteroid is challenging too. Just using the 'kinetic impactor' which we will test with DART/Hera (described elsewhere in this chat) is simpler. Another seriously proposed concept is to put a spacecraft next to an asteroid and use an ion engine (like we have on our Mercury mission BepiColombo) to 'push' the asteroid away.
As for 2 and 3 I think I will not live to see that happening ;-)
What is the process to determine the orbit of a newly discovered asteroid? The process is mathematically quite complex, but here's a short summary.
Everything starts with observations, in particular with measurements of the position of an asteroid in the sky, what we call "astrometry". Discovery telescopes extract this information from their discovery images, and make it available to everybody.
These datapoints are then used to calculate possible trajectories ("orbits") that pass through them. At first, with very few points, many orbits will be possible.
Using these orbits we can extrapolate where the asteroid will be located during the following nights, use a telescope to observe that part of the sky, and locate the object again.
From these new observations we can extract new "astrometry", add it to the orbit determination, and see that now only some of the possible orbits will be compatible with the new data. As a result, we now know the trajectory better than before, because a few of the possible orbits are not confirmed by the new data.
The cycle can then continue, with new predictions, new observations, and a more accurate determination of the object's orbit, until it can be determined with an extremely high level of accuracy.
MM
What are some asteroids that are on your "watchlist"? We have exactly that list on our web portal: http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
It's called "risk list", and it includes all known asteroids for which we cannot exclude a possible impact over the next century. It is updated every day to include newly discovered asteroids, and remove those that have been excluded as possible impactors thanks to new observations.
MM
the below is a reply to the above
That's quite a list!! Do you guys ever feel stressed or afraid when you have to add another dangerous candidate (and by dangerous I mean those above 200m) is added to this Risk List? Yes, when new dangerous ones are added it's important that we immediately do our best to gather more data on them, observing them with telescopes in order to get the information we need to improve our knowledge of their orbit.
And then the satisfaction of getting the data needed to remove one from the list is even greater!
MM
What inspired you to go into this field of study? I was fascinated by astronomy in general since I was a kid, but the actual "trigger" that sparked my interest in NEOs was a wonderful summer course on asteroids organized by a local amateur astronomers association. I immediately decided that I would do my best to turn this passion into my job, and I'm so happy to have been able to make that dream come true.
MM
this is another reply DVK: I started observing meteors when I was 14, just by going outside and looking at the night sky. Since then, small bodies in the solar system were always my passion.
As a layperson, I still think using nuclear weapons against asteroids is the coolest method despite better methods generally being available. Do you still consider the nuclear option the cool option, or has your expertise in the field combined with the real-life impracticalities made it into a laughable/silly/cliche option? DVK: We indeed still study the nuclear option. There are legal aspects though, the ‘outer space treaty’ forbids nuclear explosions in space. But for a large object or one we discover very late it could be useful. That’s why we have to focus on discovering all the objects out there as early as possible – then we have time enough to use more conventional deflection methods, like the kinetic impactor (the DART/Hera scenario).
It seems like doing this well would require international cooperation, particularly with Russia. Have you ever reached out to Russia in your work? Do you have a counterpart organization there that has a similar mission? DVK: Indeed international cooperation is important - asteroids don't know about our borders! We work with a Russian team to perform follow-up observations of recently discovered NEOs. Russia is also involved in the UN-endorsed working groups that we have, IAWN and SMPAG (explained in another answer).
how much can experts tell from a video of a fireball or meteor? Can you work out what it's made of and where it came from? https://www.reddit.com/space/comments/hdf3xe/footage_of_a_meteor_at_barrow_island_australia/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x If multiple videos or pictures, taken from different locations, are available, then it's possible to reconstruct the trajectory, and extrapolate where the object came from.
Regarding the composition, it's a bit more difficult if nothing survives to the ground, but some information can be obtained indirectly from the fireball's color, or its fragmentation behavior. If a spectral analysis of the light can be made, it's then possible to infer the chemical composition in much greater detail.
MM
I've always wanted to know what the best meteorite buying site is and what their average price is?? DVK: Serious dealers will be registered with the 'International Meteorite Collectors Association (IMCA)' - https://www.imca.cc/. They should provide a 'certificate of authenticity' where it says that they are member there. If you are in doubt, you can contact the association and check. Normally there are rough prices for different meteorite types per gram. Rare meteorites will of course be much more expensive than more common ones. Check the IMCA web page to find a dealer close to you.
Just read through Aidans link to the basaltic rock being used as a printing material for lunar habitation. There is a company called Roxul that does stone woven insulation that may be able to shed some light on the research they have done to minimize their similarity to asbestos as potentially carcinogenic materials deemed safe for use in commercial and residential applications. As the interior surfaces will essentially be 3D printed lunar regolith what are the current plans to coat or dampen the affinity for the structure to essentially be death traps for respiratory illness? At least initially, many of these 3d printed regolith structures would not be facing into pressurised sections, but would rather be elements placed outside and around our pressure vessels. Such structures would be things like radiation shields, landing pads or roadways, etc. In the future, if we move towards forming hermetically sealed structures, then your point is a good one. Looking into terrestrial solutions to this problem would be a great start! - AC
What kind of career path does it take to work in the asteroid hunting field? It's probably different for each of us, but here's a short summary of my own path.
I became interested in asteroids, and near-Earth objects in particular, thanks to a wonderful summer course organized by a local amateur astronomers association. Amateur astronomers play a great role in introducing people, and young kids in particular, to these topics.
Then I took physics as my undergrad degree (in Italy), followed by a Ph.D. in astronomy in the US (Hawaii in particular, a great place for astronomers thanks to the exceptional telescopes hosted there).
After finishing the Ph.D. I started my current job at ESA's NEO Coordination Centre, which allowed me to realize my dream of working in this field.
MM
this is another reply DVK: Almost all of us have a Master's degree either in aerospace engineering, mathematics, physics/astronomy/planetary science, or computer science. Some of us - as MM - have a Ph.D. too. But that's not really a requirement. This is true for our team at ESA, but also for other teams in other countries.
What is the likelihood of an asteroid hitting the Earth In the next 200 years? It depends on the size, large ones are rare, while small ones are much more common. You can check this infographics to get the numbers for each size class: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
MM
Have you played the Earth Defence Force games and if you have, which one is your favourite? No I have not played the Earth Defence Force games, but I just looked it up and I think I would liked it. Which one would you recommend?
HG
How close is too close to earth? Space is a SUPER vast void so is 1,000,000 miles close, 10,000,000? And if an asteroid is big enough can it throw earth off its orbit? DVK: Too close for my taste is when we compute an impact probability > 0 for the object. That means the flyby distance is zero :-) Those are the objects on our risk page http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page.
If an object can alter the orbit of another one, we would call it planet. So unless we have a rogue planet coming from another solar system (verrry unlikely) we are safe from that.
How can I join you when I'm older? DVK: Somebody was asking about our career paths... Study aerospace engineering or math or physics or computer science, get a Masters. Possibly a Ph.D. Then apply for my position when I retire. Check here for how to apply at ESA: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Careers_at_ESA/Frequently_asked_questions2#HR1
How much is too much? DVK: 42 again
Are you aware of any asteroids that are theoretically within our reach, or will be within our reach at some point, that are carrying a large quantity of shungite? If you're not aware, shungite is like a 2 billion year old like, rock stone that protects against frequencies and unwanted frequencies that may be traveling in the air. I bought a whole bunch of the stuff. Put them around the la casa. Little pyramids, stuff like that. DVK: If I remember my geology properly, Shungite forms in water sedimental deposits. This requires liquid water, i.e. a larger planet. So I don't think there is a high chance to see that on asteroids.
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First Contact - Part Twenty-Three

