Chapter 15 – Discoveries of the Past
30 Minutes Later
“Alright! Boot it up!”
“Starting up the Raenaros…” Mote muttered in response as he sat back in the Corvette’s captain’s chair. The longsword emblem under the chair began to glow a soft blue just as the helmet of the Aldredian armor appeared over his head, temporarily blocking out his vision. A moment later, the black nothingness was replaced by a view of Raenaros as though from a camera hovering outside the ship, allowing Mote to see both the Corvette and the small docking bay in which she sat.
“Everything looks fine…” came Sarah’s voice from somewhere on the bridge behind Mote. “Kate, Kirstin, you both have the Aldredian cipher, yes?”
“Mmhmm…” Kirstin responded.
“I have the glasses,” Kate remarked. “It’s a real pain in the ass that we can’t get the fucking ocular implants, though. Especially when those new recruits, and even CSF-1 just got some!”
Mote frowned in response to Kate’s complaint. She was obviously talking about Real-time Video, or RTV implants that were installed in the eyes. As their name suggested, they allowed for the real-time translation of visual text, effectively allowing anyone with a set of RTV implants to read text in a language that they otherwise didn’t know. All four members of the Eximius Vir possessed the audio version of the translation implants — the RTA implants — but as Mote understood it, the process for installing those implants in the Eximius Vir had been incredibly difficult due to their passive increased durability. Furthermore, the Eximius Vir’s powers couldn’t be disabled by a CENT field; as a result, installing the cochlear RTA implants had required an incredibly precise set of beaming operations, such that SERRCom simply wasn’t comfortable doing the same on the Eximius Vir’s eyes. So, while the new recruits and the members of CSF-1 were recently able to obtain sets of RTV implants, the Eximius Vir were left out, only able to access visual translation technology through special AR glasses.
“It’s unfortunate, but also inevitable,” Sarah commented, putting voice to Mote’s thoughts. “You Eximius Vir are much too tough for the RTV implant surgery. You’ll just have to make do with the glasses.”
“I know, I know…” Kate grumbled, “doesn’t make it any less fucking annoying…”
“Let’s just focus on the work at hand, shall we?” Mote suggested. “I’d prefer to get this over with.”
“What, laying in a recliner and doing nothing for an hour isn’t relaxing?” Sarah quipped.
“Believe it or not, no, it isn’t.”
“Stop being a damned stick in the mud,” Kate retorted. “Your help here is advancing science for everyone!”
“The only ‘help’ I’m offering is a warm body for this stupid armor,” Mote countered. “I’d rather be doing anything else if I could.”
“You’re still sulking about this stuff? Didn’t we discover just the other day that your fucking armor can use its flying system even under normal gravity? I’d say that’s a hell of a discovery!”
“Get back to me when you figure out how to fix the armor’s activation requirements.”
“You really don’t like all of the attention, do you?” Sarah remarked. “But unfortunately, Mote, I’m going to have to ask you to grit your teeth and bear with us. Today, I’m interested in looking into Raenaros’s CCS, and you’re the best — well, only — candidate we have to do that.”
“The Chaotic Channelling System. You and Kirstin mentioned in your reports that this ship is capable of serving as a conduit for your electricity as though she were your own body. I want to see that in action, and figure out if that’s actually what’s happening here, as well as any other limitations on the system.”
“…I see,” Mote responded curtly. As much as he disliked being a guinea pig, further study of the so-called CCS intrigued him. Aside from the fabrication system, Raenaros’s Chaotic conduits were the most interesting aspect of the craft; if he could master the system, then Mote figured that the ship could be an incredible force multiplier for SERRCom.
“…It… it’s taking, um, l-longer than usual…” Kirstin eventually stated.
“Hmm? What is?” Sarah questioned.
“Th-the, um, the s-startup sequence…” As Kirstin spoke, Mote could hear her interacting with one of the consoles on the bridge. “It… it’s g-going through, um, a-a lot more checks than before…”
“Well that’s fuckin’ weird,” Kate commented. “Why the hell is it doing that?”
