Star Chart's Edge

Star Chart’s Edge Ch. 1 | Blast Off

The rapid depletion of the planet’s resources, a growing population, and increasingly severe natural disasters forced the Terran Federation to find humanity a new home among the stars.

They initiated operation “Celestial Eyes,” launching one thousand automated probes into the depths of the galaxy. After the discovery of numerous Earth-like planets, the Terran Federation gathered the world’s remaining resources to create three interstellar colonization ships: Zeus, the Ark, and the Tiangong.

After a century of construction at the base of the Kunlun mountain range, those three spaceships embarked on a journey of exploration, carrying the world’s top scientists and the genetic material needed to populate new worlds. On that journey to the stars, they brought humanity’s hopes with them.

As the last ship, the Tiangong, launched, the Terran Federation created a new calendar marking that day as the beginning of the interstellar age.

“To concentrate all available energy into propulsion, the cabin will now enter low-power mode,” a mechanical voice announced over the PA system.

“Oh shit, why’d they turn on low power mode?”

“Why would I know that?”

Hearing the two soldiers next to her bicker, Fang Mobei finished her vanilla latte with one big gulp. “The Tiangong didn’t launch with full SDS reserves, so the ship needs to stop at Triton to resupply,” she said. “Now get up and pack. When you’re done head to the Cryostasis Module. We’re going to sleep.”

“Really, Captain? We just got here. Why are we going into stasis?” Requisitions Officer Bella looked at Fang Mobei unhappily.

Heavy Weapons Specialist Oleg put down his vodka and smiled at Bella. “Oh dear Bella, would you like to taste the wine of true warriors? I swear it will send you straight to sleep.”

“The ship’s flight orientation adjustment is complete. Low-power stasis for combat personnel will begin.” As the PA was broadcasting, there was a rush of footsteps in the hallway.

“C’mon, get to the Cryostasis Module everyone,” Fang Mobei urged.

“Yes, Captain,” the six soldiers said in unison before filing out of the dormitory.

Once everyone left the room, Fang Mobei conducted a final equipment inspection. As the captain of a seven-person squad, she was serious and responsible. She had officially enlisted with the Terran Federation Army at sixteen, and when she turned eighteen, she was selected to join the Tiangong First Regiment. That same year, she became a C-Grade super soldier and was bestowed the rank of Second Lieutenant. There were very few others in the First Regiment that had achieved something so remarkable at that age.

Thanks to the rapid advancement of science and technology, researchers from the United States discovered distributions of unknown energy in the human body. Later, the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that those energy distributions coincided with the meridian theory used by traditional Chinese doctors. After numerous clinical trials, it was discovered that this “psionic energy” could be harnessed using a combination of training and genetic therapy. Individuals capable of utilizing psionic energy were split between two classifications: Super Soldiers that strengthened their bodies and Psychics that enhanced their minds.

After the existence of psionic energy was announced, the citizens of the world were shocked. It was now possible for humans to obtain superpowers that were once considered myths. Some scientists mourned that human evolution would soon be dictated by unstable genetic modification instead of natural selection. 

At the same time, the discovery set off a global psionics fever. However, the use of untested training methods caused several accidents, some of which were fatal. In response, the Terran Department of Military Research outlawed psionic training. After several emergency meetings led by the Terran Federation’s five founding members, a decree was made that only the newly established Terran Military Academy would be able to conduct psionics training legally. As construction on the Federation’s colonization ships neared completion increased the demand for highly trained military personnel, the academy’s name was changed to the Interstellar Military Academy.

As more people received rigorous and scientifically proven psionics training, individual talent and physique manifested as apparent differences in psionic capabilities. The Terran Department of Military Research divided psionic strength into four ranks: C-Class, B-Class, A-Class, and S-Class. The abilities of low-ranked Super Soldiers and Psychics were well known. C-Class Super Soldiers had their reaction speed enhanced, their bones strengthened, and were capable of military pressing ten tons. For B-Class Super Soldiers, the same aspects were further enhanced. For Psychics, someone that achieved C-Class had a localized area of omniscience with a radius of 500 feet. The Terran Federation had marked information regarding higher-ranked psionic abilities as classified.

Only one person out of every ten thousand was able to become a C-Class Super Soldier, and those that became C-Class Psychics were one in a million. This made the Tiangong a gathering of the world’s elite as only those with psionic abilities were selected to serve aboard the ship.

“Captain?” The sniper Ozawa Misa weakly called for Fang Mobei after hesitating behind her for a long time.

“What’s up?” Fang Mobei asked with an odd tone. Looking at Ozawa’s rugged body and tender face, the corners of her mouth grew into a smile. No wonder the other soldiers in her squad fought to run next to her during training.

