The Expeditionary Corps is a Sol Central Government scientific agency tasked with exploration of uncharted space and worlds, mineralogy surveys and xenoarchaeological studies and, more recently, making contact with undiscovered sapient life.
The EC performs a variety of tasks: discovering and cataloging stellar objects in Observatory, initial surveys of prospective colony sites and space anomalies, in-depth exploration of uncharted worlds, staffing long-term scientific outposts, and studying anomalies and xenoarcheological sites.
While not military, it was modeled in a naval style, with employees having ranks and uniforms, along with falling under the jurisdiction of the Sol Code of Uniform Justice. It consists of uniformed personnel (enlisted and commissioned officers) and corporate contractors hired on a per mission basis. Corpsmen are often highly specialized for the roles they take on their missions, and they are known for their experimental nature and ability to improvise.
The Expeditionary Corps' Directives are the cornerstone of all operations done by the organization, the mission statement and motto rolled in one. They are as follows:
- Exploring the unknown is your Primary Mission. You are to look for land and resources that can be used by Humanity to advance and prosper. Explore. Document. Explain. Knowledge is the most valuable resource.
- Every member of the Expeditionary Corps is an explorer. Some are Explorers by rank or position, but everyone has to be one when duty calls. You should always expect being assigned to an expedition if needed. You have already volunteered when you signed up.
- Danger is a part of the mission – avoid, not run away. Keep your crew alive and hull intact, but remember – you are not here to sight-see. Dangers are obstacles to be cleared, not the roadblocks. Weigh risks carefully and keep your Primary Mission in mind.
While important, these should not be taken literally – exercise common sense. For example, even if Second Directive can be interpreted in such way, dragging ship's only physician to an asteroid survey is not a good idea. Remember that 'expedition' is bigger than just the away team, the ship crew is part of it, and they have their role. Third Directive is about taking calculated risks, not cavalier charging into danger. There's little point in getting expedition to some place if you're just going to lose it there.
The Expeditionary Corps is a uniformed civilian service of the Sol Central Government, tasked with exploring the unknown for the advancement of humanity. However, it had a long period of decline, operating on a greatly reduced budget prior to the beginning of the Helios mission. The Corps consists of enlisted personnel, commissioned officers, and corporate contractors. The uniformed members form the core of expeditions and facilities, with specialists contracted from various corporate and academic entities on a per-mission basis for the more niche tasks.
The Expeditionary Corps are commanded from the SCG EC Observatory in Sol, with personnel organized in two major sections, focusing on the different parts of EC operations. Personnel from both sections are assigned to Programs (Helios Program being an example).
Before the funding increase and renewed interest in exploration, the EC only had a dozen vessels that were operational. Three of these were ancient, Slower-Than-Light (STL) craft, from the Expeditionary Corps' founding days and were reliant on Gateway travel. Most of the personnel are stationed at various outposts, with passage secured by chartering a private vessel or requesting transport from the Fleet.
The Observatory has two methods of handling the investigation of the valuable intelligence it gathers; Post a bounty with all relevant data to be claimed by any private enterprises which is the most commonly used method, or, if the data points to a nearby target or one that shows great value or something of scientific import, a proper EC Expedition is assembled and sent to investigate personally.
The head of an independent EC exploration team is the Pathfinder, a mid-level officer of the Expeditionary Corps who often operates with great leeway and minimal oversight when it comes to how their teams conduct themselves in the field. This is an inevitable consequence of the nature of their exploration missions, often conducted outside of communications range and in harsh conditions.
The Field Operations section of the Expeditionary Corps is what people see in EC recruitment posters and ads – gruff machos hacking apart aliens on exotic worlds with the iconic machete. That being said, the actual work carried out by the EC's exploration teams features far less glamour and machismo, being focused instead on mineral surveys, planet habitability reports and collecting samples of xenolife. Corpsmen from this section specialize in xenobotany and handling xenofauna, along with support skills like field medicine or structural engineering.
The Observatory section was originally in charge of manning their namesake, but now corpsmen from that section are often found at EC science outposts or spaceships, working more delicate machinery and running complex scientific experiments. Observatory corpsmen staff the infirmaries on EC facilities, and handle complex engineering tasks like power cores and communications. Scientists who join EC full-time are assigned to this section.
170 years ago: The Expeditionary Corps established early in Terran Commonwealth history by consolidating various national agencies for space exploration. It is tasked with surveying lesser explored Sol bodies like outer planets' satellites and Kupier Belt, and accompanying the colonization vessels.
