The Matmos Rift - The Story So Far...


#1

The Matmos Rift: A spatial distortion field spanning a variable area near the galactic edge. Observed for centuries, the Rift has resisted all efforts to reveal any secrets that might be hidden in its depths. The Rift’s unique energy signature has mimetic properties that defy scientific analysis (often reflecting the observer’s own energy signature). Most of the small body of knowledge about the Rift comes from passive study of the related anomalies known as “Matmos wanderers” that drift randomly through all sectors of known space.

Poorly understood forces cause the Matmos Rift to change size and shape over time. Its peak size has been measured at a width of 13.42 light-years, a period which saw the Rift enter the scientific lexicons of many races as it occluded the radiation signature of the Midnight Pulsar for a period of 7.2 standard months. The minimum observed size of the Rift is 7.39 light-years, occurring at a rare convergence of graviton waves due to the passage of a rogue singularity. The exact depth of the Rift has never been measured; the narrow band of space between its rimward boundary and the galactic edge is generally considered impassable.


Figure 1. Artist’s rendering of the Matmos Rift energy signature

To date, only one of the Great Powers has made a concerted scientific effort to study the Matmos Rift in depth. The Federation Rift Study was established to examine the Rift in the hopes of duplicating and utlizing its unique properties. A series of observation and research stations was constructed in the space along the Rift’s border. However, after a century and a half of minimal progress, the FRS fell victim to internal politics and its funding was severely reduced, with the majority of the established stations dismantled in a massive cost-reclamation effort. The sole remaining station, Matmos Alpha, is now the only presence of any star-faring race within 8 light-years of the Rift.

Only one recorded attempt has been made to enter the Matmos Rift, by an early-model Tribe cruiser called the Kaw Klickitat. According to badly degraded data extracted from a surviving flight recorder, the Kaw Klickitat quickly lost structural integrity and power while approaching the Rift’s observed event horizon. The ship then either drifted or was drawn into the Rift; at this point the recorder’s data becomes completely corrupt. Though the flight recorder’s evidence was contested by Tribal “authorities”, it has been possibly confirmed by the emergence of Tribe wreckage from a Matmos wanderer on the outer reaches of the Mexallon system. The partial flight deck has been independently confirmed as belonging to the Kaw Klickitat despite the 387-year lapse since the ship’s apparent destruction.

Matmos wanderers have been observed within the territories of every major star-faring nation. These small anomalies (typically comparable in size to a frigate-class starship) generally give planets and stars a wide berth, while actively moving away from ships and outposts. However, this behavior is not, as is popularly theorized, an indicator of intelligence; the movement of Matmos wanderers can be clearly traced to gravitic pressure gradients created by stellar and planetary masses and the energetic output of typical engines and shielding systems. This, combined with the mimetic tendency of Matmos wanderers to reflect the engine signatures of nearby vessels, produces the illusion of deliberate movement.


Figure 2. Typical Matmos wanderers observed near Sirius

On a few occasions a Matmos wanderer has been observed to collapse due to convergence of outside factors. Most notably: an Order scouting frigate, the Sacred Torch, was found drifting on the far edge of the Veil nebula, along with traces of unknown exotic matter. The ship was completely powered down, its central computer cores hopelessly corrupted. A single shielded backup unit yielded images of the collapse of a Matmos wanderer and the resulting crystallization of unstable exotic matter, which was brought aboard the Torch. High-energy radiation produced by the rapidly degenerating crystals corrupted the memory and system interlinks of the Torch’s central computer, causing all shipboard systems including life support to fail immediately; the only system to survive was the control system for the power core, heavily shielded and isolated from the central computer. This system went into emergency conservation mode, preventing the core from overloading. The crew, unwilling to abandon ship, perished at their stations. After the inevitable leak of this information to other nations among the Great Powers, ships in known space do not attempt to retrieve exotic matter showing energy signatures similar to the Matmos Rift. (This action carries a severe penalty within the Federation in particular, under Statute 1104.534(b), “Deliberate Incurrence of Devaluation of Federation Property”.)


Figure 3. Exotic matter crystallizations from a Matmos wanderer collapse

A little-known movement within Order space known locally as the Heresy of Agumon believes the Matmos Rift to be the physical manifestation of the One True God. This movement, being fundamentally counter to the established orthodoxy of the Order, has been purged from affected systems by the Templars of Purity on at least four occasions. Perhaps motivated by this societal pressure, Order vessels are under standing orders to drive Matmos wanderers from their systems using a combination of engine exhaust and shield output.

Between battle campaigns, Nomad fleets are known to drift in the wake of Matmos wanderers, believing that the itinerant anomalies are omens of good fortune. In fact, some other cultures believe exactly the opposite, that Matmos wanderers are bad luck. This likely stems from the increased probability or suffering Nomad attacks following the passage of a wanderer.

The Matmos Rift has been accepted as one of the galaxy’s great unsolvable mysteries, and as such has been relegated to the footnotes of history by the Great Powers.

– excerpt from Galactopedia Scientis, 5th edition


#2


INITIATE ENCOUNTER REPORT
VESSEL 34A5-ST

UNIDENTIFIED ANOMALY DETECTED TIME-INDEX 25:94:3
INITIATE ANALYSIS PROTOCOL 44T
ANALYSIS COMPLETE TIME-INDEX 25:96:1
ANOMALY CLASSIFICATION M5H-M
INITIATE HARVEST PROTOCOL 7JO

RESPONSE DETECTED TIME-INDEX 25:96:5
DISCONTINUE HARVEST
INITIATE COMMUNICATIONS PROTOCOL FF3

PROTOCOL FF3 UNSUCCESSFUL TIME-INDEX 25:96:8
ANOMALY CLASSIFICATION HOSTILE
REQUEST AGGRESSOR STATUS TIME-INDEX 25:97:6
AGGRESSOR STATUS CONFIRM TIME-INDEX 25:97:7
INITIATE

ANOMALY NULLIFIED TIME-INDEX 25:99:1
ISOTOPES DETECTED TIME-INDEX 25:99:6
INITIATE RETRIEVAL PROTOCOL 1G5

RADIATION SPIKE DETECTED TIME-INDEX 26:01:4
INITIATE ISOLATION PROTOCOL 4TG
PRIMARY DATACORE CORRUPT
SECONDARY DATACORE CORRUPT
EMERGENCY SYSTEMS CORRUPT
PROTOTOCOL 4>G UNSUCCCESSFUL TTIME-INDEX 22:22:2
SYSYSTEMS FFAILLU
CORE MALFFFUNCC
MA

– intercepted transmission (decrypted), source unknown


INITIATE GENERAL TRANSMISSION
ALL VESSELS
ALL FACILITIES
ALL SECTORS

NEW DIRECTIVE TIME-INDEX 33:65:8
HARVEST OF NATURAL ANOMALIES PROHIBITED

NEW ENCOUNTER PROTOCOL F6Y TIME-INDEX 33:68:7
NATURAL ANOMALY ENCOUNTERED
AGGRESSOR STATUS IMMEDIATE CONFIRM
ANOMALY NULLIFICATION REQUIRED
ISOTOPE DETECTION IGNORE

END GENERAL TRANSMISSION

– intercepted transmission (decrypted), source unknown


#3

The loss of Admiral Sanderson’s flotilla near Tantalaq is regrettable, but this is no time for unsubstantiated rumors. Which is the more likely cause: a surprise enemy attack, or some random anomaly? Use your brains, man! This “Mammos” thing is no different than a nebula or asteroid field! Natural features of space do not become hostile! I will not torpedo my own career by bringing your idiotic superstition to the Funding Council. If I hear any more mention of this in official reports, I assure you that you will find your funding aggressively redistributed.