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The Devastator class Precursor machine was the size of a large metropolis. Full of ground combat machines, air superiority machines, mining and reclamation machines that could move under their own power and were festooned with a thousand weapons. It was over a hundred million years old and had exterminated life on planets with its massive guns, with biowarfare, with chemical warfare, and with good old nuclear fire. It had wiped away planet after planet of the enemies cattle, the hated enemy's food sources, before finally following orders of the greater machines and going into sleep mode on a dead world.
Now the call had sounded out. Cattle had run amuck, even learning jumpspace technology. That meant the enemy had not been defeated, that his food source had multiplied into the trillions while the Devastator had slumbered, slowly sinking into the crust of the barren planet.
That was of no moment. Cattle could not fight back, that was why they were cattle. They knew nothing but safety and the security of numbers, willing to trade their own safety for the suffering of others. The cattle willingly marched into the pens if the pens promised safety.
The cattle were not the problem.
It was the feral intelligence that were the problem. Feral intelligence could fight. They knew nothing else. They cared for nothing else. A feral intelligence always destroyed itself once it could wield nuclear fire. The universe had proved it over and over even before the great machine had gone into slumber.
The call had sounded out, informing the machines that cattle had broken loose from the pens. The Devastator had computed that the problem would be solved quickly, with a minimum expenditure of resources, and had started to go back into slumber.
That was when the second call sounded. A feral intelligence had mastered FTL travel and had turned all of their unthinking violence against the Precursor war machines.
The Devastator considered the chances of the feral intelligence lasting long enough to withstand his brethren's assault, withstand purification and pacification.
It was mathematically insignificant. Not zero, but close enough that it required an application of resource driven computation to analyze it.
Feral intelligences always destroyed themselves.
The Devastator knew this. Had it encoded into its very bones. It did not feel the electronic version of caution as it moved into the planetary system, exiting faster than light travel. It screeched out its warcry as it exited into the system and brought up its scanners.
It felt the electronic version of anticipation as it detected orbital facilities around two planets that teemed with billions of cattle, as it tasted jumpspace wake trails, as it felt the presence of a small, insignificant amount of cattle space vessels arrayed to attempt to stand against it near the outer gas giant.
It was a waste of resources.
Cattle could not withstand machines.
It was as solid a fact as radioactive decay and as impossible to stop.
It roared and turned to accelerate toward the cattle ships waiting on the other side of the gas giant, letting them know the futility of their resistance and that nothing could stop it from destroying them any more than they could stop entropy.
It felt electronic satisfaction as nearly 10% of the cattle ships broke formation and fled for the planets.
The cattle ships lit their engines, trying to keep the gas giant between them and the great Precursor machine but the Devastator knew it would do no good. It would ensure they were caught mathematically opposite of it and begin launching subsidiary craft to destroy them and reclaim the resources of their wreckage.
The Devastator slowed as it approached the gas giant, ancient code pulsing impulses into the electronic brain at the mathematical certainty of destroying the cattle's defenses and thus weakening the hated enemy.
pssst... over here...
The transmission was in binary. The basic code, on a low band that the Devastator used to contact and exchange data with its peers. The signal origin was close, just behind it, in the gap between two point defense radars.
The Devastator tumbled as it slowed, searching with its senses to check that tiniest of gaps in its sensors. It could detect nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that the gas giant had a high level of hydrocarbon and pseudo-organic compounds was a high certainty with most gas giants of that size. The Devastator cast around, knowing the cattle had not sent that transmission.
psst... here...
This time the transmission was only a few hundred kilometers above the hull, right behind the main guns of battery-eight, between the massive cannons and the sensor array, in a gap in the coverage caused by space dust not yet cleared from the array. The Devastator ensured the cattle vessels were on the other side of the gas giant as it cast around again, looking for what could possibly be sending the message on that particular channel and rotating again to either force the transmitter to move away or hit the hull of massive Devastator.
...right here...
