Stargate: Thirdspace The Reboot
Survey probe L17 slipped effortlessly back into normal space its compact but highly sophisticated gravitic ion sublight drive already overcoming the inertial effects of hyperspace/normal space reversion. As the probe decelerated to a virtual crawl its main sensor array activated and ran a preliminary scan of the system it had emerged in, its computer comparing the data to pre-existing data gathered by the long range sensors of both Rivendell and the Northern Horizon.
As the initial data had indicated the star system dominated by a bright white F-type star. A dozen planets and a dense asteroid field between the third and fourth planets filled the system with the third planet being a gas giant of similar mass to Jupiter. Nearly a hundred moons and moonlets orbited the giant planet and it was towards the second and largest of the moons that the probe headed.
As it closed in upon the Earth-sized planet the probes sensors probed the atmosphere and swiftly determined that the planet was a classic Earth-type world with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Seventy five percent of the planet was dominated by seas with the only major landmass on the planet being a supercontinent that straddled the equator and which was dominated by dense rainforest and grass covered prairies. Sensors indicating almost immediately that the continental landmass was rich in many of the materials and elements needed in the technology of the probes makers – as were many of the other moons and moonlets that orbited the saffron coloured gas giant.
Had it been capable of such things the probes computer would have felt a profound sense of relief and satisfaction as the analysis of the scan data entered its memory banks. However the probe lacked even a basic AI matrix so the computer didn't react beyond activating its subspace transceiver array and forwarding its preliminary findings to its Tau'ri masters via an encrypted data burst before powering down the transceiver.
Moments later the probe began moving again, its compact but powerful gravitic ion engine propelling it into the inner system on a course to enter a standard orbit of the moon. A manoeuvre that took the drone craft only a few moments as it needed none of the artificial limitations on sublight confirmed that its orbit was stable its speeds imposed by the frailties of human bodies.
Once there it activated its main sensor array again and began running more in depth scans of the planet, searching for anything that could harm its masters if they came here, as well as mapping out areas that might be of interest to them.
The probe went about its duties with mechanical precision and single mindedness completely unaware that it was being watched.
Sitting in a meditative pose amid a sea of stars Alwin frowned slightly as he studied the data displayed in the tennis ball sized crystal he was holding in his left hand. He had been aimlessly wandering through this system – quietly fuming to himself over the Circles cowardly decision to start looking for a place for the order to hide out against the tide of darkness that was beginning to rise in the galaxy – when an intense energy burst had teased his ships sensors. It had garnered his full attention as it had both been a distortion in subspace, which was something none of the Younger Races who frequented this part of the galaxy used and it also didn't match anything the order had ever recorded in its long history.
The object that had emerged from the distortion – a distortion that had closed behind it – was clearly a probe of some kind. However its design and technology didn't match that of any known species be they Younger Races, Middle Born or even First One. However despite its unknown and obviously advanced nature some of the materials used in its construction were familiar. Especially the presence of a metallic quartz material that had incredible superconductive and amplification properties, the order knew the material well they had encountered it a number of times and even experimented with from time to time. In the probe the material – that the order referred to as mithril – appeared to be both a component of the silver-white metal alloy of which the probe was constructed and in a highly refined and stable liquid state. The latter especially was astonishing as all the orders experiments with mithril had shown getting the material into a stable liquid state was impossible – the few times they'd tried it had very literally blown up in their faces.
Alwyn was fascinated.
With a few hand gestures he instructed his ship to follow the probe while maintaining full stealth protection. As the ship carried out his instructions he turned his full attention to trying to learn more about this probe – which was obviously the product of a society that was far more technologically and scientifically advanced than any race this side of the First Ones. It was also obvious that whoever they were they were clearly very interested in the third planet of the system as the probe was clearly surveying it. Probably considering it as a location for a new colony, he thought though he was somewhat puzzled. As far as the order knew there was no race in this part of space – other than the Vorlons or the Shadows – that had the capability to build anything like this probe and it clearly wasn't of their manufacture as the probe was purely mechanical as opposed to being organic. Either the orders records were in error – which was a very uncomfortable idea – or something else was going on, something unprecedented.
