Narrenschiff, The

Former spacecraft now converted into an extensive habitat

The Narrenschiff
Image from Steve Bowers

The Narrenschiff was originally a long-range exploration/acquisition vessel built by the Fomalhault Acquisition Society to explore the Epsilon Microscopium system, 182 ly from Sol. This star has a single large asteroid belt but no significant planets, and automated surveys had indicated that relics of an extinct civilisation might be found in the asteroid belt.

Using conversion drive propulsion, this ship arrived in 2309 A.T, and soon found evidence of alien construction. Several asteroids showed signs of excavation and tunneling at least five million years old, resembling similar relics of similar age found in several other systems. As in those other systems the tunnels were completely bare of technological artifacts, as if they had been deliberately scoured clean. Somewhat disappointed, the Fomacist Acquisitors nevertheless took possession of the empty tunnels and surveyed them in minute detail, recording their dimensions, orientation, possible methods of construction and the methods used to clear the tunnels.

Over the next thousand years the population of the ε Mic system gradually increased, as several more missions arrived filled with curious investigators. The Narrenschiff, now converted into a static habitat using the conversion drive as a power source, became the largest and most important population centre in this system. The old ship was surrounded by multiple layers of rotating and free-fall habitat structures, housing many different clades.

During the Second Federation the Hamilton Institute established a large research agency in this system, dedicated to the study of this mysterious lost civilisation, which they labelled 'Unnamed Species HIE072CZE'. This species destroyed itself in a war with its own automated weapons, although it appears that at least some of them may have fled to an unknown destination. Many of the Institute academics and specialist aioids came to live in the habitats orbiting the Narrenschiff, while others lived in the tunnels themselves, paying a fee to the Fomacists (who retained ownership of these antiquities in perpetuity, on the assumption that the original owners were not likely to return). Despite the fact that no significant xenotechnology was ever found in this system, the FAS were determined to gain some reward from the empty structures.

In 4355 a group of transavant dissidents known as the Fursprechers campaigned for the reconfiguration of the Narrenschiff into a warship to defend the system against attack during the Version War. They eventually won their case, and a much smaller, lighter and faster craft was built with the rebuilt conversion drive at its core. Most of the Narrenschiff habitat complex remained in the system - by this time the habitat no longer relied on the conversion reactor for most of its power, using the local starlight instead.

The new vessel, the Narrenschiff II, did not in fact ever see combat, but instead set off on a voyage of exploration and colonisation in the early CompEmp period, looking for new and interesting worlds and artifacts to acquire.

Many of the inhabitants of the ε Mic system in the current era are archaologists or hobbyists obsessed with ancient lost xenosophont civilisations, many of whom study the remains in this system and formulate increasingly abstruse theories about the meaning of the enigmatic structures, hoping to find significance in the dimensions, configurations and orientations of the tunnels, often looking for clues as to the present whereabouts of Unnamed Species HIE072CZE and whether or not they will return.

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Text by Steve BowersInitially published on 17 April 2014.