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Yardor Zem Orbital Station, (743; -43; 128), 243 S.L.E. Neutral space

Yardor Zem was a star on the outskirts of civilised space, far enough from any nation to claim the system for itself, yet resource-rich enough for companies and freelancers to come search for their fortune its planets. However, none of the planetary environments were friendly enough to justify the establishment of permanent planetary settlements. Building comfortable, life-sustaining habitats in space was way easier and much more cost-effective. Those, who worked on planets usually lived aboard their ships who would fly to and from the station in orbit of Yardor Zem to refuel and to sell their wares. Since the resources of Yardor Zem attracted individuals from all over settled space, the station had to include habitats adapted to all species it accommodated. This made Yardor Zem Orbital middle-sized in interstellar comparison since some species had similar requirements, whilst others were radically different.

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Aside from the occasional scuffle, conflicts on YZO were rare. Even members of rivalling species more or less got along on the station, or at least they treated each other with a benevolent lack of interest. Whether they came here for monetary gain or to quench their curiosity, ultimately, their reasons for being aboard the station weren't that different. The latter was also the reason why the Pioneer's Guild maintained a presence on the station. Ever since The Bestowal, when all known spacefaring species received FTL technology from an unknown source, fleets of pioneers formed at the edge of unmapped space and entered hyperlanes to unknown stars. Nevertheless, one of the groups that gathered around a table in the Pioneer's guild was not there to search for new planets to colonise or exploit. Amongst the group were members of all major species found throughout the known galaxy, however, all of them had followed a certain message on the Pioneer's Guild bulletin board system:


[THIS BULLETIN WAS AUTOMATICALLY TRANSLATED FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE]

Are you an explorer, historian or archaeologist? Are you a medic, cook or pilot who dares to support brave pioneers on their trip into the unknown?

We are looking for brave adventurers willing to go on an epic quest to look for answers to one of the galaxy's most enticing mysteries: where did the FTL drives come from that allowed our civilisations to prosper?

Together with a small group of fellow experts, go where nobody has gone before, face dangers on an adventure of unknown dimensions on your way to the absolute truth!

Whether you're after wisdom, fame or riches, the discoverer of the FTL-technology's source is destined to gain all of those!

Apply now, by supplying information about you, your racial and personal traits, and your qualifications and you might become the hero to solve one of life's greatest questions!


Although universal translators were a long-established technology, if there were two or more members of a species present, they sat next to one another and communicated quietly. Naturally, there were some who greeted or even chatted with their neighbours, however, all in all, everyone kept to themselves.

Then, a small robot resembling some mammalian critters found across the galaxy approached the group. At first, no one noticed the briefcase-sized machine walking on four thin, but sturdy, legs. Then, it jumped on the table and positioned itself in its middle. The group went quiet as they noticed the Pioneer's Guild's emblem engraved on the sides of the matte-grey cuboid that formed the robot's torso.

pENPqT3.png

"Now, that I have your attention, let me introduce myself. My name is Look and I'm an AI in the Guild's service. I was tasked to prepare you for the mission you were chosen for out of a vast amount of applicants.

First, I am pleased to note that we have at least one member of every sapient species currently known in this group of brave adventurers. By combining the proficiencies of every species, we have the potential to master many obstacles that we might encounter on this mission: to find the source of the FTL drives that allowed our species to prosper far beyond our respective home systems.

Before we go into further details about this mission, I suggest everyone introduce themselves to the rest of the team. You, over there, can you begin? Please tell us a little about yourself and where you come from."

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First up was a short but sturdy male humanoid clad in a maroon uniform belonging to some military organization or another; the rank pips displayed on the collar and the insignia laser-sewed to the shoulders wouldn't be too distinguishable from the thousands of other dime-a-dozen space militias that exist in the universe. Realizing it is his turn, the Katorgan breaks the silence.

"I am Lieutenant Garin Morgan Montaigu, but feel free to call me Garin. It is customary to grant younglings both a first- and middle name on Katorga Major, my home planet in its namesake system.