– partial transcript of Federation Exploitation Ministry briefing

“Dropping into normal space … now.” The starry streaks on the main screen resolved into constellations as Lieutenant Freeman spoke from his seat at the astrogation panel. After a moment of silence on the Profit Margin’s bridge, the officer formally confirmed, “Position confirmed, 1.5 light-years from Tantalaq, Admiral.”

In the command seat, Admiral Thaddeus Sanderson nodded sharply. “Sensors?” he snapped without turning.

Ensign Tremana immediately replied, “All vessels present and accounted for, Admiral.”

“Fleet-wide comms are open, sir,” Ensign Dolmer chimed in from communications. Sanderson made a mental note to add a minor commendation to the ensign’s file for his initiative. Nothing that would actually require a change in pay grade, of course - even an admiral could face a reduction in his pension for that kind of behavior on his final deployment - but a minor commendation could help the young man’s career once Sanderson’s retirement funds were assured.

“All vessels,” Sanderson announced, “this is the Admiral. Assume standard toll formation and deploy fighter screens.” A glance at the command display hovering at his side showed the flotilla deploying. The Tiger-class Balance of Affairs and the Panther-class gunship Renters Have No Rights formed up on either side of the Profit Margin’s sizable Buffalo-class bulk. Escort fighters streamed from the Profit Margin’s bays, taking up escort positions around the three cruisers. The flotilla’s small frontguard consisted of four frigates: the Fox-class Accounting for Taste, the paired Gazelle-class skirmishers Cost and Benefit, and the inauspiciously-named Wolf-class anti-fighter frigate Taxman.

With very little else requiring his immediate attention, the Admiral drifted into his own thoughts.

Sanderson’s career had been long, if not distinguished - he had risen to the admiralty largely on connections rather than actual combat records. The engagements he had actually taken part in had resulted in few kills credited to Sanderson’s vessels, but they vastly outnumbered his combat costs (other Federation captains complained that Sanderson’s habit of focusing fire on enemy vessels that other captains had already crippled amounted to “profit-stealing”, but Sanderson knew that in the end, the balance sheet was all that mattered). Now, his moderately successful career (the best kind, in Sanderson’s opinion) had led to this, a last toll run in a quiet sector near Tribe territory. Intelligence reports indicated the Tribe was still licking their wounds from a recent set of skirmishes with Swarm and Order raiding parties; Tantalaq had been quiet for the better part of a year. At worst, the flotilla might encounter a few Tribe stragglers that would easily add to Sanderson’s career value. The perfect place for a calm, uneventful last mission.

An insistent chiming from the sensor console yanked Sanderson out of his private musings. Ensign Tremana was looking quizzically at her instruments. “Picking up a local disturbance, Admiral,” she reported. “Confirmed by the Balance and the Rights as well.” With a few taps on her instrument panel, Tremana tied the main screen to her console.

Sanderson sat forward in his command chair, peering at the mass of shimmering yellow blobs on the screen. “Reduce magnification, ensign,” he snapped. “I can’t tell what I’m looking at.”

“All due respect, sir,” Tremana answered, “this is at standard magnification. The distortions are starship-sized and have opened up at extreme close range, moving toward us at high velocity. I’ll see if I can highlight a single anomaly to clarify the image.”

A blue circle appeared on the screen, separating one distinct circular shape from the other spheres around it. A series of numbers adjoining the circle showed the distortion’s scale and properties.

“Looks like a Matmos rift,” a voice from behind the admiral commented suddenly.

Sanderson spun the command chair, locking his intense gray eyes on Lieutenant Argosy at the tactical station. Under that stern regard, the lieutenant seemed to realize he’d spoken aloud. “Sorry, sir,” he stammered, “I was just thinking about a science feed my son had to watch for primary education. These distortions look like-”

“Lieutenant Argosy is correct, sir,” Tremana cut in. “These distortions are definitely Matmos wanderers, according to the database. But there’s no record of any wanderers occurring in these numbers, or at this scale.”

“The large ones could swallow the Profit Margin whole,” Freeman breathed.

“Quiet,” the admiral ordered gruffly. “Ensign, do these … rifts pose any threat?”

Tremana briefly consulted her screen. “Shouldn’t be, sir,” she decided. “Matmos wanderers have a history of avoiding active vessels -”

Her answer was cut off by a shriek from Ensign Dolmer, who swatted his headset off onto the deck. Even from several feet away, Sanderson could hear the sound emanating from the earpiece - a rolling cacophony of noise. “What in the hell is that? Turn it off!” he shouted.

Dolmer, still holding his left ear, managed to shut down the comm console’s output. “Sorry, sir,” he said. “Every comm channel lit up all at once at top volume. It was painful.” The young man collected his wits quickly, though one finger rubbed persistently at his ear. He studied the readouts on his console. “It looks like all the channels are processing transmission at full capacity, sir,” Dolmer reported. “As far as the rest of the fleet is concerned, we’re deaf and mute.”

“Jamming?” Tremana asked.

“It’s possible,” Dolmer admitted. “But most jammers I’ve seen use out-of-phase waves to cancel our communications. This is just pumping transmissions through them to the point that the channels are useless to us. It’s nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Considering how clearly Sanderson had been able to hear the noise from his command chair, he was impressed that Dolmer seemed so unfazed. He would have expected some physical damage from that volume of sound; in fact, he could see a thin trickle of blood coming from Dolmer’s ear. “Once we settle this,” the admiral said, not unkindly, “get yourself down to med deck. I’ll authorize the cost for a scan.” It was a generous gesture, especially for Sanderson - hardly known for wasting money on the comfort or well-being of his crew. But a final command was a fine time for such gestures.

Before Dolmer had a chance to offer his thanks, Lieutenant Freeman’s voice grabbed everyone’s attention. “What the hell is happening to the Taxman?” the astrogator cried. Eyes were drawn to the main screen; the Wolf-class frigate had ventured out ahead of the rest of the flotilla, its crew apparently less flustered than the other ships. Now isolated away from its support base, the Taxman was on the verge of vanishing into one of the rifts.

Rather than pulling the Taxman into itself, it seemed the rift was intent on sweeping over the vessel. The frigate’s weapons were firing, striking at the edges of its attacker and other nearby rifts, trying to avoid being engulfed. Crackles of unstable energy crawled over the rift’s surface as pulse lasers and antifighter missiles cut into its energy field. A rift off the frigate’s port bow collapsed with a visible shock; but the unstable rift directly before it swept down in a rush; in a flash, the rift imploded, taking the Taxman with it.

