Welcome to the Junkworld of Gehenna: a radioactive cinder twice the size of Earth, used as a rubbish heap and ship graveyard for centuries by cultures across the cosmos, guarded by automated gunstations (left by cultures from across the cosmos), and with its only native inhabitants being Leaping Fireworms who feed on metals and thrive in heavy-gravity environments. Occasionally used as a penal colony as well, but really a death sentence - the only way people are sent to Gehenna is being placed in gutted ships in decaying, unguided re-entry orbits. Still, over the centuries, some have survived this process, and settlements have grown on the surface, giving the world a total population in the high hundreds or low thousands.
And now, the Tachyon Storm is coming. Nobody knows exactly what that means, but it’s bad.
You see, tachyons are particles that travel faster than light and back in time, and the slower they are, the more energy they have. And what few sensors on Gehenna work have started detecting increasing bursts of tachyon radiation, denser and denser, slower and slower moving. The best guess is that some incredible high-energy phenomenon is coming in the near future. No normal lightspeed shockwave can be seen before it hits - so by the time anyone knows what it is, it’ll be too late. And judging by the rate the tachyons are slowing down, it’s only a few weeks away.
The refugees, prisoners, scavengers, smugglers, and accidental colonists of Gehenna have a plan - or some of them do. Smuggler ships small enough to slip to the surface past the automated gun satellites are too small to travel faster than light, and they don’t have time to call for a ride. But the planet is all but covered in wrecks, hulks, derelicts, and crashes, and two large, durable vessels of dubious design are nearly intact. It’s just barely possible to put them together, strap on the smuggler vessels as armed outriders, and blast off for escape.
But as the source of the Tachyon Storm gets closer, things are getting weird. The laws of physics are bending or breaking entirely. The ships, barely understandable or able to be kept together as it is, are behaving in strange ways, and that strangeness is carrying over to the synthetics and cyborgs who interface with ship systems to operate them. And everyone on Junkworld Gehenna had an agenda or an axe to grind, anyway - trustworthy, safe, sane people don’t wind up banished to radioactive cinders, after all.
Ancient, unknown ships falling apart around them. The combined dark secrets, dubious pasts, and skeletons in the closet of a hundred different interstellar scofflaws. Even with an oncoming shockwave approaching at least as fast as light, the open question is still: what’s going to get around to killing them first?