Log Matsiyan 161217-2237

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    Personal Log, Commander Conrad Matsiyan, ONI, FNS, BUPERS,
    CO TSN Viper, 4th L.D.
    Stardate: 161217-2237

    Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last confession.

    Heh. That should give the chaplain a surprise if he gets clearance to access my logs. And if we get out of this, that isn’t so unlikely. Who knows which chaplain it may be and whether a court-martial will be riding on their review.

    I’m joking-not-joking, but it has been forever since my last personal log. Since I became a senior officer there has been so little time and despite such a huge change it feels I have so little to say. After completing the ONI report, approving it for distribution, revising it and releasing it for the Fleet News Service, and completing the ONI mission planning proposals, not to mention catching up on all the Personnel records and preparing the SO agenda, not only is there no time but it feels as if everything I might want to say is in the void-damned reports.

    But everything is different now and I would like to leave something for whoever finds out what went on.

    Records will show that on 111117-2237 I attained the rank of full Commander and on 91217-2237 I was entrusted with command of TSN Viper. That at least gave me the ability to confirm transfer requests and begin to establish a steady crew complement beyond Lt. Beaumont, who has been her faithful curator pretty much since Cdr. Tuor took her over, and my acting XO since he left. But the two of us have to get used to a different relationship with the division now. With Aramond assigned to Horizon keeping Hall as XO, Mundy being promoted up to Lt.Cdr. and staying with Sabre as Xavier’s XO, Morlock was offered the XO slot for Viper. He has the seniority, and the skills but also a great attitude. He’s on the informal, anarchic side, but given Viper now has three ONI officers aboard we could do with a bit of a different approach and a bit less starch. We ran one sim together as a new crew before I had to go and prepare CIC for a mission.

    This one we had been building towards for a long time. ONI have been directing a lot of the research into the Forerunner Artifacts since the second one turned up. The first one was a scientific curiosity, but after the Schroedinger incident it became clear that it was a risky thing to meddle with and it was banished to the obscurity of pure physics research programmes. When a second one turned up and crippled Raven beyond repair, it rather reinforced the wisdom of this approach. Unfortunately the risk/reward equation changed significantly once the Kraliens began showing specific interest in getting their hands on it and seeking out similar devices. It tipped even further when it was realized they actually had startlingly good intel on our artifacts and means of finding more. ONI once again, though rather more cautiously, directed research into the devices and particularly their relationship to each other. Given the Expree case and Mundy’s medical history it was pretty clear that psionics were involved. Given my connection with Mundy it was only a matter of time until Section Blue interviewed me. After that I kept my eyes and ears peeled and, shall we say “an open mind”, and with my increased ONI clearances, I circumspectly noticed how involved they were. Defending our Artifacts and hunting more became a very high priority for 4LD Ops planning. The whole situation with the Zolmari and N’tani was a useful cover for our research but also a distraction for both us and the Kraliens. It slowed up our search and allowed us more research. It allowed the Kraliens to refine their search intel but it also bled some of their military resources away from seizing and defending the Artifacts. Ultimately that may be why we were able to seize the Hjorden Artifact and the Oracle.

    While it was very difficult to get any sense of a protocol or information stream out of the Artifacts, it was possible to work out they each interacted on four distinct psionic channels, though not the same four. This was consistent with a non-multiplexed, point-to-point network between five hosts, and the hunt for a final Artifact was on. No wonder neither we nor the Kraliens found it quickly. As it was, our research into the first Artifact in the vicinity of the Mathilda singularity in Atlantis, coupled with increasing data gathered from the Caltron jump transits, suggested that an optimal location for it would be in or near the unique spatio-temporal conditions of the Poseidon Rift.

    ONI sponsored some, and outright ran other, “scientific” and “astrographic” probes and surveys, searching the Rift for some connection. On Stardate 91217-2237 we were successful in re-establishing contact with a team that had successfully used an active probing technique to get a reading on the Artifact’s location. They had also attracted the attention of a Caltron response force that left them in dire straits. Fully debriefing them and quarantining the equipment and results put us out of communication way past the end of shift leading to MIA reports that were somewhat sensationalized by an irresponsible press.

    But the upshot was that I was authorized to put together a mission for Stardate 161217-2237 to investigate the location intel. With conditions so difficult in the Rift, and worsening rapidly from what seems to have been a lengthy lull, it was decided that additional logistic support might be needed beyond regular patrol and that CIC needed to be in-theatre. TSAF Grant was tasked with that role and rapidly refitted for CIC support.
    The division headed into uncharted territory transiting Coreward from sector II. Sensor efficiency was reduced by conditions to no more than a couple of subsectors. Initial sensor array updates revealed a strangely symmetrical sector terrain with four large arms of asteroid fields apparently spiralling into the centre as though some massive singularity was in the aeons-long process of consuming them. The attenuating arms disappeared into a dense torus of nebulae. Sensors started reporting contact after contact, roughly evenly spaced within combat range of each other in a deep arc between us and the nebulae. Analysis quickly matched known profiles of varying configurations of Caltrons from the Primary units all the way up to a Superswarm. They just hung there, silent, still, the makings of many fleets.

