The Anomaly

Date: 2954-05-20
Ship: Bifrost (MISC Odyssey-class)
Location: Branaugh system, Branaugh Belt Alpha asteroid belt
Mission GiverCornerstone Exploration and Technical pillars
: Survey and register locations in the Branaugh Belt Alpha asteroid belt that provide the required minerals, in preparation for the construction of a Cornerstone exploration base in the Branaugh system

Branaugh MissionArea

Kiaran Sheppard
Captain, Pilot
Moya Raven
XO, Security
Malcolm Holden
Claire Inara
Alex Burton
Medical, Cook
SmallProfile Kiaran Sheppard SmallProfile Moya Raven SmallProfile Malcolm Holden SmallProfile Claire Inara SmallProfile Alex Burton

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We started our preparations right after Luminalia 2953, and arrived in Branaugh in late January. Our mission was to survey and register mineral-rich locations in the Branaugh asteroid belt, in preparations for the large Cornerstone org operation that will mine and refine raw materials which will be used for the construction of a new exploration base in the system. My usual onboard crew of five consisted of Myself and my wife, Moya, Claire and her husband Malcolm, and Alex, our resident “fifth wheel” as he likes to call himself, despite knowing perfectly well that he is as much a beloved part of the crew as anyone else.

Morale on board was high, and we were all excited to take our cherished Bifrost out on a proper long-term mission again. It had been a while since we had all been together like this, and to run an analysis mission for Cornerstone was the perfect reason to head out and see new parts of the verse! Our daily life onboard usually follows a routine which starts when we all gather for a collective breakfast, followed by a long day of work. Then comes an enjoyable evening of dinner and social activities once the workday is completed. The social evenings are varied, and include various activities from chatting and drinking in our bar in the mess hall to playing table-top games, to playing billiards on our table down in the cargo hold, competing in flying racing drones around the ship halls. Sometimes we race our two PTVs around the garage and hangar floors, along a track which circles the two Furys we have in our hangar bay and our Ursa rover in the garage. On long-term missions like this it is important to have these social activities and not solely focus on the work.


Our mission progress had been smooth so far. We had been out there for a few weeks and were close to having gathered intel for all of the required amount of minerals needed for the base construction operations. We expected the survey mission to be completed within another week.

A couple of days earlier we had finished with another section of the asteroid belt, and then following procedure, we moved to a new section. It is not possible to engage the quantum drive while inside a dense asteroid belt like the Branaugh Belt Alpha, so our course of action was to fly the shortest route by regular thrusters until we got out of the belt, and then use quantum boost to move us along the edge of the belt to another location. Then we dove back into the belt to continue our surveys.

When we arrived in this section, while plotting our course into the belt, Malcolm gave notice that he had registered an anomaly on our sensors. It was a weak and pulsating signal, and the source seemed quite a distance away from us. The signal felt strange, somehow familiar, but still nothing like we had ever seen before. The crew agreed that this was an interesting find, and so we noted the general direction of the source, and concluded that we would investigate this properly once our primary objective had been completed.

Over the following days Malcolm used some of his spare time to register more data from the anomalous signal, to try to better understand it and make sure we didn't lose track of it. Strangely, he discovered that the signal seemed to increase in strength, even though we had been travelling around in all directions within the asteroid belt section, and not in a straight line towards the source. The signal had increased so much in fact, that Malcolm now started seeing disturbances in some of the ship's systems. Our navigation holoview had started to flicker, and we had all noticed strange sounds in our internal comms system. This worried us a bit, but all systems seemed by their logs to be running nominal, so we decided to keep an extra eye on things for the time being, and continue our surveys.

One day, on one of our mineral survey routes, we discovered a large deposit of quantanium. We registered it in our database as a source of fuel for when the construction phase would begin. But we also decided to mine a piece of it right away because our quantanium fuel levels were already low. The Bifrost is an Odyssey-class ship, which has onboard refining capabilities, and the ability to harvest and refine quantanium fuel from mineable sources, making it perfect for long-term missions like the one we are currently on.

On the bridge we started to prepare for the quantanium extraction. I maneuvered the ship close to the quantanium infused asteroids while Claire started up an operator console to initiate the remote operated mining laser. Malcolm stayed on the bridge to oversee the extraction, while he dug more into the anomaly data. Meanwhile, Moya went up to the top floor to start up the refinery, and Alex headed to the mess hall to get started making this evening's dinner.


