Chapter 19 – Return to Space
1 Day Later
— Tuesday, November 1, 2129 AD —
“Alright… everyone’s here. Let’s get started.”
“Sure doesn’t feel like everyone…” Danielle muttered.
“Mm…” Mote passed her a glance before looking over the small briefing room himself. The only individuals present for the briefing were himself, Danielle, Colonel Saito, Major Hackett, and Kirstin — a far cry from the full might of CSF-1 and the Eximius Vir.
“It’s a little unfortunate, but it’s what we have to work with,” Saito declared, drawing everyone’s attention back to him at the front of the room. “Our next mission shouldn’t be too involved, anyways. We’ll be fine.”
“You could’ve said the same at the outset of most of our missions last month, sir,” Hackett remarked.
“Hence my usage of the word ‘shouldn’t’,” Saito countered. “Anyways, let’s get this briefing started. Thanks to the work of MacTavish here, a handful of the coordinates that we pulled off of that Aldredian Dreadnought have been translated and analyzed. As you all may have guessed, our new mission is to investigate one of them.”
“Do we know what we’ll find?” Danielle questioned.
“If we already knew, we wouldn’t need to investigate,” Mote replied flatly.
“Well… yeah, but that’s not…”
“Relax, Danielle, I know what you mean,” Saito commented. “Based on MacTavish’s analysis of the spatial coordinate, our new target is actually located in deep space. Likely some kind of space station, possibly derelict… though if our previous findings are any indication, then the station might just be in perfect working order.”
“Do we still not know how that is?” Hackett asked. “How those Aldredian outposts and ships were in perfect condition after thousands and thousands of years, that is?”
Saito turned to Kirstin. “Do we?”
“Uh… w-well…” The Researcher glanced uneasily between the two officers. “…N-no… I was, um, hoping th-that this, uh, st-station would help explain…”
“It’s alright, MacTavish. We’re dealing with some weird technology here; I don’t expect you or anyone else to have the answers immediately,” Saito replied. “That’s the whole purpose of investigating, after all. To try and figure this shit out.”
“The fact that we’re going along, though…” Mote frowned. “I suppose the General thinks that the Raenaros will be needed again?”
“Either that, or your armor. You have to admit, Mote, they were necessary to access the shipyard.”
“But I digress. Let’s go over the details of the mission, and then I’ll field any more questions,” Saito stated. When the others responded with silence, he continued, “alright. This coordinate is just over 34 thousand light years from Earth, down the uncolonized Perseus arm. That translates to about a 3 day trip on the Genesis; we’ve seen worse. And as you all already know, we’ll be leaving at the end of the day.”
“Somewhat short notice, isn’t it, sir?” Hackett pointed out.
“It is, but again, it’s nothing we haven’t dealt with before,” Saito replied. “The General — as well as many other people in SERRCom — are eager to see what secrets hide in these coordinates we pulled from the Dreadnought, which means that we should be expecting this kind of short turnaround rather frequently for the foreseeable future.”
“Aw, I thought we were gonna get a break after the last treasure hunt,” Danielle complained.
“And we did. For over a week!” Saito responded cheekily, and then adopted a more serious expression. “You’ll just need to tough it out. This is important work.”
“Do we know anything about the space station, apart from the fact that it’s… likely a space station?” Mote questioned.
“It doesn’t have an Interstellar Gate, we know that much,” Saito commented. “We’re taking a ship by necessity this time, rather than caution. Otherwise, we don’t know much, so be prepared for anything. As for what to bring: we’ll obviously need the Raenaros and the Aldredian armor. Mote, MacTavish, I’ll leave it up to the two of you to make sure we get both of those aboard the Genesis. Otherwise, just bring your normal loadout. I’ve already gotten my hands on several sets of atmosphereless armor, just in case wherever we end up doesn’t have working life support, so don’t worry about that.”
“Glad to know we won’t suffocate, sir,” Hackett replied.
“Very funny, Major. Now, that’s all I have to say about the mission. Pretty simple.”
“At least we should be done quickly, then,” Mote remarked.
“That’s the hope,” Saito replied, and then gestured at Hackett. “Alright everyone, let’s go make sure our gear is in order. Major, you’re with me.”
“Understood, sir.” Hackett promptly stood up from her seat and followed Saito out of the briefing room.
“…Well, I guess that’s that, huh?” Danielle questioned as she passed Mote a glance. “What do you think we’ll find?”
“Who knows,” Mote replied flatly as he stood up from his seat. “I’m not one to speculate.”
“Aw, that’s no fun…” Danielle pouted as Mote began leaving the room, with Kirstin scurrying after him. “Hey,” Danielle called from behind them, “do you want my help?”
“We can handle ourselves,” Mote answered through the doorway, and then turned to begin walking down the hallways toward the research labs that currently hosted the Aldredian armor and Raenaros. He offered Kirstin naught but a brief glance as she timidly followed just behind him, her head bowed the entire time. …Stuck with her again, he thought to himself while he walked, there’s no doubt that she’s smart, but getting information out of her is such a pain. If only Kate didn’t have such a terrible attitude, she would be the far superior technician and researcher…
Mote glanced back at Kirstin, who made eye contact for a brief moment before averting her gaze. “…Yes?” Mote prompted after a second of silence.
“W-well, uh… th-the, uh, y-your armor is, um… v-very… very in-interesting…”
“I-I, uh…” Kirstin began tapping the tips of her index fingers together uneasily as she continued, “I think that, um, y-you should be, uh…”
Mote’s brow furrowed in irritation. “Now even you are trying to tell me how to feel about the armor?”
“N-no, that’s not—!”