130 years ago: Rising tensions in Sol between Terran Commonwealth and Ares Confederation, combined with the rapid decline of Earth's ecosystem prompt creation of what press dubbed 'Extinction Countermeasures Committee'. As a part of its activities, long-range EC exploration missions are launched via Pluto Sling, decades of cryo-frozen STL travel, on a quest to find habitable worlds to evacuate humanity to if such need arises.mes. Early missions were small crews, cryo-frozen, with automated systems rigged to wake them up at the destination or for the course correction. They had no way to get assistance or resupply once underway, so the culture of making do and cutting off unnecessary parts was formed.
70 years ago: As a part of the reorganization of Terran Commonwealth into the Sol Central Government, Expeditionary Corps is placed under the Committee for Economic Development. With fears of an extinction event alleviated by the number of colonies and promise of lasting peace in Sol, the officials aren't considering space exploration a high-priority area. With the proliferation of FTL travel via gateways, public support for STL missions was failing too. Bluespace rift exploration is still an option, but almost prohibitively dangerous for government operation, requiring a mountain of waivers and volunteer crews. A lot of EC personnel is shifted to research outposts, studying various anomalies in the proximity of gateway-reachable systems.
5 years ago: Funds starting flowing into the revitalized Expeditionary Corps and the Helios program. What followed was a large-scale publicity campaign, corporate sponsorship. And a change of ownership – The EC was moved under the Committee for Diplomatic Relations, to reflect a new stated objective of the Helios mission – making contact with undiscovered sapient life.
Vessels and Installations
The EC has a number of vessels and installations, with the latter mostly being on the edge of Sol territory.
The Observatory or the SCGECO (Sol Central Government Expeditionary Corps Observatory) is the nerve center of the Expeditionary Corps. It is located at Jupiter-Sun L2 Lagrange point and is home to the most advanced high power radio telescope array in the Sol system. It was established in 2130 by Terran Commonwealth as a part of colonization effort, to look for possibly habitable exoplanets without the interference of Sol inner asteroid belt. Due to its location it was also used as a base for survey expedition to Jovian moons and Kupier belt objects, and over time grew to house majority of EC support facilities. Now it serves as EC headquarters, with both high command (just referred to as Observatory) and EC Academy located here, with a token presence on Mars and Earth.
The SEV Torch, originally christened as the Sol Fleet Vessel Arrow, is a Mako-class exploratory corvette. The vessel is the result of a deep space exploration program (The Helios Project) overseen by the Sol Central Government (SCG) and involving multiple corporate investors, primarily the Expeditionary Corps Organisation (EXO) and certain Skrellian organizations. The Torch engages in numerous routine expeditions year-round, and is somewhat less-famous than the other ships in the program, with a lower media profile. In spite of this, it has made a number of accomplishments and has a reputation as a reliable survey vessel.
Notably, the Torch was the only one of the five Helios Project vessels to receive a Supermatter Engine, courtesy of NanoTrasen.
The SEV Magnus is (or was) an Expeditionary Corps Corvette, a sister ship of sorts to the Torch before various overhauls and refits rendered the Torch a wildly different vessel. The SEV Magnus was an original three-deck Mako Class Corvette, commissioned in service as the SFV Tornado before being mothballed along with all other Mako class corvettes in 2265. It then entered service with the Expeditionary Corps from 2270 as the SEV Magnus. During its time in service the Magnus was a reliable, if unremarkable vessel that served as the Expeditionary Corps flagship before it was replaced in this capacity by the SEV Helios, a time during which it was also placed into the Helios Project as one of the four vessels, where it remained until 2304 when it went missing while conducting a survey mission in B. Wendigo. Efforts to locate the Magnus have failed thus far and its fate is shrouded in mystery. It was a sister ship to the SEV Sagan.
A former Lexington-Class Corvette acquired by the expeditionary corps for the Helios Project, the SEV Icarus (Formerly the SFV Reliable) had a somewhat famed history as a vessel of the Third Fleet during the Gaia conflict before being retired from active service and handed over to the Expeditionary Corps as part of an asset sharing program between government departments. The SEV Icarus was refitted from the ground up as an exploration vessel, though notably kept its forward facing cannons from its time in fleet service. The Icarus was last seen in mid-2306 after being sent to investigate gathered probe data. It was supposedly off-course and no evidence has shown that it reached its intended destination.
As of June 26th, 2310, the wreckage of the SEV Icarus were discovered by the SEV Torch on a remote exoplanet in the Luyten 545 system. An analysis of digital logs recovered from the ship is currently underway – efforts to recover the SEV Icarus itself have so far been stymied.