Alex entered the mess hall and called everyone on the comms, telling us to be quick with the mining work, as he was making Quasi Grazer steaks with vegetables that night, and he didn't intend to serve us cold steaks!

As always, we had a well-stocked ship, with the cargo hold stacked full and prepped to be out for weeks and months at a time. As we set off from Stanton in the beginning of January, we had made arrangements before leaving our home in New Babbage on microTech to stock up most of our required supplies, and on our way to Branaugh we had also made a stop at Archangel Station in the Chronos system to do some trading and stock up on more commodities at my old home station.

Once mining the required amount of quantanium was completed, Claire, Malcolm and I went from the bridge and over to the mess hall to meet the others for dinner. As we sat down, I heard Alex had the ship comms set to play the usual tunes, our favorite classic jazz ballads from 27th century Terra. With us all being native Terrans, and having grown up in Terra Prime, we had a shared interest in the historic bands that had played in the old jazz clubs located in The Blocks district of Prime. As we conversed and ate, behind the sound of the music, we could hear the refinery humming through the hull of the ship. It would run for another couple of hours before it was done refining all the mined quantanium into fuel.

Suddenly, a loud shrieking noise was heard all throughout the ship. Moments later we felt a strong low-pitched rumble resonate through the ship like a wave, making our dinner table shake. Then a loud explosion. The next few seconds felt like slow-motion, then the alarms went off. The ship went into emergency mode and all the interior lights switched to red.

We all reacted quickly - we are a tight team and are well prepared for all types of emergencies. Moya led everyone to the cloakroom suit lockers, where we all suited up in undersuits and helmets, as is normal procedure during emergencies in case of fires, hull breaches, or other dangers. Underway to the locker room, I quickly checked the ship status on my mobiGlas - at first glance I could see some warning messages coming from the onboard refinery.

After we had all suited up, Claire and Malcolm picked up a multitool with tractor beam, and some fire extinguishers, as is standard routine in case faced with obstacles or fires, and headed upstairs in the direction of the source, the refinery room, while Moya and I went to the bridge. Meanwhile, Alex went to the medical bay to prepare, in case anyone got injured.

On the bridge I looked closer into the ship logs. After those first warning messages in the logs a lot of error messages followed - all saying in different ways that the ship no longer had contact with various components in the refinery room. The ship seemed to still have power and there were no error messages for the power plant, but there were several warnings. The power plant had switched to emergency mode, and multiple other systems had gone offline. According to the logs, the refinery seemed to be the main cause of the errors, although the last log entries from it was from the time of the large explosion we heard from the mess hall.
Odyssey Refinery

Malcom called on comms as they arrived at the refinery room on the top floor. His voice was tense as he explained that the two large refinery machines were no longer there. Only pieces of scattered debris could be seen, floating weightlessly in the refinery room, with a large hole in the roof. It looked like the refinery machines and tanks themselves had exploded, breached the roof hull, and ejected into the void of space. The doors into the room had closed and sealed automatically, and there was no way to enter without venting other parts of the ship, as the room no longer had an atmosphere. Luckily, there were no fires to be seen anywhere. The damage seemed, at least on the interior, to be limited to the obliterated refinery room.

On the bridge, Moya and I had started a full system diagnostics check. The diagnostics verified that the power plant was running in emergency mode, and shields, weapons, cooling systems and quantum drive were currently offline. Atmosphere and gravity are priority one systems, and luckily those were still operational. The offline systems were caused by a power routing problem, and the priority one systems in the Odyssey-class have multiple redundancies installed.
I asked Claire and Malcolm if they could go EVA to assess the damages from the outside. They headed downstairs from the refinery deck and quickly egressed out through the port side docking port. They had to be careful as they entered EVA. The ship was mostly lit up by sunlight, but the surrounding asteroids fields created a confusing pattern of moving shadows that could be difficult to navigate and orient in.
They moved into position to view the ship from top, where they saw a large hole in the hull right in front of the hangar doors, where the refinery was supposed to be. The entire refinery was simply gone. Malcolm took photos with the mobiGlas to document the damage. They then inspected the entire ship exterior without finding any other damage, before they headed back inside to meet up with the rest of us and assess the situation.