“Hmm… perhaps it’s the environment,” Sarah suggested. “If the reports I read are correct, then all of Raenaros’s prior activations were in moments of immediate need. This is the first time we’re starting her up purely for study purposes. Perhaps the ship can detect that she’s in a safe location — maybe by monitoring Mote’s vitals, to see if he’s in distress — and if she is, then she goes through a more thorough list of startup checks.”
“That sounds like a large assumption,” Mote replied.
“True. It is just a shot in the dark.”
“Th-that seems, um… c-correct, actually,” Kirstin said. “Th-the readouts… they, um, they s-support Sarah’s suggestion…”
“Interesting,” Sarah remarked. “I wonder if this will expose any new information or systems. What an interesting turn of events!”
“Sure, sure, but it also means we have to sit here and fucking wait for even longer than before,” Kate complained. “Waiting is all I’ve been doing, lately. I can’t even work on my own projects without fucking supervision!”
“Still on probation, are we?” Sarah deadpanned.
“Yeah, and it’s fucking stupid. Here we are, three of the greatest minds in SERRCom, all working on the same damned project, just because Hamasaki thinks I ‘acted out’!”
“You did act out,” Mote declared. “You are acting out.”
“Shut the hell up, I don’t need you piling on…” Kate grumbled. “I could be working on those mechs we recovered from the Dreadnought, you know! I bet those things have a ton of cool shit on them. But nooooo, gotta be babysat all fucking day long!”
“Maybe if you acted like a responsible adult, you wouldn’t be in this position,” Mote shot back. “I’ve told you before to cut the attitude; well, this is what happens when you don’t.”
“My attitude isn’t bad enough to shoot SERRCom’s own technological progress in the foot! I’ve already done tons for SERRCom as is, they should be fucking grateful!”
“And they are, but your abilities don’t make you beyond reprieve. We Eximius Vir are still beholden to the same rules and regulations as everyone else, and that means that we must still be punished when we violate them, just like everyone else. In your case, that means blocking access to research projects, since it’s the only damn thing you care about.”
“Ngh…” Kate grunted in irritation. “You don’t have to lecture me about this shit…”
“Apparently I do, since you still haven’t learned,” Mote countered. “All you need to do is stop acting so hostile towards other people. It isn’t hard!”
“Yeah, yeah, what-fucking-ever…”
“Ever the pair, you two,” Sarah remarked.
“Fucking, shut up,” Kate growled. “Shit’s no fun when Mote’s around…”
“Did you seriously not—?” Mote started admonishing her, only to stop himself as a large message box appeared in the center of his vision. As the text was in the Aldredian language, he couldn’t read it, and he moved to dismiss it as he had with other such messages — that is, until Kirstin spoke up.
“Well that’s an odd response from you,” Sarah commented. “What happened?”
“Is it related to this message that just showed up on my HUD?” Mote questioned.
“Uh… y-yeah… I think,” Kirstin responded slowly. “It’s… i-it’s asking if, uh, i-if we want to do the, um… r-re-i-initialization. Which, uh… i-includes a language option…”
“A language option?” Kate echoed incredulously. “What use would that be? All of the options are just going to be variants of Aldredian.”
“Still, the fact that we’re being offered a reinitialisation is novel,” Sarah pointed out. “Raenaros didn’t do this any other time she was booted up, right? This is more evidence for my earlier suggestion — and, more than that, a reinitialisation should surely grant us greater access to the ship’s systems.”
