The Station of Pure Evil Horribleness…
Late 2nd season
Please part your curtains of belief for this mini-horror…
Rated PG-13 for mild violence, increasing creepiness (hopefully), and some rude words.
Round of applause and Jaffa cakes to beta Cadnobach for slapping the old girl into shape, and for Diena who picked out a particularly embarrassing typo. Cheers.
(general disclaimers for all chapters: SeaQuest and her crew are not mine and I haven't made a single penny from this hard graft)
~ ~ ~
Chapter 1: Getting there
'Can you pass me a class 4 Sable-Clip?' Lucas' muffled request came under the panel.
'What - is that one of these?' Tony passed him piece of circular metal.
'That's a jubilee clip, so no' Lucas muttered pulling out and picking through the box's jumble of bits and pieces himself until he found what he was looking for and disappeared back under the panel.
'Here, I got one for ya Luc' Tony leant under the panel 'Why is it that soggy food goes dry when it's stale, and dry food goes soggy?'
'Because the moisture content in the foodstuff, if not protected by an air-tight barrier, will equalise to the ambient moisture content in the local environment. Why?'
'It's a joke.' Tony replied dryly, straightening up.
Lucas pulled himself out again 'huh? Oh… what's the punch line?'
'No - that was it'
Lucas looked baffled as he reached for and answered his bleeping PAL 'Yeah?'
'Nice to be greeted with such respect' Bridger said.
'Oh, sorry – how can I help?'
'Could you please come down to the wardroom in five minutes Lucas, I have a situation I need to discuss with you'.
'Sure'. Lucas put his tools back into the box and left Tony stripping wires.
Tim and Lucas sat at the wardroom table as the captain powered up the slide projector and sat before them.
'As you both undoubtedly know, the Nambela-Swales Oceanic Research Station had been built as part of a hugely ambitious inter-continental effort to explore, study and catalogue a corner of the ocean in unprecedented detail. The remit of the station encompassed a broad spectrum of disciplines employing scientists from around the globe'. Tim and Lucas both nodded.
Bridger cycled through a series of images; portly scientists in white coats and beaming faces, the famous Professor Osborne standing proudly by the Nambela-Swales 8-metre high crest, a scale model of the huge station with its series of modules and connecting avenues.
Bridger continued 'but an unfortunate mixture of a complex hierarchy of authority, muddled data rights and funding hand-outs, and endless acrimonious professional feuding, the spirit of that dream was slowly crushed'.
Newspaper headlines flashed onto the screen; ANGRY SWISS TEAM BANNED FROM NAMBELA-SWALES and MEXICAN MARINE BIOLOGIST CONVICTED OF PLUNDERING RESEARCH GRANT.
'The financial and professional crises escalated at such an alarming rate that within only six and a half years of its inaugural joint project publication, the station was deserted. Instead, it was agreed by all member nations that the station would continue to function in a fully automated state, relaying data upworld to the plethora of research institutes'
Tim and Lucas watched a newsreel of a Nambela-Swales shuttle docking and a group of sour-faced men disembarking, separating without looking back.
Bridger switched off the projector and turned to the two crewmembers. 'Last week, out of the blue, the datastreams have suddenly stopped for the first time in 12 years. Several institutes have run their own tests but without success, so some kind of hardware failure is suspected to be the problem'.
Lucas rolled his eyes 'Oh wait, let me guess what comes next'.
Bridger raised an eyebrow but ignored him 'As we're passing by on our way to the Azores, we have been asked to make an exploratory trip to see if we can pinpoint what's gone wrong so that the parts can be ordered and installed at a later date'.
'And when you say 'we' you really mean me' Lucas interjected.
'No Lucas' Bridger said slightly irritated 'I mean we. And if you go – and that hasn't been finalised yet – you'll either take a team down, or we will be running the assessment scans from here. As a team'.
'Why wouldn't I go? Who else would have the first idea about how to fix this stuff?' Lucas asked, surprised.
'Well, you would have been only five or six years old when the station was abandoned. It's not as if you'll be familiar with the technology – hardware or software.'
Lucas smirked 'Captain, this gear is ancient – that's makes it easier to check through, not harder.'
'I wouldn't be overly confident young man. If I remember correctly, it was all built to very high intricate specifications.'
'Why can't the systems' designers go look themselves?' Tim asked.
'There were three main systems' architects on the project; Pendergast has since passed away, Delrieu is caught in a high-level project from which she can't be pulled, at least not immediately and the last programmer, Hu Xui, is still suing for infringement of intellectual property rights against the Nambela-Swales project and isn't exactly full of good will. Besides, we're not being asked to fix it, just diagnose the problem'.
'Easy peasy then' Lucas grinned 'just point me to the schematics and I'll be up and running within a week'.
