What is a T.O.R.?
A T.O.R. is a Transient Observation Report (sometimes Transit Observation Report), a UFO spotted within the Antarean photosphere. All such sightings have to be reported as potential navigational hazards (a collision in the photosphere of Antares is to be avoided at all costs)! Very often these sightings are but brief glimpses of… something … and then they are gone. Where possible, and if they remain in the same spot, they are explored by salvageers or adventurers, despite the hostile environment. Many are found to be pure wreckage or the remnants of asteroids, now deteriorating from the pressure and heat. At other times, though, they are found to be wrecks or artefacts from a bygone age. Explorers of such wrecks hope to find an extremely rare builder artefact but sometimes, as with TOR 563, what they find can be a mix of an artefact a few millennia old with ancient occupants – and more dangers than they can imagine.
T.O.R. 563 – City of Exile
TOR 563 is an ancient star liner that is now controlled and occupied by an exiled Ghar faction and their human slaves. The ship is roughly box-shaped, around 25km long by 5km across, and has an internal central ‘canyon’ running much of the length of the forward end of the ship. Just forward of this canyon is a hollow shell in which sits the primary command centre, accessible only on foot by a tortuous, defended route through a maze.
The liner is crewed by less than 5,000 Ghar and around 500 human – feral – prisoners. The Ghar are led by Shaltok, an exiled Ghar commander from Hatchery 12, who has renamed the massive ship City of Exile. Being few in numbers, Shaltok’s Exile Ghar struggle to maintain the ship in a condition that allows their control. Indeed, their tenuous occupancy of the vast ship has meant it is an ideal environment in which the Virai can rebuild themselves, unnoticed by their hosts.
Whilst the ship’s rear end is damaged by a savage weapon’s scar that has torn chunks from the ship and its hull, TOR 563 has been retrofitted with Ghar weaponry on top of its original defences. Much of the TOR is still in vacuum or a state of rarefied atmosphere as a result of an ancient attack that has left a huge scar through its hull. The Ghar rarely visit those sections other than to maintain the power lines to the ship’s main power plants and propulsion systems.
The Virai and the City of Exile
The Virai have expanded into those airless corridors, using them as warehousing space and to learn from the ancient TOR everything they could before erupting into the universe. As the ship has crept from system to system, the Virai have left architectors and critical raw material, enough for the Virai to start reproducing and creating more of the servile workforce.
Somewhere in the barely-explored, 500+ cubic kilometres of the ship live the Virai, hidden from casual inspection. Despite occupying much of the great ship that is still in vacuum, even they do not number enough to fill even a portion. Whilst they are parasitical, utilising what they can of the ship’s infrastructure to create more of themselves, they are careful to leave its core structure and shielding intact as, like the Ghar, the Virai have no idea of Antarean physics and cannot operate the ship on their own.
In other respects, T.O.R. 563/City of Exile provides an ideal host for the Virai. Not only can it provide raw material and shelter, but Shaltok’s Ghar Exiles are fleeing persecution and desperate to find a safe system in which they can take refuge. As a result, the Ghar Exiles explore every new gate they discover and, in doing so, unwittingly spread the Virai across Antarean space.