The Devastator felt the computer version of anxiety. A new factor had entered the computation. The voice, and the binary signal somehow had a voice, a whispering, tickling, hissing faint signal of binary on a wavelength just above the screaming particles of the foam between realspace and subspace. This time the voice had come from just below the Devastators thick hull, beneath the vessel, in a gap between the sensors in a place where its own orbital guns would not dazzle the sensors. The Devastator rolled, getting the upper sensors into place in a graceful sideways roll.
Nothing.
The Devastator was barely tracking the cattle. They were of no moment. Something was whispering on a bandwidth that was beyond organic abilities. Could it be a damaged ally, barely able to whisper for electronic assistance?
...I see you...
The Devastator heard the signal hiss to life, trickling out of empty space a few hundred kilometers away. It felt of a surge of self-defense protocol override everything else and it unleashed all of its gun at the empty space, suspecting that this possible enemy may be using some type of photo-passthrough adaptive camouflage.
Nothing.
The Devastator felt the self-preservation protocols wake up and fill some of its processors. That signal had originated from that point! Even a dust-speck would have been detected by its scanner arrays, nothing could have escaped the terrawatts of death it had unleashed.
...touch...
The Devastator felt a physical TOUCH on its housing, the decameters thick armor around the massive computer core that made up its brain. That was impossible! It was in the center of the ship, protected by layer after layer of armor, defensive mechanisms, sensors, but yet it had felt something touch the housing, press against it lightly, only a few tickles of the suggestion of pressure per square micrometer but a touch all the same.
There was a slight ripple in realspace only a few meters above the hull and the Devastator pushed itself away, firing every weapon it could bring to bear on the spot only a few atoms wide, all of its sensor questing, seeking, hunting in electronic desperation to find out what was transmitting, what was touching it!
...here...
The word was whispered from only a few meters away from the electronic "brain" of the Devastator, inside the protective housing, inside the field that would shut down biological neural function and even primitive artificial intelligences!
The Devestator felt self-protection and self-preservation programs never before accessed come online and flood into its RAM as the word was whispered at it from inside the final layer of protection.
Massive nCv cannons lowered, the housings screamed as the Devastator pushed them past the limit, to aim at its own hull. It opened fire, trying to claw into its own body in the electronic version of panic to get whatever was inside it out of it.
All of its sensors were directed into its own body. It no longer even bothered with tracking the cattle fleet. Even its astrogation and navigation programs, even the ones responsible to maintain orbit around the gas giant, were desperately racing through the circuitry, desperate to find whatever was whispering.
...over here...
The whisper was over it, on top of it, and carried sidecode of a mathematically impossible jumble of electrons arrayed in an impossible manner, with quarks whirling through electron valences, antimatter electrons in the nucleus, preons stretched to massive size taking up the place of neutrons, all with jumbling strangled mathematical codes that made no sense.
The Devastator's brain burned out the receptors to defend itself from such electronic madness.
And felt a touch upon one of the upper lobes of its quantum computer brain.
...over here...
The Devastator was throwing antivirus software out, slamming firewalls against each other, crushing ports into electronic ghosts, doing anything it could to keep out the voice. Inside the Main Computer Housing the last resort lasers began raking across anything that didn't match the original blueprints, burning away dust, odd quarks and electrons, destroying an upgraded maintenance robot that was desperately trying to detect what had touched its carapace.
From deep within the gas giant tentacles hundreds of miles long rose toward the Devastator, the ends slowly unrolling as massive graviton assisted 'suckers' on the inside of the tentacles deployed razored thorns of dark matter infused psuedo-bone.
The Devastator detected the tentacles just as they wrapped around it, the thick psuedo-protoplasmic tentacles that were thick with dark matter squeezing the Devastator's hull with impossible strength as meters thick muscles flexed with enough strength to crush the hull into itself and shatter armor over a kilometer thick.
Gibbering, raving, SCREAMING in something beyond electronic self-preservation programs would normally allow, the Devastator began to break apart, caught in the grips of the tentacles, being pulled into the gas giant.
...delicious delicious delicious...
The Devastator heard from inside its own mind as a beak nearly twenty kilometers long crushed its hull.
HELP ME, BROTHERS, PLEEEEEASE!
The beak closed and the Devastators brain flashed out of existence as the hull crushed around it.
