One Orphanage and luminance
The Janus system 1. 7 light years from Terran command 10 years post the destruction of Waystation.
The bio server room glowed a sickly green. It was cramped at the best of times, yet it was made even more so, by the chaos of the half attached components that lay scattered about. Nicolai Krall sat in his diagnostic chair, examining the bio-feed to the ships AI with a growing feeling of annoyance.
‘You seem upset’ Mhir the bio server spoke as Nicolai attempted to connect part of the server relays to the newly adapted bio portal.
‘I’m okay..’ Just trying to make sure your working okay.
‘That is nice of you Nicolai, I do appreciate all you do for me.’
Nicolai smiled. ‘Its my job…if the C-‘
There was a buzz on his wrist pone. He pressed the retrieve button and a 15 page E report was filed up. The words urgent flashed on its cover. Feeling a flash of annoyance, he pressed accept and opened the file. Then he growled as he read the report sent from the bridge to his work station.
He rubbed his ten-week old beard with his left hand, and then squeezed the tiredness from between his eyes with his thumb and forefinger; before releasing a frustrating sigh. The jump had been a hard one. The Dimitris, a two core “armalight” class had trouble adjusting the new components to the Higgs drive; its coils were again close to rupturing, and despite informing the “Captain” (a word he used both with sarcasm and disdain to all who would hear.) about the problem, all her got back were reams and reams of e-reports that questioned his engineering skills.
‘What does the fucker want from me!’ He muttered as he re-read the second paragraph pointing out the mix ratio had failed simulation “again” ‘I told him we needed to run the new parts in slowly, what does he do? He does a military practice leap and quad manoeuvre’s! The guy has a six pack for a fucking brain.’
He was half way through wanting to throw the report in the recycle bin, when his com-link button alarmed.
‘Mr Krall, can you join me on the bridge please?’
Sighing, Krall lifted himself from the diagnostic chair, and floated though the hatch into a grav chamber, then he took the turboshaft 4 to the bridge. Muttering about not having enough time to get anything done.
The oval shaped bridge was a hive of activity. The red alert siren sounded as the captain and the first officer looked at a holographic image that he seemed to recognise.
‘Ahh Mr. Krall, have you read my diagnostic report on the perimeter’s of the engine mix ratio?’
‘You pulled me up away from vital repairs to the AI for that?’
‘Well not only that.’ The captain snapped.
Sighing Krall muttered ‘Yes I was half way through reading it when you called me up here. What is that.’ He pointed to the holographic image on the screen.
‘It is parts of Jupiter’s Way station.’ Mhir replied.
‘Yes.’ Captain Jansen looked about him in annoyance. ‘Remind me how many engineers are aboard this ship?
‘fifteen.’ Muttered Nicolai, and seven apprentices.
‘So, twenty one and-‘
‘Sir, if I can be blunt, I warned you that pushing the new compon-‘
‘-Mr. Krall… this is a military vessel - a ship of war- designed to face conflict and battle scenarios at any given moment-’
‘-Sir, with great respect-’
‘I HAVE NOT FINISHED!’ Captain Jensen glared at Nicolai.
Nicolai rested his arms behind his back.
‘This is a battle ship with twenty one engineers aboard and- ‘
‘Sir,’ the first officer coughed.
Captain Jensen span and stared at him with eyes that were ready to pounce.
‘Sir, I believe what Mr Krall was going to infer was-’
‘Nicolai, you worked on the Wat station for five tours, we have your record.’ Mhir broke in.
‘Y-yes, but the Way station was destroyed all hands lost.’
‘No.’ Jansen looked at the hologram in front of him.
‘-This according to the topography feed from the archive is cargo bay 7, and hydroponics, part of the Jupiter Way station.’
‘-It, it can’t be!’
‘-According to our data files it is.’ Mhir corrected.
‘-I want you to go over with a security team. Check for survivor’s
‘-It’s been ten years!’ Nicolai burst.
‘-Check for survivors as part of the regulations and see if you can find any data in relation to its being here. ‘
Nicolai wanted to thump Jensen in the face. There were a great many other men who could have done this. Men who were military trained. He was a flight engineer. Not a military officer, his grade and pay didn’t cover him for this duty and Jensen knew it. Captain Jensen’s eyes glittered in the half red grey and blue light of the bridge.
‘What is it about me you don’t like? Nicolai muttered.
‘Are you going to do the job? Or am I going to have to reprimand you and station you to your quarters without a food ration for forty-eight hours!’ Jensen seethed.
Nicolai shrugged his shoulders.
‘I’d Like to go with him.’ The first officer insisted.
Jensen looked at him. ‘But I need you here.’
‘Sir…as the science officer, I have the right to go on any away mission that is of scientific interest to both the Terran Federation and its board. I believe that this finding is of extreme scientific interest.’
Jensen looked awkward, he bit his narrow lips and squeezed his hands tight.
‘Okay….but I don’t want any fucking around over there. If there is no data aboard come back.’ Sighing and with sloping shoulders, Nicolai left the bridge with the first officer behind him.
As they were suiting up, Nicolai decided to try to be nice to the officer.
‘What’s your name.’
‘Jefferson…Antony Jefferson, I graduated from flight school ten years ago. I’ve seen your record. Impressive ‘
Nicolai shrugged on his air tanks. ‘What’s Jensen’s problem with me!’
‘You’re from Mars…a Marisian second generation... He’s a Terran. A farside Domer. ’
‘So its racism! Well the fucker can get himself a new engineer next rotation. I don’t need this shit anymore.’ With barely uncontrolled anger, he slammed down his helmet and locked the visor in place. Six auto- personnel the latest in military bots were unhooked. They lobbed in their bouncing gait behind both Nicolai and Jefferson. it didn’t take them long to clatter down the narrow gateway tube to the airlock.
‘We will be docking with port side on six in T minus 5…4…3…2…1…’ there was a clank from inside and a wavering about him. Then a hiss. ‘…Okay, umbilical connected.’
The door in front of then curled open revealing the battered outer casing of what was once part of the Way Station. Nicolai used his laser to cut a hole into the craft. The piece of metal fell inward and skidded down along hard sloping floor. What a stupid cunt that Jensen is, he didn’t even bother to examine the ship from the inside.
‘Okay, we will need a pulley team!’ Jefferson bawled. Within a moment, the security bots assembled a pulley system and both Nicolai and Jefferson were lowered down into the darkness.
‘it’s cold, well below the line.’ Jefferson muttered. His cornflower eyes glittered from the internal lights of his helmet. They both made their way down into what was once part of the hydroponics unit. The plants long dead were scattered upon what would have been a wall, but was now a dirt ridden floor. Nicolai suddenly saw something scrawled upon the wall. He shone his torch and jumped back as the mummified remains of a man suddenly came into view.
‘what the fuck is that?’ Nicolai shone the torch on the wall above the mummified remains The symbol, for, as far as Nicolai could tell that is what it was, was smeared in what was once blood. Now a brown dirty stain. It was a square with two circles one above the square and one below it.
‘What does that mean?’ Jefferson began taking pictures. Suddenly one of the Bots buckled and went lifeless, then another. Then another. Nicolai span his torch around as Jensen came over the internal com link.
‘Ok we are picking up crazy life readings. you’re not alone! Repeat you’re not alone! Get out!’
Suddenly Nicolai heard a scream as Jefferson was violently grabbed and pulled in to the darkness to his left. Nicolai, his heart cavorting in his chest, slowly turned the light away from the symbol on the wall.
‘Jefferson? Jefferson you read. Come back!’
He could hear screaming on the intercom, yet was distant to it. The beam of the light slowly made out a green uncurling tentacle that glistened with wet leather. There followed a hideous alien scream and a sudden feeling smothering before utter darkness consumed him forever.
Two Orphanage base: Pluto
The siren had sounded. The lights dimmed. Officially it was bedtime, so she should have been in bed. However, Kit, or first officer Katerina Donnelly, stared glumly, her head resting on her hands, out of the large oval window and into the evernight and at the semi darkness that was Orpheus base. Orpheus was stuck on the sun side of Pluto; just upon the tip of the methane heart. 448 billion Km from the nearest federation jobsworth lackey and 476 billion miles from any kind of fun.
Her wide set sea green eyes glittered with vicious contempt, while her jaw flexed in her aquiline facial features taught and wide set mouth and narrow lips tight. Her twenty-one-year-old body, toned by years of military training, and cut by years of other people’s battles that she had no real longing for anymore, reflected blue grey in the semi darkness, that came into her quarters, from the artificial lights that encircled the base. Her room itself was basic. One narrow stiff and though she had nothing to compare it to, uncomfortable bed, one hydro-sonic shower, one vacuum toilet. One water station, two tall grey steel locker’s, one for three sets of uniforms, polished boots, and shoes, the other for training manuals and books; one wall screen, switched on permanently. One large oval window. In short a green grey, box room. One of many, many box room’s, stacked upon each other that stared over the training ground outside.
Slowly her face turned sour, as she rubbed a hand through her shaven and regulation haircut. Her lips tightened and her eyes narrowed, as she watched the “grunts” some as young as she was when she first came, stagger and flounder about in their E-suits. And, as she watched, the ghosts creeped in on her memory. Ghosts like Sergeant Driffield. His black features and dark, angry eyes, stuck out of bulbous sockets as he bellowed at her, spittle filling his faceplate. “Come on Kat! You stupid Pussy! Get in fucking formation!” Yes Sarge no Sarge Fuck you up the arse Sarge! Then there were the ghosts that mattered. Her father his thick black, greasy, hair tousled, and welsh combed, his stubble itchy to the touch, while they sat and ate at the Way station. His eyes shining down at her.
‘I love you mouse.’ Dad..why daddy? Why? Then cutting tears smarted the view. Somethings are never forgotten. Just buried…buried under training, and guns and death. She hated being at the Orphanage. She hated it when she and Draz had started their training nine, no, she corrected herself ten long years ago. She loathed it now. She would rather have been on Mars, pulling a hooker or two. Or playing poker with some Marisian power junky, Anything…anything to avoid…anything to forget.
‘Is there anything I can get for you Kit?’ The voice was calm gentle and genderless. Anahel, the stations AI spoke. The room filled with the heady fragrance of Martian roses, her favourite scent.
Kit turned away from the window and then flopped onto her bed. A small smile curled her wide lips.
‘Can you get me to Mars?’
‘You know that is impossible.’ More of the fragrance.
‘Flight lieutenant Draz is on his way to the Orphanage.’
‘Draz is coming here?’ She sat up. Her eyes shone brightly.
‘His estimated time of-‘
‘WHEN!’ she could barely contain her excitement.
’2 hours 10 minutes and twenty five second-‘
Kit rushed to her shower. The smell of the Martian Roses became increasingly powerful; the room began to spin.
‘Might I suggest that you get some-‘
The world went dark.
Suddenly she was back. Back on the way station looking out of the window as she had ten years before. Only Jupiter’s fury was nowhere to be seen. Instead a spiralling mass of red blue and yellow plasma shone from the window. Slowly coming into view was the Crimson Wake. Only this time it was larger, and was connected to some metallic husk that she could only dimly see.
‘Can you see it?’ The voice came from behind her.
‘Can you see how beautiful it is?’
The voice wheezed in her ear. With a shudder she knew exactly who it was. She span to see Weasley’s face closed pressed to her. She screamed and tried to break free, but she couldn’t. His eyes glowed red and yellow with an ethereal light. His mouth slack jaw and tooth rotten moved like a pendulum.
‘Its so beautiful my darling.’ He wheezed
A slimy green tentacle burst from his mouth and tightly wrapped about her throat.
‘NOOOO!’ She awoke on her cot, riddled with sweat.
‘Are you alright?’ Anahel asked gently the genderless voice was comforting and at the same time off putting.
‘you drugged me.’
‘- as the AI for the Orphanage, I am entitled to take any action t-‘
‘-That is in the benefit of both the station and its crew.’ Kit overdubbed.
‘You are required to meet with command at 07:00.’
‘What’s the time now?’
Screaming Kit threw off her night clothes and dived into the sonic shower.
‘I don’t know why you wan’ me to come here hun, Civilian’s aren’t allowed anywhere near-‘ Jaylee looked out of the shuttle pod window and at rugged planetoid below.
‘-Sweetyheart it’s goin’ to be fine…’ Draz reassured her, ‘…besides I’ve a friend I want you to meet.’
‘This is Orphanage base, Orphanage base, receiving your one zero two niner Shuttle pod from the Aquarius, Do you copy over?’
‘Ayaah…’ Draz, chippered into his mike. ‘…This is one zero two niner shuttle from the Aquarius, flight officer first class Draz Phillamore, asking to dock with the port over.’
‘-Message received one zero two niner, good to see you back Draz, this place is richer for having you home.’
‘-Err, I need a civilian docking port, over.’
‘Who you brought with you Draz?’
Draz smiled ‘My wife….Mrs Jaylee Phillamore.’
‘Hey that’s great news, pulling you in now to Civilian port, Bravo six four one. Over.’
‘Over and out.’
The shuttle dipped and swerved to the left as Draz freed himself from the controls. Slowly the oval ship slid silently into the lower atmosphere and skirted the surface of Pluto as it sped towards the Civilian domes to the east of the base. The craft slowed down as the turquoise dome slowly uncurled, allowing the little oval ship to slide though, slowly the ship settled on the docking pad. A passenger tube extended. There was hiss as the shuttle pod door uncurled.
Draz felt very masculine as he took her arm and led her to the rest domes.
Six hours later Flight Commodore Janice Thrace stared out of her oval window and stared towards the civilian domes in the middle distance, though she held her hands behind her back, she nervously flicked her piggy finger, scratching the right nail against the finger of her left hand. Her pale blue eyes strained as she stared, her thick red hair in a tied regulation bun wavered slightly as she slowly shook her head.
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ Anahel asked gently.
‘No…No, I’m fine.’
The soft sent of Jasmine filled the room. She breathed it in deep and sighed deeply.
‘You are concerned about the message you have received from the Janus Quadrant?
Janice refused to be goaded into conversation. She simply stared out blinking and toying with her nail.
‘Worrying about it will not make the issue go away, decisive action is needed.
‘-Anahel, I am aware of that.’
‘Both parties are on their way to your office now. ‘
‘Thank you…that will be all.’
Janice turned around and then went back to her desk, upon which were three hard copy files; one of Flight officer first class Draz Phillamore, first officer Katerina Donnally and the third classified red as top secret simply had the word Way Station on the cover.
Two days later Kit sat in the hall running her hand through her close cropped hair. The designated proctor sat by her desk the smile bland and unconvincing didn’t help.
The door uncurled and Draz came in. Immediately, Kit leapt up and hugged him tight. ‘What brings you to this shit hole?’
‘Orders from command.’ Draz confided, as he slowly pulled away. Kit held his hand and felt the metal on his finger. She stepped back and started at him her eyes riddled with confusion.
‘I was going to say, when –‘
‘-When? When you got out of my bed?’
‘-That’s not fair!’
‘ha ha define fair!’
‘- we… we been friends since-‘
‘Oh don’t throw that one at me!’
‘Can I just, please explain?’
‘What? that you fell out of love with me? Or I’m too fucking complicated.’
Draz took a step forward.
‘Don’t, don’t say that…’ he sighed ‘It’s complicated.’
Kit brushed his hand away she then punched Draz on the side of the face sending him sprawling across the floor.
Draz got up slowly ‘I guess I deserved that!’
‘Fucking yes, yes you did!’ Kit spat. You said you would be there for me always! ’Get up and let me-
The Proctor slammed the alarm button and two security officers burst in, they pulled Kit back and stood in between her and Draz.
The door to the commodore’s office opened.
‘What in the holy fuck is going on here? Your officers of the Terran command!’
‘Just a disagreement Ma’am.’ Draz sighed.
Kit looked down, a tear fell down her cheek and onto the carpet.
‘Won’t happen again Ma’am.’ She assured, her voice a mumble.
‘Inside both of you and sit down.’
The office was taught with resentment. Draz, nursing his slowly swelling cheek sighed, as Kit sat sideways on away from him.
Janice, seething with rage kept her anger bottled as she concluded. ‘I don’t know what the hell that was all about, and, I have to say, I , I don’t fucking care. You stove that shit when you are on base! You understand? O’ Donnall sit straight when I’m addressing YOU!’
There was a pause before she continued. ‘Officer Phillamore, I see you have brought your wife with you on this trip. I hope the civilian quarters are to your liking?
‘Yes M’am, they’re fine.
Thrace nodded. ‘ Good…’ she coughed ignoring Kit’s strained look.
‘…I expect you want to know why you’re here. Six weeks ago, we received a weak transmission sent via sublight from the Janus system. The ship the Dimitris had lost control of its FTL. I know the captain he is a prick, however, they came across this. Anahel?’
‘Could you run the images and messages from the Dimitris flight recorder please.
Kit alerted to the news leaned forward. ‘A flight recorder at sublight speed? What the hell happened?’
The image on the wall screen was blurry, lines cracked and the image rolled. Then froze.
Draz looked down and away. Kit stood up.
‘Yes…’ Thrace coughed again. ‘it’s part of the Jupiter way station. We knew that it was sucked into a jump by the Wake. We assumed that being unable to free itself from the jump, it would have disintegrated within the wormhole. However…’
‘What do you want us to do?’ Kit asked
‘-Permission to speak?’ Draz asked.
‘-No flight officer Phillamore, permission denied.’
‘-O’ Donnall, we need two people who know the station, to go there, analyse what’s left. Bring back samples and disintegrate this part of the station. For a while now… there have been rumours of, of, a species living in the wormhole’s. At first we took it simply as spacer fable. The dialogue spoken by crew’s too pissed or stoned, to talk about anything but ghost stories. They talk of a species that has been called the old ones and when on distant planets signs of their…presence… has been noted. One thing is certain, if this is a treat to the Terran Federation, we need to know what that threat is; and we need to be prepared.’
‘-Ma’am, you have read our story; we gave it ten years ago…. We, we, lost that battle. The Crimson Wake appeared out of nowhere. It infected the AI, with some alien organism, then ripped the station to bits as it chose to open a gate too early. Everyone died but the two of us, and being children we, we, weren’t taken too seriously. ‘
Thrace looked down and away.
‘Anahel, can you play the last recording from the Dimitris please.
‘…this is…Mhir…its cold…so cold…I’m cold so cold…Captain Jensen….has opened the door… The old ones are coming the old ones are coming the old ones are-’ recording finished.
Kit looked disturbed.
‘You recognise that?’ Thrace inquired.
‘Mhir, was the bio server on the Dimitris.’ Anahel, instructed ‘we were commissioned two weeks apart, though we shared the same shell system for a while. He was designated for flight duty, while I was shaped for training here. ‘Anahel instructed.
‘He?’ Thrace looked up.
‘Sorry commodore. I meant it.’ Anahel replied, with a slight faltering in the voice. A waver that caused concern to register on Thrace’s aquiline features.
‘-The old one’s… You’re convinced that they are real and live inside the space created by the wormholes? Kit asked.
‘It could be…it could be that they were put there.’ Thrace hinted. ‘In encounters with other races, there has been a constant mythic, a thread that weaves between worlds, that talks about a, a species that was imprisoned after a long and terrible war.’
Kit looked at Draz.
Draz looked away.
‘I’m giving you more information than is necessary. Because I’m not ordering you to go. I am asking you to go. Unofficially. If you accept, Officially, I am ordering you to investigate the loss of the Dimitris, and to bring back any survivors. Unofficially, I want you to confirm our fears, so we can deal with any potential threat.
Just then a news feed came from Earth
‘…And now we are live from Terran command, to meet the new global president William Kirkbride, as he gives his formal declaration of office.
There was applause as an elderly man slowly stood up and walked to the centre of an oval room full of people. Slowly he mounted a pedestal.
‘My fellow Terran’s… we have, for centuries, though trial and hardship, pain and heartache, from the threat of extinction, to the expansion of progress, finally found ourselves upon a new dawn…’
‘-I know that man.’ Kit interrupted.
‘He debriefed us on moon base.’
‘Debriefed us? He sent us here. With nothing to say!’
Thrace looked at the screen and then at Kit with a tremor on her lips.
‘…so in this new dawn, let us consider our heritage as a race and as a planet. Let us not pretend that our outer family, those on Mars and the belt worlds are without merit.’
Thrace shook her head.
‘…Let us seek a means to bring back to the fold the lost brothers and sisters upon the colonies of Mars and begin again.’
Thrace turned it off.
‘What does Kirkbride want?’
‘-What any mad bastard want’s…money, power and control.’ Draz muttered.
‘Terran politics are not of your concern now…let’s get back to matters at hand, as I said this is purely voluntary, you don’t have to go.’
‘But we will be forced anyway, if we say no.’ Draz drawled
‘Not at all.’ Thrace smiled wearily. ‘There is a base three sectors from the last recorded position of the Dimitris, I’ve spoken to the Captain of the Jackson-‘
Draz smiled ‘-Is that captain Ferguson’s ship?’
Thrace nodded. ‘He’s a good man, the best…’ A cough ‘…You will be granted shore leave to investigate the caves there. Also, you will be picking up a member of the Science team associated with our findings. He is a linguist and a pain in the arse in relation to political thinking, but he is the best in his field.
They both got up and saluted.
The Commodore nodded. ‘Kit can you stay behind a moment please.’
Draz turned and left the room. While Kit returned to her seat.
There was a long pause.
Thrace coughed. ‘If there was any one else, other than flight officer Phillamore, I would have chosen them. This has to be as closed as possible. I know you two were an item, once, but… its’ part of the training program for long haul…having a family…outside of the service. it’s a component and he…’
Kit smiled, then looked down.
‘It…it’s a shock is all.’
‘-Ma’am, he promised he would always be there, it hurt.
‘-Officer Phillamore put’s his career first, he’s an exemplary officer. He’s also a dick of a human being. ‘Thrace smiled. As Kit grinned. ‘Thank you… that will be all.’
Kit stood and then saluted, then turned and left the office.
Thrace pressed a button on her desk and studied the report from the Dimitris on her screen. The words “all hand lost” blink a slow red.
Three The Jackson 09:45 S.E.T
The sleek battle cruiser, came to a silent stop, above the tiny planetoid known as “Luminance base”. Its silver hull, glinting in the pale light of the white dwarf star, that gave light, though little heat, to this relatively small system.
‘This is luminance base, luminance base calling a one, five, zero, four, to the Jackson. You’re in low orbit now, ready for drop ship on your command.’
‘This is the Jackson, ready to drop in T minus thirty minutes and counting.’
‘Eerr we get your drop-time, why the delay Jackson?’
‘personnel issues luminance.’
On board the ship, in the rest area, an argument was in full swing.
‘…I I don’t know why I need to justify myself to you!’ Draz barked
‘-Oh you don’t do you? How ‘bout all those times I helped you out during your first years of grunt training!’ hissed Kit ‘ Or the-‘
‘That’s it, bring that up! You always bring that up!’
‘an’ what about the last time I got leave to Mars…new Paris? Remember that? “Id b there for you always! What a fucki-‘
Draz turned away ‘-I just wish you could se thin-‘
‘Wha! see things from your point of view? Your point of view? Hi baba I’m captain Drrraaaz! Coloniser and sperm god of the Betelgeuse Q-‘
‘Oh just GIVE ME A BREAK KIT!’
The door hissed as it curled open and Captain Ferguson stepped into the room.
The room became quiet as the officers stood at attention.
‘You know, you two have been at it since we left the Orphanage. Your worse than a married couple!’
‘Sir yes sir!’
Ferguson smiled, his thin lips pulled back into the weathered cheeks. His thick white hair cropped short shone in the pale white light of the canteen.
‘You know most of the crew eat in their quarters because of you two? Mr. Phillamore, I expected more form you.’
‘Sir, it’s a private disagreement, I am sure that we will find space to resolve it.’
‘Mr. Phillamore you have had six light years and one wormhole jump to as you say “resolve it” that’s exactly four weeks five days, nine hours ten minutes and fifty four seconds, and still you just keep on going!’
There was a thick heavy pause, before Ferguson continued. ‘Mr Phillamore, what is my definition of a happy ship?’
‘A happy ship is a contained ship sir. Arguments left at the door of the cabin. Work well, eat well, be well, fight well!’
‘So you did learn something from your time on the Illustrious? That’s good to hear…shame you didn’t bring it with you on board the Jackson.’
‘Ms O’Donnall…’ Ferguson looked her directly in the eye, until she looked down. ‘I am old fashioned…which is why they are pushing me into retirement two years before my time…I don’t think that female marines make the ship’s crew work well…it’s all that emotional crap you carry. It gets in the way of duty and responsibility. I am old fashioned… I make no qualms about it.’
Jeus, what a sexist prick
But, my dear friend Janice Thrace, thinks the world of you. Yeah, I bet your surprised about that. It would have been good to see –perhaps- the person that she admires, instead of the rather unhappy and angry, yes, angry person that has stalked the corridors of my last command. If I’d known things were this bad between you I’d have had you both put into stasis until the drop…as it was… I don’t have the authority to do so.’ He looked up at the ceiling and then looked down.
‘I am here to inform you, as I have attempted to do over the hailer, for the last ten minutes, that the drop ship is prepped, its crew ready…now if you would be so kind…get the fuck off my ship!’
With that the captain left the room
The dropship was narrow, dark and cramped. Two rows of eight seats with the select marine team already hooked up and ready to go. Kit took her place between two officers’ she didn’t know, and would never get to know, as they were on rotation from the Orphanage to Luminance on a six month tour. Draz sat opposite her. He tried to stare at her, but Kit looked away. I don’t get it, why he would want to take the mission to the new colony. She was certain that he must have known about it when they were in new Paris, but…
There was a disembodied voice coming from the cockpit in the sealed section above.
‘Okaayy, now we are all here, a round of applause for our new arrivals,’ there followed a slow clap ‘We’re now prepped and ready for drop. Luminance can you pick us up from our coattails? Over’
There was a murmuring from the cockpit.
‘Okay ready and prepped. Comin’ at ya through the dawn. Luminance.’
There was a sudden squeal with metal grinding on metal followed by a sudden thwump as a jolt ran though the little craft to the wild sounds of shouts and applauses, followed by a “Hell Yeah!” as the sudden descent began. A moment later aboard the carrier Kit overheard the babbling of exited discussion between the troops about ‘keeping the local’s in their place’ ‘Grazzi Fucktard baboons’ and ‘how on my last tour here the drugs and the booze were so tainted that it wasn’t worth the coin to get wasted.’
The Pilot overtook the cackle of conversation. ‘Okay ladies and gentlemen, we’re in final approach for drop… we should be at the drop point of luminance station in T five and counting. Make sure you take all your personal luggage with you when you leave…I don’t want to answer to Ferguson over the pills, baggies and or other private comestibles that he finds and blames me for.’ Laugher followed.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Oh, you will hun,’ came the reply. ‘Officer Dekker reporting, your designated driver...’ He slipped her a mock terran salute, from the half shoulder. Signifying his disdain for all things Federation. ‘…for the run to luminance, if things fuck up that is, which they inevitably do.’
The sleek drop ship slowly extended its narrow wings, as it continued its controlled descent. Its thrusters leaving circular trails of yellow flame through the fiery silver cloud.
Ahead rested the tiled plexi-glass domes of Luminance base; its core structure barely visible in the cloudy haze, a pyramidal structure, that Kit could barely make out through the tiny port window.
‘Whassat?’ she asked Dekkard.
‘What? That tall fucker in the distance? That’s the atmosphere processor. Grazzi keep on attacking it. We have to fend them off. He grinned savagely, ‘It’s what I get paid to do.’
The Pilot interrupted over them.
‘-Okay luminance I see your vector approach now…would’ya like to rock the baby to sleep?’
‘-Err that’s a negative on being able to rock the baby…’
Dekkard sighed and with a grim sour smile slammed the unlock button to his left, lifted himself out of the restraint and took the driver’s seat.
‘Told you…’ his voice was caustic, though half heard over the reply by Luminance base.
‘… Guidance systems are down due to last major attack by Grazzi. You’ll have to bring her home on yer own.’
‘Shit.. lowering…casket…hey all you grunt’s down there, expect a rough birth...’ There was a shudder within the six wheeled tank as the bay doors lowered. ‘ Hey Guy’s is Dekker awake. He’s a fuckin’ job to do!’
‘Affirmative. Ready to go on your mark. Dekker rhetorted.
There was a shudder as the ship lurched forward, then a crack, followed by a whump as the mobile carrier took to the dirt road.
‘The best of luck’ came the pilots reply ‘Off to run the collection.’
From her position. Behind and to the left of the driver, Kit saw, through the wide windshield, and the hammering rain, another mobile carrier just ahead. Her heart leapt as she realised It was reversing at astonishing speed towards them. At the last minute the carrier swerved right of the driver and vanished.
‘It’s procedure here.’ Dekker bellowed ‘…Prior to dust-off protocol’s, we used to lose half a contingent, as the bastards used to pick us off.’ The sound of the engine was almost deafening as the carrier bounced.
‘Here they come!’ Bellowed Dekker, as out from the mists thousands of javelins and arrows struck the craft, with a cacophony of sound, that reminded Kit of the clattering of rattling saucepans.
Then, out of the misty twilight, Kit saw what she later described as three strange, quadruped, blue, hairy ape like creature’s with a huge sloping forehead’s, oversized mouth’s above three wide slit like, yellow hostile eyes. They opened their huge mouth’s revealing yellowing daggers for teeth. From a distance of about ten meters, they spat something green upon the windscreen. The moment it hit the windscreen, it started to crack and bubble. Dekker hissed a profanity and pressed a large square red button to the left of the steering wheel. The mobile carrier bumped over one of the creature’s she saw two others dive into the tree line. An alarm sounded. Masks descended from the ceiling. The crew put them on and pulled them free. They gave Kit and Draz one each. Kit, released herself from the restraint and joined the driver at the front.
‘Welcome to Hell.’ Dekker muttered, with a grin, spittle covering his faceplate, as the carrier bounced violently along the dirt track.
‘1000 meter’s…’ Dekker spat. His chiselled chin pockmarked with scars under stubble tightened. His grey eyes narrowed.
There were more of them now, jumping up and onto the craft.
‘Countermeasures!’ Dekker yelled as the crew hit the floor. Draz was pulled from his seat and violently dragged to the floor. Sudden wails and hideous screams followed. As a blue green fluid fell onto the crumbling windscreen.
‘…500 meters’!’ Dekker Bellowed again. The screaming subsided. But the barrage continued.
‘Luminance, Luminance, open the door! The baby is screaming!’
Suddenly out of the mist ahead she could see a glittering dome. Its doors closed. They were moving far too fast to stop.
‘Luminance! Open the fucking DOOR!’ Laser fire from the dome shot at the truck. Kit swore as Dekker Yelled hollowly, as the windscreen screen finally shattered inwards. Buffets of winds and rain rippled through the truck.
Kit braced herself for a crash when all of a sudden the door curled open. And the mobile carrier slid into the hole. And into a waiting net.
‘Door sealed. Welcome to luminance base.’
The silence was numbing.
‘Fuck you too Luminance!’ Dekker hissed.
Four Luminance base 22:40 hrs S.E.T
Kit sat in the oval shaped, poorly lit, mess hall; loosely chewing on the cornbread that rested in plastic dishes upon the round plexiglass table. She had her head cocked to the left and her eyes looked strained, swollen with a lack of sleep and the nightmare that was entering the domed complex. Already her green vest had sweat marks down the back and along her cleavage line. And though she tried to stop thinking about Dekkard her nipples budded through the top.
She attempted to concentrated on the pale yellow dried rations in front of her. Ignoring the images and the sudden thoughts that rose within her, as she looked up and glimpsed Dekkard sat sideways on and ten feet away sneering a laugh out with the other troopers. His lips pulling away from his even teeth; the chiselled contours of his face, the muscles along his arm and back… they were typically disgusting rations. Dry to the taste and bitter to the tongue but in the neon blue lighting, she could ignore ignore at least what they looked like.
Dekker began laughing nasally as a voice broke in on the tanoi
‘Ms Katerine O’Donnal, could you come to control, Katerine O’ Donnal to control please.’ The voice sounded old cracked and tired. She glanced at Dekkard who after laughing looked up at the tanoi and sneered.
The control room pale blue and dimly lit, yet was a hive of activity. The smell of too many people in too small an area with poor ventilation struck her at once, as Officers of various ranks huddled around holographic consoles and spoke into their headsets.
A large, round faced, sweaty man with a grey goatee stood at the doorway.
‘Pleased to meet you, I, I am commander Solway. I understand you’re hear on the the orders of commander Thrace? to look at the caves in the beta quadrant?’
‘ Yes we are here to meet with-‘
-‘ please follow me.’
They waked through the chaotic command centre; weaving between and colliding with various over worked and from the look of them underfed chiefs of staff.
‘Yes, professor Johnson, he’s already out at the caves now…’ he pushed between two officers ‘…please follow me.’
They walked through the morass towards a glass sealed office at the far end of the rounded room. A partition in the glass curled open. They both entered and the glass petition sealed behind them. Then the glass began to haze up and turn dark. to kit the silence became numbing; though the air conditioning gave relief as they stood in this new silence.
Solway looked awkward, his olive eyes appeared strained and he nervously bit the side of his cheek, making a suckling sound, that slowly began to irritate Kit. She sat in the only other vacant chair in the room opposite Solway. ‘…its late now…’ he coughed ‘…the Grazzi are…’ he sighed ‘… being difficult in that region at the moment. We have sent a significant number of droids to protect the camp….errum…but they need constant replacing...night travel is…’ Kit thought he looked decidedly nervous, as sweat pealed from his brow. …‘not recommended at the mom-’ the gentle, sexless voice of Haniel, the bio-server injected.
What? Deputy Commander? The image of a bullfrog filled her inner eye. Its face slimy, its’ over large lips a grotesque parody of Solway’s. Kit looked at Solway with concern.
‘Yes Haniel’ Solway replied tersely.
‘We are getting a disproportionate rise in Grazzi activity along the western border.’
‘Initiate protocol ten.’ He paused as an idea glittered to the surface; and shone from his eyes with malevolence. ‘Is the wind blowing from the east? it is I recall?’
‘Yes it is blowing east to west.’
Solway drummed his fingers,‘ Then, then increase oxygen output of the convector by, by bursts of fifty percent at intervals of ten to fifteen minutes...or until the fucking animals give up.’
‘-That would put an increase upon the fusion reactor of 2.5 % above the recommended –‘
‘-look, I don’t care… the, the gas will send the fuckers running or burning, I don’t care which!’
‘As you say.’
Solway looked up from his desk and stared nervously at Kit.
‘The commander has been… taken ill. He was…he he, was attacked in the last Grazzi attack. There followed a weak smile. ‘ His mech suit was compromised and one of the Grazzi-
The door curled open and Dekkard stood in the room.
‘ You wanted to see me.’
‘In a moment Dekkard.’
Dekkard was about to leave.
‘No, no, you better stay now, this concerns you too.’ Solway sighed.
‘Officer Dekkard will take you to the caves in the morning….I believe you two have met?’
‘Yes sir we have.’ Dekkard ground the words out, as Solway nervously looked away.
‘Grazzi have pulled away from the western side of the compound.’ Haniel said, shall I reduce oxygen levels?
‘No not yet, get the droids in to reseal the compound. Also get a thruster into positon to cover them. I don’t want to lose any more droids than I have to.’
‘But killing the odd man or two is fine.’ Mumbled Dekkard.
Solway glared at Dekkard. Who glared back, until Solway looked away. Dekkard smirked. His eyes became laced with hatred.
‘Time for departure tomorrow will be 09.23 S.E.T. it will be under the white sun, so Grazzi attacks will be limited. You may go…officer O’Donnal.’ Solway waved his hand as She left the room in silence.
Draz was in his room, muttering under his breath as the argument started again.
‘But I jus’ don’ see why you hafta go.’
‘Its orders, hun, I should be back in five to six days at the most. It’s a recon mission, pure an simple.’
‘Hun, nothing is simple with the Terran federation! The base here is on lockdown after president sent a fleet of ships to Mars. ‘
‘What?’ Draz was stunned
‘President Kirkbride has sent three battle cruiser’s an’ gods knows how many field troops to Mars!’
Draz eyes opened wider. His pupils tightened.
Suddenly his comlink hummed. He looked at his wrist communicator. It was from Kit. The words were clipped. Briefing room now. When it rains… A storm cloud filled his inner eye.
The briefing room was a white narrow sparse and functional, with poor seating that rose in tires on the left and a podium set central to the room. Sitting on the lower tier her hands cupping her chin, her knees on her elbow was kit. She looked sad.
‘ha, no, not really…do you know why the native creatures are called Grazzi?’
‘Eer, no’ and in truth Draz had no real reason to care.
‘The first officer to be killed by one was a Wiilliam. S. Grazzi. He killed one that was, according to some here, defending her young.’
‘-What’s that go to do with me being here? Look, Kit… I’m’
‘-Why do you think this is always about you?’ She stared at him until Draz looked down.
‘I just don’t think we should be here… that’s all.’ Kit sighed.
‘I know.’ Draz agreed. He slowly walked over and sat down next to her.
‘-I’m sorry about the way here. About everything!’
‘-no…I should have told you.’
‘No…Terran command should have told me. Shit, I should have known by the duty rosters.’
‘-Well…the flight not be on now anyway.’
‘-Kirkbride has ordered operations to Mars.’
‘-Yeah…according to Jaylee, Orphanage is on lockdown. I’m surprised we haven’t been called back yet.’
Kit looked at the floor. ‘I’m sorry… I, I know that the Orion mission meant a lot to you.’
‘yeah. It does…it did…now, with Mars about to be wrecked for coin… I, I just don’t know if I trust the Terran’s anymore.’
‘I’ve had a briefing from the commander here. We are off to some fucking caves here in the morning.’
‘What the fuck have cave painting’s go to do with what happened to the Way station? I just don’t get it. ‘
‘Neither do I. one thing is certain. We shouldn’t be forming this planet. There must be something really valuable here for Terra to want to spend so much time and resources keeping the station alive.’
‘they are ugly fuckers though.’ Draz quipped.
Kit grinned. ‘They probably think the same about you, you muthafucka!’ she giggled.
They both rose and left the room.
Hidden in the shadow at the far end of the room the holographic form of Haniel stood motionless. A cold smile slowly crept over its face.
Five: a door opens
The camouflaged four winged helijet, came out of the grey circular hole in the dome like a groggy wasp, feeling its way into the morning light. Slowly it arose in the pale light of the white sun. The buzzing thump of its rotor blades, scattered many of the smaller, brightly coloured birds, whom, with both squawks and wails of exclamation, flapped their leather wings off into the middle distance of the forest.
‘This is flight control, wishing those on-board flight alpha five zero a safe trip to the colonnades, over.’
‘This is alpha five zero, on the comeback, we are secure… thank your c-concern. Over and out.’
With that the ship rose high above the dome, and with the pyramid of the processor plant behind them sped off towards the blue tinted mountainous region of the north west.
Kit unbuckled herself from her seat and in a half crouch made her way to the rear of the ship, to vomit in the latrine. Bad enough that I had little sleep the night before, but now a helijet? Jeus, these fuckers always make me sick. Images of a terrifying clown at the controls surfaced in her mind’s eye as the song “satisfaction”, by the classical band the Rolling Stones clanged in her inner ear.
‘We should reach the caves by 10.00 hrs S.A.T…’ It was the voice of Dekker on the hailer, ‘…it’s not a long flight, just a bit- with a sudden raised squeal, the Heli-jet tilted wildly to the right, forcing Kit to lose her balance as medikits and loose bandages, fell from their allocated places and onto her back. ‘…difficult.’
Kit groaned as the face of the evil clown took on the resemblance of Dekker. The music became louder.
Draz, looking towards Kit grinned savagely.
‘Ha still find theses flight’s over drops a problem?’
‘Fuuugh you Draz.’ Kit’s reply echoed. All around them sat the droid contingent, their faceplates, shiny black glass, their hands held their pulse rifles.
Dekker dove the helijet down and into a steep bank as one and then, yet another of the larger leather winged bat like birds skirted past. The latter, it’s talons raised, suddenly ducked in with an attempt to grab the nose of the ship.
Everything on this planet wants to kill us. He cursed, viciously and inaudibly. An image of Solway with his pants down being eaten by a Grazzi entered his mind and made him giggle, as he drove the helijet on a high curve out of its reach. Then, after looping over, he had the bright red and yellow coloured, leather winged bat-creature in the sights of the ships twin gun phazer gun turrets. With a savage grin he pressed the red trigger, button on his stick. A bright beam of purple particle light cut the creature cleanly in half. Bright blue and green blood swelled and fell in hissed heated droplets as the animal spiralled towards the jungle floor below. The other, possibly noting its mate’s death, let out a vile hiss and banked sharply away and into the forest canopy below.
‘What the fuc-‘ Kit bellowed. As Dekker cracked a crooked grin.
Half an hour later, they were in sight of the mountains dubbed the colonnades. Kit felt it was a fair description. The mountains themselves were vast grey and mustard yellow in colour. They stood in a line, yet were nearly circular, giving the impression of jagged uneven teeth whose pinnacles were lost in the mist of low cloud. The gum line below their feet was the wild forest canopy that howled with alien life. The ship flew between two scrags of rock, revealing a vast motionless lake. Kit, who had exchanged the toilet for the seat next to Dekker gasped at the beauty that has been revealed to her, as if she and the little ship, had gone through a magic door into a land of enchantment.
Dekker let out a small laugh.
‘Yeah, I felt that too, when I first came here. The trouble is the beasts that live in that lake want to kill you too. Everything here, even the fuckin’ air is hostile.
Dekker nodded down to his left. Kit stood up, and could just make out a platform that extended out upon the lakes surface; upon which a series of six grey stone and metal domes rested.
‘Entrance to the dig site is there. It was a miracle that we found this place at all.’
The heliject slowly started to spin in its decent, as one of the six domes slowly pulled itself back along a line that to her appeared like serrated teeth. Under Dekker’s expert handling, the helijet’s engines were slowed and the craft came to a gentle stop upon the platform. Slowly The dome rose up again, as night descended.
‘Okay alpha five zero, your pressure and air are okay, you are free to go. Did you have a nice trip?’
‘Had to slice a bat up on the way...’ he rose from the seat, crouched his way to the side panel door and slammed the release button with his fist. ‘Also the wasp took a talon to its nose. It might need a patch up before the flight home.’
‘Roger that fight alpha five zero, welcome to the colonnades.’
An hour later kit Draz and Dekkard stood in a stone hallway, opposite a short shabbily dressed man with scraggy grey hair and dark fading to grey stubble, who was not in the best of moods.
‘-err, professor Johnson-‘ injected Draz,
Dekkard laughed cynically, while shaking his head.
‘-Listen! My work here is vital, vital, to the Terran federation! I’m not some bloudy toorist guide, here to shoaw a couple, just out of their diapers or jocky shorts a-‘
‘-we’re aware of that-‘ sighed Kit
‘And , I, I would like to add, have received noaw such memo, from Commodore Thrace informing me of your, lets just say untimely arrival.’
The door at the far end of the hallway curled open and a balding, slightly overweight man in his early twenties carrying a vast amount of papers in his hands smiled gently at the gathering.
‘Ms O’Donnal? Officer Dekkard, Captain Phillamore, a pleasure to meet you. He offered a sweaty hand to shake as some of his papers fell to the floor. Then he turned to the shabbily dressed man.
‘Sir, please read through y- your latest orders from command....’ he sighed ‘they are on your feeder.’ He turned again to Kit and Draz, ‘…Sorry, I would have got here sooner…I’ve had, had a lot to do this morning. With an air of irritation Professor Johnson pulled his reader from his jacket pocket. He touched the screen and read the contents.
‘I see…’ he looked down and then stared at them narrowly. His jaw tightened on his back teeth. ‘…I see…’ he coughed. ‘Thrace has cleared you. From your files I see you’re the last survivors of Jupiter Way station, well, that being the case this does concern you.’ He scratched the back of his head absently ‘What you are about to see has been classified at the highest levels of Terran command. Its serious. You understand that. And true, you might doubt what you see, but…’ he shook his head, suddenly. ‘but…its true. What the Ulni discovered-‘
Johnson sighed and looked up. ‘The indigenous species of this planet, the Ulni… what the idiots at Luminance and at Terran command call “the Grazzi…”.’
‘…they were once an astounding civilisation! Astounding! Leaps ahead of us in art, culture, technology, everything!’ Then according to their.. oh it’s better that I show you. Come one, this way, you need to see this for yourselves.
Six the Krall
They walked along the dimly lit stone hallway, the low ceiling brushing against their heads; at the end of the hall they entered a large pale blue circular room. With twitching fingers Johnson pressed a small circular depression to the left of the entrance. Floor began to descend at such an accelerated rate that Kit could feel her stomach sluice, while her legs began to tingle. Johnson smiled gently as there was a slow cushion to the fall and a numb thump that seemed to come from everywhere at once.
A round stone door clicked and rolled aside to reveal another low ceilinged pale lit long and narrow corridor. Kit heard their feet echo in clips and clops while Johnson spoke in hushed tones about the Ulni but there was something about all of his praise that sounded shallow.it was as if he was covering something up, some darker secret, it was all too unreal.
‘…we have known for centuries how civilisations fall, we have the archives on Terra...the rise and fall of Rome…the mediaeval world rise and decline, the British empire, the collapse of the western state…the little war that followed.’
Dekkard hrumphed and growled at that. ‘-I thought you professor types had a better definition for that!’ he spat.
‘-Everything has a perspective…’ he stared at Dekkard coolly, his forest green eyes glazed as a single tear, swelled up from the his right lacriminal sac and then slowly slid down the side of his nose. ‘…Mine, differs from yours.’
‘Hell yeah, I, I bet it does!’ Dekkard Sneered. ‘Nothing like a bit of population control eh Professor.’
Kit saw Johnson’s jaw visibly twitch. As he looked down and away.
‘Ha!’ Dekkard jibed. His voice barked out in a cold mocking staccato ‘You fuckin’ people never change.’
‘-What’s that supposed to mean?’ Johnson retorted.
‘-I mean the times might change, but the argument never goes away. From Egyptian kings and Roman Patricians, who lauded over the poor, from the Celts and their control, from the Anglo Saxon kings and medieval knights with their kings queens who despised the commoners, to the rise of so called lords, who sort equality-‘
‘-T’that will do.’ Johnson staged smile started to crack,
‘ except their, their surfs received more inequality and more of the same. From the French revolution to the rise Napoleon from the so called Christian values of Victoria, that led to the rise of the slum’s who were filled with the slaves who made their system work ‘
‘n, now now-‘ Johnson injected
‘-From the, the, kings who sought population control and a new ratified order that came out of the first world war, that, that in turn, led to the rise of socialism and communism. To the Fascists black shirts of Hitler and Mussolini, to the- ‘
‘NOW That is enough.’
‘-the the counter balance of the cold war, whose fall led to the rise of the dark beast yet again… ‘
‘-I I said TH TH that is ENOUGH!’
‘…The rich and the powerful have always sought to control the population. The little death was just that. A political means to an end. You might call yourself a new thinker or a neo- liberal or what is it now? Ahh yes, the new Dawn, but you’re all the FUCKING same. Your wealthy and you want to control the wealth in your favour, and too many people mean a loss of revenue. ‘
Johnson looked away.
‘Fucking Sloat’s tool, that is all you are.’
‘A, an’d wh-what would you you do?’ Johnson sneered at Dekker.
‘More than you.’
Kit stared at Dekkard carefully.
‘By your argument, revolution has, has always led to, to subjugation, that is not what the New Dawn-‘
‘yeah.’ Dekkard scratched at his stubble. ‘Tell that to your kith and kin.’
Johnson sighed, and was about to rehtort, but they had reached the end of the corridor and another door curled open revealing another large circular room.
‘Ulni technology is based upon soundwaves and harmonics, they used it in various ways, even as a means of transportation. We are simply apes to them.
‘-that doesn’t explain what occurred. Look at them now-’
‘-in a way it, it does.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean, with every step forward there is always a step back… Evolution is a binary process.’
We regress as easily as we progress. Moreover, we are no different from our ancestors.’
‘Spoken like a member of New Dawn.’
‘-just because I agree with some of their ideology, it does not necessarily mean that I agree with all of it.’
‘-The reality of the human condition is far, far more complex than the mere notion of human concepts in relation to technology. Technology is the means to establish progress, sure, but, and this is a big but, we forget the first step.’
‘Which is?’ Asked Draz.
Johnson stared at Draz. His eyes glistening in the half light of the room. He welsh ragged his long wiry hair out of his narrow face, as another tear fell down his right cheek.
‘What do you consider humankinds first great achievement?’
‘That’s a no brainer. Fire.’
Johnson smiled weakly as his eyes shone. ‘No, it’s not.’
Kit stared at Johnson unsure where this was going.
‘Fire was the result of an action. The word and the means to communicate the action came first. To start with the human had to use the hands, to pick up the flint to make the spark. He then had to communicate that thought …The ape picked something up and used it creatively. That is why religious texts use the world creation when considering the birth of our planets or the universe; for it is a noun that is used to define the making of something, and that stems from the mind of- ‘ and here he paused. ‘B, but I’ve said enough already.’
Johnson walked over to a console that stood in the centre of the room. He put his palm upon it. Where there was once a semi darkness a pale blue light filled the room. Galaxies, stars and then planets slowly started spinning around her Kit gasped in awe as she walked through it. It rippled as she ran her fingers through it. it’s as if I’m running my hands through water. She smiled. Her eyes shone with a giddy light. Her breath came in slow sighs. A huge screen on the far wall suddenly glowed. And a man, his face was neither male or female, yet she sensed a masculinity about it, his aquiline features and tree soft yellow eyes glowed with intelligence and a kindness she had never seen before. As he stood motionless before the screen, Kit became aware of a voice spoken in a beautiful near liquid tongue. She covered her ears and still the words were heard.
‘-It’s an audio holographic mental projection.’ Johnson smiled as he spoke. Its translated into every known language, because it feeds directly into your mind.
‘….Those who are hearing this we welcome you. No doubt you have come to our fertile, yet desolate world and found it hostile to life; we, those who will survive the process that is to come, will be unrecognisable to me now, as to you. For we are a lost species, returning from whence we came from. The process began long ago, long before we knew it would be upon us. For they, the great elder ones, know how to sow and when to reap the rewards of their hard work.
We the Ulni were a proud race. We built vast machines, fought against our better nature and set ourselves to one goal: to find if we were all alone in the evernight of the stars. We built colonies, survived wars brought peace and thrived. Where life was found, it was always far more primitive than our own. We had no equal, so we became vain in our knowledge. We the Ulni stood like giants and boasted about our great achievements. Then, five years ago, from the boiling tides of neverspace they came. First they attacked our outposts, then, after seducing us and mentally controlling us, they forced us to serve them, turning us against ourselves. We, the great Ulni, are now facing the final night of our collective survival. Here in this ancient tomb rests perhaps the only way we have to defend ourselves against this Elder race that rose from the neverspace…‘
Suddenly there was a high pitched whine, the beautiful blue being before her slammed its hand against its head, as the screen went dark.
‘that’s it….Or all we have managed to get to at the moment.’ Johnson looked away as Dekkard stared at him coldly. ‘Oh there is one other thing. He pressed another button and a shape filled the screen. It was a square with a line drawn through it from the top right hand corner to the bottom left hand corner.
Kit jumped back. Draz leaned forward.
‘You recognise that?’
‘it was all over the Waystation on every lost level. Even the ship…. Also…its been found fifty spacials from here’
‘it’s written here in Ulni blood…. We don’t fully understand its significance.’
‘I see...’ Draz stared at Johnson. His voice coming over tightly ‘ as we’ve said, we have orders to take you with us to investigate a finding. Looking at this… well… it seems that there is a correlation between your work here, the fall of the way station and the anomaly we are here to investigate. ’
Johnson looked down at his wrist server. ‘ yes… yes I understand this to be the case....’ Kit thought that Johnson’s adenoidal voice sounded distant, ‘…Well… I suppose a small excursion might help put things in perspective.
Seven The Janus system
The battle cruiser Archipelago, hopped back into the evernight at 20:45 S.E.T, leaving its usual spherical quake of bosun particle’s in its wake. Kit stared out of the wide port window into the velvet dark. Both unsure whether she wanted to see what was on the scope or not.
‘ Exterior lighting.’ Captain Halloran’s croaky voice came in over the ship tanoi. Then there was light. Space: a place was filled with dirt. Kit thought as she stared out at numb voiceless soundless cathedral where lumps of ice and rock span in dirty brown spirals. In the middle distance and shining white in the reflected light of the beam, and resting at a cockeyed angle stood the Dimitris. Attached to that: ‘My God Draz look!’ Kit explained her voice tight in her throat. Draz Joined her.
‘Oh my god.’
It was part of Jupiter way station; she could make out the markings on the cracked hydroponic dome even from this distance.
Halloran’s croakey voice again came over the Tanoi.
‘We will be docking with the Dimitris in standard by five. Droids will be used in sections five, nine and twelve. This is a search and rescue mission, so we will be running it by the numbers.’
Slowly the cruiser slipped alongside the Demitris and came to a halt along its port side and opposite from the crumbling waystation.
‘ Deploying grapplers.’ Said a voice
In the numb silence grappling hooks shot out from the archipelago and clung to the Demitris. Shards of the latter ship silently exploded into the void. Then transport tubes silently slid and were held in position by air pumps.
‘Should we deploy the AI.’ Johnson asked.
Hollaran was about to answer, his mouth almost forming words; that he didn’t want to say. Then he replied ‘Negative.’
Johnson gave Halloran a bemused stare.
‘You doubt my decision?’
‘-I’ve just never seen it done that way before.’
‘My ship, my rules. I don’t trust the AI. Never have never will.’
Johnson became aware of hostile eyes coming at him from the bridge crew.
‘-heard some of you old guards were still left.’
‘A.I serve no purpose here.’ Halloran retorted.
‘-They have been maintaining the Federation’s fleet for over ten years now.’
Halloran’s pulled his iron grey fringe out of his face. His wide set, sea green eyes appeared strained under black heavy bags, his wide lips pursed and chomped in agitation, and his square jaw became taught as he moved from one console to another, checking the proximity indicator’s.
‘look, whatever your name is, I don’t have time to give you an ethics debate or reasons why I don’t tolerate the AI. Now, if you please, go to docking port Beta, where the rest of the embarkation crew and your fellow passengers will be waiting for you.’
As Johnson left the control room several officers smirked behind his back, to the muttering of new dawner.
The oval shaped docking chamber was a hive of activity, as Kit Dekkard, Draz and Johnson were suiting up, while the droids armed with pulse rifles, were slowly loping their way through the oval door to the first air lock.
‘ Did You know that this ship has no AI on board? Can you believe it?’ Johnson muttered to no-one in particular. ‘…I mean-‘
‘-Well some veterans find the technology questionable.’ Dekkerd stated.
Johnson stared at Dekkerd coolly.
‘-What’s questionable about crew safety?’
‘-ha. ‘ Dekkerd spat on the floor. Johnson stared at Dekkard with a look of disgust. ‘Hear that silence? No AI telling me, that I have broken Health and safety code violation one four seven one of the Terran and Sloat amalgamated consortium trade agreement? That is what I am talking about. Then of course there is the Vostock.’
‘The Vostock?’ Kit asked.
‘The Vostock was the first AI experimental vessel. She went out to Uranus and back on a trial run...’ Draz began ‘…all hands lost.’
‘-it was never proven that the Ai-‘ Johnson retorted
‘Oh, that’s new Dawn space-shit!’ Dekkard spat again on the floor at Johnson’s feet. ‘There is evidence aplenty that the AI, while undergoing manoeuvres, went what’s the term? Ahh Technologically insane. It turned on the crew and-‘
‘ That’s not the only AI to malfunction,’ Kit muttered.
‘-The AI system designed by the Sloat consortium has been proven-‘
‘-Oh please, for the love of all that’s real; just cut the Sloat crap for one single minute!’ Dekkerd growled. ‘-I know, hell, we know, that you know, he pays your fucking wages. We don’t need your new dawn crap in our heads.’
Hollaran came over the tanoi : ‘Ok ladies and gentlemen, the droids are aboard… if you please.’
With helmets sealed they made their way out through the air lock, that closed behind them.
In a moment they were aboard the Dimitris, the lights were red. Stating red alert status.
‘No air… We can assume that the crew bought it.’ Dekkerd stated over the intercom.
‘The droids are at engineering and navigation, some are on-board the artefact.’ Captain Halloran stated.
‘As this has an AI I think it might be of value-‘ Johnson cut in.
‘Do as you see fit Mr Johnson.’ Halloran grated.
‘Dekkard secure channel please.’
‘Sir.’ Kit noted that there was something in Dekkard’s reply to Halloran that was different. There was a sense of respect; it was the first time she had ever heard it from him since arriving at Janus.
She tried to engage Dekkard but noted on her helmet display that Dekkard had cut her off.
‘Draz, you got Dekkard on line?’
‘No looks like Mr Angry is having a private chat.’
They made their way down the narrow corridor toward the Dimitris bridge. The door slid open. Kit gasped and took a step back.
Draz, who was behind her, made a call to Halloran.
‘We need medics here! and an analysis team as soon as possible.’
Despite the red light, Kit could see that the room was filled with blood. Dark stains covered everything.
‘My gods what happened here?’
‘Look.’ Kit pointed to the far wall. They both stared.
‘ What is it?’ Johnson asked eagerly. Kit sent the image from her Helmet cam: A roughly drawn square with a line drawn through it from top right to bottom left hand corner was painted on the wall with blood.
‘It’s the same sign.’ Johnson stated. His voice muffled.
‘what does it mean?’ Kit whispered
‘I don’t think it’s safe here captain.’ Draz began ‘I recommend that we- ‘
‘-Ok, Halloran cam over the intercom ‘we’ve lost contact with the droids, I suggest you-‘
‘-Oh fuck me!’ Dekkard bellowed. There was the hiss of small arms fire. Kit stepped backwards ‘Engine room is compromised! They’re coming out of the fucking shadows!’
Pull back now! get out of there! Code red! Move it or I’ll have to leave you behind!
All around her Kit could hear sounds she hadn’t heard since her youth, the slow slithering chatter of something from the dark rising.
Without thinking she turned and ran. She tripped and fell. Picked herself up and jumped over the items that were all over the floor. All she could hear were the exchanges of small arms fire and the slithering hiss of the things that filled her nights with dread. She heaved as she breathed.
‘Katerine slow down your oxygen intake! regulate your heart beat!’
‘I gotta get outta here! Hear me!’
‘Kit slow down.’
She was feeling dizzy by the time she reached the access tube and the safety of the archipelago. She looked behind her but Draz was no where to be seen. She was on her way back for him when she was grabbed from behind. She let out a scream and turned to see Dekkard’s fierce looming at her from his helmet. He threw her along the vent and then turned to fire his weapon along the corridor of the Dimitris firing both left and then right. She rose to see Johnson, his face pale, staring at her. Without thinking, she rose and ran back down towards the Dimitris. Her mind racing her breath failing. But Dekkard was now charging at her. Pushing her back towards The lock to the Archipelago. She saw something that resembled slime and shining metal tentacles and a face that she recognised covered in blood. She screamed. Then The door behind her hissed open and in the fading grey several officers her and dragged her along the floor.
How much time had passed, she had no clue, she was lying in a stasis bed. A nurse, was checking her vitals.
‘you have had some oxygen depletion, but you should be okay in a couple of hours.’
Next to her sat Dekkard looking grim; while Draz was nowhere to be seen. To her far right she could make out the Demitris and what was left of the way station in the dise. There was a blinding white flash, that almost blinded her. Then nothing.
(c) adh 2017