That was enough for Sanderson to give an order he had never given before: the order to start a fight. “Mister Argosy, open fire! Take these things down!”

With communications down, there was no way to send the admiral’s order to the rest of the flotilla; however, as the Profit Margin began to unleash its weaponry, the other captains took the admiral’s cue. Soon the space around the flotilla was alight with beams, missiles and plasma. Weapons fire slammed into rift after rift, destabilizing the distortions and slamming them closed. The shockwaves from each collapsed rift ripped into adjacent distortions, setting off minor chain reactions of closing rifts. Clusters of charged crystalline matter drifted from the turbulence zones where rifts had collapsed; some part of Sanderson’s mind noted their ethereal, bizarre beauty through the tension of defending his very life.

Shockwaves and sparking crystals spread out as vast tracts of the clustered rifts were destroyed. Nonetheless, the Matmos rifts vastly outnumbered the flotilla and were moving at an unbelievable speed for ships of the same size. Even now, Sanderson realized he could no longer locate the Cost or the Benefit - and the Accounting vanished from his command display as he watched. Undeterred by the steadily-shrinking volume of Federation fire, the wall of translucent yellow rifts advanced on the three surviving cruisers and their fighter screens. For half a minute, the mass of energy continued to diminish under the flotilla’s weaponry. A sense of hope spread through Sanderson’s heart - the flotilla would survive this encounter after all!

Then disaster struck. As red beams lanced out from the Balance of Affairs, Lieutenant Freeman cried out in alarm. “What the hell!” he shouted. “They’ve got shields!” Indeed, where moments prior the flotilla’s energy fire had been pouring unhindered into the rifts, suddenly they splashed against an unexpected barrier of energy. Though the arcing Federation missiles and rockets appeared to be still having an effect, the majority of the flotilla’s heavy weaponry consisted of energy beams that were shrugged off by the rift’s new defense.

Sanderson felt a trace of panic set into the back of his mind. “Can we get any communications back?” he shot at Ensign Dolmer. “Our fighters may be able to get under those shields and do some damage!”

Dolmer wasted no time responding. His hands flew over the communications console; the bridge officers could all hear the slight resurgence of noise from Dolmer’s discarded earpiece. The tension was thick as the ensign worked; the only other active officer was Lietuenant Argosy at tactical, sweating as he delivered increasingly futile orders to the Profit Margin’s gunnery officers. The normally destructive beams leapt forth from the Profit Margin’s turrets to expend their incredible energies uselessly against the rifts’ inexplicable shields. A panicked shine crept into Argosy’s eyes. “Die, damn you!” he muttered, his eyes frantically sweeping over the tactical board.

Sanderson was on the verge of relieving the lieutenant of his duties - Argosy’s backup was only ensign-grade, which would certainly cut back on the flotilla’s overhead! Then Ensign Dolmer’s voice rang out through the bridge. “Break escort!” he shouted into the comm pickup. “Repeat! Break escort! Break-” He was cut off by another squeal from the comm console as the interference came back. Shutting the console down again, the ensign turned to Sanderson. “I think the order got through, sir.”

“The Balance’s fighter escort has broken off!” Tremana reported. “They’re headed into the rifts! The Renters-” Her voice caught in her throat. “Sir,” she continued after a moment, “the Renters Have No Rights is gone. Its fighters have been absorbed by the rifts.” A gloomy silence fell over the bridge, broken only by shudders passing through the decks as the turrets continued to fire.

Retreat seemed the only option. Sanderson looked beseechingly at Lieutenant Freeman, who reported unbidden, “We can’t escape into FTL, sir. Something about the rifts is preventing the drives from firing up properly. If we could get far enough away, maybe…” He trailed off, the bleak expression on his face showing exactly how likely that possibility was. With the rifts’ terrifying speed and implacable advance, the flotilla was doomed.

“Die, damn you! DIE!” Argosy shouted, smashing his fists down onto the tactical console. A flash from the screen heralded the loss of the Balance as a vast rift swept the Tiger-class vessel up. Laser fire from the vanished ship’s escort fighters ripped into the rift’s surface; the fighters themselves vanished into the attacking rift as it collapsed.

And then the Profit Margin was alone but for its own fighters, which had either not received Ensign Dolmer’s frantic order, or had stubbornly refused to leave the carrier’s vicinity.

The mass of rifts had been reduced to only a handful, but those few remaining were protected by shields and closing fast on the Profit Margin’s position. Lieutenant Argosy continued to manically slam his fists into the tactical console as the beam turrets kept firing ineffectually. Sanderson considered reprimanding the lieutenant, but stopped himself. At a time like this, what was the point? If, in Argosy’s rapidly unhinging mind, screaming and pounding his console gave the man some bizarre sense of comfort, who was Sanderson to interfere? The admiral watched the main screen mutely as the Matmos rifts drew ever closer to his doomed command.

It appeared the gunners still thought they had some chance of survival, as those weapons with close enough range continued to fire on the available targets. Even the rifts that closed in beyond the carrier’s minimum weapon range were not unharried, however, as the escort fighters began spreading ripples of multicolored energy across their fields with laser cannon blasts. At such a time, most combat commanders would swell with pride at the drive of their crew. But Sanderson was a true child of the Federation, and his last thought as the Matmos rifts closed in would have impressed any Federation citizen.

“My pension…”


#4

Operations Report station Matmos Alpha
Commander Althus Denn reporting
Stardate 253.97

[open voice record]

The Matmos Rift remains inscrutable as ever. I must repeat my objections that this posting represents a waste of Federation credits and personnel resources. Any potential benefits to observing what is a simple element of nature have long been exhausted.

Personnel note: Operations Chief Farley is to be docked three days’ pay for insubordination.

Other operations remain … Wait.

[pause voice record]
[resume voice record]

I have never seen so many wanderers emerge at once. Append sensor logs to report.

[transfer sensor logs]

[divergent energy signatures detected]
[Matmos wanderer signatures identified]
[anomaly: Federation power wave detected]

What the hell…?

[anomaly: Federation weapons ignition detected]
[threat condition Amber initiated]

This makes no sense…

[auto-transmit]

final transmission from Federation science station Matmos Alpha


The Matmos Rift, image taken from Matmos Alpha archives.

Althus Denn was pissed.

Of course, for a licensed commander in the Federation’s contract enforcement division, being posted at a pointless science station at the far end of the known universe, with no opportunities for advancement, or worse, profit, was a good reason to be disgruntled. And like nearly all disgraced Federation officers through history, Althus Denn knew exactly who to blame for his exile to this oubliette - and it most certainly wasn’t himself.

If only that Bianco twit had kept his high-minded ideas about crew survival to himself, Denn would never have read them. Then he wouldn’t have been motivated to do an in-depth cost-benefit analysis that “proved” limiting the costs of training new officers would balance out any cost increases incurred through reinforcement of crew compartments and other safety measures, at least in the long term. He most certainly would have had no reason to research the safety and survival measures used by the other Great Powers, balancing them against the Powers’ success records during the Gratuitous War. And without all those foundation blocks, Denn would not have had the opportunity to cut his own career off at the knees.

