The Skies Discrowned
When unrest was stirring in what would eventually become the Spartan States, contact was made with a planet sized object in the vicinity of a backwater nearspace pathway. The Sol Protectorate sent out an exploratory force, led by the Marika Karu, to verify contact and classify the objects threat rating to human space. When those vessels did not return a larger, more heavily armed, force was sent to establish contact with, and retrieve the data banks of, the Karu. Though the relief force evaded total destruction by a clutch of star angels and managed to retrieve the data, it returned to civilization only to find open rebellion. It was some time before attention was paid to the reef again.
Not only is the Karu Reef composed of strange and unusual minerals, it is also awash with life. Besides the creatures that inhabit it, the Reef itself is alive. In many real ways these reefs are the largest, most diverse pools of interstellar life’s building blocks. This one reef is responsible for more space-born contact than any other phenomena to date. Though the Karu Reef is the only reef with which humankind has had direct contact the Paq have hunted a similar reef extensively for over a century.
From a tactical viewpoint the reef is a series of chambers that create isolated threat areas. Many creatures inhabiting the reef have a tendency towards territorialism within whatever caverns they consider their home range. Not all the space-born are aggressive, though most will lash out if they feel cornered or are startled. Standard predator/prey relationships exist between species within the reef, while space-born super predators have been seen scouring the surface looking for their next meal.
From a commerce point of view the reef is the largest natural profit resource since the oceans or petroleum fields of old earth. Whaling fleets have begun to regularly hunt there, and despite the extreme cost in lives and resources there is great profit to be had. New technologies and goods are emerging from resources harvested from the reef.
Politics of the Reef
The Sol Protectorate has claimed the Karu Reef as its property and maintains a small security force near the reef; however, since the reef gets closer to Spartan controlled space lanes on a daily basis, that claim may soon be contested. The Sol military patrols don’t usually prevent Spartan whalers from hunting here, though they will impose exorbitant licensing fees to vessels not registered out of the Protectorate. The Protectorate security force keeps track of incoming traffic as best as possible, but to wait until the Spartan’s are cleaning a kill before they approach and demand payment. That way they don’t totally break an unsuccessful expedition, and they will even offer aid to vessels that need it, in the way of medical assistance or emergency repair supplies.
When there is good hunting, there’s the Paq. Three different Paq clans have placed range marker buoys indicating areas that they have claimed as their own reserves. The Sol Protectorate honors the Paq markers avoiding the zones, and breaking off pursuit of wounded creatures that flee into Paq space. The Spartan whaling fleets won’t usually engage beasts in the Paq zones but will often continue to combat those they engaged outside of the ranges, if there are no Paq in the area. Opportunistic Spartans also take this rare opportunity to interact with the Paq (without being hunted) and conduct trade while there is more appealing prey nearby.
Recent surveys by the Sol Protectorate security force have detected ruble and signs of advanced tech near the surface of the reef. The Protectorate plans to send an expeditionary force into the reef to identify the tech and salvage what they can. Though the primary base for the reef stationed security force has been rebuilt after the machine attacks it’s position between to is in a poor position to monitor the ruins, so the protectorate has started construction on a battle station that can better keep an eye on that area of the reef.
When the StellarFauna of the reef is captured or slain the beasts have to be slaughtered and stored. Most independent hunting vessels don’t spend a lot of time picking the corpses clean instead they butcher them for the parts prized most highly in their home systems. It is near these killing grounds that slaughter yards gather and disperse.
A more permanent settlement where beasts are rendered and scrap is dismantled. Captains pay a fee to the rendering harbor to shelter there while they are dissectin and rendering beasts.
As the reefs tumble through space, centrifugal force, gravitational shear caused by solar systems or other interstellar disruptions break off large chunks of reef which are then seeded to the nearby area. Sometimes the reef-spore burn up on breaching atmosphere or are crushed by tremendous gravity. But sometimes they find the ideal conditions and start growing a new reef. Unchecked, a reef can devour entire planets and consume solar systems, leaving stars to continue their journey without any satellites.
Reefs are composite colony creatures that consume matter and energy, creating a shell as it grows. As the actual reef creatures themselves die they are usually devoured by the colony, nearby reef creatures, or various parasites that inhabit the reef. This means the greater part of a reef is dead shell, honeycombed by caverns large enough for a skilled pilot to negotiate. The chambers vary from lava tube like stretches to giant caverns, and most are structurally sound.
Flotsam and Jetsam
As the largest known interstellar structure capable of being caught up in the nearspace pathways these reefs have gravity. A thin particle-and-gas haze clouds around the reef while a ring of debris hangs in orbit. Some chunks of the orbiting debris are smaller fragments of the reef itself, while others might be man-made junk or carcasses of dead space-born creatures.