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Feature Spotlight: Terraforming

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ApolloArtemis #1 Posted 21 June 2016 - 11:33 PM

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Our creative team continues the feature spotlight series by taking a look at terraforming from the Bulrathi perspective.

Luka pushed the heavy breathing apparatus off of his face and coughed as the thin air of Kataka Prime hit his lungs. The barren planet’s air was harsh and thin, but breathable. He threw the clunky breathing apparatus over his shoulder and towards the ship with excessive force, narrowly avoiding the senior scientist, Janna. Janna shook her head at Luka’s impulsiveness and kept her breathing apparatus securely in place.

Sava, Luka’s brother in both blood and arms, jumped off the ship with a crashing thud behind Janna. The hard ground beneath his heavily armored boots did not budge. “Seen worse,” Sava’s distorted mumble squawked his mask amplifiers as he began unpacking the gear from their ship. 

Maybe they had, but was hard for Luka to remember an uglier landscape than the one Kataka Prime offered. Bleak and barren, the monotonously grey surface was nearly featureless. There was no dirt or soil to speak of, just solid rock with a light coating of the dust they had broken up as their ship landed. 

Luka scanned the horizon noting the total absence of plant life or even naturally occurring geological features other than endless low, rolling hills for landmarks. There was no sound other than the distant roar of other Bulrathi ships coming in to land and the familiar hum of their own scientific equipment. It seemed unlikely that any hostile life was going to present itself for target practice. It was going to be a long year. 

When the Bulrathi government formed this preliminary terraforming scientific team, they needed the combination of brains and brawn to make the operation a success. Sava, a part-time scientist and mercenary by trade became the apprentice to Janna, the premiere terraforming scientist in the Bulrathi Empire. Luka joined up at first for the cash, but eventually came to enjoy the work. As much as one could so far from any known bar or entertainment district, at least. 

Janna, as stubborn and ferocious as any Bulrathi general, stabbed a monitoring device into the crust with rather impressive force. She lifted her graying head and barked harshly at Sava, “Are you going to sit on your haunches while you let an old woman beat you at your job?” 

Sava rolled his eyes, obvious even under the breathing mask, and joined Janna in setting up pre-fab shelters and soil prospecting equipment. 

Janna was the eldest member of this small expedition. She didn’t bother to hide her disdain for her apprentice and his mercenary brother. She had worked her way up through the academic system in a discipline that was chronically under-funded and frequently mocked. Yet still she had managed to rediscover the lost Bulrathi secrets of terraforming. Her reward was for the Emperor’s elites to ship her off to barren planets across the Empire to determine their terraform potential. Pure stubbornness seemed to be the main reason she got up every the morning, and Luka was convinced that she was going to die in the field during an important mission just to spite them. 

Janna had overseen the initial terraforming efforts of the first successful colony planet, Vale II, nearly fifty years ago. Luka had no idea how old the silver-furred Bulrathi could be, but he wasn’t going to be in grappling range if he ever asked. 

Luka remembered visiting Vale II and seeing a dry and parched landscape. This was after the initial successful terraforming project, which had turned a barren planet into an arid and sandy place, sun-beaten but habitable. How could this wasteland possibly be an improvement? he thought to himself. Yet tough, wiry plants grew there, seemingly in defiance of all odds, and a few equally tough Bulrathi pioneers had established a colony as well.

A new type of flower bloomed on Vale II after a thirty-year terraforming event. Pale blue with long, blade-shaped petals, it was of a species never been seen before in the universe. Janna and her old team had named it in honor of the Hag, then packed up their gear and headed off to the next planet on their long list of potential candidates. 

Standing here on Kataka Prime in the cold, dry air, Luka found himself missing the warm sun and varied landscape of Vale II. Luka could see for miles in every direction on Kataka Prime—and in every direction there was only more of the same. 