He could still hear Vice-Admiral Chesterton’s dry voice, cutting through his future as surely as a monoblade would cut his flesh. “Financial planning for a period that will certainly exceed the Federation’s inevitable victory is a subject best left to civilian authorities,” Chesterton had droned. “Given your clear aptitude for such unproductive pursuits, perhaps it is time that your position within Contract Enforcement is re-evaluated.” Bastard.

And so, Althus Denn found himself unceremoniously shipped off to be the CE commander of Matmos Alpha, the only “science” station left in the Federation. Hell, the only reason the Funding Council hadn’t completely cut off the money stream to this half-forgotten place was that having the only outpost near an anomaly like the Matmos Rift carried a certain cachet - certain Admirals on the Council assigned value to the station because it was “unique”. Those hidebound coin-counters had never actually been out here, that was plain. Over time, the station had become the final resting place for every piece of Federation technology that still had too much value to justify scrapping, but not enough to justify any use.

“Junkpile, that’s what this place is,” Denn muttered. “Full of crap no one wants anymore and no one wants to throw away.” The fact that this was a good descriptor of Denn himself was not lost on him, and did nothing to improve his mood.

The commander - god, even his rank was a joke now - moved across the command center to the extensive central console (at least, it had been extensive when the station’s systems all still worked). Maintaining the daily reports from the system had become the high point of Denn’s day; the routine was the only thing about this posting that made him feel like he was still part of CE. The system had been designed for ease of use - but today Denn’s normal three-button sequence failed to bring up the primary sensors. He gritted his teeth, knowing what had to come next. Loathing every moment, Denn reached out a hand and flipped the internal communications switch.

Though Denn couldn’t hear it, he knew a chime was sounding deep in the bowels of the station. After a minute and a half, the comm grille crackled to life. “What?” a rough, gravelly voice rasped out.

Judging from his perpetually slurred words, Operations Chief Donald Farley still hadn’t exhausted his supply of the Nomad whiskey he favored. (Long ago, Denn had tried some of the uncouth brew at a party. The stuff had all the smoothness and charm of depleted reactor coolant, without the positive health benefits.) The chief, a former Rebel, had a knack with technology that was the only reason the Federation had accepted him into its ranks (that, and his willingness to work for an enlisted man’s salary). Though the CE command had high hopes for Farley at first, his preference for obsolete, “valueless” tech had eventually shunted him here to Matmos Alpha, the only Federation junkyard where most of the junk still worked. “The main sensor suite was supposed to be functional by this morning, Chief,” Denn snapped.

“It’s fine,” Farley growled back. “Finished your damn repairs yesterday.” Denn could hear unidentifiable mechanical noises in the background - obviously Farley was back to working on one of his pet projects again. Months ago, Denn had decided that as long as Farley stopped co-opting the station’s other four operational personnel into his insane projects, he would let the Rebel defector tinker with whatever garbage he chose. Trust a Rebel to see value where in fact there was none.

“If the sensors are functional,” Denn responded, “then why can’t I bring them online?”

“Prob’ly 'cause the control linkages to the main console are fried,” Farley commented evenly. “Want me to fix them too?”

Denn ground his teeth. “The sensor suite is useless without the control linkages!” he shouted. “Of course I want them fixed!”

“Couple days then,” Farley answered, and cut the connection.

Denn threw himself into his chair, fuming. After seven months of dealing with Farley day in and day out, he almost wished an enemy vessel would show up and blow the hell out of the station. A Swarm disruptor beam would be a welcome distraction, or a burst of Tribe kinetics, or even one of those Uni-T things he had read reports about. Anything to remove the blot that was Chief Farley from Denn’s life.

A series of tremors rippled through the deck, accompanied by a frantic beeping from the control console. Looking up, Denn saw the display for the station’s backup sensor array flickering to life. Through the static, he could make out a thin cloud of blips moving around the station. Before he had the chance to react, the comm crackled to life once again. “Hey there,” Farley’s guttural voice growled. “Don’t worry about those, they’re friendlies. Built some remote-controlled fighters from the spares down in storage. Old stuff, but it should work. Launch went pretty smooth, at least.”

The fighters must have been launched from the lower cargo bays, the only exterior ports capable of handling that size of hull. If a launch down there shaking the control center at the station’s peak was what Farley considered “smooth”, Denn would hate to see what the ex-Rebel would view as a problem. True to the chief’s word, though, Denn could see that the blips carried Federation signatures. Trust a Rebel to waste time and effort making automatic fighters out of nothing but junk. It was amazing the chief had time to work on any official repairs with such frivolous projects occupying his time. Then a worrisome thought occurred: “Are those things armed?” Denn asked.

“Found some old laser cannons,” Farley affirmed. “Not impressive, but functional enough. Don’t worry, they’re hard-wired not to shoot the station. Programming breaks down, they might shoot the hell out of each other, but we’re safe enough in here. Just gonna let 'em fly around a bit, work the bugs out of the guidance matrix.” The channel cut off again.

A reminder beeped from the control console. Time to file the daily report - futile without the station’s main sensors, but as there had been no real activity in the Rift in weeks, the backup array should be sufficient. “And it’s not like anyone reads my reports anyway.” A tension headache pulsed through Denn’s skull. He almost envied Farley his constant drinking - though of course Denn would prefer a civilized and above all expensive Imperial brandy; even a dry Swarm wine would be tolerable (provided it had been properly aged - that stuff was horrid when it was cheap). Perhaps a pleasant alcohol haze would be just the thing to blur the misery his life had become. Denn shuddered to think that given enough time in this pit, he might even find Farley’s vile brew a welcome balm to his battered ego.

Well, might as well get the routine over with, and watch another piece of what was once a profitable future get washed down the drain. Opening a new report file, Denn recorded the usual opening statements, including his usual objections to the Matmos Alpha posting. He paused, considering including a mention of Farley’s most recent unauthorized project. “Who cares?” he muttered, then addressed the microphone again. “Personnel note: Operations Chief Farley is to be docked three days’ pay for insubordination.” That should prove to the CE that Denn still had his priorities in order. Assuming anyone bothered to review the report, that is. Just to be sure, Denn entered a notation in the station’s operating log as well - or started to, until he noticed the log screen was unresponsive. Damn it. Well, once Farley had repaired that system as well, Denn would record the pay suspension. The irony of that idea made him chuckle.

“Other operations remain…” Denn was cut off by an insistent beeping from the backup sensors. What appeared on the small screen was hard to determine. “Wait…” The computer automatically suspended the voice record as Denn focused on the sensor console. For a moment, he thought that Farley’s robotic fighters had triggered another response, but the new signatures appearing were much further off, just inside the backup array’s range. The sensor readings were muddled, too confused for Denn to make out. In true Federation fashion, he resorted to the cheapest system available - the station’s optic system. A conglomeration of lenses and enhancers on the outer hull ground laboriously into position, and Denn had a look.