"If only Galen was here he'd love looking at this," Alwyn muttered softly to himself thinking of his old friend and fellow rebel amongst the ranks of the Technomages. The probe seemed to get more mysterious and therefore far more interesting the more he looked at it; scans that penetrated the thin metal fuselage of the device showed that there was no computer chips and indeed no electronic circuits of any known kind on board, the closest thing to electronics the probe had were cables and they themselves were thin and non-metallic in nature, though the scan could not confirm exactly what it was they were made from. The cables ran in conduits that connected to a series of small cell-like structures filled with liquid mithril – which seemed to function as the probes power source, and crystals but nothing else. Whatever the technology on the probe was it was completely different to anything he had ever seen in his life before.
A warning from the sensors brought him out of contemplation of the mystery probe. Turning his full attention to the sensor feeds Alwyn felt his eyes widen as an extremely large subspace distortion was forming in orbit of the planet. The distortion was identical to the one the probe had appeared out of only a few orders of magnitude bigger and with energy levels so high he could barely believe it. He watched in awe as the distortion peeled apart the barriers between normal space and the infinite realms of subspace and a massive aquamarine coloured vortex burst into existence in orbit of the planet.
For a few more moments nothing happened, then the vortex pulsed and ships began emerging into normal space. A practical subspace based FTL drive system extraordinary, Alwyn thought as the first of the ships slowed to a virtual stop in space. They were sleek vessels, vaguely resembling the knife-like shape of a Narn warship while being distinctly different and moving with an easy grace that would make even the fastest and more graceful of Minbari vessels go green with envy. The first ships appeared to be quite small only a few hundred metres long, but as more ships began appearing the sizes went up to ships as big as an Earth Alliance Hyperion-class cruiser. Another ship appeared this one a giant four kilometre long monster followed by some more of the smaller ones, which appeared to be in a spherical formation around something that was emerging behind the massive vessel. Something that made Alwyn's jaw drop open in total astonishment as emerging from the distortion wasn't a starship as he would understand one to be. Instead it was a flying city.
As the city cleared the distortion Alwyn began to really get a sense of just how big it was. Shaped vaguely like a snowflake the city was six and a half kilometres in diameter and just over one and a half kilometres tall from its base to the top of the largest of the towers that covered its upper surface. A softly glowing spherical force field, whose power levels defied the ability of his sensors to analyse, surrounded the city as it settled into orbit meanwhile behind it more of the cruiser sized vessels and the smaller corvette-sized vessels appeared out of the distortion. Following them came another large ship – though its design was somewhat different to the others in that it was more curved, with lines that gave it a more oceanic feel than the blade-forms of the other ships. As the ship cleared the distortion it began to close, folding in upon itself and vanishing as if it had never been present at all as the structure of both normal space and subspace returned to normal.
Alwyn warily eyed the fleet of ships that had appeared in orbit. That they were the probes makers wasn't in doubt as the ships seemed to be constructed of the same unknown silver-white metallic alloy. However beyond that he couldn't tell anything about them as his ships subspace scanners vexingly refused point blank to establish any sort of lock upon the aliens. The beams from his scanners simply seemed to slide off them, clearly the aliens were using a stealth device similar to the stealth systems employed by the Minbari but an order of magnitude more advanced as Minbari stealth had no effect on subspace scan emissions, unlike the one the aliens were using.
Despite the irritation of not being able to scan the aliens in any real fashion Alwyn was able to tell a few things about them due to simple observation. It was immediately obvious that all but two of the vessels were warships – all the knife-like ships had multiple hatches that no doubt covered missile or fighter launch tubes, a great many turret-mounted cannons of various sizes spread all around their hulls, as well as fixed large cannons on central axis of most of the ships ranging from one on the second smallest ships to six on the massive vessel that was presumably the alien flagship. The sheer number of weapons arrays was surprising and more than a little concerning as even the smallest vessels seemed to mount far more weapons than comparable sized warships of other races in his experience. Which suggested to him that both the alien weapons weren't particularly powerful and they needed a lot of them to make up for that lack of power or the aliens had more advanced power sources that enabled them to run a truly frightening number of weapons. Given the advanced nature of the probe he was willing to bet that the latter was indeed the case.
