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The Z-15 Series

Pardus Story

Next to the Empire, the only thing striking the Federation so hard was the pure toils of daily life itself. Traders ambushed by marauding pirates, entire freighters lost to Space Dragons in search of a meal, it had come to feel as if the galaxy itself had become a battlefield. Trade had provided the necessary resources, but without the personnel to police such a limitless expanse of space, for years the solution to such a problem seemed out of reach.

Based in the Grefaho Sector of the West Pardus Rim, and funded by the deep pockets of the Federation, Human and Rashkirian engineers developed plans for the new Z-Series Fighter, unmanned crafts that would be responsible for patrolling trade routes and escorting vessels carrying the most precious of cargo through the Neutral Zone. The need for such protection only growing more and more dire with each passing day, production began on the Z-Series immediately.

Within three months the first working prototypes of the Z-15 Fighter, Z-15 Scout, Z-15 Repair Drone, and Z-15 Spacepad were created, their objective a mere single task: Rid the Federation trade routes and airspace of non-Federation militant spacecraft and hostile creatures, so as to ensure the safe passage of Federation craft, cargo, and personnel. Immediately put into field tests the Z-Series proved to be one of the most versatile crafts in the field, its AI unhindered by the mortal weaknesses of reflex and conscience. Its fighters were powerful, its scouts were swift, its repair drones were highly effective both on and off the field, and its spacepads provided a veritable fortress for its craft even in the most uninhabited reaches of space. All in all, the Z-Series was considered an astounding success.

Additional fuel refineries and metal processing plants were warped into the Grefaho Sector, increasing the production capabilities by a factor of three, as the Federation's iron watchdogs swiftly amassed by the thousands. Stored in nearby freight locks, the Z-Series patiently awaited the Federation's orders and their transports to the various sectors of the Neutral Zone.

To this day no one knows much of the storm's origin, and at that point in time could none have predicted such a torrent of raw electro-magnetic energies, but cosmic currents powerful enough to sweep away all but the most rooted of spaceports tore through Grefaho and parts of surrounding sectors. Several scientists and researchers have come to speculate the rapid increase of energy output by the various Federation processing plants caused a sudden shift in the sector's thermal levels, the heightened yield of electrical and heat energy causing the environment to react in such a vicious manner.

In the days and weeks to follow salvaging missions were begun in the Grefaho Sector, as well as neighboring sectors, the Federation intent upon restoring what they could even after nature's wrath had been unleashed. Nearly 35% of the stray spacecraft were recovered, far more than even the Federation had hoped to find. Though their hulls had been significantly strengthened by the charged ionic energy of the storm, the internal robotics and processors had been sizzled beyond repair amidst the torrential energies, or so the reclaimers had originally thought.

Two months following the reclamation, when the robotic transplant procedures were scheduled to begin, internal processors sparked back to life, resurrecting the Z-Series' from what engineers can only describe as somewhat of a mechanical cardiac arrest. Awakening in crowded storage units and repair garages, the Z-Series broke free from holding pens, their actions appearing random and uncoordinated, and their disarray reflected even moreso in their exodus, the thousands of crafts fleeing in nearly every imaginable direction outward from the center.

In the months to follow, sightings of the Z-Series became more and more frequent. Oddly, adventurers reported not of seemingly frenzied unmanned craft, but of fierce vessels that had once again regained their warrior spirit, if not their sanity. They were however blind, unable to differentiate pirate from trader, military craft from civilian, or Empire from Union, or even Federation. All that appeared to remain of their original order was a single line of broken code, the only thing left able to govern these derelict spacecraft.

"Rid t... rade routes and airspace of... militant sp... host... cr... raft, cargo, and personnel."