It’s the fifth age of expansion and the sophants of the known worlds are again sending out planetary expeditions. With the invention of the precision proton caliper thousands of new hyperlanes have opened to stars that were once unreachable. But not everyone is happy about this. Many worlds still show the scars of the fighting and overexploitation of the third and fourth age of exploration and dozens of worlds mave memorial markers to failed colonies. Whilst the sophants now have many treaties and organisations to manage the lessons learned these are focused on avoiding conflict between sophants rather than integration between the imported and the native. So far no new sophants have been found but given how prevalent intelligent life is on the known worlds, its discovery is only a matter of time.
The Emerald Rift is a long thin nebula with a haunting green glow. A stellar nursery that has finished producing new stars, there are 300 suns tightly packed into the nebula. Long range scans indicate an abundance of planets which could be sophant friendly. Such young worlds are particularly prized as their primitive ecosystems are much easier to mold than billion year old established habitats. But the dozen or so scouting companies contracted to explore the Emerald Rift are all reporting the same thing. The nebula is closed.
There’s a fleet of starships in the nebula and they interdict any ship that comes within a hyperlane jump of the Emerald Rift. They call themselves the Greenkeepers and their message is simple – the planets of the Emerald Rift are not available for exploration, exploitation or colonisation. The spread of sophants across the galaxy is doing too much careless damage and these young worlds should be left alone to develop by themselves. Kravchenko Mercenary Command tried to put this to the test, sending their pocket private battleship, the Tsypkin. It returned a week later to KMC’s depot, ensnared in vines and undertow by a greenkeeper tug.
What makes the Greenkeepers particularly unique is their use of biological engineering. Their ships appear to be almost entirely made from biological materials and there’s strong indications that they may actually be living trees. The only purely mechanical part of the vessel appears to be a standard drive core with hyperfins. The Tsypkin’s crew reported that two squadrons of light destroyers engaged them at close range. They describe the hull being bombarded by millions of tiny needles which then sprouted into the entangling vines that blocked and crunched the ship.
The mood of the sophant government community is currently to leave the Emerald Rift alone, as the Greenkeepers have asked. There are many many other worlds available, so there’s no pressing need for the worlds of the Emerald Rift. The datanet is rife with discussion about motivations and backgrounds. The conspiracy theories and ideas about a new sophant are mostly wrong. Mostly. The Greenkeepers were actually formed decades before the start of the 5th age of exploration by interconnected groups of concerned citizens. By chance one of their number has made some paradigm changing biotech advances which the group quickly leveraged into both an economy and an aesthetic.
- The fifth age of expansion started before the Greenkeepers were ready so now they need to recruit.
- How do you establish an embassy with an organisation without a known base?
- As the Greenkeepers apparently have the best sensors and tend to escort intruders safely away, they’re a perfect test of our new stealth systems.
- An automated terraforming ship lost during the fourth age of expansion has made its way into the Emerald Rift. Recover it before it does too much damage.
- Test a new herbicide on a Greenkeeper ship.
- Pretend to be an emergency in need of assistance in order to gather intelligence about the Greenkeepers.
Image Credit – Jaye Foster – CC-BY-NC-2.0