His sensors abruptly chimed alerting him to the fact that the aliens were beginning to thoroughly sweep the surrounding area with a variety of different sensor systems ranging from simple ladar to multi-frequency subspace scans. Alwyn immediately felt his muscles tense as the scans swept ever closer to his ship and he prepared to cast one of his dragon spells as he doubted the aliens would be pleased to find him here spying on them. The scans swept over the space where his ship was concealing itself against the dark backdrop of space and Alwyn braced himself for detection.
Alwyn let out the breath he hadn't even realised he was holding as the ship confirmed that they'd not been detected, that the ships stealth system had deflected the beams around the ship as it was supposed to. For now as far as the alien fleet was concerned he was completely invisible to them, which was a relief as given how advanced they seemed to be it wasn't likely that one of his dragons would have distracted them from capturing or destroying his ship for more than a few seconds as their sensors would have certainly revealed the dragon's nature as a sophisticated but harmless holographic projection.
Movements among the alien fleet caught his attention and he observed how the warships were starting to spread out, fanning out into a perimeter while the city and the other ship slipped into orbit. Once in orbit the city orientated itself so its underside was facing down into the atmosphere before beginning a descent into a far lower, unsustainable orbit.
With a jolt of shock Alwyn realised that the city was actually planning to land on the surface of the planet. Incredible a city-sized spacecraft that can actually land on the surface of a planet and presumably take off again, he though in awe who are these people? Why has the order never seen or heard anything of a race this powerful before?
Feeling like a young apprentice again, newly inducted into the order and getting to see the awesome and terrifying forces the Technomages could bend to their will for the first time, Alwyn waited with baited breath to see what the aliens did next.
A Short Time Earlier
Governor Alison Shepherd looked up from her contemplation of her terminal screen at the sound of Arwen's voice to see that the avatar was standing on the other side of her desk. "Yes Arwen," she asked.
"We've have just received some encouraging telemetry from one of the survey probes we deployed to locate a suitable emergency landing site for the city," Arwen answered. "The probe has discovered a suitable planet that appears to be uninhabited near the outer edge of the designated search grid."
"Which probe and how far away is this planet," Alison asked feeling hope beginning to stir within her. For the past several hours she'd been carefully going over the city's emergency evacuation plans and trying to adapt them to their current situation. Further diagnostics on the shield grid had confirmed that when the Pier Four emitters failed in another twenty-eight hours it would put an incredible amount stress on the rest of the shield grid as the other emitters would expand their shield segments automatically to maintain the integrity of the atmospheric bubble around the city. Stress that the grid wouldn't withstand for more than a few days, eventually more sections of the shields would fail and Rivendell and all a hundred and twenty thousand people on board would die.
While there were evacuation plans drawn up for a cityship should it find itself facing a danger it couldn't escape from none of them had ever been practiced in anything more than an academic fashion. And all had involved the use of the Stargate in one form or another, from people walking through or ferried through by puddle jumper. A situation like the one they were currently in had simply been considered so absurd, so impossible that it had not even been researched as a theoretical contingency. To say it had been giving her a headache would have been an understatement. Something our people will need to address if we ever find a way of getting back home, she thought, though maybe now I don't have to keep thinking and planning how we're going to pull off a full scale evacuation of the city without access to a gate network.
"L17 it's in a star system eighty-one point six light years from the fleet's current location," the A.I replied sounding as relieved as she felt, "all data indicates that the planet is a classic terra-class world. As I said the planet appears to be uninhabited. It should also be noted that the planet is a moon of a gas giant and is very rich in the minerals and ores we would require to sustain ourselves and build a new civilisation should it be determined that we are permanently stuck in this universe."
"It wouldn't matter if the materials weren't present at this point," Alison reminded Arwen. "Right now all that matters is the planet is habitable meaning we can land and repair the city. If the planet didn't have the materials we would need to survive long term we could have always moved the city again at a later date. The fact that it has them is merely a bonus."
"Indeed," Arwen said nodding in agreement knowing even more than Alison that they easily had enough refined trinium, naquada and neutronium in the cities storage silos to replace the power conduits damaged by their violent translocation to this universe.