The Sagan is the third and final of the Mako-class corvettes in EC service, and a sister ship to the SEV Magnus. It is a vessel attached to the Helios Project. Formerly the SEV Whirlwind it entered service in 2278 with the EC and has had a solid, reliable and somewhat interesting career since, being notable for the cataloguing and surveying of over forty five star systems before being issued a reliable jump-drive in 2303. The Sagan is, notably from the rest of the Helios Project vessels, equipped with an extensive sensor suite, with some of its newer systems being highly classified and (reportedly, but unconfirmed) possessing systems designed for use with the Rockfish-class stealth craft. The Sagan spends a great deal of its time being called for requests for service from various SCG entities in the scanning of nearby locations of interest.
The Flagship vessel of the Helios Project, and the largest of the EC's vessels, being a refit of the SFV Yi Sun-Shin, an Antietam-class Destroyer. The Helios is expensively outfitted, well equipped, and considered one of the most prestigious postings in the Expeditionary Corps thanks to its numerous references in the media and its dominance of Expeditionary Corps recruitment campaigns, the Helios does, as a result, do relatively little actual exploration, being used instead to showcase the Expeditionary Corps and its mission to the people of Sol. When it does embark on expeditions, however, they are almost always high profile and with a great deal of pre-planning and intelligence on the systems it will be visiting. Despite its prestige and political flash, many older members of the Expeditionary Corps resent the Helios and its lack of focus on what they consider to be "real work."
SEV Buzz Aldrin
The SEV Buzz Aldrin is one of the EC's many specialist vessels. A heavily modified Cartwheel-Class dropship, the Buzz Aldrin is refitted into a dedicated mobile laboratory. Instead of relying on shuttlecraft for travel to the surface, it can deploy planetside directly able to deploy planetside directly, turning into a field lab. The Buzz Aldrin isn't used for initial scouting and survey, it is deployed when there's a long-term scientific mission to do in a hostile environment, but building a new outpost isn't feasible. As a result, the ship is known for its lengthy follow-up work, long deployments on dangerous planets carrying out a multitude of scientific experiments and survey missions.
The SEV Komarov is a bluespace exploration vessel boasting the longest record – over 50 rift jumps without catastrophic system failures. Unlike most EC vessels and installations, you have to volunteer to be considered for a posting on the Komarov, due to the inherent danger of unshielded bluespace exploration. The Komarov itself is a curious feat of engineering, featuring multiple layers of redundancy to offset the inevitable post-jump failures. Engineers serving on it claim that as long as they get at least 30% of the ship through the rift, they can make the trip back. The Komarov is used on time-sensitive missions by Observatory, recording time-limited events in deep space up close, and sometimes assisting with rescue missions if no bluespace drive vessels can make it in time.
SEV James Cook
The SEV James Cook is one of the oldest active service vessels in the Expeditionary Corps, having entered service in 2150 and kept in service through a multitude of refits and overhauls, the Cook is a testament and reminder of the resourcefulness and determination shown by Expeditionary Corpsmen to keep waste low and to make do with what they have. A Newfoundland class vessel which, at the time, was built exclusively by the Terran Commonwealth for the Expeditionary Corps, it remains one of the few EC purpose built vessels and is equipped with a deployable radio telescope array and mounted observatory. The Cook is still a source of great value for the EC despite its reliance on dated and somewhat ancient technology as well as the use of older STL drives.
Listening Post 42-B
Listening Post 42-B is one of the three remaining Expeditionary Corps Observation Outposts located on the frontier of Sol space, equipped with all manner of observation equipment and far away from the usual trade-lanes, commercial hubs and population centers. Posts such as these tend to be long-term assignments with minimal contact with others. Small stations, comparatively speaking, they usually possess a crew of no more than thirty, and assignments are usually year-long. 42-B is notable among the three for having picked up a mysterious signal, only to lose it minutes after. It also has the dubious honour of being the only post outside of SCG borders, orbiting Sinclair's Star. Some outside entities have speculated that it is used to spy the Skrell, though so far these claims have been unfounded.
Helios Project Controversy
The decision to restart the deep space exploration sounded just too good to be true. The sudden change in course and the insistence with which Secretary General Barros pushed this decision spawned a lot of conspiracy theories on just what sort of secret agenda the government had for the Helios mission.
- The main sponsor and participant of the Helios mission was NanoTrasen. An odd move for a greedy trans-stellar corporation that maintains a sizeable fleet itself, including prospector vessels of their own.
- What were they promised for participation?
- A Skrell corporation, Krri'gli, agreed to provide a prototype bluespace drive after just a token negotiation, under the condition of priority access to the mission’s findings.
- Are Skrell using the EC to poke at something they’d avoid?