“I don’t want to hear it.” Mote turned his back on Kirstin to continue walking forward. “I don’t care how interesting you find the armor or the Raenaros, at the end of the day, they’re only tools to me — tools that I’ve been forced to use. I have no interest in how they’re ‘special’ or ‘unique’.”
Silence fell over the two as they continued navigating the hallways of the space staiton Opportunity. Several minutes passed before the silence was broken, but not by either of Mote or Kirstin.
“This stupid piece of shit, just give me your fucking secrets already!”
…I guess we’re near the lab office, Mote mused as Kate’s voice echoed through the hall. A couple seconds later had him and Kirstin standing at the entrance to the office; just as the two approached the door, it suddenly slid open — revealing Kate standing in the way.
She took a half step forward before realizing that Mote was standing in her way, at which point she stepped back and regarded him with confusion. “What the hell are you doing here?” she questioned.
“Hmm? Oh, Mote. And Kirstin!” Sarah turned her chair around to face the office entrance and offered a curt wave. “What nice timing, you have!”
“Timing…?” Mote muttered warily as Kirstin ducked past him and retreated to her desk in the corner. Without sparing her another thought, Mote crossed his arms and eyed Kate with irritation. “I’m not here to help your research.”
“Of course you aren’t. I’d never expect you to be that considerate,” Kate retorted as she rolled her eyes. “Which is why I asked: what the hell are you doing here? Don’t tell me you’re just here to get in the way of my fucking work!”
“Then I have bad news for you,” Mote replied as he nodded toward one of the desks in the middle of the room. Mounted on an armor stand next to the desk was the Aldredian armor, in all of its crimson, gold, and black magnificence. “We have a new mission, and the Colonel wants me to bring that armor with us.”
“A new mission? Well why didn’t you fuckin’ say so?!” Kate exclaimed as she whirled around on her heel and bounced over to her desk. “Finally, some fresh fucking air! Give me just a sec and I’ll be ready—”
“Hold on a minute,” Mote interjected. “Were you invited to the briefing?”
“…I’m sure I just missed the message or something…”
“You’ve never missed a briefing notification before. Face it, Kate. You aren’t on this mission.”
“What?! Why the hell not?!”
“Are you serious? Do you really not remember your punishment?”
“Oh, believe me, she remembers,” Sarah remarked with an amused smile. “She wouldn’t complain about it every half hour if she didn’t.”
“Aw, this is fucking horseshit!” Kate responded, scowling. “This new mission is about one of the fucking Dreadnought coordinates, isn’t it? And the Director wants to keep me off this mission just because?! Doesn’t she know how much I can help?”
“I’m sure we’ll be just fine without you,” Mote commented flatly.
“‘Just fine’ my ass! Who was it who had to save you from that flat-faced bitch at the shipyard, huh?!”
“And I appreciate that you helped, I really do. But you have to understand that your actions have consequences, Kate, and that means being punished for talking back to or disobeying a superior.”
“So?! If it wasn’t for my ‘talking back’, CSF-1 would’ve fucking died on that Dead Space planet, you know!”
Mote released a frustrated sigh. As petulant as Kate was being, she had a point. Nevertheless, it wasn’t up to Mote to make the decisions of who went on what missions, and he wasn’t about to begin questioning the process mere hours before heading out on one.
“Relax, Kate,” Sarah remarked, drawing the attention of the two Chaotics. “Without the armour or Raenaros around, maybe you’ll actually get permission to work on those mechs you wanted to work on!”
“Get your silver lining bullshit out of here,” Kate retorted irately. “Fucking hell, I only had permission to work on, like, three things, and now two of them are gone! What the hell! Why does a person like me need permission to research shit, anyways?!”
“If you behave yourself, things will go back to normal soon enough,” Mote countered as he moved over to the Aldredian armor and held his hand toward it. It soon disappeared in a brief flash of light, forming a small rhomboid device that Mote quickly snatched out of the air.
“‘Behave myself’ my ass,” Kate muttered as she glared at the device in Mote’s hands. “What am I, a fucking child?!”
“You do behave like one, at times.”
“You take that back, you son of a—!”
“Now, now, Kate,” Sarah interjected as she stood up from her chair, casually approached the two Chaotics, and then threw her arm around Kate’s shoulder. “You might not have access to the armour or the Corvette, but we’ve only had those two items for less than a month. Before all of this, weren’t we working on…” She passed Mote a surreptitious glance before finishing in a loud whisper, “project Doomsday?”
“…That’s mostly done,” Kate muttered back. “The hell else is there to still do?”
“I would say, but I’m afraid not everyone in this room has security clearance.”
“Oh… true…” Kate nodded, and then smirked smugly at Mote. “You don’t know what we’re talking about, do you?”
“No… and I’m sure there’s a good reason for that,” Mote replied as he began backing toward the office door.
“Damn straight there is! You just wait, Mote. When this Project is out, it’ll make your stupid little Corvette look like—!”
“Now now, I think we’ve said enough,” Sarah quickly cut in, and then flashed a smile at Mote. “Apologies. Do you have everything you need?”
“I do,” he replied, and then passed a glance toward Kirstin, in the back of the room. “Kirstin?”
“Ah!!” she yelped, spinning around in her chair to stare at everyone else with wide eyes. “Wh-what?!”
“Ah, don’t mind us, Kirstin. Just make sure you get everything you need,” Sarah commented. “Mote, don’t worry about her. I’ll make sure she’s out of here by the time she needs to be.”
“…I’ll leave her to you, then,” he replied. “If you need me, I’ll be preparing the Raenaros for departure.”
“What we need is for you to fucking leave already,” Kate declared. “We can’t discuss our work with you sitting around on your ass!”
“…Right,” Mote responded stiffly, but wasted no other words on the conversation as he finally stepped out of the office to continue his preparations for the upcoming mission.