"Has Admiral Robyns been informed of the discovery?"
"I forwarded a copy of the probes telemetry to the Achilles the moment the initial analysis was completed," Arwen answered.
"A simple yes or no would have sufficed, Arwen," Alison replied with a smile. "Begin preparations for immediate departure."
"Yes, Governor Shepherd," Arwen acknowledged before the avatar disappeared as the A.I set to work preparing the cities weakened power systems for both the stress of hyperspace travel and landing.
Alison smiled before standing up from her desk and making her way out of her office and crossing the short distance to the cities operations centre. "Communications hail the Achilles," she ordered.
"Aye ma'am," the officer operating the communications console acknowledged before mentally giving the command to his console. The response from the dreadnought was immediate. "Hail acknowledged, Admiral Robyns coming on the line now ma'am.
Alison nodded in acknowledgement a moment before a holographic communications screen blinked into existence in the air in front of her showing the face and upper torso of Admiral Jacob Robyns who from the people she could faintly see moving about in the background was in his command chair on the Achilles flag bridge. "Admiral," she said in greeting, "it appears that things are finally starting to look up for us."
"Indeed it does Governor Shepherd," Robyns agreed. "I've been looking over the probes telemetry it appears that this planet is a perfect landing site for Rivendell. Plenty of large bodies of water for the city to set down in and no sign of any current habitation so we won't be trespassing on someone else's turf."
"It does indeed appear to be a perfect site to land the city," Alison agreed, "and it also has the advantage of being very rich in the elements that our technology depends upon should our science teams determine that we are stuck in this universe."
"Yes. That being said I would feel happier sending an advanced scout force to do a thorough reconnaissance of the planet before we take the city there," Robyns said before frowning, "but I do not believe we really have the time to do that."
"You are correct admiral we don't have time for that," Alison replied, "we have just under twenty-eight hours remaining before the power conduits on Pier Four give up the ghost and we lose power to that section of the shield grid. While the emitters in surrounding sections will automatically compensate for the loss of Pier Four's emitters it will as you know drop the cities shield strength below the level required for a safe planetary landing.
"And to make matters worse loosing those emitters is going to put the rest of the shield grid under tremendous strain," Alison continued. "A strain that according to both Arwen and the cities engineers will be unsustainable for more than three days. After that we'll lose the shields and if they go while we're still in space..."
"...so does Rivendell and everyone on board," Robyns finished before sighing and looking down and resting his chin on the knuckles of one hand, obviously thinking. After a few moments of pregnant silence he looked up again. "We don't really have a choice do we."
"Not really no," Alison replied, "we need to land the city and we need to do it soon and this is the only suitable planet that our probes have so far found."
Robyns nodded in understanding. "Then we have no choice but to take the risk," he said, "have you begun departure preparations?"
"We have," Alison confirmed before glancing at the master systems display screen at the back of the operations centre, immediately noting that the hyperdrives that propelled the massive city-sized spacecraft through hyperspace were coming online. "The cities hyperdrives are powering up as we speak," she added looking back at the communications screen, "we will be able to depart for the planet within the next few minutes."
"Very well," the admiral replied before looking to side and giving an order to one of his crew then looking back at her, "I've just ordered the fleet to begin powering up hyperdrives and to plot a course to the planet. If you'll link your navigational systems with ours we'll make the jump as soon as the fleet is ready."
Alison nodded and looked over at one of the crew and nodded. The crewmen nodded in acknowledgement of the silent order and began manipulating his console while mentally liaising with Arwen to establish a link with the main navigational computer on the dreadnought. "We're setting the link up now," she said looking back at the admiral.
"Understood. Then let's get this done," Robyns replied, "good luck."
"To all of us admiral, to all of us," Alison answered with a smile. The admiral smiled back before breaking the comm. link from his end prompting the communications screen to vanish into nothingness with all the fuss of a bursting soap bubble. "Okay people," she said turning to look at her crew, "you heard the admiral let's get this done. Status reports by station."
"Navigation ready, hyperdrives online and ready to engage."
"Life support ready."
"Arwen what's the status of the city?"