- The Government initially tried to staff the mission entirely with government employees and personnel from the four megacorps, opting not to contract outside companies. It was later relaxed due to personnel requirements and public outrage, to the point where even independent observers and journalists were tentatively allowed to join the expeditions.
- What did they want to hide from the public?
The media noise generated by the Helios mission attracted new recruits, the curious, the glory hounds, and even few people who genuinely wanted to explore space but believed that the EC was done for. Some disillusioned EC veterans came out of retirement, bringing much-needed experience. Any eligible personnel could request a transfer from Defence Forces into EC for the duration of the mission. For the Fleet, this is a temporary reassignment aboard the Torch, and only applies to Crewmen up to the rank of Commander on a positional basis. Private contractors filled the gaps as they did for many other EC missions.
All new recruits and most Defence Forces transferred personnel are put through a six-month Expeditionary Academy. The core facilities are located on the Observatory, with a few smaller ones for specialized training programs scattered around SCG territory.
Candidates must renounce any state or corporate citizenship they hold for the duration of their service in EC, becoming solely citizens of the SCG.
The training is split into two parts, Basic Skills taking 2 months, and Specialty Training taking 4 months.
Basic Skills and Orientation
The first 2 months are focused mostly on instilling some discipline and basic functional adult skills into fresh recruits. Skill-wise, it's the basics – EVA, first aid, living on a space vessel. Recruits are given a rundown on the way EC operates, its mission and priorities.
Recruits are monitored to weed out those who won't be able to cope with life on a space vessel. It's an open secret that troublemakers from all over the SCG use the EC as a last resort for escaping the troubles on their planet, so instructors take this part of the Academy very seriously – you either shape up or ship out.
Most of Defence Forces transfers skip this part, aside from the orientation course on the way EC operates.
The next 4 months are the specialized training. The recruits settle on the division they want to join – Observatory or Field Operations and their specialty. Those who have applicable training and experience can opt to pass the certifications and skip this part entirely if they are so inclined.
Observatory recruits are trained to run their namesake, Observatory, or the ships the EC has. The engineers, the data analysts, the infirmary staff, the logistics specialists. They tend to have more in-depth technical training on their specialization.
Field Operations recruits learn more hands-on skills, useful when operating as a part of expedition outside the facilities. The explorers (the job), the field medics, the ‘sapper’ kind of engineers. They tend to be more of generalists, having to juggle the field skills, their specialty, and field science basics.
Ultimately, the decision made in the Academy doesn't seal your career path – there’s plenty of chances for additional training along the way, and often personnel from either branch is picked for the mission depending on the skills needed. At the end of the day, everyone receives the baseline training needed to be a part of an expedition.
After successfully graduating, all recruits are taken on a mock 3-day long Expedition in rural Mars, which often just turns into a celebration party with instructors turning a blind eye. It marks the start of your 2-year tour of duty/contract.
So, you’ve made it through the Academy. Explored countless worlds in the simulator, learned to navigate by map, shot hundreds of toothy aliens in the holodeck. You know which end of the sample bag opens, you learned not to eat the berries off the bushes on exoplanets. Now you've worked off the hangover from the Martian Expedition and pinned on your shields. It’s time to get to that exciting work you’ve seen in the recruitment ads.
First of all, you're lucky to even be on an EC-operated vessel. Most likely you're piggybacking on some Fleet patrol vessel that passes closest to your destination and is fine with taking a detour. Sometimes you have to hop several vessels along the way. After long and uneventful travel, you’ll have to load up all needed supplies and equipment yourself. Unless you have an EC shuttle docked, the best you would have is a cramped general utility pod. Once planetside, you are in for a mind-numbing routine of mapping out significant features, mineral deposits, taking notes of /everything/, and taking samples of anything you can get your hands on. Machete does come out at this point, except for its actual role – getting through thick vegetation. Then it’s time to get back shipside to pack, label and categorize every single thing you brought back from the planet. And then it’s back to the cryopod for the trip back.
If it was a very important and urgent expedition, and you signed every waiver the Corps threw at you, you could've been a part of a bluespace tear run. Even with all modern advances, traveling without a bluespace engine is very risky, and SCG doesn't approve these missions lightly. Possible sentient life signals that are fading, or a natural phenomena promising fundamental breakthroughs, that must be observed close before it disappears.
