- Published: 26 March 2020
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Although the first pulsar was discovered in 1967, mankind would go nearly a century between discovering gravitic drive and making starfall at one. The scientific community was eager to conduct detailed studies of a phenomenon that had previously been observed only with telescopes. However, the environment created by this pulsar demanded special adaptations, reflected in the design of the station today.
Alistair station is built into a relatively dense nickel-iron planetary core fragment, the planet itself likely having been destroyed in the supernova that created the pulsar. Although this dense material is difficult to tunnel into, the radiation and magnetic shielding needs of a long term outpost made it the best choice for habitation. Originally home to a research team of thirty plus support staff, the Shohan advance led most of the residents to evacuate.
Dr. Alric Tanaka, the project lead, and a few others declined to evacuate with the rest of the staff, unwilling to abandon their long running experiments to rumors of alien aggression. During his self-imposed exile, Dr. Tanaka noticed the arrival of a few Shohan probes. Two arrived on the fringes of the system, far beyond the grav shore, while a third appeared close to the pulsar and impacted. A few more probes came and went over that first year of solitude, demonstrating the same behavior. Using the last dredges of tangle remaining at the station, Tanaka communicated this back to his colleagues in the Terran Sphere. He theorized that the properties of the pulsar created some kind of hazard for hyperspace travel. After the Battle of Zanzibar, some of Dr. Tanaka’s colleagues who had joined Project Leapfrog pushed for the TSN to insert their own observation team at Alistair. So far no one has isolated why this particular pulsar poses such a hazard to the Shohan. Theories range from the mundane: focusing on some aspect of the star’s powerful magnetic field, to the outre: hidden technology from a prior population or some hyperspatial calamity from the star’s death throes. No one in the Terran Sphere is truly certain, although every avenue is currently being investigated.
What began as a curiosity amongst former colleagues has led to a massive influx of fleet personnel and equipment. The station was never designed to accommodate more that a hundred souls, much less function as a military outpost. However, being the only human inhabited system where no Shohan vessel has ever made starfall has made Alistair a hot property. It has become an invaluable resupply point for staging raids and some larger operations deeper into the occupied territories. As such, despite the environmental risks the system has become the Fleet’s central command outpost in the sector. Admiral Aydin of Fifth Fleet was given command of the operations and logistical depot that has been added to Alastair Station’s mission.
Despite its potential as a bastion and refuge from the Shohan, the logistical issues of attempting to build a permanent fleet presence here are daunting. The initial station was not built with the military in mind at all. There was enough docking space for only a few supply vessels and small research craft. Turning it into a permanent fleet logistics hub has already involved extensive construction. Burrowing into the tough material of the planetary fragment is an exhausting task, even for the Terran Sphere’s industrial base. Trying to expand further to a full-on staging area might require more space than truly exists for the station. Between the magnetic disruptions, exotic radiation, other broken planetoid orbital paths and the Razors, usable space is very limited. Most of the effort has gone into expanding the station’s docking facilities and warehouses, which means that the shoreside amenities for docked crews are growing more and more limited. This has caused intense competition for spots in the few bars and other entertainment areas the station currently supports, More than a few altercations have occured when one crew refused to shift out of their favored watering hole when a new crew rolled into the station.
In its current incarnation, the station has one complete docking ring drilled into the metal of the planetary core fragment. This dock can only hold 10 frigate class hulls, and that takes some careful arrangement by dockhands. Another, significantly larger, dock is currently being drilled from the metal. Only a third of the ring is completed but already it can hold as many frigate class hulls as the inner ring, although the competition with construction traffic in the transit tunnels to and from the station proper makes the outer ring a less desirable berth. As a result, this is usually relegated to lesser ship classes such as cruisers which take half to a third the space of the larger frigates, depending on the composition of the ships docked there at any given time. From the docking rings, a number of transit tunnels run to the Promenade.
The Promenade is the centerpoint and largest open area within the station, a space one hundred and fifty meters across with a towering six meter ceiling. This ceiling is covered with a display which mimics a natural terran sky, complete with day and night transitions. The airflow is also altered by algorithm to imitate natural breezes. These illusions of wind and sky help the residents forget the subterranean nature of their homes; a valuable psychological relief for their months- or years-long missions. The ground area is largely devoted to grassland suitable for sport or a picnic along with an orchard of small fruit trees. The cafeteria is located along one wall, allowing for ‘outdoor’ dining. Many of the station’s labs and offices look out onto the promenade, offering those working within the illusion that they are in an office building rather than a tunnel system. Beyond this central point, various modules have been drilled out of the shard in a rough hemisphere surrounding the Promenade. Since the Fleet has taken over the station, many of these have been enlarged to create a warehouse system along with machine shops to help repair damaged ships that make their way to the station. The yard facilities remain limited though, so much of the repair work done on the station is intended only to stabilize a damaged vessel until it can retreat to a proper dry dock.