“Computer, resume.” The recording system stuttered slightly before coming fully online again. “I have never seen so many wanderers emerge at once,” Denn commented as his eyes swept the cluster of yellow spheres on the scope. “Append sensor logs to report.” Small good that would do, considering the poor quality of the equipment, but Denn was not about to have his value recalculated downward yet again for failing to include all available data. He turned his attention back to the optic screen - something about the arrangement of the wanderers seemed familiar…

Formation! The independent rifts were moving in a static formation! How that could be, Denn had no idea. The rifts themselves were of sizes he had never seen before. Doing some quick calculations in his head, Denn estimated the largest rift was on a par with the new Lion-class dreadnoughts, with a smaller cruiser-sized rift, two that would compare with most Federation frigates, and a host of small rifts no more than 9 or 10 meters in diameter. These smallest rifts were the most perplexing - some seemed locked in circumferential positions around the ship-sized rifts, while others were moving in a clustered formation almost like fighter squadrons. Curious. Perhaps the Rift’s known mimetic properties, along with its encounters with military vessels over the centuries, had combined to produce this bizarre mimicry of naval formation? It was somewhat chilling, though, to see that perfect formation of unknowns bearing straight for Matmos Alpha.

The sensor display flashed up its information in an agonizingly slow sequence: first the detection of the rifts’ energy signatures, then a positive identification of the Matmos energy wave, then - what? Denn decided the array must have truly degraded beyond the point of usefulness; there was no other sane explanation for the Federation power signatures that were now appearing on the screen. “What the hell…?” Denn’s voice trailed off as the power signatures stacked up, mixed in with several that were similar to the Matmos wave, but matched nothing in the station’s archives.

Farley’s comm sparked to life again. “What the hell is going on out there?”

A crimson flashing washed across the sensor screen, accompanied by a shift in the control center lighting. Suddenly the entire room was colored yellow as amber threat lights illumiinated. (Part of Denn’s mind couldn’t help but notice that just under half of the threat lights remained black. Apparently CE Command wasn’t willing to pay for repairs to even the passive alert systems.) Detecting unauthorized weapons signatures, the station’s minimal AI control matrix had classified the oncoming objects as hostile and raised the threat condition. But according to the sensors, the armed weapons out there were of Federation make.

“This makes no sense…” Denn was still trying to puzzle out what was going on when a prerecorded, staticky computer voice informed him that his report had been closed and transmitted automatically as a response to the increased threat. “You idiot machine!” the commander cursed, kicking the console. Without corroborative evidence to show the obvious failure of the backup sensor array, that report would make it seem as though Denn had no control over what was going on. He could almost see his net worth spiraling down as the Matmos wanderers continued their inexorable advance.

“I’m gonna bring the tactical systems online,” Farley growled, bringing Denn’s mind back to the situation at hand.

“What tactical systems?” the commander asked in disbelief, right before a long-unused console to the side of the control center lit up. Denn was shocked. He had no idea that Matmos Alpha had any sort of defensive capability beyond the standard shields and heavy armor that had been installed in the station’s earliest days, when ambitious Federation admirals were convinced that the station’s mere presence would invite attacks from the other Great Powers. Most of all, deep in his heart, Denn did not believe that anyone in the Federation, down to its youngest infant citizen, would or could justify the expense of maintaining weapons here. “This station-”

“Is based on your standard assault bases,” Farley cut in. “The old turrets are still in place - well, most of 'em anyway. They stripped out all the firing crystals and coils and such, but the turrets themselves are a bitch to cut out, so here they stayed.”

“What good are dead guns?” Denn asked.

The gravelly chuckle that came through the comm grill was thick with derision. “You Fed boys don’t know how to use anything but shiny, valuable tech, do you? Think we kept out of Imperial control all this time buying all our tech at a shiny new store? Rebels know how to build guns, boy,” Farley rumbled. “All the stuff you guys left lying about down here, I rebuilt all the guns ages ago. With the turrets in place-”

“What do we have?” Denn interrupted, one eye on the approaching rifts. On a certain level, he was appalled that he was treating a bizarre, but likely harmless anomaly as a hostile enemy requiring defense; however, if the station had functional weapons, he might be able to spin that into a “doing more with less” argument that could improve his reputation. No harm in finding out what Farley had cobbled together.

“Right now, two proton beams, two pulse lasers, one heavy plasma launcher - had a second one, but I burned out the power coils testing it - plus a scratch-built EMP cannon. Oh, and four missile turrets, but they won’t help us out much.”

“Why not?”

“Well,” Farley admitted, “reaction mass and thrusters are easy to find down here; warheads, not so much. All four launchers are functional, but they’re shooting blanks.”

Denn couldn’t imagine what use decoy missiles would be against something like the Matmos Rift if it turned out to be hostile, but any guns were better than none. “How do we run those turrets without crew?” he wondered. Cruiser-class weapons were notorious for requiring huge firing crews, and he didn’t see how Matmos Alpha’s total complement of six was going to manage a suite of weapons that would normally require almost a hundred trained officers.

“The dummies and EMP cannon are easy to rig simple control systems for,” the chief replied. “I sent the other four boys to the beam turrets, and I’ll be taking the plasma. You’ve got overall control up there; with the rigs I worked out, each of us can handle the work down here. Try not to shoot our fighters by mistake, I didn’t make 'em as clay pigeons.” An idea occurred to Denn, but Farley anticipated it. “Can’t send the fighters out there - the central control matrix is here on the station, and it’s got a real limited range. I programmed them for escort duty only. They’ll shoot anything but us that comes in range.” The comm shut off.

Denn nearly sprinted to the tactical console, which showed the years it had sat idle. Still, the screen and controls were responsive; Farley must have reconditioned it along with the weapons. Trust a Rebel to simply focus his attention on the weapons systems first rather than doing a proper cost-benefit analysis. In this situation, Denn was not about to argue. He quickly slaved the sensor inputs to tactical. A small cluster - he was having a hard time not thinking of it as a “squadron” - of the fighter-sized rifts had broken off and were closing in on the station rapidly. The “fighters” peeled off well outside the station’s shield envelope, beginning to fire some sort of energy pulses. Finally, this was proof of the rifts’ hostility, even if the situation was rapidly moving from unbelievable to surreal.

Matmos Alpha had the same reflective shields as any Federation ship of the line, so Denn expected that these small weapons would be completely ineffective - no fighter he had ever heard of could pierce cruiser shields. It was therefore doubly jarring when the shield icon began flashing rapidly. Whatever those pulses were, they could damage the station’s shields! The damage was slight, and the half-squadron (it was an unavoidable label) currently strafing the shields posed no real threat, but en masse such a weapon would be a real problem.

Unfortunately, the attacking fighters were largely keeping their distance from Farley’s “drones”, but they were still mostly within the pulse lasers’ range. Denn opened fire to find that these rifts were just as agile - and reactive - as any fighter pilot trained by the Great Powers. The occasional shot struck home, but even the instability of damage didn’t seem to drive the fighters off. Trust a Rebel to rebuild one of the most pedestrian weapons in the Federation arsenal. But Denn kept firing, carefully monitoring the advance of the larger rifts. They would soon be within standard beam range.