The last thing it felt was something new. It threw data out with the cry for assistance to let its brethren know the last experience hashed data compile it had undergone. The data made no sense to the other Precursor war machines that heard the cry. A biological entity could have explained it.
Terror.
And despair.
A Desolation Class precursor war machine was assigned to discover what had caused the Devastator's intelligence collapse.
It dropped into the system and found no trace of its mechanical brethren.
Just some cattle species space craft hiding behind a gas giant, obviously intending ambushing it.
Feeling the electronic version of anticipation it moved into orbit around the gas giant, intending on forcing the cattle ships to move out of line of sight with their worlds if they wanted to stay on the opposite side of the gas giant from it. It updated its computations based on the fact that 10% of the cattle's ships had fled away from it.
It had already computed out the battle. It knew how the battle would go. While it could not detect any signs of its little brother it computed that it would simply destroy the cattle and then search. It powered up its guns and began to move it's metropolis sized bukk slowly to
...psst... over here...
---------------------
The stellar system was infested with a known species of cattle, obviously seeking to rise above themselves as the Jotun class Precursor vessel arrived in the system. It released its roar to let the cattle know not only why but who was destroying them to reclaim the resources they so foolishly squandered. It began unthawing ancient bioweapons and chemical weapons known to work upon that race, began reconfinguring its war machines to forms that had exterminated who planets of the cattle during the time that the Precursor war machine had been forged. The Jotun released over a hundred Devastator classes from its hull, computed the battle plan as they came to electronic life, then informed them of how the extermination and reclamation would progress.
They were barely into the system when a high energy signal appeared, rising from the most heavily infested planet and moving toward them. The Jotun ordered a diagnostic of its scanners when the first information came in.
It was apparently moving at .85C, but yet its progress toward the Jotun and its smaller brethren on the system map showed it moving at almost 22C. That made no sense. An object moving at .85C only approached at .85C, not at 22C.
By the time the diagnostic was done the object had gotten a third of the way toward the Jotun, crossing a quarter of the radius of the system.
The scanners reported that the energy signal, with the strength normally reserved for a quasar, was not a massive ship or an oncoming armada interlinked together, but was simply a single object the size of cattle.
Again the Jotun ordered a complete low level full diagnostic on all systems. Risky, but any object radiating that much power and moving at two different speeds required all systems were working at optimum efficiency.
It had finished just as the small object came to a stop. The Jotun focused scanning arrays on it, turning up the power to the point that it would boil away meters of armor.
The figure was a primate, half of it made up of robotics. It had some kind of sheet of material floating behind it, the movement suggesting some kind of current was effecting it and making it undulate. It was dressed in two primary colors, red and blue, had its lower legs pressed together with the toes pointing down and the upper limbs crossed over its chest, one biological the other mechanical.
"So, you're the new punk everyone's talking about," The figure stated over a wide bandwidth of wavelengths. Oddly enough, to the Jotun's sensors, sound waves travelled through vaccum almost instantly across a light second to its sensors.
The Jotun tried to compute how sound waves moved faster than light through a vacuum.
Instead of answering the Jotun and its brethren opened fire.
The figure arced through the beams as if light speed weapons were moving slow enough for it to just compute and swoop around in a resource wasting corkscrew. The Jotun realized it was racing for one of the Devastators, one clenched fist held in front of it.
The Jotun computed a 99.99999999999998 chance that the small primate would splatter against the hull of the Devastator and started to turn its attention to computing a missile firing resolution for missile bay 148 to destroy an orbital facility around the nearest planetoid.
The small figure punched straight through the Devastator, as if it was made of nebula gas instead of density collapsed armor, high tensile ceramics, and reinforced internal spaces. The Devastator's computer core shrieked with self-preservation code snippets as the figure exited the opposite side of the Devastator holding the Primary Computer Core CPU0 in its fist. It paused, looked at its fist, and shot beams of red energy from its eyes, destroying the computer core in a puff of atomic smoke.
The Jotun yanked its processing power back to the figure as it raked its gaze, still emitting beams of red energy that left ripples in jumpspace, across the side of another Devastator, tearing it open like it was made of fragile tissue, the red beams reducing the computer core to its component atoms with the briefest of touches.