“I take it I should start the process, then?” Mote questioned, and then moved to select the option that was equivalent to ‘yes’. He may not have been able to read the text, but his previous interactions with the system allowed him to at least tell the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘no’. As soon he selected the ‘yes’ option, the message disappeared — and then, slowly but steadily, the elements of his HUD that he could see began to change. At first, it all disappeared completely, but then the elements returned one by one: the shield charge readout, a display of hull integrity, an altimeter and other meters relevant to air travel, gauges showing how much thrust each engine was outputting, a small readout that the ship had just configured itself for an Electrotechnic captain— …Wait, wait! Mote’s brow furrowed in confusion as he focused on the Electrotechnic message. …I can read it!
“It… i-it’s all in, uh, English!” Kirstin exclaimed.
“Well, well, well,” Sarah remarked. “It translated everything into a language that we — that Mote — actually knows. How did it even do that?”
“M-maybe it, um… maybe it was l-listening to us, um, talk? A-and translated, uh… a-accordingly?”
“That is an option, if perhaps uncomfortable in the security implications. Even more disturbing might be that it was able to interface with Mote’s RTA implants and download data off of them.”
“Wait, it what?!” Mote questioned.
“It’s just a suggestion,” Sarah replied. “…Still… we should definitely inspect all of the translation systems present for any kind of unauthorised access. Same for the computers around here.”
Kate snorted in derision. “That’s one hell of a paranoid response.”
“Perhaps. The automatic translation is amazing, but at the same time, we can’t just let alien technology interface with our own without any kind of supervision. Kirstin, can you look into that for me? In the meantime, Kate, let’s set up for the CCS testing. With the interface in English, now, we should be able to get far more information out of this than I expected!”
“You sure sound excited.”
“Aren’t you? This is a breakthrough! Almost literally! I know you like to talk about those a lot.”
As Kate and Sarah continued discussing the new system and setting up for their tests, Mote returned his attention to his HUD. Every single element was now legible to him, and if the reactions of Kate, Kirstin, and Sarah were any indication, then the projected displays throughout the rest of the small bridge were now in English as well. Which could mean that everything on the ship is translated, now, Mote mused, would that include video, as well…? His thoughts momentarily turned to the video of the red-headed woman that he had seen the very first time he activated Raenaros. The woman in the video spoke Aldredian, and all of the background text was in Aldredian — but with this new discovery, perhaps he would be able to understand what she was saying. Perhaps he would be able to tell why she had appeared in his vision…
“Alright, everything’s setup. Mote, are you ready?”
After hearing Sarah’s prompt, Mote dismissed the idle thoughts from his mind; his personal investigation could wait until later. The woman appearing in my vision is likely a coincidence, anyways. That, or some kind of trick my mind is playing on me, or faulty memory. Anyways… “I’m ready,” he eventually responded as he settled into the captain’s chair, preparing himself mentally for a series of boring tasks. “So, how is this going to work…?”
2 Hours Later
Focused silence, accompanied only by the soft sounds of typing, permeated a small office room aboard the space station Opportunity. At one of the desks near the middle of the room sat Sarah, typing away her findings from earlier, while at one of the desks in the back sat Kirstin, who worked on a separate task altogether. Half an hour had passed since the two had wrapped up the day’s testing on Raenaros; Mote and Kate had since split off to continue studying the Aldredian Armor, while Sarah and Kirstin had returned to their office to write up their findings. Raenaros’s Chaotic Channeling System had proved to be an intriguing piece of technology — according to both the tests and Mote’s own testimony, the CCS allowed him to manipulate electricity throughout the craft as deftly and easily as he could through his own body, enabling him to perform incredibly precise voltage tweaks within the craft as well as fire off lightning strikes with far longer range, power, and accuracy than he could all on his own. In Sarah’s words, the system could be “the first real breakthrough in Chaotic ability amplification that the galaxy has ever seen.” Now, the challenge was to figure out exactly how it worked — or, in the very least, to reverse engineer a version that SERRCom could produce with its own technology.
