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Authors: Terrence Scott

Shadows of Golstar

 

Shadows of Golstar

 

By Terrence E. Scott

 

Text copyright © 2012
Terrence E. Scott

All Rights Reserved

 
 

Table of
Contents

Prologue

CHAPTER 1
.
12

CHAPTER 2
.
20

CHAPTER 3
.
35

CHAPTER 4
.
38

CHAPTER 5
.
42

CHAPTER 6
.
46

CHAPTER 7
.
50

CHAPTER 8
.
52

CHAPTER 9
.
54

CHAPTER 10
.
64

CHAPTER 11
.
74

CHAPTER 12
.
79

CHAPTER 13
.
94

CHAPTER 14
.
98

CHAPTER 15
.
109

CHAPTER 16
.
114

CHAPTER 17
.
129

CHAPTER 18
.
131

CHAPTER 19
.
145

CHAPTER 20
.
147

CHAPTER 21
.
149

CHAPTER 22
.
154

CHAPTER 23
.
156

CHAPTER 24
.
170

CHAPTER 25
.
182

CHAPTER 26
.
185

CHAPTER 27
.
198

CHAPTER 28
.
208

CHAPTER 29
.
228

CHAPTER 30
.
232

CHAPTER 31
.
244

CHAPTER 32
.
249

CHAPTER 33
.
252

CHAPTER 34
.
254

CHAPTER 35
.
260

CHAPTER 36
.
261

CHAPTER 37
.
272

CHAPTER 38
.
275

CHAPTER 39
.
288

CHAPTER 40
.
295

CHAPTER 41
.
314

CHAPTER 42
.
316

CHAPTER 43
.
323

CHAPTER 44
.
332

CHAPTER 45
.
335

CHAPTER 46
.
346

CHAPTER 47
.
348

CHAPTER 48
.
353

CHAPTER 49
.
356

CHAPTER 50
.
366

CHAPTER 51
.
390

CHAPTER 52
.
397

CHAPTER 53
.
401

CHAPTER 54
.
413

CHAPTER 55
.
431

CHAPTER 56
.
441

CHAPTER 57
.
447

CHAPTER 58
.
452

CHAPTER 59
.
459

CHAPTER 60
.
470

CHAPTER 61
.
484

CHAPTER 62
.
489

CHAPTER 63
.
498

Epilog
.
507

 

 

Prologue

 

Near
the close of the 22
nd
century, Einstein’s law had been circumvented;
the long-held dream of a practical, working star drive was finally realized,
providing the catalyst for what would be called the Great Exodus, the first
mass migration of humankind out beyond Earth’s solar system. The migration
continued for decades and as Earth’s population shrank, influence and control
of the long-entrenched Earth governments waned and allowed those choosing to
remain, the freedom to experiment in different directions.  

New
societies arose from remnants of the old. Extreme religious views, obscure
branches of science and polarized political ideals were well represented among
these fledgling nations. However, as years passed, the technology that overcame
the light barrier once again became an enticement. The Earth-bound governments
saw the same opportunities as had their predecessors. The awakening lure of
spreading their beliefs out among the stars, creating empires of their own
design, had become irresistible.  

 A
number of these latter Earth-based nations would leave the home planet in hopes
of creating their own brands of utopia. Shunning the unified ‘Confederated
Planets’ that had evolved from the first migration, they headed out in varying
directions, far from Confederated Planets’ boundaries.

The
second wave of the Great Exodus began, but sadly, this migration did not
achieve the same success as the first. Many governments were ill-equipped for
such an undertaking and met with catastrophe before finding a habitable planet.
Others, more fortunate, found homes only to succumb later to disease,
starvation or some other unexpected calamity. Still others, having succeeded in
establishing a tenuous foothold on their new planet, discovered their views of
society were flawed and fell to anarchy, war and often regressed to primitive
levels.

As
a result of these misfortunes, only a small number of the later migrations
succeeded in creating societies that would flourish in far remote locations
scattered across the galaxy. Centuries slowly passed and these societies grew,
remaining in relative isolation from the greater human civilization that
originated from the first wave of the Great Exodus.

As
the Confederated Planets continued its own expansion outward, it would
sometimes chance upon one of these remote outposts of humanity. Dwarfing the
independent human settlements, it was inevitable that the smaller populations
would be re-absorbed into the fold of the “greater interstellar civilization.”
Over the centuries, this pattern would be repeated until the Confederated
Planets encountered a pocket of humanity far different from the rest.

