Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The planet Naduskar is a technological wonderland without visible natural surface, be it land or water. At some time in the distant past, an advanced race converted or covered every last piece of open ground.
There’s the mystery: is it nothing but a huge machine sitting upon the remains of the planet, or is it somehow a vast preserve, eternally maintaining an ideal environment for whatever dwells there?
I’m of the opinion they simply didn’t want anything interfering with their grand plan, and engineered accordingly.
“Go for entry.”
That’s Cheimo, over in Golden Hinde IV. He’s the instigator and leader of this venture, and to him the glory of taking the armoured bulk of his brainchild down to make planetfall.
His crew are so enthusiastic, verging on a devotion that makes my teeth ache. If they weren’t so nice, they’d be insufferable.
I reach out and touch Baylia on the shoulder.
“Follow them in as planned, but slow our descent to give them a thousand-kilometre lead.”
Hands flit across the control board, implementing my wishes.
It’s been a long trip from Earth 9. Two ships on a single mission, but of very different purpose. The Golden Hinde IV is designed to bludgeon through the debris rings about Naduskar, and whatever effect causes them. The Challenger XIX will be witness, following in its wake. Eventually it’ll act as space-side support, with the ultimate goal of becoming an orbital base.
My theories about Naduskar led to me being ridiculed, even after I accepted Cheimo’s open dare to join his expedition. Today, I’ll be eyewitness to being proven wrong, or I’ll be vindicated – and a hundred people will die.
“Hestor! You recording?”
“With everything we have, Cheimo. Whatever happens, it’ll be for posterity.”
“Still with the doubts, eh? Look at it! Those rings of debris are from a hitherto unencountered weaponization of Roche limits, I’m sure of it. The dynamic gravity field protecting this ship will obviate it.”
A concept so bizarre I still have trouble believing he won any support. That you can vary the gravitational effect of a celestial body so the tidal forces of that body will tear a chosen target apart isn’t theoretical, it’s fictional. Don’t even get me started on his ‘DGPF – dynamic gravity protection field’.
My postulation is that the creators of Naduskar equipped their world with something we need to observe before we seek to work round it. I said we should send a large, automated vessel instead. Nobody listened.
The Golden Hinde IV enters the outermost ring, impacts from debris sparking across its hull.
Ambu calls out: “Something’s happening. Multiple effects, multiple spectrums.”
I look across: “Their DGPF firing up?”
He shakes his head, then points to the monitor, eyes going wide. I spin to look.
The Golden Hinde IV is gone!
As I think it, debris spurts forth from a single point. Before our very eyes, Naduskar sprouts a new ring.
The replay is astonishing. The Golden Hinde IV collapses in upon itself until only a metre-wide black disc can be seen. That disc flashes white, debris shoots forth, then the disc vanishes.
The AI in our quantum computer considers the event for several minutes – a very long while in QAI subjective time – before advancing an initial hypothesis: a null-point wormhole. Both ends are mapped to the exact same place and moment. It collapses before anything can traverse the internal region: the debris being rejected, syncretised content.
My apologies, Cheimo. Compared to this, manipulating the Roche limits wasn’t such an outré idea, after all.

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