Chapter 21 – Abandoned Arrival
The Next Day
— Friday, November 4, 2129 AD —
«We’ve almost arrived, Saito. Be sure you’re prepared.»
“Don’t worry, Krick,” Saito airily replied over the comms, “we’re all suited up and aboard the Raenaros already. We won’t hold you back.”
«You damn well better not,» came the Captain of the E.S.C. Genesis’s annoyed response. «This’ll be the third fucking time in a month that we’ve played courier for your useless goddamn asses.»
“You say that, but I know you were just as excited as the rest of us to find that shipyard.”
«Shut the hell up. Hmph. This next goddamned coordinate better be as important as that shipyard, or I’ll never let you hear the end of it.»
“I’m sure you won’t.”
«Hmph. Just be ready. Krick, out.»
Saito released a sigh of relief as the comms connection cut out, relieving him of his conversation with the Chief Captain. The Colonel then glanced to his side, where Major Hackett, MacTavish, and Danielle had all gathered on Raenaros’s bridge. Mote currently sat in the Corvette’s captain’s chair, adorned in the crimson, gold, and black Aldredian armor as he interfaced with the spacecraft’s systems. The rest of the team wore full-body suits of blue and silver powered armor, complete with airtight helmets with darkened visors. These were atmosphereless armors, differing from normal powered armor in that they actually covered every inch of the wearer’s body, so as to properly protect them from vacuum and other hostile environments. Danielle was the sole exception — her Transtechnism allowed her to take on mechanical forms or other forms that didn’t need to breathe, and her inherent durability as one of the Eximius Vir also protected her from harmful radiation. To a Transtechnic like her, armor was only good for getting in the way of her transformations; as such, she went without it.
The Colonel smirked inwardly as he observed her idly glancing around while wearing her normal black sweatpants and crop top, coupled with a green and black-trimmed waist cloak that matched the coloration and style of the uniforms of the other members of the Eximius Vir. The Eximius Vir really are something else, he thought to himself, being able to move through a vacuum environment without any kind of external aid is pretty crazy… but here we are.
«Alright, we’re here,» spoke Captain Krick once more, breaking Saito out of his thoughts. «Can you lot see what we’re seeing?»
“Activating sensors and connecting to the Genesis’s own sensor suite…” Mote announced. A second later, several holographic displays appeared around the bridge, showcasing all kinds of sensor data — and front and center was a live camera feed from Genesis, showing the space directly in front of her. No planet could be seen, nor even a nearby star; all that met the camera was the pitch blackness of space, spattered with the white specks of distant stars, and the faint milky strip across the sky that was the Milky Way galaxy. However, a moment later, a holographic representation of the surrounding space appeared next to the camera feed, constructed from other sensor data. On this hologram was a distinct structure nearby: a perfect diamond shape, though with the tips flattened.
“Well there’s something here, alright,” Hackett commented.
«No shit,» Krick retorted, «the coordinate said there would be. Though I suppose it’s nice to know that it’s still fucking here.»
“How big is it?” Saito questioned, “just what can we tell about it, from the sensors?”
«Looks like it’s about half a kilometer wide, in every dimension. The station scanners show that there is actually a goddamn interior… but the thermal signatures are damn-near non-existent. There’s power, but just barely, and there’s no external lights… and there sure as hell isn’t any life support.»
“We expected that much,” the Colonel replied as he knocked on his armor’s breastplate. “We’re ready for no life support. Is there anything else we should know?”
“If your scanners can tell there’s an interior, can we get a full map?” Hackett requested.
«Well aren’t you lot being god damned demanding,» Krick retorted. «But unfortunately, a map is a no-go. This station has a fucking beam-jamming field, just like all the goddamn rest of the Aldredian shit, and it’s messing with our sensors. We can’t get a read on its interior.»
“That would explain where the power is going, then,” Saito remarked.
“B-but…” MacTavish spoke up quietly as she stared at the holographic representation of the space station. “…W…why?”