    Grant was ordered to stay back and the Section Blue frigate operating under our “Excalibur” callsign was tasked with covering her. The rest of the division split up and scouted the outer limits of the vast cloud of Caltrons. As they worked their way up the Spinward and Trailing edges of the sector, the menacing central cloud was revealed to completely encircle the centre. Attempting closer passes revealed an off-the-charts power-source at the geometric intersection of the arcs of asteroids. Startlingly, contacts near that locus revealed Kralien signatures of a base, some transport or scientific vessels and an escort of large warships. As the division ships closed with that silent, ominous mass of Caltrons, the nearest units flared manoeuvring thrusters and oriented their primary arrays at us. Defensive analysis started to light up with active targeting emissions. Quiet and still they might be, but they were not ignoring us.

    The Fleet Captain ordered a reconnaissance up through the middle of the formation to get some details of whatever was going on, with the other units standing by for support. As Horizon passed the outer limits, tracked by all nearby units turning and directing their targeting sensors at her, some lit up their drives and began to move after her. Sabre and Viper quickly moved in to distract the awakening units, some very rapidly moving primary variants up to a ponderous but disturbing superswarm.

    Horizon’s venture revealed not only a Kralien research station but also another “Cosmic Icosahedron” artifact that the Kraliens had managed to graft a docking port onto. Amusingly, some overzealous analyst had mistranslated the Hegemony’s self identifier as “USFP” making it look as if we had a dock there.

    Quite alarmingly at this point, Kralien interfleet signals were intercepted as a small Kralien fleet entered from the Rimward main Rift transition not far from where Grant and her escorts were stationed. Excalibur responded immediately. If she isn’t a front-line battle resource she could certainly deal with light Kralien pickets threatening our supply lines.
    The division then increased the pace of their engagement as cover for a strike to take out the Kralien base and escorts, preparatory to seizing the artifact. Horizon’s heavy ordnance was well suited to that but the docking structure on the Artifact was also taken out of commision, though the artifact itself seemed unaffected by nuclear destruction.

    More Kralien signals entered the comms arena as a heavy fleet emerged from nebulae in the Core-Spinward part of the sector. They were not moving fast however, and before they got anywhere near combat range their IFFs were returning friendly challenge responses and fervent anti-Kralien-Order broadcasts were detected from their lead vessel, Zolmar’s Glory.

    With Grant no longer under threat, Excalibur joined the rapidly escalating engagement around the artifact where the docking facility mysteriously came back online. Marine deployments were rapidly ordered to take control of it despite having to manoeuvre under fire. The division’s capital ships demonstrated strongly in the central area to attract the majority of fire. This was risky in any case, as a superswarm seemed determined to close in and defend it.

    The Section Blue techs aboard Excalibur finally pulled off a major coup as she came under increasing fire. They succeeded in introducing a virus package into some of the smaller nearby Caltrons that inverted their IFF responses. This confusion took some heat off the division, and especially Excalibur, as the nearby Caltrons turned on each other. Something then went wrong, and Excalibur disappeared off the division battle-net. She was busy with a group of Caltrons at the time and only later came to realize that the majority of remaining units were ignoring her. Some kind of resonance had affected her own IFF system attuning it to the hostile Caltrons. This lasted some time but, once they realized, the SB specialists were able to reverse the effect before she came within close combat range of the rest of the division.

    Marine teams started to report in that they had uncontested access to the artifact docking extensions when a major Kralien task force appeared on the Trailing side of the sector. This could have been a significant issue without the additional ordnance that Grant had been able to supply to the divisio,n and without increased interaction between Excalibur’s tech team and the Caltron systems that had them not only converting to friendly, but also jumping across the sector to engage the Kraliens side by side with the Zolmari fleet eager to play a part. The artifact even disgorged new Caltron units that formed up and joined the action. That may be what it had been doing all that time: creating new units from the asteroid matter.

    After that it was a case of mopping up, but so much of what Excalibur’s spooks were able to accomplish has been lost in the subsequent quantum shift event.