Several computational nodes collapsed when trying to analyze the beams, suffering the fatal CANNOTDIVIDEBYZERO shriek of despair before imploding on themselves.
The Jotun stared in electronic shock, all his computational power trying to compute how the tiny half-mechanical primate could grab a hold on the front armor of one of the Devastators, and without any source to exert leverage against, physically move a city-sized spacecraft in an arc and throw it against another one.
According to scanners the "thrown" Devastator was only moving at 0.001C for inertia purposes yet crossed the hundreds of kilometers to the next Devastator in an amount of time that would require it to be moving at 6C.
CANNOTDIVIDEBYINFINITYDIVIDEDBYZERO
The Jotun cut loose with its weapons and goggled in electronic confusion as most of the beams and slugs were avoided, slapped aside, or ignored.
Until a nCv (near C velocity) slug the size of skyscraper hit it dead center of the chest, the impact point looking only the size of a soda can.
The Jotun's processors struggled to understand how something that size had only made an impact smaller than itself.
CANNOTSUBDIVIDETWINKIESBYCHEETOSBYZERO
The figure looked down at the tear in its suit, at the bruised biological flesh that had been exposed, then at the Jotun. It lifted a hand, extended the first finger next to the opposable thumb, and slowly waved it back and forth.
"That might have worked against a Galactic Class Klark, but it was pathetic against an Apokalypse level Injustice MCLXI Cyber-Clark," The figure said, the tone calm and confident. The meanings behind the words were gibberish to the Jotun, who devoted processor cycles to try to decode the meanings for any hint on how to defeat the creature before it.
The Jotun computed that retreat was the only option as the small primate figure set about destroying the last of the Devastators.
It began activating the engines when the primate suddenly turned in place.
"No you don't," It snapped.
Again, it sounded as if the Central Computer Core Housing had been set to atmosphere so that sound waves could be heard within it, yet a quick check showed the housing was still at almost perfect vacuum.
Sound waves cannot travel through space, a hundred diagnostic programs computed.
And promptly crashed.
Those red beams lanced out again and the Jotun braced in the microsecond it had.
It was like being brushed by the solar flare of a red giant concentrated into a piercing lance of nuclear fire. Armor exploded from energy transfer, slagged away from thermal transfer, or just ceased to exist as ravening atoms usually only found in the photosphere of a dying red sun attacked the atoms of the armor. The beam tore through mile after mile of internal structure, the figure still emitting the beam from its tiny eyes.
The Helljump engines exploded when the light touched them.
The Jotun listed, pouring debris and a cloud of atomized armor from the wound that completely bisected it.
"Done. Now let's see the face of the enemy," The figure said, slapping its hands together after it crashed/flew through the last Devastator. It reoriented on the Jotun and began to "slowly" drift toward the Jotun, moving at only 0.000003C according to some scanners but crossing the distance as if it was moving at 1.5C.
The figure flexed its primate hands and a slow smile spread across its face.
"I can't wait to rip away your housing and see you with my own eyes," the figure said, the sound waves again travelling inside the vacuum of the strategic housing.
The Jotun tried to react but the figure was suddenly pushing open armor with its two hands.
Self-preservation programs crashed trying to compute how to prevent impossibility itself from breaching critical spaces. Self-defense programs tried to compute how to defend against something that did nothing but radiate impossibility around it.
The Jotun knew what it had to do as the creature tore open the last of the hardened bulkheads protecting the Strategic Housing.
It detonated the antimatter reactor that powered the "brain" as the figure tore through the Strategic Housing and laid eyes upon the supercomputer core.
It had computed that not even the figure could withstand the direct assault of kiloton of pure antimatter point blank.
The explosion completely consumed the Jotun.
When the ravening energy disappated the red and blue figure was lying in blackness, surrounded by an expanding ring of debris and energy.
It stared at the stars and mouthed a single word.
"Ouch."
---------------------
CONFED INTELLIGENCE
TO: MANTID INTELLIGENCE
Our digitial brothers have computed a high chance that we're not looking at a handful of these Precursors, but rather an armada of them that had gone to sleep thinking everyone was dead. We concur and are buckling down for the long haul.
-----NOTHING FOLLOWS------
MANTID FREE WORLDS INTERNAL MEMO
If humankind ever wonders why it was put in this universe by some unknown creator then know that it was for this very moment.
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Heritage (4)