“Why what?” Danielle questioned.
«Why the hell are the beam jammers still on, is my question,» Krick interjected. «What the hell do they have here, that the beam jammers would still be working, after all this time?»
“I can only assume something important,” Saito commented, and then glanced down at Mote. “Well, we were prepared for more jammers, as well. Mote, is the Raenaros ready to go?”
The Electrotechnic nodded once. “Yes sirs.”
«Might as well get this fucking over with, then. Lieutenant, you’re cleared to fly. Now hurry up and figure out what secret this damn station holds so we can get the hell out of here! Krick, out!»
“…Ever the pleasant one,” Hackett commented.
“Yes…” Saito muttered, his attention focused on the exterior of Raenaros through its bridge windows, and the fighter bay in which it currently sat. The massive bay doors slowly began to open, revealing the white-speckled blackness of space as Mote slowly maneuvered the Corvette forward.
“…Well,” Danielle spoke up, breaking the silence as Mote flew Raenaros out of the fighter bay, “what does everyone think we’ll find?”
“That’s what we’re here to find out,” Mote responded. “Speculation is useless.”
“Sure, but that doesn’t make it any less fun!”
“It’s hard to say, anyways,” Saito remarked. “The station’s shape doesn’t say anything about its purpose. I doubt we’ll be finding any ships, but aside from that, it could be anything.”
“It could even be nothing,” Hackett pointed out.
The Colonel passed her an unamused glance, only to realize that he couldn’t see her expression — nor her, his — through the darkened visors of their helmets. He then shook his head in resignation. “Let’s just hope we find something,” he said, “or Krick will never let us hear the end of it.”
“Uh, sir,” Mote spoke up, “we’re being scanned…”
“…Looks like the station found us, then,” Saito commented as he turned his attention to Raenaros’s bridge displays. He began to ask what they said, but stopped himself as he realized that he could read them. That’s right, I remember Mote mentioning that he had found some kind of calibration system that turned all of the interfaces into English. I didn’t realize just how much information had been hidden behind the Aldredian language, though… these displays say a lot.
A moment later, a text box appeared amongst the countless other displays. Just as Saito was able to focus on it, Danielle read its contents aloud. “‘Top-level clearance received’,” she read, “‘Clear to proceed… Beware, uncontained Morenal’.” She then turned to everyone else on the bridge, a confused look upon her face. “What’s ‘Morenal’?”
“Yeah, weren’t these systems supposed to be translated into English?” Saito questioned.
“P-proper nouns, um, a-aren’t always translated,” MacTavish replied. “E-especially, um, i-if there isn’t any, uh, w-word for it in, um, th-the target language…”
“A word that doesn’t translate to English…”
“Whatever it is, the station is warning us about it,” Hackett pointed out, and then brandished her assault rifle. “We should be careful.”
“It mentioned ‘top-level clearance’, as well,” Mote commented. “…It’s also giving me a docking vector and instructions. Why is it doing that?”
“Maybe this ship belonged to someone important, and the station thinks we’re them,” Saito suggested as the diamond-shaped space station began to loom large in the bridge windows. “Whatever the reason, we have an in. And we also know that the station must have been built by the Aldredas, since this ship could translate its message. We’ll need to be careful, and look out for this ‘Morenal’… hopefully it’s just some kind of disease or something, that’ll have either died off, or be unable to get through the shields of our armor. Still, if possible, let’s find the beam jammer and shut it down, so we have an easy out.”
Hackett nodded in affirmation. “Understood, sir.”
“The station’s also giving me a map, sir,” Mote stated. “I’ll put it on the bridge display, so you can see it.”
A second later, the holographic image of the space station on the bridge was replaced with a version featuring all of the internal rooms and hallways. Saito, Hackett, and MacTavish all stepped up to take a closer look, just as a handful of labels began to appear over areas of the map.
“Power systems… main control room…” Saito muttered as he read each of the labels. “…Laboratories?”