    About that: the division remained in the field, taking advantage of what facilities they could aboard Grant for rest and resupply. ONI, knowing that the incensed Kraliens would make an all-out offensive at the earliest opportunity, and seeing the successes made with the newest artifact interactions, authorized an immediate assembly of all the artifacts within the Poseidon Rift to gather as much information as possible before they were forced to relocate.

    That proved to be a step farther than the USFP is yet capable of supporting. The latest Artifact was relocated elsewhere in Poseidon and the smaller artifacts from Raven, Hjorden and the Kralien Oracle were brought in. I took advantage of all the intership traffic to recover my coffeepot from Excelsior, where it had languished in a life-pod which had been switched out from Grant at the start of the shift, when one of Excelsior’s reported anomalies turned out to be nothing but a telemetry system out of alignment.

    The tension at this point was palpable. Everything was in communications overload. Helm stations across the fleet were frantically exchanging nav info on the increasingly unstable gravimetric phenomena. Science officers’ attention was split by the need to keep a military watch for intrusion and to monitor the amazing volume of sensor logs capturing data about the Artifacts’ interactions. That was magnified by all the Engineering and spook teams doing the same using every available instrument in the fleet.

    Medical was busy too. The rate of psionic sensitivity in humans, or other USFP member races is still very little understood. But given the waves of civil unrest and wildly atypical behaviour that followed the Kralien acquisition of the Hjorden Artifact, they were on the alert for symptoms. I know my card was marked, and rightfully so as it turned out.

    Aboard Grant I received notification that 1BATDIV had arrived at the Arietis Gate with the first Artifact, the one that certainly influences access to hyperspace. I had been wary of headaches, unusual clarity or confusion of the sensory impressions from Mundy, but that was not what happened. Time seemed to slow. The flows of data and my understanding of the space in the sector seemed to become denser and at the same time clearer, limpid like the pool on Hjorden S-12 when it has just finished a purification cycle, you dive in before anyone else arrives and you stare out into space through the great transparent wall.

    I had a sense of great precision and clarity of spatial perception. Normally I have that sense but it is my brain’s analysis of all the sensor feeds creating a model. This felt as if I were simply looking out through anything I chose and directly perceiving it. At the same time its scale reduced until the sector seemed no bigger than a combat holotank display. But there was no lightspeed lag or estimation of position. I knew where everything was and, if I wanted, could see inside it. I had a vague sense of the artifacts. Their positions seemed utterly clear to me, their presence as sharply delineated as the edge of a crystal and yet there was a joyous uplift suffusing me with indistinct energy and this godlike view. My coffeepot was glowing gently azure, a ringing tone emanating from it like a crystal globe resonating with the artifacts. I started to look at it, peering deeper between its molecules to see the patterns of structure that resonated with the paraphysical properties of the artifacts. But then the Gate opened, the final Artifact approached and space came apart around me. There was a massive wrenching sense of enormous speed and distance and loss of comprehension.

    I’m not the only thing it came apart around. Almost everything seems to have been affected. The things that are around me now are not the same ones. The ships are different. My clothes are different. My flesh is different. And a lot of it doesn’t seem as though it is fully in its accustomed state. I am weary and aching all over. Most of the ship’s energy based systems seem to have been affected and even elements of physical structure have lost integrity in chaotic patterns. TSAF Grant seems to have been less affected than most of the rest of the fleet. She more closely resembles the Grant I know and, while her memory cores are as swiss-cheesed as everything else, her fundamental operating algorithms seem less damaged. Thank the Stars Around for that. Her repair and maintenance facilities are invaluable. I really think we might have had to abandon at least some of the other vessels if she had not been able to provide spares and tools to get their core systems working again.

    All we have been able to piece together so far is that these ships with their ominous names seem to belong to a human-centric, Imperial Navy that is obviously on a war footing. With the damage to memory systems and the difficulty in gaining access it is going to take some time to work out what we are expected to be doing. We seem equipped for a lengthy tour away from a base, or maybe ferrying from one major posting to another. Some people have found that their passphrases work or have been lucky in cracking what seems to be generally a much more widespread and deeper level of encryption throughout the systems. Others, not so much. Until the lucky and skilled can gain full system control and open it up to others, most of us are going to be in the dark.

    And most basic of all to spacers, we cannot tell where we are. Local stellar references don’t match with anything we have familiarity with. Once we can be assured of air, heat and sustenance we will be able to put long-range galactic markers in perspective and nail down a position. A quick glance seems to put us in the same general part of the galaxy, but that’s a big area.

    And I don’t know where they get their coffee, but right now, I prefer tea.

    [End log]

    Adele Mundy

    //That last line is proof, if any were needed, that the 4th Light is not in Kansas any more.


    // Quite an impressive recounting! Excellent read.

    Adam Parra

    Good write up Matsiyan!

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