"All sections and systems are secure for the hyperspace transit and the commencement of landing procedures upon arrival, Governor," Arwen's voice responded from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. "The fleet's hyperdrives are powering up and a course has been plotted to the system."
"Excellent. As soon as the Achilles signals that the fleet is ready take us to the system," Alison ordered.
"As you wish," the A.I acknowledged as in concert with the navigational computer on the Achilles she would control the length of time that the fleet's hyperdrives would remain active and at what speed they would propel them through hyperspace to their destination. After all while eighty-one point six light years would seem like an extremely long distance to an uneducated person Alison knew it was anything but to them. In fact it was quite a short distance that the fleet would cross in less than a minute with their hyperdrives running at full capacity. A human operator – even with the assistance of the neural interface – might not have been able to react in time to drop the fleet out of hyperspace precisely on target given how short the jump was going to be, a problem that Arwen with her vastly superior reaction time wouldn't have. One of the benefits of having an A.I around to help, Alison thought a moment before a faint vibration began to be felt in the metal beneath her.
"Here we go," she said softly to herself as a faint but increasing humming sound joined the vibration as the cities engines came to their full power. In seconds the vibration gave way to a faint feeling of motion as the city and her escorts surged into hyperspace. A moment later though with a surge of deceleration that the inertial dampeners weren't quite able to completely cancel out the fleet returned to normal space. The sudden acceleration and deceleration produced a momentary but visible flicker in the cities artificial gravity field, a ripple that made people through the city stumble momentarily before stability returned.
"We are secure from hyperspace governor," navigation reported. "We're in a high orbit over the planet."
"Good, well done Arwen."
"Thank you, Governor Shepherd," the A.I responded sounding pleased at the praise.
"Sensors what is the rest of the fleet doing," Alison asked.
"They're moving away from us governor, deploying into a standard orbital formation," sensors reported.
"Governor we are receiving additional sensor telemetry from the probe," Arwen reported, "I believe we have a landing site located. It appears to be a large fresh water lake around the same size as Earth's Lake Superior. The lake is located between the western coastal rainforests and the prairie lands that appear to dominate the interior of the supercontinent."
"Sounds perfect," Alison agreed. "A perfect place to land. Sensors scan the lake locate the best place to land the city, ideally sheltered."
"Yes ma'am," the sensor operator acknowledged hands dancing across her console. In response, silent invisible beams of energy reached out from the cityship, swept down through the planet's atmosphere and carefully scanned the massive lake that probe L17 had located on its follow up surveying scans, searching for the ideal place in the lake to land Rivendell.
After a few moments of patience searching she found what she was looking for. "I have it ma'am," she reported, "it's a large bay on the lakes north eastern shore, a river appears to flow out of it. At its widest point the bay is more than deep enough for the city to land and the current is quite weak."
"Excellent. Program to coordinates into the navigation system then commence landing sequence."
"Yes ma'am," came the response from the respective operators. A moment later a chiming sound echoed throughout the city as every terminal and intercom speaker came to life.
"Warning, warning, landing sequence initiated all personnel prepare for atmospheric entry," Arwen's voice said throughout the city, "atmosphere entry in one minute and twenty seconds. Repeat, landing sequence initiated, all personnel prepare for atmospheric entry, atmosphere entry in one minute and fifteen seconds."
As Arwen's voice echoed throughout Rivendell, prompting personnel to brace themselves for the normal turbulence of atmospheric entry, the city slowly began to move. Breaking the orbit it had previously maintained Rivendell descended into a lower orbit and dropped its speed down below the level needed to maintain such an orbit.
Seemingly in slow motion the gigantic snow-flake shaped spacecraft surrounded by the cocoon of its shields dropped lower and lower, eventually crossing the fuzzy boundary of the planet's atmosphere. Immediately tenuous upper atmosphere ions began encountering the cities shields and flashed to plasma on contact with the coherent energy barrier making the shield glow softly.
The fiery glow increased as the city plunged deeper into the atmosphere and it got thicker and thicker around her. Glowing streams of superheated gasses raced across the shield spreading across the whole lower hemisphere of the shield even as more and more atmospheric atoms were annihilated on contact with the shield forming a seething, roaring sheath of plasma. And still the city descended its speed and angle being precisely adjusted as required by automated systems. To anyone watching it from the ground it would have seemed like a meteor was streaking towards them, trailing flames as the plasma sheath grew hotter and hotter, putting more and more stress on the city shields. Shields that despite the damage sustained during the transport from the cities home universe continued to handle the strain being placed on them by the plasma sheath.
