Ark Royal was named for both Lexington Keeler’s flagship in the Ninth Crusade and for the fictional starship in the enduringly popular Galactic Conquest series of interactive entertainment and action sequence franchises on the planet Sapphire. The JoyLAB Corporation, makers of Galactic Conquest, campaigned extensively in the ‘Name Pathfinder 7’ forum for the adaptation of this name.
By the time Ark Royal was under construction, Republic had ceased all financial support for the Pathfinder program, choosing to finance the Phase II ships (which became the Explorer and Defender ship-types) instead. Sapphire finished the ship on its own. As a result, construction was completed two years ahead of original schedule.
Construction was begun at the Odyssey Project shipyards in the outer Republic system. However, Republic demanded use of the facilities to construct additional ships of the Phase II/Renaissance Type; subsequently known as the Explorer and Defender ships. The incomplete hull was towed to the Hyperion Shipyards above Sapphire’s moon of Hyperion and completed there.
Due to design refinements and certain other upgrades, Pathfinder Seven was 70 meters longer than a standard pathfinder ship; mostly related to an elongation of the forward section. The ship was also more heavily armed, carrying 20% more ion cannons and a heavier missile load. This seemed like a good idea based on the experience of earlier Pathfinders.
Command and Crew
- Shipmaster: Prime Commander Jackson “Jake” Kazimir
- Executive Officer: TyroCommander Daniel “Hammer” Armstrong
- Chief Navigator: Karl Zaz
- Tactical Officer: Warmaster Hawker Fury
- Systems and Operations Officer: Evelyn Randall
- Chief of Science Core: Lt. Scientist Alexander Blair (Republic)
Mission Lt. Commander Nicholas Kazimir, the Prime Commander’s son, was the Chief Missions Officer in charge of leading away missions to newly reached colonies. The Prime Commander’s daughter, Flt. Lieutenant Hanna Barbara Kazimir was an aviator in the ship’s flight core. His wife, Jenna Kazimir had no official position at the start of the voyage, but found a place for herself in Cultural Survey, and prepared numerous reports on the worlds Ark Royal encountered.
In defiance of all rules of narrative, the family got along well, had no hidden secrets or resentments; and the relationship between Nicholas Kazimir and his father was not marked by hostility, resentment, or traumatic childhood memories.
The ship launched with a crew of 7,256, only 63 of whom were Republickers despite Sapphire welcoming Republickers to apply for crew slots. 100 of the people on board had paid for the privilege of joining the voyage; they were additionally required to demonstrate useful skills and the ability to function with the rest of the crew.
The ship was initially assigned exploration of the Vela and Circinus sectors, but its course varied substantially from the mission plan.
In the first two years of its voyage, Ark Royal visited three star systems at the edge of the Perseus Sector and found all three uninhabited. The Terra-Class worlds in each seemed like prime colony sites, but there was little evidence of human presence save for ruins at the site of what had been Columbine colony. The conclusion was that these colonies had been too small at the time the Commonwealth collapsed to survive.
On the edge of Inverness colony, they discovered the wreck of a colonial transport, suggesting that colonists had never even reached it, or, as some speculated, had attempted to evacuate in a ship that had been on the ground too long and was no longer spaceworthy. After a battle of wits with the ship’s AI, they recovered its navigational core.
After examining the data from the navigational core, Prime Commander Kazimir, in consultation with his Chief Scientist and Chief Navigator decided to chart a radically different course than the one the Odyssey Project had assigned them. The ship arced back toward a section of the Perseus Sector that had been neglected by previous expeditions, but which Lt. Scientist Blair calculated had a high probability of containing human colonies.
The gamble paid off. Ark' Royal’snext voyage took them to the 38 047 Perseus system, where they discovered the twin colonies of Gander and Longueil, which had not even been recorded in the Testament Records. Gander and Longueil were two of the most populous and advanced colonies discovered by the Pathfinder project.
From then on, Ark Royal went on to a long and storied voyage, that in terms of worlds found and adventures had ranked as the most successful of the pathfinder voyages. An incomplete list of worlds charted by the ship includes the following
- Bering’s End – At the time of its discovery, Bering's End, at the edge of the Circinus Sector, was the remote human colony discovered during Phase I of the Odyssey Project; surpassing the discovery of Terpsichore by the Pathfinder Ship Republic. According to historical legend, the crew of the Survey Ship Bering were so moved by the planet’s beauty that they sabotaged the ship’s engines so that they would be forced to settle and colonize this world. The survey report noted that the planet was pretty, but “not *that* pretty.” The planet supported a thriving human population at the time of Ark' Royal’s survey.
- Caspian – A world in the Perseus sector with a human population between 40 and 60 millions. Memorably, this world’s leader was a teenage Prince who, actually, held very little power but was kept on as a figurehead by the planet’s people. The Prince fell in love with Hannah Kazimir and, though she wanted to keep him in the Friend Zone, she was obligated to engage in combat with one of his other suitors. (In earlier times, this would have been a combat to the death, but in this case it just involved a lot of wrestling and hair pulling.) The Prince requested to join the crew, but eventually, he decided that he was more needed among his people. Of course, no one consulted the actual people about that, but that’s where it ended, anyway.
- Cerulean – A deep ocean world shared by human and Cetacean colonists.
- Columbine– An uninhabited (probably failed) colony world in the Perseus Sector.