That challenge was one for the future, however; for now, Sarah had only to write up her findings and attempt to convince the higher ups in SERRCom that reverse engineering the CCS was a worthwhile project to pursue. And while she worked on that, Kirstin took up a different project: continuing to analyze the data retrieved from the Aldredian Dreadnought. The amount of data retrieved was incredible, such that Kirstin still hadn’t been able to look through most of it, but she had already discovered a few dozen galactic coordinates. These coordinates were nearly a hundred thousand years old, and as such they required some re-calibration in order to account for stellar drift and apply them to the modern galaxy; this was the process that Kirstin now focused on.
Alright… that should do it for now… she thought to herself as she stared at the screen in front of her. Thankfully, the Aldredians based their galactic coordinates on the Interstellar Gate coordinate system, so translating them into our own units isn’t difficult. Now, I just need to apply a hundred thousand years of stellar drift. Finally, I should have some workable coordinates soon—
“Well! Looks like the tae o’ ye are hard at work!”
Kirstin felt every muscle in her body reflexively tense as a thick Scottish accent drew her attention toward the entrance to the office. Standing in the doorway was a man of average height, with light skin and short, scruffy blond hair. A similarly scruffy goatee adorned his face, which itself was angular and bore faint age marks that made the man appear to be around 50 years old. He wore a black shirt and pants, as was common for SERRCom personnel, though over that he had on a white lab coat. Sewn just above his left breast pocket was a mundane patch that named the man as Scott MacTavish, the Director of the Earthian Technological Advancement Agency — and Kirstin’s father.
“Oh, Scott!” Sarah looked up from her work as the Director stepped into the office. “Did you finally manage to weasel out of the day’s meetings?”
“Ach… I suppose sae,” Scott remarked with a weary sigh. “I get meetin’s are important, but I just spent five hours listenin’ tae six different project proposals. And I have another three tae listen tae tomorrow!”
“You better brace yourself, then, because I have a new proposal coming up soon, myself!”
“…Sometimes I wish I could gae back in time and tell my younger self to nae accept the Directorship…” Scott shook his head in resignation before glancing toward the other room inhabitant. “…Doin’ well, Kirstin?”
“Uh…!” Her eyes widened in response to being directly addressed, at which point she awkwardly glanced away. “Uh… y-yes…”
“Good tae hear. How’s your mother doin’? I haven’t had the chance tae talk tae her in a while.”
“Sh-she’s… um, she’s f-fine…”
“Good, good.” Scott nodded approvingly before turning back toward Sarah. “Sae what’s this about a new proposal? This have anything tae dae with Raenaros?”
Sarah smirked. “It does. I had a feeling you might be interested.”
“Reverse-engineering mysteriously advanced spacecraft is how I got tae where I am,” Scott declared. “O’ course I’m interested in Raenaros! I also would have loved tae see that shipyard that CSF-1 saw… quite a shame Captain Krick decided tae blow it up.” He passed a glance toward Kirstin. “How was the yard? How amazin’ was it?”
“It… uh… i-it was, um… cool, I-I guess?” Kirstin responded without once making eye contact.
“Ah, what a lucky lass ye are!” Scott exclaimed. “Ah wish I could see some of the things you’ve gotten tae see.”
“Ah, well. Being Director comes with its own responsibilities.” Scott sighed again as he turned to address Sarah once more. “Sae what’s this about Raenaros, hmm? Tae catch your eye, I bet it’s something about the Chaos Energy-based systems, isnae?”
“You know me well,” Sarah remarked. “It’s the Chaotic Channelling System. The tests with Mote were incredibly promising! If we could reverse-engineer it, then we could have a way to artificially amplify a Chaotic’s powers. Doesn’t that sound amazing?”
“It definitely does sound useful…” Scott commented as he stroked his bearded chin in thought. “Sounds like an easy sell tae the military side of things, for sure. Being able tae literally sell something like a Chaotic amplifier tae the rest of the galaxy is certain tae be appealing tae the General. …Though it sounds like arms dealin’, when I say it like that…”
“I suppose it does…” Sarah frowned, and then shrugged. “But there’s still a lot of potential for good. I don’t think anyone would argue with being able to better fight the Drakkars, or the Riaxen!”
