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Gondwana Port

Type: Cathedral class station.
Location: Gondwana System, Southern Approaches (15,000 ly from the Earth).
Population : 110,000
Dimensions: 5 kilometres long, 1 kilometre wide.
Age: 38 years
Environment: Depressurized cities/Ruined Industrial lands
Allegiance: Starmoth Initiative.

1 - The Southern Approaches

[The flow of reality resumed as “Lighthouse” emerged from the suspended time of a geometry translation a mere hundred kilometres away from Gondwana Port. The Inyanga-class vessel hailed the nearest navigation beacon which immediately recognized its Starmoth Initiative hull number and beamed an approach vector to the ship. The navigator ordered to flip the vessel around to decelerate, then turned towards the irenian xenobiologist who sat next to their haptic panel in the command centre.

“First time to Gondwana, mistress Talasea?”

The blue-skinned woman nodded.

“First time in the southern approaches as well. Never been that far in the galactic south…”

As the vessel drew closer to the station, the vast megastructure revealed itself from the blinding light of the nearby red dwarf. Gondwana Port was a Cathedral-class station, a five kilometres long O’Neill cylinder capable of unassisted faster than light travel. Its silhouette was familiar to Talasea and reminded her of her own home station, Phi Clio, which had also been dragged to the Pleiades by way of long-range travel. There was, however, a notable difference between Irenian stations and Gondwana Port. The Pleiades were located 450 lightyears away from the Earth, while Gondwana Port now stood in a trinary system 15,000 lightyears away from humanity’s motherworld. Phi Clio had reached its destination fifty years ago with a single jump that had taken eight years to compute. Gondwana Port had just spent thirty-two years in deep space, surging forwards at the pace of five hundred lightyears a year. In comparison to this odyssey, Phi Clio’s trip to the blue giants had been but a mere stroll.

Gondwana Port still bore the scars from its final translation. The station was followed by a field of debris on a slow decaying orbit, the remnants of the various superstructures destroyed by the rupture of Gondwana’s geometry drive. One of the external arms stood broken in the void, merely held together by the absence of friction. The other reflected the light of Gondwana’s parent star in a strange, almost eerie manner, metamorphosed into a vast weapons array that surged like a dagger towards the void. The main O’Neill cylinder was cribbed with holes created by fragments of realities punching through the fragile, transparent hull and exposing the inside. Even from afar, Talasea could see dead forests and frozen rivers exposed to the void where the countryside sections of the cylinder should have been, as well as small nest-cities gleaming in the middle of a void-stricken orbital metropolis.]

2 - Subspace Lance

[“I work on the big blade in the sky.” said the orbital fixer. She wore yellow and dark blue, the colours of qith Saïmour, incongruous this far out in the margins of the Milky Way. Talasea glanced at her through the water vapour from her teacup.

“So you came all the way from Elora to work on...what exactly? A space bayonet that’s five kilometres long?”

“I was born on Masan, actually. Look, it’s a bit embarrassing but...we don’t really know what we are working on. I know it was installed as a safety measure, right? When our geometry drive broke, we lost our main line of defence against a Sequence raid. Gondwana Port is dead in the water and it’s not like we can just make another drive this far out in the void — not one that can translate a station, anyway. So they took the fragments of the drive and arranged a weapon out of it. I think it’s a weapon, at least. That’s how the station cooperative describes it.”

“Wait, you’re working on it and you don’t know what it is? What kind of engineering work is that?”

The orbital fixer shrugged and her q-augs briefly gleamed in blue as they started their self-cleaning routine, drawing toxic compounds from her skin.

“I’m a power supply specialist. They hired me and my cooperative to make sure the whole thing remains powered, even under stress...but I’ve never been able to view the bigger picture. The only thing I can tell you is that the whole installation draws a lot of power. Way more juice than a geometry drive, even a station-sized one.”

“But you don’t know if it’s a weapon.”

“In truth, no. I’m just repeating what everyone else says, but you know, it checks out. It’s a vast installation that requires very short bursts of power, if you told me it was a five kilometres long railgun, I’d trust you. What I would really like to know is why do they need drive fragments for the thing…”

“I heard Irenians are working on it as well.”

“Ah, yes. I’ve seen a few Irenians, but they didn’t look like you. They had this...I don’t know, sort of detached gaze, as if they weren’t entirely there. And one of them had a q-aug right there, shaped like a triangle.” The worker pointed at Talasea’s forehead. “Never seen anything like it.”

The exobiologist grinned.

“Hypercristal control interface. They’re from Azur. Congratulations...Gondwana Port might very well house the first paracausal siege weapon in history.”


3 - In lands of Islam

[As Talasea walked through the gate to the mosque, she found herself plunged in a sea of silence. Cold colours filled a vast space all around her, with pillars like palm trees born out of a sunless ocean, spreading their branches towards the deepest sky she had ever seen. Gold and silver glittered in this vast en-voided expanse, abstract drawings folding on themselves like ouroboroi. They would gleam and move away when Talasea tried to walk closer to them, as if they had been shoals of diamond-fish; or perhaps stars born in a dark nebula, moving away from some kind of void-goddess. In contrast to planetary places of worship, the mihrab wasn’t an altar. It was a vast, delicately adorned sphere that rotated slowly, in unison with Gondwana Port itself, in order to point in the direction of the Earth. But Mecca was 15,000 lightyears away and in its great isolation the ever-shifting mosque of Gondwana could have very well considered itself as the centre of Islam. That it did not, that contrary to its Christian counterparts it still felt the need to call back to the Earth — that was something Talasea respected. Humility, in all ways, even in the most splendid mosque ever built in this world. Further out in the dark blue void, phoenixes and simurg birds filled the skies with the flutter of their feathers; and above the mihrab was a simple shape, floating in the mist, a cube that gleamed in light blue. A geometry drive.

Talasea briefly remembered a single line in a surah from the Quran: “Travel through the land and observe how Allah began creation.” Such was the geometry drive to those who had built the mosque; a gift from Allah, the tools through which humankind would contemplate and explore the world created by the divine — which was, perhaps, the strongest act of worship an advanced civilisation could conceive.

This too, she could respect. And even admire.]

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