While the cruiser rifts had barely entered missile range, Denn got an unpleasant surprise. Not only did the largest rift belch out a cluster of missiles, but both the cruiser-analogues unleashed bright white beams from their hovering surrounding rifts (which Denn belatedly realized were the Matmos equivalent of turret emplacements) at a range that none of the Great Powers had ever managed to focus a beam weapon. The one beam that actually struck the station’s shields packed such a punch that Denn could feel the force of the impact rattle through the deck plates at his feet. A glance at the shield readouts was hardly reassuring - that beam had packed enough punch to bring down over half of one shield’s output!

Against a normal enemy, the quartet of dummy missile launchers might have made a difference; at the least, they might have diverted some resources. But the rifts just ignored the harmless decoys, even as their “turrets” disgorged their own swarms of missiles - these ones far from harmless. While there was plenty of unfamiliar weapons fire pouring out of the lemon-colored spheres, there were also familiar missiles, beams and plasma - all with a Federation energy signature. Even as part of Denn’s mind focused wholly on his attempts to disrupt the attacking rifts, part of his mind was attempting to solve that bizarre puzzle.

A crackle of electricity suddenly crawled over the console, jumping out to zap Denn’s fingers. A glance at the optic screen showed the culprit - one of the frigate-sized rifts had fired an EMP beam! Denn had never heard of an EMP cannon small enough to fit into a frigate - but then, he supposed it was an easy hurdle to overcome when you didn’t have to worry about actual hardware. The shock passed relatively quickly, proving that even the Matmos Rift had its limits. But it had other tricks as well - white pulses streaked from the “frigate” turrets to impact against the shields - Denn could see that they were slowly eroding the shields’ stability. His hopes for surviving this encounter began to dissolve.

As the Rift cruisers closed in, it started to be a race between shield strength and shield stability: which would fail first? Unfortunately, it appeared that was a one-way game, as none of Denn’s shots were penetrating the rifts’ shields. Only the heavy plasma turret seemed to be doing any good, and its slow rate of fire coupled with the multiple targets prevented Denn from making any real headway.

Finally, the inevitable happened: the blinking red shield icon stopped blinking, becoming a steady red, as the station’s shield bubble collapsed. Now the incoming weapons fire sent shocks through the hull as it began chewing through the station’s heavy armor. The smaller Matmos cruiser moved in close, and for a moment Denn thought it might draw close enough for the drone fighters to do some damage, but then the nearest turret-rifts spat multicolored lightning that both started picking off the escort drones and raked the station’s skin.

A strange clarity spread through Denn’s mind as Matmos Alpha’s armor rang with repeated impacts. Unbidden, the solution to the anomalous Federation energy signatures drifted into his conscious mind - a vague report from weeks earlier detailing the loss of a flotilla under Admiral Sanderson, including a bizarre theory that matched up near-meaningless forensic data to suggest that Matmos wanderers had somehow done away with the Federation forces. It all made sudden, crystal-clear sense: if a previously peaceful entity decided one day to become hostile, what would its first act be? In that situation, Denn would follow Federation protocol - and go weapons shopping.

“We’re dead, you know that, Federation Boy.” Denn had almost forgotten about Farley and the others. Now the ex-Rebel’s guttural rasp reminded him that more than Denn’s life hung in the balance. Resignation hung thick in the chief’s voice, its customary slur now absent. Cascading, rainbow-hued beams lanced out to cut into the station’s hull; Denn could feel the first explosions rumbling through the deck. He would have expected to feel despair, but strangely a sense of peace settled through him. With a touch of a button, he flipped the weapons control over to automatic.

“Farley,” he commented, “I’m not afraid. How strange is that?”

“Not at all,” the chief answered quietly. “You’re learning what every Rebel knows at the end. You get afraid when you might die; when you will die, what’s there to fear?”

Denn pondered that wisdom as the damage reports flowed across the tactical console. Trust a Rebel to have the perfect perspective on dying in battle. Just before the comm system blew out, Farley put in his last words.

“Besides, the six of us? We’re done with these things now. For everybody else, this fight is just beginning.”


#5

Prelate-Commander Thraal pulled his ceremonial blessblade out of the heretic’s heart, wiping the unclean blood on the dying traitor’s tunic. How he hated having to clean up these persistent heretics! They were nothing but a distraction from his true purpose - the purging of the Order’s enemies from the universe. The rumors among the Great Powers of Matmos wanderers becoming hostile and somehow attacking ships with capital-class weapons were patently absurd, but they had already emboldened the vile Heresy of Agumon to breed all across Order territory like a noxious weed.

Turning sharply, Thraal strode back to his command altar, waving an impatient hand at a first-tier acolyte as he passed. “Remove that trash from this holy place,” he commanded imperiously. The acolyte, ducking his head in submission, hastened to obey. The dead heretic was already gone from Thraal’s mind, beneath the prelate-commander’s notice as he turned his thoughts to the unholy Imperial fleet he expected to purge for the One True God.

The holy crusaders tasked to gather intelligence had reported the presence of the Empire’s ships well within striking distance of Bannus Omicron, Thraal’s home temple. Moreover, the heathen fleet was anchored by one of the rumored Senator-class dreadnoughts. Such a grandiose display without the proper devotion was an affront to the Order and the One True God. It fell to Thraal, as the ranking prelate of Bannus Omicron, to sally forth with his holy warriors and purge this faithless stain from the universe. Pride and devotion coursed through Thraal’s hearts as he considered the massive sacrifice to the divine he was about to make. The spirits of departed holy warriors would sing the praises of the One True God as they received the souls of unworthy Imperial troops.

The heavy cruiser Holy Vengeance centered Thraal’s strike force, serving as his flagship. The prelate-commander had not bothered to commit the names of the other ships to memory; he knew that each cruiser was helmed by a full bishop-captain and none of his frigate vessels boasted a commander of less than priest-initiate rank. Even his fighter squadrons were piloted not by the rank-and-file, but by full berserker-acolytes. In his forty-three divine seasons of service to the One True God, Thraal had never seen a fleet with such distinguished clergy. Holy victory was assured.

The cleric operating the detectors turned to the command altar, genuflecting in the first degree. “O Holiness,” the man intoned, “though we have not yet reached the expected site of the godless ones’ demise, the One True God has revealed to me a small force of vessels directly in our path.” He bowed his head, waiting for benediction or chastisement from Thraal.

“They are not warriors of the Faith?” Thraal asked. The young cleric made a sign of negation, careful not to meet the prelate-commander’s eyes. Thraal considered. A skirmish prior to the anticipated Imperial engagement was a distraction from his holy purpose; on the other hand, all signs pointed to the staged Empire fleet remaining in place for some time, and a successful purge of the faithless would allow his warriors to sweep down on the Imperial filth with the fire of divine retribution already burning through their veins.

“We will strike the interlopers,” Thraal declared. “Their presence will not deter us from the task the One True God has given us, but rather, will prepare us fully for a combat that will honor the Faith.” His proclamation ended with a gesture of second-degree benediction, matched by second-degree genuflection from the other clergy.