On my previous assignment, I served as the Chief Engineer of a mining freighter for 12 years under the Colonial Militia, the Katorgan Union's chief military- and commerce escort fleet. Most of my work consisted of repairing ship systems, calibrating mining equipment and putting 40-year old decommissioned FTL engines back together with nothing but synth-glue while under-attack by Frisillian raiders.

The Colonial Command Council began expanding its resource extraction program a few decades ago, so the mining and trade escort sectors have been the go-to industry for the past few years. Most of the work is freelance, but the Union likes to keep one foot in the door to level the playing field.

The Department of Planetary Surveying and Habitation is always looking for new potential mining and colonization projects, which is why I was among the many elected to apply for this mission in exchange for my personal report on our shared findings."

The Lieutenant smiles warmly and steps off of his figurative soap box, his gaze moving expectantly onto the next person.

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A lanky biped, nearly three meters in height were it not stooped onto its lower pair of arms, stepped forward. Atop its bony head were a pair of crystalline hornlike protrusions extending outward from the temples. Square, beige teeth were visible, in the absence of any real lip structure, and a hemispherical holo-mirror panel brought the creature's vision form the side of its head, where the eyes were located, to the front. A prey species, a herbivore. Sinking into a cross-legged sitting position, the being placed its upper and lower arms into a diamond-shaped steeple position, a gesture of greeting. It spoke in a rumbling, polyphonic voice; the twin esophagii of its species could produce sound at up to 130 decibels in crisis.

"Peace and justice be upon you all. The League of Ten nominates us, Tir'Rak'Gian of the Ayu-Bihad as its representatives to this venture."

All known space knew of the Ayu-Bihad. Most thought them eccentric, or perhaps extremist. Those who would practice injustices were right to fear them. They were, in truth, two species; the Ayu and the Bihad. The Ayu were grazing animals, six-limbed and bipedal, who had settled into an agricultural lifestyle some ten millennia ago. Before they had cast off their nomadic lifestyle, they were constantly hunted by airborne and terrestrial predators. However, they soon made contact with the Bihad.

Taking the form of silicon-based singing crystal, the Bihad were a quiet, sedentary collective consciousness. Having no real cause for conflict with any species, they lived a peaceful existence in the subterranean caves of the Ayu-Bihad homeworld, Locrima. When fleeing Ayu entered their homes, seeking refuge from predators, the Bihad were moved by their plight, and, knowing only empathy for these poor carbon-based prey animals, offered them their services as symbiotic parasites of a sort. Placing portions of the Bihad upon their brows, the Ayu were not only able to use the crystal horns as weapons, but as communicators and mentors. The Bihad, as a reclusive species, were shocked to discover the brutality of the surface world and the day-to-day struggle of the Ayu and their herbivorous compatriots.

When the Ayu-Bihad had driven their predators to extinction, they prospered. A civilization that covered the surface of Locrima flourished for five hundred sol-rotations; until the star rains fell. Thousands of Omeji slavers, a spacefaring predator species from a neighboring planet, poured onto the surface of Locrima, casting Ayu-Bihad society into disarray and chaos. However, the former prey species had not forgotten their ways of war. Highly coordinated squads of Ayu-Bihad commandoes were able to perform treetop raids on Omeji encampents, stealing their weapons and murdering them in their sleep. What one Bihad crystal knew, all did, and within weeks the Ayu-Bihad had reverse engineered the Omeji weaponry, using it to push them off-world.

But the struggle did not end there. Ten years after the initial invasion, the Ayu-Bihad fleet reached the Omeji homeworld and razed it to bare rock. No more would they be hunted. After the discovery of the interstellar drive, Ayu-Bihad representatives made contact with nine other alien species, forming the League of Ten. The Ayu-Bihad and their allies to this day wipe out predator species that represent a threat to peace amongst the stars, and contain those that have not advanced to spacefaring technology. While many civilized species view this as dogmatic and paranoid, the League has only ever had but one word to spare for the dozens of dead or stunted species in its wake; "justice".

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