High above the INSL pyramid floats the International Space Station. The station, launched about five years ago, marked the culmination of years of research and unprecedented international cooperation. It hovers about 21,000 miles from the planet’s surface, locked in a geosynchronous orbit. Now, however, a new project has been launched from the space station that has heretofore proved impossible . . . a space probe that has survived beyond the 32,000 mile barrier.
While many of the nations of Valhalla had space flight experience in the world before Valhalla, nobody had been able to successfully launch a probe that reached deeper in space than the famous 32K barrier. Space vehicles launched using technologies that are available in Megalopolis or even the Allied Nations failed once the probe began to approach that threshold. Nobody has been able to explain this phenomenon. It is because of this strange fact, however, that so many nations joined together to create the space station.
It was only about fifty years ago that the people of the Allied Nations decided to start exploring space. The years before that were too filled with recovering from the Great War to spend much time on space travel. Though it was believed to be technologically possible, there was little political will to earmark funds for such a venture while the nation’s infrastructure remained in disrepair. Later, threats of war between Narodnaya Strana and the Axis Nations forced funds to be funneled into more timely pursuits. The INSL ban on weapons in space and the creation of Tech Zones meant that each nation could rest assured that no other nation would be able to deliver a crippling assault from space, therefore a “space race” to install such weapons never occurred.
It was only when the current era of stability arrived that the possibility of journeying to the stars became a real option. The Allied Nations, Megalopolis, and the Gorgonians worked separately on the issue for many years. Each nation kept successes and failures a tight secret. It was only when they began to trust each other and share their secrets that they realized that they were all suffering from the same enigmatic problem . . . technological tools that began to fail the further away from they got from the planet. Some would fail outright, exploding dramatically on the launch-pad. Others would break apart in the atmosphere or on the edge of space. Still others would survive a launch into space, but then would suffer massive system failures as they plunged deeper into space. Some scientists mused that it was almost like the Tech Zones extended into space, a fact that was heartily refuted by the INSL.
Despite the assurances of the INSL, a definite link between the zones and the space probes did appear to exist. Through trial and error they learned that the best chance of a successful launch could only happen if the launch came from a Tech-Neutral Zone. This, of course, meant that all launches must be performed either at sea, or on Ada-Kar.
The INSL’s continued protests did little to stymy the indignation of the various member nations, in particular the Gorgonians, who regard any interference in their vast technological knowledge as a sign of aggression. In the hottest debates the Gorgonians accused the INSL of purposely subverting their technology to prevent them from leaving the planet.
All of this tension and rhetoric did achieve one thing that would have previously been impossible. It enabled a meeting of the minds between cultures and races that would never have normally joined forces. The Allied Nations, Megalopolis, and the Gorgonians joined together to find a solution to the problem. Ultimately these endeavors culminated in a scientific breakthrough that proved that these interferences with technology did not come from the Tech Zones, but from someplace off-planet, in the dark reaches of space. While this discovery frightened many who understood its implications, it also brought the INSL out of its belligerent silence to help study the problem.
Together the brightest minds of the world came together with the joint purpose of breaking out of our earthly sphere and exploring the forces working to keep us bound to the planet’s surface. This would set off a chain of events that culminated in the creation of the International Space Station.
Today the space station hosts a rotating group of people from across Valhalla. Studies in science as well as magic have greatly increased the world’s knowledge. Rockets to space have become obsolete as the Gorgonian technology of Teleportation allows instant travel between the station and the INSL pyramid that rests so many miles beneath it. In fact, the blue light that shines from the top of the INSL pyramid is a booster beam that enables teleportation to such a distance.
Despite these breakthroughs, however, little has been found that can explain the extraterrestrial force that is interfering with objects as they move away from the planet. In fact, for years nothing has been able to extend beyond 32,000 miles from the planet’s surface. Instead, every attempt to send probes beyond this point ended in disaster. Until now, that is.
On Monday, VLISS (the Valhalla League of Inter-Stellar Studies) announced that they are still in contact with a probe that has breached the 32,000 mile mark. It was achieved not with technology or magic alone, but by a combination of the two. The probe itself was designed as a small sphere, less than a meter in diameter. The outer shell is made of iron, ceramics, and high-density plastic, upon which many mystical runes, wards and protections were etched. Along with this are four levels of monitors: one emitting radio waves, the next plasma energy from Megalopolis, the third, phase communicators from the Gorgonians, and the last a small mirror imbued with a spell that enables conjurers to see through it within their crystal balls.
Together it was hoped that one of these modes of communication would enable the scientist to see what would happen when the probe reached the 32,000 mile mark. Would one technology fail before the others? Which would last the longest? To everyone’s surprise, however, the probe not only survived the passage, but continues to survive.
How long will it continue to function? That is the big question that the scientists are asking themselves. They are unsure if this is a one-time event, or if somehow the boundaries of navigable space have expanded. If so, why? Is there a force keeping us here on Valhalla? And if there is, is it the same force that brought us here to begin with? And that, after all, is the biggest question there is.