- Published: 26 March 2020
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Lying near the center of the sector named for it, Alastair’s Star is the last remnant of a long dead giant star: a pulsar with a strong magnetic field encasing it. The lonely relic had hosted a small research station prior to the war that was largely abandoned when the Shohan swept through the sector. Now, with the Terran Sphere’s forays into the sector, the former research station has become the center of Fleet operations in the region.
Like many stars of its type, Alastair’s Star is the remains of a star that had reached the end of its life, large enough to explode in a massive supernova but small enough to avoid collapsing into a black hole in its death throes. What was left was a tiny dense neutron star spinning hundreds of times per second and emitting wilting beams of radio waves from its poles.
Despite the devastation, the pulsar has developed a planetary system in its afterlife. Four worlds circle the star, 3 terrestrial worlds and one gaseous Methuselah planet - an ancient world from the very beginning of universe. The Methuselah planet, known as Tithonus, is likely to be recent acquisition despite its age as the devastation that occurred when it went supernova would have destroyed the planet. The planet’s extremely eccentric orbit bears this idea out to many scientists that have studied the system. One theory for Tithonus’ presence postulates that Alastair’s Star once encountered the planet’s original star, only to consume it, leaving behind the ancient world as its only gravestone.
Scientists were aware of the star early on in Humanity’s expansion into the stars. However, the star and its system were not properly surveyed until the second wave of exploration and expansion that followed the end of the Colonial War and the formation of the Terran Sphere. A lighthouse for the sector, the system was actually the first in the sector to host a human presence, as a scientific mission has been studying the system since its discovery.
The Alastair system is dangerous to humanity in many ways. While the star is barely visible in the spectrum of light humanity can see, its magnetic fields generate ferocious waves of radiation sweep over the system, and it is all modern radiation protections can do to withstand the onslaught. These same fields mean that non-ansible communication is almost impossible. In addition to the main planets that orbit the star, the pulsar’s magnetic field has swept up numerous pieces of interstellar debris over the course of existence. Swift, dark and fast moving in their eccentric orbits, these bits of debris are known as “the Razors” by experienced Alastair hands, and continue to be a hazard to ships transiting the system.
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.
Noting that the Shohan FTL and communications both use hyperspace technology, the Terran Sphere has decided to use Alistair station to store many of its prisoners of war. Most of the time, these prisoners are kept in cryogenic stasis, as had become the standard for Shohan prisoners elsewhere in the Sphere. When thawed out for interrogation rather than the rage exhibited elsewhere, Shohan prisoners on Alastair station show more confusion and, in some cases, even outright fear or despair. Unable to communicate with their people in the usual manner, they feel exposed and vulnerable. As a result, they are often more pliable and responsive, with their every action poured over by the various researchers gathered at the newly established facility. Beyond passive observation, researchers are attempting to run any number of psychological and sociological experiments to help build their understanding of the reclusive species. Understandably, the Terran Sphere is acting quickly to capitalize on this breakthrough and is planning on transferring more prisoners to the new prisoner facility.
Fleet Intelligence and OGI are gingerly discussing whether to resume attempts at telepathic interrogation of the Shohan prisoners in the new facility. Previous attempts were stopped after the berserk rages they invoked in Shohan prisoners led to numerous casualties. Early efforts, where a telepath sits in a protected area and restrains themselves to the lightest of passive scans have shown that the Shohan prisoners are aware of the telepath but not aggressive toward them as they were in prior cases. The telepaths still report extreme difficulty in getting even the faintest of impressions from the POWs, but for Terran Sphere intelligence this is still leagues ahead of the disastrous interrogations that took place early in the war.
There are, however, those who believe that the connection to the hypercomms is not, in fact, completely severed, only severely diminished, and that these prisoners might still be able to contact the rest of the Assembly. This possible security risk is the subject of much debate. Admiral Aydin, however, is far from deterred. She believes this should be encouraged and exploited and by presenting a target for the Shohan, to force them to come to this system: one of the only known, inhabited systems where the Shohan have disadvantage to their mobility. Admiral Aydin and her staff have run several private exercises around a possible Shohan strike at the Station, but it remains to be seen if the opportunity will present itself, or if their plans will match the reality.
Battlefield: Jailbreak (GM Information)
Alastair Station is currently the center of fleet operations in the sector. Were it not for the Hyperspace inhibiting effect of the pulsar, it would be a prime target for a Shohan counter strike. As it stands, the Shohan may be willing to nibble around the edges of the system, particularly if they are in hot pursuit of an enticing target, but will otherwise keep their distance. Unless, of course, they discover the prisoner of war camp.
There are several ways that the Shohan may become aware of the prisoner of war camp hosted on the station. One possibility is that they intercept a prisoner transfer by chance and are able to recover some of the Shohan prisoners. Alternately, if using the material from the Deployment Companion, it’s possible that the Shohan infiltration team presented there stumbles upon the information in the course of their own activities.
While the Shohan will urgently seek some way to free their compatriots from the terrible prison the Terran Sphere has created for them, Admiral Aydin is unlikely to get her wish of a pitched battle where the Shohan commit their forces to such an unfavorable battleground. Instead, the Shohan forces are more likely to focus on harrying ships moving into the system, paying special attention to transports that might be carrying more prisoners to the camp through the outlying stars. Once this becomes apparent, Terran Sphere forces will have two main avenues to respond. The first is to increase the escort strength protecting convoys, at the risk of upsetting the operational tempo of their offensive efforts, The other option is to route ships through deep space, either accepting the risk of manually countering their drives or diverting logistics support to establish a stop over point. Such a point would likely need to keep rotating its position in order to avoid detection by the Shohan who would surely attempt to destroy such a transport node.
Meanwhile, the Shohan will seek alternate means to win the release of the prisoners aboard the station. The Infiltration team described in the Deployment Companion may attempt to stage a jailbreak, using a captured Terran Sphere vessel that has been modified to incorporate Shohan style shielding. Getting access to an isolated fleet base like Alastair Station is quite difficult, but here they may be able to use Master Chief Montgomery’s indiscretions to their advantage; gaining the trust of her black market contacts before organizing a “supply run” for the Master Chief. Along similar lines, the Shohan may be willing to hire non-human mercenaries to assault the base in their name. Similar to the infiltration team, these mercenaries will have been paid with black-box Shohan style force field generators. For the Shohan, this has the added bonus of doing more damage to the Terran Sphere station and forces that have become a perennial thorn in their sides. Whether the Shohan are willing to let them keep their payment however, is an open-ended question.
Finally, and most surprisingly, the Shohan may be willing to talk. In this case, the Shohan may contact the Terran Sphere in one of the disputed systems to discuss a prisoner transfer. For Terran Sphere diplomats, the first chance to talk to the Shohan after years of silent violence is in itself amazing, but they may be disappointed by the limited scope of the negotiations with which the Shohan will agree. Their offer essentially boils down to: releasing X number of prisoners from occupied space in return for the release of all prisoners currently at Fort Alistair, and an agreement that no prisoners be housed there for Y years. From the Shohan perspective, releasing some prisoners now is only a stay of their ultimate fate; if it preserves some Shohan, so be it. Likewise, they are confident that in the specified timeframe, the issue of housing prisoners at the Station will be moot.
[What You Are In The Dark]
[A Game of Inches]