Bite-sized Backstory 39: SKYSHOCK (Destiny)
After her meeting with Alice Li, Mara likely returns to her normal routine. She makes timely, unscheduled repairs. She disappears for days at a time as she basks in the starlight shining on the Yang Liwei’s outer hull. And she continues to perform spectacular, death defying acts so she can spread those sensations among the colony ship’s crew. I get the sense that nothing and no one onboard the Yang Liwei could make Mara do something she did not want to do… though, perhaps Captain Li’s observations of her actions and their consequences have lead Mara to tone down things just a bit? We’ll never know, because some days or weeks later, something is detected shadowing the Yang Liwei as it continues its acceleration out of the Sol System.
The Yang Liwei detects another ship of some kind stalking it from 12.5 light minutes ahead. To put that in perspective, the Earth is only about 8.32 light minutes from the sun, so this ship is very far away at first. Over and over again, across an eighteen hour period, the Yang Liwei requests the other vessel identify itself, but the distant contact remains silent as it slips in and out of detection. Finally, Captain Li has had enough. She cuts power to her ship’s engines and orders the launch a distributed antenna swarm. This is an antenna made of many different drones that broadcast from multiple points at the same time. She intents to scare whoever is approaching them with a big, blinding “fusion powered” radar snapshot. Perhaps the Yang Liwei cut power to its engines to divert more power to what would essentially be a powerful “sonar ping” in space.
As an aside, its interesting that the Yang Liwei doesn’t identify itself as “Yang Liwei” but instead uses the callsign “Exodus Green”. This is pretty cool since we’ve heard about a few other Exodus colony ships during the course of Destiny:
- Exodus Black, the colony ship we know best, suffered massive, physics defying navigational errors (probably as the Darkness attacked) and crashed on the planetoid Nessus in the outer solar system.
- Exodus Red was preparing to launch when the Darkness attacked. Its AI sent repeating distress calls as it mused about its role and the likelihood of its impending destruction.
- Exodus Blue attempted to launch but was either shot down directly or, perhaps more likely, it too was unable to navigate when the Darkness attacked and, like the Exodus Black, it simply crashed. (This was a Destiny 1 Crucible map.)
But before all the preparations can be made for the launch of their sensor drone swarm, the Yang Liwei’s communication officer relays some deeply unsettling news. The officer has picked up a transmission consisting of a tight beam of faster than light neutrinos focused solely on the Yang Liwei. It’s a message from Rasputin declaring a CARRHAE WHITE state of emergency. If we dig back into some of Destiny's earliest lore we quickly find Ghost Fragment: Darkness. This is a report from Rasputin as he declares CARRHAE WHITE and takes command of Humanity’s defenses. Reading through that report from Rasputin is a bit tricky, but there’s a pair of old posts by INSANEdrive and myself that sheds some insight on what was going on. And, indeed, our speculations from more that four years ago are now proven right, as the comm operator tells Captain Li that Rasputin has declared a SKYSHOCK event meaning that Rasputin detected a hostile race arriving from outside our solar system, that the entire system is now under Warmind control, and that the Yang Liwei is being conscripted into a military role!
It turns out that Rasputin has ordered the Yang Liwei to do an about face and run its engines at full power until they explode. Rasputin’s plan is for the Yang Liwei to coast back into the solar system and use its big kinetic weapons as ultra long range artillery. Apparently previous Exodus colony ships had mysteriously vanished on their outward journey so, as the newest, largest, and most advanced colony ship yet, the Yang Liwei was outfitted with heavy weapons to defend itself in case anyone (anything?) tried to attack it. Now those weapons have become a small part of Rasputin’s plan to defend the solar system.
Captain Li orders that the distributed antenna swarm they were launching be scaled up and for telescope drones be added to the mix. Telescopes would have had a tough time getting a visual image of a silent, unknown ship millions of miles away, but will be very useful to see what is happening back at the planets of our solar system. Soon, the Yang Liwei’s various sensors and telescopes give them a distant view of humanity’s battle against the Darkness. And it’s not going well. At all. Humanity, at the height of its Golden Age, is losing. Badly. The last sightings of the Traveler show it to be at Earth… and there are high-yield weapon discharges all over the place.
As all this happens, Captain Li makes an important decision. Instead of following Rasputin’s orders without question, she decides to put the Yang Liwei’s next course of action to a vote. They can either follow orders, turn around, and dive into what looks to be an unwindable battle that will lead to the extinction of the human race, or they can run for the stars and hope to carry on somewhere else.
Outside the ship, Mara and her brother go on another spacewalk. They push off and drift down the length of the ship as they talk. Well… mostly its Uldwyn doing the talking. Ultimately, he concludes that they should run. That they don’t owe the rest of humanity their lives or dreams. Mara, however, seems to want to go back. She’s heavily conflicted, its not an easy decision for her, but she feels like a coward running away. She barely says anything at all as she heads back inside the ship, but Uldwyn can tell what her vote will be.
In the meantime, the ghost-like contact that had been shadowing the Yang Liwei has decided to make itself known and has begun to bear down. Somehow, without warning, the Yang Liwei is utterly cut off from the rest of humanity as the space around it is enveloped in a terrifying darkness. The colony ship and its crew experience strange distortions of time and space. The guidance computers can’t make any sense of what is going on. The Yang Liwei’s navigation thrusters fire almost at random as they try to steer a ship that can’t sense up from down. The crew are also experiencing very worrying effects. They can feel themselves being stretched and compressed by weird gravity waves whose origin they can only guess at. But this is not just an odd weapon being fired at them or some effect the phantom ship is accidentally having on them… No, it’s something much worse:
Alice Li has the distinct sense that something ancient and malevolent is operating upon them: a trillion-fingered hand reaching in to caress the very atoms of their being, setting protons a-spin, strumming nerves like guitar strings. A tongue with ten billion slithering forks tasting the surface of their brains. The sense of imminent doom crescendos. She knows, absolutely and utterly, that what is about to happen to her and to her crew is far worse than death. The darkness knows them now. The thing that has come to kill Humanity has their taste.
It’s here that Alice Li does the only thing she can think of. She tries to broadcast a plea of neutrality to the ship/thing attacking them. It’s not even clear that the Yang Liwei can broadcast into the darkness surrounding it, but they try to tell the approaching ship that they left Humanity and the Traveler and they don’t wish any part of the conflict that is going on behind them. Nothing changes. The gravity distortions continue to get worse. So, with what is to be her final act, Mara goes back outside the Yang Liwei. She wishes to die in starlight… but there are no stars to be seen…
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- Bite-sized Backstory 39: SKYSHOCK -
- SKYSHOCK ALERT! - INSANEdrive, 2018-11-06, 13:55