When a series of linked murders forces GalCop to outlaw the shadow organisation known as 'The Dark Wheel', a mysterious top secret document must be found in order to stave off a galactic conflict. The document contains a devastating secret; the key to domination, power and control. A secret as old as space itself, the location of the legendary planet 'Raxxla'.
Larais was not a beautiful planet, in fact the Galactic Census entry was short, somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’ and to the point – 'This world is a revolting dump.'
As accurate as this currently was, the description didn’t do justice to the planet’s past. Long ago it had been an industrial planet, churning out fusion energy products: drive cores, reactors, missile warheads and the like. It was the centre of an atomic industry shipping products all around the eight galactic regions and one of the richest planets in the quadrant. Virtually the entire surface of the planet was covered in factories, power plants and vast condominiums built to house the billions of dependent workers.
A downside of this was severe pollution, but huge atmospheric scrubbers kept the air breathable for the most part, although a constant thick orange haze of hydrocarbons blanketed the planet in a permanent shroud.
Then, Quirium was discovered.
Easy to store, easier to use, easier to make. A far more powerful fuel.
Within a short space of years atomic power was obsolete. The atomic economy crashed abruptly and a billion individuals found their livelihood gone, the foundation literally pulled from beneath them. Larais became a ghost planet virtually overnight. The huge buildings were abandoned, left empty and open to the elements. Everything of value taken away, and later looted by privateers.
But the big atomic fusion power plants were too big and too expensive to dismantle. The economy was in tatters and there were other pressing priorities.
Initially it was planned to shut them down gracefully, but the cost of working on the planet became prohibitive. The desire to preserve anything as the mass exodus ran its course lost momentum and eventually fizzled out entirely.
The reactors went unattended, broke down and ultimately poured their reactants into the atmosphere. The scrubbers had long before ground to a halt. Everything on the planet disappeared into the deepening orange haze and was forgotten for generations.
Three centuries later it was accidentally discovered that an airborne plant growth was feeding on the thick hydrocarbon haze, creating incredibly fine, yet strong, filaments which could be woven into dazzling garments of extraordinary grace and beauty. Huge anti-grav combines were built to harvest these tenuous plants, eventually resulting in a reasonably strong agricultural economy as the Galactic Co-operative came to power.
Down in the haze, underneath layers of high pressure poisonous gas and smog, the surface of the planet wasn’t entirely quiescent.
The native species had been a type of semi-intelligent rodent. It was assumed by most that it had perished after the industrial collapse, but no one ventured down to the original street level to be sure. Not even the hardiest of anthropologists were keen to examine what three hundred years of poisonous gas and radiation might have resulted in.
Amidst the crumbling remains of a broken and vanished industrial past, Galcop had constructed a virtually impregnable high security prison.
Designed to hold prisoners requiring absolute secrecy, it was completely automated. Guarded by intelligent machines, immune to corruption, bribery, boredom or loneliness; carrying out their tasks without thought of change or variety.
Few knew of its existence, and fewer cared. Only those whose jobs required occasional attendance were able to approach in specially modified Adder class ships, particularly designed to manage the pressure of the turbulent and polluted atmosphere.
One such ship had recently dropped out of witchspace and was quickly approaching the planet. There were three occupants: two Galcop pilots and a passenger.
'Secure from torus drive,' the first officer noted. 'Co-ordinates for docking location locked in. Autopilot steady.'
'Atmospheric shielding?' the Captain asked.
Part 1: Status Quo
Part 3: Incursio
Part 4: Finis