My pilgrimage to New Growth in the back end of nowhere had led to my peaceful acceptance of the indifference of the universe. Choosing to settle in the region of space that was on the doorstep of my nephew’s last wish for us was melancholic, but meaningful.
The frontier nature of the isolated system meant that the career options were very much at the dirty, unglamorous end of the occupational spectrum. I spent some time mining in my Krait mark II that I’d had shipped over at great expense.
Fortunately, my discovery of deposits of high value minerals like alexandrite and void opals meant that it wasn’t too long before I was back in credit.
But as I drifted through the silent asteroid fields searching for the next motherlode, it wasn’t long before wanderlust started to creep back into my thoughts.
I decided that fitting a passenger cabin and taking some random dignitaries to their dream locations would be a good way to see the galaxy. It was also one of the only other viable career options in New Growth.
One problem. Despite an abundance of would-be passengers queueing up in the passenger lounge, the run-down asteroid facility did not stock passenger cabin modules of any kind. I scrutinised the galaxy map and determined that the closest potential stockist was not, as I’d expected, all the way back in the human ‘bubble’, but across the Synuefe region to another remote, but populated system; Synuefe EN-H d11-96.
So I parked up the Krait and jumped back into the Holyland Express to set off further into the black.
As fate would have it, I soon discovered the reason for a settlement to have sprung up out in the Synuefe region.
I’d passed through a few years before and I’d been unaware at the time of any established human settlements. But that had been very early days in the discovery of ancient ruins. It made perfect sense that the resultant gold rush would give cause for humans to put down roots out here.
It seemed that Michael’s quest for guardian artefacts had found me.
The Fated Quest
And so, rather than purchasing a passenger cabin from The Prospect orbital facility, the discovery of a technology broker on board who promised the very same exotic technologies that Michael had wanted to seek out inspired a poorly researched and ill-fated expedition down to the surface of the planet to investigate a mysterious guardian structure.
I shouldn’t complain, because it was the kind of unexpected, emergent adventure that I suppose I’d hoped for. The unearthly sights and sounds at the guardian site were ominous and otherworldly. I’m sure Michael would have chuckled at my hypocrisy as I started reading the kind of guides I said took all the fun out of solving the mystery.
But honestly, how anyone had originally figured out the bizarre, abstract and utterly impenetrable sequences that unlocked the items that the Prospect technology broker wanted in exchange for the alien tech, I have no idea. Much respect to people with far more brains, patience and time than I had.
Aid from Beyond
After several hours of exploring the austere Guardian Structure (I wasn’t going to go as far as following a map, I wanted some of the discovery to feel like mine), I eventually located and activated the six pylons that were required while doing battle with the sinister, lurking sentinels.
It was some time before I realised that the only reason I’d been surviving the sentinel onslaughts was because my nearby ship, designed by my late nephew, included a roof-mounted anti-missile system which had been cheerfully shooting down the sentinels’ ordnance that had been heading in my direction. It was a bittersweet moment and I inwardly thanked him for his foresight.
The activation of the six pylons revealed a receptor pad by the main structure which apparently required an ancient relic or key to unlock the terminal.
I made many fruitless attempts at jettisoning the required item onto the pad before reluctantly going back to the documentation of previous explorers and discovering to my frustration that this particular site required a different item.
An ancient key which could only be obtained from an orbital beacon in some distant system.
Realising that all my efforts to this point had been in vain and would need to be repeated once I’d obtained this ancient key was more than a little frustrating.
Betrayed By the Trail
Disheartened but determined to see the quest out, I drove my battered Scarab buggy back to the Holyland Express and launched into orbit and onward to obtain this ancient key from the mysterious guardian beacon.
My spirits were finally dampened enough to throw in the towel when I arrived at the admittedly impressive alien structure only to find that in order to interact with it I need weapons to shoot it with. Weapons that Michael had stripped from my ship to improve the jump range.
I impotently floated around the structure attempting to scan things in the vain hope that the previous, more competent xeno-archaeologists had missed something, before admitting defeat and limping back to The Prospect to refit and retire.