Ozawa hid a growing blush by lowering her head. “Captain, I have something to tell you!”

“Tell me, what’s the matter?” Fang Mobei, who was sitting on the edge of her bed, patted the area next to her.

“Captain, one of my comrades asked me to give this bag of Brasilia coffee beans to you!” Ozawa put a bag of coffee beans that was hidden behind her back into Fang Mobei’s hand, then rushed out of the room. When Ozawa left, Fang Mobei’s eye twitched.

“That… Oz, I don’t have a coffee machine.”

Ozawa heard the vague voice behind her and started sprinting.

“Seventy-two point six percent of personnel have entered cryostasis.” The PA system announced.

When Fang Mobei entered her squad’s cabin in the Cryostasis Module, Ozawa, who was inside of her cryostasis pod and wearing a hostile environment suit, said, “Captain, how long are we going to sleep together?” 

Realizing what she had said, Ozawa activated cryostasis before Fang Mobei could respond.

As silence replaced Ozawa’s voice, the other five people in the cabin sat up and looked between Fang Mobei and Ozawa’s cryostasis pod with a knowing smile.

Startled by their sudden movement, Fang Mobei yelped. “You, you suddenly… Gah! Why weren’t you sleeping?”

“We were just waiting for our dear captain so we could sleep together.” Zhang Xiaomi, the shock trooper, taunted, adding particular emphasis to the word “sleep.”

Fang Mobei glared at her, causing the hairs on the back of Zhang Xiaomi’s neck to stand up. When the captain’s cold gaze shaved past Guo Kai and Oleg, it felt like they were staring down a beast.

“Someone has a lot to say!” Fang Mobei snapped at her subordinate out of embarrassment.

“Captain… are you and Ozawa dating?” Bella asked, staring at Fang Mobei with earnest eyes.

Fang Mobei was buckling herself into the pod when she heard Bella’s question, so she just threw the water bottle in her hand towards the source of the noise.

Zhang Xiaomi was clutching her nose and looking at Fang Mobei with tear-filled eyes. “Ouch! Captain, why’d you hit me?”

“Ninety-eight point three percent of personnel have entered cryostasis. Second Lieutenant Fang, please enter cryostasis as soon as possible,” Saihu urged while floating next to Fang Mobei.

Saihu was an artificial intelligence housed in a swarm of nanobots that could morph themselves into any handheld object. At the moment, Saihu had taken the form of a spherical shell the size of a soccer ball. Officers in the Terran Alliance with the rank of Second Lieutenant or above were issued a similar AI assistant to assist them during active duty, acting both as a communications officer and a terminal for the military’s intelligence databases.

“Saihu, can you call her?” Fang Mobei said without looking up from the photo in her hands.

It was a photo taken by Fang Mobei of her sister, Fang Wei, during her university graduation ceremony.

Saihu hesitated before saying, “Fang Wei and the other researchers have already entered cryostasis. Would you like to leave her a message?”

Fang Mobei touched her sister’s face in the photo and sighed. “Forget about it.”

Sentimentally, she admired the scattered blue light reflecting off the Earth’s surface.

“Saihu, how long am I going to be in stasis?” This was Fang Mobei’s first time seeing the Earth with the universe as a backdrop. It looked just like the videos she had watched planetside but seeing it in person was a totally different feeling. The vast star-filled expanse that was the universe filled the entire window except for a small blue dot. The strong visual impact forced her to remember how small the Earth was, to remember how insignificant humanity was. Her few decades of life compared to the long journey the Tiangong was embarking were a drop of water falling onto the sands of a desert, swallowed up without even causing a ripple.

“You will be in stasis until we reach Triton in approximately one year, three months, and two weeks,” Saihu said.

“Neptune… That is to say, that when I wake up, I’ll be a long way from home.”

“Neptune is about two point seven billion kilometers from Earth or zero point zero, zero, zero, three light-years away.” Saihu paused, “Your heart rate indicates that you are feeling sad.”

Fang Mobei turned and walked towards the Cryostasis Module. “I suppose when you leave the place where your ancestors have lived for generations knowing that you’ll never be able to return, you would more or less feel sad.”

“Humans are such complex creatures.”

[Tiangong Command Center]

Garrison Commander Li Mingqi’s hand fiercely slapped the table. “This is outrageous! They’re doing this intentionally!”

The Chief of Staff, Tian Xiaoyun, examined the holographic display of Triton. “Take some time to cool off, buddy.” He said, eyes sweeping past the white-haired older woman sitting at the head of the table. “Do you want me to send a team of scouts to investigate?”

In response, the white-haired woman took a sip of tea and chewed the leaves, making squelching sounds from time to time. 