Now, contrary to what Expeditionary Directives claim, not everyone in the Corps, or even in the Field Operations, actually go down to the exoplanets to wrestle with alien wildlife. While the EC doesn’t maintain a lot of ships, those that are still around need someone to keep the power running, to make sure air is flowing, to cook the meals. A lot of personnel is also serving on various remote research installations, studying curious xeno-ecologies, alien ruins, or natural anomalies.
|E1||Explorer Apprentice||Trainee||18||You're in the Expeditionary Academy, being nagged at by old men about how they know the best, and not listening to your team leader on the expedition is a great way to get everyone killed or worse. You didn't go on any expeditions outside of simulators, and you have a lot to learn before you're sent to a real one. Apparently, there's one right on graduation, prepare!|
|E3||Explorer||Rank and file||18-25||You can do your job to a satisfactory standard, though you might be not familiar with the finer details. You'll get better with experience. A lot of Corps personnel spend quite some time in this rank compared to similar paygrades in Defence Forces.|
|E5||Senior Explorer||Specialist and/or a team leader||20-30||You either took some leadership courses or technical specialty qualifications. At this point, you're trusted with more sensitive equipment, and you can be put in charge of a small team.|
|E7||Chief Explorer||Veteran team leader||30-60||You're one of the few on the top of rank ladder of EC. You've seen and done the things. You might not have the leadership or scientific training of the commissioned officers, but your technical skills and vast experience make you invaluable to the Corps. You can be trusted to run an expedition as second-in-command, or a large team on a space facility.|
Despite the somewhat lax hiring standards for EC enlisted, the requirements for the officers have not been relaxed since the creation of the Corps. The applicant must hold a university degree in a related field – astrogation, engineering, physics, biology, medicine, etc. With the recently stated mission of establishing contact with alien species, political science and xenodiplomacy degrees are accepted too.
There are several reasons for this relative strictness. Expeditions are often operating outside the communications range, and the officer in charge has to make the calls on site without consulting the higher command. EC officers are granted a commission on behalf of the Secretary-General, have the right to stake an official claim on unclaimed stellar bodies and have the capacity to represent the SCG in first contact scenarios if no dedicated diplomatic personnel are present.
The Expeditionary Corps Officer corps is, relatively speaking, a small, professional body. Most of its members have a passing familiarity with one another due to the size, the rotation between one of a few facilities and ships and general tight knit nature of EC culture. Officers have, likely, served with one another in some capacity at some point in time. The competitive and professional nature of the EC officer cadre means that they tend to favour internal promotion over external hires and transfers, with the latter being impossible for most command positions, typically being limited to entry level officers and medical staff.
Since candidates already come in with the knowledge, the Academy for officers concentrates mostly on deep space operations and leadership. They also learn a lot about legal matters – teams in the field are given a lot of leeway, and the EC wants to be sure the leaders understand not to abuse it.
Another thing that seems odd to the Defense Forces personnel is that EC officers stay for longer in seemingly unfitting 'paygrades'. Due to small scale of most EC operations, most positions are filled with Ensigns, Lieutenants and above posted only on bigger projects that require a great amount of coordination. Corpsmen of same rank can have drastically different experience and pay, which is based on their qualifications and actual posting more than on the rank.
Aside from poaching the people with degrees, anyone with a rank of Chief Explorer can apply for an elevator program. In exchange for signing a 10-year contract with the EC, their education is funded for a master's degree of their choice, and they are awarded the rank of Lieutenant after passing the Academy.
|O1||Ensign||Specialist with a degree in his field, leader of an expedition team||25+||You had some sort of university degree related to your field, and the Academy brought you up to the speed on the Corps-specific skills. At this rank, you're either leading a small expedition team or you work as a staff in a facility that needs your skillset.|
|O3||Lieutenant||Leader of a department or a bigger autonomous expedition team||30-45||You are a leader. You've had some additional training and experience with leadership, and you're in charge of an expedition team or a department aboard a space vessel or facility.|
|O5||Commander||Ship/facility commanding officer or second-in-command.||40-50||At this point, you're eligible for a ship command. Though with the number of EC ships, you're more likely to work as the executive officer of a space vessel or facility.|
|O6||Captain||Ship/facility commanding officer.||48-70||You're in charge of a ship or a facility. You've given a lot to the Corps, and Corps let you run things your way, to a reasonable extent.|
|O8||Admiral||Leader of an EC division or a special Mission||60-90||You're in charge of large-spanning Missions that consist of various expeditions and facilities, e.g. Helios Project. Heads of Observatory and Field Operations divisions hold this rank for example. You do not go in the field anymore, operating out of Observatory.|
|O10||Commandant of the Expeditionary Corps||The Big Boss||60-90||The Boss. Not much to be said, you're the top. You spend most of your time arguing with politicians rather than doing the science. Maybe you miss wresting alien wildlife when faced with vicious creatures of SCG political scene, but someone has to do this job.|