Search for Long March Called Off

Legendary xeno survey vessel still missing, presumed lost

(TARN-VEDRA) - High Guard officials today announced the indefinite suspension of their search for the missing Xeno survey vessel Long March, which failed to return from an extended mission and is now presumed lost with all hands.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have recalled our search ships to their ports and patrol routes," said Chief of Staff Constanza Stark during an emotional news conference at High Guard headquarters on Tarn-Vedra. "The Long March was much more than a ship of exploration. It was a visible symbol of the Commonwealth's commitment to push the frontiers of our knowledge while protecting the vulnerable from civilization's darker impulses. Members of the Long March team will be mourned by all whose lives they touched."

Assigned to explore and survey the Luwian Cluster, catalogue new species and search for any signs of unauthorized settlement or resource exploitation, the Long March was two months overdue in returning when High Guard officials at the ship's home port on Arzawa II commenced search operations. An intensive, month-long search effort that employed over 100 High Guard, Home Guard and civilian vessels failed to turn up any trace of the missing ship or crew.

"We tried retracing their steps, looking for debris, inquiring on every inhabited world nearby - nothing," said one frustrated member of the search effort, who asked not to be identified. "It's as if they were never there in the first place."

Some observers and families of Long March crew questioned the seeming delay in launching the search.

"The Luwian Cluster was too close to Magog territory to send that ship there alone in the first place, and then they take two months to even start checking up on them?" said Carlos Garcia, father of botanist and Long March mission specialist Lourdes Garcia. "Do they think our children are expendable?"

But High Guard officials defended the conduct of the search, which they maintain was begun as soon as the Long March's tardiness exceeded normal parameters.

"It's not unusual for long range survey missions to run days or even weeks longer than expected," explained High Guard Search and Rescue coordinator Ahhiyawa nax Priamu. "They can find unexpected species, get sidetracked by natural phenomena, or simply decide to stay longer. And if Slipstream navigation to the region of space proves tricky - as it is to the Luwian Cluster - there's no reliable way to send a message back to Commonwealth space that explains the situation."

Under the command of longtime captain, Astyanax Shepherd, the Long March became famous to Commonwealth citizens for an unparalleled record of exploration and discovery. Nine sentient races that are now members of the Commonwealth were first discovered and contacted by the Long March, which explored over 8,000 star systems and catalogued new species of flora and fauna. The Long March also played an important role in protecting undeveloped worlds and pre-industrial cultures from exploitation by pirates, rogue miners, and unauthorized colonists.

Due to the ship's famous exploits, the Long March's crew members were popular speakers at schools and environmental groups, helping educate Commonwealth citizens on the need to protect indigenous cultures and undeveloped worlds from exploitation. Since the announcement of their apparent loss, messages of condolences have poured in from numerous individuals and organizations from across known space.

Twice awarded the Shield of the Empress for valor and devotion to duty, Captain Shepherd leaves a wife, co-husband, and three children on Skaian Gates. A memorial service for the Long March and crew will be held tomorrow on Arzawa, which the public is invited to attend.

The High Guard Information Network and our correspondent on Arzawa II contributed to this report.



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