“True!” Scott nodded approvingly. “Still, Ah cannae officially approve the project without goin’ through the proposal process, sae I expect tae see that on my desk soon!”
“I’ll have it ready for you even sooner than that!”
“I’d expect nae less from ye, lass!” Scott grinned, and then glanced over at Kirstin again. “How’s your work goin’, Kirstin? Any interesting discoveries of your own?”
“Uh… s-sort of…” She paused for a moment, looking over the data on her screen — just as the stellar drift computations completed, and a handful of notes about the new coordinates appeared. “O-oh! Um, I ad-adjusted some more of the, um, the c-coordinates from the, uh, the Dreadnought…”
“Ah, really? Is there anything interesting?”
“Uh…” Kirstin skimmed through the notes for a moment. “…Huh. Uh, s-some of them, um, l-line up with the m-modern day, uh, homeworlds.”
“Really?” Scott moved to the back of the room to peer over Kirstin’s shoulder at her screen; she uneasily fidgeted in her chair as he approached, but he seemed too focused on the data to notice. “…Huh. So they dae!” he remarked after looking everything over himself. “That’s interesting. Coordinates for Earth, Nimalia, Siionleh, Y’kisdral, Citici… hmm, even for Tyrnaus and Turiax.”
“Th-there’s also, um… a s-second set of, uh, t-two-dimensional coordinates with each, uh, homeworld,” Kirstin pointed out. “P-probably pointing to, uh, s-something on the surface?”
“That does seem likely…” Scott nodded absentmindedly. “I wonder what those point tae. If there’s some kind of Aldredian data or technology cache sitting right here on Earth, under our noses… well, that could be quite the discovery!”
“Y-yeah… s-so I’ll, uh, l-look into those…” Kirstin responded, and then passed her father a brief glance. “A-also, uh, I already, um, ad-adjusted some of the, uh, c-coordinates a f-few days ago… they s-seemed, uh, p-promising, so I, um, s-submitted them to, uh, well… th-the ETAA, a-and General Lead…”
“Really? Good work!” Scott grinned at Kirstin; she met his eyes for only a brief moment before looking down, though a subtle smile appeared on her face.
“Th-thanks…” she responded quietly.
“Aye! I had a feeling that you had promise with SERRCom. It’s good tae know I was right! Keep up the good work, Kirstin!”
Just as quickly as the smile had appeared, Kirstin’s expression returned to mild discomfort. “R-right…”
“Anyways.” Scott stepped away from Kirstin’s desk. “I’m goin’ tae gae take a look at Raenaros myself, see if there’s any spacecraft-related tech we could pull out of it. Sarah, that CCS stuff does sound promising; send me a couple quick notes, will ye, lass?”
“Of course.” Sarah nodded. “But, Scott, you do know that Raenaros won’t activate without Mote around, right?”
“Yes, I know that, but even a ship that’s shut down has secrets you can learn,” Scott remarked, and then made for the office exit. “And now, tae the fun part of my job!” Before either Sarah or Kirstin could say anything more, he had disappeared through the door, leaving behind only echoing footsteps as he briskly walked down the hallway.
Sarah eyed the now-empty doorway with an amused smirk before glancing toward Kirstin. “That Scott… ever the busy one, hmm?”
“U-uh… I-I guess…” Kirstin muttered, her head down and shoulders hunched as she focused on the screen in front of her.
“Well let’s make like him and get to work, then, shall we? Science never sleeps, after all!”
Sarah’s hands then began flying across her keyboard as she resumed typing up her proposal. As she did, Kirstin eyed her uneasily, and then shifted her attention to the empty doorway, where her gaze lingered for several moments. Eventually, she released a quiet sigh and returned her attention to the screen in front of her, tuning out thoughts of her father in favor of the work at hand.