Bridger looked at Lucas for a moment and then Tim. 'OK, you both work together on this and tell me what your thoughts are and what you might need to get this thing done. We'll meet again on Friday'
~ ~ ~
'The three mainframes and ten data processor slave-clusters will be the only machines that could be broken to cause this kind of disruption. Other possibilities such as the relay transmitters are pinging back 100%, and any synthetic datasets I'm uploading are showing as banked on the systems' storage files' said Lucas enthusiastically waving at several sheets of output information.
'All the machines are located in this place, the Turbine Hall' he added, pointing to a large square room in the middle of the station's plans 'So I'll scoot in, patch the mainframes through my laptop to run a scan. Any blocks that show up, I'll break it open and take a look…shouldn't take more than a couple of days – tops'.
Nathan nodded 'and your part in this Tim?' he asked his comm tech.
'Initially we considered additional on-site support, but Lucas' laptop is powerful enough to be able to run the diagnostics. It's seems a good idea though to set up another single transmitter to start-up the data relays again from individual machines but that would need to be reconfigured from here'. Tim showed Bridger some preliminary details for their plan, which the captain took and mulled over.
'I don't know. I'm not happy about you going down there alone, Lucas'. Bridger hesitated, weighing up the alternatives. 'You could take Tony down there'.
'Tony! For what? I can look after myself Captain, and in case you'd forgotten, he's dyslexic, so I don't think I could give him a 35 layered re-router plan and let him loose on the guts of a Ibayo 1200BX mainframe. It's not a coincidence he's the most expendable'.
Bridger sighed 'Well OK, not Tony then, but someone from security – I can ask Jim to recommend someone'.
'Seriously captain there's nothing down there but a big empty structure and I'll hardly be actually doing much once I set the tests off, mainly just sitting about. It's a waste of anybody else's time'.
'You don't have to prove yourself here Lucas, it's not a scout badge of endurance'.
'Yeah Captain, I know. Although if you're really worried, you could let me have a gun?' Lucas grinned optimistically at Bridger, but his smile soon fell.
'No way, absolutely not. You've no firearms training and anyway, what do you think you're gonna shoot at – a resident moray eel in the bathroom?'
The three of them talked about various possibilities until Bridger, albeit reluctantly, agreed to send Lucas to go to the station alone, with Tim and an ancillary team of three other techies on standby. They would be keeping in contact with the boy via radio, whilst the seaQuest completed it's Azores directive, meeting and picking him up en-route home.
Two days later Lucas loaded the Stinger's cargo stows with his laptop, spare parts, tools, provisions and a flashlight and set off to the station alone.
~ ~ ~
The depth of the research station precluded any natural light reaching it and since it's abandonment by human presence 12 years previously, it languished in the murky black ocean.
Lucas patched through back to seaQuest informing them of his current status.
'ETA 2 minutes; Stinger preparing to dock in Bay 9'
'Roger that Lucas. Bay 9 automated for docking sequence'.
As Tim relayed the docking commands remotely to the empty station, Lucas watched the lights blaze to life around the portal and piloted the little sub into one of bays of the vast complex. Once docked, he released the Stinger's airlock door and clambered out, into the dark bay. The stale air caught in his throat, causing him to gulp and cough. He heard Tim's voice through the headset.
'Would you mind putting your hand over your mouth when you do that?'
'Uhm. Sorry. The air is gross in here. I hope it doesn't take long to boot up the air filtration units…'
Lucas pulled out the powerful flashlight from the cargo stow and swept the bay whilst taking a few more breaths and watching it mist in the cold air. He walked over to the electricity terminus in the corner and tried the light switches, but the room remained in darkness save for the bright white torch beam and the Stinger's proximal lights.
All life support systems necessary for human habitation, including the internal lighting grid and heating were pulled off line as the station was emptied 12 years ago and first on his list to power back up.
Lucas returned to the Stinger and removed the contents of the stows onto the bay decks. He pulled on his thick parka coat warding off the biting chill and hoisted the backpack of his laptop, tools, spare parts and food rations on his back and set off – map in one hand and flashlight in the other.
His footsteps echoed in the huge corridors that fed from the entry ports, like processional avenues to the Grand Atrium. Lucas whistled as he emerged into the cavernous Atrium, the architectural schemes evidently as ambitious and ostentatious as the project itself. Long planes of glass and marble adorned with nautical sculptures in high relief arching overhead and soaring downwards into a black vortex which Lucas' torchlight could not find the culmination.
'Very cool'. Lucas murmured.
He'd been trying to picture this space when his father had been telling him three day's previously about the station, having spent 6 months here as a research fellow. It didn't even come close to the breathtaking beauty, and Lucas pondered the folly of brilliant men whose arrogance and myopic attitude had caused the downfall of the station.
'Do you think you're OK to find your way from there Lucas?'
Lucas glanced at the map and panned around shining the torch over the archways and staircases that radiated from this vestibule. The signs were faded but legible.
'Yeah', he re-assured Tim through the tiny mic on the headset, 'there's been some degradation to the structure but it think it's just superficial'.
He shook off the increasing sense of cold emptiness and decay that recalled the oppressive ambience of a mausoleum.