The astrogation cleric began the process to drop the strike force from the God’s Way back into normal space. From the elaboratae piping on the man’s cuffs, the successful conclusion to this mission would see him ready to begin the trials for the bishop rank. Such an outcome would also shine on Thraal, for bringing another holy cleric higher in the One True God’s service. Thraal would see to the cleric’s advancement personally if necessary; the prelate-commander intended to elevate as many of his underlings as possible on this excursion, to better spread the Faith. The astrogator’s hands moved confidently through the information font before him, affirming the slaved status of each of the strike force’s drives to ensure a uniform reversion for the Order fleet.

With a barely-perceptible lurch, normal space reasserted itself around the Holy Vengeance and its companion vessels. Passing his hands in the motions of the Third Holy Edict, Thraal activated the screen of Divine Revelations. The detectors obediently fed their knowledge to the blessed photo-filaments, replicating the view outside the ship. The immediate area was dark, with few discernible stars, somewhere in the void between star systems. An unusual place to find a heathen fleet, but Thraal had conquered in much less hospitable regions. His keen eyes picked out a cluster of lights even as the detector sweeps locked onto them. Thraal felt the burn of holy rage begin to warm his chest, as he had on every occasion he had faced the impure insults to the One True God’s divine light.

“Agumon…” The whispered blasphemy brought Thraal’s head whipping around, pinning a second-tier initiate to her seat with his fiery gaze. With trembling hands, the initiate gestured first-degree piety of soul-shielding, indicating the expletive had been entirely unconscious. The immediate concern for her immortal spirit calmed Thraal’s suspicions of another heretic - finding one Agumonite in his congregation had been insult enough; a second would cast severe doubts on the prelate-commander’s favor under the True Divine gaze.

A glance at the Divine Revelations was sufficient to establish the source of the initiate’s shock, and to spread confusion through Thraal’s mind. Scattered among the heathen vessels were familiar spherical shapes - Matmos rifts, moving in formation with the enemies of the One True God! Through the shock of that revelation, the tactical part of Thraal’s mind registered that the heathen ships were not uniform. Federation cruisers flew alongside Swarm frigates, escorted by squadrons of the Order’s own fighters! The absurdity of the situation cut through the fog threatening to damp the prelate-commander’s holy fury. Let every godless culture throw themselves against the holy warriors of the One True God; Thraal would meet them all on the field of battle and consume their impure spirits for the glory of the Order!

“The One True God grants us this blessing,” he intoned solemnly. “We shall smite the unbelievers and destroy the heart of the Heresy in a single sanctified stroke. Glory be upon us, and upon the One True God!” The purity of his belief steeled the hearts of his holy warriors, his benediction ringing in their ears.

“All vessels, attack!”


Aboard the Senator-class Imperial dreadnought Emperor’s Pride, Commodore Charas, Third of that Name, House of Tultana, sat ramrod-straight in the command chair. It was unprecedented for a mere commodore to be given the command of a Senator-class vessel, and Charas was determined to prove her suitability for this mission. The Pride and its task force had been assembled to provoke an attack from a nearby Order world, allowing the Empire to reignite its currently-simmering conflict with those religious buffoons; with the blame for the first strike resting clearly on the Order, the Empire would have no diplomatic concerns regarding the other Great Powers. The Imperial Navy was looking forward to reclaiming several strategically important sectors.

Though it felt wrong to have amassed the firepower in this task force only to sit in place, Charas knew it would be sufficient to provoke the always-prickly Order. Especially this near to Bannus Omicron; the local prelate-commander was typical of his race, arrogant, impulsive, and easily offended by the “heathens” sharing his galaxy. It was only a matter of time before an Order strike party would arrive to deal out “divine justice”, or some other ridiculously overblown piece of prose, and then the real work could start. Charas had full confidence in her command abilities, knowing the Order would come up short in any face-to-face battle with this great an expression of Imperial superiority. But though she showed no outward sign, Charas was boiling with impatience. Where were those holier-than-thou bozos? The Pride and her support ships had been keeping station in this meaningless little system for three days now, with no more activity than a stray Matmos wanderer.

That had been a ridiculous moment. Of course Charas had read all the intelligence reports about hostile wanderers, but she believed none of it. Far more likely that the other Powers’ inferior captains were desperately inventing fictions to cover up their incompetence. After all, there had been no Imperial reports of Matmos hostility, and surely such behavior would begin by attacking the one enemy who, by their innate and obvious superiority, posed the greatest threat. With no altercations recorded by the Imperial Navy, it was patently obvious that there was no threat. The clear train of logic hadn’t stopped some of her underlings from visibly tensing when the wanderer appeared on the scopes, though. Charas had quietly noted the names of those officers, especially those who had insufficient clearance to have access to Imperial Intelligence reports. Unauthorized access or rumormongering would not be happening under Charas’ watch. Regulations aside, these were Imperial officers; such behavior was beneath their dignity, and Charas would make sure every one of them knew it.

A subdued blue flashing light drew the attention of Junior Leftenant Zygoras at the observation scopes. “Commodore,” the young man reported, “we have enemy vessels within detection range.” A silent moment held the command center as Zygoras studied the readouts before him. “Seven large cruisers, five light cruisers, eight support frigates, unknown number of escort fighters. Energy readings -” The leftenant’s voice cut off unexpectedly, drawing Charas’ attention.

“Report, leftenant,” the commodore ordered.

“Energy readings of the enemy fleet are mixed,” Zygoras continued. “I am reading Federation, Swarm, and Tribe ships, no Order capital vessels, and every vessel in the fleet shows an unexpected energy field the computer cannot identify.”

For a moment, Charas could not believe what she was hearing. Then she recalled a series of intelligence reports classified to cruiser captains and above. A hard look settled into the commodore’s eyes. “It may not be the enemy we expected,” she informed her crew, “but they are definitely enemies to the Empire.” Divulging as little information as possible, she briefed the Pride’s command crew on the band of misfits and castoffs known as the Union Coalition. Their bastardization of available technologies easily explained the bizarre mixed fleet.

“Let us destroy these mongrels to uphold the Empire’s honor,” the commodore ordered. “All vessels, prepare to engage.”

Alone among the Pride’s command crew, Zygoras did not respond with full enthusiasm. His eyes were still glued to the scopes, devouring the information pouring in from the fleet’s diverse sensors. As the other officers prepared their stations for combat, Charas moved from the command chair to stand over the leftenant’s shoulder. She had no intention of following the example of many of the Navy’s admirals, who would have immediately castigated Zygoras for his inattention; Charas had selected her command staff carefully, and had faith in each officer’s dedication to the Empire. Anything that could distract Zygoras from the proper expression of honor was something that the commodore felt she should know about.

“Trouble, Leftenant?” Charas murmured, too quietly for the rest of the command staff to hear.

“I’m not sure,” Zygoras responded at the same volume. “In addition to the vessels, we are detecting several energy anomalies within the enemy fleet. Information is incomplete, but preliminary signature matching seems to indicate Matmos wanderers.” The commodore drew breath to respond, but Zygoras wasn’t finished. “In addition, the strange signature that pervades all the enemy vessels also shares several key wavelengths with Matmos energy.” Finally, Zygoras turned to face Charas. “I can’t explain what the scopes are telling me,” the leftenant concluded, “and it is my experience that when Imperial scopes cannot provide conclusive information, the situation is best entered with caution.”