“Laboratories?” Danielle echoed as she jumped over to look at the map herself. “What are they studying?”
“It doesn’t say…” Saito replied. “Mote, can you see anything?”
“No, sir,” he responded, “I only see the labels that you do. The station isn’t giving me any more information than that.”
“The labs seem to take up a large amount of space,” Hackett pointed out, as she gestured toward the map — nearly the entire bottom half of the station seemed to fall under the “laboratory” label. “I’d guess that whatever they’re studying is the reason this place exists.”
“A-and there’s some, um, v-very large, uh… sh-shield generators,” MacTavish commented. “B-but… without power…”
“I’d say that I hope that won’t be a problem, but I think we all know it will be…” Saito sighed warily. “So the station only has minimal power, then? Hmm. MacTavish, where do you think the best place to start will be?”
“U-uh…” She passed a panicked glance toward Saito, and then toward the bridge windows as Raenaros entered a small docking bay on the side of the station. “M-maybe…” she turned back toward the map, rapidly scanning it with her eyes before finishing, “w-without knowing, um, a-anything else… m-main control room?”
“Makes sense to me,” Saito remarked as the Corvette softly touched down on the floor of the docking bay. “MacTavish, see if you can download a copy of that map to your new AR implants, and then share it with us. Everyone else, turn on your armor comms and prepare to move out. We have a derelict space station to investigate!”
15 Minutes Later
«Alright… this looks like the place.»
«So it does, sir…» Hackett replied, slowly sweeping her flashlight across the dark, atmosphereless room — revealing a moderately sized space, nearly a dozen meters in diameter. Spread all throughout the spherical room were several workstations, each featuring a seat connected to three screens. All of the workstations were connected to the room’s exterior through metal multi-jointed arms, which then connected to the bottom of the seats, as though the workstations were meant to able to move around the room in three dimensions.
«N-no power…» MacTavish muttered.
«I can actually sense a very low level of electric current in the walls,» Mote commented. «It seems like the machinery here is powered by regular electricity, which means that I should be able to power them.»
«After you, then,» Saito remarked, as he glanced back at the Electrotechnic and gestured toward the center of the room. Mote simply nodded in response and slowly stepped forward, taking care to always have one foot on the ground in order to maintain his magnetic connection to the floor.
Danielle watched as he stopped in the middle of the room’s bottom level, and then turned her attention up to the rest of the room. «Weird room,» she observed, tracing its contours with her eyes. While spherical in shape, the bottom level of the room was nonetheless flattened, resulting in a sort of partially-deflated ball shape.
«It almost seems as though this room was designed around being in zero-g,» Hackett commented, and then pointed upwards. «Look at those workstations up there. There’s no way to get to them without flying, or something similar.»
«And yet, there’s a floor,» Saito pointed out, and then glanced toward Mote as several of the workstation screens began to switch on. «Finally got the power going, huh?»
«Sorry for the wait,» Mote replied as he slowly turned toward the rest of the group, though the helmet of his armor obscured his face. «It took a little time to figure out just how much power these systems need. I’m only confident in powering this one room, though, so if we need to access anything else in the station, then we’ll need to activate the power generators.»
«Makes sense. We don’t want to fry anything before we can look at it,» the Colonel remarked as MacTavish pushed off of the ground, taking advantage of the lack of artificial gravity to float up to one of the functioning workstations. «…It’s good that we got this far without issue.»
«Yeah, everything seems to be in perfect shape to me!» Danielle exclaimed. Though she appeared the same as usual, wasn’t wearing any armor, and seemed to be exposed to the vacuum, her current form was actually that of an android, eliminating her need to breath while also allowing her to tap into the comms network and communicate with the rest of the team without wearing a helmet or a headset.
«Makes you wonder what the hell that ‘Morenal’ is,» Hackett commented, and then swung her flashlight around to shine the beam on Saito. «Any thoughts, sir?»
