Prologue: Dawnhammer

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Terris stared at the golden dot that hung in the air, his heart hammering slowly, powerfully in his chest. He could feel the hair on his neck and arms standing tall against his skin as if the excitement were enough to cause them to flee his body. His head swam with visions of an ancient ship. The deep rolling voice of his History teacher from primary school recounted the heroic tales of the Guardians, their prowess and skill echoing across the void of time to create a fantastic universe in the minds of the young.

His breath shook when he released it. He hadn't realized he had been holding it. A few blinks from his red rimmed eyes told him that the golden dot was not imaginary. An arcmap had been generated in the confines of his tiny study. Grey shapes hung here and there, ghosts of debris and rock that massed in a long, loose ring far outside the gravity well of Jupiter. Deep Sol. That's what the off-worlders called it. So vast was the distance to the outer solar system that it remained largely uncharted. Few parts had been thoroughly explored, mostly in survey missions for mineral or material. As far as Terris was aware, no one had ever gone Deep Sol already knowing what they were going for.

But he was going to. He stared at the golden dot that hovered by the viewport. The distance to the opposite wall was only ten feet, but the arcmap calculated it in billions of miles and adapted it to the size of the study. The green dot by the door was Earth. Just a millimeter away was Pandora, the largest space station in Terran space. Somewhere between the green of Earth and the blue of Pandora was an imperceptible red dot, one nothingth of a milimeter inside the massive arcmap. Terris knew it was there, even if he couldn't see it. The salvage yard in the 7th octet of Earth's habitable zone.

The salvage yard had been in his family's possession for so many generations that no one truly knew the original owner. Because it existed before Terrans enacted the Octet system to dictate partitions of space around their homeworld that people could colonize, the Yard was grandfathered out and retained it's independent operation status. Besides, with the sheer amount of salvage in the yard, it simply wouldn't do to move the whole thing into the industrial octet and clutter it up. There were several other yards in the 7th, but there was so much salvage in-system that they all kept to themselves. After his father passed away two years prior, the yard fell to Terris, as the oldest son. There were siblings, but none were interested in the life of an operator. Terris still gave a percentage of the profit he earned to his two brothers and one sister, though. It wasn't much, but it was enough to cushion their lives as they found their own ways in the universe.

He thought briefly about whether or not to send a message to one of his siblings. He stared at the gold dot that hovered by the window. The information he used to pull the coordinates for this particular ship had not been strictly legal. He opted not to send the message so as not to get anyone in trouble. The favors that he called in were many, most of which could be considered breaking, or at the very least, rigorously bending the regulations that governed solar trade and transportation. While he had never been charged with even a misdemeanor, he knew that some of his exploits could have generated interest in the yard and caused him to lose more than a few good clients.

But it was worth it. The information to locate the ship came directly from the Terran Historical Archives. It was complete, unedited, raw footage of the final battle of the Dawnhammer, the only Guardian ship ever lost in combat. Due to the sheer amount of debris generated by the battle, it was always thought that the Dawnhammer was destroyed. Terris watched the "official" video hundreds of times in school, and never saw evidence of the ship exploding, imploding, or otherwise. It seemed to have simply disappeared.

Reconstructing that battle was a labor of love. He learned the names of the pilots that engaged the Dawnhammer. He learned strategies and tactics. He watched and learned all he could, but it wasn't enough. Something was missing. The extended sensor readings obtained from the archives gave him the information he needed. The Dawnhammer had drifted out of range. Sensor readings from now defunct facilities were gathered and painstakingly analyzed. After years of study, a golden spot of light generated by an arcmap was the only testament to his perseverance and dedication.

The Dawnhammer had been found. And it was his for the taking.


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