The prestigious journal “Interstellar Geographic” has kindly given us permission to republish one of their recent articles on the exploration teams that enter Quantum Anomaly Zones. This article was written with the collaboration of the sphere renowned academic J “Warlore” Wong who has extensively studied the QAZ’s and the individuals who brave them.
Concilium Reclaimers, Acquisitors, Salvagers, Hunters, and Emergency Responders – C.R.A.S.H.E.Rs, or Crashers, is a blanket name for anyone who enters the Quantum Anomaly Zones of Concilium Prima with the aim of recovering objects or individuals trapped within.
Crashers operate at all levels of legality when entering QAZ’s. Some are hired by wealthy O-12 Citizens to recover valuable objects left behind during the initial evacuations of the QAZ’s. Some are tasked by national government agencies to recover the cubes of valuable personnel lost to QAZ’s, either in evacuation or exploration mishaps. Others are legitimate scientific expeditions from some of the Spheres most prestigious institutions seeking to study the unique phenomena reported within the QAZ’s. Then there are those reckless entrepreneurs who enter the QAZ’s seeking anything valuable that can be sold for personal gain.
The initial exploration procedure for all Crashers is the same regardless of their affiliation. An exploration team or single individual will approach a QAZ and attempt to identify a small point of entry, generally a localized weakness in the quantum instability field that surrounds all QAZ’s which are usually just a few centimeters across. Miniaturized sensor probes are deployed, which enter the zone and take readings on atmospheric composition, radiation, temperature, and generally attempt to send back an audiovisual recording of its immediate surroundings within the QAZ.
Unfortunately QAZ’s can have unpredictable shifts in gravity and atmospheric effects, which can be lethal on the ground but invisible and lethal in the sky. Flying drones (the most common being the Evercast Cloud model) have been known to plunge to the ground when localized gravity appears to abruptly shift or the air itself appears to boil, splitting them into pieces when their internal Acrylite bonds snap.
If the initial probe doesn’t return, standard practice is to send a second probe operating at a higher altitude than the first. If neither probe returns, the policy observed by most Crashers is to plant a warning beacon that broadcasts an Augmented Reality Object (ARO) that warns individuals to stay well away. Attempting to enter a QAZ in an area with an active ARO is considered by most Crashers to be a creative way to commit suicide, however some unscrupulous Crashers have been known to plant ARO’s outside valuable entry points so some foolhardy Crashers have been known to ignore ARO’s and take the risk.
Assuming an inserted probe survives entry to a QAZ, the point of entry is widened using a strong Electromagnetic Bottle generator known as the C.R.O.W.B.A.R. (Captive Radiative Oscillating Wave & Electromagnetic Arc Reactor) which has been shown to further weaken quantum instability fields around weak points for a limited time allowing for manned exploration. C.R.O.W.B.A.R. units are surprisingly easy to manufacture as their primary components come from the repurposed fusion chambers common to all intra-system spacecraft. It is the quality of the other ancillary components used in a C.R.O.W.B.A.R. unit that distinguishes a professionally made high quality device from one thrown together by a civilian from spare parts.
Once the C.R.O.W.B.A.R. unit is active, larger and more sophisticated probes are then deployed into the QAZ’s for further information gathering. Remotes like the PanOceanian Mulebot series are the most common choices for these probes as they are cheap, robust and have numerous attachment points for additional, smaller remote probes, recording equipment, radar, LIDAR and other diagnostic devices.
If the point of entry is established as suitable for exploration then expedition teams will don their protective gear and equipment and commence an expedition into the QAZ. The duration of an expedition into a QAZ is usually limited by the working operational time of the C.R.O.W.B.A.R. device used. In general officially sanctioned Crasher expeditions have a 48 hour window of operation before quantum instability effects begin to overpower the EM Bottle generated by a high quality C.R.O.W.B.A.R. unit. While for low quality units the window for safe operation is between 4 and 12 hours with much variation therein.
The level of personal protection worn by Crashers entering QAZ’s is as varied as the types of individuals who choose to take on this dangerous task. Conditions within QAZ’s are unpredictable with reports of anomalous physical conditions, but also of strange entities that can be aggressive to exploration teams.
The most basic form of protection is one the commonly available HAZMAT suits that are used in many industries from biochemical research to hazardous waste disposal. These suits offer basic environmental protection and the better models will have their own closed system air supplies and filtration systems.
A more advanced form of protection are repurposed Exosuits as worn by space based construction teams which are designed to withstand both the rigors of working in hard vacuum but also the effects of deadly interstellar radiation. There is a thriving market for second hand suits produced by the Nomad nation’s Corregidor ship which specializes in space based construction, with some Hardsuit models used in asteroid mining having additional physical protection pre-installed. Bulkier and slightly less technically advanced suits have also begun appearing from Ariadnan manufacturers for their burgeoning Dawn space exploration program. While not having the same level of sophistication as Nomad made suits these Kosmosuits are distinguished by their robustness and ease of maintenance which is vital for Crasher exploration teams.
The highest possible tier of protection, usually worn by government sanctioned Crashers, consists of augmented powered combat armor which protects against both physical threats and can be shielded against some of the QAZ’s more exotic phenomena that bypass other forms of protection. Although the most expensive military equipment is beyond the reach of most civilian Crashers, knockoffs of most powered combat armor do exist on the black market and can be acquired for non-exorbitant prices. For example, the Goblin Suit is a known replica of the famous PanOceanian Omnia Research & Reaction (ORC) Combat Armor. Although it lacks the same level of physical protection as the military ORC suit, they have superior comms arrays and sensor suites which are usually modified by the owners for the specific environmental conditions found within the QAZ’s.
Anyone entering a QAZ is advised to bring an Exocompass; these devices are uploaded with every star chart, physical map and planetary data file in the Human Sphere, and don’t require active Comlog access to use. This is because getting lost in a QAZ is by far the most common cause of fatalities for Crasher exploration teams given the limited operating time of C.R.O.W.B.A.R. units. Potable water, sealed rations and emergency medical supplies are also a necessity for exploration teams as consumption of vitals found within QAZ’s has proven to be fatal on a number of occasions. Current theories postulate that the molecular composition of proteins and enzymes within foodstuffs have been fundamentally altered by the effects of the QAZ making them incompatible with human digestion systems.
Due to the hazardous entities that have been encountered within QAZ’s Crashers have begun to take personal protection weapons with them on expeditions. These are usually small firearms or multi-purpose tools that can also function as a hand held weapon. However with the number of Crashers entering QAZ’s increasing daily, there have been reports of rival Crashers engaged in combat with one another so many expeditions will now have one member specialty equipped with dedicated anti-personnel weaponry often bought as surplus stock or from military auctions.
QAZ exploration is best left to the professional Crasher teams but if for some reason, you absolutely must enter a Quantum Anomaly Zone, then you should ensure that you have the appropriate equipment and that you have a plan – or at least that your Geists have a plan. PanOceanian Crasher survey teams were amongst the first to enter QAZ’s and they have kindly published a guide to the best practices for exploration teams. Chief amongst their recommendations is that exploration teams should enter and leave QAZ’s at designated times, if there’s no sign of a returning team within 2 hours of a scheduled return then a search-and-rescue remote should be sent in also set to return at an designated time. If the team is still missing when these times have elapsed then the entire time should be considered as lost. The only hope for the lost Crashers is that they’re important enough to elicit further rescue efforts – or that their cubes can one day be recovered from the hazards of the QAZ’s