The entire crew gathered on the bridge. After going through all the log data, our conclusion was that it seemed to have been an external influence that had affected the quantanium ore and made it even more sensitive and unstable than usual. It became so unstable that the refinery couldn't contain the ore long enough to process it. It was the quantanium ore that had gone critical and detonated, taking the entire refinery with it.
We looked at each other and were all thinking the same - the anomalous signal. We still weren't any closer to understanding what it was. Maybe it was a mistake to start up the refinery with the increasing anomaly interferences we experienced. It could have been a specific frequency modulation in the signal that had resonated with the quantanium, there was no way to tell for sure at this moment. We needed to focus on the immediate situation, and to get started on repairing the affected systems.

We organized into predetermined teams to be the most effective. Claire and I headed to the cargo bay to stock up on tools, fuses, and other equipment we could be needing. We performed our damage assessment routine by going through the ship bottom to top. On our way, we diagnosed each module rack for subcomponent damage levels, examined power conduits and capacitors, replaced a lot of blown fuses, and generally adjusted and fixed everything we found to be broken. Meanwhile, Moya and Alex headed up to the top floor to start redirecting component connectors around the damaged refinery section. Malcolm was on the bridge, having contact with all of us on comms. As he got information about systems getting back online, he started each system up from the main controls on the bridge, and then ran through diagnostic checks for each of them. Eventually, all systems including weapons, cooling and shields were getting back online.
Suddenly, Malcolm yelled over the comms from the bridge - the quantum drive was non-responsive! Diagnostics said that it was undamaged and working, but the energy outputs from it showed the same pattern of anomaly disturbance that we had seen in the navigation holoview earlier. Claire and I went to the component room to check on the quantum drive. Upon inspection it looked intact and no issues could be detected, but on closer look there was an unfamiliar humming noise coming from the jump module.

We all met up again on the bridge to reassess our situation. As we considered options, Malcolm looked at the navigation holoview to find the closest aid station, which it turned out was located far away, in orbit around Branaugh II. We all could see clearly that the flickering disturbance in the holoview map was a lot stronger than it had been earlier in the day. Malcolm checked the latest data on the signal and found that the anomaly disturbance was growing stronger by the minute. But we were at a standstill in space and not in motion, wherever and whatever that signal was originating from, it seemed to be moving towards us. I called out that there was no time to think about remote aid stations just yet, first we needed to get out of the asteroid belt. The only propulsion we had at the moment were the main engines, but we decided to start moving away from the anomaly, if so only by using thrusters. We needed to navigate out of the asteroid field anyway before we could engage quantum, so we decided to monitor the state of the quantum drive as we flew out of the field and away from the disturbance, to see if the drive would reengage.

I took a seat in the pilot chair and started to navigate us through the asteroid field. We had to fly through quite dense areas on our way towards the edge of the belt, and we usually held a much lower speed when we were out doing surveys in environments like this. But we wanted to move away from the anomaly as quickly as possible, so now we were going at full NAV speed. Piloting a big Odyssey-class ship through such dense asteroids at such speeds was a challenge. The whole crew were now filling their roles on the bridge, monitoring and aiding in our attempt to act quickly but avoid asteroid impacts.

After a while, as I saw the asteroids pass by, I suddenly got a feeling that we were going even faster than the maximum NAV speed. It felt as if we were passing the asteroids faster than usual. Seconds later I got a speed anomaly warning on one of the MFDs, when Malcolm shouted from the navigation holoview behind me; the sensors indicated that the asteroids themselves had started moving. They were flowing in our opposite direction, like we were flying countercurrent in a stream.

Navigating through a dense asteroid field in stasis was difficult enough, let alone asteroids in motion, potentially bumping into each other in uncontrollable chaos. So I braked the ship into a complete stop so that we could evaluate our new situation. The anomaly signal was now stronger than ever. Whatever it was, it was moving towards us faster than we had a chance of escaping without a functioning quantum drive. Not only that, but now it somehow also affected the asteroids, pulling both them and our ship towards it.

"What is going on!?", I yelled. "Have we come across a black hole, moving through the system?"

Just as I said the words to the crew, we saw a bright flash, then the asteroids outside our bridge windows were gone, the entire ship was shaking, and outside we saw a strangely familiar tube surrounding us, like we had been swallowed by a gigantic space beast.