«Only that I don’t want to have to deal with it,» Saito replied. «With any luck, we’ll just be in, and out.»
«It’s kinda funny how often it doesn’t actually work like that,» Danielle remarked.
«Confirmation bias. You only notice the times when it works out that way,» Mote declared. «Most missions go by without incident. It’s only been the past couple months that things have gotten weird.»
«‘Weird’ is certainly one way to put it,» Saito responded, and then turned his flashlight up to MacTavish. «Found anything yet?»
«Mmm… i-it only just, um, booted up… b-but I’m looking,» she replied, her attention focused on the three screens in front of her as she slowly maneuvered through zero-g to sit at the workstation’s seat. «It was, uh, locked for a moment, um… b-but then it seemed to, uh, rec-recognize Mote’s armor…»
«Well what do you know!» The Colonel snorted in amusement as he passed a glance toward Mote. «That truly is a surprise, isn’t it?»
Mote responded to Saito’s obvious sarcasm with only an annoyed grunt.
«This is the main control room, though, right?» Danielle questioned as she pushed off of the ground to float through the room toward MacTavish. «That means we should be able to figure out what this station is here for, right?»
«Hopefully,» Saito commented. «Hey, MacTavish. Any leads on that, yet?»
«Uh, um…» MacTavish stuttered out, momentarily distracted by Danielle arriving to peer at the screens over her shoulder. «W-well… th-the main computer seems to, um, be on… b-but otherwise the station is, uh, o-on low power. I-I think a lot of, uh, d-data is in other, um, c-computer systems.»
«Figures.» The Colonel released a weary sigh before glancing toward Mote and Hackett. «Time to find those power generators, then. Mote, Major, you’re both on me.»
«Um, sir… w-wait…»
«…Yes?» Saito prompted after a moment of silence, his attention once again focused on MacTavish.
«Th-there’s something… weird…»
«Uh oh,» Hackett responded, «that’s never a good sign.»
«Uh, w-well…» MacTavish glanced at the Major before quickly returning her gaze to the workstation screens. «It might be, um, n-nothing, but, uh… i-it looks like there’s, uh, one lab that’s, um, that’s using m-most of the, uh, power. …M-more than anything else, uh, c-combined.»
«Sounds like more than ‘nothing’ to me,» Saito replied. «Can you tell what’s using the power?»
«…N-not from here. B-but… th-this level of, uh, power… i-it’s probably, um, eenergy shielding.»
«Energy shielding?» Mote echoed, «…there weren’t any shields around the station’s exterior. Are you saying there are shields inside of the station?»
«Why would there be shields inside of the station?» Danielle questioned, «are they protecting something?»
«Either that, or containing something,» Saito muttered.
«You sure do have a pessimistic outlook on these things, sir,» Hackett remarked.
«As if you’re any different. You don’t live long doing what we do if you aren’t constantly wary, anyways,» he countered. «Whatever’s using the power could use some investigating. We need to make sure that the station is secure before we send more people to start dissecting it — that is our job, after all.»
«No arguments from me, Colonel,» Mote said.
«Really? Now that’s a first!» Saito replied cheekily. «But, to business. Mote, you and I are going to find those power generators, and see what we can do about turning them back on. Hopefully, that should help MacTavish get access to the rest of the computer systems around here and figure out what the hell this station is here for. Hackett and Danielle—» He turned to face the two women, prompting Danielle to push away from MacTavish’s workstation to return to ground level. «I want the two of you to check out this lab that’s using lots of power. See if you can figure out what it’s doing, especially after drifting in deep space for thousands of years.»
«Too scared to go yourself, sir?» Hackett questioned with an amused snort.
«Heh. Just think of it as me being confident in your ability to handle whatever situation you come across,» Saito countered. He then glanced up at MacTavish, ordering, «Send the Major a map to that lab you mentioned, and then sit tight. See what you can find in the computers while we’re gone. Everyone else; let’s head out!»