 

● ● ●

 

It
started with the Confederated Planets’ discovery of a new nebula. The nebula,
designated as 266AZ7, was aptly nicknamed the Farway Spiral. An extremely rare
planetary system was found orbiting a Sol-class star within one of the nebula’s
arching tips. It possessed eleven planets; incredibly, three of the planets
were in earth nominal orbits and oxygen-based.

News
of the discovery was suppressed from the general public and commercial
interests. The government sought exclusive rights to all rewards arising from
this discovery and the information was limited to a few high-ranking government
scientists and bureaucrats.  

More
detailed information was needed. Deep-space probes were quickly modified to
extend their range before being quietly launched on their clandestine journey.
The voyage to the distant spiral stretched the probes’ navigation and
propulsion capabilities and at various stages of their journey, probes
malfunctioned.

Fortunately,
one probe reached the outer perimeter of its destination before its telemetry
was lost. It transmitted sufficient data to support a new discovery; the system
was already inhabited. With this unexpected news, the government considered the
reintegration of what now looked to be a lost colony. Presence in the region
could greatly extend the government’s reach and it followed that steps were
taken to initiate the first contact.    

The
Farway Spiral was a significant distance from Confederated Planets’ controlled
space and a manned expedition would tax resources and technologies, but greed
far outweighed the risks, and arrangements for an expedition were immediately
undertaken.  Soon, four ships and a supply tender secretly embarked on
their historic voyage. 

The
expedition took over five months to reach the outermost boundary of the
planetary system. Communications frequencies had been monitored throughout the
voyage, yet the linguistic team was unable to decrypt the signals originating
from the system’s unknown inhabitants. Approaching the orbit of the outermost
planet, friendship messages were transmitted on all known communications
frequencies. The expedition had waited until it neared the system to reduce the
time lag before attempting to communicate, but the ciphered noise continued and
there was no indication the expedition had been heard.

As
the small fleet continued its approach, another discovery was made. It appeared
to be a sensor grid of unimaginable scope, comprised of a myriad of featureless
spheres, each approximately three meters in diameter. The grid was comprised of
millions of the satellites. The precise positioning and tracking required to
maintain such a construct were astonishing. It blanketed the entire planetary
system, yet oddly no signals or radiation could be detected; it appeared inert,
dead.

The
network of satellites triggered alarm in members of the armed forces taking
part in the expedition. The ships were halted and scientists, engineers,
members of the military and ship captains paused to discuss the discovery. The
fleet remained stationary until it was concluded that the satellites were part
of an automated early-warning network; further analyses provided no new
information. 

However,
the expedition remained suspicious. The magnitude of the early-warning system
indicated a strong military mind-set. A sensor grid of such breadth was far in
advance of Confederated Planets’ current capabilities and was a clear sign the
inhabitants were likely advanced in other technical areas as well.  

 Navigation
through the sensor net would require careful plotting. Even had they wished to
remain undetected, if the grid was to activate, it would not be possible. So,
as a further precaution, the expedition broke its routine communications
schedule for a singular transmission. Data describing the sensor net was sent
back to base operations. Then, at a drastically reduced speed, the expedition
resumed its course and the frequency of the friendship message transmissions was
increased.

The
explorers continued their observations and soon found, in addition to the
sensor satellites, a number of spheres, estimated at over two kilometers in
diameter, orbiting the five outer planets in the system. Each planet had a
complement of two of these enigmatic orbs. The scientists reasoned these
spheres were the controlling mechanisms that maintained the satellite network.

The
ships were again halted and discussions resumed. After lengthy exchanges
between the expedition’s members, it was agreed the mission would continue
given that no overt hostile action had been encountered. The discovery of the
orbiting spheres would be included in the next regularly scheduled
transmission.

The
expedition’s ships further reduced their speed as they traveled deeper into the
system. When it was again time for the scheduled data transmission, news of the
recent discovery of the orbiting spheres was included. Unexpectedly, at the
start of the transmission, the expedition received signals that saturated the
transmission bandwidths. They could not transmit; the signal was effectively
blocked. The source of the jamming was originating from newly activated
satellites that comprised the sensor grid.

