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Icarus - A Short Story

Psilon

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MrConway #1 Posted 16 December 2015 - 09:21 AM

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ICARUS

 

                Mara showed her clearance badge to the heavily armed guards, then placed it in the security scanner. Sliding metal doors opened slowly before her. Her presence in the lowest and most secure level of the Library of the Controller required direct approval from the leader of the Psilon Empire, the Controller of the Quanta. She had been nominated to join a top secret research committee by the Director of the Scientific Advisory Board the week before. Mara was stunned and she accepted the offer on the spot.

                She entered a vast research room lined with detailed filing systems and dimly illuminated monitors. A few Psilons, old and pale as ghosts, silently paced the room, completely focused on their work. Mara approached the central desk where a Librarian sat, silently awaiting her request.

                “Call number?” The Librarian’s voice was faint and soft, as if it had not been used for quite some time.

                Mara swiftly handed the Librarian the encoded card she had been given back at Headquarters, with “ALPHA-ICARUS File 0012” emblazoned across it. The Librarian immediately began inputting commands into a compact terminal. A small robot rushed out from under the desk towards the stacks, quickly disappearing as it rounded a corner. 

                The highly classified information Mara had requested was the last intact account of the ICARUS discovery mission. ICARUS, or the Intergalactic Communication Resolution System, was already an ancient technology when it was found hundreds of years ago. Now it was so ingrained in modern civilization that it was regarded as an undeniable attribute of the universe, no different from gravity or time.

                The “magic” of a universal translator which traveled seamlessly across electromagnetic fields, infesting and changing both electronic networks and the neuron pathways of biologicals, may have become normal over time, but the unsolved mystery of how this technology worked still eluded and haunted the Psilons.

                Centuries of research had yielded no new information. Teams of scientists had come and gone, yet nothing more was known about the system than the day it was found. No one could explain why or how ICARUS was effortlessly translating hundreds of languages in real time. In fact, the discussions of ICARUS’s inner workings had been exiled to the realm of rumors and gossip between eccentric scholars.

                Mara herself had heard the rumors, though she always kept her head down and focused on her work—which was always lauded for its brilliance. When asked, she had stated that she had no theories on ICARUS as she lacked access to data. Keeping her thoughts to herself on one of the most frustrating and longest-running Psilon research failures proved fortunate. It was this very dedication, work ethic, intelligence, and prudence that got her a place on the ICARUS Research Team.

                With a slight whir, the tiny robot arrived back at the Librarian’s desk carrying a small box. The Librarian picked it up and opened it carefully, pulling an antique audio device out along with some carefully preserved physical files. Mara took the materials to a secure room and sealed the door behind her.

                The audio file was marked with bold text: “WARNING: HIGHLY CLASSIFIED INFORMATION REGARDING ICARUS SYSTEMS. INDIVIDUALS MUST HAVE QUASAR LEVEL CLEARANCE TO PROCEED.” Mara carefully removed the audio file from its protective casing and placed it in the audio player, waiting anxiously for the audio to begin.

 

The standard boilerplate precautions preceded the actual content. “The following transcription is a direct transcription of Erga, leader of the original team that discovered the ICARUS device. The following information is classified QUASAR and is not approved for reproduction or distribution by any means.” The Psilons, ever cautious and paranoid, took every legal precaution to protect their intellectual property.

The audio file clicked to life with the steady breathing of the Psilon on the other side filling the quiet listening room. The audio was so clear it was as if the person on the other side of the recording was in the room with her. This voice, reaching across time from hundreds of years ago, was doomed to have his story buried under strict security classifications for fear of others gleaning a clue to how ICARUS works.

                The Interviewer speaks first, his low voice cold and detached. “This is the interrogation of Erga, lead field researcher with the Ampere Salvage Team.” There is a momentary pause and the sound of rustling papers. “Erga, begin your account of the recovery of the ICARUS device. Begin with planetary landing.”

                The second voice enters the audio, clear and confident. Erga’s logical and even-tempered tone marks him unmistakably as Psilon, even though this recording was made hundreds of years in the past.  “When we first landed on the planet it appeared to be completely barren—devoid of any life or technology. Scouts had reported distant sightings of an isolated building that seemed suspicious. We had with us some hired mercenaries—mostly Sakkra, but a few Humans and Mrrshan as well.”

                “We entered the building with no difficulty. It seemed to be some sort of deserted outlying facility. There were traces of ancient technology, but it seemed like the place had been cleaned out of anything of value long ago. The mercenaries seemed suspicious of what we would find, but the research team was naturally curious.”

Erga pauses and clears his throat. “We found an interior room behind heavy blast doors. Scanners indicated the whole room was heavily shielded and our scanners could not penetrate to the interior. There were signs that others had tried to open the doors before, without success. The Sakkra mercenaries began to set charges of their new directed planar explosives.”

                The Interviewer pushes Erga forward after a long pause. “Is that when the technology began to work?”

                “No. We blew the doors open and investigated the massive room inside. It was barren except for a small glowing node in the center of the room. We began to enact the standard isolation protocols for unknown tech, but when we radioed the mercenary team outside the facility doing patrols… that’s when we noticed it.”

                The Interviewer interrupts politely, “You confirm that the short-range communication device activated the node?”

                “To the best of my observational abilities, yes. As soon as we radioed the team we began to understand each other much more clearly. My knowledge of the Sakkra language is rudimentary at best, but I suddenly understood the Sakkra perfectly. I could tell he was speaking his native language, but I understood him without any struggle to translate. When I responded in our language, he understood me as well.”

                “What happened next?” If the Interviewer is surprised, he is repressing the shock of the situation. He moves forward with the interrogation in a calm, efficient manner.
                “The main ship detected the communications chatter on the ground and radioed down. They began to panic when they suddenly were able to understand each other.” Erga pauses for a moment. “There were some casualties onboard among the mercenaries in the ensuing chaos when they all understood what was being said to each other.”

