The Laniakea Expedition
Starlight Temple on Station Zero as drawn by Elodie Sauveterre using remote sensing data. It is believed to be the origin point of the distress beacon signal.
The Laniakea expedition is one of the most famous journeys ever carried out by the Starmoth Initiative. This ten thousand lightyear venture proved that long-range one-ship expeditions were viable, cast a new light on the Sequence and uncovered an unknown human civilisation.
Thirty-two years ago the Algorab Organisation commissioned a secret expedition to the very edge of the Milky Way, sending a small group of ships nicknamed "Zero Fleet" seeking for what Algorab believed to be the ancient homeworlds of the Sequence. It took Zero Fleet almost a decade to reach its destination. Or rather it should have because contact was lost as the fleet crossed the inter-arm void between the Perseus Arm and the Outer Arm. The fleet's last message, relayed by a series of Von Neumann probes, was a distress signal albeit it was confusing and unclear. Though Algorab's endeavour was only known to a select few, the Starmoth Initiative immediately answered the call. By chance (some would say fate) a Starmoth Initiative expedition was in its last stages of preparation in Mundis when Zero Fleet's message reached settled space. The Initiative changed the expedition's nature on the fly and what should have been a simple inter-arm reconnaissance run turned into a ten thousand lightyears rescue mission carried out by Inyanga class vessel Laniakea.
Laniakea departed Mundis under the supervision of navigator Elodie Sauveterre twenty-one years ago.
At that point in time, Laniakea was probably the single most capable starship operated by the Starmoth Initiative. Relying on a highly experienced crew, it had the potential to operate for decades in complete isolation and the Butterfly-class modifications attached to its geometry drive meant that it could cross the inter-arm void at a much faster rate than Zero Fleet. However, even for such an advanced vessel, the journey proved to be long and gruelling. Past the surroundings of Mundis, Laniakea was operating in completely uncharted territory and had to create its own reference points for jump targets, relying on variable stars that had to be remapped every hundred lightyears. Its geometry drive proved less reliable than anticipated and the ship had to stop for several weeks at a time to perform emergency repairs. Its only means of communication with the rest of human space were courier probes which were in limited supply. Yet it carried on, leaving beacons and time capsules behind to guide future ships on its path if something was to go wrong.
As it reached the Outer Cygnus arm, Laniakea started encountering deep space anomalies. Sequence-built megastructures anchored around stars or floating aimlessly in the interstellar void that would interfere with geometry jumps, blocking them or sending Laniakea in random directions. Elodie Sauveterre and her crew had to improvise new navigation techniques to go around these neutralization fields which slowed Laniakea even further. After a particularly damaging misjump, the ship had to stop by a habitable planet to make extensive repairs to its frame, using the opportunity to established a small self-sustaining relay that would come to be known as Sauveterre's Respite.
Seven years into the expedition Laniakea had yet to find any traces of Zero Fleet. The fleet had deviated from its intended path and had not left any beacons behind which was starting to turn Laniakea's rescue attempt into a fool's errand. Without faster than light communications the ship had no way to contact Zero Fleet...or what remained of it. As the galactic rim closed in interferences became stronger and Laniakea found itself stuck in an all-aspect interdiction field created by a vast network of megastructures the size of solar systems. Determined to push on and reach Zero Fleet's supposed destination, Elodie Sauveterre took the only possible way: up. Laniakea surged towards the galactic roof to climb above the interdiction bubble. Three thousand lightyears above the galactic plane Laniakea finally found a passage that would allow the ship to keep progressing towards the rim. During its descent, Laniakea started picking up strange radio signals emanating from a system at the galactic edge. These signals were indubitably human. More than that, they were carrying human-readable information. The accurate coordinates of Zero Fleet's final resting place.
But it was impossible, surely. These signals had travelled at the speed of light and came from a system one thousand lightyears away, which meant whoever had emitted them was one thousand years old.
When Laniakea finally reached the origin system it found an artificial Sequence ringworld orbiting a K-class star, right along the galactic edge. The habitable megastructure was home to a small indigenous human civilisation that had reached a technological level comparable to 1980s humanity. At the barycenter of the orbital were the battered hulls of Zero Fleet's ships cratered by ten centuries of micrometeorite impacts.
And then it dawned on Elodie Sauveterre and her crew as they went through the few remaining ship logs. Confronted to the same obstacle as Laniakea, Zero Fleet had attempted an extremely long-range translation over more than three thousand lightyears to escape the Sequence megastructures. This translation, paired with Sequence interference, had backfired completely, breaking the safety measures that usually prevented a geometry drive from travelling in time.
Zero Fleet had reached its intended target.
One thousand years in the past.
Confronted to this unprecedented situation, Elodie Sauveterre decided to avoid interfering with the orbital's local civilization, mark the position of the system and come back to Mundis using the same route it had used to reach the galactic edge - a route that would come to be known as the Laniakea Run. Upon re-establishing contact with the Starmoth Initiative she decided to call the orbital "Station Zero" in honour of the Algorab fleet. Later the same year, Laniakea went back to Station Zero with a complete exploration fleet that deployed beacons to formally establish the Laniakea run as an official deep space route and build two permanent observation posts at Station Zero and Sauveterre's Respite. The full implications of the Laniakea expedition - involving the time-travel capacity of the geometry drive and the Sequence's derelict megastructure empire - are still a topic of active research and remain shrouded in mystery by the Initiative.
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