It wasn't a black hole, it was a wormhole!
We had been pulled into an unknown jump point!

Malcolm shouted; "This must be a new jump point that has been slowly forming over the last days, and it opened up right on our location! I don't think anyone has gathered data on the formation process like this before, no wonder we didn't recognise it!"

Well, that explains a lot! Keep our servers running, we need to log all of this!”, Moya responded.


Inside the wormhole, the quantum drive suddenly started to function again. Whatever the anomaly that had affected it was, it was no longer present now that the tunnel was opened. I had to act fast - at least with the quantum drive working we had a chance to use the jump module to maneuver inside the jump tunnel and avoid being thrown out into empty inter-system space, or even worse, be crushed against the tunnel wall and forever lost in a wormhole.
I piloted the ship to the best of my abilities, complicated even more by the large amount of asteroids that had been pulled into the wormhole and was now traversing it along with us. But I have navigated and mapped many jump tunnels in my life, as long as the ship's components didn’t fail I had this covered. Before the crew had a chance to gather another thought we saw another bright flash, and the tunnel was gone. We had exited the jump tunnel on the other side.

We all looked at each other. No one was injured, we were all ok, physically at least. Then we checked the ship's diagnostics - it seemed to be intact and functioning! Then we heard from Alex; “We have all of that logged, right?! This will definitely get us a paycheck from the Imperial Cartography Center!”.
It’s logged!” Malcolm responded, and we all cheered, nervously, as we looked at each other, all with the same expression on our faces - “where are we?!?”.

The anomalous signal that had affected our systems was no longer detected. Whatever signal disturbance the jump point radiated during the formation process, it seemed to be part of that formation, and was no longer present once the wormhole had been established.
But then the navigation system alerted us of another error. On the holoview we saw in blinking red, the text; "Error - Unknown Coordinates".

Malcolm checked the navigation console - the surrounding constellations were unrecognizable, and there were no initial signs of any nearby planets. Wherever we had ended up, this place was not in our nav database.

In our immediate surroundings there was just blackness, with nothing but us, the jump point entrance, and a few asteroids that had made it all the way through from the other side of the wormhole. In the far distance ahead I could perceive the faint glow of a star. The nav computer estimated it to be at least two hundred million kilometers away from us, but deeper scans were needed to know the exact number.

Alex mumbled anxiously from behind one of the bridge consoles; "we're definitely not in Kansas anymore!".

My mind went in full exploration mode, and together with Malcolm I dug straight into the analysis. Our initial scans cataloged it to be a variable spectrum type star, easily recognisable by its fluctuating luminosity, even at our remote distance. This was indeed an interesting discovery because, as far as we know, we only have one known system hosting a variable star in the verse, the Nul system. Further scans revealed it to be a so-called p-mode variable star, where the pulsation occurs deep inside the star and the restoring force to create the contraction phase of a pulsation is caused by a build-up of pressure. As far as I could recall, the Nul system star is the other type, a g-mode variable star, where the pulsating force is caused by gravity waves.

I was abruptly pulled out of my analysis-mode as all of a sudden Malcolm shouted; "I’m detecting the anomalous signal again - it is back, only now the frequency modulation is reversed. Based on our previous experience I think there can be only one explanation to this - the jump point must be collapsing!!".
This time the buildup went much faster, and before we had a chance to react, and re-enter the jump tunnel to travel back, we witnessed the nav holoview and bridge MFD screens flicker more and more intense, and through the bridge windows on our starboard side we could observe the glowing entrance to the jump tunnel as it suddenly dissipated into nothing.

"Oh shit!!!", we heard from Claire - "what if that was our only way back?!".

Once again we had to assess our situation. We were floating in space at unknown coordinates. By our initial calculations we had been ejected out into an unknown star system. Ship systems were operational, but due to the refinery accident we were low on both quantum and hydrogen fuel. Our range was extremely limited. The jump point we came through had just collapsed.

Suddenly, through the bridge windows we saw the distant vibrating star go dark and disappear from view, as it became occluded by something. After a few seconds we saw a contour of starlight shine from behind and enfold around a large object. It was blocking our light, and it was coming towards us. As it approached, Moya shouted loudly as the first to recognise what it was.


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