“Are you suggesting we allow these renegades to go on their merry way?” Charas asked, her eyebrows rising.

“Not at all, Commodore,” Zygoras replied hastily. “However, I would advise against committing too heavily in the initial stages of this battle. As the situation progresses, we may gain new information that will add clarity to our understanding.”

Charas considered the leftenant’s recommendation. In truth, something about the approaching ships felt … off. While the general composition of the fleet certainly suggested a Union force, the profile of the attack did not. There were as yet no recorded instances of the Union deliberately carrying out sallies against Imperial forces. And to Charas’ knowledge, the Union hadn’t claimed any territory within four sectors of this system. But given the circumstances, her options were limited. The enemy fleet was bearing down on the Imperial ships, and a decision had to be made. Charas allowed herself the few seconds it took to return to her command chair for consideration. By that time, the approaching force had drawn within visual range. The cluster of vessels that appeared on the Pride’s main viewer matched Zygoras’ description: a bizarre mashup of vessels from throughout the Great Powers, with globes of yellow energy interspersed among them. Something was interfering with the optiscopes - Charas swore she could see the stars showing through the enemy ships.

But the time for scientific curiosity was past. Now was the time for decisive military action.

“Give me fleetwide,” Charas ordered, waiting precisely five seconds for the channel to be opened. “All vessels, this is Commodore Charas,” she continued. “Prepare to engage the oncoming vessels, Imperial Assault Pattern Bravo-Bravo-Seven.” A moderately conservative attack strategy, AP-BB7 would give Zygoras and his counterparts as much time as reasonably possible to determine the composition of the enemy before the battle became truly joined. “For the Emperor!”


Epilogue:

After a swift series of crushing defeats were dealt to dozens of fleets within the Great Powers, a single transmission was received on every communications unit in known space. The transmission was short and deceptively complex. When parsed, it contained one brief statement, transmitted simultaneously in a hundred languages. The transmission’s origin point has never been confirmed; its content makes the identity of the sender unquestionable.

“Matmos continues. Not-Matmos ends.”

It is now standard practice for Matmos wanderers and Matmos-energy “mimic” vessels to be treated as any other enemy fleet would be: with violence. The cause of the change in the Rift’s behavior still remains unknown.

– excerpt from Galactopedia Scientis, sixth edition, Addendum 6.11


And now, without further ado, I give you the full release of the Matmos Rift, unleashed upon an unsuspecting field of the Gratuitous War. May their gods have mercy on their souls.

Full Release v1.0 download:
http://www.mediafire.com/?fv2vca7c3f5ka1d

Hope everyone enjoys! Please direct all constructive feedback (positive or negative) about the mod itself to the development thread: http://positech.co.uk/forums/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=6621 Feedback on the concept and story can continue to be posted here. Please direct all non-constructive feedback into the nearest waste-processing center. :slight_smile:
[size=85](PM me if the link works not-so-good for you and I will figure out Plan B.)[/size]


#6

Very good story, i’m speccialy interested on the hull designs, if the two of the pics are definitive designs, i think that they can be upgraded with some more details, but anyways i relly like the idea.
Also i can see that this energy based race has disruptive capabilities, therefore i can deduce that this race has emp and shield disruptors based weapons mainly, right? I would like that ^^
I wonder if the small dots of that designs in the second pic are the turrents :wink:


#7

I’m still working on smoothing out the hull sprites; as the pic shows, they’re a little choppy. But hey, they’re multidimentional spatial distortions, maybe that’s just what they look like in person. :wink:

Don’t want to say too much - but you can always check the development thread for more details: http://positech.co.uk/forums/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=6621

Now that would be telling. :wink:


#8

This looks VERY interesting, plz, keep us informed of your progress :wink:


#9

That would be quite cool, a race based on nullifying a threat not really killing it at first. it would require a very different strategy to beat them!


#10

The publicly-known part of this story is still at a very early and incomplete stage. Nevertheless, I heartily applaud what I’ve read so far. Not just the raw data itself, but also the very well-written way that AcePalarum is presenting it to us. I look forward to future installments of this most unusual tale. Well done, Ace. I see that I’d better not settle for bringing anything less than my “A-Game” the next time I write creative adventure content for this game. :smiley:


#11

Thanks for the praise, Astro. I encourage anyone writing creative content to use the Galactopedia Scientis if you choose; I find it makes a good intro to entirely new races, or even just an intro piece to a narrative story (but wait, there’s nothing like that in this thread…) I do ask that no one assign an original “publisher” to the Galactopedia - I’ve already got that part planned. But it’s definitely a resource for the entire GSB community, both in- and out-of-universe.

On a flavor note, I should have said this earlier but it kept slipping my mind - I will award five bonus points to the first person who can identify what cheesy sci-fi flick I took the word “matmos” from. Not sure what the bonus points are good for, but I’ll award them anyway. :wink:


#12

Wasn’t it that lake of slime from Barbarella?

Good work on this mod, by the way. Looks fantastic.


#13

My guess is that the word Matmos is a pun on the title of “Manos: The Hands Of Fate”; the worst movie ever made. Fortunately, this mod is in no danger of sharing the abysmal quality of the movie. :smiley:


#14

And the five bonus points are awarded! I have to admit, I really thought that would take longer.

The matmos: a lake of quasi-intelligent liquid that feeds off base, negative emotions and actions. It seemed appropriate.

And thanks for the compliment. :slight_smile:


#15

Outstanding work AcePalarum. That’s a really creative backstory and an idea for a mod itself. You are really thinking outside the box, that’s awesome. Hope you’ll be able to overcome all the technical difficulties connected with introducing so innovative race. I’m looking forward to see the complete release :slight_smile:


#16

Just. WOW. That’s about all I can say for your storyline. VERY impressive work, it really DOES read like an encyclopedia entry, or something out of a science magazine. AWESOME work with this one. Cannot WAIT to see how this mod plays out, or how to include it in the Union story arc (still in progress BTW, thanks for the patience.

I’m with Archduke…after reading that those of us that want to write material for GSB REALLY need to step up our game!


#17

I’d be thrilled to have the Rift bump into the Union boys and girls - that could make for a really epic story event.

I’m happy to contribute to the overarching story - in fact, should anyone out there want any constructive critique (or heck, even ghost-writing) for their flavor, I’d be glad to oblige. Although from what I’ve read around the forums so far, most everyone around here has already got a pretty good handle on the writing of backstory.

Here’s hoping the Matmos Rift continues to meet and exceed everyone’s expectations right up until its final release. (hope I didn’t just set the bar too high for myself)


#18

Heads up, for those interested … I added a bit of meat to the first two posts. The 3rd part of the story should be coming soon!


#19

Backstory part 3 is posted in the appropriate spot … hope you all enjoy!


#20

My gawd, completly loved the third story!! awesome work man!! :smiley: