Chapter 27 – Cold Trails
The Next Morning
— Friday, October 14, AD 2129 —
“Well, we sure did cut it goddamn close there! But it looks like we’re all still alive, huh?”
“You really are lucky,” Commander Rabine commented. “To have such a close brush with a Faction Leader, not once, but twice… there are few others in the galaxy who can claim to have done that.”
“I think there are few folks in the galaxy who’ve done any of what we did over the past twenty-four goddamn hours,” Krick replied. “What a fuckin’ day!”
Saito nodded along absentmindedly, glancing around the room at everyone present for the core mission debriefing: himself, Krick, Rabine, Mote, and Kate. A night’s rest and a proper shower later, everyone looked significantly less stressed than they had been upon arrival at the Aldredian shipyard. Even Mote and Kate seemed to have made up — or at least, they had each dropped the silent treatment and returned to harsh banter.
The Colonel then turned toward Krick. “Alright, we’re all here. Let’s get this debriefing started.”
“Well we’re already on our way back to Earth, and should arrive in around three days… but aside from that, where do we even fucking start?” Krick shook his head bemusedly. “A whole damn shipyard, full to the god damned brim with intact Aldredian ships… and we had to fucking destroy it!”
“Let’s start there, then,” Rabine suggested. “Have you verified that the yard was destroyed?”
“Of course we did,” Krick scoffed. “The Drive Bomb did exactly what we expected. The yard and the Drakkar fleet both were completely annihilated — no traces left of either.”
“How do we know that the Drakkars didn’t escape with any of the Aldredas technology?”
“You’ve got the Lieutenant over there to thank for that.” Krick nodded in Mote’s direction. “He fired off that Drive Bomb faster than the Drakkars could react. Even if a couple of their ships did escape, there’s no goddamn way they managed to make off with any more tech than we did.”
“Good flying,” Saito remarked, passing Mote a quick smile.
“It wasn’t just me,” Mote quickly refuted. “If not for Kate’s efforts, the Drive never would’ve been ready in the first place.”
“Don’t fucking remind me,” Kate muttered with a scowl. “I don’t want to think about how I’m responsible for helping to blow up the greatest fucking treasure trove in the modern age!”
“No one likes it,” Saito replied, “but would you rather the Drakkars get their hands on the Aldredian tech?”
“Meh, the Drakkars already know what Aldredian tech can do…”
“That won’t necessarily stop them from learning even more from anything they recover,” Rabine countered. “The Drakkars have enough of a technological advantage over the rest of the galaxy, as is. We don’t need to be handing them an even bigger lead.”
“And also, by Drive Bombing the shipyard, we got a goddamn Faction Leader, too!” Krick exclaimed. “There’s no fucking way she survived that.”
“I wouldn’t be so certain. The Faction Leaders have proved themselves to be resilient to all damage. There’s a good chance that we’ve just left her stranded, floating in space, or even that she managed to escape the yard before we blew it up… Long story short, don’t expect this to be the last we see of Telregina.”
“She sounded pretty mad that we got the best of her back in Dead Space, even if only for a moment,” Saito commented. “I can’t imagine how furious she’d have to be, now!”
“As long as I never see her again personally,” Krick muttered. “But at least we recovered plenty of shit, so it wasn’t a total wash. Tons of data off the Dreadnought computers and two Aldredian mechs. It’s not spaceship tech, but it could still be pretty damn useful.”
Saito surreptitiously glanced toward Rabine. The Black Suns also recovered things on their own… though just as she promised, she hasn’t demanded any information on what we got out of the Dreadnought. I hope we really can trust her on this one… He then looked over at Kate. “Do we know what kind of information we actually managed to get?”
“Too early to say,” she answered with a shrug. “Those mechs look interesting… but personally, I’m more interested in the Raenaros, and Mote’s fancy fucking armor.”
“It’s not my armor,” he quickly countered.
“You’re the only one who can fucking use it, it might as well be yours! Lucky bastard.”
“Did you uncover something new about the Corvette or the armor?” Rabine questioned.
Mote looked toward Saito, as if for approval; after the Colonel nodded, he replied, “yes, both seemed to have received some… upgrades… while I was docked up with the Dreadnought.”
“Yeah, like a fucking zero-g maneuvering system! On personal fucking armor!” Kate exclaimed. “I don’t know why the hell the Aldredas decided to make something like that, but I’m not fucking complaining!”
“Excuse me, what? A zero-g maneuvering system?” Rabine eyed Kate incredulously, and then glanced over at Mote. “Do you mean to tell me that your armor can… fly in space?”
“It looks stupid as hell,” Mote replied with a scowl. “But it’s possible. I wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as I did against Telregina without it.”
“And even with it, I still had to save your sorry ass,” Kate declared with a smug grin.