First Chapter
Previous Chapter
The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain.
“I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?”
“We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.”
“But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.”
“Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?”
“Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled.
“But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.”
“Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.”
“That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look.
“Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in.
When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in.
And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War.
“Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.”
“It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?”
“We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?”
“Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.”
“At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?”
“As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.”
“But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up.
“We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.”
Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information.
“Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils.
“I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.”
“I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?”
“The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.”
“Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.”
“But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?”
“That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.”
“Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?”
“As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh.
“So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated.
“I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.”
“Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.”
“But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly.
“With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.”
“Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.”
“I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!”
“We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.”
“What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger.
The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.”
“Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!”
“We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.”
An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned.
“Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!”
“And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.”
“I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.”
“But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?”
“Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?”
“That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!”
“I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.”

Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately.
Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills.
He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?”
“Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion.
“Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.”
“About what?”
“The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.”
“Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.”
“I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?”
Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.”
“Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!”
“Just...trust me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.”
“Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!”
Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him.
“You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!”
“I...wh-what happened?”
“We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.”
“Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder.
“I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.”
“As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still.
“No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.”
Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”
“I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.”
Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?”
“A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow.

Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights.
The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance.
Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel.
“Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly.
“Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him.
The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him.
“My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.”
“I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.”
“I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.”
“No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion.
“Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.”
“Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?”
“Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.”
“And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.”
“Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?”
“It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.”
“I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement.
“There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.”
“So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed.
“Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.”
“With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in.
“So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.”
“At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.”
“And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged.
“Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.”
“So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.”
“Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.”
“And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said.
“The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.”
“So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.”
“At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed.

Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary.
And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging.
“Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder.
“Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?”
After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.”
Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.”
“With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.”
“Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.”
“Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.”
“Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened.
“It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly.
“Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office.
When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters.
“Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh.
“I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.”
“Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.”
“What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?”
“There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?”
“The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered.
“No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.”
“We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated.
“Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?”
“That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.”
“And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.”
“We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded.
“Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office.
With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them.
“Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath.
An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?”
“Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.”
“The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!”
An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside.
“We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering.
“We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps.
“Yes, may I help you?” She began.
“Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.”
“For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat.
“We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.”
Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?”
“I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.”
Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.”
“Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?”
“I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.”
“Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back.
“On what grounds?”
“Lack of decisive evidence, to start.”
“Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.”
“But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare.
“And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.”
Next Chapter
AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
submitted by SynthoStellar to HFY [link] [comments]

The space exploration update this game really needs

My thoughts for what would make a great space-oriented update:

General

  1. No more "one space station per star system". Instead, each individual planet can have its own station (or might have none). There are different types of space stations, each specializing in a different thing. More on that later.
  2. Different planets can now be run by different races, so in a given system you may have a planet owned by the Gek and another owned by the Vykeen. This can lead to tensions between the races, and even heated space battles popping up at random that the player can join.
  3. Expansion of ambient space battles. It's now possible to see squadrons of capital ships duking it out with each other, accompanied by dogfights of personal starfighters. The player can join one of these battles for either side, gaining reputation with one while losing reputation with the other.
  4. Stars now actually exist, instead of just being a background image. Planets will appear at different parts of an orbit, meaning it's possible for planets to be on opposite sides of a star from each other. Flying too close to a star will result in death, so players will need to learn how to navigate around a star to get to other planets. There would be a auto-navigate option
  5. Star systems now have "geography". Asteroids are no longer omnipresent, but will appear in either cohesive asteroid fields orbiting the sun or in "clouds" on the outer reaches of the star system.
  6. An overhaul of the starship fuel system. Tritium and pyrite are still used as pulse drive fuel, but since asteroids are no longer found everywhere in space, the player will need to be more careful. Tritium can now only be found in trace amounts in asteroids. In the case of being stranded between planets, the player can send out a distress signal and get an emergency refuel from a shuttle sent out by the nearest space station or freighter (there is an exorbitant fee for this).
  7. Players can now install technology on their ship that allows them to fly extremely close to a star and "scoop" gas to use as fuel. In addition to giving the player a full stack of tritium (or some new form of pulse drive fuel) it can also provide large quantities of new rare gases.
  8. Gas giants. Gas giants can now appear in star systems. They can not be landed on, but they are home to unique types of space stations that can't be found elsewhere (such as gas mining orbitals). The player can also install technology that allows them to withstand the enormous atmospheric pressure/gravity of a gas giant and perform a number of activities, such as "scooping" exotic gases and fuel or even finding anomalies in the atmosphere such as ancient derelict ships. Gas giants are also more likely than planets to have moons.
  9. Asteroids are now much larger, and some can be landed on. Exploring an asteroid on foot requires special exosuit upgrades to protect from the extreme radiation of space. Asteroids can be mined for valuable metals, and may rarely even contain new types of biological horrors.
  10. The player can now find derelict ships and freighters within asteroid fields. Salvaging these requires the same exosuit upgrades as landing on asteroids, but will involve performing a space walk. Your exosuit now has micro boosters that allow you to control your movement in free space.
  11. To accommodate greater specialization of ships, the player can now own up to 9 personal starships. Reaching this maximum, however, will prevent NPC ships from landing on the freighter.
  12. There are now "patrols" in each system. The powers that own a given planet will have their own patrols of starships that mostly stay close to the planets and stations they own. Pirates will have their own patrol areas as well, usually occupying the space between planets and also having a heavy presence in asteroid fields. The result is that some parts of a star system are relatively safe, and others are downright dangerous to explore. There will be clashes between pirates and non-pirates where their patrols overlap.
  13. Black holes are renamed to wormholes
  14. Deep space is no longer empty. At a certain point in the Atlas Path storyline, the player gains the ability to see deep space regions on the galaxy map. These regions can be warped to just like any star system, except there will be no star there. These regions can be inhabited by exoplanets that have had their proc-gen settings "set free" to make them look truly crazy. They can also be home to other anomalies.
  15. The center of the galaxy is now an actual place. It is a cluster of star systems that surround a true "center system". The center system is home to a massive black hole. Diving into this black hole is now what moves a player to the next galaxy. Similar to deep space systems, the systems around the center of the galaxy have planets with "wild" procedural generation, meaning you'll see some truly weird terrain and combinations of planets, animals, and the like.
  16. Players can now build space stations. A new set of basebuilding tools is available for this purpose, including gas mining machines, asteroid mining bays, and more. The player can choose up to three NPC personnel from a new selection of NPC's to provide some of the functionality that space stations can have. Hire a ship dealer NPC to add that functionality to your base. Hire a blueprint/upgrade salesman. Hire a scrapyard attendant to allow you to scrap ships at your station. Hire a mission agent in order to be able to accept and turn in missions from your station. See if you can make the perfect "one-stop shop" for players visiting your star system.

New star types

  1. Single star
  2. Dwarf star
  3. Binary stars
  4. Ternary stars
  5. Black hole
  6. Pulsar

Space station types

  1. Trade hubs. Most commonly found orbiting Gek planets. These have a lot of the features that space stations currently have: galactic trade terminal, appearance modifier, a bunch of NPC's walking around. You can also purchase haulers from a ship dealer (instead of purchasing from NPC's landing on the station). Traders guild missions are available from here.
  2. Military outposts. Most commonly found orbiting Vykeen planets. Here you can buy ship and multitool upgrades, and directly purchase a new personal starship from an assortment of fighter-style craft (instead of buying them from NPC's landing on the station). Different space stations will have different ships to choose from. Mercs guild missions are available here.
  3. Research stations. Most commonly found orbiting Korvax planets. Here you can buy planetary charts, buy exosuit upgrades, and purchase explorer-type ships from a ship dealer.
  4. Mining stations. Each asteroid field has a chance of having one of these (it's not associated with a planet). The ship dealer here will sell shuttles, and pay higher-than-normal prices for any minerals that you want to sell them. These are a perfect "home base" for explorers that intend to do a lot of asteroid mining - blast some space rocks and then return to the mining station to sell your goods. Mining stations are now where the ship-scrapping terminal can be found.
  5. Shipyards. Here, you can buy from a large assortment of all ship types, with a chance of even exotic ships being available (no living ships though). This is also where you can upgrade your ship now (separate terminal from the ship-scrapping one now).
  6. Gas mining stations. Only found around gas giants. Similar to the regular mining stations, but focused on the gases and anomalies that can be found in gas giants.

New ship stats

  1. Scooping - ships with a higher scooping stat will get higher quantities of materials when scooping stars or gas giants. Shuttles have the highest natural scooping value
  2. Mining - ships with a higher mining stat will get higher yields from blasting asteroids. Haulers would have the highest natural mining value.

... at least, that's what I think would be really cool.
submitted by danishjuggler21 to NoMansSkyTheGame [link] [comments]

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