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July 4, 1969Edit
Stellar Observatory Mount Sinai, Lagrange Point L2Edit
It was, ironically enough, the Order of the Talon that first noticed the problem.
In hindsight, there was good reason for it. The other powers were active in the void, but simple celestial astronomy was no longer a concern for them. No, to them looking to the skies meant planning or countering orbital strikes, exploring the moon, or planning an interstellar voyage. None of them truly practiced sailing by the stars anymore. The Order of the Talon, on the other hand, was thinking about giving that age-old term an entirely new meaning. Vast sails were being fabricated in Australia, of a material quite unlike simple canvas or cotton. They were intended not to catch wind, but the celestial radiance of the Sun... and massively high-powered spectrum generators the Order was still in the process of developing from stolen knowledge and preparing colossal steam generators to power. The Order had been to the holy void before, firing probes deep into space with enormous space cannons, one of which the author Jules Verne had witnessed and used as the basis of his work From the Earth to the Moon. Who looked for an elegant construct of gears and Talon Steel in the void, after all? They broadcast no radio or other signals that the other powers of the world would recognize. Primitive technology, and dangerous for the celestial explorers, but effective.
Aboard the Talon space station Mount Sinai, positioned at one of the Langrange points between the Earth and Moon, a complex array of telescopes studied the stars. Celestial navigation: not just for craft sailing Earth's oceans anymore. In the Leviathan Deep, resting place of the Order's sacred archives, were the most complex and detailed charts of the stars that mankind had ever developed, and every day they grew more thorough still. Even now, additional space telescopes were in the process of being constructed for the purposes of being launched to very specific points around the Earth and linked together electronically. The result, the Order hoped, would be a feat undreamed of: a gestalt telescope the size of the Earth itself. It was an acolyte manning one of Mount Sinai's telescope arrays that noticed an odd discrepancy between that day's surveys of a particular quadrant and those of the day before. A minute discrepancy, to be sure, but an odd one. A black space where there had been a point of light before. He checked and confirmed results with his supervisor, and Mount Sinai sent a priority alert to the Sanctum Majoris.
The star Delta Pavonis had disappeared.
July 8, 1969Edit
Stellar Observatory Mount Sinai, Lagrange Point L2Edit
Three more stars had disappeared, none close to Delta Pavonis. Tau Ceti, Wolf 359, and Capella. Wolf 359 was the one of particular concern, being one of the closest stars to Sol. No order or methodology to the disappearances. Tau Centi, however, was visible to the naked eye. The other powers might become aware that there was something wrong.
Another high-priority alert was sent to the Sanctum Majoris.
The masked, white-haired woman standing before the Board of Classics inclined her head. "Yes, my lord?"
"There is a problem concerning the Order of the Talon." The Director, the Board's most common public face stated in a quiet whisper. "I do not believe you have experience with space flight, do you?"
He hardly needed to ask. The Director, after all, knew more about the faceless leader of the Board's enigmatic enforcers than she herself did.
"I am adept with Allied, Soviet, Imperial, and Chinese spacecraft and trans-atmospheric transportation, but you have never deployed us beyond the atmosphere."
"It may be necessary in the imminent future."
"My will is yours."
"Take two of your finest sisters and report to Brasilia as soon as possible. Bring full carapaces and gladii."
Brasilia was one of the Allies' central space launch facilities, and the gladius was a rather unpleasant weapon issued to a very select group of Syndicate personnel.
"Your command once we reach the site?"
"Await further instructions. You are dismissed."
The leader of the Lampades inclined her head and left the room.
Gate of Heavenly Peace Starbase, Lagrange Point L4Edit
The Chinese were also aware of the phenomenon. And, for that matter, of the Order of the Talon's space program, though the Star Fleet had no idea what the fantastical spacecraft they saw represented. The Star Fleet was even aware of Mount Sinai's astronomical surveys, and out of idle curiosity Admiral Kilong had tasked a small group of clones with following the surveys with the star base's own telescopes. After half a dozen clone astronomers per day had been executed for reporting discoveries that their supervisor dismissed as flatly impossible, the supervisor finally brought the matter to Admiral's attention.
"You discovered this yourself?" Kilong asked the supervisor.
"Of course. The clones noticed something unusual, but they didn't even consider the simple possibility that the stars had disappeared."
"I see. Your thoughts?"
"A weapon, perhaps. Distorting our sensors in preparation for completely blinding the station. Or maybe psychological warfare. The clones were certainly riled up by the possibility of the stars truly disappearing."