“Are there any more of these ‘upgrades’?” Saito questioned.
“On the armor? I’m not sure,” Mote commented. “I can’t read Aldredian, so I can’t read the HUD to say.”
“And his useless ass is the only one that can wear the armor, so we’re fucking stuck there,” Kate lamented. “The Raenaros, though, that’s a different story, since the entire bridge can see Mote’s HUD while he’s piloting it. I haven’t had a chance to do a deep-dive, but I at least know that there’s a minor object fabrication system, probably using the same nanites as the self-repair system.”
“Goddamned nanites again…” Krick scowled. “They’re going to be the fucking end of you, mark my words!”
Kate simply rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. We’ve survived encounters with a fucking Drakkar Faction Leader, we can handle a few nanomachines.”
“I wouldn’t underestimate them, if I were you,” Rabine commented. “As someone who fought in the Nanocreature War… the Captain has a point. That said, the Corvette’s nanites don’t seem to behave quite like Nanocreature ones do, seeing as they don’t try to corrupt and control everything they touch. With proper containment procedures, they should be safe to study, and perhaps even use in the field.”
“That’s a rather glowing endorsement, considering you have first-hand experience with the Nanocreatures,” Saito remarked.
“Caution is always warranted with matters such as these, but we should never let our fears prevent wholesale the march of progress. This is one of the most highly regarded tenets of Sector 3 of the Black Suns.”
“And the other Sectors?” Krick shot back.
“They believe similarly, but hold other priorities to be more important. Sector 3 is the one in charge of research and development, after all; the other Sectors focus on military matters.” Rabine then turned toward Mote and Kate. “Let’s back up a bit, however. The two of you ran into Telregina, yet again. How did you fight her off? Did she say anything of note?”
“Not the first time she attacked, at least,” Saito replied. “When she attacked the Dreadnought bridge, she recognized me from our encounter in Dead Space, and then said a bunch of crap about killing me. She seemed pretty angry.”
“And then she ran off when Mote showed up,” Kate stated. “Fucking coward.”
“No, I think something else is up, here,” Mote said. “She fled the first two times we encountered each other, sure. Once in Dead Space, and once when she was chasing CSF-1 on the Dreadnought. But then, she approached me head-on while Kate was setting up the Raenaros to launch the Drive Bomb. She seemed to recognize both my hammer, and the Aldredian armor. She called it ‘Raen Technology’.”
“Raen Technology…” Rabine echoed, as though deep in thought. “Raen… the name sounds vaguely familiar.”
“It’s part of the Corvette’s name: Raenaros,” Kate pointed out. “They’re probably related, right?”
“Maybe. I’m not quite a scholar regarding the Aldredas, myself, but if you look up the name ‘Raen’ on the Relaynet, then you might find something.”
“She also seemed to recognize the specific armor that I was wearing,” Mote commented. “When I activated the zero-g maneuvering system, she reacted as though she’d seen someone use it before…”
“The Drakkar Faction Leaders have been around since the time of the Aldredas,” Rabine said. “There’s a decent chance they’ve fought Aldredian Chaotics who used the same or similar technology to what we’ve uncovered.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t explain how she recognized my hammer.” Mote took a moment to stretch out his arm, and then summoned the massive weapon into his hand. With the end of the pole resting on the ground, the blue and silver hammerhead sat much higher than the heads of everyone present, seeing as they were all sitting around a table.
“Perhaps the hammer is a form of Raen Technology as well,” Rabine suggested.
“But I’ve always been able to use this weapon,” Mote countered. “It’s a part of my Chaotic abilities. I don’t see how it’s possible for the Drakkars to recognize it. It doesn’t even resemble the high-tech Aldredas weaponry that we’ve discovered…”
“Now that’s just not true,” Kate interjected. “When you summon your hammer, or when I summon my greaves, and also when we dismiss the weapons, you know how the weapon briefly appears to be pure white until it materializes or disappears? You know what else does that? Your fucking Aldredian armor, that’s what!”
“…So you think our weapons aren’t Chaotic abilities? That they’re this… ‘Raen Technology’?”
“I don’t know about that, but if these past couple weeks have taught me anything, it’s that anything is possible and our understanding of the universe is fucked.”
In the corner of his eye, Saito spotted Rabine offer a slight nod, as though in agreement. Even she doesn’t know what’s going on, eh? And she’s a member of the Black Suns, the premiere Chaotic military group in the entire galaxy…
Mote released an exasperated sigh, drawing Saito’s attention back to the meeting. “Well, just great,” he muttered as he dismissed his hammer. “More cryptic mysteries…”
“There sure are a goddamn lot of those surrounding you guys, aren’t there,” Krick remarked, his attention on Mote and Kate. “But just sitting around on our asses trying to solve this shit isn’t productive. Back to the debriefing… for which I have one more question.” Krick passed an incredulous glance toward each of the other meeting attendees. “Just how in the god damn hell are all these supposed Aldredian artifacts still functioning? Hasn’t it been a hundred thousand years, or some shit?”