Vice-Captain Maxim watched the woman chew her leaves and sighed. “Admiral Du, can you please chew with your mouth closed? Please maintain the dignity of a supreme commander.” She then glared at Tian Xiaoyun as he studied the holo-display, “And a professional demeanor.”

Seated next to Maxim, Vice-Captain Fan Zhouxin and Secretary-General Misha both took a deep breath and stared at the ceiling, their heads tilted forty-five degrees to the left.

When Tian Xiaoyun heard Maxim, his eyes narrowed. Leaning on the conference table, he turned around so he could see the woman across from him, and in a faint voice said, “Vice-Captain Maxim, obtaining raw materials from Triton to replenish the Tiangong’s reserves falls within the scope of your responsibilities, doesn’t it?”

Maxim glanced at the handsome Tian Xiaoyun staring at her, shrugged her shoulders, and looked down at the holo-display on her arm.

Watching Maxim ignore the anger growing in Tian Xiaoyun’s eyes, Fan Zhouxin groaned and asked Misha: “What’s the situation out there?”

The Secretary-General looked at the faces around her and let out a wan smile. “Frankly, things aren’t looking good. According to the message from Kunlun Central Command, Triton was lost five days ago, just before we were scheduled to arrive. That is to say, Triton’s loss is related to the Tiangong. Put simply… someone on Triton doesn’t want us to replenish our SDS supply.”

Kimura Kazuo, an Energeticist from the Terran Academy of Sciences, was puzzled. “Is someone from the Federation doing this?”

Misha shook her head. “I don’t think so. The SDS mining facility on Triton is officially under the control of the Department of Resources, but according to the Information Department, the actual owner is a U.S.-based energy company.”

“An energy company?” Li Mingqi was shocked.

“I’ve heard about this before. I didn’t think the Department of Resources was allowed to transfer such an important mining facility to a commercial company,” General Igor Ivanov, commander of the Tiangong Army Corp, said.

Misha gestured to her AI assistant, “Retrieve that companies information.” The holo-display in the middle of the table morphed to show several pieces of relevant information. Misha pointed towards a photo in the middle. “This man, Michael Joseph, is the current owner of Triton. In 2027 CE, Mr. Joseph bought a high-ranking official in the Department of resources and then, in 2131 CE, when the Federation didn’t have the resources to supervise the Triton facility, he paid a high price to obtain France and Great Britain’s mining rights.”

“Just buying the mining rights shouldn’t have given him control over the facility,” Kimura countered.

Maxim smiled at the naive scientist. “Mrs. Kazou, if he just wanted the mining rights, why do you think he paid so much?”

Fan Zhouxin sneered. “This Mr. Joseph sure is a bastard.”

“Please don’t mess around you two. Mr. Joseph just had mining rights, so even if he tried to do something, he wouldn’t have been able to with the Federation managing the facility,” Kimura said anxiously.

Tian Xiaoyun carefully studied Michael Joseph’s personal information on the holo-display. “Since 2131 CE, The Terran Federation has only owned the Triton facility in name so, presumably, Mr. Joseph took advantage of the relatively weak management of the Department of Resources to make several small transgressions.” He looked towards Misha for confirmation.

“That’s correct. Over the past twenty years, Mr. Joseph has been gradually transported mercenaries, weapons, and equipment to Triton.” Misha said with a frown, “Since we’ve lost contact with the facility, it’s safe to assume the worst.”

Kimura wiped the sweat off her forehead using her sleeve. “This… this… what should we do?” She wiped her forehead again. “We launched with all of the SDS reserves the Kunlun Central Command had, but their reserves were scarce. We barely had enough to reach Triton much less leave the solar system.”

The white-haired woman at the head of the table, whose chest was covered with military insignias of various shapes and sizes, cleared her throat. All eyes were focused on the Supreme Commander and Captain of the Interstellar Colonization Ship, The Tiangong — Admiral Du Lau.

Du Lau looked up at the holographic projection of Michael Joseph’s face and said, “Yunfei.”

The Space Force Commander Wen Yunfei saluted. “Admiral, please advise.”

“Send a drone squadron to monitor the facility from orbit.” The admiral paused, then said, “Send a starfighter squadron to secure a spot in the orbit of Neptune for the Tiangong.”

“Understood Admiral.” Wen Yunfei saluted, then used her AI assistant to plan a meeting with her subordinates.

“Zhaoxin, once we enter a stable orbit around Neptune, have the ship enter second level combat readiness mode.” Du Lao ran her hand across the rim of her teacup, “Feiqi, send a fighter squadron to conduct airborne reconnaissance.” Taking a sip of tea, she returned to chewing leaves.

“Yes Admiral.” Air Force Commander Bai Feiqi and Vice-Captain Fan Zhouxin answered in unison.

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