                “This… ability traveled to the ship and spread across those onboard?”

                “Yes. As we radioed out for assistance, the translation ability seemed to spread.” Erga speaks quickly, as if the thrill of experiencing first-hand new technology excites him. “It must be some sort of virus which transmits itself through electromagnetic waves or fields over great distance…”

“This is confirmed information. The virus has reached the Sakkra and Mrrshan regions of space already and shows no signs of slowing. Any information collected from the site may prove crucial in understanding this mysterious device.”

                “The site was completely isolated. It’s possible that no other advanced intelligent life has been in the area since the Orions abandoned the area.” Erga is reaching in his logic.

                The Interviewer did not hesitate to shut down Erga’s wild speculation. “The Orions are little more than myth. It is unsound to make assumptions based on their rumored presence and technology.”

                “We gave the Controller the coordinates; you must have visited the site and seen the same.” Erga is beginning to sound tired. A known Psilon trait was that the pressure of the unknown could wear them down, rendering them catatonic for a time.

The Interviewer is quick to respond. “That is accurate. The site was as you stated. However, you will be held in custody along with the rest of your team until we can determine the exact nature of the device and how it works. The device itself will be moved to a more secure location.”

Erga makes a slight sound of displeasure, but speaks calmly to the Interviewer. “I understand what you have to do.”

 

                The audio file abruptly ended. Mara looked around for the documents associated with the audio file and pulled up the one she was looking for. The confinement records show nine Psilon, ten Sakkra, seven Mrrshan, and three Humans to be contained after the incident. All died of old age in a secure prison. The file also stated that official letters were sent to the families explaining that an engine malfunction had destroyed the ship with the loss of all onboard. A quick scan of the other documents showed that the location of the device itself was not given.

                Mara closed the files and looked up at the featureless ceiling of the secure room. Was it possible that she just signed up to solve the riddle that had haunted the Psilon scientific community for generations? The idea of fully understanding the device became dire as she played over in her mind the scant information she had heard and read.

                She rubbed her eyes and recalled her training. Firsthand observational data is always more valuable than the stories and accounts of others. She had to see the device herself. That was the only answer.

                Of course, the Psilon government had denied the existence of ICARUS’s physical form. They rejected the idea that they had possession of such an unknowable and powerful device. Yet, as Mara was beginning to learn, there was a lot that the Psilon government was willing to keep under wraps in order to secure their research. She packed up the materials to hand back to the Librarian and set out to pick up a trail that had had centuries to grow cold.


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MrConway #2 Posted 16 December 2015 - 09:28 AM

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If there are any questions regarding the Psilon race, we will forward them to the developers and do our best to answer them here!

 

Please also leave any feedback you have regarding the short story in this thread! 


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Kezitaal #3 Posted 16 December 2015 - 05:07 PM

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Nice story. This solves the communication issues in quite a "magical" way. It's fine, Other games don't address this topic or use a simple research to have this solved. 

 

Indeed there are some questions:

  1. There are mercenaries mentioned in the story (Sakkra, Mrrshan, Humans). Can I interpret that it is possible to hire some mercenary "fleets"/ships directly or maybe from this free states/pirates or maybe also from other empires?
  2. Will we maybe have similar game changing (not necessarilytechnolgies/discoveries in the game with ancient artifacts on a planet?
  3. Is this story just a piece in a bigger background story for the MoO and/or Psilon Setting or maybe a starting point for galactic missions?

 

Sorry for my bad english.

 

 

 

 



MrConway #4 Posted 20 December 2015 - 07:51 PM

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View PostKezitaal, on 16 December 2015 - 05:07 PM, said:

Nice story. This solves the communication issues in quite a "magical" way. It's fine, Other games don't address this topic or use a simple research to have this solved. 

 

Indeed there are some questions:

  1. There are mercenaries mentioned in the story (Sakkra, Mrrshan, Humans). Can I interpret that it is possible to hire some mercenary "fleets"/ships directly or maybe from this free states/pirates or maybe also from other empires?
  2. Will we maybe have similar game changing (not necessarilytechnolgies/discoveries in the game with ancient artifacts on a planet?
  3. Is this story just a piece in a bigger background story for the MoO and/or Psilon Setting or maybe a starting point for galactic missions?

 

Sorry for my bad english

 

I'll forward those questions on, thanks! :)


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MrConway #5 Posted 21 December 2015 - 04:50 PM

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I got some answers for you, straight from our development office in Austin! :)

 

  1. There are mercenaries mentioned in the story (Sakkra, Mrrshan, Humans). Can I interpret that it is possible to hire some mercenary "fleets"/ships directly or maybe from this free states/pirates or maybe also from other empires?
  • I wouldn’t read too much into it. The stories are set in the Master of Orion universe, but not tasked with representing every in-game feature.

 

  1. Will we maybe have similar game changing (not necessarily) technologies/discoveries in the game with ancient artifacts on a planet?
  • The short stories are fiction within the Master or Orion. The stories are also kept at an intentionally vague timeline… I can’t say much about in-game features that haven’t been announced yet. You’ll just have to keep waiting a little bit longer!

 

  1. Is this story just a piece in a bigger background story for the MoO and/or Psilon Setting or maybe a starting point for galactic missions?
  • At the moment these short stories are a way to explore the massive background that we have developed for the Master of Orion universe. One of the greatest things about the original games was that you could really tell your own story… we haven’t taken that away! 

 

We will be sharing another short story before the year is out, the next time the Focus will be on the mighty Mrrshan Empire!


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Kezitaal #6 Posted 22 December 2015 - 09:22 AM

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Thank you very much.





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