“That was my understanding,” Rabine responded. “Given how it seems that much of the technology we found was intentionally locked away for someone to find, I suspect that the Aldredas accompanied the artifacts with some kind of stasis technology to ensure their long-term survival… but aside from that, it’s hard to tell. All three locations where we found artifacts are now destroyed or in Drakkar hands, so we can’t exactly investigate.”
“I bet there’s something about all this in the data we pulled off the Dreadnought,” Kate suggested. “Hopefully, at least. Stasis tech that can last for fucking thousands and thousands of years would be incredible!”
“Hmph. I don’t like that we still don’t know how the goddamned artifacts survived, and that we don’t even know if we’ll be able to figure it out in the future,” Krick said with a scowl. “But like I said, just sitting around on our asses trying to solve shit isn’t productive. We have plenty of other shit to worry about as is, so I’d like to end this goddamn meeting, unless any of you have anything more to add?”
“Sounds like everything to me,” Saito commented.
“Fantastic.” Krick glanced over at the Colonel. “…Sounds like your scavenger hunt is over, huh?”
“…I suppose it is,” Saito replied after a moment of thought. It hadn’t occurred to him until now, but Krick was right, at least for a moment. Kate and MacTavish had managed to recover hundreds of coordinates from the Dreadnought — among other things — which was certain to keep CSF-1 and SERRCom in general busy for a while. But with the Drakkar fleet destroyed, and the sheer number of coordinates to analyze, Saito reckoned that it would be quite some time before they were sent to investigate a new location.
“I guess the shipyard was what everything was building toward,” Kate commented. “And we had to go and fucking destroy it!”
“Enough with the goddamn complaining,” Krick retorted. “We already did it. No use in getting hung up about it.”
“It is what I say! We’ve still got three days or so before we get back to Earth, so I better not hear too much about this shit, and I expect you lot to behave yourselves on my goddamn ship.” Krick stood up, and nodded once before spinning on his heel and barging toward the room’s exit. “Dismissed!”
“Alright!” Kate jumped up as well and charged toward the exit. “Mote! C’mon, follow me!”
“What?” He made a face as he slowly stood up himself. “What for?”
“So I can study your armor, dumbass! Haven’t we been over this before?!”
The Electrotechnic responded with a resigned sigh, and then looked over at Saito.
“Don’t look at me,” the Colonel replied with a smirk. “This is between the two of you.”
“Of course it is…” Mote muttered, and then shuffled around the table to leave the room. “Alright Kate, just this once. But I better not hear any more from you later…!”
Once the two had left, Saito casually stood up from his chair, offering a curt nod to Rabine as she left. He then yawned and stretched, taking a few moments to himself before finally stepping outside of the room. It was still morning, after all, and there wouldn’t be anything for him to worry about for another three days. Should probably spend this time catching up on reports and other paperwork… His thoughts then drifted to everything that had happened over the previous couple weeks — to the scavenger hunt for Aldredian technology that he, the rest of CSF-1, and the Eximius Vir had embarked on. Initially spurred on by Mote’s vision, they had located a small handheld device, that led to a set of armor, that led to a Corvette, and then to a shipyard. The technology gained was impressive indeed, if everything he heard about the armor and the Corvette was true. And yet… the Colonel couldn’t help but feel that he was walking out of the hunt with more questions than answers, particularly regarding the Eximius Vir. He had always known that they were unique, but between Dead Space, the Aldredian technology, and their encounters with the Drakkars, the Eximius Vir seemed more mysterious than ever. And he was largely responsible for raising them — if neither he nor Mote knew any of the answers, then who possibly could?
((You have embarked down a perilous path! The future of this galaxy may well hang on the decisions of yourself and your comrades. Whether that bodes ill or well for you, remains to be seen.))
The words of Prosusicivous once again sprung to the forefront of the Colonel’s mind, as he considered that the Drakkar might be more on-point than he first thought. If he also considered the odd one-week Chaos Energy Quake that had occurred a month ago, and the appearance of more Earthian Chaotics… the Colonel wasn’t sure what, but something certainly seemed to be brewing in the background. Just what was going on?
After several more moments of deep thought, Saito shook his head to clear it. As Krick had said, it wasn’t very productive to just sit around and try to solve unsolvable mysteries. He would need more information before he could determine anything, but that was a matter for the future. For now, he could take a brief rest, before being thrust back into Earth’s and SERRCom’s affairs. For now, he didn’t have to worry about the Drakkars, or EA, or the rookie Chaotics. For now, his mission — this scavenger hunt —
The End of Chosen Elite
To Be Continued in Chosen Hidden…