It
appeared to be the prelude to an attack. The military contingent immediately
took control and backup inter-ship laser signaling systems were activated. The
short-range light-wave system was unaffected by the jamming and an emergency
condition was successfully declared throughout the tiny fleet. 

Claxons
reverberated throughout the expedition’s ships compartments and corridors,
signaling frantic crews to emergency stations. The expedition had limited
weaponry and was no match for an organized military assault. Rather than chance
a confrontation, the expedition would abandon its mission and return home
straight-away. The ships immediately reversed course and headed out of the
system.

Ship
sub-captains anxiously hovered around crew members monitoring their sensors.
Weapons handlers sweated in their gunnery blisters, pondering the size of an
attack they might be ordered to repel as the expedition continued its attempts
to transmit its situation. The ships aligned their transmitters to boost their
transmission and searched for gaps or weakness in the jamming signals, but without
success.    

Still,
the expedition made good progress and escaping the outer planet’s gravity field
without any indication of pursuit. They were well away from known weapons range
and the tension within the expedition began to subside. They were mere minutes
from the safe-point that would allow them to enter subspace.

They
almost made it. Seconds from transitioning into subspace, the ships’ onboard
sensors registered multiple energy pulses originating from the vicinity of the
outer planet. With little time to assess the meaning of the sensor data, it is
doubtful the explorers knew of the approaching maelstrom before being vaporized
into elemental atoms.

Later
it was determined the “control spheres” were actually massively armed space
fortresses, which instead of controlling, were themselves controlled by the
linked satellite sensor grid which also functioned as a gigantic integrated
computer. The fortresses’ weapons used a type of skip-space technology that allowed
streams of energy to dip into and out of subspace within planetary
gravity-wells. Energy beams pulsed out from one of the fortresses deployed
around the planet and easily spanned the distance to swiftly and systematically
destroy each fleeing expedition ship. None of the expedition’s members saw the
momentary bright flash of their demise. Rapidly dissipating particle clouds
were all that remained of the expedition’s ships and crews.

For
months following the destruction of the expedition, Confederated Planets
scientists continued to receive the expedition’s time-delayed data. Only when
the control center failed to receive the expedition’s last scheduled
data-packet, did the scientists become aware of a problem. They notified the
military and waited for the transmissions to resume. The interval of silence
grew and government officials were apprised of the situation
.

The
members of the Confederated Planets ruling Parliament became concerned on
hearing of the break in communications. However, when a delayed in-depth
analysis was completed on the expedition’s last subspace data-packet, the
sensor grid discovery awakened the government to the potential danger, and soon
concern grew into alarm. The government was shaken by the possibility of an
attack on the Confederated Planets’ explorers.    

Conjecture
grew and worst-case scenarios were contemplated, fueling passions within the
home military for a quick reaction with armed forces. The Space Corps and
Marine contingents advocated an immediate military response and found receptive
ears within Parliament. Soon, with growing self-righteous anger, a secret
assembly of the Parliament decided to send a heavily armed expeditionary force
to retrieve the expedition or at the worst, search for survivors.    

An
elite battle group was quietly dispatched to the Farway system under the guise
of routine war games. The plan was to determine the fate of the explorers and
if necessary, be prepared to engage in armed retribution. The fleet consisted
of two newly commissioned flag battleships capable of inflicting damage to
hardened, planetary-based defenses, four medium attack carriers, each equipped
with 100 “Stinger A220” tactical space-to-air fighters, and six destroyer-class
escort ships.    

The
last message received from the battle group, after a long uneventful voyage,
was that the ships were crossing the outer boundary of the system and would
begin the search for the missing expedition. Communications silence would be
observed for the remainder of the mission. No further transmissions were
received until months later when three emergency message drones made their way
back into Confederated Planets’ territory. The information they held told of an
overwhelming attack. All the ships appeared lost.

 Parliament
and the military were stunned by the complete destruction of the battle group.
The unthinkable possibility of an interstellar war was now a cold reality. And
bringing the battle to such a distant foe would strain the public and military
to its limits.

The
drones contained telemetry on the satellite defense grid and the orbiting
fortresses, and analyses on the encryption employed by Farway’s inhabitants.
The encryption looked to be based on old-earth protocols. The data confirmed
the inhabitants of the system were definitely human, extremely hostile and in
possession of a superior, lethal technology they had not hesitated to deploy
against their brethren.

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