Lucas descended from the Galley Level, down a wide staircase, the stairwell encased in dramatic blue opaque glass that sparkled in the beam of his flashlight, and opened the double doors to the second level. He peered into the gloom, and sighed.
'Jeez, these corridors are long. It's going to take me several hours just to get to the damn computer room' he moaned into the mic. 'It'll be time to go home again by the time I get there.'
'Maybe you should run then, that'll warm you up' Tim suggested.
'Tim, this coat is so padded, I can hardly bend my arm round enough to see my watch. In fact, I bet I could throw myself down this corridor and I'd bounce there quicker.'
He trudged the length of the Central Eastern Avenue, pompously entitled Avenue of the New Dawn, towards the nerve centre of the research station; the Turbine Hall. As he progressed through the desolate complex he swung his light beam through the doors into empty dark offices, conference halls and restaurants.
The air was so cold. Despite the thick coat, Lucas shivered and his fingertips were turning to marshmallows. Tim heard Lucas' teeth chattering and spoke to someone on the bridge followed by Bridger's voice in the headset.
'How cold is it Lucas? You should put on some more clothes'.
Lucas predictably groaned and rolled his eyes.
'Don't roll your eyes, hypothermia can be fatal. Wrap up warm - I don't what to have to send in a rescue party to come thaw you out'
Lucas smiled at the captain's paternal tone. 'Yes sir, I'll pull on my thermal vest and underpants as soon as I get to the hall'.
Lucas eventually arrived at the end of the avenue and crossed the perimeter corridor that ran around the Turbine hall, and from which the other main Avenues branched off. He faced a pair of large heavy metallic fire / flood doors, which sealed off the Turbine Hall from the rest of the complex, protecting the mainframe systems from catastrophic disaster. The entry mechanisms were on a separate power source to life support and Lucas flipped open the control panel, punched in the security entry codes and watched as the eastern flood doors opened for the first time in over a decade.
He shone his torch inside, his beam barely penetrating the space. Once again Lucas was overawed by the sheer scale. Even though he had assessed the plans, nothing prepared him for the magnificence of this control room. He was keenly aware of the silence from the banks of computers that ought to have been humming in the dark.
Closing the doors behind him, he entered and had to place his arm over his mouth. The air was even more stagnant, and focused his attention to locating and powering up the life support systems. Trying not to cough again into the mic, he set down his backpack, rubbing his sore shoulders.
'Despite earlier predictions, I've made it to the Turbine Hall within the hour. I wish you could see it Tim, it's unbelievably over-complicated. You'd probably be able to get all this hardware into one or two desktops these days…' he trailed off as he walked along the row of dusty dead machines, shining his beam into blank monitors.
'You should make a start on getting the heating on though, before you turn into an icicle-pop' Tim reminded him.
'Good point…and the life support systems are controlled from…here' he said arriving at a large console near the southern flood-door.
Lucas set about unlocking the glass panel fronts and reading the multitude of buttons and dials that covered the desk. As he was planning only on staying in the Turbine Hall before setting back for seaQuest, it would be an extravagant waste bringing life support on-line for the whole complex and so he selected only his immediate environment. He pulled the industrial sized lever to the right of the panel powering up the desk and then flipped the switches for Turbine Hall heating, lighting and air filtration.
Hundreds of lights flooded the room and the air systems kicked into life, initially belching a cloud of dust into the air, before commencing filtration.
Lucas wandered along the row upon row of decade old and now technologically obsolete computers, considering the mind-boggling job of having to upgrade all the machines. He approached the western side of the hall making a mental map of the layout and paused at a desk that indicated the project system logs were stored at this slave terminal.
Glass shattered beyond the closed western flood doors.
Startled, Lucas jumped back reflexively, eyes swivelling round to the door as if he could guess what was behind them. His heart pounded in alarm and adrenaline coursed through his veins at the intrusion in the omnipotent silence.
'Jesus. Did you hear that?' he questioned Tim.
'No, why? What it is?'
'Don't know, something made of glass just smashed outside – are you absolutely certain I'm alone?'
'With no life support on-line, temperatures of 3 degrees Celsius and no fresh water supply, I don't think that makes for a very cosy home'.
Lucas paused and considered the situation 'Maybe the warm air from the heating systems can escape through a leak somewhere west of the halls and dislodged something precariously balanced?' he suggested, trying to convince himself more than Tim.
Tim agreed 'Probably. Can't see what else it could be'.
His fright subsiding, Lucas reproached himself and pulled up a chair at the logs terminal, and once seated, blew into cupped hands to try to warm them up. After a moment, he began to scroll through the last month's data to see if he could discern any pattern to indicate a cause for the system failures.
Engrossed in the tables of information he only belatedly noticed the chill in the air from his right. He glanced up distractedly but his breath caught in his throat.
The Western flood doors were now open.
The Western Avenue was pitch black and Lucas could hardly see further than 10 metres.
He stood up and tentatively approached the doors.