- Dawn Tufra – An achingly beautiful colony on the margin of the Perseus and Vela sectors whose inhabitants so wanted to protect their colony from outsiders that they tried to kill the crew and destroy the ship.
- Gander – One of two inhabitable worlds in the 38 047 Perseus System.
- Guelph - Guelph is a colony located in the 38 156 Perseus system. In the time since the Commonwealth collapsed, the planet slipped into a minor glacial age. Its northern icecap has expanded vastly. The human population has adopted by moving southward and tapping the planet’s geothermal resources. The Arctic wastes of the planet, particularly the mountain regions, were inhabited by white Yeti; a species of proto-sapient ape. An excursion team was captured by a group of such Yeti and two were killed before they were rescued by one of Lt. Commander Fury’s Teams. They came to learn the Yeti were actually descendants of human colonists; whose adaptive physiology had altered them to cope with the planet’s changing climate.
- Inverness – An uninhabited (probably failed) Terra-Alpha Class planet in the Vela Sector. Although recovered navigational core star charts confirmed the system as the location of a Great Commonwealth colony, there were no indications of human settlement found on the planet.
- Longueil – The other of two inhabitable worlds in the 38 047 Perseus System
- Perseus Superior – Perseus Superior is believed to be the earliest colony in the Perseus Sector, and perhaps the Perseus Quadrant. Its human inhabitants belong to a number of sub-cultures; some parts of the planet are fairly well advanced and others fairly primitive. Some of the crew were captured by a violent group of thugs masquerading as political revolutionaries. Lt. Commander Fury led a group of warfighters to the surface, where they kicked ass all around.
- Toad Suck – Toad Suck is an unassuming colony in the Perseus Sector. Its inhabitants claim it was named for a place on Old Earth, but scholars are skeptical. Ark Royal’s Science and Medical Core’s discovered that a common reptile on the planet was the vector for a virulent plague that had periodically afflicting the planet for centuries… killing off a fifth of every generation when it struck. With this information, they were able to develop a treatment and find ways of controlling the population of the animal responsible for spreading the disease.
- Vermilion – A well populated colony in the Vela Sector named, most likely, for the reddish color of its sky. The colonists here, as in many other worlds, had thought themselves the only survivors of the Tarmigan Assault. As such, they had preserved a large repository of data. After proving their worth in gladiatorial combat, Fury and Nicholas Kazimir were given access, which included very useful star charts and technical information that greatly advanced the technological capabilities of Human Civilization.
- Bravo Vela – A well populated colony in the Vela Sector. When the Pathfinder Ship Ark Royal approached Bravo Vela colony, it detected multiple objects in orbit, which it presumed to be a satellite network. In fact, these were cargo pods that had been left in orbit during the planet’s tenure as an agricultural export world.
Ark Royal is widely regarded as having had the most exciting and interesting missions of all the original Pathfinders. Its missions were made into many popular holofiction adventures, and those crew that returned to Sapphire at the conclusion of its voyage were treated as heroes.
- Chapterhouse Starlock – Discovered, charted, and activated by the crew of the Ark Royal.
- Chrysaor Starlock – Discovered, charted, and activated by the crew of the Ark Royal.
- Chinook Starlock – Discovered, charted, and activated by the crew of the Ark Royal.
- During the Second Aurelian War, Ark Royal was the Command Ship for Special Task Force Vela, and contributed to the defense of the Vela Sector and support to operations including the liberation of Bella La Cava.
- Ark Royal engaged a rogue Aurelian Battle Fleet (made up of Swords who had overthrown their masters) outside the Bel Geddes system during the Second Aurelian War. They defeated the Swords and saved the human colony on the third planet from annihilation.
- Ark Royal encountered a vast fleet of ancient war-drones outside the Omicron Vela system left over from the Crusades. The ship was attacked by the drones en masse, and Ark Royal fought them off using Aves and Accipiters. However, the attacks persisted until they realized there was a command ship controlling the drones. They fired twelve Nemesis warheads at the command ship, which was almost as large as the Pathfinder. Two of the warheads managed to get through and destroy the command ship rendering the drones inert, which is good because they otherwise would have attacked every habitable world they came across. Afterwards, Ark Royal destroyed most of the drones using conventional weapons. The Omicron Vela System turned out to be the site of an Old Commonwealth military base, that had been destroyed in the Tarmigan War.
- During the Second Aurelian War, Ark Royal discovered a weapon known as the Psion Lance – a mobile gamma ray burst generator capable of frying the entire surface of a planet – and undertook an extremely hazardous mission to seek out and destroy the weapon before it could be used.
- Before any formal treaty existed between Humans and Lynx, Ark Royal joined a Lynx Armada and helped locate and destroy a secret Aurelian operating base that was facilitating raids and attacks against colonies on the frontier of the Lynx Sector. While working on the activation of the Chinook StarLock, the crew detected Aurelian signals from a distant StarLock in the Lynx Sector. Despite the extreme risk, the crew jumped through the StarLock and managed to destroy the operating base.
Ark Royal was decommissioned at the end of the Second Aurelian War. The ship was placed into orbit around the planet Rook in the outer Sapphire system. It is maintained by a crew from the Sapphirean Permanent System Defense. It also acts as an auxiliary base to the Sapphire’s Out-System Defense Patrol.
Rumors persist that Ark Royal is also used as a top secret operating base for the Sumacian Warriors, and/or an Above-Top-Secret advanced technology testing facility for the Government of Sapphire. The official response of the Government of Sapphire to these rumors is, “Probably.”