The descent continued and the plasma sheath began to weaken and evaporate as the city entered thicker air. In moments the fire dissipated completely as the city continued its descent passing through the clouds. A shockwave of supersonic wind blasted through the atmosphere for hundreds of miles around the descending spacecraft. Wind that tore apart all the local weather patterns, blowing the tenuous clouds and even the odd thunder cloud apart as if they were nothing. Surface winds were whipped into a frenzy sending native fauna running in instinctual panic, not understanding or even comprehending what was really happening.
When barely a mile remained between the descending city and the ground Rivendell decelerated sharply coming to a hover over the surface of the part of the massive lake that was its chosen new home. Below the wind created by the cities passage through the atmosphere had whipped the formerly placid surface of the lake into a foaming, stormy frenzy. Giant ripples abruptly replaced the stormy waves as the downward force of the cities ventral anti-gravity thrusters disrupted the wave patterns producing the same effect that stones dropped in water would.
With a soft flash the ventral shields deactivated leaving nothing between the metal skins of the cities underside but air. Then with the grace of a descending snowflake in a gentle flurry the city once more began to descend. With a gentleness that would have seemed utterly unbelievable for its size Rivendell's underside made contact with the water sending out the smallest of splash waves as it did so.
Immediately the cities thrusters and engines shut down leaving it floating on the surface. The rest of the cities shields deactivated, exposing the whole city to the atmosphere of the new world for the first time. Throughout the vast city a down-scaling humming sound could be heard as the propulsion and inertial dampening systems powered down.
Rivendell had landed.
That Same Time
Alwyn was sure that he was doing a very good impression of a cod-fish as his mouth hung open in astonishment at what he had just witnessed. He could barely believe that he had been right; the city-sized spaceship had descended into the atmosphere and landed on the surface, choosing a wide sheltered bay on the shore of a massive inland lake as its landing site. The sheer knowledge of science and engineering needed for such an amazing feat was almost beyond his comprehension.
"Galen you and Isabel would have loved to have seen this," he said softly to himself thinking of his old friends as he mentally shook himself back to awareness. Now that the city had landed he had a decision to make, whether to stay here and see if he could learn anymore about this powerful but very mysterious new race or he could withdraw for now, go see the Circle and inform them of this development as it would certainly be of great interest to them. Whether it would rouse enough curiosity from them to put their plans to find a hiding place on hold – at least for a time – he didn't know.
Alternatively I could do both, he thought with a smile before making another hand gesture while speaking a spell. A moment later the ship gave a soft, almost imperceptible shudder as a small, stealth probe was launched towards the alien fleet. As long as the aliens didn't detect it he would be able to use it to watch these unknowns from a distance via electron incantation while he informed the Circle and some others like Galen about what had happened, the incredible things he had seen the unknowns do so far.
His decision made Alwyn began to guide his ship away from the planet, while he could jump into hyperspace from his current position it wouldn't exactly be very subtle as the aliens sensors would certainly immediately detect the jump point opening. To preserve the secrecy of his presence here he would take the ship to the edge of the system and use the outer most gas giant as a shield to hide his departure.
Once in the safety of hyperspace he would begin the journey to the place of power where the Circle met and present them with his ships recordings of what he had witnessed here today. He couldn't begin to guess how they would react to it all but he did know one thing…
…it was going to be interesting.
Authors Note: Well here's the next chapter of the rewrite of this fic. I decided to keep it just like it was in the last version, beyond a little clean up here and there, as the Technomages are going to have a role to play in the future and them having some knowledge of Rivendell's existence is proof of that. Of course when they'll appear in the fic again I'll leave to your respective imaginations.
This is probably going to be the last chapter that is kept as per the earlier versions of this story, I would like to however remind everyone that the home universe parts of the story will now take place in a separate story that will eventually merge back into this one – or its successor if I actually get that far this time – further down the line.
Until next time.