The nearby red star cast an ominous light down on Kataka Prime, the crimson light reflecting dimly off the bright red of the Bulrathi ships moving about in the atmosphere. In the distance, the massive colony ship slowly moved in on final landing approach, waiting to drop off the planet’s first wave of settlers. Near the terraforming team’s scout ship were a few other small ships, mostly military vessels providing escort for the colony ship. 

The tips of Luka’s ears and nose were cold, but they were in no danger of exposure or frostbite. It was simply uncomfortable. The thin air felt stale in his lungs, a surreal feeling that Luka would have to adjust to. Luckily for him, he had spent most of his life on a small, cramped station. The sensation of still air and mild suffocation was nothing new.

Born and raised on a Bulrathi satellite station on the edge of neutral space, Luka and Sava had both dreamed of seeing new worlds all their lives. They still had never seen Ursa, but the pride of their homeland and people was deep in their blood. That was the Bulrathi way. They would grow into strong Bulrathi and honor their duty to protect the people, planets, and families. The Hag willing, of course. 

Now they were grown and Sava had been chosen for the noblest job known to Bulrathi: the tending of planets. Not only that, but he breathed new life into them. Luka respected the work and whispered Sava’s praises to the Hag at night before they slept. If Sava was the heart, then Luka would be the muscle. 

Terraforming was science at its most dangerous. Improper calculations could kill everyone on the surface or damage the biosphere of the planet beyond repair. Even when the process went right, it took decades before the results were finalized, there were many projects that Janna, Luka, and Sava might not even live to see to completion. People on the planets lived and died before a barren planet produced a single wild blossom, living in pre-fab shelters and eating non-perishable rations or vegetables grown in cramped greenhouses. 

Yet no other in the galaxy knew the dangers and triumphs of terraforming like the Bulrathi. Ages ago, remembered mostly in stories and in the scars still evident on Ursa, the Bulrathi nearly perished when their home world could no longer support them. It took a desperate act by the planet’s scientists to jumpstart a dramatic terraforming event, and those scientists were killed and their research destroyed in the process. 

Their legacy lived through a healed planet. Those ancient scientists may have perished and their knowledge was lost for generations, but life on Ursa carried on because of their sacrifice. Even the Bulrathi born on distant planets and ships carried this memory as a promise to never take a planet for granted again. The Hag and the Wild Spirits spoke the truth when they claimed that planets were the original mothers of the universe, and each living being is nothing but a mewling cub. 

The loud landing procedures of a nearby frigate snapped Luka back to reality. He watched a few more ships land then stared up at the sky. The absence of cloud cover was strange, but no stranger than the crimson sun that burned quietly on the brink of dusk. 

It was not Luka’s place to seek spiritual meaning in their work. He wasn’t even a scientist. The danger that Luka was assigned to prevent was much more…tangible. 

The sophisticated technology of terraforming was valuable and rare. It had taken Bulrathi scientists nearly two hundred years to refine it to its current level. Scientists with such knowledge might well be targeted by other empires, aliens who struggled to attain such technical insight on their own. Their small team was kept lean to avoid drawing attention and minimize the chance of infiltration. Luka had killed enemy pirates, fended off thieving Mrrshan, scared off Psilon scientific teams, and once even broke the neck of a Sakkra to keep his team safe.

Luka watched Sava set up small drones that would scour the surface for a suitable detonation point. The small robots would find a patch of surface with relatively easy access to the planetary core, then lock down and send signals back to the team. Janna was shouting over the sound of nearby ships landing, gesturing with her massive claws where to send the drones. 

Luka could not help but dream of Kataka Prime covered in rolling grasses and dotted with spiraling trees. The process of terraforming was gradual, having to be repeated for the better part of a century. However, the promise of soft grasses seemed so real at times that Luka believed he could hear them rustling in the wind. It was a worthy cause for his gun or even his life, all that any Bulrathi could ask for. 

danyelle_sniper #2 Posted 10 August 2016 - 06:44 PM


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hey i'm new to this game.......................

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