"Which, as we know, is flatly impossible. Is there a chance this is a simple malfunction?"
"Not a significant one, and I have been checking the instruments myself."
"And you believe the chance of this being a genuine astronomical phenomenon to be marginal?"
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Someone must be testing us..."
As her subordinate left, however, Admiral Kilong couldn't help but wonder if this might just be real. What would it take to snuff out stars...
July 9, 1969Edit
Stellar Observatory Mount Sinai, Lagrange Point L2Edit
Another star had vanished. Altair, brightest star of the Aquila constellation.
The Sanctum Majoris was still concerned, but not overly so. Some days previously, events that would shake the world had begun. The men and women aboard the Talon void installations were largely left to their own devices.
Legion Security Branch Office, Toronto, CanadaEdit
The web was buzzing with speculation on the stellar disappearances, Praetor Alessandra d'Angelo noted without surprise. The Allied Nations had yet to issue a definitive statement on the matter, but amateur astronomers had noted the disappearance of Delta Pavonis, then the others. There was the usual religious nonsense, proclaiming it to be the end of the world or onset of the Rapture and all manner of similar nonsense. And where there were genuine religious nutjobs, there were businessmen making lots of cynical money off of people's fear and uncertainty. Drug sales were climbing steadily, and Legion Security was considering several business opportunities created by the situation. A good scare like this was great for business but hard to manufacture on demand.
For Alessandra d'Angelo, however, it mostly meant preparing for a possible deployment. If this was all some sort of elaborate hoax or the like, Legion Security would have a bit of an egg on its face, but the corporation's policy was to be prepared for large-scale deployments at any time, and Alessandra had been sent to North America. Canada was pleasant at this time of year, at least.
The odd thing was that she had been told to expect deployment to the northern Pacific coast of the United States, and Alessandra hadn't had any luck figuring out what Legion would deploy to that region for. Not much Confederate activity, the Imperial front had been militarily quiet for a while, the Soviets were more preoccupied with kicking the Empire out of Kamchatka than mounting an amphibious invasion of the American west coast, the crusader maniacs weren't active in that region...
Alessandra glanced over the data streams. There was nothing remarkable about the American Pacific Northwest at all. Some high-tech Allied research centers there, but that was nothing unusual these days. The influence of the Silicon Valley and Las Vegas Sprawls died before they even hit the borders of Oregon.
Yet for some reason the very highest levels of Legion Security expected conflict in that region, and wanted one of the corporation's elite Praetors to be on hand for said conflict...
Abandoned Research Facility, Somewhere on the Kamchatka PeninsulaEdit
"My God." Shogun Kaida Ogasawara whispered as she looked around the room. "This was their lab?"
"Yes, not that there's much left of it." Her guide confirmed.
The Empire had discovered the facility some weeks ago, a fiendishly well-hidden underground bunker. The Shinobi who had found it reported the facility to be empty of human life, but noted that he heard strange sounds within the facility that sounded like badly distorted human voices, and odd movements out of the corner of his eye. A more thorough Imperial survey of the bunker yielded no such results. Merely an abandoned Soviet research lab, evacuated in a hurry. Probably in the face of the Imperial assault, the Shogunate decided.
That was not to say there was nothing disturbing about the facility, however. The bunker had sustained extensive damage of unknown source, the walls and furniture warped and oddly misshapen. A folding metal chair, somehow shrunk to the size of a child's toy but upon analysis was confirmed to have originally been a standard Soviet piece of furniture. How it had been transformed, and permanently, was unknown at this time. Best guess was that the Soviets had been attempting to reverse-engineer certain Allied technology, and got more than they had bargained for.
And then there was the literal writing on the walls.
They had been drawn with whatever had been handy. Markers, pens, pencils, paint, and more disturbing substances. The ones determined to have been written by smeared human excrement were bad enough, but then there were the ones done with human blood and other, less readily identifiable, bodily fluids. Shogun Ogasawara, a veteran mecha pilot, kept her breakfast safely in her stomach, but some of the other officers assigned to this mystery hadn't been so capable. She could read Russian fairly well, but privately wished she hadn't.
IT SAW US was drawn on the inner wall of the main lab in thankfully mundane paint. THEY DOOMED US WHEN THEY OPENED THE VEIL was splashed across the floor in a substance Ogasawara didn't care to identify.
"Shogun, you aren't going to believe this..."
Ogasawara followed her guide into what had clearly been a test chamber of some sort. On the floor was... was...
"Written" with human entrails on the floor was a simple message. And the entrails were very, very fresh...